Tower of Fists Game

“Okay, this is a game that children play, and so everyone puts their um fists on top of each other making like a tower, and then the one who leads the games sort of knocks everything, as if it were a building. Actually, in this one it’s as if it were a series of boxes, one on top of the other. And so basically, it goes up and down, ‘knock, knock’, ‘who is this?’, “well go upstairs’. But the last one is the most important one, when he reaches the top, and he says, (in Sardinian) ‘What is this?’ (Also in Sardinian) ‘A little box’, and then he asks, (in Sardinian) ‘What’s in it?’ (in Sardinian) ‘A golden apple’ (in Sardinian) ‘To whom are you going to give it?’ (in Sardinian) ‘Oh, to my beloved one in Alghero (which is a city nearby). May she be shown around with happiness’. And then they say something which doesn’t have anything to do with uhh. Whoever laughs first will get a slap in the face, because at this point everybody, you know the tower is destroyed, and everybody starts going like this, starts switching their hands like this, like mmmm (The informant rolls his hands quickly around each other, flat and with palms facing him, in front of his mouth). Of course its hard not to laugh when you are a child and doing this stupid thing. So uh that’s the game”

The informant also gave another version of the story inside the game, one from elsewhere in Sardinia: “And this one I remember from my father and it’s kind of the same idea. This time it’s about somebody going to the shoe maker, and the idea is that he has left the shoes to be repaired, and so the customer goes back and knocks and you know, again you do the tower with the fists and knocks and knocks. Like, ‘I’m looking for maestro so-and-so, you know, the shoemaker’, ‘well he’s not here, go to the… go upstairs’ and upstairs, upstairs until, you know, he reaches the top fist and this time he asks, uhh, ‘tum-tum (that’s like knock-knock)… (in Sardinian) who is this?’ (in Sardinian) ‘Is master Antonie there?’ ‘Si!’ This time the answer is yes, he is here. In all the other cases, it was go upstairs, to the other floor. This time, yeah, ‘Is master Antonie there?’ ‘Yes, he is here!’ (in Sardinian) ‘Is he done, has he finally fixed my shoes?’ ‘No’ ‘Oh!’ Then the customer gets angry and he says, (in Sardinian) ‘Now I’m going to destroy all the building’. And then, you know, everybody again starts like doing this movement, switching the hands in front of their month. And of course again, whoever is the first to crack up in laughter gets a little slap from all the others, so it’s the same idea.”

The informant played this game when he was a young child. He still found it pretty fun though, because we played it after the interview, and he laughed a lot when I laughed first. However, I avoided the slap. The hand motion is pretty silly looking and it’s hard not to laugh. The informant played the game in his hometown in northern Sardinia, but there are other versions of the story in different regions of the island, as well as in Italy. The first story version is more romantic and fantastical, with a lover and a golden apple. However, the other version, from another region in Sardinia, is focused on the business of shoe-making. A lot of childhood games, especially in Sardinia, have connections to food or jobs. This could be because Sardinia is more rural than many cities here in America, so much of the people’s time is taken up with finding money and food, and they pass that on to their children.

I found the game silly and enjoyable. I have never seen any similar game here in America. It’s hard for me to picture a group of kids playing this. I think it’s interesting that the structure in both versions is the same, even though the stories are very different. This suggests that the story is not the important part of the game. Rather, the hand motions and the laugh-slap finale are the real appeal. The story lengthens the game and creates a process for it. This creates suspense and the children can imagine that they are actually following a narrative while they play, instead of just stacking their fists and knocking on each one. There are games here in America that I’ve played that involves a story simply to structure it. Some examples include Mafia, and Honey will you please please smile. These games are fun if the leader is good. I wish I could play the informant’s game for real, just to experience it.