Marbles-art – 10/12/06
"Marbles" by THL Dagonell Collingwood of Emerald Lake.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
NOTE – This article was first published in the June 2005 issue of "Aestel" the Aethelmearc Kingdom newsletter.
Game of the Month:
Marbles by THL Dagonell
Marbles predate recorded history. Not only have marbles been found in Egyptian tombs as well as Greek and Roman excavations, but also in archaeological digs dating back to the Ice Age on every continent. The Roman poet Ovid mentions marbles. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Augustus Caesar played with marbles as a child.
[Marbles from the British Museum, Room #69, Display Case #9: #1-3 Pottery-Roman, 1st-2nd century AD from Cnidus, Asia Minor. # 4-5 Pottery balls, perhaps marbles; Minoan, 2000-1700 BC from Crete. #6 Stone-Roman, from Carthage. #7-9 Glass from Egypt; given by the Egypt Exploration Fund. #10-12 Multi-colored glass, Roman, 2nd-3rd century AD from Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. Photograph from "The Marble Museum (http://www.marblemuseum.org)]
From correspondence between The Marble Museum and Dr. Veronica Tatton-Brown of The British Museum: "After consultation with an American colleague, I am now able to suggest how a Roman glass marble was made. A gather of molten glass, attached to the tip of a metal rod, was rolled over heated slices of preformed colored canes. By alternately reheating and rolling the glass on a smooth surface, the canes became embedded and fused with the surface of the glass. The hot glass was then formed to become spherical in shape by rolling it in a hollowed-out wooden form (shape). A narrow constriction was made between the spherical object and the rod by squeezing the glass with a two-bladed metal tong-like tool. Finally, by tapping, the glass would have fallen away from the metal rod and the marble was placed in an annealing oven for gradual cooling. On cooling, the rough spot where the rod was attached was smoothed by cold-working."
Pieter Brueghel, a 16th century Flemish painter, depicts children playing marbles in "Children's Games" (1560). "Cherry Pit", a marble game, is mentioned in Shakespeare; 'Tis not gravity to play at cherry-pit with Satan.' [Twelfth Night, Act iii, Sc. 4, Ln. 129] Settlers to the New World found Amerinds playing marble games. The game has even contributed to our language. The phrases "going for all the marbles", "losing one's marbles", and "knuckling down to business" all come from the children's game of marbles.
A number of marble games follow. Bear in mind that rules varied wildly from region to region and making up a game on the spot was not at all unusual. Players should also agree in advance whether they are playing 'for fair' (all marbles returned to owner) or 'cut-throat' (winner keeps, loser weeps).
RING TAW (aka RINGERS, RINGO) -- A one foot ring is drawn inside of a ten foot ring. Each player puts in a number of 1/2" marbles so that there is about a dozen marbles in the smaller ring. At the National Marbles Tournament (NMT), held every year in June in New Jersey, thirteen marbles supplied by the organizers are arranged in a cross at the center of the ring and there is no one foot ring. Shooting order is determined by 'lagging', shooting to see who can get closest to a designated line. The first player, starting outside the ten foot circle, attempts to thumb his 'taw' (a 3/4" shooting marble) to knock a target marble out of the large ring while keeping the taw inside the ring. If he succeeds, he shoots again from where the taw stopped. 'Sticking' or shooting seven consecutive marbles out of the ring and winning the game without giving an opponent a turn is usually good for two days of playground bragging rights. If the player fails to knock a target marble out of the ring, or his taw leaves the ring, his turn is over and next player takes his turn. At NMT, if your taw is in the ring at the end of your turn, you must remove it. In informal games, if your taw is in the ring, it becomes a legitimate target and any player who hits it out collects a forfeit from you. Players should agree in advance whether to use this rule. Play alternates until one player has knocked a majority of the marbles out of the ring. The process of picking the best possible position for starting is referred to as 'taking rounders'.
BOSS OUT (aka LONG TAWL) -- First player shoots one marble. Second player trys to hit the first player's marble. If he hits it, he collects both marbles. If the two marbles are close enough, he can attempt to 'span' them. He places his thumb on his own marble and his index finger on his opponent's marble. He then draws his hand up while bringing his fingers together. If the two marbles hit, he collects both marbles. If he misses, the first player may shoot at either marble on the field. If a player collects the last marble on the field, he must shoot a marble for the next player to shoot at.
BRIDGEBOARD -- A board with nine cutouts along one edge is propped up on that edge to form nine archways. The numbers 6, 2, 3, 1, 5, 8, 7, 9, 4 are painted over the arches, one number over each arch. Players try to shoot through the holes and win the number of marbles indicated by the number above the hole. Any marbles which miss become the property of the board owner. The board may also be used to play NINE HOLES.
BUN-HOLE -- A one-foot wide hole is dug in the center of the playing field. Players attempt to get a marble as close as possible to the hole without going in. Whoever's marble comes closest without going in wins a marble from each player. Knocking in your opponent's marble is permitted.
CASTLES (aka PYRAMID) -- Each player makes a small pyramid of four of his marbles, three as a base with one on top. Players take turns shooting at these pyramids and keep any marbles they knock out of position. Alternately, a single player may build all the pyramids of his own marbles and a charge a fee of a marble for each shot taken at the pyramid. In some versions it may be necessary for a marble to leave a one-foot circle drawn around the pyramid before it can be claimed. The illustration is a detail from Brueghel's "Children's Games"
CHERRY PIT -- This is the reverse of RING TAW. A one-foot wide hole is dug in the center of a ten-foot circle. Each player places a number of marbles around the hole so that there is about a dozen marbles surrounding the hole. Players take turns trying to knock marbles into the hole. Like Ring Taw, as long as marbles are knocked into the hole and the taw remains in the ring, players may continue to shoot. If a taw goes into the hole, the owner must forfeit a number of marbles and place them around the hole to 'buy back' his shooter.
CONQUEROR -- First player shoots a marble away from the line of play. Second player shoots at the first players marble. If he hits it, he keeps both marbles and shoots a new marble to re-start the game. If he misses, his marble remains where it stops. Subsequent players may shoot for any marble out on the playing field. If multiple marbles are hit in a chain reaction, the player may keep all marbles struck.
See BOSS OUT.
DOBBLERS -- Each player contributes one or more marbles to start the game. The marbles are arranged in a straight line, each marble being exactly twice the width of a marble away from the marbles on either side. Each player then shoots in turn and may keep any marbles he hits. In some variations, a successful hit entitles the shooter to another turn. The players taw remains where it lies at the end of his turn and subsequent turns are played from where the taw lies. A player whose taw is hit by another taw must add one marble to the line to 'buy back' his shooter. See PICKING PLUMS
HUNDREDS -- Both players try to shoot their taws into a one-foot hole. If both taws go in, players start over. If one player's marble goes in and the other player's marble doesn't, the player whose marble went in scores ten points. If neither player's marble goes in, the first player now tries to hit the second player's marble. If he hits it, he earns ten points and another chance to shoot his marble into the hole for ten points. If he misses either his opponent's marble or the hole, the second player tries to hit the first player's marble for ten points and another try at shooting his marble into the hole for ten points. Whenever a marble goes into the hole, both players start over from the starting line, otherwise all shots are made from wherever the marble stopped rolling. First player to reach one hundred points wins.
INCREASE POUND – An 8" circle, called a "pound" is drawn inside a 12" circle called the "bar". Each player contributes a few marbles to the pound. First player shoots his taw from any point on the bar at the marbles in the pound. Any marble knocked out of the pound become the property of the shooter and play passes to the next person. If the shooter fails to knock any marbles out of the pound, and his taw stays within the bar, he must leave his taw where it stops. In some variations, if the taw stays within the pound, the player may pay a forfeit of one or two marbles to recover his shooter. Subsequent players have the option of shooting for marbles in the pound or an opponent's taw. If the target taw is struck, the taw's owner must pay a forfeit to the shooter to recover his taw. This forfeit can vary from a single marble to a percentage of the marbles previously earned by the owner in the game, up to all of them.
NINE HOLES -- This name is given to two different marble games. The first game is Miniature Golf played with marbles. Players construct a miniature golf course from materials at hand and take turns shooting their marbles around, through, and over the obstacles they've built. First player to complete nine holes wins.
A second version of the game is played with a bridgeboard. Players take turns shooting their marbles through the arches in numerical order. Arches that are shot through out of sequence don't count. A successful shoot through the correct arch entitles the shooter to an additional turn. First player to send his marble through all nine holes in the correct order wins. The illustration is a detail from Brueghel's "Children's Games". I believe that the children are playing a variation of NINE HOLES using small holes dug in the ground rather than a wooden board.
PICKING PLUMS -- Each player contributes one or more marbles to start the game. The marbles or 'plums' are arranged in a straight line, each marble being exactly twice the width of a marble away from the marbles on either side. Each player then shoots in turn and may keep any marbles he hits. The difference between DOBBLERS and PICKING PLUMS is that all shots are taken from behind a line about six feet away from the 'plums'. The player does not get another turn for a successful hit and the taw is recovered at the end of each turn so there is no opportunity to hit an opponent's shooter. Play continues until all 'plums' are picked.
The Central Connector:
Marbles History: http://www.centralconnector.com/GAMES/marbhist.html
Kid's Turn Central: http://www.kidsturncentral.com/topics/sports/marbles.htm
Marble Collectors Society of America (MCSA): http://www.marblecollecting.com/mcsa
The Marble Mansion: http://www.marblemansion.com
The Marble Museum: http://www.marblemuseum.org
Gomme, Alice Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland (London; Thames and Hudson; 1894; 2 vol.; ISBN 0-500-27316-2)
Maguire, Jack Hopscotch, Hangman, Hot Potato, & Ha-ha-ha (Simon & Schuster; 1992; ISBN 0-671-76332-6; 304 pgs)
Sterling Publishing Family Fun & Games (NY; Sterling Pub.; 1994; ISBN 0-8069-8776-6; 800 pgs)
Copyright 2005 by David P. Salley. <dagonell at heronter.org>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.