Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Elephant No. 303: Hopscotch and Escargot

A few days ago, I was editing a text on children's games and came across "escargot". While I knew this was a form of hopscotch, I'd actually never seen a picture of it before, and was surprised at how different it looks from a traditional hopscotch grid. So my big idea for today's elephant was to try combining hopscotch and escargot.

The modern version of hopscotch may have originated in Ancient Rome. The story goes that training for Roman soldiers included a series of hopping exercises designed to improve their footwork. Roman children supposedly copied the soldiers, scratching out a similar pattern in the dirt and making up a set of rules.

The first recorded references to hopscotch in England date to the late seventeenth century, when it was called "scotch-hop" or "scotch-hoppers". The "scotch" in the word "hopscotch" actually has nothing to do with Scotland. Instead, "scotch" means "incised line or scratch".

A modern hopscotch course is either scratched out in the dirt, or drawn with chalk on a sidewalk or street. Some are even permanently embedded in sidewalks and playgrounds. Although designs can vary somewhat, the grid usually consists of  squares laid out in a straight line, intersected with pairs of squares side by side.

The game can be played either alone or with a number of players. The player tosses a rock or other marker on the first square, then hops across the board, jumping over the square with the marker in it. At the end of the pattern, the player turns around and hops back through, picking up the marker along the way.

Traditional British hopscotch grid.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

There are a few other rules, of course. The player must hop on one foot in single squares, and land on two feet in squares placed side by side. More importantly, if the player lands on a line, or lands outside the square, or falls over, he or she must miss a turn.

North American version of
hopscotch. The French words mean
"earth" at the bottom and "heaven"
at the top.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Escargot (French for "snail) is also known as marelle ronde (round hopscotch). This French variation on hopscotch is played on a spiral course—shaped, as the name suggests, like the shell of a snail. This version requires multiple players, each of whom hops through the course to the centre, turns around and hops back.

Each player also marks one square with his or her initials. From then on, that player can place two feet in the initialed square, while all others must hop over it. The game ends when all squares are marked, or no one can reach the centre. The winner is the player who "owns" the most squares.

Student playing escargot, Marymount International School, Rome, 2011.
Source: http://www.marymountrome.org/media_play_gallery.

Today, hopscotch is played in various forms around the world. Most countries play a version based on squares; although many French-speaking countries also play escargot.

In the British Isles, the game goes by many names, including Hop-Score, Peevers, Peeverels, and Pabats. In India, the game is often called Ekhat-Dukhat, meaning "one house, two house". In Spain it is Rayula, and in Latin America is is called Golosa. In Italy it is called campana ("bell") or mondo ("world"). In Persian it is Laylay, and in Malaysia TengTeng. In Mexico it is called bebeleche meaning "drink milk", or avioncito meaning "little plane". In Russia and Poland it has names that mean "classes", and in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia, it is "školica, meaning "little school".

No matter what it is called, hopscotch and escargot have been played by children in all countries for centuries. It has also become part of popular culture—sometimes describing someone who bounces from activity to activity, and sometimes as a shorthand in films and books to imply innocence and childlike behaviour.

For today's elephant, I started by trying to figure out how to combine the games of hopscotch and escargot in an elephant shape. I thought a partial escargot spiral might be interesting for the trunk, but I wasn't sure how to work the squares of a hopscotch grid into an elephant body.

It took me a few sketches, but this is what I came up with. Yes, it is the paper napkin school of drawing—or in this case, the charity-notepad-with-puppy-and-kitty school.

Now I had to find a place to draw it onto a sidewalk. The trunk/escargot section makes it a rather wide pattern, so I needed a wide sidewalk. The one outside my house that I used for my sidewalk chalk elephant wasn't wide enough. I also didn't dare draw it on the road itself, as this is an urban area with heavy traffic.

I packed up my collection of sidewalk chalk and went looking for a reasonable sidewalk or parking lot—preferably one where I wouldn't be yelled at by passersby or city officials. Although the city has kindly determined that hopscotch is not graffiti—I'm not kidding; they had to think about it—a couple of years ago they made people remove a permanently painted hopscotch grid in a trendy neighbourhood because it was "distracting to pedestrians." So I decided to be stealthy rather than bold today.

I ultimately found a place that I thought fit the bill. It was located on a quiet side street, next to a community centre with summer programs for children, so it seemed perfect.

It also had chalk drawings at the front, including what I think is a woolly mammoth. This seemed like a good omen.

I used the same set of chalk I had before, minus grey, which I used up in my previous sidewalk chalk drawing.

I started by sketching out the squares. It's been decades since I've drawn a hopscotch grid, so it was a bit wonky. The part with the spiral was even more awkward. However, since sidewalk chalk is virtually impossible to erase, it would have to do. Next, I added the numbers.

After this, I began adding blue outlines for the elephant. This was not as easy as I had originally envisioned. Because I wanted to use the edges of the squares as some of the elephant's outlines—or at least as partial shaping for the elephant—the proportions were decidedly odd.

After I'd roughed in a lot of the blue, I added a little blanket in the gap above the number 4, along with a couple of flowers.

After this, I added a different shade of blue, and more colour to everything else. I also did a lot more smudging to smooth out the colour and make it appear more saturated. I'd forgotten how much I dislike chalk on my fingers.

To finish up, I added a white tusk, an eye, and some pink for toenails, mouth and inner ear.

While I was working, almost no one walked by, which was great. Oddly enough, as soon as I'd finished, all kinds of people walked by, although most stepped around the elephant. One young couple remarked to one another that it was a hopscotch grid, but that was about it. This was quite different from my previous experience with sidewalk chalk, which was more like a public event—including a peanut gallery.

The final drawing was incredibly difficult to photograph, and it's very weird-looking, but it was an interesting exercise in combining hopscotch and escargot. It rained an hour or so after I got home, so parts of it may have washed away already. I've discovered, however, that it usually takes more than one rain to remove sidewalk chalk, so it should probably still be there tomorrow for a few kids to play on.


Elephant Lore of the Day
Because today's elephant was a playful kids' game, today's elephant lore is simply a commercial featuring a dancing elephant.

Elephants can't really dance, and will never spontaneously bust a move in the wild. When elephants perform movements that look like dance—such as swaying, bowing, or moving a leg from side to side or front to back—they've either been trained to do so, or are trying to alleviate boredom while chained or enclosed in too small a space.

Obviously then, real elephants don't dance, but it's still cute in the video below.


To Support Elephant Welfare
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information
on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Wildlife Trust of India

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