Got some spare time on your hands? Instead of plunking down in front of the TV, how about a friendly match of Sling the Monkey? Don’t know how to play? I didn’t either, but I do now. Just sit tight and let me explain.
As Artifact Collections Manager, I am the person who accessions all donated materials that come into the museum. While I am doing this task, I have the luxury of snooping through everything. One of the latest donated goodies was a book entitled Household Companion of Instructive Literature and Wholesome Amusement — The Best Thoughts for Home Use. I had a great time browsing through this book. It includes such things as poems, songs, history, facts on nature, party games, and so much more. It was published in 1902 and gives a great perspective of the mood and attitudes of the times.
One thing that struck me was the type of games that were listed as “wholesome amusement.” Here are some examples of games that surprised me, quoted from the above mentioned book:
Sling the Monkey
This is a capital game, and can be played anywhere where there are trees. One player who is chosen by lot, takes the part of Monkey, and is fastened to a tolerably high branch of a tree by a strong cord knotted in a “bowline” loop and passed round his waist. The other players now baste the monkey with knotted handkerchiefs, and he armed in like manner, endeavors to retaliate. If he succeeds in striking one of them, he is at once released, and the other takes his place as monkey. He must make haste in doing it, or he may be basted until he is fairly in the loop. With players who don’t mind a little buffeting this game becomes exceedingly lively: an active monkey is very difficult to approach with safety, and, of course, gives much more life to the game.
The cord should be just long enough to enable the monkey to reach the ground comfortably under the branch. Half the fun of the game lies in actual slinging of the monkey, one of whose most effective ruses is to throw himself forward on the rope, pretend to start off in one direction, and then come back with a swing in the other.
The branch to which the cord is attached should be of some considerable height from the ground, or there will not be play enough in the rope; and it need scarcely be impressed upon the reader that both rope and branch must be strong enough to bear the strain put upon them by the weight and movements of the monkey.
The New Cudgel Game
Here is a new game, which is causing a great deal of amusement at social gatherings in Europe.
Two boys, or young men, are blindfolded, and in the right hand of each is placed a stout roll of paper in the form of a club or cudgel. The players then have to lie down on the carpet and to grasp each other by the left hand. Thereupon the fun begins. One of the players asks the other:–
“Are you there?”
When the answer “Yes” comes he raises his right hand and strives to hit with his cudgel the spot where, from the sound of the voice, he supposes the other player’s head to be.
The other player, however, is at perfect liberty to move his head after he has answered “Yes,” and the result is that in nine cases out of ten the blow misses his head and falls on his shoulders or some other part of his body.
In that case it is his turn to retaliate, and so the game goes on indefinitely, the sole object of the player who asks the question being to strike the other player’s head, and that of the player who answers to save his head from being struck.
In the current times of “politically correct” behavior, these games would raise a few eyebrows (even though we seem to have a hard time practising what we preach). But I’m sure, as a kid, I would have been right in there with the best of them and having lots of fun.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to reminisce about their childhood, or anyone who would like to learn how these games were played. Another good source for this type of material is Children’s Games and Activities of the Early Twentieth Century — As Remembered by Little Falls Area Citizens Who Played Them, by Echo Kowalzek. When we were younger, my cousins and I played many of the games mentioned in this book.
Both books give a good idea of what children did for fun in the days before television and computer games. They also provide a good source for parents and grandparents who are looking for alternatives to Nintendo and Power Rangers.
So, now that you know how to play, who’s up for Sling the Monkey? I’ve got a rope . . .
By Julie Tomala
Copyright 1996, Morrison County Historical Society