From Plastic Tub

Mumbletypeg is a ritual game which knows many varieties. Steven Adkins grew up thinking that the game was played by throwing a knife into the ground in a series of twelve different positions, each one an increasingly complex combination of flips and over the shoulder manoeuvers, only considered a success if the blade stuck in the ground. Each player was allowed to progress to the next and invariably more difficult throw upon successfully sticking his knife into the ground in the proscribed manner. He who finished all twelve moves first was the winner.

Ritual Games

Other versions exist. Perhaps but by no means certainly the most common form is to draw a circle in the dirt and place two players within. Then a line is scratched across the playing area, dividing the circle in half.

Jim Rusk ( describes playing this game as a child:

"Then it was time for the first throw. The kid who'd won the toss threw his knife so it stuck upright (roughly) in his opponent's territory and so that a line extending the gash the blade had made would cut the initial dividing line — the "internal" boundary. He'd draw that line, dividing his adversary's territory into two pieces, and cutting the original dividing line into two segments. He would then erase one of those two segments, adding part of his adversary's territory to his own.

Now it was the adversary's turn. He'd throw his knife, draw the line that extended the gash made by his blade, and reclaim a piece of the other guy's territory.

At any one point in the game, there'd be two territories inside the outer boundary. The line that separated them could get pretty jagged, and sooner or later, one of the players would "own" most of the land.

The key to the game was the rule about the line that you drew after you stuck your knife into the ground. It had to be an extension of the gash the knife blade made when it stuck — an extension of the plane of the blade. And it had to reach the boundary between the two territories. If it didn't, no territory changed hands. It amounted to losing a turn, because the other guy then got to throw again.

As one player's territory shrank more and more, it got harder and harder for that player to throw the knife so the resulting line would reach his territory. With really skillful players, though (or where the losing player happened to make a real lucky throw), a game could last a long time. With just a smidgen of territory left, you might get just the right angle on your knife, so one end of the extended line did touch your land and essentially split your opponent's holding in half."

Another vicious version of the sport was played on the desolate tobacco and dairy farms of northern Kentucky where David Payne spent his middle school years. Two opponents stood several paces apart. The players alternated turns, throwing their knives into the ground as close to their opponent's feet as possible. The closest knife throw won. If you stabbed your opponent, you lost -- but if your opponent moved, whether in fear or for genuine safety, you won. Dave claims that there was once a heated debate after a knife split a kid's boot, sliding right in between the kid's toes. The kid with the ruined boot claimed he won, having been hit with the knife. His opponent claimed it wasn't a hit unless you drew blood -- which was a gutsy claim since the boot-stuck kid got to throw the next knife.

A fourth version is known to pirates and fans of Alien 2 everywhere. A person lays his or her hand flat upon a table and splays the fingers. With the other hand the person "dances" with a knife and jabs it into the table or surface upon which the hand rests, between the fingers, as fast as possible. A person is disqualified when he or she stabs, mutilates or otherwise amputates a finger.

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