Prisoners' Base


Prisoners' Base
   One of the most popular chasing games on record, although only played nowadays in watered down form. It requires a fair degree of organization, and also needs more concentration and strategy than most chasing games and it was played in earlier times as much by adults as children. Two teams are chosen, each has a home-base and a prison at opposite ends of the playing area. Players chase each other and if caught are placed in the opposing prison, but can be freed again by their own side. The essence of the game is that a player chases one opponent at a time, but can also be chased him/herself at the same time, and play is directed by two captains. Full instructions are printed in Gomme and Opie. The latter also gives early references back to the 14th century, and there are numerous literary mentions, including Shakespeare (as 'Country Base' in Cymbeline, v. iii) and Spenser's Faerie Queene (1590-96: v. viii. 5): 'as they had been at bace, They being chased that did others chase'. The earliest references are French, and the game may have originated there. Certainly it was as popular on the Continent as in Britain. Also called Prison Base, Prison Bars, Chevy Chase, Chivy, Country Base, Fast and Loose, or simply, Bars, Base, etc.
   ■ Gomme, 1898: ii. 79-83; Opie and Opie, 1969: 143-6.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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