Despite his legendary achievements, many people know the explorer Marco Polo for his namesake pool game. Are the two related? Discover the answer in this Plentifun piece, which explains the history of the Marco Polo game with some interesting facts.
Did You Know?
The Marco Polo pool game helps children experience different social roles, such as an outcast, as the blindfolded player is isolated and cannot see others.
Who Was Marco Polo?
Before understanding the history of the game, it is important to know who it was named after. Marco Polo was a 13th-century trader (1254 – 1324) from the Italian city of Venice, who is credited with giving the Europeans the first glimpses of China. Along with his father and uncle, Polo made a 24-year-long journey from Venice to China and back, even gaining the trust of the Mongol leader Kublai Khan in the process. He chronicled his exploits in his famous book The Travels of Marco Polo, which also served as an inspiration to Christopher Columbus in his voyage to America 200 years later.
The Marco Polo Game
The Marco Polo game is a version of blind man’s buff, played in a swimming pool with at least three players. One player is called It and blindfolded. He/she has to count till ten until the rest disperse around in the pool. It has to then tag a player by locating him/her from his voice. To make this possible, It has to shout ‘Marco’, and everyone must respond with a ‘Polo’. The person who gets tagged becomes the next It, and the game continues. While these are the basic rules, other variations do exist.
The Marco Polo Game
The Marco Polo game is also known by other names, like Mermaid on the Rocks, and Alligator. It is played throughout North and South America, Australia, and Europe. Its more common version, Blind Man’s Buff, which is played on land, is said to have originated in the 1500s, when it was a popular pastime of ladies in parlors. Because of this pool game’s popularity, many want to know where it came from, and if Marco and Polo are two different individuals it was named after. Now that you know how to play the Marco Polo pool game, let’s understand the history attached to it.
Marco Polo Game: History
There are various theories that relate this pool game with the legendary explorer. Whether true or not, the most popular ones are given below.
❒ It is said that, on several occasions during his long voyage, Marco Polo was clueless as to where he was going, just like a blind man. This is supposedly the inspiration for the blindfolded player It, who has to ‘explore’ the pool without using his eyesight. This is the most popular explanation for the game’s origin.
❒ While in China, Marco Polo was traveling with his family in the Taklamakan desert; an infamous place whose name means the desert from which one never returns. It is said that Polo dozed off, and his horse separated from the rest of the caravan. On waking up, he thought could hear voices calling out his first name, and he responded with ‘Polo’, though he couldn’t see anyone. While he was eventually found by the group, Polo later realized he had been hallucinating.
❒ The Mongol emperor Kublai Khan developed a strong liking for the Polos, and refused to let them leave China. He relented only when one of his daughters was to marry a Persian Mongol ruler, and the Polos were a part of the wedding party. This journey from China to the Gulf of Persia was long and dangerous. The entourage of ships encountered a severe storm, in which only 18 of the 600 passengers survived, including the princess and the Polos. Since visibility in the storm was low, the survivors tried calling their leader with his first name (Marco), and he responded with his last (Polo).
The etymology of the Marco Polo pool game remains unclear despite several theories. However, it cannot be denied that this is among the oldest pool games known, and has been a source of joy for most people throughout their childhood.