The object of the Peru Sapo frog game is to choke the frog. Before you get excited about animal cruelty, the word Sapo, which is Spanish for frog or toad, is the center piece of a centuries old game played in Peru.
Our introduction to playing the Sapo frog game came in the courtyard of a small bar in Peru serving the local corn beer called chica.
Hubby points out it was he who pleaded, or demanded, depending on who is remembering the event, that we stop to sample the fermented corn brew and thus our cycling crew discovered the Sapo frog game.
How is the Sapo frog game played?
Players throw the gold coins toward the chair-like board. Should a coin be swallowed by the frog everyone cheers wildly and the player declares they just got a ‘Sapo’. Kind of like getting a strike in bowling only dramatically harder.
For me who throws bowling balls not only in the gutters but in other player’s lanes, getting a coin in a frog’s mouth rates up there with feats such as walking on water.
When playing Sapo, two players stand four or five paces back and aim for the frog’s mouth. Each player will toss 10 Sapo coins one at a time. As a consolation if the coin doesn’t go in the mouth it may go in a surrounding hole, each with a different point award. When all the coins have been tossed players tally their scores.
My coins hit the wall and nearby bystanders for which there were no points awarded but I did hear some interesting remarks from those rubbing their arms and heads.
Not that I can attest to it, because I can assure you no coin of mine even got near the frog let alone in it’s mouth, but apparently when the frog swallows the treasured golden coin a gulping sound can be heard. I am thinking the ability to hear the ‘gulp’ may be in direct proportion to the amount of corn beer that has been consumed by the player.
History of Peru’s frog game
Ancient legends speak of the sacred Inca Lake, where Titicaca, the royal Inca King and son of the sun god , would throw gold pieces into the lake hoping to catch “El Sapo’s” (the frog’s) attention. The glistening waters of Lake Titicaca
If a frog, known for it’s magical powers, came to the surface and took the gold piece, legend tells of the player being granted a wish and the frog turning in to solid gold.
One might guess that didn’t happen very often yet apparently to honor all of the wishes that the Sapo granted, the Inca king built a golden statue of a grand Sapo on his palace grounds in Cusco for all to enjoy. Well to be honest, for all royalty to enjoy. Let’s not get carried away with generosity.
The Peru sapo frog game was one of suspense and dexterity. No kidding. Trying to get a coin to fly like a frisbee into a frog’s mouth proved far more difficult than keeping my bowling ball in my own lane.
As time passed the game is believed to have been brought to Spain by the Spanish conquistadors and subsequently spread all over Europe, albeit adopting different names in it’s travels.
A Peru Sapo frog game as a souvenir
During our stop at the side of the road bar, our cycling friend Jim bought a package containing the metal pieces for a ‘build it yourself Sapo game’ at home. The package contained a shiny brass frog, two spinners and 10 brass coins.
The thought of carrying any more weight by bike or in our luggage lead me to private head shaking at the purchase. This is another one of those I was wrong incidents. Look what Jim now has in his backyard!
Have you seen any traditional games in your travels? Have you brought them home as a souvenir?
Photo credit – # 4, 6, 7, 8 Jim Alexander