War Games by Black Elk as told to John G. Neihardt: Summary

The story War Games was told to John G. Neihardt by Black Elk and it was written by Neihardt. The narrator Black Elk, describes the games of his childhood, which foreshadows his rough adult existence to come. He describes four different games which resemble war that he and his tribal boys used to play in their childhood.

Black Elk

In the summer the whites were away and there was enough meat. So Black Elk, the writer, was not afraid. All the boys were involved in war games. The boys over five or six would fight each other throwing mud balls with willow sticks. And the big boys would play "Throwing-Them-Off-Their-Horses", making two groups. They would ride on small horses and seize the boy of the rival group. If all the boys of one side fell upon the ground, they would lose the game. It was almost like a battle, but people were not killed. They would get hurt. Black Elk also played this game being naked as he would be able to fight quickly. But once he fell on the bed of thorny pears and thorns were stuck on his back. Watching the big boys play, he supposed that they would kill all the white persons or drive them away from their country.

After a big hunt, the little boys played another type of war game. They would go out of the village and make grass huts there. When it was dark they had to go crawling on their bellies to the big people's house to steal dried meat. If they returned without being caught, they would have a big feast and tell others the story of their brave work. Once Black Elk was climbing the tree to get the meat. But somebody cried and he thought that he was seen. He was so afraid that he fell off the tree and ran away crying.

They would have a chapped breast dance. The boy whose breast was burned by the sun would be the leader. They also practiced endurance. Dry sunflower seeds were put on their wrists and these had to be burned down there. But they could not throw the burning seeds and they cold not even cry.

Reading on War Games

Analysis of War Games

Biography of Black Elk