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Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Fable Game: a game to read; a thousand books to play

The Fable Game, Enzo Mari (1965)
Our edition: Corraini Edizioni, 2011.

A fabulous suggestion for a rainy Saturday morning: a game to read; a thousand books to play. 

For those of you who don't know it, the simply complex The Fable Game by Enzo Mari is comprised of six thick, large cards, printed on both sides.

Each side has a central scene and two side scenes which can be combined as one chooses, by means of a slot at the top and a slot at the bottom, composing suggested narrative routes, a succession of rooms or stages for navigating, going forwards, backwards and jumping from one to the other as needed, as the story unfolds in our minds and through our words while we play.  

The cards contain representations of approximately seventy fable motifs; forty five animals, the sun, the moon, an umbrella, a cage, trees, a boot, a tree trunk, bamboo, rocks, an apple, a pile of earth, a nest, two eggs. 

Hedgehog, apple, cage, crow, fox, stork.

Moon, night, cow, frog. 

Skull, lion with cub, big rock, small rock, another rock, a rifle.

What I always find fascinating about this kind of book-game is to see the way design -when it's good- makes magic without the need to give any instructions. The Fable Game was a gift for my son. I gave it to him this morning, about three hours ago. We took it out of its folded box, checked to see how the cards slotted together. Then we made our first random composition. All I said was that The Fable Game was great for telling lots of different stories. Immediately, he said "let me do it! let me do it!", and he started with a story about the lion, who was angry with the rat because... and for the next few minutes built his story, first following the order of the visual sequences in place, but then gradually jumping from scene to scene, moving around the table, incorporating motifs as required for his story. When he finished, he wanted to disassemble it and reassemble it differently. And that's just what we did. And away he went again. This time the fox went out for a walk and bumped into a... And we've been at it all morning, with fights between the different animals, problems to be solved, solutions to be sought, and endings to be reached.

The first few times we put the cards together randomly and created stories from the suggested sequences. But then we started organising the cards to suit the story we fancied telling.  

To add yet another layer of fun, very much in the We Read it Like This style, we switched on our recorder while we were making up the stories and then listened to them. We have been having a great time all morning.

Then I came to write this post and my son continued to play with The Fable Game, this time using the stages as a doll's house for the figurines -in this case a set of smurfs- he spends all day playing with, making up stories and inventing dialogue. "It's like a doll's house, but with more characters and many more dangers", he said, very chuffed indeed.

A truly fabulous morning. One of many, I suspect.

The Fable Game is published by the Italian publisher Corraini Edizioni, with an introductory text in Italian, English, Spanish and Japanese.

(c) of the illustrations, Enzo Mari, 1965, Corraini Edizioni, 2011.
(c) of the text, Ellen Duthie, 2014. By all means copy it or reproduce it, but please be nice and quote your source (author and blog).  

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