Visual Encyclopedia

Mother May I?

Mother May I? is a children's game, also known as "Captain May I?" and "Father May I?".

Objective, Rules, and General Gameplay
One player plays the "mother", "father" or "captain". The other players are the "children" or "crewmembers". To begin the game, the mother or father stands at one end of a room and turns around facing away, while all the children line up at the other end. The children take turns asking "Mother/Father, may I ____?" and makes a movement suggestion. For example, one might ask, "Mother/Father, may I take five steps forward?" The mother/father either replies "Yes, you may" or "No, you may not do that, but you may _____ instead" and inserts his/her own suggestion. The players usually move closer to the mother/father but are sometimes led farther away. Even if the mother/father makes an unfavorable suggestion, the child must still perform it. The first of the children to reach the location of the mother/father wins the game. That child then becomes the mother/father himself, the original mother/father becomes a child, and a new round begins.

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In The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, this children's game is a symbol for good efforts by Ruth May and peaceful cultural relations between those who are displaced and locals by enjoying in something simple and fun. There is a deep analysis here. *wink wink*

Contributed by Meghan Marks

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