What's the time, Mr Wolf?
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|Players||3 or more|
|Setup time||<1 minute|
|Playing time||No limit|
|Skill(s) required||Running, strategy|
What's the time, Mr Wolf? (also known as What time is it, Mr Wolf?, Grandma's Footsteps, 1 2 3 Piano in Belgium and in the United States What time is it, Mr. Fox?) is a form of tag played in the UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the USA, the English-speaking Caribbean and Belgium.
One player is chosen to be Mr Wolf. Mr Wolf stands at the opposite end of the playing field from the other players, facing away from them. A call-and-response then takes place: all players except for Mr Wolf chant in unison "What's the time, Mr Wolf?", and Mr Wolf will answer in one of the two ways:
1) Mr Wolf may call a clock time (e.g., "3 o'clock"). The other players will then take that many steps out loud as they go ("One, two, three"). Then they ask the question again.
2) Mr Wolf may call "Dinner Time!" Then Mr Wolf will turn and chase the other players back to their starting point. If Mr Wolf successfully tags a player, that player becomes the new Mr Wolf for the next round.
It is not uncommon for Mr Wolf to be allowed to look around at the other players, before answering the question; especially if there is a rule involving penalties applied to Mr Wolf if a player reaches him before "Dinner time" is called.
There is also a simpler version of the game where Mr Wolf faces the other players, who must remain stationary until "Dinner time" is called. If any player moves on a time of day being called, that player becomes Mr Wolf.
In another version, Mr Wolf holds a dandelion seed head and blows on it. The other players dance around him/her, taunting him "What's the time, Mr Wolf?" After each blow, Mr Wolf calls out "1 o'clock", "2 o'clock" etc. until all the seed head has been blown away. Then, he calls out "Dinner time!" and chases the other players to tag them before they can claim sanctuary at pre-designated points called "Bar". The players claim "Bar" by yelling out "B - A - R Bar" and touching the safety point. The skill is in deciding when the seed head is going to be completely blown away, as the players cannot run away until this happens. It could happen after one blow by Mr Wolf, or several. The first player tagged becomes Mr Wolf for the next round of the game.
This game can also be played on a hopscotch court. The players chant "What's the time Mr Wolf" and the wolf replies with a time. The players hop that number of spaces forwards on the hopscotch court. If Mr wolf answers with "It's dinner time" the players try to run back to the beginning of the hopscotch court before they are caught by Mr Wolf.
Similar games include Lupo Delle Ore in Italy, and Captain Midnight in the United States, in which everyone has to start running at midnight. The game also bears some resemblance to Red light, green light and Dahrumasan ga koronda.
Another variant of this game which has become popular is "Mr Shark, Mr Shark, what time is it?" The big difference is that this game is played in a swimming pool, lake, or other swimming area. When Lunch Time is called the player may try running through the water or swimming to get away from the shark.
A variant also exists in which the tagged players become wolves themselves, helping to tag the other players. The original wolf, however, still calls the numbers.
The variant played in the Low Countries, consists of one player at one end of the playfield with his back to the other players. He then calls out "1 2 3 piano!", whilst knocking three times on the wall in front of him. As he calls out, the other players are allowed to move towards him. Once the call is finished, the player quickly turns around. The other players then need to stand as still as possible. If the caller can spot someone moving, he can send that player back to the start. This is repeated until someone is able to tap the caller without being spotted.
What Time Is It, Mr. Fox? (the common name for the game in US) is also the name of a cabaret art rock band from Boston.
There are also children's books with this title that are inspired by the game, one published in 2003 and illustrated by Annie Kubler (ISBN 085953944X) and another published in 2007 written and illustrated by Gemma Raynor (ISBN 1845392779), and also What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile by Judy Sierra, Illustrated by Doug Cushman (Harcourt, 2002)
- Trust and power: taking care of ourselves through drama, Penny Casdagli, p 65