What Have You Got There?

Children's Games of Folktale Type 2043
edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2009-2011


  1. What Have You Got There? (England).

  2. Club Fist (USA).

  3. Links to related sites.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

What Have You Got There?


Two playfellows place their clenched fists one on the top of the other; the owner of the uppermost fist is asked, "What have you got there?"

He replies, "Apple pie," or any other victuals; is told, "Take it off or else I'll knock it off!" and obeys; and so on till the last, when the dialogue runs:

"What have you got there?" -- Ans. "Roast beef."

"Where's my part?" -- Ans. "The cat's got it."

"Where's the cat?" -- Ans. "In the wood."

"Where's the wood?" Ans. "The fire's burnt it."

"Where's the fire?" -- Ans. "The water's quenched it."

"Where's the water?" -- Ans. "The ox has drunk it."

"Where's the ox?" -- Ans. "The butcher's killed it."

"Where's the butcher?" -- Ans. "Behind the church door cracking nuts.'

Both (pretending to throw nutshells at each other): "You shall have the shells, and I shall have the kernels!"

Club Fist


A child lays on a table his clenched fist, with the thumb elevated; another grasps the raised thumb with his own fist, and so on until a pile of fists is built up. A player, who remains apart from the group, then addresses the child whose hand is at the top:

"What's that?"

"A pear."

"Take it off, or I'll knock it off."

The same conversation is repeated with the next child, and so on; the fist being withdrawn as speedily as possible, to escape a rap from the questioner. When only one is left, the following dialogue ensues:

"What have you got there?"

"Bread and cheese."

"Where's my share ?"

"Cat's got it."

"Where's the cat?"

"In the woods."

"Where's the woods ?"

"Fire burned it."

"Where's the fire?"

"Water quenched it."

"Where's the water?"

"Ox drank it."

"Where's the ox?"

"Butcher killed it."

"Where's the butcher?"

"Rope hung him."

"Where's the rope?"

"Rat gnawed it."

"Where's the rat?"

"Cat caught it."

"Where's the cat?"

"Behind the church door. The first who laughs, or grins, or shows the teeth has three pinches and three knocks."

Then follows a general scattering; for some child is sure to laugh, and if he does not do so of his own accord, his neighbors will certainly tweak him, poke him, or otherwise excite his risibility. Georgia.

In Pennsylvania the conversation ends:

"Where's the butcher?"

"He's behind the door eracking nuts, and whoever speaks first I'll slap his fingers, Because I am the keeper of the keys,

And I do whatever I please."

This dialogue, based on a well-known nursery tale, has maintained itself with remarkable persistence, and even verbal identity, in several European languages. We meet it in Germany and Denmark, as well as England.

Links to related sites

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised June 12, 2011.