The origin of "tops" is unknown. A variety of different types of top shapes can be used for this game, and this fact has not missed Brueghel's notice.
While some tops are spun by pulling a string wrapped around the top - larger tops can be “whipped” in order to keep them spinning. Another type of top makes use of a spindle to hold it in place while a string is pulled.
These two latter types of tops are ones illustrated in Brueghel's painting. The boy on the left of the detail is "whipping" the top, while the boy in the center is holding a spindle as he watches the top spin. The aim of each player is to attempt to have his top spin longer than any other top. While the tops spin, a player hopes that his top will keep spinning and also stop other tops from spinning - hence, the name of the game.
Last update February 10, 2010