Saturday, August 24, 2013

More Chess Guys

Our family's recent interest in playing chess, as evidenced by my grandchildren and their midnight chess game last weekend, caused me to search through our closets for chess sets that Ed and I have collected through the years. This set, a reproduction of pieces that are in the British Museum, is thought to be Scandinavian in origin. The pieces were found in Scotland in 1831.

The pawns look like little cemetery markers. The queen seems to be upset. The knight is clearly a horseman riding a horse, not just a horse head as some knight pieces are portrayed. The rook is soldierly, almost like a front linesman in football. The bishop's miter is squarely atop his head and the king has a beard and long strands of hair.

Ed and I got to thinking that the pieces seemed familiar so we hauled out Ed's collection of Harry Potter movies and cued up the chess scenes in the first Potter movie. Sure enough, the chess game that Harry and Ron are playing at Hogwarts in a Christmas scene, usually called "Wizard's Chess," uses figures that closely resemble these figures, the "Isle of Lewis Chessmen." Later, at the end of the movie, comes the scene where Harry, Ron, and Hermione play human chess, a scary version of Wizard's Chess, where Ron sacrifices himself in a move that saves Harry. It's a high point of the first movie.

Interestingly enough, the Isle of Lewis Chessmen are Item #61 in the BBC's  "A History of the World in 100 Objects," a series produced in collaboration with the British Museum. I have had them tucked away in the closet for quite a few years. Now that I'm learning more about their history and provenance, the little figures will have to be a part of my sketching subjects.

I'm sure, too, that our grandkids will enjoy seeing these little chessmen and playing a game or two with them when they come to for a visit.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

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