Boards » Norse Mythology Chess Set

Norse Mythology Chess ​

There’s one chess set with which I would like to start this collection, despite the fact that it isn’t really mythological, but historical; that is Isle of Lewis chess set (or rather its reproductions). This is a chess set of which every chess history enthusiast must have heard.

That’s one of the oldest surviving chess sets, supposed to have been created around 12th century – that’s also around the time when hnefatafl was starting to lose popularity and to be slowly replaced by chess. Also, while the isle of Lewis is Scottish today, it had been under Nordic influence at that time, and the pieces themselves are suspected to have been created Trondheim, the medieval capital of Norway.

Lewis Chessman – Bone Chess Set

Lewis Chessman – Bone Norse chess Set
Lewis Chessman – Bone Norse chess Set
Lucas
Lewis Chessman – Bone Chess Set​
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very good set this one, durable

This chess set is one of the most faithful reproductions in terms of used materials – the original pieces found on isle of Lewis are made from walrus ivory. 

These reproduction chess pieces are made from stained buffalo bone – which is fairly close to the original design. And despite their almost astonishing appearance, the pieces are very durable and should be perfect for long chess games. An additional bonus is the fact that the bottoms are felted.

Lewis Chessman – Bone Norse Set
Lewis Chessman – Bone Norse Set
Lewis Chessman – Bone Norse chess board
Lewis Chessman – Bone Norse chess board
Lewis Chessman – Bone Norse chess Set
Lewis Chessman – Bone Norse chess Set
Lewis Chessman – Bone chess pieces
Lewis Chessman – Bone chess pieces

            As for the board, it is not known how the original board looked , it has never been found. But in the context of historical chess, a wooden board is always a sure bet.

            Truly, if you are looking for a historically meaningful chess set that will also have a great appearance, this is one of the better choices.

Pieces:

bone, about 1”-3”, board – solid maple and walnut, 23”x23”

Norse Mythology Chess Set - Wooden

Norse Mythology Chess Set - Wooden​
9.5/10

This norse mythology themed chess set is most certainly worth a second look. With the pieces of authentic, viking design, styled after Odin, Frigg, Loki and Borr, Jörmungandr and Thor, they are sure to enchant any norse mythology enthusiast!

            In terms of material choice, the pieces themselves could well have been made centuries ago. As for the board – it’s also wooden, but the squares on the board are a little smallish, so it could make playing this set a little bit more inconvenient, as the pieces are really cramped there. But in this set the board here is just an addition, and one may swap it for another – the real focus here are the pieces.

Of course this comment above would be of little value if the set weren’t meant to be played. But this one is certainly meant to be played – the pieces aren’t delicate, there are no parts that could break off should they be handled improperly. And obviously their appearance is so good that the pieces themselves could be displayed on a shelf, even outside strictly the context of chess.

Pieces:

Pieces – walnut, board – walnut.

Norse Mythology Chess Set - Polystone

Norse mythology polystone chess set
Norse mythology polystone chess set

            This chess sets, made from hand-painted polystone is certain to capture a younger norse mythology enthusiast’s attention – the vivid colours and the clear and distinct piece design has its merits. For Valhalla!

            However it should be noted that this set usually does not come with a board, and so if it is going to be used for playing chess, it shall be needed to acquire a board separately.

Norse Mythology Chess Set - Polystone
7/10
Pieces:

Pieces – polystone, around 3” each, no board

Hnefatafl Chess Set - Wood Carved

Hnefatafl Chess Set - Wood Carved
Hnefatafl Chess Set - Wood Carved
Hnefatafl Chess Set - Wood Carved
8.7/10

As it was said earlier, there are many different hnefatafl variants. But this is the variant of hnefatafl that is specifically called hnefatafl – that is, there are 37 pieces total on an 11×11 board. It is also quite good in terms of historical realism – there are no polymers and plastics, only wood and painted stone.

            While the set below is a traveler’s set, this one is meant more to be kept in one place – perhaps even on display. Fit for a king!

What does Hnefatafl Mean?

Hnefatafl literally translates to “fist table,” from the Old Norse (equivalently in modern Icelandic) hnef stands for ‘fist’, and tafl is translated as ‘table’.
wood carved hnefatafl board1
wood carved hnefatafl board1
wooden marble hnefatafl set1
wood marble hnefatafl set
wood marble hnefatafl board
wood marble hnefatafl board
wood marble hnefatafl set
wood marble hnefatafl set5
hnefatafl set
hnefatafl set
hnefatafl chess
hnefatafl chess
Hnefatafl Chess Set - Wood Carved
Hnefatafl Chess Set - Wood Carved
Pieces:

Pieces – pine wood, 0.8”, board – painted marble, 7.9”x7.9”

            Now, let’s squeeze in yet another hnefatafl set;

Hnefatafl Chess Set - Bone & Leather

Hnefatafl Chess Set - Bone & leather
Hnefatafl Chess Set - Bone & leather
Hnefatafl Chess Set - Bone & Leather​
6/10

This striking hnefatafl set looks as if it could have come straight out of some Nordic saga. With the leather pouch-board, and with the horn and bone pieces it is perfect even for actual historical reenactment – or just for getting into the mood for some drinkin’, brawlin’ and pillagin’!

            As for historical accuracy, with the board having 7×7 squares, and with the number of pieces available, it is perfect for one of the smaller hnefatafl variants – brandubh, for one. As an interesting note here, brandubh is supposedly a primarily Irish form of hnefatafl.

How old is Hnefatafl ?

Hnefatafl is said to be over 1600 years old and was played mainly in Nordic countries and much of North-West Europe. It probably developed from a Roman war game called Ludus Latrunculorum. It is said to be created within the historical period 1-400 A.D

bone leather hnefatafl chess package
bone leather hnefatafl chess package
bone leather hnefatafl set1
bone leather hnefatafl set1
bone leather hnefatafl chess set norse mythology
bone leather hnefatafl chess set norse mythology
bone leather hnefatafl set2
bone leather hnefatafl set2
bone leather hnefatafl chess pieces1
bone leather hnefatafl chess pieces1
bone leather hnefatafl set closeup1
bone leather hnefatafl set closeup1

There are other variants of hnefatafl played on 7 by 7 boards, however they usually require more pieces than sold with this set. But, should you want to play one of the other variants, it’s fairly easy to replace the pieces with anything else in whichever number needed – after all, there are only three distinct piece types.

Pieces:

Pieces – horn and bone, board – leather, doubling as a pouch

How do you pronounce Hnefatafl?

Hnefatafl in modern language pronounces ‘neffa-tafel’. Early Old Norse: [ˌxn̥e.βɑˈtʰɑβɫ̩].
Late Old Icelandic: [ˌn̥ɛ.ʋaˈtʰaβl̩].

Old Norse: [‘hneva,tavl] – “hnevatavl”. The Fs are Vs, the initial H is present.

There are many more hnefatafl variants, and many more different sets, so if you like the idea of that game, you can easily find a set to your liking. There are a couple universal sets being sold, that is sets with a large number of piece, where the board is painted in such a way that there are a couple different board outlines visible – for playing different variants.

 There’s even a modern fantasy hnefatafl variant called “Thud”, sold as a board game. And also, if that’s your thing, some smaller hnefatafl variants can be played on a regular chess board, with regular chess pieces.

            But that’s all about tafl games for now. Back to chess – let’s just wrap it up with one more set; this time, it’s…

Vikings vs Celts Norse Chess Set

Vikings vs Celts Norse Chess Set
Vikings vs Celts Norse Chess Set
Vikings vs Celts Norse Chess Set
8.7/10

Did Vikings Play Chess?

The Vikings likely did play chess, but more so they played their own version of chess “called Hnefatafl,” where “king” refers to a particular, centered piece in the game. Some say the rules resembled a Viking raid, where you win the game by defeating the opposing king. Hnefatafl translates to ‘Fist table’ 

Vikings are always going to be remembered as fearsome invaders, attacking, pillaging and then setting fire to what cannot be plundered. However, not always were they so lucky and sometimes they encountered strong defences.

            There’s one such battle that’s always going to be remembered, the battle of Clontarf. It led to the celtic people’s victory and the wane of viking influence over Ireland – however at heavy losses to both sides. But try for yourself – maybe this time the vikings shall be victorious? Or maybe the losses shan’t be so heavy?

Celts versus Vikings chess pieces
Celts versus Vikings chess pieces
Vikings chess
Vikings chess
Celts versus Vikings chess
Celts versus Vikings chess
Celts versus Vikings chess pieces1
Celts versus Vikings chess pieces1
Celts versus Vikings chess
Celts versus Vikings chess

Now, as for this norse chess set itself; only the pieces are sold here, without a board. The pieces are made from polystone – a fairly popular and quite durable choice. There are two different versions available; one is red-and-white, while the other is in full colour.

Pieces:

Pieces – polystone, around 3”-4 ½” each

Isle of Lewis chess reproduction

Isle of Lewis polystone chess pieces2
Isle of Lewis polystone chess pieces2
Isle of Lewis chess reproduction​
8.7/10

This version of the Lewis chessmen in terms of appearance is on par with the set mentioned  above. However it is much more affordable while retaining good durability and playability.

            Fit both for the younger norse mythology enthusiast and for the older norse history enthusiast.

            Usually sold without a board, however it depends on the retailer, as this set in polystone is available in many different flavours from many different retailers

Isle of Lewis polystone chess set
Isle of Lewis polystone chess set
Isle of Lewis chess
Isle of Lewis chess
Isle of Lewis polystone chess set
Isle of Lewis polystone chess set
Isle of Lewis chess board
Isle of Lewis chess board

And with that set we shall finish for today with norse themed chess sets – and chess-like games.

Fara heil ok vel!

Pieces:

Pieces – polystone, about 1”-3”, usually no board

Wrapping It Up

Norse mythology is frequently reached into by modern writers and screenwriters, so it’s no wonder that it has become a part of popular culture of today. Considered in general, norse culture as such is becoming something of a part of the modern western culture, even if only in the context of its influence on works of fiction. And of course, there are norse-themed chess sets too. But, there’s in fact one ancient norse chess-like game, or rather a family of chess-like games, which also has to be mentioned whenever there’s talk of chess in norse context; they are generally known as tafl games, or hnefatafl. These games were being played from around 4th to around 12th century, so they tend to be rather obscure to a modern chess enthusiast – which is a shame, really, as they are as viking as it gets!

And with that set we shall finish for today with norse themed chess sets – and chess-like games.

 

 

            Fara heil ok vel!

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