White knight, black knight
The gold knight joined our collection of Christmas tree decorations last Christmas. This was just after we had seen and been captivated by the Lewis chessmen in both the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland. This Christmas the gold knight was joined by a burgundy brother, given to us as a surprise Christmas present.
The Lewis chessmen were unearthed on the island of Lewis in 1831. They seem to date to the 12th century and most probably were made in Norway. We know almost nothing about their history, and yet they are so popular that they have given rise to a whole range of spin off products. In our house alone, as well as two replica knights and the Christmas decorations, we have a tea towel, a magnet, a pen, a notepad and a lens cloth.
What would the anonymous carver make of the museum exhibitions and the souvenirs? Or of Harry Potter playing Wizard’s Chess with the chessmen? It’s not possible, really, even to pose the question. Our two worlds are too distant from each other.
Footnote: I did find a reference to a book, Ivory Vikings: the mystery of the most famous chessmen in the world and the woman who made them, by Nancy Marie Brown. Now that does sound worth following up.