Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ivory Vikings, a Book Review

By C. Moffat.

As someone who has been into woodcarving since the age of 8, and even recently got into carving antler, I found this book to be fascinating. I also am into archaeology, Viking history, and Scottish history. So this book was good on all these topics.

I also as a kid played chess competitively, and can, in my opinion, hold my own. When I resumed playing chess in university I discovered I had only gotten better with age.

The book we are discussing here, "Ivory Vikings" by Nancy Marie Brown, is about a selection of Viking-era Chess pieces found on a beach in north-west Scotland. The majority of the pieces are carved from walrus ivory, and are believed to have been carved in Iceland roughly 600 - 700 years ago.

This is not a storybook. Rather I would classify it as a complete investigation into the mystery surrounding these marvelously carved chess pieces. The total number of chess pieces suggest they were once in a sack containing a total of 4 - 5 complete sets, but sadly many of the pieces are missing and if you mixed and matched the sets you would only get two complete sets.

Reading the book you will however learn lots about the carver(s) of the chess pieces. It is my personal suspicion that like all great artists, the artist who created the chess pieces had apprentices who would do the work on the lesser pieces. Reading the book you may come to a similar conclusion to mine. The author has her own theories so I won't spoil it and let the reader make up their own mind when they read the various theories on the topic.

Now you might be wondering - Wait, why is it a whole book about some mysterious ivory chess pieces? Well these particular chess pieces are the most famous and valuable pieces in the world, they are considered to be invaluable. The value of a single face piece is in the millions. The pawns less so.

While reading the book I even daydreamed of writing a movie script about stealing the chess pieces and a Sherlock Holmes-esque caper to get the pieces back. Perhaps the chess pieces could even be reunited with the full set in the film... With some villainous character having found the missing pieces and deciding they wanted the full set.

Anyway, I think I made my point. Ivory Vikings is an inspiring book to read. It tantalizes the imagination.

Replicas of the Ivory Vikings were used in one of the Harry Potter films.

Also while I am at it the TV series "Vikings" (an action drama produced by the History Channel) is fantastic. I definitely recommend watching it. Below is the trailer for Season One. Season Four will likely begin airing in February 2016.

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