Why does the Lewis Queen look scared?

Why does the Lewis Queen look scared?

Sep 26, 2012, 12:54 PM |


I've recently been reading a lot about the Lewis Chessmen (12th-century chess pieces discovered in 1831 in Lewis, Scotland) particularly to try to answer why the queen looks so scared rather than the aggressive piece she is. I can't say I've found a definitive answer yet but there was some very interesting writing about it.

If we assume the queen moves like she does today, “The queen has more freedom of movement, and is therefore more dangerous than all of the other chess pieces; but conversely, the loss of the queen to an attacker is a severe handicap to the player. No wonder she looks so anxious and careworn.” (The journal of the American Medical Association, 2011)

But these pieces were used in the 12th century when the queen's moves were much more restricted (more like the King). 

My favourite mention of the lack of aggression was from Oliver Postgate (who created children's animation programmes in the 60s and 70s):

 “At different times both Peter Firmin and I had visited the Edward VII Gallery at the British Museum, where we had both noticed a set of Norse chessmen from the island of Lewis. What had impressed us was that, far from being fierce and warlike, it was clear that these were essentially kindly, non-belligerent characters, who were thoroughly dismayed by the prospect of contest . . . it occurred to Peter that the chessmen . . . could well have been called Nogs, that their prince was a Noggin and that the wicked baron . . . could be their . . . uncle, perhaps a Nogbad.”

This is taken from a large document called “The Lewis Hoard of Gaming Pieces: A Re-examination of their Context, Meanings, Discovery and Manufacture” By DAVID H CALDWELL, MARK A HALL and CAROLINE M WILKINSON (Society for Medieval Archaeology 2009) lewis/MED_05.pdf

This paper is very detailed and well worth a read if you’re interested.

So perhaps the "non-belligerent" character of the queen combined with the fact that she moved less aggressively and more like the king in those days meant that she was, justifiably quite scared in battle. 

Noggin the Nog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pyOJgNnvYo

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_chessmen