Thursday, September 29, 6:30 p.m.
Nancy Marie Brown, acclaimed Vermont author, will read from and discuss Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them. Book signing to follow.
Join us for a richly imagined journey to the Viking world that created the Lewis chessmen, "the most important chess pieces in history" according to the New York Times.
In the early 1800's, on a Hebridean beach in Scotland, the sea exposed an ancient treasure cache: 93 chessmen carved from walrus ivory. Norse netsuke, each face individual, each full of quirks, the Lewis Chessmen are probably the most famous chess pieces in the world. Harry played Wizard's Chess with them in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Housed at the British Museum, they are among its most visited and beloved objects.
Questions abounded: Who carved them? Where? Nancy Marie Brown's Ivory Vikings explores these mysteries by connecting medieval Icelandic sagas with modern archaeology, art history, forensics, and the history of board games. In the process, Ivory Vikings presents a vivid history of the 400 years when the Vikings ruled the North Atlantic, and the sea-road connected countries and islands we think of as far apart and culturally distinct: Norway and Scotland, Ireland and Iceland, and Greenland and North America. The story of the Lewis chessmen explains the economic lure behind the Viking voyages to the west in the 800s and 900s. And finally, it brings from the shadows an extraordinarily talented woman artist of the twelfth century: Margret the Adroit of Iceland.
"Full of exciting detective work, along with absorbing excursions into the history of the Vikings, of chess in the Middle Ages, and of walrus ivory (known as “arctic gold”)." —The New Yorker
Nancy Marie Brown is the author of highly praised books of nonfiction, including Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths and A Good Horse Has No Color: Searching Iceland for the Perfect Horse. She has studied Icelandic literature and culture since 1978. Brown lives in Vermont, where she keeps four Icelandic horses and an Icelandic sheepdog.