The Geography Lesson

31 October 2012

from Skulváði Úlfr: Legends

Skulváði challenges Fossiker in ‘the simple game’1 to win a compass sought after by Sultans

They faced the cups. They sowed.
They winnowed. Four cards moved.
They tilled. Amulets danced.
Hunter drew. The Wolf dodged.
Less is more. More too much.
Eyes faced north. Eyes faced south.
Flat stones shimmied. Stacks skipped.
Still cups yawned. Stocks grew deep.

The Foe’s till2 sat. Varg sowed.
Spears’ din-3 sweller claimed. Ash4 sat.
Witch boom-wheels5 spun. Ash slept.
Hogni’s Maid yawned.6 Ash dreamt.
Oak fed Grid’s steed. Varg rode.7
Shield flourished.8 Seeds sprouted.
Point-crash-urger stood.9 Stand.
Guards rubbed their beards.10 Time aged.

Brigand-spy11 moved. He broke.
Bush-grinner12 prowled. Trees13 sighed.
Terror-homes14 heaved. Targes15 clinked.
Tilled cards stood. Seed-lines slept.
Hurdles16 dipped. Hunter aimed.
Hail bound north. Sun swept south.
He swiped hone-rods.17 She swerved.
He scooped swiftly. They tied.

Battles resumed. Stems18 leaned.
Net-bands19 emptied. Cards swam.
She reaped Third. Second bared.
Wolf struck First. Hunter paused.20
He was ring-short.21 She reigned.
Each had gained. No side lost.
Wolf played Sixth. Huntsman closed.
Prey’s Third sowed three. They tied.

Four fed each field. Crows sat.
Troopman scooped. His fist filled.22
He played the foe. He charged.
The wind soured. Smoke blew.
Strong ice slipped.23 Storm-Njörðr24 tripped.
Straits-darts25 plunged. Troll-wives26 laughed.
Skuld reaped Sixth. One seed stood.
She played it. Birch was snagged.

Wolf led by one. Winds rose.
One well dried. Fifth grew ten.
Always move east. Look west.
Fear north winds.27 Watch Muspell.28
Third sowed four. Varg held Boar.29
Skuld played Fifth. Úrðr stayed put.30
The forest grew. Eleven.31
Mowed field flattened. Seven.32

Sixth sowed one. Seeds dispersed.
So Skuld charged. Úrðr was held.
Second reaped.33 Sixth bloomed one.
Skier34 skidded. Planks sank.
Now came the rout. Wolf barked.
Fifth sowed its two. Oak ripped.
Planks35 strewed. Vain were rallies.
Claws doubled.36 And one to spare.

Varg’s Sixth sowed one. Spears lay.37
Thane strode. He gained three arms.38
He skied slopes. Then he skid.
Skuld’s Sixth cribbed one. First hugged six.
Both cups played. Oak was felled.
Thick woods closed in. Frost ran.
West moon rose. One rose tall.
Wolves doubled. Shadows grew.39

More storms brewed. Queen Skuld cloaked.
Oak mossed. Her Sixth sowed one.
Torn mail ran. Archer’s Fourth sowed.
Fogs lifted. Skuld thundered.
Third strew well. Three faced three.
Her Third stared. His Fourth cringed.
Varg ran free. Fangs were bared.
Hunter’s tracks slipped. Wolf grinned.

From Sixth rose one. Woods closed.
From Fourth rose two. Sky roared.
Carried split.40 Tops toppled.41
Wolf howled. Hunter turned prey.
Troll-wife42 tilled. Ván’s fields grew.
From Sixth came one. Fifth sowed two.
Sixth’s belly swelled. One birthed.
Thane cut fogs. Cattle bayed.

Hliðr43 was muddied. He stalked.
His cup held five. Wolf smirked.
Three moves were hers. She grinned.
Boar starved. One move was his.44
She sowed First’s two. Sun shone.
Second’s Three tilled. Trees bloomed.
No score scored.45 He was halved.
Queen’s First self-sowed. Serf bowed.46

Wyrd’s box closed. Wins were hers.
Wood-gold gleamed. Glass-stone glowed.
Troll-wife sang. Njörðr weighed stones.
Rome’s sun rose. Skuld’s coat shone.
Maniples danced. Helms bent.
More bets were planned. Úllr bowed.
Masked guests waited. All rode.
Gold ran. Járnsaxa47 won.


  1. The Simple Game – Mánculo TUN. (TUNIT) meaning ‘Geography Lesson’; a board game of numbers, rel. to mancala. In the game, players face each other (one, north; the other, south). Each has a scoring cup or mánculo to his or her right on the board. The players open the game by placing or sowing four game pieces or ‘seeds’ or ‘cards’ in each of the 12 depressions or small square cups on the board. They begin by taking turns to ‘sow’ one ‘seed’ at time (from their row of 6 cups, moving counter-clockwise). The aim is for each player to fill his or her mánculo before the other. Each seed that goes into the scoring cup or mánculo, a large square board, cannot be removed and does not move once put there. A player may lose a turn when the other sows so that the last seed in the move ends in the other’s scoring cup. A player may increase his or her number of seeds (thus depleting the opponent’s) if that player ends a move in one of the opponent’s empty (vacant) cups causing an award of whatever number of seeds are sitting in the opposing well or cup. The game ends when one player cannot make a move or when none of the remaining seeds in the cups can be taken because they have been collected in the mánculoes.
  2. The Foe’s till – Fossiker’s mánculo did not grow (gain new pieces)
  3. Spears’ din sweller – Skulváði; ON. (OLD NORSE) ‘Warrior’
  4. Ash, Oak – Fossiker; ON. the man, the warrior
  5. Witch boom-wheels – KER. (KERRIGASH) Síswyo’s shields (amulets) See Skulváði Úlfr: The Epic Poem, Book 6
  6. Hogni’s Maid – Skulváði; ON. meaning ‘Hilðr’; ref. to the valkyrie, Hilðr and to battle;
    Hogni’s Maid yawned suggests that the game is easy for Skulváði and that she seemed bored or feigned this as a game tactic
  7. Grid’s steed – Skulváði; ON. meaning ‘the wolf’; Varg – Skulváði; ON. meaning ‘Wolf’
  8. shield flourished – the board (game) was going very well
  9. Point-crash-urger – Fossiker; ON. meaning ‘warrior’
  10. Guards rubbed beards – guards spoke in close conference
  11. brigand-spy – Fossiker, mercenary-spy
  12. Bush-grinner – Skulváði; ON. meaning ‘wolf’
  13. trees – the guards observing the game; ON. meaning ‘warriors’
  14. terror-homes – breasts, chests
  15. targes – shields
  16. hurdles – playing cards; ON. meaning ‘shields’
  17. hone-rods – amulets; ON. meaning ‘swords’
  18. stems – guards (holding shaft weapons)
  19. net-bands – east and west edges of the board, ref. to the scoring Kahalahs or bowls; that is, a new game was to be played (i.e. battles resumed); ON. meaning ‘shields’
  20. hunter, huntsman – Fossiker; prey – Skulváði
  21. ring-short – vulnerable; ref. to damaged ring-mail coat
  22. His fist filled … Smoke blew – Fossiker chose his largest scoop, an ancient military tactic, that worked well on the battlefield, of using the largest of the new troops to mirror the moves of opposing forces and so confuse them, which worked well, at least, in good weather. Therefore, ‘he played the foe’ = he played according to Skulváði’s style or he played as Skulváði did.
  23. strong ice – his sharp move; ON. meaning ‘axe’
  24. storm-Njörðr – ref. to Fossiker’s cards in the game-battle; ON. meaning ‘warriors’
  25. straits-darts plunged – ref. to Fossiker’s tactic; ON. meaning ‘ships sank’
  26. troll-wives – enemies, the opposing forces
  27. Fear north winds – watch your opponent’s hand (on the north side of the board)
  28. Watch Muspell – keep an eye on unexpected Black Guards threatening your hand (pay attention to the seeds of an unexpected sowing on the board’s south side)
  29. Boar – Fossiker; ON. meaning ‘rough-rider’
  30. Skuld – Skulváði, the one looking ahead; ON. meaning the ‘Future’;
    Úrðr – Fossiker, the one looking back/behind; ON. meaning the ‘Past’
  31. The forest grew. Eleven. – Skulváði (Forest) scored in total (grew) eleven
  32. Mowed field flattened. Seven – Fossiker (Mowed field) with the lesser score of seven
  33. Second reaped. Sixth bloomed one. – Skulváði reaped her second bowl, which held five cards, and sowing one amulet in each, gave her one in the sixth bowl which allowed her another move before Fossiker, once again. This is a tactic Skulváði continually employs.
  34. Skier – Fossiker; ref. to his association with Úllr (Mighty Skier)
  35. Planks – cards, amulets; ON. meaning ‘oarsmen’, ‘warriors’
  36. Claws doubled. And one to spare. – Skulváði’s (The Wolf’s) cards (claws) score was double, and one in addition, that of Fossiker’s (score)
  37. Spears lay – Fossiker’s cards stayed unmoved; that is, Skulváði had a series of successive turns
  38. Thane strode – the man (thane), Fossiker, made a strident move;
    He gained three arms – He (Fossiker) increased his score by three
  39. Thick woods closed in…Shadows grew. – Skulváði’s repeated plays again doubled Fossiker’s score plus one because the Colonel had failed to pay closer attention to moving his west-most cards first and so had to wait a long time as if all Winter and into early Spring (Frost ran) until he could play again
  40. carried – ref. to the lessening value of Fossiker’s cards’ score; ON. meaning ‘shield’
  41. tops toppled – ref. to Fossiker’s anticipation of his loss; ON. tops meaning ‘helmets’
  42. troll-wife – Skulváði; ON. meaning ‘(giant) seeress’, a Ván (one of the Vánir)
  43. Hliðr – Fossiker, ON. meaning ‘gateway’
  44. His cup held five… One move was his – Fossiker, with only one cup filled with five cards meant that when he moved he would give the Queen three more chances to better him.
  45. No score scored. – Skulváði, also holding five final amulet-cards, has sown from her second bowl without worry though
    there was no score to gain from this;
    her final score has doubled Fossiker’s plus two.
  46. Queen – Skulváði; Serf – Fossiker
  47. Jarnsaxa – ON. meaning ‘Ironcutlass’ (Skulváði)
 


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