The Chessmen of Middle-earthby Varda
I don't know if anyone else is collecting the
Lord of The Rings chess set from Eaglemoss? The one I complained about
having Frodo as a pawn?
Anyway, I have the full set now, and was surprised when I got another
box, and opened it to find a very nice little Balrog, with 'Black Rook'
on the base. That meant I had a chess set with two black rooks. I was
even more mystified to receive another 'white king', even though it was
a brilliant Elrond in his council robes.
Just as I was thinking I was losing my marbles a letter arrived telling
me the set had proved so wonderfully successful (and profitable, I
thought...) that they were doing another set. To keep me sweet they
sent a free chess board for the second, which is nicer than the one I
bought for the first. :-/
A cunning ploy, Blackadder, I thought and was going to cut their
standing order but then the Black Queen arrived and it was Shelob, and
I thought hmm this is actually rather fun.
The second set is a lot more imaginative than the first. The blacks in
the first were all rather boring orcs, except for the castles (or
rooks, but they are called castles here) which were Barad-dur and
Orthanc. They complemented the white castles which were the White Tower
of Minas Tirith and Osgiliath.
Shelob is perched on her rock about to pounce on Frodo, nice and
menacing with good detail. Having Her Ladyship as Black Queen is much
better than having the Witch king as queen, as in the first set. I do
think a queen should be female, and there are not that many nasty
females in LOTR Not many females at all but we won't start that hare
Later pieces include Shadowfax and Gwaihir and Treebeard, so it will be visually a very interesting set.
So I let the order stand. There is a problem, though; how do you play
Lord of The Rings chess? I mean, you can't play it just straight, like
chess. Gollum is a black pawn. What happens when you move him against
Sam, who is a white pawn? You can't just play the traditional moves,
you have to play out the parts they have in the book. So you have to
have Sam ask
'Where are you sneaking off to?' and Gollum reply;
Or when Frodo moves against Gollum, does he say;
'Nice master....kind master...nice hobbitses wouldn't checkmate poor Smeagol?'
On the other side, Faramir and Eowyn are both white pawns. Oh dear that will never work. Eowyn will shriek;
'You're a PAWN? I can't marry anyone less than a KING' To which Faramir will gently reply;
'Don't look now, darling, but you are a pawn too....'
Worse, Legolas is a white bishop, but Gimli is only a pawn. Can you imagine what will happen there? Gimli will explode;
'A pawn? Me, a pawn when that goldy-haired pointy-eared tree-hugger is a backliner? I want an immediate promotion!'
Then there is the accuracy problem with a fighting Arwen. The queen
is the most versatile and dangerous piece on the board, but can Arwen
go into battle? Won't the purists die of apoplexy? Won't she ruin her
Anyway, there is the problem of off-ball tackles as well. What if
one is playing chess with this set and some nasty orc takes Pippin
(another pawn) One is just going to let some nasty orc kill Pippin? Far
better an offside brawl, a broken chess-set and isn't it well they
So we have to have a game in which the pieces act out their parts from the book, not play chess, at which I always lost anyway.
Like in Toy Story when the door closes and all the toys, or chess
pieces, come to life and start to talk.....in Middle Earth the game,
like the story, never ends.
But you know, when I come down in the morning, the pieces are not quite
in the positions I left them in the night before. And yes, Prim, they
do chatter dreadfully. After I go up the stairs at night I hear them at
it, and the voices can get quite raised, till Gandalf raps his staff on
the board and shouts;
'Silence!' like Dumbledore used to do.
He has a hard time enforcing discipline, as all four unruly hobbits
are in front of him, grumbling Gimli beside them and Eowyn and Faramir
arguing over the pre-nuptial agreement as well. On the end is a poor
soldier of Gondor, making a complete hash of drawing a longbow (not on
your knee with a longbow, my friend....) I am sure he is a bit overcome
by the elite company.
Both white knights are from Rohan, Eomer and Theoden, and they are
wonderfully worked pieces. Theoden especially looks so grave and noble,
this is his last chance to regain his honour, so if there is any joking
he barks; 'Is this a chessboard or a cheeseboard?'
When I put Theoden on his square he glumly looked at the castle beside him, Osgiliath, and said 'One ruin beside another ruin..'
Some characters highlight the dilemma of good and evil. There is no
Boromir; would he be black or white? And poor Gollum doesn't really
deserve to be in with a lot of orcs. His livid white skin stands out
sharply from the black armour of orc and Uruk-hai and I can hear his
sad whinging voice all the time;
'Orcses, nassty, filthy orcses, no, no, not here with them! Nice
master, kind master, master will let Smeagol stay with nice white
'Not a chance, sneaker...' mutters Sam.
The black backline is not a happy place either. Sauron isn't too
keen on having the Witch King as a wife,and it goes beyond arguing over
who takes out the trash. Basically, two people who don't have faces
find it hard to interract. O.o
Beside the old board the new one is a howling silence, with just Elrond
staring across at Shelob and the Balrog. After a long time the Elf Lord
of Rivendell carefully arranged his tawny velvet robes and said with
cheerful disgust to Shelob;
'You know, you are a really ugly arachnid'
This caused the Balrog to fall on the board and roll about flapping
his leathery wings, convulsed with mirth. Her Ladyship just sat there,
her little red eyes glinting. I think the game on Board Two will be
conducted with much more, er, venom than Board One.
After all, Shelob attacking and stinging Frodo is one move I have to allow; it's in the book.
Varda, queen of pawns....
Varda, you slay me! I love it. Although to be honest, (if you will permit me a couple of observations) . . .
I was surprised that Elrond didn't offer to to show Her Ladyship the
Elvish craft of Weaving. Heavens knows she has enough legs to cover
(and hasn't waxed since the second age!) ...
And while I agree that queens should be female, my opera background
remembers a Bellini opera where one was sung by a baritone, and I
hazzard to say that there are some fans of To Wong Fu and Wesley Snipes who would beg to differ ...
- Doctor Gamgee
Varda you slay me! -
But is that in the book? And if so, are you white or black?
Ooo, now there's a scary thought - a chessboard of fans...
Ooo... I like that idea! :-D Now if there was just a 'cafepress' for chess sets!
And just to add my two cents
: we have the Noble Collection chess set with all 3 sets of pieces...
and we have it on display under glass. No worries about Bishop Frodo
being on the wrong color for Bishop Gollum to run into him. And yes, we must have photos! - Icarus
Now I remember why I like checkers better. - Vison
Reply by Varda:
But Vison, it is so much harder to cheat at checkers! :-D
Wow I looked at that set on e-bay, and they are asking less than it
cost, even if it is a starting bid, £215. The cost of the set was £224
excluding the board, which was at a special rate (of course) but still
cost me £10 or something. Which brings the whole thing up to £234. No
bids. No wonder
;-) Postage seems a bit steep too.
Not that I would part with it. What would happen at night without
the re-run of jokes and arguments and scuffles after the household is
safely in bed? Also, I suppose my set is not quite in mint condition.
These are lead figures, with swords and bows etc, and although they are
well packaged, a few bits came off in transit and I had to glue spears
etc back together. I used epoxy resin which sets grey, but still there
are mends. It made the set 'mine' in a way. Also The White Tower of
Minas Tirith was a dirty grey, so I painted it carefully with oil
paints till it really was a spire of pearl and silver.
Nope, no selling this set, for any money ;-P
No playing with the first set either, but the second.... I just can't
resist Shelob as queen. Just imagine her running riot on the board!
(the chess board, not this board o.0 ). Waxed legs or not, she is one femme fatale. Last offspring of Ungoliant to trouble the world indeed.....
Icarus, where to you find the space for three
chess sets, even under glass? I have about 70 of the Eaglemoss die-cast
lead figures that preceded these chess sets, and they take up all of
what is called in Ireland the 'china cabinet'. But a chess set all laid
When I got the first set there was no Saruman. What's the bet he is
Black King in the second set? With Shelob as his wife? Oh heck, that is
worse than being married to the Witchking! I can hear Shelob whisper
'Look into my eyes, darling.......all three hundred of them'
Varda, white knight to black castle