Knattleikr, a Viking Field Game
Described in the Gísla saga Súrssonar, Knattleikr was played every autumn at Miðfjarðarvatn.
I first learned of knattleikr (knot [of wood] play) from a 1971 master's thesis written by Gert Van Niekerk entitled Evidence of Physical Activities, Play, Games and Pastimes of the Vikings, 700 A.D.-1200 A.D. It was in the Library at San Diego State University, but it had been written for the University of Alberta. This one paper provided much of the Viking lore that is taken for granted in the Society for Creative Anachronism now. Knattleikr is mentioned in Egil's Saga, Viglund's Saga, and theLaxdaela Saga.
At first we tried to play Knattleikr just as it was described by Van Niekerk, but it was just too dangerous. We had broken teeth, noses, and glasses in the first ten minutes. We modified the rules on the spot and have kept the injuries down to bruises and sprains for the last twenty-five years. There was another Viking ball game called skofuleikr, but no one knows how it was played...
Knattleikr (as modified and used in the SCA)
- Two team captains face off in the middle of the field with the players a ways behind them. Referee throws the ball in the air between them to start the game.
- Object is to get the ball over the other team's shield that is across the field. The shield is guarded by a goalie.
- Opponents can be eliminated or wounded by hitting them with the ball. Body and head shots eliminate, arm and legs wound -player can not use that limb.
- Can not raise your arm/racket above your waist or you are out (safety reason).
- Arguing with a referee is grounds for immediate removal.
The nets were made of racketball handles with the netting replaced by a much looser mesh for catching a duct-taped heavy foam "knot" about the size of a baseball. It plays very fast, moderately violently and is a lot of fun. I can remember running alot, throwing and catching the stone, yelling and tumbling....