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Re: proposal for an international hnefatafl society

Posted: Sun Nov 06, 2011 3:06 pm
by Hagbard
Roderich wrote:Would be very helpful to have a ethymological analysis of the word
The Wikipedia article on Tafl games has in its notes:
6. Helmfrid 2005, p.1, discusses this etymology, elements of which are confirmed by Zoëga 1910, "hnefa"/"-tafl"/"hnefi".
7. Murray 1951, p.60, says "hnefi (meaning doubtful, but used of the king-piece)", while Helmfrid 2005, p.1, notes that hnefa is the genitive form of Icelandic hnefi (fist), but concedes "it is often translated as king."
To elaborate a bit on the word -
"Hnefatafl" is of course Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, and the word is still recognizable to a modern Danish ear. Updated to modern Danish the word would become "Nævetavl".

Hnefatafl is composed of two words hnefa and tafl.

The Glossary of Modern Danish tells that the word "næve" is of Old Norse origin "hnefi" which means a clenched fist. Today "næve" is always used in terms connected with strength.

Icelandic is today the language most closely connected to Old Norse. In Icelandic the word for fist should still be "hnefi". The Icelandic grammar is also very unchanged since Old Norse. The Icelandic genitiv inflexional endings are
Genitiv singularis -s
Genitiv pluralis -a
I found an article about Old Norse grammar which also mentions the genitiv pluralis -a.

So the exact meaning of the word "hnefatafl" would seem to be "the board game of clenched fists". Of course war is not fought with clenched fists alone. The term could be a designation of the mental atmosphere? If an army of Vikings met on battle field with their fists clenched, they probably brought a lot more with them that their fists...

Many sources translate hnefa into the name for the king piece, which is thus supposed to be called "the fist", and so hnefatafl would by this roundabout translate into "King's table". But as said, hnefa is not singularis but pluralis. Could be that the name in real has not so much the tone of "the noble board game of the king" but more the tone of "the board game of a hell of a fight with clenched fists"...!

Tafl origins in the Latin word tabula (English: table). Old Danish has the word Tavl-Bord, Old Norse taflbord (literally table-table), which has the meanings
- game board for board games
- table for board games or dice games
- name for the game itself
The word is found in many old Danish folk songs, as in the line "Listen, you good young swain, play tavlebord with me!" Note the close similarity of the word tavlebord to the Welsh tafl game Tawl-bwrdd.
Roderich wrote:I sometimes wonder why the 'h' at the beginning ... are there nordic languages who do actually pronounce that consonant in any way?
As for the starting letter h in hnefatafl, I can't say about the other Nordic languages, but Jutlandic Danish dialects do pronounce the h in the beginning of very many words, even if standard modern Danish does not. So the h was very probably pronounced by the Vikings.

Like Roderich, I also prefer the good old, original word Hnefatafl more than modern commercial adaptations like "nefatavl".

Re: proposal for an international hnefatafl society

Posted: Sun Nov 06, 2011 6:32 pm
by Adam
Agreed, lets stick with Hnefatafl. The reason I flagged it up was 1: its often written hnefetafl online, and I wanted to sort that one out. 2. Norwegians that I introduce the game to have a real problem with the H. And it always gets in the way of explaining the game, which struck me as odd as its a language where they should understand what it means.

However, as a native englishman, I am happy to go along with our native scandinavian Hagbard on this one.

very interesting and entertaining etymology by the way.

Viva Hnefatafl!

Re: proposal for an international hnefatafl society

Posted: Mon Nov 07, 2011 9:20 pm
by crust
I always thought the "hnefa" bit was a reference to knucklebones (really sheep's ankle bones) which look like human knuckles (hence the fist reference). These knucklebones would have been very common objects in a viking village, and were used in games for thousands of years (e.g. ancient greek astragaloi); they can be used as dice or as simple gaming pieces. This might also explain some of the confusion about use of dice in hnefatafl. The references in the sagas seem to be tantalisingly ambiguous.

By the way, "Noggin the nog" spells it "hnefetafl". Silly Nog!

Good to see Roderich back!

Re: World Tafl Federation

Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:53 am
by crust
I propose "Tafl emk orr at efla" as a motto for our society. (meaning tafl I am swift to play) at the beginning Earl Ragnvald Kali's listing of the skills of a Norse nobleman. I'm not totally sure if this Earl Ragnvald Kali is the same person as Ragnvald Kale Kolsson also known as St. Ronald of Orkney but it seems likely.

Re: World Tafl Federation

Posted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:24 pm
by crust
World Tafl Forum - call for members:

By crust a.k.a. Tim Millar, Somerset, UK

It’s about a year since we had the idea of forming an international club or society of hnefatafl players, which would give tafl games some kind of “official” organisation, such as you find with other games like chess or bridge. In future, there could be tournaments, championships etc. with titles such as grandmaster to be won, and presentations of hnefatafl at events concerned with games and/or Viking history. Other activities will no doubt present themselves in time. Official status would be a help in all communications with other official bodies. For now, this will remain closely associated with this website. There’s no point in having, for example, a separate discussion forum apart from this one, and, if on-line tournaments are to be held in future, then why not here. Also a factor is the wide geographical distribution of the players on this site - we will have to remain an online community for the present.

The aims of this organisation, as well as its name and constitution, can be decided by voting once we have members. To start things off, I propose temporarily adopting the name “World Tafl Forum” (provisional) and I would like to ask all of you to declare an interest in becoming a member. Once we have some members, we can start arguing about things. Nothing is expected of members except a willingness to be counted as a member, though all suggestions and ideas will be welcome.

I would like to propose myself as provisional chairman, though if anyone else would like to do it, we could have an election. If anyone would like to second my nomination, or propose themselves or another person, please say so.

So for now, my fellow tafl players, please just respond to this message with a simple declaration via the forum that you would like to be a member. Many thanks!

Re: World Tafl Forum - call for members

Posted: Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:59 pm
by Hagbard
Mjølnir wrote:


I agree with crust, let's make it official! Just watching the rating list for the last weeks showed a growing interest in the game and this site, but to keep new players involved, we have to build an official association!

Count me in, although I have my problems with the initials "WTF" for this body... :mrgreen: If you need some help in organizing, I will do what I can. And Åge's site is - as we all have experienced - an excellent place to build this up, so I don't see any reason to change the "environment".

Re: World Tafl Forum - call for members

Posted: Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:07 pm
by Hagbard
barba wrote:

Hi fellow (Hnefa)tafl enthusiasts, I'd love to be an active member for WTF. I also like it being international, since the vikings were pretty international for their time. At the moment there aren't that many Tafl playing vikings left on the entire globe. ;-)

Re: World Tafl Forum - call for members

Posted: Sat Aug 18, 2012 9:02 am
by crust
to Eirik and Barba
Well, that's three of us! Four, if we count Hagbard. And four countries represented, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark and UK. A good start! Thank you. We'll wait a little longer for more members, at least until the end of August - I know there are people who are just plain busy at the moment. As for the name, we could go for "International Hnefatafl Association" but it's hard to say with your mouth full. If "WTF" is too silly, we'll change it :D

Re: World Tafl Forum - call for members

Posted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:18 am
by Adam
I'm in! And I second Crust as chairman without hesitation.

I think the 'WTF' initial is excellent as it reflects the good humour that runs through our games and discussions, something which not all tafl forums can boast! We take the game seriously, and are all interested to some extent in the history and accuracy of game reconstruction, but our primary focus seems to be enjoying the game, making it function well as a game through experimentation, and spreading the word. If worded properly that could well be the WTF mission statement. So "Let us not be downhearted brothers", ('or sisters'). After all, everytime I say the word 'hnefatafl' to someone, including norwegians, the response is invariably something along the lines of 'What the f... is that?'

I've even been working on a nice logo which I will post in due course for everyone's feedback.

And perhaps our first official vote can be the confirmation of our name. : )

Re: World Tafl Forum - call for members

Posted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 8:45 pm
by crust
Wonderful response, thank you!
Great to have Roderich, Chuck Ward, Dagmar and Adam with us. Already our tentacles reach Germany and the USA.
Dagmar, please don't get divorced over hnefatafl :D
Adam, thanks for seconding my choice of me as chairman for now. I promise to be very easy to get rid of, if the need arises. (Anyone can start a poll here in the forum.)

If there's anybody else out there, come on let's bang the rocks together guys. You just have to register to use this forum.

List of members so far: Hagbard (our landlord - no way he's getting left out), Roderich, Adam, Chuck Ward, Barba, Dagmar, Eirik, crust. That makes eight so far. I will e-mail people who have previously contributed to this forum, assuming there is an address for them - some of you may remember Oddur, beadle, conanlibrarian, Epoc, Sybil and a couple of others, not forgetting Aluric. And there's also Skallatorc, luigi005 and Duhawk93 to contact - I'll have a go at all that.

Meanwhile I agree we start our first vote/poll as a group: On the question of naming our group. Suggestions so far include:

World Tafl Forum (WTF),
International Hnefatafl Society (IHS),
Nefatavl Association (NA),
International Hnefatafl Association (IHA)
International Hnefatafl Organization (IHO)

As you can see, all of them are pretty similar, containing three ideas - It's a group, it's dedicated to a game, and it's international. Oh boy, is it international. Anybody who wants to set up a national branch within their home country will choose their own name for it, of course. So, we'll set up a poll, and you can vote for the one you like best, or vote "other" and suggest something else. Everything will be a bit easier once we have settled on a name ;)

So, vote in the poll some time soon, and happy tafling!

crust/ Tim Millar