If you were a chess piece, which one would you be? asks Violet,
a friend in China.
Queen: the most powerful, and most vulnerable to attack.
King: silent and dignified.
Rook: brave but lack some brain
Knight: brave and willing to protect but limited in capacity
Bishop: a little sly...sometimes you do not notice a bishop
is ready to attack...
Pawn: brave and honest, hard-working, and also ambitious
Violet admits that she'd like to be a bishop . . . the sly one . . .
but thinks the pawn resembles her the most.
I'd go for the knight because all the other pieces
on the board travel in straight lines. They're so logical; I prefer to
take the road less traveled.
Knights have a lopsided way of moving (as I have, with one leg a centimetre
longer than the other!). Apparently there's only one pattern of movements
in which a knight can visit every square on the chessboard without visiting
two squares twice. But don't ask me how it's done!
The Knight is the only piece who regularly breaks out of the two dimensional
world of the board. If I remember my chess moves correctly, the knight
is the only piece that can leap over another piece (without taking the
piece, as in draughts/checkers).
I used to rely on my knights to stir things up when playing against an
opponent who was in control, playing a doggedly sure kind of game, with
apparently no chink showing in their defences. In the story, Alice, talking
about a chess game, describes a 'nasty Knight, that came wriggling down
among my pieces.'
Sir Isumbras at the Ford
John Everett Millais (1829-1896)
A Dream of the Past - Sir Isumbras at the Ford
In John Tenniel's illustrations to Through
the Looking-Glass there's a hint that the White Knight makes
occasional trips into the real world, because he's collected a motley
assortment of objects from everyday life which he keeps hanging
around his saddle: fire tongs, bellows, a hearth brush, carrots
and a string of onions; the kind of miscellaneous objects that you
might grab in occasional forays into a Victorian house, if you were
a magical chess piece that could break into reality. There seems
to be a traditional basketwork bee-hive behind the saddle. A bee-hive
is controlled by a queen, so perhaps that's the connection.
Tenniel's White Knight appears to be based on this Pre-Raphaelite
painting by Millais of an old knight taking two
small children across a ford.
It seems that the melancholy, kind old White Knight, with his ingenious
but impractical schemes, is a portrait of Lewis Carroll
(Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832 - 1898), the author of
the story, which gives the scene where he says goodbye to Alice,
who is shortly to become a queen herself, some added pathos.
Richard Bell, email@example.com