"he could see three swarthy, bald young men playing gwyddbwyll"
Hnefatafl pawns
GNU Free Documentation LicenseHnefatafl pawns - Credit: Berig

In modern Welsh gwyddbwyll (literally ‘wood-sense’) is the word used for the game of chess. However, it originally referred to a different board game in which pawns ‘hunt’ a ‘king’ who has to escape from the centre of the board to its periphery. It is analogous to the Irish fidchell, and has some similarities with the Viking game hnefatafl. Gwyddbwyll is also referred to in ‘The Dream of the Emperor Maxen’ and in ‘Rhonabwy’s Dream’, where the game played by Arthur and Owain appears to have great symbolic significance.

Gwyddbwyll was one of the twenty four accomplishments (pedair camp ar hugain) which young men of noble birth were expected to attain (see bookmark for page 16).

Click here to see a reconstruction of a hnefatafl board.