The skills of an accomplished medieval Norseman

I bought a game of tafl from the Jorvik Centre in York last year but I still haven’t learned the rules, whilst many commitments got in the way. Tafl is a Scandinavian board game known to have been popular in the early and high Middle Ages, so from about 500 to 1200 AD. Anyway, as I was googling for the rules to this game, I found the following verses which describe the nine skills that an accomplished Norse knight should possess. He should be a good strategist when playing tafl, competent in writing vernacular, literate in Latin, a good operator of the smithy, a capable skier, hunter, rower, musician and poet. Of course, chief among these I consider to be skiing, which is something you don’t usually find in the medieval sources south of the Scandinavian peninsula.

The words are part of a larger poem composed in Icelandic by Rögnvald Kali Kolsson and recorded in the Orkneyinga saga around 1230.

I can play at tafl,
Nine skills I know,
Rarely forget I the runes,
I know of books and smithing,
I know how to slide on skis,
Shoot and row, well enough;
Each of two arts I know,
Harp-playing and speaking poetry.

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