Despite all you might have heard and read about the dwarfen lifestyle, it isn’t all mining, fighting, brewing and drinking – although, to be honest, most of it is. In the best traditions of bread and circuses, the Dwarfs work hard, but also like to play hard.
Some of their games are quite close to ours, such as the ever-popular Pin The Axe On The Troll’s Head, Mine-opoly and the slightly pessimistic Snakes But No Ladders. Dwarfen Cluedo is less popular among the tribes, the solution to each game inevitably being “the dwarf in the mine with the axe”. One foolish dwarf tried to spice things up a bit by offering the original “Broddr Firebeard in the brewery with the spigot”, but was promptly drummed out of the tribe for cheating and being a pretentious prat.
The is, however, one pastime beloved of all dwarfs the world over, and that is the international sport of the entire species, that which they call Crash Ball.
The origins of this greatest of games can traced back to a incident that happened shortly before the dawn of time, as near as we can guess about five-thirty in the morning of time.
Broddr Firebeard, the greatest brewer of the dwarfen world, had spent all night keeping watch over and staring lovingly at his latest creation, his newest fine ale. He had made but one barrel so far and today would be the day of its tasting.
Yet rumour of this most excellent of elixirs had already spread across the wild lands and envious enemies were lurking in the shadows around the mountain. Among them, desperate to learn the secrets of Broddr Firebeard, were rival brewers such as Anselm the Bitter, Fullah the Proud, Enveel the Golden and that most formidable of female foes, Gwiness the Stout. They had already tried every honest approach to the brewer. “Join us”, they had cried, “let us pool our strengths and together become a super brewer”. But, just like his people, Brodr Firebeard remained fiercely independent.
So it was that as he left the caves where he performed his malted magic and, barrel under his strong arm, came out into the dawn on the mountainous plain, Broddr Firebeard came face to face with a mighty host. Some say there were fifteen facing him, some say only thirteen, others say a mere seven. We will never know the exact number as dwarfen calculation is restricted to “this-hand, that-hand, many”.
They were lined across the ground that separated the brewery caves from the dwarfen city, a distance of some 144 by 70 metres. Approximately. They stood there before Broddr Firebeard, chanting fiercely:
Give it us, give it us,
Cast the barrel,
Bitter or Pilsner
Or stout or porter.
Don’t give us shandy
For we will not drink
That dwarf-maiden’s water.
Give it us, give it us!
While he was I afraid to die protecting his adored ale, Broddr Firebeard thought his time had come, for he was one and they were many. So he did the only thing he could do. He set his barrel under his arm and ran.
He ran as he had never run before. He twisted and turned and ducked and dived and upped and undered, his eyes and mind focused on the great gates ahead of him.
But the enemy host was getting closer. He felt vile and villainous hands pulling at his sleeves, tearing at his shirt. Still he ran, gripping the barrel for grim death, but his energy levels were beginning to sap. He couldn’t catch his breath as quickly as they were catching him.
He felt a hairy arm around his neck as a scrum of frightful foes gathered around him.
He was sure his time had come but still he kept that one thought in his mind. Save the ale, save the ale, save the ale … He might not succeed, but at least he could make a good try.
So, with the last vestiges of his strength, he took the barrel and kicked it. And the barrel flew.
It rose high above the foe, and the enemy host could only watch as it whistled between the two gateposts of the dwarfen stronghold. Then they caught him and as he fell he saw arise behind the barricades two small dwarfen flags. Then there was an almighty cheer. Then only silence and oblivion.
Of course, though more dead than alive, Broddr Firebeard was rescued. They say a sweet-smelling chariot swung low and carried him home. And as for the ale …
It had a taste like no other the Dwarfs had ever tasted before. It was almost as if, as it had sailed over the gate between the posts, it was mystically transformed. It had somehow made a conversion.
And out of this event came the game we know today as Crash Ball, in which teams of dwarfs yell battle cries and charge at one another, each side seeking to carry not a barrel these days but a ball and set it down between the gateposts, running for to carry it home.
And sometimes they still hit each other. Which by some is very much frowned upon.
Because it’s not cricket.