The Game from Queerditch Marsh
e owe our knowledge of the rude beginnings of Quidditch to the writings of the witch Gertie Keddle, who lived on the edge of Queerditch Marsh in the eleventh century. Fortunately for us, she kept a diary, now in the Museum of Quidditch in London. The excerpts below have been translated from the badly spelled Saxon of the original.
Tuesday. Hot. That lot from across the marsh have been at it again Playing a stupid game on their broomsticks A big leather ball landed in my cabbages. I hexed the man who came for it I'd like to see him fly with his knees on back to front, the great hairy hog
Tuesday. Wet. Was out on the marsh picking nettles. Broomstick idiots playing again. Watched for a bit from behind a rock. They've got a new ball. Throwing it to each other and crying to stick it in trees at either end of the marsh. Pointless rubbish.
Tuesday. Windy. Gwenog came for nettle tea, then invited me out for a treat. Ended up watching those numbskulls playing their game on the marsh. That big Scottish warlock from up the hill was there. Now they've got two big heavy rocks flying around trying to knock them all off their brooms. Unfortunately didn't happen while I was watching Gwenog told me she often played herself. Went home in disgust.
These extracts reveal much more than Gertie Keddle could have guessed, quite apart from the fact that she only knew the name of one of the days of the week. Firstly, the ball that landed in her cabbage patch was made of leather, as is the modern Quaffle — naturally, the inflated bladder used in other broom games of the period would be difficult to throw accurately, particularly in windy conditions. Secondly, Gertie tells us that the men were 'trying to stick it in trees at either end of the marsh' — apparently an early form of goal‑scoring. Thirdly, she gives us a glimpse of the forerunners of Bludgers. It is immensely interesting that there was a 'big Scottish warlock' present. Could he have been a Creaothceann player? Was it his idea to bewitch heavy rocks to zoom dangerously around the pitch, inspired by the boulders used in his native game?
We find no further mention of the sport played on Queerditch Marsh until a century later, when the wizard Goodwin Kneen took up his quill to write to his Norwegian cousin Olaf. Kneen lived in Yorkshire, which demonstrates the spread of the sport throughout Britain in the hundred years after Gertie Keddle first witnessed it. Kneen's letter is deposited in the archives of the Norwegian Ministry of Magic.
How are you? I am well, though Gunhilda has not a touch of dragon pox.
We enjoyed a spirited game of Kwidditch last Saturday night, though poor Gunhilda was not up to playing Catcher, and we had to use Radulf the blacksmith instead. The team from Ilkley played well though was no match for us, for we had been practising hard all month and scored forty‑two times. Radulf got a Blooder in the head because old Ugga wasn't quick enough with his club. The new scoring barrels worked well. Three at each end on stilts, Oona from the inn gave us them. She let us have free mead all night because we won as well. Gunhilda wan a bit angry I got back so late. I had to duck a couple of nasty jinxes but I've got my fingers back now.
I'm sending this with the best owl I've got, hope he makes it.
Here we see how far the game has progressed in a century. Goodwin's wife was to have played 'Catcher' — probably the old term for Chaser. The 'Blooder' (undoubtedly Bludger) that hit Radulf the blacksmith should have been fended off by Ugga, who was obviously playing Beater, as he was carrying a club. The goals are no longer trees, but barrels on stilts. One crucial element in the game was still missing, however: the Golden Snitch The addition of the fourth Quidditch ball did not occur until the middle of the thirteenth century and it came about in a curious manner.