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Indentured Serfs


The_Wombat

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This was something that really caught my eye while reading Vol 1 of the Guide to Glorantha.

One p. 322 under "Culture":  The lower classes include a middle class of townsmen and a class of Lodrili farmer peoples who are indentured serfs.

Now at first I took this for a typo, but then it made me think of a fascinating cultural quirk of the land.

I took my degree in Medieval History, so "serf" has a specific meaning in my brain -- an unfree individual, more or less bound to the land.  But also, as a citizen of the United States with a fascination with history, I found that the first member of my family tree who came to this continent did so as an servant to a cobbler, with a sentence of 14 years of indentured servitude.

So now I am envisioning the peoples of Carmania have a system of serfdom that expires, one where you must work the land (or some other task) until a certain age, at which time you "graduate" out of serfdom and become a free individual.  Younger folk have little to no freedom; elders have greater freedoms.

I know this might be an odd take, but I wonder how any of you other readers either dealt with this line or else found other passages that caught your eye as equally quirky.

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As you're well aware, there are significant differences between 'serfdom', 'slavery' and 'thralldom', not that most people would know the difference. In the US, this is a touchy subject to say the least. While I don't have a degree in it, I was a medieval reenactor for many years before the internet... which means I had to actually do the reading instead of just cherry picking 'the cool parts'. I consider myself 'read in' on the subject of Western European Medieval Society, but I don't characterize myself as an expert.

So let's get down to your RQ questions... I think your description of 'graduating out of serfdom' is more Western Malkioni than Carmanian. Carmania is pretty thoroughly Lunarized and, combined with Carmania's imperial cultural model, I think that serfs are serfs for life in that society.

Hrestoli Malkioni, OTOH, believe in the progress of a person through the social classes if and when that person qualifies for that promotion. A Hrestoli Farmer can become a Knight, who can later become a Noble, who can later become a Wizard, provided that they meet the requirements of the new social class at each stage. This is by no means easy. The duties and social obligations of each class makes it difficult for someone to train to get into the next class on the list. Just affording the horse and armory of a Knight is a significant bar to a Farmer family's ambitions in that regard. But it IS possible with determination, a little luck, and the help of a mentor.

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same for me, that should be for life. However, with the lunar religion, and the need of so many soldiers , I would say you can "escape" your fate by joining some mystic way or the army

but that should be exception. Because... if they can move, where is their next place ? directly middle class townsmen ? seems the gap too important

 

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11 hours ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

but that should be exception. Because... if they can move, where is their next place ? directly middle class townsmen ? seems the gap too important

Tenant farmer? (Sharecropper) Not tied to a plot of land/landowner, but free to seek better terms with other landowners?

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48 minutes ago, Baron Wulfraed said:

Tenant farmer? (Sharecropper) Not tied to a plot of land/landowner, but free to seek better terms with other landowners?

In this case why is it not described. My point was we have the list of the different options, and the gap between the two lowest (town and serf) seems to me too big to allow pserf to become free with no exceptional process.

i agree, in other situation, if it were described this intermediate class of tenant farmer, the point could be possible but, for me, not here. They are the servant for ever in a solar culture

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I recall a discussion where there were mostly urban citizen workers and a few free rural citizens and a majority of non-citizen workers for the Malkioni. My own outline for a low powered Seshnegi peasant community game assumed very limited freedom of the cast, too (my 1994 assumptions on Rokari wizards have since been led ad absurdum, though).

Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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On 5/22/2022 at 2:05 PM, The_Wombat said:

So now I am envisioning the peoples of Carmania have a system of serfdom that expires, one where you must work the land (or some other task) until a certain age, at which time you "graduate" out of serfdom and become a free individual.  Younger folk have little to no freedom; elders have greater freedoms.

As the Ferengi Ruless of Acquisition tell us... Exploitation starts at home.😉 (Who better to exploit than your kids? Until they reach maturity they are essentially serfs)

What you are suggesting here is pretty much the basis for overpopulation pressures in Olden Days Europe.  If you have more kids, you have more free labor to work the fields.

In short, this is a very plausible system.  Mean, but very plausible.

Edited by Darius West
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My take on Carmania. Suranthyr and his succesors created a weird Western Pelandan hybrid, by assuming the top roles of the society (rulers, mages and soldiers) over native farmers and artisans. We can suppose this was an improvement over how life was under the Spolites, so the mostly Lodrili underclass accepted their new rulers. 

The Carmanian occupation of Peloria and even Dara Happa would make me believe that the Lodrili there did not specially dislike the Carmanian overlords over the Yelmites, as otherwise occupation and assimilation would have been difficult. So I could accept a Carmanian system that allowed the serfs to earn their freedom, and possibly offering several ways to do so.

It would be possible that the city dwellers are only those that have already earned their freedom and their descendants, while the rural lodrili clans have problems raising funds to liberate anyone, though they all hope that cousin Eshkez will strike it rich in Glamour and make enough to free the whole family. Semms like a fun idea, indeed.

 

However let's not forget we are building a house of cards based on an interpretation of indentured serf in Carmania. But it seems fun, so I am all for it.

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3 hours ago, JRE said:

the city dwellers are only those that have already earned their freedom and their descendants, while the rural lodrili clans have problems raising funds to liberate anyone

I really love the way this is phrased because it looks almost like an origin for the ransom system. Warrior communities accumulate captive civilian populations (serfs, "thralls," vendref, oasis people, dronars and so on) in various circumstances. Once you're captive, you survive through labor. In theory, you can escape or fight your way to freedom, but one way or another this simply tends to remove you from the community (death or exile). 

Some communities support systems of exchange where a captive can earn out or outside resources can be deployed toward liberation. We usually think about this in terms of individual ransom relieving adventurers from falling into permanent captivity but the principle can be extended. Likewise, somewhere in the west the hrestolist principle of caste mobility has got to have been applied to populations that have become a permanent laboring underclass . . . subjugated lodrilite bands and so forth. Pay the right price for these people, work the right bargain and you can establish new free nations. 

This might be how city formation works in various parts of the world, with liberated serfs abandoning their rustic origins and crowding together in places where their labor enriches them directly. Those with a hrestol orientation would probably emphasize enlightened self defense and militia training while others would associate with regional mercenary bodies for muscle.

And another god associated with the ransom system becomes extremely interesting as a liberating figure. Maybe this side of him is associated with clandestine para-revolutionary "guilds" in some places, cells of vocationally organized labor operating on the fringes of aristocratic authority to buy out the system from within. They'll buy you from your master, remove the signs of your captivity, give you something new called a "job." Maybe that's an even fresher spin on where Trader Princes come from.

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It would give a new meaning to "Let's go to the countryside and hire some assistants for the smithy". Go with some wheels, and negotiate with a vizir to get the two or three country bumpkins that you feel are better suited to the job. So you can still get a lodrili underclass in cities, but one that knows freedom is at hand. 

And the temptation of urban life. Do I work to bring others of the family here, or do I settle in and use the money as part share in a shop?

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