Re: Orlanthi diet

From: aelarsen@facstaff.wisc.edu
Date: Wed 08 Mar 2000 - 00:18:12 EET


>From: Carl Fink <carlf@panix.com>
>Subject: Peasants and diets and stuff

>> It's very difficult to get a handle on just what a peasant really
>> ate during the Ancient and Medieval periods . . .
>
>I don't think you can classify the Orlanthi hill people of Dragon
>Pass as "peasants". Their society isn't at all medieval. The
>dietary comparison's would be with (say) the Celtic tribes the Romans
>met, or pre-Christian Scandinavia, quite different.

>From: "Weihe, David" <Weihe@danet.com>
>Subject: Re: Food and Famine
>
>Andrew Larsen posted a couple long missives about the food
>consumption of French peasants in the 18th Century. This is
>very interesting for those who are running campaigns in Malkioni
>lands. It does not apply very closely to Orlanthi cultures,
>however.
>
>It should first be remembered that carls were hardly peasants.
>Even cottars would expect to eat better than French peasants
>that he described. It may well apply to thralls, of course.

        'Carl' is simply the Old English word for farmer (or man), which is
what a peasant is. 'Cottar' is an late Old English word for farmer.
'Cottar' specifically refers to a man who has a share of arable land and
owes labor services for it. 'Carl' is slightly more general, and seems
usable for anyone who engages in agriculture.

>From: Mikko Rintasaari <rintasaa@mail.student.oulu.fi>
>Subject: Orlanthi Diet
>
><snip>
>: So what does all of this mean for Glorantha? Well, Gloranthan peasants
>: have one advantage of RW peasants
><snip>
>
>I think comparing the 7th century peasant diet with the Dragon Pass
>orlanthi doesn't give a very good result.
>
>I'd go for early/pre viking age Scandinavia. The orlanthi aren't starving
>peasants, they are free and quite prosperous farmers.

        Perhaps I should clarify my statements about peasant diet.
Although there is some variation in diet across medieval Europe (exactly
what one drank, for instance, or what sorts of grain and fruit grew best,
what was the dominant source of fat, and even what sort of meat animals
were commonly available), historical authorities that I am familiar with
seem to generally agree that by modern standards, the diet was appalling
inadequate. The statistics I cited are quite late, but again,my impression
is that these statistics are roughly appropriate for most peasant cultures
from the late Roman period down into the early modern.
        Both the Anglo-Saxons and the Norsemen were farming at roughly the
same level of material culture, except that farming conditions in
Scandinavia were much poorer. Late antique Celtic societies differ in some
respects (for example, Ireland was more pastoral than Anglo-Saxon England
was), but the diet cannot have been much better. Slightly more meat, but
less grain and produce, since they're not devoting as much energy to it.
Real basically, a late antique farmer and a medieval peasant enjoy the same
level of subsistance (if anything, the medieval peasant is eating a little
better, because of slightly higher crop yields).
        Exactly how applicable this is to Orlanthi society depends on what
RW analog you favor for the Orlanthi (and there seems to be a lot of
disagreement on this point). If you favor Anglo-Saxon culture, you've got
roughly what I described. If you favor Viking/Norse society, you're
looking at more fish and less grain (perhaps slightly healthier than the
Anglo-Saxons, but then one of the theories as to why the Vikings began
raiding in the late 8th century is that Scandinavian farming wasn't up to
the challenge of feeding so many people). Viking probably ate better than
Norse farmers, because they have regular infusions of pillaged or purchased
meat, but the vast majority of Norsemen weren't Vikings, any more than the
vast majority of Orlanthi are likely to be adventuring heroes. If you
favor Celtic society, modeled perhaps on the Irish, you're looking at
slightly more meat, but again less grain and produce.
Regardless of how you slice it, these people are not well-nourished by our
standards. The picture of rosy-cheeked, plump peasants who eat beef
regularly is good for Pendragon perhaps, but not for Glorantha, assuming
you're trying for a more realistic simulation.

        Now one objection that I'm seeing here is that medieval peasants
(and the French peasants whose statistics I cited) owe labor services and
rents in kind and cash to their landlord, while Orlanthi farmers don't.
There is some validity to that objection, but I think it matters for less
than people expect. Firstly, not all medieval peasants owed sizable rents
and labor services (freeholders, for instance). Indeed, the amount that
the French peasants owed would vary a lot depending on what part of France
they're in, so these statistics could represent either more or less
burdened peasants (I'd have to really dig for those details, which seems
more work than it's worth). But let's assume that they're paying labor
services and rent. If Orlanthi peasants are more free, that means that
they're more responsible for their own protection, and have to spend more
time fighting to protect their families, lands, and clan. The whole
justification for peasants paying rent is that their labor supports the men
who spend their time protecting the land from bandits and Vikings and
whatever. So just because the Orlanthi farmer isn't spending time
performing labor services doesn't mean that he has more time to spend
farming. He's probably breaking even, given all those bands of wandering
broos and so on.
        Then there are the taxes that they are paying. Like medieval
peasants, most Orlanthi are tithing a tenth of their income to their local
temples. The chief of the local clan and the king of the tribe are
definitely exacting taxes from their 'subjects'--how else do they support
themselves and all their warbands. It's not by farming their own land,
because they can't possibly generate enough food on their own to feed a
warband. So either they're leasing out their land to other farmers (in
which case we have tenant farmers just like medieval peasants) or they're
exacting some sort of tax from their clan- and tribes-men. Then there are
the tax burdens imposed by the Lunars, which have got be fairly hefty.
        Overall, I think my picture of the peasant diet is broadly
applicable to most of Sartar. How appropriate it is for areas like Esrolia
and Peloria I'm less sure off, because I haven't studied them closely
enough. But honestly, peasants are peasants, and farmer is just another
word for peasant.

Andrew E. Larsen

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