Food, not Famine

From: Joerg Baumgartner (
Date: Wed 08 Mar 2000 - 10:36:30 EET

Andrew Larsen:

>I liked a lot of what you had to say about Orlanthi food, except
>that I think you over-estimate the amount of meat these people are getting,
>even mutton and lamb.

I agree that daily meat is likely to be a sign of wealth, beef the more so.
Some bacon or sausage to the gruel seems likely, but the stress is on gruel.
Ordinarily, the protein food would be grain, with eggs and dairy put in.

Expect Orlanthi to smell of cheese...

>It's very difficult to get a handle on just what a peasant really ate
>during the Ancient and Medieval periods, since records simply weren't kept
>about these sorts of things until the 17th and 18th
>centuries. However, most historians generally agree that in many way the
>peasant diet varied little between the 9/10th century and the the 17/18th.

Apart from the introduction of the potato, little has changed for the
available food. However, 17/18th century peasants were different from
9/10th century peasants in social status by a huge margin. From the late
middle ages on, peasant rights for foraging, fishing, hunting, etc. had been

diminished, while at the same time the tithes and taxes went up. The 9th
century farmer was a franklin even owning his own (utility, i.e. including

hunting) weaponry, the 17th century farmer was basically a serf owing
everything to his liege lord.

It must be remembered that hunting and gathering never were abandoned
entirely when farming or herding were taken up. After the harvest, there
were berries and nuts to be gathered. Fishing supplements protein. Bird
trapping, snaring small game, or during summer gathering of bird eggs
supplements the diet.

Almost all of these activities which were acknowledged rights of the 9th
century peasant had been forbidden to the 17th century peasant (who
persisted to do this anyway, rather than starve).

>Thus some statistics from the 18th century might be of interest to the
> By analyzing the food rations of retired peasants, as stipulated

>in support contracts signed by those who took over their farms, we learn
>that what was considered a reasonable diet for a retired peasant in parts
>of France consisted overwhelming of bread products, supplimented by smalls
>amounts of cheese, butter, and salt lard (and supplimented presumably by a
>small amount of produce from
>a garden).

Is there any mention of the retired farmers keeping a goat or two to
provide their own dairy supplements? As former "owner" of the farm, they
should be able to take at least a minimum cottager's husbandry with them.

>Given how closely famine years correlate with rises in mortality and
>plague, it seems very clear that nutritionally, most peasants were living
>life on the edge, with only a small percentage of more fortunate peasants
>eating what today would be considered a nutritionally adequate diet. Meat
>is almost totally lacking from these rations, and is not something that a
>retired peasant could easily provide for him/herself.

Meat is not necessary, but a sow and a couple of piglets might be kept
by a cottager. What about dairy?

>not all peasants regularly benefit from precious Rune magic.

That's fairly unlikely for the most basic fertility spells - about as
likely as a 17th century peasant missing the Easter mass. If you check
the Heortling keywords in the Hero Wars rules sample
(, you'll find "Bless
Crops" listed as an Ernaldan affinity, not a secret, which means you
don't need a "priest" (devotee god-talker) to get the magic (likewise
for Esrola and Barley). Even under RQ this spell was the usual shrine
spell IIRC, thus generally available. Orlanth's Cloud Call supplemented

>Thus, overall, I would guess that most Gloranthan peasants are
>nutritionally better off than RW ones, but not much more so.

I guess that the nutritional situation given by Andrew portrays the lot of
Seshnegi serfs fairly correctly. However, IMO it doesn't apply well to
Orlanthi, simply because Orlanthi stead management is very flexible in using
available resources. (I guess that relocating to Prax really caused
unexpected problems to the Sartarite settlers when additions to their diet
taken for granted in their homeland suddenly were unavailable.)

>There is one respect in which RW peasants might be better off than
>Gloranthan ones. Starting in the 9th and 10th century, the 3-field system
>of crop rotation was introduced, which increased crop yields by helping the
>fields regain some of the nitrogen they need. Since Sartar and surrounding
>areas are based on early Celts, Germans, and Anglo-Saxons, they probably
>don't understand the concept of 3-field rotation, which means that their
>crop yields are naturally going to be smaller than RW European peasants.

Last time this was brought up, IIRC Greg, Sandy or general consensus
said that as a rule 3-field rotation was not used in Glorantha.

This may be balanced by the fact that the Hill Barbarians happen to
occupy the Loess belt south of the glacier's greatest extension. Saird
and Tarsh definitely are prime agricultural land. Peloria is a mixture
of recent glacial soil (rich in clay and minerals) and volcanic soils
(rich in phosphates) and should do very well, too. The great river
valleys profit from annual floodings.

(Esrolia would be a combination of volcanic and glacial Loess formation, and
thus extra fertile...)

Of course, there are many Karst regions in the Barbarian Belt as well,
like Brolia and northern Ralios. They happen to support no farming

Ralios and the West are less blessed in terms of soil. This might be one
reason why their fertility magic is weaker...

>Most ancient and medieval farmers enjoyed crop yields of only about 3.5 to
>4 bushels of grain per bushel of seed sown (compared to modern yields of
>about 60 to 1).

I suppose that yields ranging from 2 to 10 should be the norm, with
stronger extremes.

Marginal soils (like Karst regions, Praxian Chaparral) or overworked
soil (much of Peloria under Lunar management - IMO the Lodrili face the same
troubles as the midwestern irrigation farmers of the USA) would bring the
yields down to medieval Europe, or even medieval Scandinavia.
(Around the Lofoten region, crop yields ranged from 0.7 to 2 times the
amount sowed. Still better than spoilage, but without the winter fishing
industry there no farming would have been possible.)

Malnutrition still is a common danger. The Orlanthi have another common
reaction to runs of bad harvests: migration. What would be a shattering
experience to Dara Happans is a very normal fact of life occurring every
couple of generations among Orlanthi.

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