Re: Bloodline stuff, etc.

From: Alex Ferguson <>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 18:26:33 +0100 (BST)

Donald R. Oddy, replying to me...

> >Right; I mean possibly four or five generations 'horizontally',
> >not necessarily vertically from a live ancestor. I'm not counting
> >young children, though, as I was counting back from the PCs, who all
> >belong to the same largeish bloodline (which I'd guess had someplace
> >north of 100 warm bodies, but is pretty geographically diffuse).
> I'm afraid I don't follow the idea of horizontal generations. To
> me generations are always vertical - grandfather, father, man, son
> and grandson etc.

I was speaking loosely (hence the 'scare quotes'). Four or five generations from a single, generally-non-living ancestor, i.e., everyone is a second or third cousin. I'd have though this was evident from the context of the point I was seeking to clarify, despite my terminological abuse.

> Certainly I would regard a hundred plus members
> as a big bloodline, not only because it means several generations
> with several surviving boys but also because you are reaching the
> limit of people who are actually known to one another.

Not at all. _Everyone_ in a 1000-strong clan will be known to each other. 100 or so is at or around the 'know each other intimately' threshold, but I'm not talking about a bloodline as a formal political or much of a geographical unit (the point originally at issue!), so that's not much of an problem at all.

> >> While I accept that it is possible to be the forth son of
> >> the forth son of the forth son of a Carl and therefore have little
> >> more than your clothes I would contend this is rare. If it were
> >> common the clan involved would be in serious trouble as it would
> >> mean they were breeding more children than the land could support.
> >
> >Not that rare. It'd be in the nature of things that the wealthier
> >types expand fastest (becoming well wealthy per capita in the process).
> I don't see any reason why they should, a wealthy person is equally
> likely to produce mainly girls as mainly boys exactly as a poorer
> one. Survival rates to adulthood may be higher among the wealthy
> but I'm not sure the wealth differences are sufficent to make that
> a major factor. Fewer of the poor will go off raiding and to war
> so the mortality rate there will be lower.

Wealthy people are more marriageable. If you're a cottar, it's unlikely that the fourth son of your fourth son, if you had one, would be marrying at all, so his powers of fertility don't really enter into the equation.

> >_Ought_ to be done tactfully, sure. But what's wise, and what actually
> >happens, may not be especially close cousins in Orlanthi politics.
> >The sort of micro-management I meant though, is more to do with the
> >sort of not-formal-trade 'exchange' we were discussing; you might
> >have it 'made known' to you that a certain amount of generosity
> >was expected, or would go down well with the clan, even if you don't
> >especially like the intended recipient.

> That's even more difficult to phrase without accusing him of being
> ungenerous which is almost certainly an insult, even if true.

Beats me, I'm not a politician. How much it's a not-very-coded insult, and how much it's a paean to your reknowned and soon-to-be-yet- more-manifest greatness strikes me as a function of the subtlety of the speaker, which I think we find at either extreme among the Orlanthi.

> Actually
> I would expect a need to be communicated though the womens' gossip
> grapevine ending up with a wife asking her husband to send such and
> such to so and so because they're short and we've got plenty. I don't
> see it being sufficently formal to be regarded as micro-managment
> and certainly not the top down approach implied by the term.

I suggested a different term a post or two ago, IIRC, and my whole thrust was that there would be a multiplicity of 'mechanisms', none much resembling anything like what would be normally understood as 'trade'.

> >You don't need to 'trade' every day, though; an annual gift of grain
> >is more likely than regular consignments of bread, but with the
> >same net effect, that not everyone has to be an equal generalist.
> Then you are restricted to a fairly small number of items - those
> which won't deterioate. Basically grain, hides, preserved meat,
> some vegetables and cloth.

In what way are you 'restricted'? I was just picking up on your own chosen example. I doubt there's much of cross-stead flow of root vegetables, though, for example, since they seem to be 'low status' food, and unlikely to be in systematic shortage anywhere. If they were, they certainly wouldn't have to be 'daily' (some of my oldest and dearest friends are carrots and onions -- but enough of my social life). Dairy surpluses would be gifted as cheese, I'd imagine; meat surpluses don't necessary have to be preserved, when they have a leg at each corner and can 'self-deploy'. I'm hard-pressed to think of anything much that _couldn't_ be exchanged on a fairly laid-back basis with the stead half a mile down the way, without needing to imagine a just-in-time delivery system of military precision.

> Incidently do the
> Orlanthi have clan flour mills or does each stead grind its own?

Good questions. Would depend what 'technology' of mill they use. Water-mills or wind-mills would both seem a bit 'advanced', but

> >> Looking at that bit in KoS, it doesn't seem to distinguish between
> >> disputes at between clans or between individuals within a clan
> >> apart from who is accepted as the court.
> >
> >Well, it states the the case of feuding clans is 'typical', in the
> >description of lawsuit procedure, and in contrast, 'normal justice
> >occurs within a clan, and concerns only its members', which sounds
> >different to me.
> What's the difference between 'typical' and 'normal' ?

None. It's that which follows that's completely different. Different cases are being described.

> >I don't necessarily disagree with any of that. 'Property' is just
> >such a loaded word that I'd prefer to avoid, or at least explicitly
> >qualify what we mean by it when we use it. There's a sense in
> >which you can say of 'formally odal' property "this is ours", but
> >there's an at least as important sense in which the chief can say
> >"no it ain't".
> I'll try and stick to 'property right' to cover all the different
> bits of things which aren't property in the modern sense, unless
> you have a better term.

Simply 'right' would be less misleading, surely.

> I don't believe that in practice a chief has that much discretion,
> even the feudal system didn't give that much power to the nobility
> although some dishonest lords did grant and forfit tennants
> property arbitarily. If wealth can be reallocated at the discretion
> of the chief then you get a very centralised power structure
> with the chief at the top, then his cronies and finally everyone
> else.

Practice is a very tricky thing, but there's surely no doubt about that power. Feudalism is not a useful comparison, as it lacks the 'vote the bums out' option.

> In Heortling terms, I think Orlanth granted the chief the right
> and duty to allocate clan resources as he sees fit for the benefit
> of the clan while Heort ruled that it was in the interests of the
> clan to respect an individual bloodline's use of land and livestock.
> In practice therefore land and livestock will not be taken from a
> bloodline unless they have committed some sort of offence (which
> might just be some form of neglect). That doesn't stop all sorts
> of accusations, false allegations and so forth for political ends.

I disagree; we have no evidence for this as a formally established quasi-legal right, as indeed statements that chiefs can and do change such things. The likelihood that it does happen has a lot to do with how long a given 'custom and practice' or 'tradition' has been established, and the political clout of those claiming it, and little to do with a formal proscription of the powers of the clan chief.

I don't share the apparently widespread zeal for seeing odal property as a 'problem', that has to be defined out of any effective existence. Donald, to be fair, at least doesn't seem to object to communal property as such, which seems to be the more common syndrome ("Must Avoid... Anything Uncomfortable... to Modern Western Lifestyles...") but does seem keen to try and minimise the size of the 'communal' unit. Personally, I see 'ownership' as often a matter of degrees, or of different 'modes', rather than a matter of do or don't. One can recognise that something belongs to the clan, while still being jealous of your lodge's perogatives as 'stewards' of that property, or indeed being the ones who benefit from its fruits. Indeed, this in turn doesn't preclude you feeling (and asserting, if it ever becomes a matter of open dispute) a greater such sense of 'ownership' than your layabout brother, or other lesser cohabitees, without any sort of need for this to have ever really having been formalised in any fashion.

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