Written by: Dark Starr
Images by: Daeden Jessop
So you want to be Alarian …
In book 21, Mercinaries of Gor, John Norman introduces us to the Alar, a prominent culture about which little information shared. So … as John Norman created his Gorean cultures directly from those that once inhabited Earth in the “real world”, we need to look into the RL past to gain insight.
When creating your Alarian avatar, it is good to keep in mind that they are described as being fair skinned, blonde haired and blue eyed, not too dissimilar from Torvaldslanders with Alarian men having broad, powerful (if a bit short) bodies, braided hair and drooping mustaches. Free women are described as being large, plain and cold, with a high standing in the community.
Important not to forget is that it is said the Alar do not have slaves for long because their Free Women kill them. This, as usual, is in opposition to the experience in Second Life where men tend to collect as many slaves as possible and collar Free Women for the slightest provocation (real or imagined).
For accurate role play of Alar, slaves should not be common and Free Women have more of a powerful standing than is common in SL today. This could be an excellent strong women’s role for those tired of the typical wall flower having tea parties, passing out candy and avoiding a collar…how boring!
Another case in point for the power and freedom of Alarian women is how children are raised with much permissiveness. What exactly this means in practical terms is not mentioned but in context, strange though not bazaar behavior is tolerated until it becomes a problem. An Alarian woman could, for example, dress as a man and not do a man’s work. This is tolerated until she pushes it too far and is made to behave as a woman. This is an important fact often ignored or misunderstood in Second Life. She was allowed her behavior, she was not collared and when confronted, she knew she had been put in her place and acted better.
A fierce nomadic people, the Alar live in wagons, herd bosk, verr and tarsk and are constantly on the move, settling only long enough feed their herds, perhaps do a little trading and to otherwise cause mayhem by most city’s standards – and then they move on. The concept of land ownership and boundaries brings much conflict as a result and it is a rare occasion that the Alar would willingly pay for passage or pasturage for their herds – they see little reason to pay for things that are essential to their way of life. “Without grass, the bosk will die … The bosk will live,” they say.
Gorean cities should bear in mind when role playing with Alarian’s that most towns do not issue a challenge to the Alar, instead, they close their gates and wait for the Alar to move on.
Most Alarians are illiterate and are thought to be unintelligent “grunting” savages. It is a mistake, however, to think this for Alar have a great ability to memorize and pass on information and details. By way of example, the Alarian, Hurtha, possesses a large vocabulary and is a poet to boot. While Hurtha did nothing to hide his culture and it’s perceived short comings, the books give one the feeling that he used his culture to get away with things, explaining everything away as “that is the way of the Alar.”
Often comical and sly, Hurtha subtly manipulates events and people thus showing the true intelligence of the Alar. It also helped to be able to back himself up with an axe!
Another good example of the Alarian mindset is related in the legend of Hendix who laughed and sung even in the face of death – for he is Alar.
Children are important to the Alar, that they be healthy and fit would be important to a small group of people. Caring for the infirm would be an impediment and present the danger of passing on less than desirable genes to the next generation. After birth, a child is cleaned and rubbed with animal fat, then examined for defect. If none is found, the child is permitted to live. It is not mentioned, though, what exactly is done with a child found to be defective.
Another important tidbit to remember when creating a male Alarian character … at birth, male children (never female) when deemed worthy of life, are cut on the cheeks so that, “it must learn to endure wounds before it receives the nourishment of milk.” It is in this way that an Alarian male is identified. All Alar men should wear these scars proudly in Second Life.
Alars are known for their skill with the war axe though more detail on this axe can be found on SLGor.com. Women, it is said, do not posses the physical strength to wield this axe and many cannot even lift it. But, as Alarian Free Women are “large,” certainly most could at least lift it.
If the logic of war is followed, the Alar wielding an axe as such would only be weighed down by a sword and not need it with his war axe. However, there is much mention of Alarian swords, the Spatha and the Scramasax (Scramaseax).
And there you have it Alar at a glance. To read the full un-abbreviated version of this article in which there is much more detail and historical Earth origin presented, please click the links below the quote we leave you with here …
It was a long, cutting sword, of the sort called a spatha among the wagons. It is more useful than the gladius, from the back of a tharlarion, because of its reach. He also carried among his things the short, stabbing sword, similar to gladius, and doubtless related to it, called by his people the sacramasax. It is much more useful on foot, particularly in close combat.
Mercenaries of Gor, p. 66
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Unabridged Article by Dark Starr of Port Kar:
[toggle title=”The People” collapsed=”in”]
“Alars, incidentally, are renowned for their capacity to wreak havoc, conduct massacres, chop off heads, and such, and then get a good night’s sleep afterwards.” Mercenaries of Gor, p.125
In Book 21, Mercenaries of Gor, we are introduced to the Alars. A prominent culture in Mercenaries of Gor but we truly have little information on them and must look to the probable origins on Earth to learn more about them, to understand them and the probable cultural idiosyncrasies.
The Alar are described as being fair skinned, blonde haired and blue eyed much in appearance as Torvaldslanders with braided hair and drooping mustaches. Their bodies are broad, powerful and a bit short. The free women of the Alar are described as being large, plain and cold and carrying a high standing in the community. It is said that the Alar do not have slaves for long because the free women of the Alar kill them. This, as usual, is in difference to the experience in Second Life where men tend to collect as many slaves as possible and collar free women for the slightest provocation real or imagined. For accurate role play of Alar, slaves should not be common and the Free Women have more of the standing than they do commonly found in Second Life. This could be a strong woman’s role for those tired of the wallflower role avoiding a collar.
The Alar are a fierce nomadic people that live in wagons, herd bosk, verr and tarsk and who constantly move to keep their herds fed. The concept of land ownership and boundaries brings conflict because of this and it is a rare occasion that the Alar will pay for passage or pasturage for their herds — they see little reason to pay for things that are essential to their way of life. Most towns do not issue a challenge, instead, they close their gates and wait for the Alar to move on rather than face the wrath of the Alar. “Without grass the bosk will die,” they say. “The bosk will live.”
The laager of the Alars, like that of similar folks, is a fortress of wagons. They are ranged in a closed circle, or concentric, closed circles, draft animals and women and children within. Also, not unoften, depending on the numbers involved, and particularly when traversing, or sojourning in dangerous countries, verr, tarsk and bosk may also be found within the wagon enclosure. Mercenaries of Gor, p. 43
The Alar live in their wagons, migrating and traveling, settling long enough to feed their herds and maybe to trade or to cause mayhem by city standards, then move on. Most Alar are illiterate but possess great ability to memorize and pass on information – they are not unintelligent “grunting” savages. Hurtha of the books possesses a large vocabulary and is a poet as well and an Alar. Quite a combination! As I read of Hurtha, he showed his culture but one gets the feeling that he uses his culture to get away with the things he does, explaining that it is the way of the Alar. Often times comical and sly, the subtle manipulation of events and people shows the intelligence of the Alar — it also helped to be able to back yourself up with an axe!
Children are important to the Alar, and that they be healthy and fit certainly is important to a small group of people. Caring for the infirm would be an impediment and possibly continue less than desired genes among the people. After birth a child is cleaned and rubbed with animal fat. Then they are examined for defect and if none found the child is permitted to live. No mention of how a defective child would be handled. Male children, never females, are then cut on the cheeks so that “It must learn to endure wounds before it receives the nourishment of milk.” It is in this way that an Alar is identified. All Alar men should wear and bear these scars proudly in Second Life.
Alar children are raised with much permissiveness. What exactly this means in practical terms is not mentioned but in context, strange though not bizarre behavior is tolerated until it becomes a problem. The woman dressing as a man, though not doing a mans work, is tolerated until she pushes it too far and is made to behave as a woman. This is an important note often ignored or misunderstood in Second Life. She was allowed her behavior, she was not collared and when confronted she knew she had been put in her place and acted better.
A perfect example of the Alar mindset is related in the legend of Hendix. Laughs and sing even in the face of death, for you are Alar. “That is what the chieftain, Hendix, did,” he said, “in Alar legend, when captured by his enemies and put in oil. He shouted at them, and laughed at them, insulting them all the while. And then while boiling he sang merry Alar songs. In that way he showed his contempt for his enemies.” Mercenaries of Gor, p. 286
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Weapons and Combat
Besides the ax Alars are fond of the Alar sword, a long heavy double-edged weapon. Their shields tend to be oval, like those of the Turians. Their most common mount is the medium-weight saddle tharlarion, a beast smaller and less powerful, but swifter and more agile, than the common high tharlarion. Their saddles, however, have stirrups, and this make possible the use of the couched, shock lance. Mercenaries of Gor, p. 45
It was a long, cutting sword, of the sort called a spatha among the wagons. It is more useful than the gladius, from the back of a tharlarion, because of its reach. He also carried among his things the short, stabbing sword, similar to gladius, and doubtless related to it, called by his people the sacramasax. It is much more useful on foot, particularly in close combat. Mercenaries of Gor, page 66
Alars are known for their skill with the ax, which is called they call the Francisca. Presented in the book as a long handled single bladed war ax, the earth origin of the francisca is an ax used for throwing during the opening volley of combat against the enemy shields, indeed named for the Germanic tribe, the Franks and literally meaning “Frankish Axe” or “because of their use by the Franks”. This is not as romantic or imposing as the figure of the large bladed battle axe wielded by the barbarian beefcake so for sake of macho image and virility the translation into book and therefore into SL, the francisca made its translation a war axe. Women it is said in Mercenaries, do not possess the physical strength to wield this axe and many cannot even lift it. This would be so on Gor and translating the throwing axe to a battle axe, but given the Alar Free Women are “large” certainly most could at least lift even a battle axe.
After the volley of axes, the sword was drawn for combat. If it followed the logic of war, the Alar wielding an axe as such would only be weighed down by a sword and not need it with his war axe. However the Alar swords, the Spatha and the Sacramasax (Scramaseax) are accurately worn though again inaccurately described.
The Spatha is one thing that was correctly mentioned, however briefly and this would have been the main weapon. It is longer than the Gladius, in fact the Romans gradually gave up the Gladius in favor adopting the Spatha as their main weapon after fighting along side the Celtic/Germanic mercenaries and auxiliaries. The Spatha was the more advanced sword in terms of design and strength, being made of iron and steel instead of the wrought iron gladius and it was more versatile, usable by cavalry and legionaries.
The Sacramasax is not akin to the Gladius, it is a long stabbing blade intended for use as a side blade, wielded in the off hand.
Alar cavalry closely models its historical Earth origins with the Visigoth Cavalry which won many a battle and turned the tide for Roman engagements as well as on Gor as is hinted at by the passages in Mercenaries. Cavalry is not something we often see in Second Life, though it plays such an important role in Gor and on Earth. Is it a limitation of the medium, a lack of scripting and design or too technical for the hack and slash nature. I would like to see a Cavalry battle.[/toggle]
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It has been postulated in popular scrolls passed around and referenced that the name Alar comes from the tribe, the Alan’s which were decimated and absorbed by invading Huns. That is what is put forth as the reason for the cheek scars that the Alar give to their male children but it is not historically supported. The Huns scarred the cheeks and chins of their male children so their visages would be horribly scarred and they would be unable to grow beards.
Further, the Alan’s are not of Germanic origin, being an Iranian steppe peoples noted for horse breeding who were defeated by the Huns, displaced and absorbed by the Vandals and then later submitted to the Mongols.
The Alar are a tribe composed of many of the people of the Germanic migration into Roman territories. The Alan, Visigoth, Ostragoth, Vandals and Franks are more likely than the Huns, who were more noted for their horsemanship and ability with the bow. The Goths as previously noted were superb cavalry against and in service to the Romans. To muddy the waters so to speak by trying to draw a connection to the Huns is an unnecessary stretch. The Huns have more of a place culturally with the Wagon People than the Alar.
More likely and probable of the origin of the name Alar would come directly from Alaric.
Alaric was King of the Visigoths from 395 to 410 AD. He was the first Germanic leader to lead his people to the sack of Rome. Certainly this is more credible and likely than to be named after defeated and absorbed peoples. The Alar are proud and strong, not defeated.
The Visigoths and others in the migrating Germanic people reached Italy and were given right to settle and feed their people rather than face tens of thousands of Goths. This is mirrored in the tradition noted in the book of closing the gates and letting people take what is needed.
The tradition of violence and mayhem is of Vandal origin. The Vandals are another Germanic tribe that invaded and sacked Rome in 455. Later writers idealized the destructive tendencies as being ‘Vandals’ for they defaced and destroyed numerous works of art in Rome. [/toggle]
In the books the Alar Chieftain is named Genserix. The King of the Vandals and the absorbed Alan’s from 428 to 477 was named Genseric.[/toggle]
Reproduced with permission from Home Stone Magazine.
Past issues are not currently available to view online as
they were printed as the publication has been defunct since 2010.