Monday, January 23, 2012

Fantasy Tropes: The Noble Warrior

Generally speaking, the classic Anglo/Francan/Germanic knight doesn't exist in Druthal or Maradaine.  It's a trope that doesn't fit with the worldbuilding I've done, despite it's longstanding place in the genre.  Don't get me wrong, I like a good full-plate clad knight thundering on his horse as much as the next guy.  But it's not something I'm interested in putting here.

That said, I do have two elite warrior orders in Druthal, neither of which fit the traditional "knight" model.  (There are also various elite orders in other cultures throughout the world-- it is a common trope for a reason.)  However, on some level, I'm dissatisfied with these two orders.

Conceptually, I still like them.  On a basic level, they represent two sides of the same coin.  One specializes in offensive combat; the other, defensive.  It's the defensive order that is the focus of Way of the Shield, with the main character a fledgling member of the order. 

Also, since Druthal as of 1215 has a centralized government and a standing army, an organization of specialized warriors with no direct accountability to that government becomes problematic.  The orders still stand, mostly out of tradition, but their roles in society have become obsolete.  This obsolescence is a key factor in Way of the Shield as well.  Dayne believes in the order, but he sees that others around him are using it more as a political stepping stone.  Successfully joining the order offers a lot of social mobility.  Dayne is the son of a horsegroom, and now he can rub elbows with nobles and parliamentarians. 

So, what's my problem?  The names of the orders. 

See, originally (the initial worldbuilding, which I did in my early 20s), I had named them the Vanguard (the defensive order) and Warlords (the offensive order).  I still like the orders themselves as part of the worldbuilding, the culture.  But the names?  I'm less comfortable with them.  "Warlord" conjures up images of despotic rulers.  "Vanguard" means "the foremost division or the front part of an army; advance guard" or "the forefront in any movement, field, activity, or the like."  While it could be used for a warrior who stands in front, placing himself between others and harm, I'm not crazy about it.
But what to change them to?  That's my question.  I'd prefer not to simply have made-up names*.  Druthal does follow certain anglo-saxon models, so names that derive from the plain English would be ideal.  And ones that conjure up images of "defensive warrior" and "offensive warrior".  But I'm at a bit of a loss as what those would be.
Or am I overthinking this?  Are "Vanguard" and "Warlord" fine?
*- I do have a certain fondness for Eddings's Pandion, Genidian, Alcione and Cyrinic knights in his Elenium, but I would feel a bit gross simply mimicking that kind of name.


dbonfitto said...

Are they holy orders of warriors or are they secular?

I think that for religious orders, you can get a little more flamboyant in your naming scheme.
"Order of the Most Holy Defensive Buckler of our Lord."
"St. Michael's Wrath"

Secular orders might just be descriptive or simply ordinal.
"212th Attack Brigade" (serving under Obi Wan Kenobi, but still secular)
"Seal Team Six"

Foot soldiers or mounted (and if mounted, on horses or on something else?)
Foot soldiers might identify with their weapon, armor, or uniform (musketeers or Redcoats).
Mounted cavalry are probably going to identify with their animals more than other trappings. If you ride woolly rhinos into battle, nobody gives a damn if you're carrying a scimitar, spear, or sword. You're in the Rhino Riders.

Daniel Fawcett said...

I think the previous comment is right on the money, but (being a semi-insider to this topic), I would add the following:

1) Being secular orders, the names should avoid being over-wrought. However, we always did assume a sort of quasi-philosophical brotherhood aspect to them. The orders originally came together for a purpose. Now, have you done more work on that? Who (specifically) originally founded the orders?

2) I do remember that the orders in question trace their origins back to the struggle for liberation from the Kieran Empire. For that reason, taking (at least in part) the name of the founders would make sense. And the names would then reflect the history of the orders in their role as liberators.

But I would agree that "warlord" and "vanguard" worked at the time, but don't now. Also, "vanguard" has modern political and social connotations that some people find unsavory. (That term is so deeply tied in with Communism, particularly Marxist-Leninism, that some people will be too biased to see past the association.)

Word Geek said...

You could split the difference and have a flamboyant naming scheme that got shortened to a "nickname" over time. "The Most Holy Order of the Sacred Ash Tree" becomes "Ashers" over 200 years. Or the "Benevolent and Militant Order of St. Cuthbert" becomes simply "Cuthberts" in time. Naturally, the orders in question will still have those members who insist on the full and lengthy name, but most of the commoners, and if the interval is long enough, even the members of the orders themselves, will be more likely to use the short name.

Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

Good ideas, all. I especially like WordGeek's suggestion here. That's something I might hang the solution on.