Forum: Dwim's Stories (was Lie Down...)

Discussing: Caravan guards???

Caravan guards???

Hi, Dwim!

It's making me crazy, so I have to ask. 

How do you reconcile the Dúnedain being hired as trusted guides and guards with their unsavory and untrustworthy reputation in Bree? 

The only scenario I can come up with, rather facetiously, is that the caravans/merchants/etc. think they are paying 'protection' money to this gang of outback ruffians who wear stars as a badge, rather than hiring them for real protection against other evil guys.  And I know you can't mean that!  Do you?

 Gwynnyd

 

 

Re: Caravan guards???

Hi Gwynnyd,

How do you reconcile the Dúnedain being hired as trusted guides and guards with their unsavory and untrustworthy reputation in Bree?

The brief answer: I've never written a story that tried to work out, in detail, how this might work. So I can't reconcile it--I haven't really tried yet, just used the idea because it's fun and it makes a certain amount of sense in terms of efficiently covering vulnerable travelers.

The sophistical answer: If you look at what I've written, in various short stories (and maybe one long one?), I never show the Rangers actually hiring themselves out *at* Bree; they come in with outsiders who've hired them elsewhere. I'm also fairly certain that outside of one unpublished playing-around-with-ideas piece, I've never written them as wearing their star brooches while acting as mercenaries. (If I have, please remind me which fic it's in, so I can go destroy the evidence.)

[snip racketeering scheme]

And I know you can't mean that!

I hadn't thought of that, but should I ever attempt to go back to a story that would fit in the Economics 101 nuzgul, I'll think of this and cackle.

But no, if the Breelanders really thought they were ruffians of that sort, Butterbur probably would've been far more up front about warning the inexperienced hobbits away, and correspondingly been unwilling to confront Aragorn the way he did. Racketeers have a nasty habit of killing people to prove the need to pay them on their own terms, after all.

Dwim

 

 

Re: Caravan guards???

The sophistical answer: If you look at what I've written, in various short stories (and maybe one long one?), I never show the Rangers actually hiring themselves out *at* Bree; they come in with outsiders who've hired them elsewhere. I'm also fairly certain that outside of one unpublished playing-around-with-ideas piece, I've never written them as wearing their star brooches while acting as mercenaries. (If I have, please remind me which fic it's in, so I can go destroy the evidence.)

No, I can't think off-hand of anywhere you had them wearing stars, so no need to go destroy the evidence.  But they must have some way of identifying themselves as 'the trustworthy guys'. 

It just seems anomalous.  Butterbur says:

'Well, you know your own business, maybe,' said Mr. Butterbur, looking suspiciously at Strider. 'But if I was in your plight, I wouldn't take up with a Ranger.' 

Whereas if Rangers were known as trustworthy guides and guards (and they must be if they've been hiring out regularly and passing through Bree for years and years) you'd think he'd be saying, "Oh good. Rangers will get you where you want to go." 

I can see Strider not being as well known as some of the others, or not known to hire out as often, in your scenario, and Butterburr saying, 'But if I was in your plight, I wouldn't take up with Strider.  [Nickname of other Ranger] is due is next week. Best wait for him.'

But it's Rangers who are all treated with equal caution, so Breelanders must be thinking of them as an identifiable group of some sort, and not just using the term as a synonym for 'men not living in Bree'.  The men coming up the Greenway are not lumped in with the Rangers, after all.

 Racketeers have a nasty habit of killing people to prove the need to pay them on their own terms, after all.

  Well, I'm sure that groups that don't hire the Rangers have a statistically poorer chance of reaching their destination unharmed or unattacked, so the Rangers may have an undeserved reputation: "If you don't hire a Ranger to escort you, worse things happen."  If they are regularly known and hired, they may simply be exploiting that rep.  I didn't mean to imply they set out to prove it by making sure  bad things happen to honest merchants who don't hire them.

Gwynnyd 

 

 

Re: Caravan guards???

Hmmmm... I'm not sure I see them so diametrically opposed, ruffians versus caravan guards. ;) At least not in Butterbur's eyes.

True, very true, as you point out Butterbur says:

'Well, you know your own business, maybe,' said Mr. Butterbur, looking suspiciously at Strider. 'But if I was in your plight, I wouldn't take up with a Ranger.'

Seems to me that the Shire-folk and Breelanders are about equally insular and rather xenophobic. (LOL! Each pointing the finger at each other and thinking "ew.") So the funny thing is, Barliman lumps Shire-folk and Rangers together as equally "other," different, and strange. He says:

"But there's no accounting for East and West, as we say in Bree, meaning the Rangers and the Shire-folk, begging your pardon.

With that kind of benign xenophobia, where even the relatively harmless Shire-folk would be seen as an unknown, Rangers as unknown elements would likely be seen as rather scary. They certainly have a lot more power, what with all those shiny implements hanging off of them and grim countenances.

Perhaps they were perceived more along a continuum of unpredictable-scary-dudes versus rough, closed-mouthed bailiffs.

To be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to come upon a Ranger all alone in a dark alley. But, if he promised to see me safely escorted across the Wild, came recommended to me, and I had little other choice, I might just take him up on it, treat him fair, but watch my back the whole time.

~Silli

*blink*  whoa.. edited to fix html 

 

 

Re: Caravan guards???

But they must have some way of identifying themselves as 'the trustworthy guys'.

I can imagine them having some sign or watchword or system of introductions--the young guys who aren't known would probably never be allowed to hire out by themselves until they'd done a season or three with known faces. The star brooch seems like it's not known in Gondor, which must have been a major trading post; if that were so, it seems unlikely Thorongil's showing up with one would have been cause for special recognition. Unless one imagines that everyone is shocked this particular mercenary abandoned the trade routes to try to join the regular forces.

But in terms of trustworthiness, I imagine that while the Rangers may have been good enough to get merchants to and fro, the fact that they have other business not clearly related to trading, and that they *are* swords-for-hire would not endear them to the native population of Bree, who probably doesn't use them to get around the Breeland or even to the Shire on rare occasions. "Mercenary" just doesn't scream trustworthiness in general--if someone were so good with a sword, why doesn't he do what warriors do, and swear an oath to a lord or even to whatever quasi-militia they may have in Bree?

Also, I'd imagine that in a time when exile must have been one of the harshest punishments one could inflict short of execution, the fact that no one knows where these guys come from or what their real names are must be cause for mistrust. It'd be one thing if they could say, "Oh yes, I'm from Lossarnarch in Gondor, I go back every spring and my family is [name of family]"; but they don't appear to give that kind of information out. That's very unusual and doesn't inspire a lot of trust—what are they hiding, that they can't give their own names out or talk about their origins? And why do they go off into the Wild regularly and come back unable to talk about it? That's suspicious activity that wouldn't be attributable to other travelers, who have a clear destination in mind and business they can talk about. Plus, the men coming up the Greenway would likely sound different from the Rangers--they'd sound like Dunlendings or Rohirrim, in terms of accent; they wouldn't sound like Rangers, who would at least be trying to speak in a fashion similar to the inhabitants of Bree, and who probably have an accent that's distinct.

So I think it's possible to identify them as a group in Bree because their activities there would set them apart, as well as their secretiveness, and probably their accents or their willingness to mimic others rather than speak as they normally would amongst themselves. None of that would require them to wear a badge or to avoid being mercenary guards, and doing so would not necessarily render them trustworthy to the Breelanders. Nor, necessarily, to the people they guard--some minimal trust would be necessary, but I doubt you'd go looking for Rangers unless you needed a sword-for-hire.

Blah. Brain spill, here. One day, it would be lovely to try and write something focusing on this amusing hypothesis, to see if I can make it work convincingly, but this is not that day...

Thanks for bringing this up, Gwynnyd, it has stirred *something* in the grey matter, clearly!

Dwim

 

 

Re: Caravan guards???

I'm not sure I see them so diametrically opposed, ruffians versus caravan guards. ;) At least not in Butterbur's eyes.

::nods nods:: That's my feeling, too.

So the funny thing is, Barliman lumps Shire-folk and Rangers together as equally "other," different, and strange. He says:

"But there's no accounting for East and West, as we say in Bree, meaning the Rangers and the Shire-folk, begging your pardon.



I'd totally forgotten about that quote, but that's an interesting point to bring out. What then is the difference between East and West, then? Well, 'West' at least is settled and respectable--people don't hide their origins who come west from the Shire. Rangers, coming East from Eru alone knows where, on the other hand, seem to have something to hide. That's not the behavior of decent people, even if they haven't been seen to kill anyone or assault anyone yet.

To be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to come upon a Ranger all alone in a dark alley.

Me, either. Meeting anyone alone in a dark alley who has weapons and looks grim is not my idea of the start of a beautiful friendship. ;)

But, if he promised to see me safely escorted across the Wild, came recommended to me, and I had little other choice, I might just take him up on it, treat him fair, but watch my back the whole time.

Which is what Sam, at least, very clearly does. Even Frodo believes initially that if Strider isn't a ruffian, he's a scoundrel who wants money and who can't be trusted easily. So a con man, perhaps, and maybe a very dangerous one, given what he knows; any Ranger who offered to go with them, even if he didn't know as much as Aragorn did, probably would be seen as someone looking for cold hard cash, and perhaps not averse to taking as much as he can, then leaving them in the Wild to fend for themselves. Not an active homicide, but slow death by starvation, elements, or the various dangerous things roaming the land beyond Bree.

All right, and now I must be off, truly. It's wet and rainy and the first day of classes, so if I want to get anything done on campus, I have to beat the freshmen to it.

TTFN,

Dwim

 

 

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