The Northern Barbarians
Table of Contents
The people who live to the North and South of the Kelerak Mountains are known to the more civilized peoples of Western Farland as the Northern Barbarians. The Northern barbarian peoples are made up of four large, loosely organized tribes. As a people, they call themselves Anar (Ah-nar) "Raiders," because they were known for harrowing and harassing the lands to the South. Three tribes live south of the Mountains and one tribe lives North of the Mountains. The Southern tribes divide themselves by what totem animal they honor. They revere the Elk, the Wolf, and the Cavebear, and call themselves the Hofvarar, Hildolfar, and Rindar. The tribe that lives North of the mountains, near the Ice Bay, honors the Seal and calls themselves the Einar. Ethnically, the bloodline of these people is older than human history, although they have been periodically infused with the blood of conquered peoples or refugees. The most notable merger happened many centuries ago, when the folk of ancient Lorindon fled North from their decimated cities and towns to sink back into barbarity and merge with the Northerners. The Barbarians have never been officially civilized; they have resisted any attempt at civilization or proselytization with violence, although they have readily adopted the more practical cultural features of the people with whom they have had contact. In many areas, they are remarkably civilized, and from a certain point of view, advanced. But in many areas they are truly barbarians. Reading and writing is rare among the Anar. Their songs, poems, and histories are mostly oral. Moreover, they are very warlike, more warlike than most peoples; this alone often sets them back in terms of civilization. Their history is primarily one of war between tribes and war against orcs, giants (Jotun), and evil creatures of the North. Between war and survival in the harsh and unfertile northern mountainous lands they have little time to be civilized.
The four Northern tribes share a culture that is similar to the Viking culture of earth's history. These Nordic-like peoples never had an era of feudalism to speak of; they have always valued their personal freedom. One effect of this freedom is the Allesret, free use of the forests, seas and uncultivated land. The Anar enjoy their alcohol; the Southern tribes produce vodka from potatoes and mead from their vast beehives. The Einar are more of a beer-drinking tribe, but enjoy vodka as well, although they drink it in smaller quantities. Feast tables are stacked with pickled herrings and open-faced sandwiches. Women have untold freedom. Towns function well, although most are fairly primitive by the standards of civilization; the Northerners would say this means they are not choked with street merchants hawking their wares. The towns are dominated by the famous dwellings of the Northmen: the longhouses. The longhouse usually has one large room. The walls are made of wood, in areas where it is plentiful (South of the Mountains), and the roof is covered with turf. In areas such as the lands of the Einar, where there are few trees, walls are made of peat blocks and wooden planks are placed on the inside of the walls. Benches for sleeping or sitting on are common around the walls. They are covered with furs, skins or cloths for warmth and comfort. Beds are only used in the wealthier houses and then only rarely. A central fire is the main source of light and heat in the hall and a hole in the roof lets out the smoke. Wooden chests are used to store furs blankets and other household goods. The fifth weekday is bath day for the Anar, for religious reasons. A bathhouse or Sauna can be found near the longhouse for the weekly bath. The largest structure, the longhouse of the village chieftain dominates the village.
Ornamentation is a major part of the Anar culture. Their ornamentation is usually present on every thing they own, from their tools to their homes to their weapons to their clothes. Ornamentation plays a very significant role in the lives of the Anar. Barbarian Northmen all dress somewhat similarly: they will first put on a long shirt made of wool and long cloth trousers. On top of this is worn a sleeved jerkin or a thigh length coat with a leather belt. On his feet he wears wool socks and soft leather shoes or long leather boots. In battle, he wears an iron helment and chainmail if he can afford it; otherwise the favored protection is padded or hardened leather armor. Plate mail is unknown, for while the Anar do smelt steel, they do not have the technology to produce armor greater than chain. If they once did, it is since forgotten. Northern Barbarian women wear long linen or wool dresses, either pleated or plain. Over the dress they wear a lengthy woolen apron-like tunic. A brooch joined by a chain or string of beads clasps it. Over the tunic she might throw a shawl. Her legs and feet are covered with thick wool socks and leather shoes. When it is cold, both men and women wear woolen or fur hats and cloaks. They fasten their cloaks at the shoulder with an ornamental pin or brooch.
Women and Home Life
The Anar live in large family groups. Children, parents, and grandparents live together. When the eldest son takes over the family farm, he becomes the head of the family and responsible for the well being of them all. He has to provide the food the family needs. His wife, the lady of the household, has to see to it that the food does not run out during the long winter. She makes butter and cheese, dried and smoked meat and fish for storage, and she is also expected to know about herbs for making medicine and caring for the sick and wounded. The farm animals are also her responsibility and when her husband goes trading, raiding, or hunting she also runs the farm in his absence. In rich families she has servants to help her. As a visible sign of her authority and power the lady of the household wears the keys to the food chests at her waist.
When the men travel abroad raiding, trading, hunting, or fishing, the women are in charge of the work on the farm. Occasionally a particularly tough woman might fight or raid alongside the men as a "shield-maiden." This all shows that the women play an important part in society.
Girls are married at the age of 12 to 15. They are then expected to run a household. The marriage is agreed between families and is regarded as an alliance between the two families for mutual help and protection. The girl herself has little to say in the matter.
The bride brings cloth of linen and wool, a spinning wheel, a loom and a bed as part of her dowry. Women from richer families also have jewelry of silver and gold, farm animals and even farms as a part of their dowry. Everything she brings into the marriage remains her personal property and does not fully become part of her husband's estate. Her children will in turn inherit this property as part of their maternal inheritance.
The woman does not fully become part of her husband's family when she marries. She continues to be a part of her own family and if her husband mistreats her and the children, or is too lazy to be a good provider, or if he insults her family, she can divorce him. To do it she calls some witnesses. In front of these witnesses she first at the front door, and then at the couple's bed, declares herself divorced from her husband.
Babies and toddlers automatically stay with their mother at a divorce. The bigger children are divided between the parents according to the wealth and status of the two families. With her right to property, inheritance and divorce, the Anar woman has more legal rights than most women elsewhere in Farland. Children are also protected by law as members of the family, and their rights to inheritance are protected even after a divorce.
The poorer people
At the smaller farms the systems with men's work and women's work are less strict. With no servants, everybody has to contribute what they can for the survival of the family in the harsh Northern climate.
The Anar call a court the "ting.” Anyone who commits a crime is brought before the “ting.” A panel of people testify to establish the facts and exigencies of the situation.
A jury of 12, 24, or 36, depending on how important the case is, makes the decision concerning the accused. Commonly a local chief or lord would explain the applicable laws, and then the panel either acquits or convicts.
If found guilty, the criminal either is assessed a fine or banished. Banishment means that the criminal is exiled to the wilderness, barred from help, and vulnerable to his enemies. They can try to hunt and kill him if that is their wish. Sometimes his exile may be limited, after which time (if he yet lives) he may return to his village. Most of the time the exile is permanent.
There is no law against war with foreigners. Like the Kelerites, the Anarians have no law against raiding or highway robbery as long as it is against non-Anarians, so raids outside of Anaria are completely legal.
To solve disputes
The Anarians often solve disputes with a Helvdorn, or duel. Detailed rules exist for these duels. Duels take place at some secret place. Swords and shields are favored. Sometimes a dueler is considered defeated as soon as he sheds blood; most times they are to the death. To win a duel is regarded as proof that one is right, because the gods always side with the just.
Ordeal by pain
Korbeyr means “Pain Ordeal.” The remnants of the people of Lorindon introduced the Anar to ordeal by pain, usually by fire. The most common method is to retrieve a piece of iron from boiling water with one's hands and walk twelve paces. One can also undertake an ordeal by pain if he can walk 13 paces on irons glowing red-hot. This proves that one is innocent or worthy (depending on the question at hand) if after four days the wounds on the feet are found to be healing cleanly. Wodene, legendary king of all the Anar, proved his right to the throne by undergoing the trial of walking on hot iron.
Physical strength, speed, and endurance are important qualities for an Anar. Man versus man competitions are normal forms of sport. In this type of competition there is usually a champion and a challenger.
Some of the most popular sports amongst the Anar are archery, javelin, skiing, stone throwing, swimming, and wrestling.
The Anar religion has one common denominator: the worship or reverence of a totem animal. Each tribe has its own animal and sees its main god as either connected to the spirit of that animal or as the provider of that animal. The Wolf and Cavebear Tribes see their gods as connected to the animals, while the Elk and Seal tribes see their gods as provider of these game creatures. The Wolf Tribe calls their God Edmund Steppenwolf, the Hunter of the Steppes. Steppenwolf's wife is the Golden Lady Alfhild. The god of the Cavebear Tribe is Yyngvald the Old and his lady is Brigga. The God of the Elk tribe is Anders the Swift; he has no consort. Finally, the God of the Seal Tribe is Kolbjorn the Provider, whose lady is Frey the Helpful. Each of the head gods have a minor pantheon that serves him. Moreover, all of the gods are envisioned in roughly the same way; they are seen as a grim god who watches over and helps his people only in time of direst need. He is a wise, just, but whimsical and sometimes terrifying figure. Each of the four gods is said to both control and answer to the wyrd. The wyrd is that which seems to have its origins in the world of the gods. Wyrd is synchronistic events: meaningful coincidences, when outer happenings coincide with an internal event (when the subject is aware of the fateful meaning of the event). These are moments when the soul and the world can be recreated, reshaped. Alternately wyrd is that which can not be resisted because of the will of fate itself. Wyrd is the relentless force that guides men's lives.
The most famous and unique rituals of the Anar are their burial rituals. When an Anar of power or very high military status dies he has a very unique funeral. His body is placed in a cloth bag. Then the body, his weapons, his horses, and some meaningful jewelry and pottery are all placed in a large hole. In the hole everything is placed standing upright, including the body. Runes of powers are engraved on the walls of the tomb. This is all done because the Anar believe that the deceased keeps fighting in the afterlife, so he needs his horses and weapons. Or the chieftain may be placed, with all his belongings, in a wagon or chariot. Next the tomb or wagon is completely buried with earth. This creates a large mound approximately more than 50 yards in diameter.
Most tribes have a religious ritual that is performed when a boy officially enters the tribe by coming of age. These rituals vary between the four tribes. The ritual of the Einar, for example, involves leading a successful hunting exhibition. The exhibition must travel a certain distance and be gone for a certain time. Often, the expedition is made even more difficult because the elders purposefully do not send as many provisions as is usual.
The Anar are very superstitious. They believe in and revere all manner of spirits and sprites (some real and some imaginary). They hold dwarves and elves in awe. Dwarves they see as supernatural allies who live under the earth and supply them with strong swords and armor. Indeed, Northmen were the first humans with whom the Dwarven race had contact. Almost all Dwarven use-names were originally Northern Ancient Anarian in origin, and are borrowed from the Northmen. Elves are viewed as incomprehensible. The average Anar is uncertain whether elves are friends or foes of mankind, or both, but he does believe that elves play a large role in human life, culture, and history. The Anar have a dim racial memory of the ancient grandeur and importance of the Elven race, and they give their children names that refer to elves, such as Alfhiem and Alfred. Yet they also sometimes blame the legendary elves for human madness and trouble, hence the term "elf-shot." The Anar tend to mistrust magic of all but the priestly sort.
The Anar are fierce warriors; indeed they are known throughout the west for their war prowess. In fact, a barbarian army led by the legendary warlord Wodene once burned Dragonspur City after defeating its army. In general, however, the Northmen are not quite organized enough to put together an organized campaign army that is capable of crossing long distances. They lack the supply lines and the motivation to do so. Thus their raids have generally been directed towards other Northmen or towards Northern Kelerak and Northern Kale. Unlike the historical Vikings, the Barbarian Northmen are not mariners (not having access to any large bodies of water) and thus are not really wanders or explorers.
Northmen are also known for their berserk fighting styles. Indeed, the term "berserker" is a barbarian term. The Northern berserker lashes himself into a rage by chewing his shield, singing, shouting, and injuring himself; he then rushes madly into battle clad in light or no armor. This raging warrior will then fight until he or all his enemies are dead. A berserker is a deadly enemy against individuals or small groups but groups of berserkers are less effective against organized bands of soldiers. They tend to impale themselves on the weapons of spear and pikemen. This is another reason that the Northmen have only rarely been successful in large-scale, kingdom-conquering campaigns, given their tendency to go berserk. But no one wants to see a group of Anar warriors bearing down on his village.
The Anar speak a common language called Anarian, which stems from an ancient human tongue that is native to the Northlands. It also has a healthy mix of Farlandish and Kelevan thrown in, but it is still primarily its own language. This language is characterized by melodic accents and glottal stops. To other humans, this language often sounds “sing-song.”