Born For and Born To in the Merchant World

This is a repost from 2021, because of Day Job duties. New material resumes tomorrow. A quick reminder, Saxo Birdson is born for Yoorst, born to either Korvaal or the Scavenger.

Tycho Gaalnar Rhonarida was born for Maarsdam. He came from a merchant family, and Maarsdam is their patron deity. He was going to be a merchant of some kind. But he was born to Donwah, because of the day and time of his birth. In fact, as readers know, he was born under three of Donwah’s signs, and that completely overshadowed Maarsdam’s role. Tycho repels magic, because Donwah’s influence is so strong.

In the world of the Merchant books, a person is born for the patron deity of their family, generally related to trade or location. So a farming family’s children will probably be born for Yoorst of the Beasts, Gember of the Grain, or Korvaal of the Orchards (and other domesticated woodlands). Merchant families generally incline toward Maarsdam or, in some cases, Radmar of the Wheel, who oversees change and opportunity. [Cue “O Fortuna”]. Woodworkers and builders would go to Korvaal, or perhaps, if they are charcoal makers or work finding raw timber, Valdher of the Forests. Trappers and others of the fringes and frontiers incline toward Valdher or the Scavenger. Miners? Scavenger.

Families choose a child’s “born for” patron. The date and time of the child’s birth determines “born to,” unless something very unusual happens and a deity gives an unmistakable sign of patronage. So, a child of the Five Free Cities might be thought to be born to Yoorst, until a freak blizzard hits just before the child’s birth, and then fades away after the delivery. The family would likely declare the child as born to Sneelah, goddess of the north. (At the time of the main-series Merchant books, the Great Northern Emperors are almost all born to and for Sneelah, except for a few who are born for Sneelah, born to the Scavenger.) Aedelbert, the protagonist of Miners and Empire was the first child in a very long time born to the Scavenger, and his family considered this very inauspicious. Those who have read the story know why, and how their attitude shaped his life.

Having the same born for and born to patron means that the individual will be strongly influenced by that god. Or so popular belief has it. The priests will all swear up and down that there is nothing in that combination that predestines anyone to a career or a path in life. As the Scavenger-born frequently grumble, “Your patron is not an excuse.” Just because a man is born to and for the Scavenger doesn’t mean he must be a thief or beggar. However, his skills and temperament might incline him (or her) to work as a miner, stone-cutter, or the like. A woman born to Gember may never learn to bake well, no matter how hard she tries. But popular belief often treats born-for and born-to as a sort of horoscope. Families consider the combination when they look at possible marriage partners, although it is more of a sign of probable compatibility than a requirement. Jens Saxklar, one of the miners, was for Valdher and born to the Scavenger. His coworkers feel that explains his odd habit of wandering and his strange ways. He’s a good miner, one of the best, and works very hard, but he’s exceedingly off-kilter for a miner. That has to be Valdher’s influence.

There are cases when deities do take a strong interest in their born-to followers. Readers have seen the Scavenger at work, a rather uncomfortable presence in a person’s life. In Tycho’s case, his inability to handle anything touched with magic becomes a life-saving asset, although he’d just as soon never, ever have been involved in that sort of thing. The Great Northern Emperor, born to and for Sneelah, is also her priest, and she will overshadow him, just as other gods speak through their priests. No one is happy when the various deities feel the need to make their presence felt, even if it is “just” an overlarge rat staring down the trail at someone. Very overlarge rat.

Alas for me, I was jumped by a story set just after the end of the Great Cold. Part of the conflict between the main character and the emperor centers on their patrons. The protagonist was born for Maarsdam, born to Valdher. The emperor was born to and for Sneelah. Both are determined men, both think they know best how to go about resettling the new lands. But what Valdher wants and what Sneelah demands conflict mightily. [Merchant, Priest, and Empire, and yes, there will be a corrected edition in the next few months.]


13 thoughts on “Born For and Born To in the Merchant World

  1. Good refresher on “born for” and “born to”. For whatever reason I have to work to keep those separate in my head. Many thanks.

    • Unless a character is like Tycho, where his “born to” dominates so strongly, the “born for” is often easier to remember and it’s what most people would focus on. “Born for Yoorst. Beast healer and herbalist? Of course he would be. That’s just how it is.”

      I’m starting to think that Saxo was born to the Scavenger, based on my other Scavenger-inclined characters, but Korvaal also makes sense, because so many of the plants the herbalists use are wild, or grow in otherwise untended corners. In-world logic, yes, but I suspect that people internalize more of the “born to” than they would admit (in some cases.)

  2. Thank you for this repeat post. I missed the original and have tried to figure out the difference.

  3. Shouldn’t that be ‘Noble, Priest, and Empire’ instead of ‘Merchant, Priest, and Empire’?

  4. Rather late to ask, but do the ladies of the Laughing Schaef or Red Schaef have a patron? I suspect they are anomalies in the system.

    • Some are born for the Scavenger, then to any other god. In White Gold, Aedelbert notes that the boss lady is Scavenger Born. It varies a lot.

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