Why Follow Someone?

Granted, sometimes it is a case of following someone out of morbid curiosity to see what disaster is about to ensue, so that either plausible deniability may be ensured, or to see just how bad it could possibly be . . .

[Speaking of which, NO POLITICS! Please.]

I was thinking more about “What motivates the Hunters to follow a certain leader?” When you have a generally merit-based society, what causes some people to start turning to a particular individual and treating that person as a leader? I do not think of myself as a leader, but other people do. I freely admit, I’m not entirely certain why, save for the “morbid curiosity and entertainment value” aspect of things. But why do the Hunters follow Skender and Arthur? Why do they follow Danut Adrescu? What motivates people to follow, when other options are available?

In Danut Adrescu’s case, blood ties play a role. He’s the clan leader, descended from clan leaders (or their sisters, depending on who was born first and who outlived whom) going back a long way. He and his half-brother have been trained to be leaders, and the others in the larger group have a set of expectations about what the clan chief is supposed to do, how he’s supposed to behave, and how he will reward virtue and punish vice. Adrescu’s going to have to do a bit of the latter, assuming he survives whatever the Ottomans seem to be hatching, assuming that Codrin’s vision is truly precognitive. Radut has also earned the respect of the other men and women, in his case partly because he refuses to allow a crippling injury keep him from doing what needs to be done. His skill as both a horse trainer and horse rider also play a role. Kinship as a tie of military service was found in feudal Japan as well as other places. When in doubt, follow your kindred, circle around the center of the larger family’s property, and protect those related to you – that’s one of the oldest loyalties in the books, literally.

There’s not as much opportunity for loot with the Hunters as in traditional armies. You could argue that the Fruits of the Hunt are loot, and it’s true that the Hunters in Adrescu’s time were not averse to confiscating the goods of people who were proven to be getting into mischief, be it mundane or esoteric. Should Adrescu have to face the Ottoman Turks, his soldiers and Hunters will grab what they can if they win. It’s tradition, and a good reward. In our world, even into the early modern era, there were people who fought with, oh, Prince Eugene of Savoy, because he had a record of winning and rewarding his men very well. Or of letting them reward themselves from the enemy. When the monarchs and princes couldn’t pay their hired soldiers, the men found loot on their own – see Rome, 1527, and Charles V’s problem with losing control of his troops. In Eugene’s case, it also tied into charisma. He took care of his troopers, even when he considered them swine. He tended to win more often than he lost, he ended up with loot at some point during most campaigns, and he tended to be impartial when it came to discipline.

Skender and Arthur proved themselves to the Riverton clan as Hunters first and foremost. Then Skender began quietly taking on more and more duties, especially the lesser duties of the senior Hunter. The then-leader was old, in poor health, and couldn’t do those things. Skender showed that he had the needed skills, sense of duty, and training to lead, should the opportunity arise. Arthur supported his brother, and may have on occasion dealt with other Hunters who might have posed threats to Skender. Perhaps. Maybe. No one ever admitted to doing such, and Skender could more than take care of himself. So when the old clan leader died, the Elders and Hunters agreed that Skender was a reasonable choice. It wasn’t without challenges and fights, as series readers have probably surmised. And every so often a Hunter would push things, leading to injuries.

Now? Skender and Arthur have both proven themselves, and no one is suicidal enough to take them on as a pair. Arthur served as head of the Hunters, overseeing training and ensuring order more-or-less. The other Elders and retired Hunters knew about Arthur’s injuries and how hard he pushed himself, and admired him. The younger Hunters respected him profoundly, feared him, and occasionally challenged him. Once or twice, a younger Hunter went to Arthur for counsel, and he provided it without demeaning the younger man or telling others. When it appeared that he’d been mortally wounded on the Hunt, it hit the “puppies” hard. Skender was the senior Hunter, true, but Arthur was their leader. At the same time, when Skender took full responsibility for his brother’s injuries, Skender gained more respect as well (although it didn’t stop some of the youngsters and Elders from growling about it, well away from the rest of the clan.)

Why follow? There are a lot of reasons. Experience, family ties and tradition, the hope of reward, the desire to be present when the dreadfully creative disaster unfolds (because great stories sometimes start with, “Ya’ll won’t believe what Bubba did this time.”) Me? I like a leader who gives me a long leash and who states clearly what needs to be done, what is being done, and why (when possible), and who supports subordinates when the chips are down.


Veterans’ Day, Armistice Day, Martinmas

On the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour, the guns fell silent on the Western Front of WWI. It would take far longer for the African and Eastern fronts to quiet down, and one could argue that the war continued with some pauses until 1945. In Europe and the Commonwealth (England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, other nations), this is a day of solemn remembrance. In the US, we save that for Memorial Day (or used to), and today we honor all veterans who served in the US armed forces.

I raise a glass to Dad Red, Uncle Red, Grandpa Carl, Uncle W., Uncle K., Jim E., Dr. M., Peter G., Carl R., Fr. Martial, Fr. Gonzales, Old NFO, Tom R., Jon L., John v. S., LawDog, Fox and Mr. Fox, and all my readers who served in militaries around the world.

Thank you, G-d bless, may your Martinmas goose come out of the oven perfectly roasted, and may today be as wonderful as possible. Prost!

Ut Oh, Someone Secure the Liquor Cabinet –

It’s November 10th. The U.S. Marine Corps’ birthday!

Original source: https://www.norbay.com/united-states-marine-corp-emblem-all-metal-sign-16-x-16

Although, knowing some of the Marines of my social circle, they have already secured the cabinet and removed the contents “for safe keeping.”

From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, and Guadalcanal, the decks of the USS Ronald Reagan, and a lot of other places, the US Marines stand watch and guard.

Semper Fidelis!

Eras and Ends

The fall of the Berlin Wall and even more so the collapse of the 1991 coup in the Soviet Union. The death of Elizabeth II. The fall of Constantinople in 1453. 9/11. The coronation of Charlemagne. The first three all inspired people to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and say or think, “It’s the end of an era.” September 11, 2001 was sort of the end of an era for most people, not so much for those who had been paying attention to world events since the First Gulf War. The coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor was the start of a new historical period, at least according to historians. We use it as an easy start point for the Middle Ages. The fall of Constantinople is either the start of the Early Modern, or of the Renaissance, or both, depending on what you are looking at. I’d argue that it makes a better “Early Modern Era” touchstone, but I’m not a cultural historian.

Some events are so big that people at the time knew, when they heard about them, that something had shifted. Others took a while, or are just useful pegs upon which to hang names and dividing points. Until 9/11, the Challenger explosion was what a lot of people thought would be the touchstone event, the world changer for my generation. It wasn’t, not was the Columbia disaster, either, although that marked the end of the Space Shuttle program – NASA version. Pearl Harbor was a shock, but not a surprise, based on what I’ve read in newspapers from 1939-1940. By the end of ’40, I get the sense that Americans assumed the war would grow, and we would be dragged into it at some point.

For my age group, September 11, 2001 was a point of mental shift, I suspect. Again, not for people who in the business, or for those who had been watching Al Quaeda and other groups. I know one gent (and I wish I could remember who) said that when the Northern Lion was assassinated, he the academic knew that something big was about to happen. But he didn’t know what until the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I knew as soon as I turned on the radio and listened for a few minutes that the world had shifted. I strongly suspect that there were a few people in Europe for whom learning about the final fall of Constantinople to Mehmed II and the Ottomans was a world-shifting moment. The center of the Greek Christian world, the second Rome, was gone. Constantine’s city and one of the great holy sites of Christianity now vanished behind the green wall of Islam, and what could stop the Ottoman advance?

Queen Elizabeth II reigned for all of my life, and a goodly chunk of my parents’ lives. My great aunt, who had a TV, let my mother come over and watch Elizabeth’s coronation. I remember my aunt talking about it. Sort of like I got up terribly early to watch Diana marry Charles (loved the pomp. Not so sure about the 1980s shoulder poofs, but styles change.) Her passing is the loss of a touchstone, of a living link to a very different world. In some ways, it was a better world, in many ways it was a poorer world, but that connection no longer sits on the British throne. I admired her for sticking to her duty, for not following the latest fads and styles of dress or decorum. She maintained a decent reserve, and by decent I mean proper and fitting. She had a good sense of humor, kept her cool during interesting moments, and understood the big picture of priorities. She was a WWII veteran, serving her country and Commonwealth as best she saw.

And era has passed. The world has changed. Just like 21 years ago, just like in 1453, and at other times for other people.

June 6, 1942 . . .

An SBD Dauntless at Midway. Creative Commons Fair Use: https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/museums/nmusn/explore/photography/wwii/wwii-pacific/turning-the-japanese-tide/1942-june-battle-of-midway/1942-june-6.html

Planes from the Enterprise and Hornet chased the retreating Japanese fleet. The battle had begun on June 4th and continued until the 7th.

I helped restore an SBD, back when I was in college the first time.

Memorial Day, Decoration Day

This year, 2022, Memorial Day’s observance falls on Memorial Day (actual), May 30. The United States did not have a day set aside to honor war dead until after the Civil War/War Between the States. Because so many families lost sons, fathers, husbands, brothers, the Grand Army of the Republic (northern veterans’ organization) pushed for a day to be set aside. On May 30, 1868, then US Representative James A. Garfield – a veteran – spoke these words:

Thousands of soldiers are to-day turning aside in the march of life to visit the silent encampments of dead comrades who once fought by their side. From many thousand homes, whose light was put out when a soldier fell, there go forth to-day to join these solemn processions loving kindred and friends, from whose heart the shadow of grief will never be lifted till the light of the eternal world dawns upon them.”

The cover of what I suspect was a little history or civics book. Creative Commons fair use. Original source: https://lauriegauger.blogspot.com/2020/05/happy-decoration-day.html

He was at the then-new Arlington National Cemetery. Some in the South had already selected a different date, April 26, to use. However, after 1898, May 30 became the common date in all states. In 1971 Congress changed things so that federal employees got three-day weekends, and Memorial Day was shifted to the last Monday in May. Some people still do not care for this, or for the commercialization and loss of focus that followed.

As my readers know, this is not Veterans Day, or July 4. It is to remember the dead. Celebrate life, enjoy time with family, friends, and comrades, but we should not forget those who never came home.

The YouTube video is John Williams “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan. The images are of memorials, and US and Allied military cemeteries around the world.


Below are links to two history sites with more information:



St. George and ANZACs

Before he was dismissed from the official list of saints, George was the patron of Greece and of soldiers. He was very popular in England. Officially his feast day is April 23, but it is observed this year on April 25, which is also ANZAC Day in Australia. It is a fitting pairing.

The “official” story about George is that he was the son of a Roman officer, and so became a soldier himself (as the law required. Martin of Tours [and of Pannonia] had to join the military even though he didn’t want to, because that was dad’s employment.) He became a Christian, refused to return to paganism, and was executed during the persecutions by Diocletian. The unofficial story involves slaying a dragon [devil] that preyed on the young woman of Silene in Libya. George did in the dragon, converted the town’s grateful residents to Christianity, and then the story either ends, or gets really off beat. I’ve only heard/seen the off-beat version once. Let’s just say that even the medieval Catholic Church expressed some qualms about George really being killed three times and coming back twice.

George is the patron saint of England and Catalonia. He is recognized and still venerated in the Orthodox Church, and is the patron of Ethiopia, Georgia, and the city of Moscow.

St. George by Raphael. https://www.raphaelpaintings.org/st-george.jsp

Then there’s a somewhat later and certainly more florid St. George.

Peter Paul Rubens. St. George. Public Domain, at the Museo del Prado, Spain.

ANZAC Day is the day set aside in Australia and New Zealand, and wherever Australian and New Zealander military forces are currently serving, to remember the dead of all the wars. The ANZACs tended to hit well above their weight class, and the mildest, most soft-spoken Kiwi can turn into a ferocious warrior when need arises.

Gurkhas honoring another group of warriors. The two often fought side-by-side. The image is from Gurhka Association website. https://www.gurkhabde.com/anzac-day-celebrations-in-australia/

April 25, 1915, marked the beginning of the Gallipoli Campaign for soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. They would also fight in South Africa, New Guinea, France, Burma, Korea, Vietnam, and wherever needed. The Australian Military History museum in Canberra was eye-opening, to put it mildly, for a Yank who had very little clue about the huge contributions Australians (and New Zealanders) made in the wars. Or the enormous price those countries paid for that effort.

Culture and a War

I’ve been messing around in the 1600s for the past few weeks. That period marks such a shift in European political thinking and warfare that I’ve been doing more digging in that era than, well, since I was researching the Colplatschki books. This is the era when war and politics starts shifting from purely dynastic concerns to what we think of as nation-state politics. Rather than religion and family dominating a lot of conflicts and diplomacy, the idea of “reasons of state” start appearing, along with the beginnings of an internationally-recognized, non-religious International Law and Laws of War. The roots go into the political organization of the Holy Roman Empire, and how problems between cities, lords, and others were mediated, as well as into Catholic and later Protestant discussions about war and the law. Warfare also developed rapidly, as the Ottomans discovered to their ongoing chagrin after 1683.

None of this was instant, and there’s not a clean break between the late Renaissance and Early Modern periods. Dynasty doesn’t go away, as Louis XIV would demonstrate with the War of the Spanish Succession and other conflicts. Multi-national states would continue to dominate central and eastern Europe well into the 1900s, another three hundred years from 1648. But the Thirty Years War sees the beginnings of the process. When Catholic France—governed by Cardinal Richelieu as regent for Louis XIII—is funding Dutch Calvinists and Lutheran Swedes to beat up on the Catholic Habsburgs, while waging war against its own Calvinists and against Catholic Spain, um, messy doesn’t start to describe things. The war is no longer “just” about religion, if it ever was. Sweden will claim to be defending Protestantism while beating up on other Lutherans.

The Thirty Years war left cultural scars on Central Europe, notably in the Czech lands, Rhineland and Elbe watersheds, and other major areas of conflict. The inflation and disruption of trade, exacerbated by bad weather (cold and wet, very cold) knocked cultural life askew north of the Alps. Heinrich Schütz, for example, was forced to leave his official post and flee to Denmark in order to find work. He wrote small, limited compositions that are still beautiful and/or inspiring, because he had no other option. No one could afford the large choirs of Venice or the glory days of the High Renaissance. The grinding nature of war and the repeated waves of fighting marked German-language literature. Those marks still appear.

I was listening to a bit of Sabaton the other day, and then Blind Guardian. Both of those metal bands have albums centered on the Thirty Years War, although Sabaton’s includes the Great Northern War as well. The closest thing in American culture might, might, be Glorious Burden by Iced Earth, about the Battle of Gettysburg. I can’t think of anything else, although there’s probably something floating around. Bertold Brecht drew on a novel written during the Thirty Years War for material, and knew that everyone would catch the references. German-speakers still do. One of the great novels about the conflict, Der Wahrwulf, has been translated into English recently. The original is still in print in German (hard copy and e-book. I have the e-book). You could argue that the American Civil War/War Between The States/ The Late Unpleasantness is still leaving cultural traces, but I’m not so certain. It might be that not enough time has passed, but the Civil War was not the enormous break, with the horrible population loss and extended period of chaos, that the Thirty Years War forms.

*shrug* I’m an American looking in, for all that I’ve read and studied. I always will be. But it’s intriguing to speculate and to see how some things still resonate.

What do you mean by that? Musings on Modern Minds . . .

I was looking up Prinz Eugen von Savoy’s birth date, so I could be sure I remembered something else correctly. (He was 20 years old at Vienna in 1683. I was right.) That led to a bit of a rabbit hole, and some head scratching. A writer for a history web site wondered how Eugen could still be considered a hero of Austrian history when he had “blood on his hands.” Puzzled, I kept reading, and discovered that the author disapproved of what happened after the first siege of Belgrade. As usually happened after sieges, the attackers sacked the city, and a number of Muslims and Jews were killed. I sort of nodded and thought, “Unfortunate, but normal. What’s the problem?”

That’s when I realized that the web-site author and I have very, very different views of history, and of this historical figure. The author is looking back from a 21st century, nice person’s mindset, where a commander’s duty is to win with an absolute minimum of bloodshed and good soldiers never, ever do things like that. Eugen should have followed the Geneva Conventions and Hague Conventions and US or UN Rules of Engagement. Because he didn’t do that in 1683-1704, he was a bad person and not worthy of being honored as a national hero.

I look at Eugen as a brilliant leader and tactician, as well as someone who performed the miracle of fighting successful wars on a Habsburg budget.* So Muslims and Jews were massacred (or at least killed in large numbers) during the fighting in Belgrade. That’s how wars worked back then, especially sieges. Double especially a war that was Islam vs. Christianity and where both sides had been fighting “dirty” for, oh, [thinks back] since the Hungarians first collided with the Ottomans in 1366. Given some of the other things that happened over the 400 years of fighting, just killing people in the streets was somewhat tame. Not right, perhaps, but not the worst. And anyone who didn’t know what incoming troops would do if they broke into a city rather than it surrendering, well . . .

Is my mind warped, or have I spent too much time in the pre-modern era, or have I just accepted that the past really is a different country and so I don’t get bent out of shape when people don’t fit modern expectations? I know that the first is somewhat true. I”m not certain about the second option, so let’s go with the third option. You can’t read lots and lots of history, and walk battlefields or medieval cities without some of the time soaking in.

I guess I was a bit more surprised that the web-site author thought Prinz Eugen should have acted like, oh, Erwin Rommel, or General Michael Rose (during 1990s Balkan War). I shouldn’t be surprised, not anymore.

*The Habsburgs were firm believers in underpaying their military while expecting miracles, then acting surprised when Bad Things Happened. See the sack of Rome, when Charles V was shocked, shocked that his German mercenaries decided to pay themselves.