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Old Apr 13 2008, 10:33 PM   #1
Greenrider Dawna
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Although I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of the Dragonrider books and admire Anne McCaffrey as an author, the subject of drudges still disturbs me. It’s not that they exist: I know that there will always be people in menial jobs. It just seems to me that they are generally treated and regarded more as slaves than employed workers. Not much is ever given about them and the only drudge we really know anything about is Robinton’s disabled son Camo. It is assumed that most of them are mentally defective as well but just what constitutes mental defectiveness in a medieval-type society? Could it be the inattentive ADD kid? Or those who are born with Down’s syndrome or Autism? I got the impression from The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern that those who become drudges are never educated, unlike others. This seems like a grave injustice. Why can’t some mentally challenged individuals learn a simple skill or craft? I recently saw a TV movie where a girl with Down’s syndrome learned to weave, a viable skill on Pern. Others also have various talents, including musical ability. There is the opinion that the drudges can promote if they wanted to but how would that be possible without even a basic education? I don’t recall reading about drudge promotion in any of the books.
Also, do drudges ever get married and/or have children? I’ve never come across that either, which does seem odd to me, and a bit creepy.
I’ve often wondered why these issues haven’t been covered in any of the books. Perhaps it’s fan fic material. Any thoughts?
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Old Apr 14 2008, 03:46 PM   #2
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Lessa was a drudge initially. even if it was more concealment. Treatment of drudges is different for each hold. Nabol yep they were slaves. Ruatha under fax the same. but Benden Weyr, Fort hold and other places the persons were under the domestic staff heading. Most craft halls used few to none because they had apprentices perform those tasks (conjecture from dragonsinger). The closest look I could come up with would be in Renegades. The Lilcamps doing menial work to cover room and board, also the caverns at Igen where a pool of persons who couldn't find work could live protected from thread.

As far as being educated, again it depended on hold in question. In holds that seemed to be integrated in the society, Harpers taught the young in their duties and responsibilities. Harpers also seemed to be the ones who noted a child's aptitude and recommended, as well as set up, apprenticeships.
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Old Apr 14 2008, 10:11 PM   #3
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Not only that, but not to put too fine a point on it: someone has to clean the toilets. In any society, there are going to be the lowest-level caste of workers. There does seem to be a lack of oppertunity for advancement with drudges unlike almost every other system (even slavery in most of its forms allows for manumission, albeit some more than others--it's a lot tougher to be a freeman in 19th-century American than it is in first-century Rome, for example, and if you're unlucky enough to be born to the untouchable caste in India you're stuck 'til your next incarnation.) There are always going to be people who are servants, and within the caste of servants, there are always going to be the bottom of the barrel. Anne has tried to tie it somewhat to mental faculty--Camo can't be educated significantly, it's unlikely he's mentally capable of having an adult emotional relationship, therefore there's very little point in giving him much education and he won't marry because he's no more capable of consenting than a toddler.

Even in the Harper Hall, there are going to be a few jobs that need to get done that they can't give to apprentices. And in a society like Pern, for the truly unpleasant tasks, they don't have much choice. Also, the truly unmotivated and/or mentally impaired don't exactly have much other choice. Where are they supposed to go? They can live a reasonable life in a hold, or they can wander around and try to shift for themselves. There is no governmental safety net, and most Pernese families can't afford to support a mouth that doesn't produce. There are always going to be those people, and drudgery is about as reasonable a solution as could be expected.
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Old Apr 14 2008, 10:34 PM   #4
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I view it as one of those dirty little undersides of Pern that give it verisimilitude. Just like the Tinkers being taken along as a sop to get government approval for the colony effort.

There's a Rush song with the line "We need someone to talk to/and someone to sweep the floors." I think Peart borrowed that in paraphrase from Huxley.

A lot of people think of Pern only in terms of its bucolic and draconic loveliness and don't bother to consider that there are some people getting the shaft, and the drudges are those people. The Lord Holders aren't really the nicest lot of people in many respects. They drive hard bargains and lot of people probably get backed into and trapped in drudgery. If it was such a wonderful option, there wouldn't be Holdless.

Also, Pernese society has retrogressed into a form of Feudalism, and the Lord Holders and their families have become the nobility. A great many of them are quite used to their entitlement and quite used to using "lesser" people such as drudges without a second thought as to their humanity.
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Old Apr 14 2008, 10:45 PM   #5
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I agree. It must also be considered that, with the Pernese social structure being what it is, very few people really can strike out on their own. Even when the Southern Continent was 'opened up' opportunities were extremely limited. Added to that is the almost religious devotion to 'Tradition' which required children to follow in the footsteps of their parents. There are notable exceptions, of course, but they are rare. I think most of the menial labor force is probably made up of those who can't or don't want to do anything better, but for some it is probably because their parents were drudges and they've been told since birth that they will be too.
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Old Apr 15 2008, 02:24 PM   #6
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"...but for some it is probably because their parents were drudges and they've been told since birth that they will be too."

That's an interesting point. You don't ever read about drudge children attending any of the crafthalls or being discovered on Search. It is usually the offspring of crafters, Lord Holders, and even, in Piemur's case, herders, but never those of drudges who seem to have these opportunities. If a drudge child did show potential, would he or she be given the opportunity? Or are they simply not educated along with the rest so any innate talents go unrecognized?
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Old Apr 15 2008, 06:19 PM   #7
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I think it depends on where they live. In some places all the children receive at least basic lessons but I'm pretty sure that in some they would be excluded and set to work as soon as they were big enough to carry a glow basket or push a broom.
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Old Apr 15 2008, 11:27 PM   #8
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"...but for some it is probably because their parents were drudges and they've been told since birth that they will be too."

That's an interesting point. You don't ever read about drudge children attending any of the crafthalls or being discovered on Search. It is usually the offspring of crafters, Lord Holders, and even, in Piemur's case, herders, but never those of drudges who seem to have these opportunities. If a drudge child did show potential, would he or she be given the opportunity? Or are they simply not educated along with the rest so any innate talents go unrecognized?
In theory, the harpers are supposed to educate all children, evaluate them as individuals and see that they're directed to appropriate opportunities. Over the centuries, that responsibility seems to have broken down (sometime between 2nd and 9th Pass Pern), and there are also points at which the HarperHall has been in ill repute, and harpers have been driven out, or not accepted, particularly in more provincial areas. So it's little surprise that Drudgery developed and became ingrained. In SoP, however, Lessa at one point mentions some of the AIVAS-introduced innovation in the context of their reducing Drudgery post-Pass. F'lar shrugs it off, feeling that life shouldn't become too easy, but Lessa shoots back that he didn't spend 10 years as a drudge. He points out in turn that Benden wasn't exactly a cushy place prior to the Pass, but the points were made. At least the Benden Weyrleaders recognize Drudgery as pernicious from their unique, if different, perspectives.
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Old Apr 19 2008, 08:08 AM   #9
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You don't ever read about drudge children attending any of the crafthalls or being discovered on Search. It is usually the offspring of crafters, Lord Holders, and even, in Piemur's case, herders, but never those of drudges who seem to have these opportunities.
I think that basic drovers and people who work the land are of a similar "caste" to your basic drudge. A drudge is just someone who lives in a Hold or Hall and does the background jobs to leave the "Professionals" to get on with their contributions to society. I doubt a drover or herder's son or daughter would be particularly any better educated than an "urban" drudge. In a Hall or Hold with a permanent Harper I would imagine that even drudge's children would be welcome in a class.

A drudge would be free to leave a Hall or Hold and try his or her luck in another. He or she is not bonded forever to one master or location. It's just a matter of negotiating a new contract. Here I'm not talking about people with some sort of ..... mental 'disability', but those people who just happen to be poor or of a lower social standing. Yes, Camo has a degree of mental retardation due to the complications of his birth, but I can't think that the entire drudge population on Pern is made of men and women of a significantly different mental and physical ability than the rest.

Whilst, I think, Brand was a fosterling who stayed on as Jaxom's Steward, I believe that there is a small amount of upward mobility in the drudge world. But would a vast amount of people actually be interested in reading an entire novel based on that person's inevitable struggle without it being a Mary Sue/Gary Stu scenario?

Just my thoughts, mind you!
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Old Apr 19 2008, 11:34 PM   #10
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...I believe that there is a small amount of upward mobility in the drudge world. But would a vast amount of people actually be interested in reading an entire novel based on that person's inevitable struggle without it being a Mary Sue/Gary Stu scenario?

Just my thoughts, mind you!
Actually, I think it would depend on how it was written. In my opinion, a skillful author can make any scenario interesting. In fact, I have come across some excellent non-Pern related novels that deal with that type of situation: 47 by Walter Mosley, Avi's Crispin: The Cross of Lead, and Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper are a few that come to mind off the top of my head.
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Old Apr 23 2008, 06:59 PM   #11
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Its really hard to piece together if there is/was slavery on Pern, and it really did depend on the location in question. The society was presented as not having a "caste" system, and yet they cliqued themselves as holders, crafters, and dragonriders. it was described in several stories that the hold harpers were supposed to help kids get trained and working in a vocation they might excel at, however there were parents/holders that treated their children badly ( by the child's judgement) the parent not understanding the child. this lends that the harper didn't have more than suggestion power in most cases. Shrugging. People would be people I guess. Slavery was not described in the charter, Caste systems weren't described in the original charter. Drudge labor can be slavery, but it could also cover room and board of people who have no other saleable skills. If it continued for generations, nothing was mentioned.
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Old Apr 25 2008, 12:59 PM   #12
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You are right about the parents. Look at Menolly. What would have become of her had she not escaped her father’s Hold? And yes. The Pernese society is unquestionably hierarchal in structure with people not only divided into crafters, holders, and dragonriders, but ranks within these groups as well.

Slavery was just an impression I had when I read the books. At first I thought it was just me but a few others I have spoken to noticed this as well. In Lessa’s Ruatha, under Fax, I felt that the workers were definitely slaves, especially in how they were described by F’lar in Dragonflight: “Overworked, underfed, scarred by lash and disease…” Of course, that was most likely a special circumstance, one of the ways to point out just how cruel a Lord Holder Fax was.

I suppose the idea of drudge labor was for those, as you suggested, who just needed food and board and didn’t have any particular skills to make them valuable elsewhere. Still, there were examples in some of the books that seemed to hint at ownership: drudges forbidden to attend Gathers (Dragondrums), supervised bathing in Nerilka’s Story, and Thella beating a drudge to death in Renegades with no repercussions are just a few of these examples I noticed. Once again, as has been suggested, the treatment of the workers, and whether or not they could considered “slaves,” most likely depended on the Lord Holder.
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Old Apr 25 2008, 02:26 PM   #13
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Actually, we do know there is at least one form of slavery on Pern. It seems fairly routine to sentence criminals to work in mines. This always struck me as odd because it shows a lack of respect for mining as a craft. I suppose there is a fair amount of "grunt work" in mines that just about anybody could do once shown how, and I suppose that's what the "prisoners" are doing. Still, mining is a dangerous and exacting occupation and if they have a lot of people with little to no knowledge of the craft chipping and hammering away they could have some pretty spectacular accidents.
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Old Apr 25 2008, 10:43 PM   #14
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I think how drudges are treated are depend on where they live & when they lived. I think that after AVIS drudges will be treated a bit better. There will be more need of skilled workers so the ones willing to do manual labor will be able to move to a different hold to become employed.
I think that at the hold drudges are better treated than at some of the holds. I also got the impression that at the werys they are treated more as helpers then most drudges are. At least at Benden & Fort. They may not be treated as well by the Oldtimers.
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Old Apr 28 2008, 12:08 AM   #15
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Actually, we do know there is at least one form of slavery on Pern. It seems fairly routine to sentence criminals to work in mines. This always struck me as odd because it shows a lack of respect for mining as a craft. I suppose there is a fair amount of "grunt work" in mines that just about anybody could do once shown how, and I suppose that's what the "prisoners" are doing. Still, mining is a dangerous and exacting occupation and if they have a lot of people with little to no knowledge of the craft chipping and hammering away they could have some pretty spectacular accidents.
I've also thought this was strange since I was under the impression that mining was a respectable craft on Pern. Maybe, as you suggested, the prisoners are doing the hard, manual labor and perhaps there was not a lot of concern for their personal safety. I also do recall, in one of the books--I can't remember which one at the moment since I read it years ago--where a group of criminals were sentenced to be drudges in Holds where such workers were needed.

Also, as Mawra and others have suggested in this thread, things should change after AIVAS: there will be less need of manual labor as technology improves. I wonder what kind of world Pern will be centuries after the 9th Pass. But that's probably a topic for another thread, if it hasn't been already.
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Old May 7 2008, 04:05 AM   #16
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I'm thinking here that the rather "spectacular" accidents might have been the intended result. early on in the stories there was mention of staking offenders out during threadfall, this might be another instance, but get some money out of the process.
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Old May 7 2008, 08:34 PM   #17
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This is only my opinion, as it's never mentioned by the author, but I feel there's upward mobility and a certain sense respect that can be earned by drudges. I'll just use the example of kitchen drudge. Say a fairly bright boy starts at the spits, but he ends up becoming more valuable as a spitter by coming up with ways to work in shifts that ease the burden of the job, yet produce generally better results for the cook. The cook may take a fancy to the boy and start training him in other parts of the kitchen and he eventually shows enough promise to become the cook's assistant. The cook becomes widely known at gathers and in his hold as one of the finest, but he's aging so he teaches everything he knows to the now young man as his apprentice. When he retires, the new chef maintains and increases the reputation of the hold as the very finest for gathers and formal meetings in all of Pern. Other holders send their cooks to learn from this man and in this way, he's sort of made his own crafthall. Coming from his humble beginnings, he recognizes that pride and good teaching of drudges works far better than a heavy hand in his kitchens. The life of drudges in kitchens all over Pern are now treated better and respected more (a bit like in the Weyr).

How about the stables? Say a child is a shoveler of dung and changer of hay, but she pays close attention to what is said when the beastmasters are in the stalls. Early one morning, the girl is roused from her sleep by the anxious cries of a runnerbeast. She's seen this happen, so she rises and foals the beast herself so as not to wake the masters and journeymen at that hour. In her exhaustion from a tough foaling, she collapses in the corner of the stall. She's shaken awake by the beastmaster that morning and asked how she took care of such a difficult birthing herself. She says she just saw it done and heard the masters talk, so she instinctively knew what to do, and knew how hard the masters and journeymen worked, so she just did it and let them rest. Instant apprenticeship for the girl, and she eventually, in her long life, becomes one of the finest breeders of runnerbeast on Pern.

I could go on with houseladies, runners, fishermen, etc, but I think I've made my point. Even as a drudge there's upward mobility if there's an intelligent soul willing to rise. Some will always be drudges, but we have those in our society as well. Flipping burgers or washing dishes somewhere behind the scenes and contented to do so.

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Old May 8 2008, 12:36 AM   #18
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Those are excellent examples, TDHO!
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Old May 26 2008, 02:42 AM   #19
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Honestly I never thought of the drudges as slaves...but I did not consider them all mentally incapcitated either....I know we have the example of Camo but overall I thought that most Pernese were healthy (physically and mentally) except for when plagues or pandemics occurred...Todd's books do have a blind girl and a deaf/mute boy but again I thought such occurrences (from birth) were rare....
I suppose the autonomy of the holds impacted the opportunities for the drudges just as every hold might not be as respectful of the elderly esp when they are ill...I think overall the Pernese society shows greater care for their aunties and uncles but even so I was thinking of Menolly's uncle who was fed seaweed sweets to keep him quiet...with a more unforgiving Lord Holder such a relative could become a drudge (recognizing in this case that the uncle in question was physically injured) but the idea same....?
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Old May 27 2008, 12:13 PM   #20
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I read the books. I've read the thread. You all point out ambition. Education.
I read of an instance that there were 'hill folk' who didn't care for 'Harper nonsense'. They would rather be ignorant of the coming danger, their rights, and basic education. Yes, there is rotten luck due to illness, injury, or catastrophy. Some wish to just float through life and inhabit the poor caves. Even prisoners have their job.
All children in holds with permanent Harpers are encouraged to attend class. The same for children who get to see the itenerent Harper. That is what a Journeyman is trained to see - the aptitudes of the children and to set up the appropriate opportunities. A person need not be a drudge. They don't have to be if they can do something else. Of course a little drudge work wouldn't hurt anyone - and to get larger tasks done it is often mandatory. But for those, like Camo, a chance to do something - even setting with the Uncles and Aunties - will free up someone to pursue what suits their abilities. If you say a child operating the spits can show ambition to rise up from the their drudge station, why were they left there in the first place? The Harper was either lax, or the Holder was ruthless indeed. Even one who rises up from their position may set off to offer their services elsewhere. Even if there were no Harpers, a Craftmaster or Journeyman would have the right and need to get any child who shows an aptitude for any skill and send them where they fulfill their gifts. About the only way I could see this stopped are by parents. Even then a child can leave.
I say that in a hold that has a proper Harper and good management, there would be few drudges. Drudge work can be good punishment for the occasional trespass. Even those not required elsewhere had to be on groundcrews.
My take is thus: for the holds that have good holders, those who can learn and have skills will find their place while those that were born without a gift are given training for what ever they can do.
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