The caste system is described
by Norman as something that belongs to the "high civilizations"
of Gor. Castes then belong to a set culture, as much as bolas belong
to the culture of the wagons, or bond-maid circles belong to the
culture of the north.
The caste structure of the
city-state culture is not something that 'fits' into other structures;
it IS a structure of itself and it belongs to the city-state societies,
no other. It includes trade, behavior codes, tradition and even
dress codes. If one pays attention, they will note that caste has
gone as far as modifying anatomy; think of the physical description
of the wood carrier and the reference to how the tasks of his trade
have altered his body over time (and likely, eventually, genetically),
the wide back, the slight hunch, etc.
You cannot include the Red
Savages culture into that of the Tahari and in the same fashion,
you cannot include the caste system into other cultures. They each
provide for an independent way of life, a difference in hierarchy
and purpose. Surely, that Norman so often mentions the fierce independent
nature of each cultural entity, the strictness of their customs,
and that he took the time to go into so much detail about each one's
particularities does not go unnoticed.
One who has been outlawed
is said to have no caste. One may claim, as Tarl did, that they
were 'once of the ___', but to state to 'be' of that caste implies
living in a place where a caste council has granted caste right
and recognized them as belonging to this caste AND, in THAT city.
Caste recognition will carry from city to city under the provision
that this city's caste council will allow it. This is why we will
see, for example, people in a strange city not call for caste or
clan protection but rather, request to speak to the Home Stone.
'Speaking to the Home Stone' means seeking another of your home,
who may have credence in this city which isn't yours, for having
been there longer and perhaps having gained acceptance. In one's
own city, they would call rather for caste sanctuary.
Note how castes are almost
always attached, when mentioned, to the city: 'The Physicians of
Treve', a 'Warrior of Ko-Ro-Ba', a 'Merchant of Turia'. The reason
for this is clear; everywhere one goes, it is as a member of a caste
from a specific city that has accepted them within that caste by
birth, by companionship or by an agreement to change birth caste.
Although castes are said to be transmunicipal, caste representation
as well as caste existence varies from city to city.
Even in a place of exchange
such as the Sardar Fairs, or, as for Merchants, a 'trade situation',
it will likely be with a city tag that a caste member will be given
credibility, the city to which he/she belongs as a caste member.
Without it, he/she cannot truly belong to a caste. Furthermore,
his/her caste may not even exist in some cities, such as for example,
is the case of the Thieves of Port Kar. The word transmunicipal
as it is used to describe castes should enlighten those who think
castes can remain castes outside a city structure.
One can be a Warrior, a Merchant,
even a Peasant, but to claim to be OF the Caste of Warriors, or
the Caste of Merchants means to belong to a society where the caste
system prevails, i.e. a city-state culture. One may as well partake
in trade or war or gardening, without having to claim caste for
it. Indeed, many non-caste societies did all of the above, sometimes
within a structured group, sometimes simply as part of their daily
tasks, whether or not it required a reserved title.
Wagon People for example
do not have castes; they have a culture that clearly defines every
man's role in relationship to the bosk first, including defense
and care of the herd. They do have clans with specialty trades,
and they also have rules about each man knowing war, hunt and weapons
specific to their culture.
Red Hunters live for the
hunt; it is what feeds them. They also however all build homes.
Panther Girls are not, as
some would like to believe, female warriors; they are hunters, and
engage in trade in order to obtain certain goods to ensure their
Tarl Cabot, in his journey,
travels across cultures and lands, living at one time or another
among the wagons, the Torvaldslanders, the Red Savages, and through
each passage, the readers witnesses the necessity of 'doing as the
Romans do', reinforcing the concepts brought forth by Norman about
uniqueness of each culture.
Truly, of what use is a caste
title in a world where no caste council exists? Among the Red Savages,
who would care that one is listed in Ar as a physician? Would it
not be more likely that the traveler keep the trade and the knowledge
and learn to use it in the way it serves those among whom they seek
to be accepted and share life with, even if only for a time? Caste
titles would mean nothing to those who have lived all their lives
outside the caste-structured world.
The Gorean high societies
then are composed of an intricate system of hierarchy that is divided
into castes which may in turn be divided into subcastes. Each trade
or profession in Gor belongs to a caste; each caste fits in a set
ladder of importance within the Gorean social outline. Each caste
member is guided by its codes, which are sets of rules and laws
one abides to in the practice of his trade, but also in the way
is important to Goreans in a way that is difficult for members of
a non-caste society to understand. Though there are doubtless difficulties
involved with caste structure the caste situation lends an individual
identity and pride, allies him with thousands of caste brothers,
and provides him with various opportunities and services. Recreation
on Gor is often associated with caste, and tournaments and entertainments.
Similarly, most public charity on Gor is administered through caste
---Slave Girl of Gor, 9:213
The colors of
his garments, travel wagons, the flags, the weapons or tools used,
as well as the home in which a Gorean lives is usually an indication
of his caste.
general, one distinguishes between holiday, official, or ceremonial
garb, and everyday garb. Not all caste members wear the full caste
regalia all the time. For example, the colors of the Merchants are
white and yellow, or white and gold, but, in working in shops, or
supervising the lading of vessels, or such, they would presumably
wear simpler, more practical, more comfortable garments, such as
tunics. That a caste color is predominant in a garment is sufficient
for caste recognition.
ideally, have some relationship to the caste, its interests and
its work, for example, the color gold for the Merchants, and red,
as symbolic of courage, and such, for the Warriors. To be sure,
in actual combat, warriors may wear camouflaging garments, e.g.,
mottled garments in forests, white garments against a background
of snow, and such. The Metal Workers would presumably tend to black
and gray, metallic colors; the Wood Workers might tend toward browns,
and other woodlike colors; the Peasants commonly wear dark brown,
or other earthlike colors. The caste colors of the Slavers are blue
and yellow. Cloth bars, in caste colors, sewn on the left sleeve,
near the wrist, incidentally, can also indicate caste. For example,
one in black robes, with blue and yellow bars, say. Blue, yellow,
blue, on the left sleeve, near the wrist, would presumably be a
member of the caste, or subcaste, the Slavers.
I would not
worry too much about caste colors, or such, in general, particularly
if not dealing with the high castes, unless you are actually doing
something where caste is relevant or important, as, say, in presenting
a new slave to a Metal Worker for marking, or such. Aside from such
contexts, and aside from the high castes, and the Assassins and
Merchants, say, we may suppose that Goreans dress variously and
colorfully, and are not always in identifiable caste regalia. Do
not let caste considerations, for example, interfere with an otherwise
wonderful image, page, or layout.
---John Norman, Letter to the Gorean Group, Sept 20th 2000
Goreans within these cultures,
are born to a caste, both men and women it is said, belong to the
caste of their parents. This would mean that, yes, while a woman
may be born to the Caste of Warriors, the practice of the
caste's trade is, however, subject to training, and it is not documented
anywhere that women of Gor did indeed receive this training.
I had seen
few women, but knew that they, when free, were promoted or demoted
within the caste system according to the same standards and criteria
as the men, although this varied, I was told, considerably from
city to city....
---Tarnsman of Gor, 3:44
caste membership is commonly connected with the practice of an occupation,
such as agriculture, or commerce, or war, there can be, of course,
caste members who are not engaged in caste work and individuals
who do certain forms of work who are not members of that caste commonly
associated with such work. Caste, commonly, though not invariably,
is a matter of birth. One may, too, be received into a caste by
investment. Normally mating takes place among caste members, but
if the mating is of mixed caste, the woman may elect to retain caste,
which is commonly done, or be received into the caste of the male
companion. Caste membership of the children born of such a union
is a function of the caste of the father....
---Slave Girl of Gor, 9:212-213
one is commonly born into a caste one is often not permitted to
practice the caste craft until a suitable apprenticeship has been
served. This guarantees the quality of the caste product. It is
possible, though it is seldom the case, that members of a caste
are not permitted to practice specific caste skills, though they
may be permitted to practice subsidiary skills. For example, one
who is of the Metalworkers might not be permitted to work iron,
but might be permitted to do such things as paint iron, and transport
and market it. Caste rights, of course, such as the right to caste
support in time of need and caste sanctuary, when in flight, remain
theirs. The women of a given caste, it should be noted, often
do not engage in caste work. For example, a woman in the Metalworkers
does not, commonly, work at the forge, nor is a woman of the Builders
likely to be found supervising the construction of fortifications.
Caste membership, for Goreans, is generally a simple matter of birth;
it is not connected necessarily with the performance of certain
skills, nor the attainment of a general level of proficiency in
such skills. To be sure, certain skills tend to be associated traditionally
with certain castes, a fact which is clearly indicated in caste
titles, such as the Leatherworkers, the Metalworkers, the Singers,
and the Peasants....
---Fighting Slave of Gor, 16:209-210
The reader will
also note that upon occasion, the Gorean can change castes.
caste structure," said my father patiently, "is relatively
immobile, but not frozen, and depends upon more than birth. For
example, if a child in his schooling shows that he can raise caste,
as the expression is, he is permitted to do so. But, similarly,
if a child does not show the aptitude expected of his caste, whether
it be, say, that of a physician or warrior, he is lowered in caste."'
---Tarnsman of Gor, 3:42
cases, one might have been permitted by the Council of High Castes
to raise caste. None of course would accept a lower caste, and there
were lower castes, the Caste of Peasants for example, the most basic
caste of all Gor.
---Outlaw of Gor, 3:27
I knew that
Gorean caste lines, though largely following birth, were not inflexible,
and that a man who did not care for his caste might be allowed
to change caste, if approved by the High Council of his city,
an approval usually contingent on his qualifications for the work
of another caste and the willingness of the members of the new caste
to accept him as a Caste Brother.
---Priest Kings of Gor, 9:71
The caste of women too, although
initially determined by birthright, is subject to change upon companionship.
The Gorean free woman may then take her companion's caste, or retain
her own. The children born of their union, regardless of this, will
of course carry the caste rights of their father.
companionship with one of the Warriors she would raise caste, for
the Warriors on Gor are among the high castes, of which there are
five, the Initiates, Scribes, Physicians, Builders and Warriors.
...It was my hope that the Lady Sabina would be happy. It was said
she was much pleased to raise caste and would become, by this match,
one of the high ladies of the Salerian Confederation, which was
becoming powerful in the north. I did not think much of Thandar
of Ti, perhaps because he was a man. I supposed he was not too pleased
at being matched with a girl who was not of the five high castes,
but surely he could appreciate the commercial and political significance
of the match, and would be pleased to serve his city by doing his
---Slave Girl of Gor, 5:113-114
Goreans as a rule are proud
men and even the lowest caste carries its trade with pride and honor.
If there are considerations to high or low castes, Goreans understand
that each in its own right has equal importance in the survival
of the Gorean way of life.
of a caste as low as that of the Tarn-Keepers were intolerably proud
of their calling, for who else could raise and train those monstrous
birds of prey? I supposed Zosk the Woodsman was proud in the knowledge
that he with his great broad-headed ax could fell a tree in one
blow, and that perhaps not even a Ubar could do as much. Even the
Caste of Peasants regarded itself as the "Ox on which the Home
Stone Rests" and could seldom be encouraged to leave their
narrow strips of land, which they and their fathers before them
had owned and made fruitful.
---Outlaw of Gor, 8:66
are, on Gor, it might be mentioned, ways of raising and altering
caste, but the Gorean seldom avails himself of these. To most Goreans
it would be unthinkable to alter caste. He is generally too proud
of his caste and it is too much a part of him for him to think in
such terms. It is, too, recognized that all, or most, of the castes
perform necessary, commendable or useful functions. ...Each does,
however, tend to think of his own caste as something special, and,
somehow, I suspect, as being perhaps a bit more preferable than
others. Most Goreans are quite content with their castes; this is
probably a function of caste pride. I have little doubt but what
the caste structure contributes greatly to the stability of Gorean
society. Among other things it reduces competitive chaos, social
and economic, and prevents the draining of intelligence and ambition
into a small number of envied, prestigious occupations....
---Fighting Slave of Gor, 16:211
Priest-Kings, as they are
not human, have no caste. Outlaws are also considered to be without
caste or Home Stone. It goes without saying that, as slaves have
none of the rights of citizens, they are without caste no matter
what they may have been before they were collared.
important to the Gorean in ways that are difficult to make clear
to one whose social structures do not include the relationships
of caste. In almost every city, for example, one knows there will
be caste brothers on whom one may depend. Charity, too, for example,
is almost always associated with caste rights on Gor. One of the
reasons there are so few outlaws on Gor is doubtless that the outlaw,
in adopting his way of life, surrenders caste rights. The slave,
too, of course, has no caste rights. He stands outside the structure
of society. He is an animal. It is said on Gor that only slaves,
outlaws, and Priest-Kings, rumored to be the rulers of Gor, reputed
to live in the remote Sardar Mountains, are without caste. This
saying, however, it might be pointed out, as Goreans recognize,
is not strictly true. For example, some individuals have lost caste,
or been deprived of caste; some individuals have been born outside
of caste; certain occupations are not traditionally associated with
caste, such as gardening, domestic service and herding; and, indeed,
there are entire cultures and peoples on Gor to whom caste is unknown....
---Fighting Slave of Gor, 16:210-211
And as with all rules, there
will be the exception. The Caste of Initiates, for example, could
not possibly be entered through the usual rules of birth right,
its members not being permitted to even touch women. This would
imply that the caste requires some form of petitioning, training
and initiation of those wishing to join it.
The Caste of Assassins too,
and a few others, would appear to be a matter of caste over home,
and not be subject to the rules of city caste councils. It remains
unclear if this situation existed before the coup attempt of Pa-Kur
in Ar but it seems likely that perhaps the 'no Home Stone' rule
of this caste might have been something which was born of this particular
event. Indeed is Pa-Kur himself not referred to as Master Assassin
of Ar, indicating in some way that he was 'of' that city? In later
books, we are told the Caste of Assassins had been 'wiped off the
face of Gor' and outlawed in most areas and cities. Later still,
we find ourselves in the presence of one of this caste and given
clear indication that the caste, although bound by codes, training
and initiatory rituals, functions independently from the city-state
as I recall," I said, "have no Home Stones. I suppose
that is a drawback to caste membership, but if you did have Home
Stones, it might be difficult to take fees on one whose Home Stone
---Beasts of Gor, 30:359
Similarly, there is mention
of bargemen on the Vosk having formed a caste, though again we do
not find the usual notion of city caste council nor belonging to
a particular village or city in this case.
the Cartius on a barge, one of several hired by the merchant of
the caravan with which I was then serving. These barges, constructed
of layered timbers of Ka-la-na wood, are towed by teams of river
tharlarion, domesticated, vast, herbivorous, web-footed lizards
raised and driven by the Cartius bargemen, fathers and sons, interrelated
clans, claiming the status of a caste for themselves.
---Nomads of Gor, 1:3-4 (footnote text)
In both these cases, we have
difficulty grasping the way these would fit within the usual strictness
of caste councils and hierarchies which are prevalent in the city-states
of Gor, there would seem to be space, on Gor, for a number of parallel
systems that function 'with' rather than 'within'.