High in a tower, with a view overlooking the meandering river below, an elderly sage adjusted the folds of his robe, fluffed a pillow for his own comfort, and said, “Come in and sit down young lord. Today we shall be discussing noble titles. You don’t want to embarrass yourself in court, or worse give offense, by not knowing the proper courtesies or political implications.”
A squire, still huffing from his run up the stairs said, “Yes, but let us be quick about it, I should be tilting at Ogre and ….”
“Enough of that. Your father has given me strict directions in your education. Ogre? Is that what you are calling the quintain these days? That is fine. Now, let us see … It was the Savant-Sage who said ‘Courtly travelers and political scholars throughout the Flanaess must make carefully study of the titles, honorifics and hierarchies of nobility used in the many royal courts and noble houses throughout. Titles common in the Great Kingdom, Nyrond and Furyondy, above the level of Baron or Viscount include Margrave, Marquis, Earl, Count, Archbaron and Plar.’” FN1.
“Plar? Plar? That sounds stupid! Plar! Ha, ha, ha! Plar.” The outburst, with partially feigned humor, was more a matter of youthful exuberance, to establish his control over the lesson. But the sage would not have it. FN2.
“It would not be wise to repeat that statement, young lord. It could mean your life.” The boy immediately became quiet and sullen from the remonstration.
“As you are clearly unaware, the title of Plar is roughly the equivalent to that of Earl, Marquis, Archbaron or Count. However, conceptually at least, each has a different meaning, although over time those meanings have become less important and indeed, sometime, irrelevant. You must be carefully to attend to their relevance as it may tell you something about a potential adversary. What follows is an oversimplification, but it shall suffice for comparison to Plar,” he added with half a grin, “for which you have expressed a particular interest. FN3.
“Originally, the title Earl was applied to a noble because he was a brave warrior. In olden days it was often such that the leader of a tribe was the strongest warrior, rather than the son of the previous leader. That is something you should always bear in mind as a dynasty may always be ended with a sword.
“A noble was named Marquis, or Margrave, because he held a border or frontier territory, typically called a March. Sometimes, as the borders of a kingdom expanded, the title was kept.
“An Archbaron was a great baron; and a baron was a military leader holding land directly from the King. Unlike an Earl, he was not necessarily a warrior himself.
“By comparison, Count was used to describe one who was appointed to the nobility because of his close companionship with the King. He might or might not be a warrior or a military leader. Favoritism should not be discounted. A close relationship to the King is very valuable.
“Plar, on the other hand, originally meant an Oeridian lord who ruled over a foreign people, typically Flan, as a result of the migrations. It is thought to be related to the Baklunish words for jailer, although such connotations rarely exist today, and that etymological conclusion is uncertain. The connotation of racial difference, however, does still apply to this day. FN4.
“As time passed, and the Flan people became less of a factor in the Flanaess, so did the title of Plar. These days, there are very few who hold these titles, at least among the civilized nobility. FN5. An exception may be found in Perrenland, where the title is commonly used by those of Oeridian or mixed descent, likely to distinguish themselves from the nobles who still claim a strong Flannish heritage. FN6.
“As another example, the King of Keoland is, among various other honorifics, known as the Plar of Sterich. How, you ask, might Suel Royalty come across such a title? …”
The sage ignored the interruption as the boy complained under his breath, “I didn’t ask.” But he took it as a good sign. The squire was paying attention. He was smart enough to know he should be careful to not even accidentally offend a King.
“… It was one of those strange events of history. Before King Luschan I of House Rhola made Sterich a province of Keoland under noble governance, the only Oeridian King to every sit upon the Lion Throne first expanded into the area by royal proclamation. It was on the very day that the Kingdom turned one hundred years old that Mandros delivered the fateful speech claiming all territory between the Javan and Sheldomar rivers to be part of the Kingdom. In that hour he also announced himself, in the Oeridian tradition, Plar of Sterich, effectively stating that the native Flan who inhabited the area would hence forth be under his direct control. While control passed from the Keogh, except by later enfeoffment, the Suloise Kings kept the title, as it was the foundation of their right to govern and appoint nobility to the area. FN7.
“Such racial disconnect is not unique. In the Bandit Kingdoms, where the title of Plar is taken by those who can hold it as easily as the title of King, one Plar of Rookroost, an Oeridian city, was in fact a Flan. FN8. Plar Teuod Fent of Rookroost was an expatriate Tenha. FN9. As an illusionist, Fent would have been quite conscious of perception and perhaps chose that title in the belief it would have had the greatest impact upon the city’s inhabitants, legitimizing with nomenclature that which might have otherwise been a source of tension.
“Then there is the Plar of Veluna. The title was acquired early in the migrations when the Vollar, an Oeridian tribe, peacefully absorbed a large congregation of primitive Flan. Given the nature of its people, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the title, held by the foremost of the seven noble houses, was not discarded in favor of one of the titles more common in Furyondy, such as Baron or Count, because it made a statement of pride about their Oeridian-Flan cultural unity, embodied in the worship of Rao, that is seen in the now largely Oeridian Archclericy. FN10.
Finally, there is the Plar of Hool. Of all the Plars today, his title is probably used most faithfully to its original meaning. Unlike in other areas of the Sheldomar, the Suel and Oeridian tribes who inhabit the Hold of the Sea Princes have not intermixed. FN11. But as industrious intermixing is both the wont and norm in the Flanaess, this must be explained by geographic isolation, a fact which would help to explain the continuity of the utilization of the title Plar. FN12. For the most part, Oeridians settled only along the Hool river, including its headwaters in the vale of Berghof, leaving the coastal regions to the Suel. Indeed, if it were not for political necessity, Berghof might have been ruled by a Plar rather than a Grand Duke. FN13.
“But returning to the Plar of Hool, it was noted by Pluffet Smedger, the Elder, that the tribesmen of the Hool Marshes are primitive and uncivilized, not being migrants from more cultured areas, and consequently clearly Flan. Furthermore, he noted that some marshmen are raiders willing to travel even as far as Furyondy to commit their crimes. FN14.
“Pluffet Smedger, the Younger, provided some history stating that in the third century, Suel brigands from Port Toli were said to be in control of the Hool Marshes, as well as their native Flan and humanoid tribesmen, before Tarvish the Great routed them and settled parts of the interior of the Hold to check the power of the Toli. FN15. Thus, until the reign of the Boy King, Tavish the III, the Plar of Hool was at least nominally a vassal to the Lion Throne, the Blackguard Tavish the II have lost any real allegiance before then. FN16. But the title may have been first established well before that, perhaps as early as 42 CY, during the reign of Malv the Navigator, after he stripped the Toli of all their land holdings. FN17.
“In regard to subsequent history, the sage Villamit Demovos, noted ‘The Plar of Hool, who earnestly follows his family’s policy of squeezing all it can out of the unproductive land and its people, neglects the patrols necessary to end the menace. Instead he focuses his efforts on extorting vast sums from the slaver’s guild and the smugglers in exchange for his pretended ignorance of their activities. Most other princes look on with indifference, since the region’s inhospitality eases their paranoia about invasion by land.’ FN18. The Savant-Sage also provided that the Plar of Hool was one of the nobles who prevents the Prince of Monmurg from abolishing slavery. FN19.
“So it can be seen that as Plar, the Oeridian lord of the Hool, takes advantage of both the strong and weak among the Flan, as well as the neighboring Suloise, in a way that would make his barbaric ancestors from Ull proud, even while it is offensive to our sensibilities.”
“Do they really raid that far … from the Hool Marshes all the way to Furyondy?” asked the squire.
“Oh yes,” replied the sage, pleased that he had sparked an interest, “And for horses too, which they have been known to ride a great speed back and sell in the Hold of the Sea Princes. FN20. Sometimes it is needful to avoid antagonizing your neighbors, but raids into the Yeomanry and Keoland are undoubtedly much more common.”
Deciding that this had been enough for one day, and preferring to end tutorials with an attentive student, the sage said, “Well, you better attend to your lance now, you might need it one day against the Plar’s horse-thieving Hooligans.” With that, the squire ran down the steps, taking two at a time. The sage was confident that within minutes the quintain would have a new pet name.Footnotes
: In an effort to keep these notations brief, they generally do not distinguish original concepts from canon within sentences preceding citations. Reference to the original work may be checked for limitations. For example, for FN10 it is canon that the Vollar encountered peaceful Flan, the nation worships Rao and utilizes the title of Plar, but there is no canon indication as to the when the title of Plar was first used.
FN1: A Guide to the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting, (Guide), pp. 78-79.
FN2: According to ScottyG, moderator at Dragonfoot, http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewforum.php?f=33&sid=5ba02a186fbb8f67b1213ecd0cea97bb
, “I asked EGG about plar before; he made it up.”
(also earl, marquis, margrave and baron).
FN4: Reaching the conclusion as to origins of the title Plar in order to give dept to the Plar of Hool was the purpose of this endeavor. It is reasonably supported by what follows. However, it is interesting to note, in further substantiation, that the title’s appearance coincides with the migration maps in both the Guide, p.10, and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (LGG), p.4, insofar as Sterich, Veluna, the Bandit Kingdoms and the Hold of the Sea Princes are terminal destinations of Oeridians.
FN5: Notwithstanding the Guides notation that Plar is common in the Great Kingdom, Nyrond and Furyondy, the LGG appears to make no reference to this title for these states, or in the case of the Great Kingdom, its successors, even though it describes much of the nobility. In the author’s opinion, this is a shame, as the title is uniquely Greyhawk.
FN6: Politics in Perrenland, by Kirk at www.canonfire.com
FN7: Mandros and the Rise and Fall of Oeridian Power in the Sheldomar, by Samwise at www.canonfire.com
FN8: The Guide, p.19, establishes Plar as a title for the Bandit Kigdoms. LGG, p.29, establishes Rookroost as dominated by Oeridians.
FN9: The Archbarony of Blackmoor, by Frederick Weining at http://www.dracheninsel.de/dracheninsel/add/greyhawk/blackmoo.htm
. LGG, p.35, merely styles Fent as “a former Bandit King.”
FN10: LGG, p.129; Guide, p.41.
FN11: Guide, p.8. Such lack of intermixing is made all the more interesting in light of a canon conflict diminishing Oeridian influence in the Hold. The Guide, p.14, provides that the Hold is SOf, racially. The LGG, p.100, provides it is Sofz. LGG also provides there that the only Oeridian god worshiped is Procan, and makes no reference to Ehlonna, although her worships is established for the Vale of Berghof in the module UK2, the Sentinel, p.5. It is the opinion of this author that Kurell, Oeridian god of Jealousy, Revenge, Thievery; and Zodal, Flan god of Mercy, Hope, Benevolence would be appropriate for the Hool, the latter for the oppressed Flan, although others might also be appropriate.
FN12: Guide, p13.
FN13: For a discussion of the Grand Duke title, see the forum “Berghof” at http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=1575&highlight=berghof+grand+duke
FN14: Glossography for the Guide, pp. 5 and 7. Their primitive nature is based on the number of raiders in relation to tribesmen. But it appears that there are typographical errors concerning the associated clerics and illusionists, so the conclusion could easily be reversed. In this authors opinion, it is more appropriate that the Flan are marginalized in the Hool Marshes, rather than the Oeridian.
FN15: Living Greyhawk Journal 1, p.18, “The Kingdom of Keoland” by Gary Holian.
FN16: Grand Sheldomar Timeline Expansion and Revision, Part II by Samwise at www.canonfire.com.
FN17: The Rhola and the Toli: the Battle for Jeklea Bay by Samwise at www.canonfire.com
FN18: Dungeon Magazine 19, p.4, “By The Wayside” by Tim Villademovos.
FN19: Guide, p.34.
FN20: Glossography for the Guide, p.5.