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I will begin this essay with a little word association game.
I will give you a word and you think of the first word that pops in your mind.
When you read Gorean,
Did you think - Honor?
Does Gorean automatically mean honorable to you?
Dictionary.com defines the noun honor as:
Honesty, Fairness, or Integrity in one's beliefs and actions.
Having honor would mean having a certain integrity, dignity, and good reputation. Showing respect to others and being faithful - Having earned the trust of others.
In fact, I would say, if there is one word that most will associate with being Gorean, it's being honorable - Goreans have Honor.
You would agree then - Being Gorean is synonymous with being honorable.
The word Honor, in some form is used 785 times just within the first 30 books.
And nothing, really, can really speak deeper meaning than this passage from Book 1:
"There is a saying on Gor, a saying whose origin is lost in the past of this strange planet, that one who speaks of Home Stones should stand, for matters of honor are here involved, and honor is respected in the barbaric codes of Gor."
Honor is discussed in one form or another in almost every book.
Tarnsman of Gor, Page 27
Paraphrasing Vagabonds of Gor, Page 305, Tarl says; 'The Warrior is taught to be honorable.'
The Code of the Warrior was, in general, characterized by a rudimentary chivalry, emphasizing loyalty to the Pride Chiefs and the Home Stone. It was harsh, but with a certain gallantry, a sense of honor that I could respect.
Tarnsman of Gor, Page 41
"The 97th Aphorism in the Codes I was taught, is in the form of a riddle:
"What is invisible but more beautiful than diamonds?"
"That which is silent but deafens thunder."
"That which depresses no scale but is weightier than gold."
"Honor," I said.
Vagabonds of Gor Book 24 Page 305
Honor was used in the Home Stone ceremony of Ko-ro-ba when Matthew asked Tarl:
"Is it to that city that you pledge your life, your honor, and your sword?".
Tarnsman of Gor Book 1 Page 63
Seems being honorable is pretty important.
After Tarl steals the Home Stone of Ar and winds up outside the swamps of the Spider People, he and Talena meet up with the Merchant caravan of Mintar.
If you remember, a fight ensues between Tarl and Kazrak and Tarl bests Kazrak.
"Kazrak of Port Kar," said Mintar, "do you agree to surrender the balance of your hiring price to Tarl of Bristol if he takes your place in my service?"
"Yes," responded Kazrak. "He has done me honor and is my sword brother."
Tarnsman of Gor Book 1 Pages 117 - 121
Honor was involved here too.
Even bad guys are shown to have honor.
This is an example of what Pa-Kur said:
"Were it not for the daughter of Marlenus," said Pa-Kur, his metallic face as placid as the quicksilver behind a mirror, "I would have slain you honorably. That I swear by the black helmet of my caste."
Tarnsman of Gor Book 1 Page 138
Now, here are several more quotes which highlight Gorean honor:
"Why are you saying these things?" she asked, lifting her head, red-eyed. "You risked your life to protect me from him, when he was going to whip me."
"I do not think he was going to whip you," I said, "though I expect he is quite capable of it, and would unhesitantly do so if it seemed appropriate, or upon various occasions, if it pleased him."
"Why then did you interfere?" she asked, puzzled. "Why did you call attention to yourself when obviously there was something between you two, and you would be in danger, if recognized."
"Do you truly not know?" I asked.
"It was to protect me, surely."
"No," I said.
"Why then?" she asked, wonderingly.
"Because," I said, soberly, "you were serving me."
"That is what you said," she said.
"And that was the reason," I said.
"It was so tiny a thing," she asked, "a point of propriety, of precedence?" she asked.
"Yes," I said.
"You risked so much for a mere point of honor?" she asked.
"There are no mere points of honor," I told her.
Vagabonds of Gor Book 24 Page 63
When Goreans get the idea that honor is involved they suddenly become quite difficult to deal with.
Magicians of Gor Book 25 Page 400
It is seldom wise, incidentally, to impugn, or attempt to manipulate, the honor of a Gorean.
Mercenaries of Gor Book 21 Page 297
"Do you understand honor?" she asked.
"No," I said.
"How, then, can you speak of it?" she asked.
"Once or twice I glimpsed it," I said.
"And what is it like?" she asked.
"It is like a sun, in the morning," I said, "rising over dark mountains."
Magicians of Gor Book 25 Page 481
I knew so little of this world!
When I did understand it I became aware, more seriously than hitherto, of the nature of the men in this city - of their skill, ferocity and pride, and their sense of honor.
The men of Gor, our masters, tend to take honor very seriously.
Witness of Gor Book 26 Page 408
Honor is important to Goreans, in a way that those of Earth might find hard to understand; for example, those of Earth find it natural that men should go to war over matters of gold and riches, but not honor; the Gorean, contrariwise, is more willing to submit matters of honor to the adjudication of steel than he is matters of riches and gold; there is a simple explanation for this; honor is more important to him. Strangely the girls of the cities are eager to participate in this sport. Doubtless each believes her standard will be victorious and she will return in honor to her city.
Beasts of Gor Book 12 Page 42
Goreans respect wealth but tend to value other attributes more highly, and, indeed, to the credit of the Merchants, it should be noted that they usually do so, as well. One such attribute is fidelity; another is honor. Gor is not Earth.
Prize of Gor Book 27 Pages 491 - 492
"I could not in honor do his will," said Cabot.
"Fool, fool, fool!" she wept.
"Yes," said Cabot, "but a fool for honor is a fool with honor, and better such a fool than Agamemnon in all his shrewdness and cunning, in all his wisdom and astuteness."
Kur of Gor Book 28 Page 270
Is it honor and the codes, I wondered, which separate us from animals, or, rather, is it they which bring us closer to the innocence of the animals.
Swordsmen of Gor Book 29 Page 430
I had a respect for caste honor. Honor was honor, in small things as well as great. Indeed, how can one practice honor in great things, if not in small things?
Rogue of Gor Book 15 Page 231
What is an example of a small thing?
Well, here's one:
She held my arm, closely, looking up at me. Her breasts, sweet, pendant, white, were lovely in the loose rep-cloth of her tunic.
"Please, Master," she whispered.
"Are you on an errand for your master?" I asked.
"No, Master," she said. "I am not needed until supper."
I looked away from her.
Her hands, small and piteous, grasped my arm. "Please, Master," she said.
I looked down into her eyes.
There were tears in them.
"Please, Master," she said, "take pity on me. Take pity on the miserable needs of a girl."
"You are not mine," I told her. "You are a pretty little thing, but I do not own you."
"Please," she said.
"Your master," I said, "if he chooses, will satisfy your needs. If he does not, he will not."
For all I knew she might be under the discipline of deprivation. If that were so, I had no wish to impair the effectiveness of her master's control over her. Besides I did not know him. I did not wish to do him dishonor, whoever he might be.
Beasts of Gor Book 12 Pages 48 - 49
The thought of Goreans and Honor applies just as well to the women:
It occurred to me that there was at least one reply which she, bred in the honor codes of Gor, should understand,
Tarnsman of Gor Book 1 Page 72
They also gave her some understanding of the social arrangements common in what were called the "high cities," in particular, the caste system, and the existence of codes of honor, and such, apparently taken seriously on this world.
Prize of Gor Book 27 Page 48
Honor is also taught to the youth.
"He lives in the building," said the proprietor. "He, and some of the others, sometimes in gangs, enjoy playing "Capture the Slave Girl."
"I see," I said.
Feiqa, still kneeling, somewhat shaken, adjusted her tunic.
I smiled. I now had an excellent idea what had happened to the lovely, light-haired slave we had seen earlier on a lower landing, she whose tunic was opened and whose hair had been in such disorder. She had been "captured" earlier.
"It is an excellent game," said the proprietor. "It helps them to become men." Many Gorean games, incidentally, have features which encourage the development of properties regarded as desirable in a Gorean youth, such as courage, discipline, and honor. Similarly, some of the games tend to encourage the development of audacity and leadership.
Mercenaries of Gor Book 21 Page 278
And, too, yes, there is honor among slaves.
When I leaped up, laughing, shaking my head and hair, he again offered to place his cloak about my shoulders, that my body might be covered when I went to the shed for the work slaves.
It was much honor that he did me, a mere female slave.
How the girls would have cried out with envy to see me, secure in such a cloak, and that, too, of the mighty Rask of Treve!
Captive of Gor Book 7 age 348
"Although you are only a slave your master is permitting you to serve him," I said.
"This is a great honor." She seemed startled. Then it became clear to her that this was, for her, a slave, an honor.
Slave Girl of Gor Book 11 Page 406
"It is a great honor for me, Master," she said, "that one such as you should select Beverly to serve you."
Rogue of Gor Book 15 Page 200
What a precious and glorious honor, what a coveted privilege, for a slave, to be permitted to serve her master!
Prize of Gor Book 27 Page 228
"Thank you," he said.
"You do not thank her," I informed him. "It is a great honor and privilege for a slave to be permitted to serve her master. Too, it is what she is for."
Swordsmen of Gor Book 29 Page 61
Therefore . . . Honor is Honor . . . is Honor
It doesn't really matter how it is shown or what it entails . . . as long as you feel your actions are honorable. - Right?
In other words, honorable actions are a universally accepted standard.
Notice this case in point from Book 29:
"Four of my people," said Tajima, "fled back from the tarns, and two found they could not approach them."
"That is understandable," I said.
"But not acceptable," said Tajima. "But each has regained his honor."
"I do not see how honor is involved in this sort of thing," I said, "courage perhaps, but how honor?"
"For us, honor is involved," said Tajima. "But do not fear, for they have regained their honor."
"How?" I asked.
"By the knife," he said.
Swordsmen of Gor Book 29 Page 245
How does Tarl respond to this type of honor?
"I will not lose men in this fashion," I said.
"It is better to lose such men," said Tajima.
"If you want to die," I said to the kneeling figure on the platform, "do so under the talons of the tarn."
"It is wrong for you to interfere in this, Tarl Cabot, tarnsman," said Tajima. "One must recover honor."
"One recovers honor in life," I said, "not in death. If he lives, he may begin again, and gain honor."
"That is not our way," said Tajima.
"But it is a way," I said.
"Doubtless," said Tajima.
"And it is my way," I said.
Swordsmen of Gor Book 29 Page 259
Therefore, Gorean Honor to one Gorean may not be Gorean Honor to another Gorean.
In other words, Gorean Honor is -not- a universal constant.
A discussion of Gorean Honor - What it means to be Gorean - cannot be complete without speaking of Tarl's fall into slavery.
"I," I said, "I do not want to die."
I lowered my head, burning with shame. In my eyes in that moment it seemed I had lost myself, that my codes had been betrayed, Ko-ro-ba my city dishonored, even the blade I had carried soiled. I could not look Ho-Hak again in the eyes. In their eyes, and in mine, I could now be nothing, only slave.
"I had thought the better of you," said Ho-Hak. "I had thought you were of the warriors."
I could not speak to him.
"I see now," said Ho-Hak, "you are indeed of Port Kar."
I could not raise my head, so shamed I was. It seemed I could never lift my head again.
"Do you beg to be a slave?" asked Ho-Hak. The question was cruel, but fair.
I looked at Ho-Hak, tears in my eyes. I saw only contempt on that broad, calm face.
I lowered my head. "Yes," I said. "I beg to be a slave."
There was a great laugh from those gathered about, and, too, in those peals of merriment I heard the laugh of he who wore the headband of the pearls of the Vosk sorp, and most bitter to me of all, the laugh of contempt of the girl who stood beside me, her thigh at my cheek. "Slave," said Ho-Hak.
"Yes," said I," Master." The word came bitterly to me. But a Gorean slave addresses all free men as Master, all free women as Mistress, though, of course, normally but one would own him.
There was further laughter.
"Perhaps now," said Ho-Hak, "we shall throw you to tharlarion."
I put down my head.
There was more laughter.
To me, at that moment, it seemed I cared not whether they chose to throw me to tharlarion or not. It seemed to me that I had lost what might be more precious than life itself. How could I face myself, or anyone? I had chosen ignominious bondage to the freedom of honorable death.
Raiders of Gor Book 6 Pages 24 - 25
Tarl had swore to live up to a certain standard.
It should have been better to die and remain faithful to his oath than accept slavery.
He gave his word and before he would ever break his word, or go back on his word - he would die first.
But he didn't.
He said, "I do not want to die."
He lost his honor.
And, because of this, he was no longer Gorean . . . . . . Right?
Well that is just a stupid statement, of course he was still Gorean.
So how do you reconcile this?
If - being Gorean is synonymous with being honorable,
How can this experience with Tarl have happened?
This is so important, so fundamental to truly being Gorean,
Notice this quote from Marauders of Gor, Page 4.
Wounds had I at the shore of Thassa, high on the coast, at the edge of the forests, when one night I had, in a stockade of enemies, commanded by Sarus of Tyros, chosen to recollect my honor.
Never could I regain my honor, but I had recollected it. And never had I forgotten it.
Marauders of Gor Book 9 Page 4
Ahh, ok, yes, he stumbled and fell but he got back up, he recollected his honor.
We can accept that, right?
After everything I have recounted to you from the books on the subject of honor,
I am now going to show you excerpts from Raiders of Gor, pages 101 thru 122.
Read carefully the one last point that being Gorean is synonymous with being honorable.
There was something of an uproar as a large, fierce-looking fellow, narrow-eyed, ugly, missing an ear, followed by some twenty or thirty sailors, burst into the tavern.
"Paga! Paga!" they cried, throwing over some tables they wished, driving men from them, who had sat there, then righting the tables and sitting about them, pounding on them and shouting.
Girls ran to serve them paga.
"It is Surbus," said a man near me, to another.
The fierce fellow, bearded, narrow-eyed, missing an ear, who seemed to be the leader of these men, seized one of the paga girls, twisting her arm, dragging her toward one of the alcoves. I thought it was the girl who had served me, but I was not certain.
Another girl ran to him, bearing a cup of paga. He took the cup in one hand, threw it down his throat, and carried the girl he had seized, screaming, into one of the alcoves. The girl had stopped dancing the Whip Dance, and cowered on the sand. Other men, of those with Surbus seized what paga girls they could, and what vessels of the beverage, and dragged their prizes toward the alcoves, sometimes driving out those who occupied them. Most, however, remained at the tables, pounding on them, demanding drink.
I had heard the name of Surbus. It was well know among the pirate captains of Port Kar, scourge of gleaming Thassa.
He was pirate indeed, and slaver, and murderer and thief, a cruel and worthless man, abominable, truly Port Kar. I felt little but disgust.
Did you pick up on Tarl's description of Surbus?
Tarl says Surbus was a pirate and slaver. He was a murderer and thief.
He was cruel, worthless and abominable.
And Tarl felt little but disgust for him.
Back now to the tavern . . .
There was a girl's scream and, from the alcove into which Surbus had dragged her, the girl, bleeding, fled among the tables, he plunging drunken after her.
"Protect me!" she cried, to anyone who would listen.
But there was only laughter, and men reaching out to seize her.
She ran to my table and fell to her knees before me. I saw now she was the one who had served me earlier.
"Please," she wept, her mouth bloody, "protect me." She extended her chained wrists to me.
"No," I said.
Then Surbus was on her, his hand in her hair, and he bent her backwards.
He scowled at me.
I took another sip of paga. It was no business of mine.
I saw the tears in the eyes of the girl, her outstretched hands, and then, with a cry of pain, she was dragged back to the alcove by the hair.
Tarl leaves the tavern but after a while he returns . . .
My steps took me again to the paga tavern where I had begun this night.
The musicians, and the dancer, had gone, long ago I supposed.
I threw down a copper tarn disk and he tilted the great bottle.
I took my goblet of paga to a table and sat down, cross-legged, behind it.
I did not want to drink. I wanted only to be alone.
I did not even want to think. I wanted only to be alone.
I heard weeping from one of the alcoves.
It irritated me. I did not wish to be disturbed. I put my head in my hands and leaned forward, elbows on the table.
The curtain from one of the alcoves was flung apart.
There stood there, framed in its conical threshold, Surbus, he who was a captain of Port Kar. I looked upon him with loathing, despising him. How ugly he was, with his fierce beard, the narrow eyes, the ear gone from the right side of his face. I had heard of him, and well. I knew him to be pirate; and I knew him to be slaver, and a murderer, and thief; I knew him to be a cruel and worthless man, abominable, truly of Port Kar and, as I looked upon him, the filth and rottenness, I felt nothing but disgust.
See, Tarl again recounts his description of Surbus and how he felt about him.
Cruel, worthless and abominable, filthy and rotten.
And Tarl again says he felt nothing but disgust.
Back now to what is happening in the tavern . . .
In his arms he held, stripped, the bound body of a slave girl. It was she who had served me the night before, before Surbus, and his cutthroats and pirates, had entered the tavern. I had not much noticed her. She was thin, and not very pretty. She had blond hair, and, as I recalled, blue eyes. She was not much of a slave. I had not paid her much attention. I remembered that she had begged me to protect her and that I, of course, had refused.
Surbus threw the girl over his shoulder and went to the counter.
"I am not pleased with her," he said to the proprietor.
I am sorry, Noble Surbus," said the man. "I shall have her beaten."
"I am not pleased with her!" cried Surbus.
"You wish her destroyed?" asked the man.
"Yes," said Surbus, "destroyed."
"Her price," said the proprietor, "is five silver tarsks."
From his pouch Surbus placed five silver tarsks, one after the other, on the counter.
"I will give you six," I said to the proprietor.
Surbus scowled at me.
"I have sold her for five," said the proprietor, "to this noble gentleman. Do not interfere, Stranger, this man is Surbus."
Surbus threw back his head and laughed. "Yes," he said, "I am Surbus."
"I am Bosk," I said, "from the Marshes."
Surbus looked at me, and then laughed. He turned away from the counter now, taking the girl from his shoulder and holding her, bound, in his arms. I saw that she was conscious, and her eyes red from weeping. But she seemed numb, beyond feeling.
"What are going to do with her?" I asked.
"I am going to throw her to the urts," said Surbus.
"Please," she whispered, "please, Surbus."
"To the urts!" laughed Surbus, looking down at her.
She closed her eyes.
"To the urts!" laughed Surbus.
I looked upon him, Surbus, slaver, pirate, thief, murderer. This man was totally evil. I felt nothing but hatred and an ugly, irrepressible disgust of him.
"No," I said.
He looked at me, startled.
"No," I said, and moved the blade from the sheath.
"She is mine," he said.
"Surbus often," said the proprietor, "thus destroys a girl who has not pleased him."
I regarded them both.
"I own her," said Surbus.
"That is true," said the proprietor hastily. "You saw yourself her sale. She is truly his slave, his to do with as he wishes, duly purchased."
"She is mine," said Surbus. "What right have you interfere?"
"The right of one of Port Kar," I said, "to do what pleases him."
Surbus threw the girl from him and, with a swift, clean motion, unsheathed his blade.
"You are a fool, Stranger," said the proprietor. "This is Surbus, one of the finest swords in Port Kar."
Our discourse with steel was brief.
Then, with a cry of hatred and elation, my blade parallel to the ground, that it not wedge itself between the ribs of its target, passed through his body. I kicked him from the blade and withdrew the bloodied steel.
I tore off some of his tunic and cleaned my blade on it.
He lay there on his back, blood moving from his mouth, the chest of his tunic scarlet, fighting for breath I looked down on him. I had been of the warriors, I knew he would not live long.
I felt no compunction.
Where was honor shown in this account of Surbus?
Would you say Surbus was honorable?
No, Surbus was the very antitheses of honor.
He was, in Tarl's own words,
"pirate and slaver, murderer and thief, a cruel and worthless man."
Bosk felt nothing but hatred and an ugly, irrepressible disgust of him.
Tarl even says Surbus was totally evil.
Because of who Surbus was, Tarl killed him . . . and felt no compunction.
Ohhhhhhhh . . . . . wait . . . . . Surbus was Gorean too.
Think about it.
I am Fogaban,
I wish you well
In The Usurper, the fourth installment of the Telnarian series, readers return to the saga of Otto, once a gladiator sentenced to die, now a ruthless warrior on his way to becoming king.
This galaxy-spanning series features all of the excitement, combat, and erotic adventure John Norman is known for.
Available March 3, 2015
(The Telnarian Histories)
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