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"There is much danger in the north, and much to know." (Beasts of Gor, p.322)
Beasts of Gor, the twelfth book in the Gorean series, describes the lands and culture of the Red Hunters who inhabit the northern polar regions of Gor. The Red Hunters were inspired by the Earth culture of the Inuit. The Earth Inuit, also known as Eskimoes, inhabit the northern polar regions of North America, Greenland and parts of Siberia. Most people on Gor know very little about the culture and life of the Red Hunters.
The lands of the Red Hunters begin where the lands of Torvaldsland ends. Ax Glacier is at the northern border of Torvaldsland and it lies nestled in a valley between two mountain chains. These two chains are collectively known as the Hrimgar Mountains. "Hrimgar" is the Gorean word for "barrier." There are numerous passes in these mountain chains. One famous pass is called the pass of Tancred because it is where the Tancred herd of tabuk pass during their annual migrations. The Hrimgar Mountains are not as rugged and formidable as many other ranges on Gor such as the Voltai and Thentis ranges. The inhabitants of Ax Glacier are Red Hunters though most of the Red Hunters dwell in the lands north of the Hrimgar Mountains.
North of the Hrimgar Mountains is the polar basin, a tundra thousands of pasangs wide and hundreds of pasangs deep. It extends to the edge of the frigid waters of the polar sea. Tundra is generally a level or slightly hilly, treeless plain. During the summer months, the land is commonly soft and spongy due to the proliferation of mosses, shrubs and lichen. There may even be small flowers around, normally perennials. There are actually about 240 different types of plants that grow within five hundred pasangs of the northern pole. None of these plants are poisonous or have thorns. During the winter months, the land is cold, desolate and barren. The flower buds lie dormant, protected from the weather in a fluffy sheath. The polar basin is generally very dry. Actually, less snow falls here than in the lower latitudes such as in Torvaldsland. But any snow that does fall is less likely to melt and will thus stay around for much longer.
The biting cold is the greatest enemy of this region. Consider some of the problems these people face. "A nail struck by a hammer can shiver into fragments. Urine can freeze before striking the ground. The squeal of a sleen may be heard for ten to twelve miles. A common conversation can be heard half a pasang away. A mountain which seems very close, given the sharpness of visibility in the clear air, may actually be forty pasangs in the distance. The cold air, touching the body of a sleen, forms a steam which can almost obscure the animal. A running tabuk can leave a trail of such steam drifting behind it. One's breath can freeze in a beard, leaving it a mask of ice." (Beasts of Gor, p.205)
Thassa in this region is frozen for about half the year. The waters contain many icebergs, some several pasangs wide and hundreds of feet high. Usually in the spring and summer, icebergs break off from the glaciers. As the icebergs are made of fresh water, they are less dense than the salt water of Thassa. Thus they float, though much of the iceberg is submerged beneath the sea. Commonly, an iceberg is about eight times larger than what is visible. There is no specific term for "iceberg" in Gorean. They refer to it simply as a "mountain" though sometimes will call it an "ice mountain" to differentiate it from other types of mountains. The icebergs drift with the currents, basically eastward. The parsit current is the main current in the polar region and it flows eastward. It receives its name because several varieties of migrating parsits follow its path.
Though there are four seasons in the polar region, the greatest division is between night and day. Each lasts for about six months. Winter occurs during the night and summer during the day. This would be sure to cause consternation to the circadian rhythms of many Goreans not used to this. Even the skies in this region have their uniqueness. The skies sometimes evidence a phenomenon similar to the Aurora Borealis of the Earth polar regions. This is an atmospheric oddity that most commonly occurs near the autumnal and vernal equinoxes. It consists of streaks and curtains of light, generally yellowish-green and hundreds of miles in height. It can be quite awe inspiring if you have never seen it before.
The Red Hunters call themselves the Innuit which means "the People" in their own language. They live in widely scattered, isolated and small communities. There is only about a total of twenty-five hundred or so Red Hunters on Gor. They live in over forty winter camps, some camps separated from the others by a journey of several days. Two such camps are the Copper Cliffs camp and the Bright Stones camp. The Red Hunters rarely leave the polar regions and so most Goreans know little about them. If their culture were to vanish, few would even notice due to their isolated and remote existence.
The Innuit are generally a short and broad people. Their skin is a dark, reddish color, almost like copper, and their hair is normally bluish-black. Their eyes have an epicanthic fold to protect them from the extreme cold. Despite what some might believe, their bloodline is unrelated to that of the Red Savages. Innuit children, unlike the Red Savages, are born with a blue spot at the base of their spine. This is indicative of a different ancestry.
The Red Hunters live as nomads, dependent upon the migration of certain animals including the tabuk and sea sleen. Fishing and hunting is seasonal, dependent on the availability of certain animals. They sometimes may catch the northern shark, Hunjer or Karl whales. Ice hunting also adds to their winter stores. They engage in a bit of trade, often for Bazi tea and sugar, greatly desired items in the north. Bazi tea is good to help keep one warm. Red Hunters have a definite sweet tooth. They think nothing of eating half a pound of sugar at one sitting. They also trade for wood and white kajirae.
The Innuit are commonly a proud and friendly people. Unlike most xenophobic Goreans, they welcome strangers into their community. In their harsh world, where the fight for survival is constant, they need friends not enemies. Despite their stark conditions, they maintain an optimistic attitude and a good sense of humor. They are generally a happy people. War is basically unknown among them and they do not have generals or other war leaders. They are mostly peaceable, except with animals which they have no compunction against killing. "As hunters they live with blood and death." (Beasts of Gor, p.74-5) Hunting is their primary means of survival. The most important men of the Red Hunters are the best hunters.
One of the primary game animals of the Red Hunters is the tabuk. During the summer, there are great hunts held where the Red Hunters gather together in the hundreds to seek the tabuk. Northern tabuk are commonly large to massive creatures, many standing ten hands at the shoulder. They are tawny skinned and quite swift. They have a single ivory horn, often over three feet long and its base may be over 2.5 inches in diameter. With this weapon, a charging tabuk can be lethal to a hunter.
There are several major herds of tabuk in the north. The most famous and maybe the largest is the herd of Tancred, numbering 200,000 to 300,000 animals. This herd spends the winters on the edge of the northern forests south and east of Torvaldsland. When spring arrives, the herd migrates north. By this time, they are short-haired and hungry. They venture north, past Torvaldsland to the east. When they reach the northern edge of Torvaldsland, they head west to the sea. They then follow the coastline and cross Ax Glacier. They pass through the Hrimgar Mountains at the pass of Tancred, from which the herd gets its name. They spend the summer grazing in the polar tundra. When winter arrives, the herd now fat and long-haired, they return to the southlands.
A tabuk hunt is commonly a well organized affair. The Innuit construct a pathway lined by stone cairns. These cairns are simply piles of stones, about four to five feet high, and topped with black dirt. The cairns form a funnel over two pasangs long. The tabuk are frightened and forced into the funnel. The tabuk will run to the end of the funnel and will not escape past the gaps in the cairns. The reason the tabuk will not run through the gaps is a psychological matter. It will only be overcome when many tabuk have already been killed and their bodies are piling up within the funnel. Due to the deadly nature of the tabuk, they are most often killed with a bow while the hunter is behind a shield. Hunting a tabuk on the tundra is very difficult due to the lack of adequate cover. A hunter must crawl on his belly to get within adequate range of the beast.
Like the Wagon Peoples and their bosk, Red Hunters use nearly every bit of the tabuk for one purpose or another. Its hide is very important and the fall tabuk are generally preferred as their hides are thicker at that point. The fur and hide may be used for clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, harnesses for their snow sleen, for buckets, tents, kayaks and more. The sinews are used for lashing, harpoon lines, cords and threads. Their bones and horn are used to make tools, arrow points, needles, thimbles, chisels, wedges, and knives. Their fat and bone marrow are used for fuel. Almost all of the animal is edible including its eyes. They will even eat the half digested mosses, from its stomach, that the tabuk had once been grazing.
There are other animals that hunted on the tundra besides the tabuk. The arctic gant is a migratory bird that nests in the Hrimgar Mountains and in other steep, rocky outcroppings referred to as "bird cliffs." Their eggs may be frozen and eaten like an apple. The leem is a small rodent, only about five to ten ounces in weight. It generally hibernates in the winter, ranging forth in the summer. It is hunted for its summer pelt that is brown. Leems are also preyed upon by snow larts. The snow lart is a predatory mammal that eats bird eggs and leems. It is four-legged, about ten inches high and weighs eight to twelve pounds. It generally only hunts in the sun, during the summer time. During the long winter it will not hunt. But, it possesses two stomachs and the food in the second stomach can be held almost indefinitely. The lart will fill this stomach in the fall and it will last it through the winter months. Its winter fur is thick and snowy white. A fine lart pelt could sell in Ar for as much as half a silver tarsk.
Much hunting also takes place at sea, from a kayak or umiak. A kayak is a light, narrow canoe made for a single person. They are constructed of tabuk skin, over a wooden frame, and used in hunt various sea creatures. Kayaks require a single paddle. If you want to keep the kayak pointed in a certain direction, without using the paddle, you must move your legs and body inside the frame. This would be done if you were waiting with your harpoon to attack an animal. There is a danger though when hunting by kayak, especially if your are alone. Such hunting requires much patience. With the swaying of the kayak, the lengthy waiting, and the reflections on the water you may lose all sense of time and place. At that point, you must break the monotony or go mad. You must sing or scream, hit at the water with your paddle, or do something similar. Men who have gone mad have been known to slice their kayak to pieces, thus drowning. It is more likely to affect lone hunters than those in groups. An umiak is a large tabuk skin boat, about twenty feet long and five feet in the beam. It can hold at least six people and is sometimes used in whaling. Strangely enough, it is usually paddled by women. Paddle mittens may be worn while paddling at sea. Each mitten has two thumbs and thus can be turned over easily to the other side.
The primary creatures hunted at sea include sea sleen, whales and sharks. A harpoon is most commonly used to hunt these sea creatures. A typical harpoon is about eight feet long and two and a half inches in diameter. Most of the shaft is wood except that the foreshaft is made of bone. The head will be set into the foreshaft, drilled by a point of sharpened slate. A rawhide line goes through the hole so you can maintain a connection to the harpoon once it is thrown. The Innuit often use a beaded throwing board to launch the harpoon that fits in a notch on the board. The Innuit also use lances and horn bows for hunting.
One type of creature they basically do not hunt are the ice beasts, known to the rest of Gor as the Kurii. These Kurii are essentially now natives of Gor and not members of the Steel Ships. They are likely the degenerate descendants of some Steel Ship Kurii. The ice beasts are white furred and have an affinity for water unlike most other Kurii. They usually hunt from ice floes, far out to sea, during the summer. The ice beasts remain north of most of the Red Hunters and they rarely venture south. A Red Hunter, Karjuk, guards the Innuit against the ice beasts. He lives farther north than any other Innuit though no one knows actually where he lives. He is able to kill a single ice beast on his own.
There are four varieties of sea sleen in the polar waters including the black sleen, brown sleen, tusked sleen, and flat-nosed sleen. There is a specific time of the year for each different variety, dependent upon the various waves of parsit migration, their principal food. Many sea sleens migrate before the winter though some do stay behind, remaining mostly dormant. They remain under the ice, surfacing every quarter of an Ahn to breathe. Sea sleen are mammals so they do need to breathe air. A medium-sized adult sea sleen will be about eight feet long and weigh up to four hundred pounds. Some can get as large as up to twenty feet long and weighing one thousand pounds. Sea sleen have a thick bone skull and double-fanged jaws. While you hunt them, the sleen will eye you warily until you near when they will submerge. They will quickly attack nearly anything, except vessels, that moves in the water. Most sleen are communal, remaining with small groups. There are rogue sleen though, individual creatures that are often even more dangerous than a normal sea sleen. Once you harpoon and kill a sea sleen, you use a tube to blow air under its skin and then close the wound holes with wooden plugs. This will allow the animal to float and be easily towed by a kayak.
There are several varieties of sharks and whales in the polar waters though whales are primarily mentioned in Beasts of Gor. The Hunjer long whale, Karl whale and Blunt fin are three types of waters in this region. The Karl and Blunt fin are baleen whales. The Hunjer is a rare toothed, black whale that eats cuttlefish. Whale hunting is very difficult and it is quite rare for the Innuit to take two whales in one season. Sometimes, a few years pass without a whale being captured. One use of such captured whales is for their blubber. A blubber hammer, a wooden-handled tool with a stone head, is used to pound the blubber and loosen the oil within it. This oil will be used in lamps and for other uses.
Fishing is also very important and one of the most common fish caught is the parsit. There are several varieties of parsits and they are migratory fish. They are generally a small, thin and silvery fish with stripes. Numerous other fish are caught as well though the book does not go into detail concerning these others.
Journeying across the tundra while hunting or traveling is not an easy task. Red hunters will often look behind themselves while journeying. This has a dual purpose. First, it watches for pursuit. Second, it instills the nature of the terrain so the hunter knows where to go on his return trip. The stars and winds are also important for determining direction. Red Hunters measure distances in terms of sleeps not pasangs. Even if they get lost, they will generally be able to successfully survive until either rescued or they find their way back. They normally carry on themselves hooks, fish line, knives, snare strings, and harpoons, just in case. Besides walking, ice sleds are also used and they are pulled by snow sleen. The sled sleen may also serve as a food source in case of an emergency. You must be careful though to ensure you kill them before they get too hungry and eat you. The runners on these ice sleds are wooden. Usually in the late fall, a pasty muck, formed of earth, grass and moss, and placed on the wooden runners. It is placed about five to six inches thick. The ice will then adhere to this muck thus serving to reduce friction.
Like most of the barbaric cultures of Gor, the Innuit do not have Castes. Their people are generalists and not specialists. Besides hunting and fishing, every Red Hunter man is also expected to be able to carve and make up and sing songs.
Men usually do all of the carvings. Carvings are made from ivory, bone or soft stone. They generally do carvings of animals such as sea sleen, whales, fish, birds and others. These carvings are rounded as are shapes in nature. Thus, the carvings will not stand upright on a shelf or such. They are meant to be kept in a pouch and examined in your hands when you wish to admire their beauty. The carvings are quite intricate and every detail, from every perspective, must be perfect. Some collectors of such art, non-Innuit, will file the carvings down so they can stand and be more easily displayed on a shelf. The typical Innuit carving knife is about fourteen inches long with a wooden handle. The blade is about three inches long. Often, an Innuit does not set out to carve any particular animal. They simple remove the "excess" ivory and find what animal is hiding within. Though many would consider this a specialized art form, the language of the Red Hunters has no word for art or artist.
Some carvings are meant to be more for amusement than just beauty. A game is played with small animals carved from bone. You drop an animal and if it remains upright then you win. The bones are dropped one at a time in alternating turns. If both players' animals do not remain upright, then there is no winner on that throw. If both players' animals remain upright, then you must throw them again. The winner of each round is awarded the losing animal. The overall winner is the last one to have animals remaining.
Both men and women sing. A song is considered the singer's property and it would be unusual for someone to sing another's song. You are expected and encouraged to create your own songs. A song does not even have to be particularly good. It is more important that one whom they love sings a song. Even simple songs are valuable to them. The origin of one's songs is also considered mysterious. "No one knows from where songs come." (Beasts of Gor, p.262-3) This serves to elevate songs to a higher level. Some songs serve a purpose as well. For example, the kayak-making song is customarily sung to the leather, wood and sinew so that the kayak will not betray the man at sea. Drums are the most common musical instrument among the Innuit. There is a large, heavy drum that requires a man's strength to handle. A frame of wood is covered by a tabuk hide. You hold the drum in one hand and beat it on the frame, not the hide, with a stick. The drum will make an odd resonance. There is even a specific drum dance.
Red Hunters are superstitious and truly believe in magic. They are reluctant to speak their own name for fear that it may not return. They are free though to speak the names of others. Normally, to find out one of their names, you must ask someone else. The Innuit believe in the ability of shapeshifting, the power to transform yourself into another form. They believe that certain men can turn into animals and that certain animals can become men. They also believe that sleen are immortal. If a sleen is killed, it will be reborn again at a later time. To Red Hunters, men are similarly immortal. This belief may extend to other animals as well though the books do not specify one way or the other. The Innuit believe in the Priest-Kings though they do not appear to have an active priesthood or any Initiates.
Gifts are important to them and there need be little or no reason to give them. Trade between them often becomes much more akin to gift giving. Theft is very rare in this region. Borrowing is very common especially of furs, tools and women, both slave and free. If someone is in need, someone will give that person what he or she needs. Thus, there is little need for theft. The Inuit also enjoy playing a variety of games. Cat's cradle is a favorite as it is with Panther Girls. In this game, two players face each other, each with some string. One player makes an intricate pattern with his fingers and the string and his opponent must try to copy the pattern. The Inuit also enjoy tug-of-war and a soccer-like game that uses a leather ball.
Clothing of the Innuit will vary between the sexes and between the seasons. Men will commonly wear fur trousers, fur or sleenskin boots to the knee and skin shirts. Free women will wear boots that reach to their crotch. Instead of trousers, they will wear brief fur panties. They will wear shirts of beaded lartskin. In colder weather, both sexes will wear a hooded parka of tabuk hide, the warmest hide in the polar regions. First, the hides are windproof. Second, the hairs of the northern tabuk are hollow, allowing air to be trapped, thus giving it excellent insulative properties. In the winter, they will also fill their boots with a layer of grass for warmth. The grass is placed against the sole of the foot and is changed every day. The best grass for this use is found at the base of the bird cliffs. In general, their clothing is warm, light- weight and allows for much freedom of movement. In the warmer weather, many people, of both sexes do not wear parkas or shirts. Nudity is not unusual among these people.
The quality of a woman's clothes is determined by her marital status. Unmated women are kept in poor furs as it is considered the obligation of one's mate to supply them with good furs. Taking a mate is a very ritualistic affair. First, you generally must obtain the girl's father's permission. This will entail sufficient gift giving to the father. You are then expected to come to the father's house and physically abduct the woman. She knows when you will be coming so she can properly prepare herself for it. The woman may put up some token resistance but this is expected. A competing suitor might pose a more serious obstacle. He may wish to fight you for her and such a fight could be to the death. It is unlikely that this happens often due to the generally peaceable nature of this people. Men use their noses to softly touch, a gentle nuzzle, their women on the cheek and throat. Men are not afraid to show their feelings in public, if they are happy or sad. Like most Goreans, tears may be freely expressed.
The females of the Innuit have their place in their society. They do not hunt or carve though they do sing. They cook, sew, slice up game animals and raise the children. The ulo is the "woman's knife." It is a semicircular blade fixed into a wooden handle. It is made for cutting meat and sinew, not for carving. Cooking is ordinarily down outside in small, rock-encircled fires. A heavy iron pan will be placed atop the rocks and over the flame. Free women also carry knives and can be quite skillful with them. Innuit are very permissive with their children, seldom scolding them and almost never hitting them. Mate swapping is common among the Innuit though no reason is given for this custom. Usually, free women wear their hair knotted in a bun on the top of their head. The only time it is worn loose is during their menstrual period. This serves to warn other men so they know the best time to show up at a friend's home if they wish to partake of his wife.
The Red Hunters own two types of domesticated animals, the fierce snow sleen and slaves, most often white-skinned women. White skin alone will almost always denote a female slave in the polar regions though the Red Hunters do sometimes enslave their own women. Snow sleen may be used to pull sleds and their slaves may also be used as draft animals. Their slaves may not wear their hair up and they normally wear fur panties and a hide shirt unless it is very cold. The Innuit identify their animals by an intricately knotted set of four leather strings that is similar to a collar. These are called "bondage strings" and the different style knots will denote the specific owner. The slaves must also have on all their clothes a specific stitching design. This is a looped of red dyed sinew meant to represent binding fiber. Yokes are also used to bind their slaves. Essentially, a yoke is made of wood or bone and is not heavy. The yoke is drilled in three places and a leather strap goes through the holes. The yoke fits behind the back of the girl's neck and a leather strap then fastens the girl in place. Her left wrist is thonged and then tied to the left end of the yoke. The thong is then passed through the center hole and looped around the girl's neck maybe twice. It then passes through the right hole and around the right wrist. A large sack may be carried at each end of the yoke so the girl can be useful while so bound.
In permanent camps of the Innuit, they have homes located partially underground. The house is double-walled with stones. In between the walls is a layer of peat for insulation. Hides may also cover the inside walls for additional insulation. There will be a smoke hole at the top of the house. The ceiling is supported with several poles and consists of layers of mud and grass. There is a low doorway that you must bend to enter. There are no windows in these houses. The sleeping platforms are raised off the floor level to keep the sleepers warmer than they would be if they were on the floor. This is because heat tends to rise. The Innuit do have what we know on Earth as igloos. Iglu is a Red Hunter word that refers to a house in general and not just an ice house. They do construct ice houses, placing snow blocks in a circle in ascending smaller circles. They leave a hole for air and smoke. A snow knife may be used to help construct an ice house. This is a large, curved, saw-toothed blade made of bone. Wood is generally not used for buildings as there is so little wood in the polar basin. There is little wood available except for driftwood. They must trade for most of their wood which goes into more important items such as sleds, tent frames, and the frames of kayaks and umiaks.
Red Hunter dictionary
Most Red Hunters do not speak Gorean. They have their own language and the following are the small amount of words in their language found within Beasts of Gor. There are quite obviously many other words in their language but they were not given in the books. A dictionary of the Eskimo language might be useful in filling in the gaps.
akko: "shirt tail."
iglu: "house" or "dwelling"
imnak: "steep mountain"
Innuit: "the People"
naartok: "fat belly"
neromiktok: "smooth and soft to touch"
tatkut: "wick trimmer"