Speculative Fiction Tropes: The Warrior Caste
Today continues the April A-Z Challenge. This month, I'll be blogging (almost) daily about a different speculative fiction trope, one for each letter of the alphabet. Today's entry is on the Warrior Caste.
It should come as no surprise that this sense of awe has carried over into fiction. Not only do we writers tend to place the spotlight on warriors and soldiers in our work, we often seek to personify that reverence. We imbue many of our characters with qualities historically associated with war and combat. We may even go so far as creating an entire caste of warriors. Sometimes, an entire race.
Of course, the idea of entire groups of people bred for battle is hardly fiction. Like many tropes, this one has firm roots in history. Before we reached the technological heights of today, that allow the warriors among us to dole death with an Xbox controller, human beings themselves were often weaponized, raised from childhood to serve warfare. From the famed Spartiates of ancient Greece to the Hindu Kshatriyas, there have been warrior castes in cultures the world over. War is one of humankind's oldest endeavors. Our methods may have changed over the centuries, but we've never stopped trying to be awesome at it.
One of my favorite examples is the Dothraki from George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. Inspired by the Mongolian horde that carved a path of bloodshed and conquest across Asia and Eastern Europe in the 13th century, these nomadic "horse lords" live for the hunt. As Daenerys Targaryen grows to love the Dothraki Khal she's been forced to marry, the reader begins to gain insight into their culture and history. They go from savage brutes to proud warriors in the space of one book.
This is one trope that I have definitely used in my own work. I don't want to go into it too deeply, as it would be getting into the real meat of the novel I spent most of last year working on (and plan on returning to sometime in the future), but the protagonist and several other characters in the story are members of what could easily be called a warrior caste, by no choice of their own. It's one of the central themes of the book.
As cliche as "proud warrior race" characters can often be, they still convey a sense of adventure that I love. They appeal to the child in me who used to swing sticks around like pretend swords in the backyard. That child is still alive and well, and can't get enough of these kinds of stories. Unfortunately, the swords I play with these days are made of steel, and therefore must remain on my office wall for the safety of the fragile objects around me.
Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Game of Thrones
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic