My friend Deuce Richardson shanghaied me into this here blogging trade many years ago, with an invitation to write for the award-winning Robert E. Howard site The Cimmerian. These days, he’s working with DMR Books, which publishes fantasy, horror, and adventure fiction in the traditions of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, and other classic writers of the pulp era. For the past few years, Deuce has invited me to participate in a guest-blogging tradition that kicks of the new year. My target is the intersection of the historical frontier and the realms of fantasy. It’s an honor to be invited, and a kick doing the pieces.
This year, I turned off of the Great Road at the Troll-fells and headed off into the depths of Wilderland to explore the Ranger as an archetype of both history and fantasy. The trail led me to Sherwood Forest, and to Colonial New England, down to the Texas Borderlands and across the Black River into the Pictish Wilderness. You can read the piece here.
This endeavor whetted my appetite. There’s a lot of potential in the exploration of the Ranger as an archetype — across centuries of history and into the mythic realm — and it’s an enticing trail to take. I’ve explored in this territory some, but I’m talking about taking a serious whack at a kind of academic paper that I’d release as a downloadable PDF. I ask you, comrades: Is this something you’d be interested in seeing from Frontier Partisans?
The Warden is close kin to the Ranger. My friend Dick Sandvik, co-founder of the Sisters Folk Festival, scouted up a Canadian folk trio/band called The Wardens — after the occupation of the members.
The Wardens stories and mountain music rise from the very land they’ve protected as Canadian national park wardens collectively for over 50 years. The band have performed widely across western Canada and in the US from Alaska to California. They’ve shared the stage with Blue Rodeo, Pharis & Jason Romero and Ian Tyson and performed at Folk Alliance International, Canmore Folk Festival’s main stage and for a royal audience in Edmonton, Alberta.
This is straight-up, old-school folk music — and I dig it.
Quixotic Mainer says
A thesis on the history and permutations of Rangering sounds like the sort of thing I would print and keep on hand!
I just crossed off a ranging bucket list item and took a tracking course with some folk of the Tom Brown school. The day started with a philosophical discussion that considered the role of a scout to a society. You are definitely on to something there!
That is fantastic.
Paul McNamee says
There’s a lot of potential in the exploration of the Ranger as an archetype — across centuries of history and into the mythic realm — and it’s an enticing trail to take. I’ve explored in this territory some, but I’m talking about taking a serious whack at a kind of academic paper that I’d release as a downloadable PDF. I ask you, comrades: Is this something you’d be interested in seeing from Frontier Partisans?
I would certainly like to see more on the Ranger front!
I am currently reading, among other things, the non-fiction book Hidden War about Special Ops Wardens battling the drug cartels who use public land to grow marijuana. It’s fairly interesting and I will probably send you a review of it.
Loved seeing Tolkien so prominently mentioned in your DMR piece. A treasured childhood gift was a box set of LOTR and Hobbit (with wonderful late 80s cover art), and I still remember reading Aragorn’s words about the Rangers of the North. “Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do not stay… when dark things come from the houseless hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in quiet lands, or in the homes of simple men at night, if the Dúnedain were asleep, or were all gone into the grave?”
A chance for more musings on rangers? Yes, please.
Thanks Mike — what a fine passage that is.
David Wrolson says
Does somebody like Meinertzhagen fit the bill of what you are after? If so, it brings it into the mechanical death age of WW1.
Wherever your stick floats-Pard.
Meinertzhagen is a fascinating figure. I definitely want to cover the whole time frame from the 17th to the 21st century.
Thom Eley says
How do you define ranger? I’ve heard several conflicting definitions! I think that you are on a noble task.
Thanks Thom. A proper definition is part of the quest, methinks.
Brian Hessling says
Good post for DMR Books. Rangers lead the way…It got me thinking of our 2nd Ranger battalion in the Hurtgen forest in ’44, running the same woods as Gauls and Goths and Romans.
Some serious Continuity & Persistence there, right?
Greg Marshall says
We just saw a Wardens concert here in Gibsons, BC. (no apostrophe there, language nazis!)
It was really good. These guys are musically terrific, and very, very engaging.
This is not the typical musical performance though, but more a musical story-telling evening wrapped around warden culture in Banff, Jasper and other Rocky Mountain parks.
They performed in front of a rear-projection screen with ever-changing images of warden life in the Parks from the early years to the present. Somewhat nostalgic imagery: cowboys on horseback guiding a string of pack-horses across rugged alpine terrain. (original wardens were cowboys from the foothills country)
Less nostalgic imagery: controlling avalanches with help from the army’s 105mm guns.
You won’t be disappointed to see them live.
That sounds wonderful to me.
Agreed with the commenters that the potential here is vast. Someone such as yourself who has researched the historical rangers of the 17th-19th centuries, the longhunters, and the other wlderness warriors of North America has insights into tools and methods that some game developers and writers simply lack. Part of that i think comes from being a bit too confined to the Tolkien archetype that has emerged and been further narrowed by role playing games and more pulp fantasy novels. They’re all fun and great, but miss simple things.
For example, the Youtuber Shadiversity did an interesting video on which weapons would make sense for a real life medieval ranger, and discovered that a manchette would have been more effective for clearing brush than an axe (let alone a long sword). I remember thinking that the Mexican espada ancha would have been even more ideal and versatile as a combat weapon and and a frontier tool. Little details like that would be fun to explore.
Yes! We had quite a discussion here a while back on the espada ancha and the European hunting sword. Here’s the post:
I think I saw the video you referenced but haven’t watched it. Will rectify that immediately.