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The concept of Retirement

Discussion in 'Research' started by Northern, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. Northern

    Northern Dreamer

    So I'm working on story about a medieval man who in his youth deserted from the local army to make his fortune and glory as a mercenary. The story starts when the man is in his early 50's and he has long given up the life of the sword for many years.

    The issue I'm running into is how to refer to his previous life as a mercenary.

    I was originally just going to go with 'retired mercenary', but then of course the inner editor kicks in and I start to doubt myself.

    Was the concept of being retired from something even a thing in medieval times? The word retired itself sounds to me to be more of a modern invention.

    I'm not sure what other word I could use. 'Former Mercenary' sounds a bit flat but the best I could come up with.

    'Veteran Mercenary' maybe? But that kind of implies a sort of societal structure and respect which I doubt a sell-sword would get.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    How about "former mercenary," perhaps?
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Unemployed. Former.

    Retired implies a structure. Roman soldiers were retired--there was a mustering out ceremony and even retirement benefits.

    Soldiers in medieval armies had a variety of roles and relationships. But mercenaries were simply hirelings. They fought for a specific term of service, were paid (or not), and that was that.

    The ones who come closest to the fantasy notion of a sell-sword would probably come from the very late Middle Ages--the condottierri of Italy, the Landsknechten of Germany, the routiers of France, and the Swiss mercenaries (Reislaufen). These guys were all closer to career warriors and all (that's a surmise) aimed to make enough money to settle down somewhere, buy land or a shop. They looked to their captain to gain the contracts, protect their interests, and see to fair shares. I don't know of any captain who tried to settle his veterans, but I wouldn't be surprised if examples could be found. For their part, captains can be found who aimed at not only land but titles. Some succeeded. But I wouldn't call any of them retired.
  4. Northern

    Northern Dreamer

    Wow. Thanks for the detailed information.

    I'll just stick with former then, but it's good to know the reasoning.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Former history professor here. It's a twitch. I can't control it. :)
  6. Northern

    Northern Dreamer

    On a semi-related note, what would be the term for someone who has decided to join an army, but has not yet been officially inducted?

    I'm assuming they would just be referred to as a 'recruit' even though they haven't been given any equipment or training yet.

    Prospect may work as well, but that seems like less of a military term.
  7. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Maester

    Inductee, possibly, or maybe recruit. Though I can see prospect working. Also for the mercenary he could be 'Not Dead', which seems to be a good professional achievement.
  8. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    slang term for roman legion recruits:


  9. Vaporo

    Vaporo Sage

    While retirement does imply some sort of structure, in modern vernacular it's often just means "quit working" in any context. A successful small business owner may close their shop and call themselves "retired" at age 40, even though they aren't receiving any sort of compensation and are just living off of the money they made while working.

    I don't think many people will bat an eye in a mercenary describes himself as "retired," even though it's not historically correct. Does this take place in the past of our world, or in a fantasy setting? If it's our world, then yes, I'd try to be historically accurate as possible with the wording.
  10. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Sage

    The word "stipend" comes to mind, but again not for the truly self-employed solo mercenary.

    I think it was... in feudal Japan, older samurais were kept on a sort of retainer from their Shogun/ Emperor, and by old age were usually titled and landed to secure a comfortable existence. They trained younger samurais, and could still be called back into battle by their Master. They received funds, even in their more limited service capacity.

    You might want to look at the Ronin, the masterless samurai, and what their 'retirement' looked like (hint, not a great gig without a Master). They had higher status by law, but without a Shogun to finance them regularly were essentially gentried-sell-swords.

    If a mercenary worked for a company, ( a chartered business like the East India Trading ) there might be some expectation of 'retirement'. What is that sailor's shanty line "o grant me a fief that looks out on the sea"? Not just words, those were retirement packages. X years of service, with X pay and should you live to old age, a spit of land free and clear.

    Your not-working-mercenary probably invested in business or lands that would fund their retirement. Think "silent partner". Maybe even a few. If I had the money under those working parameters, I'd probably buy or be silent partner in say, a brewery, and make sure I also owned some of my own grain fields to help mitigate fluctuating costs of operation. Maybe a vineyard.

    They'd need to figure out how to make their money stay alive in the economy, not just horde it all in a coffee can and hope for the best. Private loans and small lending might be an interesting retirement plan. Hint: You're probably going to make timely and interest payments to your lender, if the lender were known for killing people for a living.

    And, the other obvious and time-honored answer was to also have lots of children who could contribute to your living expenses in your not-working-years.

    So, I think "former" works. And not so much a true retirement the way we think of, but not doing what you did for a living anymore in older age. More of a career change to part time easier work, or living off diversified investments established earlier.
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    So, the first step would be candidate. That's a maybe recruit. A person who hasn't started the paperwork, done the first health screenings or whatever. They could still back out on a whim, or be rejected out of hand. Once you do that first step you're a recruit, or maybe a cadet. I would suggest that recruits are more part of a "boot camp" and cadets are working at formal training, like at a naval academy. Conceivably you could go through both steps.

    Those are, y'know, the correct English words. The slang terms are abundant, and range from the hostile virgin, newb, or fresh meat, to just rookie.

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