|Book 16: The Guardsman of Gor|
The books of John Norman, the pseudonym of Dr. John Lange, a professor of philosophy and a classical scholar, are not very well written to be honest. Norman touches a subject and elaborates for about 10 pages on this subject and goes on with the story. Over and over again. In all his books. He delights in ethnography, populating his planet with the equivalents of Roman, Greek, Native American, Viking, and other cultures. The Gorean humans are permitted advanced architectural, agricultural and medical skills (including life extension), but are forced to remain primitive in the fields of transportation, communication and weaponry due to restrictions on technology imposed by their rulers. It’s like back to the middle ages without it side effects.
In more than 30 books John Norman paints a world where man are real man. If you can’t protect your own property, be that possessions or women, you die by a rival’s sword. The woman are either “free woman”, respected but totally dependent on the protection of man or a Kajira ( a slave). Most of the novels in the series are action and sexual adventures, with many of the military engagements borrowing liberally from historic ones, such as the trireme battles of ancient Greece and the castle sieges of medieval Europe. Ar, the largest city in known Gor, has resemblances to the ancient city of Rome, and its land empire is opposed to the sea-power of the island of Cos.
The series is an overlapping of planetary romance and sword and planet. The first book, Tarnsman of Gor, opens with scenes reminiscent of scenes in the first book of the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs; both feature the protagonist narrating his adventures after being transported to another world. These parallels end after the first few books, really. The first book of John Norman was published in 1966 and he recently has written some new books in the series.
The detail of the books was discovered soon by BDSM-ers in the sixties and have lived a cult existence since that time. The many detailed slave positions (See: N = Nadu on June, 16th) and have been an inspiration for many common submissive positions today.
“Free women, in most of the high cities on Gor, particularly those of higher caste, go veiled in public. Also they commonly wear the robes of concealment, which cover them from head to toe. Even gloves are often worn. There are many reasons for this, having to do with modesty, security, and such.” There is a reference to the clothing of nuns and Muslim women nowadays.
“Free women are often cruel to beautiful female slaves. They put us under terrifying discipline. Perhaps they sense in us something of greater interest to men than themselves, something which constitutes to them a threat, something which is subtly competitive, and successfully so, to them. I do not know. Perhaps they fear us, or the slave in themselves. I do not know. Mostly I suspect the women were furious with me because I had been responsive to the touch of the auctioneer’s whip. Free women, desiring to yield, pride themselves on their capacity not to yield, to maintain their quality and integrity; slave girls, on the other hand, are not permitted such luxuries; they, whether they desire to yield or not, must yield, and totally; perhaps free women wish they did not have to be free, and could relate in biological naturalness, like the slave girl, to the dominant organism. Perhaps they wish they were slaves. I do not know. One thing is certain, and that is that there is a deep, psychological hostility on the part of the free woman for her sister in bondage, particularly if she be beautiful. Slave girls, accordingly, fear free women; slave girls want to be locked in the collars of men, not women.”
The act of branding is only arousing in a book. In a fantasy world. There are people out there who have themselves branded, true, but it is playing with your health. There are high risks of first degree burns, it’s never going away, and often it is not as pretty as a tattoo. A tattoo is not painless, but in no comparison with the branding. That said, back to fantasy:
Slaves on Gor are recognized and identified by their brand. A simple K the fist letter of Kajira (slave girl) is placed on her thigh, like in the picture.
In theory, if not in practice, when the girl finds herself branded like an animal, finds her fair skin marked by the iron of a master, she cannot fail, somehow, in the deepest levels of her thought, to regard herself as something which is owned, as mere property, as something belonging to the brute who has put the burning iron to her thigh.
The branded kef-symbol
Most simply the brand is supposed to convince the girl that she is truly owned; it is supposed to make her feel owned. When the iron is pulled away and she knows the pain and degradation and smells the odor of her burned flesh, she is supposed to tell herself, understanding its full and terrible import, I AM HIS.
Actually I suppose the effect of the brand depends greatly on the girl. In many girls I would suppose the brand has little effect besides contributing to their shame, their misery and humiliation. With other girls it might well increase their intractability, their hostility. On the other hand, I have known of several cases in which a proud, insolent woman, even one of great intelligence, who resisted a master to the very touch of the iron, once branded became instantly a passionate and obedient Pleasure Slave.
But all in all I do not know if the brand is used for its psychological effect or not. Perhaps it is merely a device for merchants who must have some such means for tracing runaway slaves, which would otherwise constitute a costly hazard to their trade.
John Norman has a special place in my heart. A very ordinary man with suppressed dreams. And the guts to publish in a time with no shades of anything. To have the courage to say what you feel, now that sounds familiar to all of us, doesn’t it?