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The social structure of Pern is a bit complex. Basically it is a merit system that is built on hard work, or at least that is the best case scenario; not always the norm. The people of Pern live for the most part a pastoral life style that is interrupted every 200 turns, where it becomes a style of life built around merely surviving. The Pernese people have technological capabilities comparable with that of the late 1800's minus trains and cars...any types of engines. They also have geothermal heating and plumbing...other aspects though are very medieval...as in weaponry, absence of gunpowder...and in clothing.

Pernese social structure is similar to the feudal society of the late middle ages/ early renaissance period on Earth. It is based on honor and duty, each level owes the other. The riders are owed respect, food and goods in exchange for protection. The Lord holders owe the riders those goods for the protection. Minor holders owe respect and goods for the protection and land the Lord Holder grants them...and so forth and so on, even down to the lowliest drudge.

Dragonriders could be likened to the knights of old...only instead of fighting dragons...they are partnered with them. The holders and craftsmen being a closer match to their historical counterparts. The Middle Ages comparison is not exact though. Pernese society allows much more freedom of movement through the social classes.

The Crafthalls have three levels: apprentice, journeyman, and master. Each craft has masters specializing in various aspects of the craft, and considered expert in his or her particular field. Above all of these is the CraftMaster of each craft, who is the ultimate authority on craft matters, and who oversees all aspects of his or her craft. Promotion to the next rank is based on knowledge and merit, although politics undoubtedly comes into play, especially in the choosing of craft masters.


Apprentices are the lowest in rank, and are usually young boys or girls. After showing proficiency in the craft by passing craft tests, apprentices are advanced to the rank of journeyman. Journeymen (and women) are frequently ousted around Pern to learn from various masters, to further develop the skills learned as an apprentice, and to disseminate new craft skills or information. Upon further testing, something like a doctoral examination, a journeyman is elevated to the rank of master. The best masters are generally posted to the main craft hall to aid in the instruction of the apprentices and journeymen. Politics also play in where a journeyman- or -woman will be stationed...If you don't play it right...it is easy to end up in the middle of nowhere.

Holder seems to be the most common profession on Pern, as these are the people who actually raise the crops and animals needed by the crafts and dragonriders. The rank structure is based more on bloodline and inheritance, rather than merit.

There seems to be no official title for the field hands and others who actually do the back-breaking work, but they seem to have rank equal to or slightly greater than craft apprentices. (one exception to this are the drudges: servants who generally get all the poor jobs that no one can find an apprentice to do.) Minor holders are those who control only their own lands, the lands handed to them to by the Lord Holder...they can be likened to the lesser landed nobility. They are the managers who oversee tracts of land, and organize the workforce. Minor holders seem to be equivalent or slightly greater in rank than journeymen. They owe a portion of their goods to the Lord Holder.

Lord Holders are the senior management, likened to minor kings, perhaps?: They oversee the work of several minor holders, but are directly accountable to no-one but themselves. Lord and Lady Holders are assisted by warders, sort of like executive secretaries.

Only in very rare cases will a Lord- or Ladyship pass to someone not of their blood. Nevertheless, new Lord Holders (for some reason, they pass only to sons) are required to be confirmed in their rank by a majority of the other lord holders. Lords and Ladies have rank equal to Craftmasters.

Dragonriders are the defenders of Pern. This is the only profession into which one needs to be elected or "searched", unless you are born to someone already in the weyr. Children in the weyr, whether born to dragonriders or someone of the lower caverns, are automatically presented as candidates for hatchings. They, along with those found on search, are presented until they either impress, or are too old (generally around 20 turns.) Those who do not impress can stay on as support personnel, or may leave to follow another path. Those who impress become weyrlings, roughly equal to apprentices.

Once their training is complete, they will take their places as dragonriders with the fighting wings. Their positions are governed by the color dragon they ride: Blues and greens are the "rank and file" of the wings; Browns can become wingseconds (two seconds to a wing, each responsible for part of the wing); Bronzes can be wingseconds, but are usually wingleaders.

Bronze riders can also become Weyrleaders, provided their dragon flies (mates with) the senior queen of the weyr (whose rider is the Weyrwoman.) Thus, while the Weyrleader, and his policies, may change many times, leadership of the weyr is maintained through the Weyrwoman. The weyrleaders are of equal rank with Lord Holders and craftmasters, while the ordinary blue or green dragonrider is equivalent to journeymen, with brown, bronze and riders accorded progressively more respect.

It is possible for anyone to become a dragonrider, although once a rider, always a rider, as long as the dragon lives. (Barring calamity, a dragon will always outlive it's rider, although once the rider dies, the dragon will suicide by going between.)

It is also possible for anyone to become a holder, and successful minor holders may be rewarded by their Lord or Lady with more land. If there is no acceptable blood relative available to replace a deceased Lord or Lady, or if the Lord or Lady so wishes it, it is possible for anyone (usually a minor holder) to be given the Lordship, although this is very rare.

People are free to join any craft, and once accepted are free to leave at any time, although this usually happens only if they are searched or named holder elsewhere.

A person is never officially more than just a holder, crafter, or rider, as the demands of each are enough to eliminate the others. However, each inhabitant of Pern has at least some secondary skills in other areas, as they tend to be self-reliant for their minor daily needs.

Lord Holders, Weyrleaders and Craftmasters are all autonomous in their own Hold, Weyr or Hall. They meet in a conclave to discuss major issues that effect more than just themselves or their people...although no one can give orders to those that are or sometimes aren't present.

All references to worlds and characters based on Anne McCaffrey's fiction are copyright ŠAnne McCaffrey 1999- 2004, all rights reserved, and used by permission of the author.

The Dragonriders of PernŽ is Reg U.S. Pat & Tm. Office, by Anne McCaffrey, and may not be used or reproduced without permission of the author.