Where are the Future Squires?

corby's picture

I've heard through the grapevine now and then that, apparently, I'm scary.

I've learned to remember this on an intellectual level, but my emotional self still doesn't take this into account. That is, I have to think about that fact in my interactions with people–my emotional self doesn't deal with interpreting my relationships with strangers anywhere along the lines of "that person may be acting that way toward me because they're scared of me."

In part, I suppose it is because I don't ever ever recall, twenty years ago, being scared of any of the knights. I respected them, yes, but I still recall Baroness Caitilin advising me "I wouldn't call him 'Diccon'." when I asked her for advice on how to approach Duke Richard for instruction. 'Cause I was already going to call him by that familiar name–everyone else was!

Five people have approached me to be squires over the years. Only Colin and I actually came to agreement. Yes, there are people I"ve asked who didn't work out too. About the same numbers, actually. Perhaps tellingly, those who asked me mostly did it in the first few years of my knighthood. In the last 7 years, only one guy. Who promptly was swallowed back into his regular life.

Everyone I've taken besides Colin has been asked by me: Susannah, Edwin, Evja, Philip. When I asked him, Philip's second or third reaction was "Gee, I didn't think you liked me very much."

So there's some sort of PR problem out there, which I'm in part trying to deal with here.

I think the folks I regularly practice with know I'm not scary, but by and large those guys are all younger than I would consider taking as a squire. Like Anton, I want people who are grown ups, who know what they want in the SCA, whose lives won't be turned inside-out the week after they graduate. As highly as I regard the great bunch of 18-20 year olds at Thursday practice, I've seen twenty-five 18-20 year olds jump enthusiastically into the SCA, build armor, fight for a while...and disappear.

So while I could probably have 4 new squires out of the UVa practice, that's not right for me. I'll talk about that with them after graduation.

Over the 12+ years I've been a knight, I've seen many people I thought were a good match for our household go to other knights. By and large, that's fine. A few have become less than they could have been, but that doesn't necessarily reflect on their choice of households. Other things besides who's training you affect your SCA career.

Sometimes a fighter has gotten messed up in fealty problems. These guys are bound to be sensitive. They may have had a messy end to their fealty and be belt shy. Well, all I can say there is that no one I've ever taken in to the house has had that sort of problem with me. To these guys, all I can do is say "Sorry things are as they are. Let me know if I can help in any way."

These days when I look around at practices and events, I don't see a bunch of people obviously ready to enter a formal fealty relationship in order to progress in their fighting. In fact, scouring my mind and actually doing research, I've only thought of two, maybe three, all a long way into North Carolina, one of them a woman. And she's probably not squired yet only because I think I take women's potential more seriously than most of my brothers do.

All of this is, I suppose, a very long way of paraphrasing the masonic bumper sticker "2B1 ask 1". If you think you're a good match for my style of managing a house, a practice, a training path, then talk to me. 2b1 ask >|<. I don't bite. I'm not scary.

Update: an old article of mine on squiring at this link.

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Scary – you? Only as

Scary – you? Only as Pluto. Do I want a squire belt from you – um no. I found myself in a “what me scary/intimidating?” conversation recently. It made me also think about what others saw in me. So, from my perspective, here is what I saw when I first started to get to know Vair and Ermine folks. (“you “ will refer to the group )

You intimidated me. I was shy and unsure of myself. I didn’t want to intrude or bother folks who looked like they had more important things to do than to get to know me. Since many did not have children, I didn’t know if mine would be welcomed or shooed away. You all seem so confidant, intelligent and sticklers for authenticity. I was (and still am) in the “can’t afford, must be creative” phase.

Through the years I have gotten to know most of the folks of Vair and Ermine, many I consider friends. Some still intimidate me with their intelligence. Others still awe me with their talent. But I have learned that all are approachable and willing to get to know others. Most have a great since of humor.

How to change the original perspective? I’m still working on that for myself. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to smile and look approachable.

I'd never call you scary,

I'd never call you scary, Sir Crow. Maybe intense. Usually genial, albeit in an off-center, mischievous way. I've never found reason to be afraid of you.
Thjora, on the other hand...I like to keep HER happy! Fortunately, she's easy to please.

Scary Corby. Where are the students?

Just last night the gentlemen I was dining with expressed being uncomfortable around you and uncertain where they stood with you. (BTW, all of them have no problem being at ease with Thjora.) I had to assure them that if you bothered to pick on them, it was probably a good sign. These aren't potential squires, but still a general feeling that exists with folks who are, in general, friends of Vair and Ermine, if new friends.

But I think the same goes for students of any kind, be them squires, apprentices, or proteges. The prevelant feeling is that you have to be asked by a peer, not to directly approach a peer on forming a formal relationship yourself. As you say, this is a false impression, and as long as you won't take it too personally if directed elsewhere, the best thing you can do is ask. Ideally we'd like to take notice of prospective students, but the reality is that we might be too wrapped up in our other duties to look about. Or we, in our humility, might not think we have anything to teach you until asked.

Just some more thoughts to toss out there...

corby's picture

Good to know!

More evidence I'm the grim rider from that Molly Hatchet cover. Urgh.

Just for the record, I don't think there's any problem with people asking to join some peer's household. (Asking to join some non-peer's household is a whole other thing.)

But on one of your other points, there's no one I don't think I can teach something. :-)

Your sense of humor is such

Your sense of humor is such that people who haven't been around you much sometimes don't know where they stand with you, which is often what makes someone 'scary'. It's not at all that you treat people poorly or anything like that, but your comments occasionally have a tiny bit of zing that can make people wonder whether you're teasing them or wishing that they'd go far away. After seeing you interact with others, most people figure out that you're not scary. The scariest people I know are the ones who are hard to read.


corby's picture

Few are the people

Thanks Gianetta.

Those in doubt, doubt no longer.

Few indeed are the people I wish would go far away, and I'm very, very clear about it. If I don't want someone around, they know it.

I don't think you're scary.

I don't think you're scary. You're very sweet. :)

scary? nah, thats not it.

I'll out myself here, though Mistress Genevieve did a good job of keeping me anonymous. I was one of those that didn't know where I stand. But I think maybe its not a personality thing, though that might contribute (more on that later).

Many people don't understand how the [squire/knight], [pelican/protege], and [apprentice/laurel] relationship. I didn't know until Laura asked me to be her protege, and we are still working things out. I did a ton of reading and was unsure of all that is involved. Frankly, I still am a little bit unsure, but Laura and I agreed to work things through as we go.

My biggest fear growing up was making my father look bad. As an adult, I only have myself to tarnish. I look upon Laura, and a number of others (you included) with awe. I know that you guys are people, awesome people, but just people. Heck, in my mundane life, I've had my fair share of "Are you THE Brian Caswell?" ( Kynny did it too. *grin* ) But that doesn't make me feel any less starstruck by being in ya'lls presence. The thought of tying my ability to stick my foot in my mouth to someone else after only not very recently being free of that fear was not pleasant. Only after quite a bit of discussion with my wife, Kynny, and Laura did I quash most of that uneasyness, though its not completely gone.

I addition, I don't think its commonly clear when it is appropriate to ask, or ask to be asked. I didn't think I was worthy of being asked, though I am glad Laura did. I still don't feel as if I'm doing 'enough', even though I have let what service stuff I've done get in the way of my fighting. Its hard wanting to help out, knowing that I could do a decent job at something, but bowing out as to make sure I am able to spend time with my family.

On the personality side of the house, I think some might not understand your humor. About half of the conversations we've had (all 10 of them :P) has ended with me asking "what just happened?" I couldn't tell if I said something wrong, you were trying to make a point, you were teasing me, or you had other things on your mind. The last one, which after reading my IM logs, I didn't use the etiquette I should have. I know what I asked of you was probably not done in the appropriate context. The next time I see you online, I'll try again.

BTW, I'm not out for squiring, I already got me one of those household thingies.

Brian Murray

I'm pretty sure during my

I'm pretty sure during my time as a squire to Corby I had more than my fair share of trying to guess what he's thinking. But the truth is...he's pretty damn transparent. :)

Our sense of humors are the same; both very dry and occasionally acidic. We disagree on a lot of mundane matters and he teases me mercilously about my conservative views. I might be heard calling him a "commie bastard" and him retorting with a "fascist pig" both of us smiling all along.

If he doesn't wish to talk to you he won't. If he didn't care he wouldn't comment. That said, he can be far closer to Simon Cowell than Randy or Paula. "That's the worst flat snap I've ever seen..."

I like Corby's stolen "2B1 ask 1" and would further modify it to say "2B1 fear none."

corby's picture

You're no fascist!

You've never called me a bastard, to my recollection.

I don't think I ever called you a fascist.
Definitely a reactionary, though.

A reactionary conservative?

A reactionary conservative? I don't think so ;-)

And you're right you are "green" not a commie; it was another example of my acidic humor. Sir Corby feels Hillary Clinton is WAY too right wing. o.O


First, I don't think you're scary. Esoteric, perhaps, but not scary. You have a very intelligent sense of humor, which I suppose some people might find intimidating. In any case, I wanted to comment about taking "grown-ups" as squires. Sure, they don't disappear when they graduate, but they have their own challenges, like jobs and families. All of our squires are "grown-ups" and almost all of them are inactive due to focusing on career and children. Funny, Cuan and I both have jobs and a child, but we still manage to be fairly active.

Pádraigín Ó hEachach

Being a Squire is a Big Step

Good Morrow Great Knight,

Being a squire is a big step.

You are a "proto-knight" if you will, and have all the social requirements and duties of a knight, without the recognition and honor. You must show knightly qualities at all time, fight like a knight, etc... For some the task would be daunting.

In addition, it is difficult to find a "match" between knight and squire. I've met three knights I would squire to.

One is almost 3000 miles away from Atlantia, and 6000 miles away from me when I'm in Japan. It wouldn't work very well if we can't fight regularly.

Another is a good day's drive away from DC, through NYC. The social and fighting fit would be excellent, as in choice #1, but the distance again would be an issue as far as training.

One is actually in DC. All indications suggest it would be that an offer to squire would be rebuffed politely. We have drastically different views on many issues, but I admire his style and convictions.

Distance and compatibility prove to be to be difficult tasks to overcome. Becoming squired means accepting that your knight’s views are your views. If you can’t train together, something is lacking in the relationship.

And in addition, I should at least be of “almost knight” level of fighting before I squire. It would be so the knight can take a rough diamond if you will and polish it until it’s a jewel. I would not ask him to take a lump of coal and compress it into a diamond.

Right now, I’m coal. But I'm willing to bet I could understand your humor. I'm a regular BBC watcher, and it might be that you have a classically English sense of humor.


corby's picture

Firm Opinions!

Well Aaron, those are some pretty firm opinions. But I disagree with many of them.

I don't care a bit about what someone's skill level is when I begin talking to them about squiring. I care what their potential is. In fact, in many ways, it is better for me to get people before they've had any training, because fighting Oldcastle style means most training you've had must be undone.

But more generally I disagree about the "almost knight" level of fighting. This is certainly not the habit of Atlantian knights. Sir Colin was "on a fast path" and was my squire for what, three years before he was knighted? I was squired about 9 years prior to being knighted. Sir Roland, our newest knight, was squired sometime around 1988. (I think he has the Atlantian record, previously held by Sir Iain, who wore out his first squire's belt.)

As for "accepting your knight’s views are your views," ask Sir Colin, poster boy for the RNC, how well he managed to embrace the Green Party manifesto that I espouse.

Excellent points, as always.

Good Morrow Sir Corby,

Excellent points, as always.

Green party…I’m a born and raised Californian and pretty environmentalist myself and plan on bicycling and taking the train to work.

As a knight you have a better grasp on the relationship than I do. I’ve lived in the Outlands, East (twice), West (twice) and An Tir. So I based my experiences on non-Atlantia standards.

I’m sort of like strong on my views – it’s either YES or NO with me, with each side being very extreme. You’ve seen my armour – it’s a statement of the inner self in some ways. On the Meyers-Briggs Test I come out as an ESTJ, with 95% in the J (Judgmental) category. That doesn’t mean my views can’t change, but when I hold them they are strong.


Given that I grew up grappling in Jui-Jitsu at the age of seven, I had a heck of time when I attended a Karate class. I can understand your views on training in that way.

As it is, I would gladly be the student of someone, but only if the compatibility was there and we could fight two times per week would I consider being a squire. And then, as a Type-A personality, I would be pushing hard for knighthood. It would become a job. And that could ruin my fun, which is why I came into the SCA in the first place.

At one time I made a “Squire Contract” that outlines what I would expect. I got no takers.


I do enjoy being helpful, and when I can help, I will. The problem with a squire relationship is that I don’t really see where I have the option of saying “no.” It’s either YES or give back the belt, in most cases I’ve seen.

Your servant,

Will (aka Aaron)


You are just too Tall...but gods and tall knights have to be that way.


Perception vs. Reality

You are one of the best folks I've ever met for new person recruitment in the SCA.

However, I agree that your wit and demeanor often put up a wall between many folks and you and your circle. I have known most of Vair and Ermine for...17 years and frankly, even I sometimes feel like I am an uninvited guest that has stayed too long at the party with the big kids. I usually just bluster on, but I know it effects other folks that are less bullheaded (or secure if you want to look at it that way) than I am.

You are a dangerously smart man. You don't dumb that down to suit the people that you are talking to. Some folks do that. I'm not saying your approach is wrong, if anything it is admirable, because you stay true to yourself.

But, I would say that you are elitist and that is often off putting. I remember a conversation I was present for (or heard about latter) that you had with one of your squires.
Squire: "They (the barony, anglesey, whomever it was the conflict was with) think of you as Elitist."
You" "That's because I _AM_!" (*insert big Corby Bug Eyes*)

Anyway, I remember Niall approaching you about squiring, but that has to have been over a decade ago now...

I will say that the perception exists and has for a long, long time. Despite my personal closeness with Anton and Luned, if it hadn't been for that prevailing feeling of "I don't know where I stand with him/them" I most likely would have approached you to squire to you many, many years ago.

Sir Bryce de Byram, OL, OP

corby's picture

Populist Elite

Oh yes, I am an elitist!. But I want everyone to be an elitist with me!

The SCA is that rarest of things--a meritocratic Nobility. (OK, sometimes it is a brown-noser's Nobility.) But really, I'm willing to give anyone the chance to prove themselves to not be fools and churls.

And Niall--he approached me, we talked, and he never did anything else of what I asked him at that time. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Thanks for your comment.

your not scary.

Deleted at Gaston's request

I don't want to get too much

I don't want to get too much into it in this forum but let me just point out that I believe Corby's reaction is a fine example of how he honors and respects the views and opinions of members of his household. Fair or not, I expressed my concerns of past dealings with you and he respected my wish not to interact with you. Not to spread rumors, bad blood, or any past stories; just remain respectfully quiet allowing you to seek comradarie elsewhere.

What a well thought out

Deleted at Gaston's request
**** EDIT****
Sadly it appears i can no longer edit or delete my post, Corby would you please delete it as the moderator.

Oh there is no line in the

Oh there is no line in the sand, I just choose to spend my time making new friends. I hold no ill will and am polite whenever we cross paths. I think that is a good way to leave it.

Scary is the wrong word

I think there is a difference between scary and intimidating. Scary makes me think of the backlash of talking to you, which I have never seen any of. Intimidating is more of a ...."I'm not sure I have anything to say that wont sound innane and he will think im a looney toon" type of thing. And you are intimidating. You are well spoken, very intelligent, and sure of your virtues and principles. For someone who is still figuring out who they are, talking to you about those things you feel strongly about is a daunting task. I know for me personally, my vocabulary isnt all that great and that stops me from entering conversations I feel take place "above my vocabulary level". You speak very easily. You use words I cant even look up sometimes cause I dont even know how to pronounce them. But all these things are MY faults, not yours. Please dont think I am suggesting you "dumb down" your speach for anyone. Potential squires are looking for (or should be) a Knight they can look up to in many areas. I dont know if this helps at all but it is how I see it.

"Aloof" or "Reserved" are

"Aloof" or "Reserved" are the words I'd use. But that shouldn't be read as a negative; it's just the way I perceive you to be.

And frankly, anybody who wasn't Kane wouldn't have lasted very long as my knight or been very interested in having me as a squire. Kane's the only person I know of who had the perfect mix of "nut" and "serious"...he was so funny that even if he was making fun of something you'd done you were too busy laughing to care, but if he had to be serious he could do it with the best. And since he'd been through pretty much the same scenarios I'd been through he understood and was willing to put up with it all over again even if it occasionally frustrated him so badly he wanted to cry.

What the world needs is a good ELE. - Jonathan Blackbow

You would swear this was an LJ meme or something...

Anyway, a couple years ago, I did have a problem approaching Knights, not just you in general. I'm not sure what my hangup was, but if I had to guess, it seems like you guys are a close group that all have their in house jokes and such. I figured that part of becoming a squire was so that you would have someone to guide you into that society so you could hang out with them.

I will admit that your helm is also intimidating. It might sound stupid, but if you put yourself next to say, Sir Colin, you have quite a few inches on him and you have a visor that doesn't allow anyone to see your face. Sir Colin, with a bar grill and a few inches knocked off, doesn't inspire that same "giant" reaction. I'm not saying you should change your helm, because it's quite cool, but just letting you know.

As for "where all the potential squires have gone," I can only speak for myself. I felt that if I were going to squire to someone, I should at least hold up my end of the bargain. To me, that meant that I would be willing to show up and work on my fighting, and try to incorporate the things my knight tells me to do. To do anything less would be like a baseball pitcher not bothering to follow the advice of the team's pitching coach; why waste everyone's time? Only recently have I felt like I am in a spot where I could intelligently listen to a knight/coach and really be worth training at that level. Sure, everyone who wants to fight is worth training, but not everyone is really worth the effort to try and make a knight of them (IMHO).


I'm not a giant? I don't

I'm not a giant? I don't intimidate??? o.O

Why don't people TELL me these things!!!

Seriously though...when the student is ready the master will appear. Still, might be worth your time talking to that master and let him know you are interested.

I believe that the student

I believe that the student should approach the teacher myself. But I have had it both ways.

Sir Bryce de Byram, OL, OP

Now now, I was just using

Now now, I was just using you as a handy example of someone of a shorter build than Sir Corby. One would have to be pretty darn new to not take a Knight seriously on the field.

I'm lucky enough to live in Windmasters' so there's a good chance that a master can appear, but what of those in more outlying areas? It would suck to fight and fight for years in some place that has no knights to guide such training.


corby's picture

Helmets and training-funny and grim

Funny you say that about my helmet. Susanna was really glad that I went to a closed helm because she said the big smile and other goofy faces I made while fighting broke her concentration.

And unfortunately, not everyone who wants to fight is worth training. Some make excuses about why they have to do something wrong or stupid, and others who "want" to fight suck up 4-5 months of time and then disappear forever.

I also think that fighting well is its own reward, and won't hesitate to squire someone whom I don't think will ever get knighted. To me, knighthood is a result, not a goal. Though squires of mine have considered it a goal--like Mr. Kill Task, Colin.

It's not the destination but

It's not the destination but the journey. Still, you need to know which direction to step off smartly in. Goals give you somthing to measure against and you should measure yourself regularly (no sophomoric humor please). :P

corby's picture

right, right.

Well, clearly, that worked for you.

But it wasn't my mental method.

If you could laugh like a

If you could laugh like a crazy person and talk with a really deep voice in that helm of yours, I bet you could inspire some real fear and terror on the field. I know I would be almost as scared of you as I am of 400 lb. guys with unpadded pole arms ;-)

Also, I was thinking further about things last night, and I remembered taking a class by you on how to keep mild steel looking good, and using 3 bags to keep your gear in, etc. I think that was a turning point in how I saw you, because it was an hour of just a bunch of fighters chatting about how to not look like crap on the field. Perhaps, if you are looking to improve your PR image (and I'm not sure you should), then teaching more classes like that would help.


Scary? Nah... Intimidating? Well... to some!


*waves* Saw "House de la Flamme" off the LJ SCA group and thought to myself... "I wonder if that's Corby & Thjora?"

Back when I was in Caer Mear, you weren't one to suffer fools glady. That's a characteristic that's shared by many of the very intelligent and quick. You have definite opinions and are not shy to share them. To many, that's intimidating. *grins* Looks like you haven't mellowed much.

I'm popping into Richmond at the end of July, but it looks like you're in Charlottesville these days.

The SCA lost-lamb formerly known as Jade in Caer Mear.