The Fereldans are a puzzle to the other races and nations of Ferelden. As a people, they are one bad day away from reverting to barbarism. They repelled invasions from Tevinter during the height of the Imperium with nothing, but dogs and their own obstinate disposition. They are the coarse, willful, dirty, disorganized people who somehow gave rise to the prophet, ushered in an era of enlightenment, and toppled the greatest empire in history.
Once can assume a few things when dealing with these people. First, they value loyalty above all things, beyond wealth, power, and reason. Second, although few things in their country are remarkable to outsiders, they are extremely proud of their accomplishments. Third, if one insults their dogs, they are likely to declare war. And finally, one has underestimated Fereldans when he thinks he has come to understand them.
Culture and Society
Alienage CultureAlienages have existed for as long as elves and shems have lived in the same lands. The Fereldans is not even the worst. In Val Royeaux, they have ten thousand elves living in a space no bigger than Denerim's market. Their walls are supposed to be so high that daylight does not reach the vhenadahl until midday.
But don't be so anxious to start tearing down the walls, and picking fights with the guards. They keep out more than they keep in. Elves do not have to live in the alienages. Sometimes, Elvish families get a good break, they buy a house in the docks, or in the outskirts of town. If they are lucky, they come back to the alienage after the looters have burned their house down. The unlucky ones just go to the pauper field.
In the alienages, Elves are among family. They look out for each other. In the alienages, they do what they can to remember the old ways. The Elves who have gone out there, they are stuck. They will never be Fereldan, and they have gone, and thrown away being Elven, too. So that leaves them as being nothing.
Importance of Dogs
Often visitors, and travelers to Ferelden ask the residents, and scholars to explain the omnipresence of dogs in Ferelden. In every civilized corner of Thedas, astute observers note that dogs are employed in hunting game, keeping barns and storehouses free of vermin, herding livestock, guarding homes, and in the mountains they are even used as beasts of burden. It is simply that Fereldans show appreciation for the work that their dogs do. And the reason for that is tangled up in mythology.
Hafter, the first Fereldan to be named Teyrn, was the hero who united the Fereldans' ancestors, the Alamarri, to drive back the darkspawn of the Second Blight. He was also reputed to be the son of a werewolf. Now, perhaps this was meant to be some comment on his temperament, or simply a way of making a great man even larger than life, but more than half the noble families of Ferelden claim to be his descendants. Since so many of the Fereldan people believe they have some distant kinship with wolves, it is, after all, only good manners to be polite to one's kin.
To its neighbors, Ferelden seemed utterly chaotic. Unlike other monarchies, power did not descend from their throne. Rather, it rose from the support of the freeholders.
Each freehold chooses the bann or arl to whom it pays allegiance. Typically, this choice is made based on proximity of the freehold to the lord’s castle, as it’s rarely worthwhile to pay for the upkeep of soldiers who will arrive at your land too late to defend it. For the most part, each generation of freeholders casts their lot with the same bann as their fathers did, but things can and do change. No formal oaths are sworn, and it is not unheard of, especially in the prickly central Bannorn, for banns to court freeholders away from their neighbors, a practice that inevitably begins feuds that can last for ages.
Teyrns arose from among the banns, war leaders who, in antiquity, had grown powerful enough to move other banns to swear fealty to them. There were many of these in the days before King Calenhad, but he succeeded in whittling them down to only two: Gwaren in the south and Highever in the north. These teyrns still hold the oaths of banns and arls. They may call upon them in the event of war or disaster and they are responsible for defending those sworn to them.
The teyrns established the arls, giving them command of strategic fortresses that the teyrns could not oversee themselves. They are somewhat more prestigious than banns but they have no banns sworn to them.
The king is the most powerful of the teyrns. Although Denerim was originally the teyrnir of the king, it has since been reduced to an arling, as the king’s domain is now all of Ferelden. But even the king’s power must come from the banns.
This is especially evident during the Landsmeet, an annual council for which the nobles of Ferelden gather. It has been held for almost three thousand years with only a few interruptions for Blights and invasions. The sight of a king asking for, and working to win the support of "lesser" men is a source of constant wonder to foreign ambassadors.