The Thrall System

The Thrall System

Amongst the legally codified Germanic castes of the 6th-14th centuries were the thrall, slaves, who were the property of
the higher castes, which were the noblemen and freemen. They were recognized as chattel and were bought, sold, and
used as general elements of economic production and social value. A person transitioned into a condition of thralldom
through conquests of war, accrued debt, being born into the system per their parentage, or legal judgements related to
criminality. Murder and theft were punished through the sentencing the perpetrator to slavery, in the case of theft the
thief was forced to become the victim’s thrall. The common signifier of the status of a thrall throughout much of the existence
of the thrall system was a neck collar, in addition to short-cropped hair for the male thrall. As the Germanic lands became
more Christian it became customary that no female thrall was allowed to wear her hair beneath a veil. A master had the
legal obligation of providing medical care and continued economic and general support for thralls who were severly injured
in their service of toil, the master was granted unconditional authority over the thrall.Thralls could be freed by their masters
at any time, in any fashion deemed appropriate by the master, which included the thrall, or a third-party, purchasing their
freedom. If the thrall intended to purchase their own freedom they were legally obligated to initially pay one-half of the
price in the local currency, they then paid the remainder during, what often is retrospectively deemed, a freedom feast.
Thereafter the thrall would invite his master to be his guest, where the former thrall would provide his former master with
a seat of honor. They would then put their collar around the neck of a sheep and slay it through a method of beheading,
this had symbolic significance, as it implied an abolishment of the previous status of servitude. The collar, along with the
feast, was then presented to the former master as one final act of servitude.

After being granted this freedom the former thrall entered into a legally codified, and socially recognized rank, where they
were still subservient, in many respects, to the wishes of their former master, but these obligations were conditional to the maintenance of the former thralls’ relative freedom. The former master was granted continued authority relating to particulars
of political involvement and property, they were able direct the freed thrall in how they voted, the former thrall required their
former master’s approval prior to pursuing dealings in business, changes of residence, marriage, and lawsuits, any finances
gained through lawsuits were then split by half with their former master. Re-enslavement was, often, the punishment for not
observing these customs. The master was legally obligated to provide the freed thrall with advice, legal protection, and more
general support. if the freed thrall didn’t have children, born after they gained their freedom, upon their death, their former
master inherited all of their property, however if the former thrall did have children the children were obligated to leave a
portion of said property to the former master, it, generally, was two to four generations, after the initial freeing of the thrall,
before their descendants were granted the full status of free German’s, with no obligations in respect to the representative
of their ancestral master.

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