- "Ferelden, as we think of it now, did not exist before the Exalted Age. Instead, the valley was divided up into dozens of old Alamarri clans. They warred constantly with one another over land, honor, the allegiance of the freeholders, and, on one notable occasion, the name given to a favorite mabari. And then, in the 33rd year of the Exalted Age, Calenhad Theirin became teyrn of Denerim, and everything changed."
―Excerpt from Ferelden: Folklore and History, by Sister Petrine, Chantry scholar
The Kingdom of Ferelden is a relatively young kingdom located in southeastern Thedas. It was formed by King Calenhad nearly four hundred years before the start of the Fifth Blight by uniting Alamarri clans.
- Main article: Unification of Ferelden
When the Alamarri peoples first split from Neromenians and migrated south in -1220 TE, they found a new homeland and called it "Ferelden", which means "fertile valley" in their tongue. However, the fertile valley did not become a nation for another 2800 years. This period of time is littered with numerous wars the Alamarri tribes waged, both with foreign powers such as the Tevinter Imperium and Orlesian Empire, as well as their fellow tribes. During that time the Alamarri developed their political system which remains largely intact to this day. With time, powerful nobles would turn their land into bannorns, then arlings, and finally teyrnirs. The nobles continued the Alamarri tradition of infighting and continued to fight with each other over petty matters in order to gain more power. A few of the most powerful nobles put forward their bid for kingship over the Alamarri, but without success.
Then in the Exalted Age came a man named Calenhad who was born to a merchant. Through a series of events he got involved in the war for kingship, during which time he first became a servant to one of the candidates for the throne. When his master decided to use him to gain advantage against other nobles, Calenhad acted honorably; and through his actions gained respect and command of the armies of his former master. He married his master's noble daughter, and became a teyrn—and a candidate for king himself.
As he was leading his men more joined his side, for he was known to be more honorable than other true nobles. Calenhad also gained followers in the Circle of Magi, as well as the Ash Warriors. By then, the Chantry had become very popular in other lands. Calenhad gained the trust of those amongst the Alamarri who followed the faith, as he was said to be a devoted Andrastian himself.
Grey Warden rebellion
- Main article: Battle of Soldier's Peak
In 7:5 Storm, King Arland Theirin, who earned the reputation of a tyrant, ascended to the throne. Some banns approached Warden-Commander Sophia Dryden, who previously held a claim to the throne, to intercede, and she agreed. She violated the Grey Wardens' neutrality by gathering allies to rebel against the king. Arland discovered the plot and his forces eventually routed Sophia and her followers at Soldier's Peak, where the Wardens held out for a brief time, despite being outnumbered. After defeating the Wardens at Soldier's Peak, Arland banished them from Ferelden. The order would have no presence in Ferelden for another two centuries.
Little is known of what followed Arland's rule, as a civil war for the throne occurred soon after his death. The war lasted a decade and wiped away most records of his reign.
- Main article: Second Orlesian Invasion of Ferelden
The nation was invaded by Orlais in 8:24 Blessed and fully conquered 20 years later. For the next 78 years it was under Orlesian occupation. Orlesian noble Meghren was installed as the king of Ferelden during the late years of the occupation, and the Theirins were forced into hiding while keeping alive the rebellion.
Ferelden was freed through the efforts of Maric Theirin, who was the rightful heir to the throne, and a commoner, Loghain. Loghain and Rowan Guerrin defeated two legions of chevaliers sent to support Meghren at the Battle of River Dane, forcing Emperor Florian to withdraw all support for Meghren. Eventually by 9:2 Dragon, King Meghren and the remnants of his court fled to and barricaded themselves inside Fort Drakon. Maric challenged Meghren to a duel and killed him in single combat, ending his rule and the Orlesian occupation. Maric then married Rowan and set out to rebuild Ferelden.
The climate of Ferelden appears to be temperate, and Ferelden along with Thedas itself is located in the southern hemisphere.
Dividing Ferelden from Orlais to the west are the Frostback Mountains. The southeast holds the Brecilian Forest, where in 9:30 Dragon a clan of Dalish elves can be found. To the far south are the forbidding forests, swamps and eventually tundra of the Korcari Wilds. To the north of the Wilds lie the Southron Hills and the Hinterlands, and the Free Marches across the sea. The central region of Ferelden contains Lake Calenhad and the Bannorn. In the far northern region are The Coastlands, which include more swamps and forests.
- Dales End
- Dosov — Chasind settlement
- Elmridge — a small town in West Hills
- Harper's Ford
- Redcliffe Village
- Redhold - Avvar Settlement
- South Reach — east of Lothering, part of the Arling
- Southmere — within the Hinterlands
- Vintiver — within the Southron Hills
- Wutherford - probably near Lake Calenhad Docks
- Wyvern Hold — Avvar Settlement
- Kinloch Hold
- Redcliffe Castle
- Soldier's Peak
- Vigil's Keep
- West Hill
- Fort Drakon
- Castle Cousland
- Caer Oswin
- Therinfal Redoubt
- Caer Bronach - within Crestwood
- Stenhold - on the border of the Korcari Wilds
- Ferelden's coastline faces the Waking Sea to the north and the Amaranthine Ocean to the east.
- The Imperial Highway enters Ferelden in the Frostback Mountains via Gherlen's Pass and circles Lake Calenhad and the Bannorn. Then one branch ends in Denerim and another at Ostagar which is also the Highway's southmost point.
- The Bannorn is effectively the "bread-basket" of Ferelden, containing the most arable land.
- Ferelden has two islands off its northeast coast: one containing the city of Alamar and another named Brandel's Reach. Alamar is considered rather independent of Fereldan politics. This could be explained by the rocky Brandel's Reach reputedly being a haven for raiders, making Alamar an unpopular place to live or visit.
- The various hills and mountains of Ferelden are still occupied by Avvars, and the Korcari Wilds by the Chasind, tribes independent of Ferelden. Dalish elves can also be found travelling through the nation.
Culture and society
Ferelden is a relatively temperate nation in the far southeast of Thedas, historically populated by a simple militaristic culture that has only begun to "civilize" in the last few centuries. The Andrastian Chantry is now revered by the 90% of the population. Fereldan cities are considered virtually anarchic by the standards of most outsiders. The Fereldan desire for freedom has engendered a cultural mistrust of law enforcement, and 'laissez-faire' attitudes in general. While the worst offenses are quickly put down, many others are ignored and citizens are often left to make their own justice. Petty theft is common, as guardsmen will only go out of their way to deal with serious disruptions. Commerce is given little official scrutiny as long as taxes are paid; businesses such as brothels and gambling halls are not only tolerated, but expected.
The elven population is divided between the city elves that live in alienages within the cities and the Dalish that migrate from place to place in their landships. They all worship the Elven pantheon.
The dwarves live in their few remaining cities, cut off from the Deep Roads. Their populations decrease as they struggle within themselves. Dwarves worship The Stone.
Ferelden society is descended directly from Alamarri tribal culture and its respect for skill and ability. It is most generally broken up into the nobility and commoners (including city elves). There are also crafters and crafthouses (similar to guilds), who make up a highly valued middle tier between the lowest noble and the highest common classes. They have total power over certain industries in Ferelden.
Beneath the crafthouses, the population is subdivided into common classes called "High Freemen" and "Low Freemen." High freemen are comprised of freeholders (land owners), soldiers and other employed individuals. Low freemen are made up of criminals, prostitutes and elves. For all that, all freemen are allowed to live and go where they wish, and make a living as they will. There are no serfs in Ferelden; all are paid in coin or barter for their work.
In Ferelden, nobles have proper last names, such as the Howes or the Couslands. Sometimes commoners will have last names that stem from noble lines, foreign origins, land ownership or titles granted to family members in the past. Otherwise, most Fereldan commoners introduce themselves with a reference to the area they come from or to their trade, e.g. Gareth of Oswin or Lomo Kettlemaker.
Like many countries in Thedas, Ferelden has a large population of elves who are segregated from the rest of society and live in walled-off alienages. Unlike in other countries, however, elves in Ferelden have rights and are paid for their work. Those who do not find positions of service outside of the alienage are unable to achieve high-paying jobs, but most seem to feel that they have better lives in Ferelden than in other countries, because at least they are free and among family who look out for each other.
Importance of dogs
Visitors and travelers to Ferelden are often curious about local attitudes toward dogs. Throughout Thedas dogs are employed in hunting game, keeping barns and storehouses free of vermin, herding livestock and guarding homes; in the mountains they may even be used as beasts of burden. Fereldans, however, show a particular appreciation for canine companions. The origin of this is tangled up in mythology.
Dogs are common in Ferelden, both amongst the nobles as well as the common folk and mercenaries such as the Ash Warriors. Keeping dogs is a tradition kept since the times before Ferelden, started by the Alamarri tribes. The barbarians were introduced to mabari by the magisters, who brought the dogs with them during their invasion of the land; many of the dogs decided to stay in the occupied lands after their original masters were defeated.
Fereldan food is usually described as hearty and humble, and is not known for being particularly appetizing. "Fereldan turnip" is an insult levied at Fereldans; it presumably stems from their frequent use of turnips. Alistair, in a dialogue with Leliana, jests that Fereldan cuisine involves throwing all the ingredients in a pot and cooking them for as long as possible, until everything looks grey, bland, and unappetizing. Stews seem a particular specialty of Ferelden, such as the traditional Fereldan Lamb and Pea Stew, and the Fereldan Turnip and Barley Stew. Pickled eggs are another popular Fereldan dish, as well as a folk remedy prescribed for any ailment. Ferelden is also known for its ripe cheeses and rich pies. As for drinks, ale is commonly found across Fereldan taverns.
Fereldan law is relatively unregulated compared to that of older nations, and is expected on an individual level to be supplemented by one's martial prowess. Indeed, most petty crimes like theft are overlooked by the city guard in Denerim, whose main concern is protecting their posts. Consequently, the common Fereldan should not expect much help fending off criminal activity unless murder or major property damage has occurred. Slavery is illegal in Ferelden, but criminals still practice it in secret.
There are no laws regulating personal behavior such as bearing arms, drinking, gambling and prostitution. Similarly, local prejudices and violence against non-human residents—notably alienage elves—often go unpunished. In part this is pragmatism, as Ferelden king's law states that killing a human in defense of an elf is a crime.
This is not to say that Ferelden is lawless; quite the opposite. The king's seneschal personally appoints arbiters—judges—called "blackhallers" to hear disputes. Blackhallers adjudicate cases from the black granite seneschal's hall in Denerim—hence the name—, and in the countryside, sheriffs appointed by the local bann patrol and keep track of upcoming cases for the blackhallers to hear.
Given the blackhallers' busy schedules, trials can take some time to occur. A suspect may surrender an item of great value to the local sheriff and be released "on his bond" until the time of the trial rather than waiting in a dungeon. This property will be returned if the suspect returns to be judged. Otherwise, the property is retained by the sheriff and the suspect has the charge of fleeing justice added to their criminal record.
As long-term imprisonment is frowned upon in general in Ferelden, punishment is often quick and violent. Common methods include public humiliation, whipping, disfigurement, fines and even executions.
There's no firm rule that dictates who rules the household. Fereldans are willful and their families tend to be managed by whoever can. Usually, the oldest child inherits the majority of the property regardless of gender, but there are some cases where a younger brother or sister is named the heir simply because he or she seems more capable.
Unlike most kingdoms, power does not reside exclusively with the nobility. Rather, it arises from the support of the freeholders and even the king is not the unchallenged ruler. For many centuries the nobility has gathered annually to hold the Landsmeet, a council which functions as the official legislative body of Ferelden and it can even override the king or queen on any matter of law.
- "Some kingdoms ridigly define the rights of vassals and their duty to their liege. In Ferelden, a relatively new kingdom, the arls and arlessas theoretically command their arlings' banns and lords. In practice, those lessers often zealously maintain their independence.
- Some Fereldan vassals must be goaded instead of ordered--swayed, not ruled. Vassals owe military obligations to their liege, yet often deny even sworn oaths and signed contracts. In contrast, the vassals expect their liege's protection despite provocation otherwise. A successful Fereldan liege applies force, persuasion, and duplicity in equal measure."
- ―Excerpt from A Guide to Statecraft, published anonymously
The royalty and nobility of Ferelden is divided into several ranks.
- King/Queen — The head of the monarchy makes the most decisions about current law and policy. Though these decisions can be challenged, it is rare when a King is particularly powerful or popular. Should be addressed as Your Majesty.
- Prince/Princess — Heirs to the throne, these individuals usually only get involved in Landsmeet deliberations when they are of age. Even then, they are expected to watch and learn more than participate. Should be addressed as Your Highness.
- Teyrn/Teyrna — Next highest in political power, these were once the warlords of old. Banns and Arlings swear fealty directly to one Teyrn who in return offers them protection of their standing army and other services. Teyrns can be appointed by the King or Queen, and affirmed by the Landsmeet. Should be addressed as Your Lordship/Ladyship.
- Arl/Arlessa — Arlings are locations of military importance, and thus their leadership is expected to understand how to run and maintain a defensible location. They help protect bannorn locations in their immediate area. Only two arlings receive oaths of fealty from banns, South Reach and Amaranthine. It is believed to be carry over from old traditions in the area. Should be addressed as My Lord/Lady.
- Bann — Banns are minor nobility, but very important. They are by far the most numerous members of nobility. Freeholders (land owners) swear allegiance to Banns and offer them tithes and important goods for protection. If a Bann displeases a Freeholder, they can and often do switch allegiances. Other banns have been known to court wealthy freeholders away from other banns for lucrative deals. These situations has caused feuds amongst different families that have lasted for generations in some areas. Should be address as My Lord/Lady.
- Lord/Lady — These are nobles by birth but have not inherited a holding of their own. They usually reside in close proximity to their family estates, whether it be a Bannorn, Arling, or seat of the Teyrnir. Some of these nobles have no connections to the nobles of higher standing, and reside within the larger cities, using their wealth and influence to sway politics in their preferred direction. Should be addressed as My Lord/Lady.
- Knight — Knights are minor nobles, who are elevated from the soldiers sworn to serve a lord, where it be Lord, Bann, Arl, Teyrn or King. These individuals are held in esteem, and though they are technically allowed to participate in the Landsmeet, they normally do not, due to their allegiance to their lord. Should be addressed as Ser.
- "To our neighbors, Ferelden seems utterly chaotic. Unlike other monarchies, power does not descend from our throne. Rather, it rises from the support of the freeholders.
- Each freehold chooses the bann or arl to whom it pays allegiance. Typically, this choice is based on proximity of the freehold to the lord's castle, as it's worthless 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 its 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 which inevitably begets feuds that last for ages.
- Teyrns arose from amongst the banns, warleaders who, in antiquity, had grown powerful enough to move other banns to swear fealty to them. There were many teyrns in the days before King Calenhad, but he succeeded in whittling them down to only two: Gwaren in the south, Highever in the north. These teyrns still hold the oaths of banns and arls who they may call upon in the event of war or disaster, and similarly, the teyrns still hold responsibility for defending those sworn to them.
- The arls were established by the teyrns, given command of strategic fortresses that could not be overseen by the teyrns themselves. Unlike the teyrns, the arls have no banns sworn to them, and are simply somewhat more prestigious banns.
- The king is, in essence, 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.
- Nowhere is this more evident than during the Landsmeet, an annual council for which all the nobles of Ferelden gather, held for almost three thousand years except odd interruptions during 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."
- —From Ferelden: Folklore and History, by Sister Petrine, Chantry scholar
The Landsmeet is an annual gathering of all the nobility in Ferelden. During this time important matters are discussed, and brought before the King and other nobility. If the nobility is particularly displeased with the King’s decision they have the right to vote on it themselves to overturn it. This could be law or even political appointments. If the King has thoroughly displeased the majority of the nobility, they can even vote to replace him with another noble. This is only an extreme measure, and rarely done. The King is expected to mingle with the other nobles and curry their favor, which is quite different from other monarchies in Thedas where the nobles seek to curry the favor of their Leadership.