A peaceful session – rebuilding for the next one, to be sure – caused me to have a look at the backstory. Possibly I was the teensiest bit influenced by the Draka.
The process that began in 1716, when by decree of the Storting all male Ynglings above ten years of age were required to spend one month every year drilling with the militia, had, by the middle twentieth century, produced an educational establishment of epic proportions. Every member of the ruling class, from age five up to eighteen, spent more than four fifths of his time in the huge public schools, learning everything from logic to infantry tactics; by the time he joined the active army for his four-year stint hunting rebels in Africa, he had received as much training as a senior NCO in other armies, and was in much better physical shape.
Formal education begins at five, when the child is inducted as a ‘rear-end straggler’ into his local Archer Corps, descending from the boys’ militias – formalised street gangs – of Bergen. There it learns to march and to shoot; the .15-caliber, child-sized rifles used for this purpose are a considerable industry in Norway, with a dozen companies competing to produce the lightest, most accurate, and snazziest designs. In time of war these children’s militias are supposed to be attached to the leidang for local defense, although even when Sweden was being overrun by the Burgundians, the Ynglings apparently did not consider the situation quite that desperate. However, they do admirably fulfil their purpose of teaching marksmanship and discipline. At the same time, the children are being taught foreign languages, basic literacy, arithmetic, and Yngling history. The last, while biased, is not skewed in the direction one would expect; the Ynglings are often presented as outright aggressors, and no effort is made to show them as being always in the right by the ethical standards usually accepted elsewhere. Instead, the bias is towards showing Ynglings as cool calculators and invincible soldiers; defeats are glossed over, and always due to overwhelming enemy numbers. This is in part due to Yngling disdain for what they see as hypocrisy in other nations: Their attitude is that they will take what they want, and let others stop them if they can. Yngling thinks like Yngling, as the saying goes, and their schools are the source of that; and the thoughts they seek to cultivate in their children are those of a warrior nation, always ready to spring at someone’s throat if they scent weakness.
At age eight, the child leaves his parents for boarding school. Marksmanship practice continues, with heavier rifles of .23 calibre; emphasis shifts, however, to gymnastics and the basics of martial arts. On the theoretical side, the children study saga literature, along with Saxon hero-tales, the Vedas, and the Old Testament; the rudiments of probability; diplomatic history, with emphasis on changes in alliance structures; and comparative ethnology, or in other words, how Yngling treatment of strils differs from and is similar to other empires’ treatment of conquered populations.
Around age twelve, the children begin more individually tailored courses of study, although still with a common core curriculum: Infantry tactics; enough anatomy to inform first aid, fighting, and interrogation; primate psychology, with an emphasis on dominance assertion; beginning calculus, particularly as applied to ballistics; maintenance and repair of weapons, which are now of the same .32 calibre used by the Hird, although much lighter as they are single-shot and with shorter barrels. (Some precision may be required here: Younger children are expected to do field maintenance of their rifles, stripping the guns down and oiling them; what is taught to the teenagers is the sort of maintenance that can be done in a machine shop, refilling of cartridges (including how to make black powder, for emergencies), and familiarisation with the infantry weapons of foreign armies.) Outside this core, the children begin to separate into their areas of interest: Tactics, engineering, logistics. Their physical training also becomes more divergent; as each child reaches puberty, emphasis shifts away from the gymnastics, flexibility, and endurance suitable for children’s bodies, towards building muscle mass. Hand-to-hand combat classes also become much rougher. In addition to sparring against each other, the children are required to fight against adults, who will do their best to teach dirty tricks by using them; older children, who while less scientific fighters can be relied upon not to hold back; and strils, who have the virtue that they are expendable, so the children can learn what it’s like to fight full-force. Being sent for a week or a month as a sparring partner to an Yngling school is a common disciplinary punishment for medium-to-heavy troublemakers in Yngling factories. Stril-fighting is the commonest cause of death among Yngling children, accounting for about two-thirds of the 3% casualties expected between ages 5 and 18; strils who manage to kill an Yngling child are rewarded as having removed a weakling from the gene pool, while Ynglings who kill a stril also get extra privileges. Most commonly, though, such fights end with one or the other party breaking a bone, or a similar crippling injury; Yngling adults will break it up when one party can no longer fight. Thus the incentive for both is to land blows instantly deadly. It is really this, more than just being very practiced, that makes Ynglings so incredibly dangerous in hand-to-hand combat; they have systematically had their inhibitions against killing blows removed from an early age. Outside of such extreme measures as these, it is almost impossible to train men to strike deadly blows without the least hesitation; they will always have the feeling of this-is-only-practice, and hesitate, perhaps only for a millisecond, when the real thing comes along. It is in that millisecond that the Yngling kills, for he has no such hesitation – he has been there before, and survived. In effect, the greenest Yngling recruit is already a veteran of many battlefields.
As the students grow older, no effort is spared to make them into splendid physical specimens. Diet, exercise, and in-group prestige are all scientifically weighted towards building muscle and speed. The least hint of fat brings ridicule among the boys; for girls this is toned down (Yngling schools are sex-segregated, partly indeed for this reason, although mainly from tradition), but the slim, muscled Amazon is still considered the ideal of female beauty. Biology and anatomy are taught with no regard to Victorian ideas of innocence; the children are required to know precisely how their bodies accumulate fat and muscle. As of 1944, experiments with growth hormones (on strils, naturally – the next step up from animal testing, as it were) are under way, with the eventual goal of making all Ynglings at least 6 feet in height.
On the theoretical side, the teenagers learn civics (especially the peculiarly Norse interpretation of the right to duel as the foundation of all civil rights), calculus up to complex multivariate integrals, statistics, military history (at all levels – from wars and campaigns and the economies that supported them, down to the minutiae of small-unit tactics), geography (with an emphasis on militarily significant infrastructure and valuable resources close to Norwegian borders), rhetoric, customary law (including what rights strils have and why, and how it differs across the Realm), foreign social organisation, economic theory, and command theory.
By the time he is eighteen, the Yngling child is a supremely competent rifleman, skilled mechanic, and trained athlete. He is reasonably well-versed in literature of the more warrior-saga-ish kind, has a considerable familiarity with the international politics of his day and its historical roots, and strives at all times to project primate dominance though his body language, especially in the presence of strils. He is then assigned to a Hird unit, where he will spend at least four years (pilots and other technical specialties are recruited from volunteers, and get better pay in return for staying a longer term) hunting guerrillas in Africa or the American plains – the Realm has carefully avoided exterminating the resistance, and turns a blind eye to foreign arms shipments, so that its army may gain experience without too much danger. Most muster out after their term of service, although they remain liable to be recalled to the colours until fifty years of age – and there are harsh laws against letting oneself become unfit for service. A considerable minority stay on to become officers, a sure path to prestige and a traditional launching point for a political career.
Naturally, such single-minded emphasis on producing the best possible soldiers is not without its price. In the first place, vast expenditure on boarding schools distorts the entire Norwegian economy; one reason for its relative industrial poverty is the amount of skill and labour dedicated to running these schools. In addition, since becoming an officer is the best path to prestige, few of Norway’s finest minds go into industrial management or science, and techniques are always lagging a bit behind its competitors. The Ynglings accept this as the price of staying militarily up with their much more populous competitors; in any case, it is doubtful whether, at this stage, they are even capable of changing their social organisation – at least without a terrible civil war or other catastrophe. Until that happens, the Ynglings will continue to produce the finest soldiers in the world; and other nations will continue to regard them with fear and defiance. Such is our world.