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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Code of the West: A Knight's Tale #historicalromance @JacquieRogers

Knights of the Old West

Romance of the Old West holds a strong place in my heart. And of course, when I talk about romance, I’m gonna talk about men. They’re so incredibly complicated but at the same time so basic. Women are complicated in different ways, leaving the man/woman relationship mystifying as to how or why it ever works. The romance genre delves into this complexity in every book.

When a woman looks for a mate, and that’s what romance is all about, she’s hardwired to look for the three Ps in a prospective candidate: Provide, Protect, and Procreate. Now, nearly all men are ready at any time for the third P (although we ladies are a bit picky about who fathers our children), but quite a few men aren’t all that keen about the first two.

And that’s why we women love the whole idea of knights and cowboys. Yes, I lumped them into the same sentence. Take a look at the Texas Rangers oath for deputy rangers:

Karl Urban
Commanche Moon

  • Be Alert
  • Be Obedient
  • Defend the Weak
  • Never Desert a Friend
  • Never Take Unfair Advantage
  • Be Neat
  • Be Truthful
  • Uphold Justice
  • Live Cleanly
  • Have Faith in God
You'd probably guess that was the Texas Rangers oath even if I hadn't told you simply because its the crux of what an American cowboy is even now.

Now here’s the Knights Code of Chivalry described in the Song of Roland
  • To fear God and maintain His Church
  • To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
  • To protect the weak and defenceless
  • To give succour to widows and orphans
  • To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
  • To live by honour and for glory
  • To despise pecuniary reward
  • To fight for the welfare of all
  • To obey those placed in authority
  • To guard the honour of fellow knights
  • To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
  • To keep faith
  • At all times to speak the truth
  • To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
  • To respect the honour of women
  • Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
  • Never to turn the back upon a foe
 That’s just a longwinded way of saying the same thing as the Texas Rangers did.

Truth is, people haven’t changed much, if ever. Our idea of the US Navy SEAL, the 19th Century cowboy, or the 13th Century knight all bring to a woman’s mind the perfect man to give us children, provide for them, and to protect them from harm so they can thrive into adulthood.

Our ideal romance hero is intelligent, loyal, honest, brave, and oh-so-sexy. My cowboy in Much Ado About Marshals is placed in a situation that tests him, because if he is loyal, he can’t be honest, and if he’s honest, he will betray his best friend. What a dilemma for a man who lives by the Knight’s Code of Chivalry, even if he’d never heard of such a code, because that’s the way of the good guys in the Old West.

This same situation could have played out in Medieval England as well as in the American Old West. It was Sir Lancelot’s dilemma in the days of King Author and the glorious Round Table, and now it’s Cole Richards’ dilemma in Much Ado About Marshals, set in the dusty desert of Owyhee County, Idaho. The cowboy’s word is his bond. Honor is everything.

Men are men. They’re warriors, hunters, and protectors. It’s through that tough exterior that women find his core of loyalty, honor, and most of all, love. The sweetest of women can tame the hearts of the toughest of men. This is our fantasy--this is what we’ve dreamed about since we were little girls.

And that’s why men in chaps and spurs melt the ladies' hearts.  Tell me who your favorite knight of the Old West is, and why.

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  1. A very interesting post this morning. Like the post say's men are men, and I think a lot of the time we just hope we've picked a good one. Before we get to know him for sure, definitely.

    1. They come in all different forms. Mine's a geek, and he saves from from all manner of computer torment. :) He can fix anything--cars, plumbing, or outlets. (He hates plumbing of any sort, but he can fix it.) So he definitely provides all three P's!

  2. Oh, Jacquie! What a great post! I love it. Hmm. My favorite knight of the west? I think in movies, it would have to be Chris in The Magnificent Seven. Actually, all those guys were knights in their own way--no matter what else they had done in their lives, good or bad, when they saw the mistreatment of the village people they came to their rescue and some died for them.

    In western books--it has to be Shane. He rode in, took care of business--even when he had no personal stake in it at first, and then left so that he wouldn't be forced to take Marian and live with dishonor, or leave her with her husband and ache to have her every day of his life.

    In my own characters--probably I'd say the current one of whatever story I'm working on. It's hard to pick a favorite out of your own work, isn't it? I really did love Brandon Gabriel, in Gabriel's Law--hired gun who is saved by his lllooooooonnnng ago childhood sweetheart, and ends up staying to protect her from just about everyone in the valley who covets her ranch and her body.

    This is sure food for thought!

    1. Loved The Magnificent Seven! And of course The Seven Samurai. I'm partial to Paladin, though.

      Yep, Brandon Gabriel is a wonderful knight of the Old West, a great protector and oh so sexy!

  3. Fascinating and so true. I don't know that I have a favorite, but then I always did have a hard time choosing. It does give me food for thought, but one high on the list would have been the fictional Flint by the L'Amour story of the same name. Doris

    1. A lot of L'Amour's heroes fit right in, first to protect family members, and bound by their own code of honor. One trait of a western hero that always wins us over is a man who sticks by his code no matter what, even if we don't agree with that code ourselves.

  4. I think what you have here is a Texas Rangers "Deputy Rangers" oath. Like unto a Roy Rogers oath. Nice comparison anyway.

  5. Actually, I don't remember where I got it because I wrote this post three years ago and didn't document it. One thing I learned, though, was that there wasn't a standardized oath (sometimes made up as they went). This is more of an accumulative thing. The Roy Rogers oath is also different. But all of them have the same basic elements.

  6. Yep. A deputy ranger oath.

  7. Jacquie,

    I'm with Cheryl regarding Shane and for all the same reasons. He is my perfect hero (aka MAN) on my "knight in dusty chaps" list. With his actions, he showed Bob what it meant to be a man.

    There are so many men to choose from in Louis L'Amour's books, but the one who says "man" to me is Matt Keelock from the book, The Key-lock Man.

    1. They, in their flawed ways, sure do set some high standards, that's for sure.

  8. Wonderful comparison. You remind me of what I loved about Lancelot in the BBC Merlin series and what I embodied in Jake Strachan, who is still one of my favourite heroes.

    1. Yep, Lancelot had quite a dilemma--honesty or loyalty. I've visited that theme a few times in my stories. I'm admittedly name-challenged... is Jake Strachan your hero in Under a Texas Star? He's an awesome hero!

  9. Excellent Jacquie. You hit it dead on comparing knights the Texas Rangers and the cowboy spirit--even if that spirit may be romanticized somewhat. I started comparing those creeds to my reluctant hero, Bud in The Hardest Ride. He and the other hands lived close to it. Then I realized something. I was once in Special Forces (Green Berets) and those guys very much are today's cowboys, knights, and protecting warriors. Subconsciously I think I modeled the ranch hands of the DeWitt Ranch after the guys I knew in SF. We had a motto, De Oppresso Liber--Liberate the Oppressed--and we strongly believed in that.

  10. Gordo, I originally got this idea from Rogers' Rangers, who fought in the Seven Years War in the 1750s. A lot of today's special forces ethos comes from them--an amazingly effective corps. Then I compared them to the Texas Rangers, and to today's special forces. That's when I saw the similarities, so decided to go back to the knights and take a look. Warriors are warriors, no matter what era.

    The DeWitt outfit were great characters. Congrats on finaling in the Peacemaker for The Hardest Ride!

  11. Okay, I'm always a little odd. When you asked about a favorite hero of the Old West, what I thought of is actually pre-Old West: John Colter. But he was probably my earliest hero. When I was in junior high, I read about him in accounts of the Lewis & Clark expedition, and he was a character in a novel I read around the same time, which retold several of his adventures. I don't think he completely embodies the traits you were talking about, but he made a huge impression on me.

    1. It's a given that you're a little odd, Judy. :) Colter was definitely tough and courageous, though.

  12. I heard a little girl say once that boys are mean and make too much noise...but sometimes they are cute. :D

    1. LOL! That pretty well sums it up, doesn't it! :) :)

  13. Well, here I am late to the party. Much Ado About Marshals is a fantastic story. I loved those rules for Texas Rangers--and not too far from the Boy Scout codes of behavior. Best of all, I liked the 3 P's women seek from prospective husbands. I should have had these 3 P's back in my youth. LOL
    I'm so sorry I showed up late.

    1. I'm generally late to the party, too, Sarah. I think the various codes uphold our idea of a good and honorable man, no matter what the era. The three P's came from Harold Lowry who writes as Leigh Greenwood. He gave an incredibly good workshop at our local conference one year.

  14. Very interesting post, Jacquie. I think that the Arthurian legends are archetypal tales. When you read Malory's Morte d'Arthur, the first novel to come off William Caxton's printing press in 1485, you get to see a whole range of knights, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. Sir Lancelot, Sir Perceval, Sir Gawain, etc, etc...they are all plausible because they all have some human frailty. Only Sir Galahad is pure and he will attain the grail. Yet all of them, including King Arthur himself, could be Texas Rangers!

    My own favourite knights of the Old West - well, it has to be the Lone Ranger first and then Paladin, second.


    1. Yes, and then there were the landless knights of the 12th through the 15th centuries who were solo and transient. They rode from place to place offering their services--very similar to the lone gunmen of the Old West. Tom Horn comes to mind. Of course, he stepped on toes and ended up dangling, but that's the nature of the business.

  15. Winner is Julie Duffy! I'll send your book shortly.

  16. Thanks Jacquie, That's great, I look forward to starting it.