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Reading the Ice and Fire books, I keep on coming across the term Hedge Knight (and, also, the apparently pejorative, Hedge Wizard).

What specifically does the prefix Hedge refer to?

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More. Ask more questions about this series. :) –  DampeS8N Apr 21 '11 at 11:45
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A Hedge Knight is an individual who has been dubbed as a knight, but does not owe his allegiance to any master. I guess Hedge Wizard is about the same.

George R. R. Martin actually uses the term The Hedge Knight for the title of one of his short stories.

Update:

I'm not too up on medieval history, but the idea of a roving knight doesn't crop up too much from what I remember - so I think it is something in-world. I certainly haven't seen Hedge Knight used outside of Martin's works.

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@HorusKol It does crop up in medieval literature; such roving knights were usually referred to as knights errant. Sir Gawaine appears in some stories as one such. –  Uticensis Apr 21 '11 at 7:35
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Wouldn't this also be equivalent to the Japanese ronin? –  user366 Apr 21 '11 at 9:15
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@Billare: It's not quite the same as a knight errant. A knight errant is a knight on a mission, trying to prove himself or in search of completing some quest, but they often had a master or lord that they served. Hedge knights served no one but themselves and went about in search of money. They were little better than mercenaries and were often much more like bandits than anything else. Being a knight errant was an honor, while being termed a hedge knight was considered an insult. –  BBlake Apr 21 '11 at 12:24
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@Mark Trapp: A ronin is an outcast. That makes it slightly different from hedge knight and quite different from knight errant. –  markus Apr 21 '11 at 12:38
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@BBlake BTW, do you have a source for this? "Being a knight errant was an honor, while being termed a hedge knight was considered an insult." –  Uticensis Apr 28 '11 at 13:20
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It's a real term that Martin is using for his world. "Hedge" refers to knights with no masters sleeping outdoors under hedgerows, because they can't afford anything else.

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Do you have a reference? I'm interested in learning more. –  HorusKol Apr 26 '11 at 23:21
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In general, "Hedge Wizard" refers to either a peasant wizard or a dispossessed apprentice of a wizard who has come to function on his own. In many fantasy settings, it refers to a wizard who is neither a member of the wizard's guild, nor possessed of a license to practice.

A hedge knight is a person, who having been dubbed a knight (elevated to knighthood), but not then sworn to the knighting lord, nor to any of his vassals. The term is reputed to refer to sleeping in the hedges, but as often as not, those hedges marked the boundaries of particular fields or orchards, and could just as easily apply to one camped just beyond, or even living in the peasant villages who worked those fields.

In either case, the term is derogatory in most contexts, as the implication of living in/under the hedges puts one as poorer than a peasant, as even the poorest peasants had a place to build a hut.

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A good parallel in real life history would be the distinction between a Samurai and a Ronin in Fuedal Japan. One pledges fealty to a feudal lord and the other has no master.

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Martin often makes slight alterations to historic terminology to make his world unique from ours, for example using "Banner" to refer to a Knight Banneret. The historic "hedge knight" was never referred as such, but, rather, as condottiere (Italian) or compagnies grandes (French). Sir Walter Scott eventually gave them the English name "Freelance" in Ivanhoe. It refers to a knight who is not committed to any particular liege, and is thus free to offer (and often sell) his services.

Martin splits them into two categories; those ennobled and those not ennobled. The former is a hedge knight, while the latter is a free rider.

Hedge wizard, as I've always known it, refers to a self-taught wizard, as opposed to one who apprenticed under another wizard.

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A knight in Martin's works refers to a person annointed in the 7 oils, stands vigil in a sept, and takes the knight's vows. The baseborn (concieved out of wedlock) cannot become knights. A hedge knight is the lowest rung on the knightly totem pole, so to speak. They differ from landed knights in that they hold no lands and swear fealty to no lord. However, they may become sworn swords if, during some campaign, a lord wishes to increase his numbers and accepts the hedge knight's oath. After serving as a sworn sword, the knight generally adopts the lifestyle of a hedge knight again.

It would be misleading to think of hedge knights as being similar to ronin. There are some superficial similarities (the gentry hold them in ill regard, and they use their martial prowess to make money), but the best way to gain insight into the meaning of "hedge knight" is to learn about knights, not by comparing them to ronin. I won't go into detail, as your question doesn't concern ronin, but a little research into ronin warriors will give you the info you need to make the distinction yourself.

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Think of it this way: It's similar to a Japanese samurai ronin. A hedge knight is essentially a roaming sellsword (they all love to call themselves "Ser So-and-so"), but in Martin's works the lack of common Rule of Law and the depressing lack of honor make the vast majority of hedge knights seem to be only barely above the level of brigands.

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