Shepherd Book and Western Preachers
Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Many of the folks I've converted have commented on what an oddity Shepherd Book is-- for a man of God, he certainly can handle himself. And as Jayne says in Our Mrs. Reynolds, "One day you're gonna tell us all how a preacher knows so damn much about crime."

Forest Harris's surpassing "Knuckleduster Cowtown Creator," intended as an aid to Western roleplaying but useful for all manner of purposes, has this to say about clergymen in the Old West:

"Traveling preachers are not what you'd call 'soft.' They generally ride mules and resemble them to some degree. Fully cognizant of the nature of their flock, they are careful to arm themselves with a horse-whip, bowie knife, and an old Colt's percussion army revolver... They are ordinarily neither hypocrites nor lunatics, but tough, single-minded men who know how to think on their feet." (p. 91)

Now, I'm not saying that Book is a perfectly typical Shepherd in the Firefly 'Verse. If nothing else, his ident card proves that much. However, it's possible that he's not as far from normal as you might think.

If you're trying to get a picture of religious men in general in a frontier situation (say, for roleplaying or fanfic), this description might be a good thing to keep in mind. Harris's book and its companion piece, "The Knuckleduster Firearms Shop" are more than worth checking out for even vaguely Western-themed roleplaying or fiction writing. They're informative and (as far as I can tell) meticulously researched.


Friday, June 4, 2004 10:21 PM


I've wondered about the possibility of Eastern influences leading to a warrior-monk sort of thing, but Christianity still seems quite Western. They do mention meditation and (I think?) rock gardens in "Ariel," but those are (correct me if I'm wrong?) more Zen Buddhist things than Shaolin things, and it's the Shaolin monks who kick ass.

Plus, factor into all of this the fact that the other characters do seem to find his worldiness surprising-- it's obviously not in line with what they've previously experienced of men of the Word.

DitB, excellent point about his being "fresh out of the Abbey..." I hadn't taken that into account.

Friday, June 4, 2004 2:27 PM


Ummm ... couldn't Book's abbey be in the eastern-eastern tradition of warrior priests? Again, we're more or less assuming his bible is the same as our contemporary one.

Just call him Kwai Chang Caine.

Thursday, June 3, 2004 11:40 AM


One thing that should be kept in mind when talking about men of the Word - none of them was born a minister or a pastor or a priest. They eventually become them, and often times through some manner of strife. There's whole facilities set up for burned-out men of the Word to retreat to in times of need. Book may not have always been a preacher, but how many of us have had some kind of change of heart somewhere along the way?

I wouldn't say he's been preaching to much of anybody, really, except the crew. Not that we've seen, leastwise. There was supposed to be a scene in Heart of Gold that included a prayer meeting with Book and two of the girls but it was cut out. All we've really seen him do so far is read the Word to himself - a lot - and speak words over the dead.

Thanks for the insight on the reference books too - I'm going to have to go track those down. oh darn - a book shopping opportunity!

Thursday, June 3, 2004 4:30 AM


i think you have a great point, since a real hypocrite/lunatic style preacher wouldn't last long. one they wouldn't be able to survive in the harsh environs, and two they wouldn't get many converts. you need to be a rough and tumble man o' god yourself to show people that you can still survive out there and be a good person at the same time. otherwise people will scoff at you or turn out like the wretched folks of the hilltown in Safe.

but one of the main factors in book's oddity is that he claims to be fresh out of the abby. it's highly unlikely that an abby doubles as a place teaching all the things we know book has knowledge of, along with the scripture. a large portion of it could come from childhood experiences, and even young adulthood. but if books backstory is real, he's probably been more or less "locked up" for quite a while. and yet he still functions as a long-weathered frontier preacher? that's the fishy part. he's deffinately lying about SOMETHING. maybe he really is just a preacher, but he sure ain't fresh out of any abby we've been lead to believe exists.


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2004 June