Holds were the place of residence and safety for the generally agricultural population of Pern. Members of specialized professions on Pern lived in Crafthalls and dragonriders lived in Weyrs; but, for most people, the hold was both the residence and primary social authority.

Throughout most of Pern, holds were made up of either stone buildings or networks of caverns, both natural and man-made. By shuttering any windows and barring any doors, this made the holds ideal shelters in times of Threadfall. Holds were under tight strictures to keep Thread-susceptible greenery away from the entrances.

Hold Classifications

There were three types of Holds.

Major Holds

Major Holds were the largest and most politically powerful. These Major Holds were analogous to Greek city-states, with a large (for Pern) quasi-urban center of perhaps one thousand residents. The hold itself was surrounded by a vast, mostly rural, territory of 10,000 or more additional residents which was under the Major Hold's jurisdiction. When referring to a Major Hold, a speaker might mean either the entire region or only the urban center.

The Major Holds were ruled by a Lord Holder, whose power was largely unchecked in his domain, as long as he fulfilled his responsibility to the hold's residents - namely, to provide residents with 1) protection from Thread, 2) an appropriate education and 3) food and shelter in return for labor. The Lord provided protection from Thread by tithing a percentage of the hold's agriculture and other materiel to the Weyr to which his hold was responsible.

As the series opened in the novel Dragonflight, there were fifteen such Major Holds, occupying the entire Northern Continent (other than the uninhabitable Arctic).

Minor Holds

Under the jurisdiction of the Major Holds were Minor Holds. These could range widely in size, but operated not unlike a Major Hold, on a smaller scale. Despite the name, some of the larger Minor Holds could approach the population of a Major Hold's urban center. Nonetheless, they were responsible to the Major Hold of which they were a part and to which they tithed. Minor Holds were managed by a Holder, not a Lord. In many cases, however, when a Lord Holder installed his son as Holder at a Minor Hold, the son would retain the hereditary title of Lord.


The more rural members of the population lived in cotholds. These were much smaller vassal holds, often consisting of a single extended family located near the fields, pasture, or other site of the holders' agricultural pursuits.

List of Holds

Main article: List of Holds

Hold Management

As noted above, Major Holds were managed by a Lord Holder. Day-to-day operations were delegated to a Steward, who was responsible for the Hold's 1) economic health, 2) trade with the outside, 3) tithes to the Weyr and 4) dealings with its vassal holds. In the hold itself, food, clothing, healing and other maintenance of the dwellings and residents were the responsibility of a Headwoman, under the supervision of the Lady Holder (the Lord's wife). The Lord's female children and relatives frequently assisted in these tasks.

The Lord's sons, along with fosterlings, nephews and other male relatives, were given experience in hold management. This could consist of acting as Steward (or assisting the Steward), taking charge of a particular portfolio of the hold's activities (such as husbandry) or becoming Holder of a Minor Hold. These young lords were often referred to derisively as lordlings.

Hold children were educated by the hold's Harper, who was typically trained in the Harpercrafthall at Fort Hold.

Each hold was responsible for the discipline of its wrongdoers. Most times, the Lord Holder would make the wrongdoers pay restitution and perform services for the wronged party. The next severest punishment was incarceration. Death penalty could also be used in response to heinous crimes. But the greatest punishment was to be named Shunned - where a person was stripped of all rank and status and thrown out of the hold. The reason why this was the most severe punishment was because the Holdless had nowhere to go during Threadfall.


Main article: Weyrhold
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