Author: Toral Delvar
The Tuatha'an, commonly called the Tinkers or the Traveling people, are a group of itinerant wanderers, living in wagons, small houses on wheels, tall wooden boxes laquered and painted in bright colours, reds and blues and yellows and greens among other hues. Each band is led by a man titled Mahdi, meaning seeker in the Old Tongue (TEotW, Ch. 25). Though there are many bands, they do see themselves as part of a whole (TSR, Ch. 45). They follow a pacifist way of life, moving from place to place, avoiding anything larger than a small village, never staying long in any one place, seeking the song, which they believe will bring back the lost days of peace. Though they do not know what the song is, they believe they will recognise it when they hear it (TEotW, Ch. 25).
In the Age of Legends, the Aiel, known then as the Da'shain Aiel, served the Aes Sedai and followed the Way of the Leaf (TSR, Ch. 26). Amongst their duties was seedsinging, performed with Ogier and Nym, where together they would sing to cause seeds to sprout and grow into plants twice as high as normal that were never touched by pest or pathogen (TSR, Ch. 26).
The Tuatha'an split from the Aiel during the Breaking. The leader of the breakaway group initially let his hair grow out from the Aiel style. The time is not clear, but Sulwin claims that "My grandfather used to tell me stories he heard as a boy, stories of when we lived in safety and people came to hear us sing." He takes a group of discontented Aiel away to find a safe place and the songs that they used to sing (TSR, Ch. 25). By this time, much of their history had been lost, save that they once served the Aes Sedai, and it is likely that the song they sought was merely a partial remembrance of Seedsinging.
Possibly as a result of this, they are one of the few groups allowed to cross the Aiel Waste unmolested. Indeed, Aiel avoid all contact with them, finding the idea of speaking to them to be distasteful (TEotW, Ch. 25; TSR, Ch. 41). During the years since the split, the Tuatha'an have lost all memory of their origins; only the Way of the Leaf and the search for the Song remain.
The Tuatha'an are known for their brightly coloured clothes, which are often not color co-ordinated. Their clothes are even more colorful than their wagons – Perrin thinks that they seem to be chosen at random, and the combinations hurts his eyes (TEotW, Ch. 25). Physically, they are not described as having any specific distinguishing traits.
Examples of Tuatha’an clothing include:
- A bright blue, high-collared coat and baggy trousers of a green that almost seems to glow, tucked into kneeboots (TSR, Ch. 41).
- Raen in a bright green coat but trousers redder than any Perrin had seen before (TSR Ch 42).
The Way of the Leaf
The Tuatha'an follow a totally pacifistic way of life. They will not attack others, or use violence to defend themselves. If attacked, they will ask why the person is trying to harm them, or run away, believing there is never any good reason to harm another, and that by denying someone the chance to hurt them, they are helping the other person.
"The leaf lives to its appointed time and does not struggle against the wind that carries it away. The leaf does no harm and finally falls to nourish new leaves. So it should be with all men. And women." (Aram; TEotW, Ch. 25)
Occasionally, one of the Tuatha'an will not be able to live according to the Way. These people, who the others call "the lost," go and live in the cities. Conversely, they do add to their numbers from people who find their way of life appealing (TEotW, Ch. 25) and have taken in some of the Aiel who felt that they should not have abandoned the Way of the Leaf (TFoH, Ch. 5).
Aside from their pacifism, the Tuatha'an exhibit an exuberance and joy that is uncommon. All the people seem to be on the point of dancing, even when standing still, even during the rare times when there was no music in the camp. Fiddles, flutes, dulcimers, zithers and drums spin harmony and counterpoint around the wagons at almost any hour, in camp or on the move; if someone is awake in the camp, there is usually music (TEotW, Ch. 27).
The Tuatha'an keep mastiffs, large as wolves and even heavier. However, these are for show only and if challenged will back down (TEotW, Ch. 25).
As they do not believe in harming others, it seems likely they are vegetarians. They do serve a thick vegetable stew (TEotW, Ch. 25).
The Tuatha'an have a dance that is considered very alluring, the tiganza.
“A girl in a red dress swayed into the light, loosening her shawl. Strings of beads hung in her hair and she had kicked off her shoes. A flute began the melody, wailing softly and the girl danced. Outstretched arms spread the shawl behind her; her hips undulated as her bare feet shuffled to the beat of the drums.” (Perrin; TEotW, Ch. 27).
It is not, however, considered the equal of the sa'sara (TSR, Ch. 42).
The Welcome Ritual
Bowing, both hands pressed to the chest.
Mahdi: "You are welcome to our fires. Do you know the song?"
Visitor: "Your welcome warms my spirit, Mahdi, as your fires warms the flesh, but I do not know the song"
Mahdi: "Then we still seek. As it was, so shall it be, if we but remember and seek and find."
(Reference: The Eye of the World, Chapter 25)
The Departure Ritual
Mahdi: "You came in peace, depart now in peace. Always will our fires welcome you, in peace. The Way of the Leaf is peace."
Visitor: "Peace be on you always and on all the People. I will find the song, or another will find the song, but the song will be sung, this year or in a year to come. As it once was, so shall it be again, world without end."
Rest of the Tuatha’an: "World without end. World and time without end"
(Reference: The Eye of the World, Chapter 27)
The Tinkers have a reputation as thieves (TEotW, Ch. 25; TSR, Ch. 45; KoD, Ch. 4). Egwene comments to Elyas and Perrin that “the Taren Ferry folk are as great thieves as the Tinkers. They'd no doubt end up stealing each other blind” (TEotW, Ch. 25). This view may also be seen in the song "The Tinker has my pots" (TEotW, Ch. 27), though the Tinkers themselves know the tune as “Toss my feathers.” They also feature in the song “Tinker in the Kitchen” (TEotW, Ch. 32).
This is largely undeserved. Elyas tells Perrin that "The tinkers make me sick sometimes, but they don't steal any more than most folks" (TEotW, Ch. 25).
They also have a reputation for stealing children, and though this is also untrue, often children are enticed away by their ways. For this reason, large towns and villages will not allow the Tuatha'an to camp near them, not that they would wish to do so anyway (TEotW, Ch. 25).
Many also consider them cowards, due to their willingness to run away at the first sign of danger, but others disagree, noting that it can take courage to go into danger unarmed as Leya does (TDR, Ch. 1; KoD, Ch. 4).
It also seems that they will go out of their way and expose themselves to personal risk if they see that someone else in danger. In the battle of the Two Rivers, the band staying there took young children from Emond's Field, ready to try and take them to safety if the village fell (TSR, Ch. 56). Similarly, when they thought Selucia and Tuon might have been in danger from Mat, they followed the three until they could be sure this wasn't the case (KoD, Ch. 4).