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Political information
Capital Rhuidean
Demonym Aiel
Government type Clan Chiefs

The Aiel (pronounced: eye-EEL) are a race of people who live between the "wetlanders" in the Westlands and the Sharans in the east on the other side of the Spine of the World mountain range. They live in a desert which the Aiel call the Three-fold Land and which everyone else calls the Aiel Waste. They have a well earned reputation as exceptionally skilled warriors, hardy due to the desert they call home. Physically, Aiel can be recognized through their unusual height, characteristic pale eyes and light-colored hair and sun darkened skin.


Modern Aiel are descended from the Da'shain Aiel, servants of the Aes Sedai during the Age of Legends, and sworn never to do violence (a philosophy known as the Way of the Leaf). During the War of Power, they seem to have acquired the name "People of the Dragon". Some time after the Breaking of the World, however, the Da'shain Aiel slowly disintegrated from one people into three: today's Aiel (which means "dedicated" in the Old Tongue), the Tuatha'an (also known as Traveling People or Tinkers), and the Jenn Aiel (literally, True Dedicated).


The split between the Aiel and Tuatha'an was acrimonious; certain members of the Aiel refused to continue the task entrusted to them by the Aes Sedai, and left in order to search for the type of peace they had enjoyed during the Age of Legends; they call this "searching for the Song". To this day, there is distrust and revulsion on the part of modern Aiel for the Tuatha'an - the Traveling People whom Aiel call Lost Ones. They are allowed passage through the Aiel Waste only because the Aiel cannot bring themselves to interact with such a disgraced people. The Tuatha'an themselves, as well as most Aiel, have forgotten the original split, but the Aiel reaction to someone who would abandon their duty and never defend himself is enough, now.

Taking up the spear

The remaining group of Aiel themselves split when four members of their group killed in self-defense while rescuing two daughters of their group who were taken by raiders. One member of the group, Lewin, grabbed a spear while one of the raiders was attacking him and ultimately killed the raider in self-defense. When they returned to camp and the others found out that Lewin had killed a raider, they told the group members to hide their faces and that they were no longer Aiel because they had broken the Covenant and killed, even though they still refused to use a sword. Over time, more and more Aiel joined those who would kill in self-defense, leaving only the Jenn Aiel to hold to the Way of the Leaf.

Into the Waste

These two groups remained together, the violent Aiel defending the Jenn Aiel, despite their protestations, and this compound group made their way across the Spine of the World into what would become known as the Aiel Waste. They were helped during their journey by a tribe of people who would later become the nation of Cairhien. This help came in the form of water freely given, the first time since the Breaking the Aiel encountered a people who did not try to attack them or cheat them. This may be the origin of the Aiel pledge of water oaths and is the reason the Cairhien would eventually be given safe passage across the Waste. In the waste, the Aiel prospered while the Jenn Aiel dwindled; the last Jenn died hundreds of years ago, leaving only a holy city, Rhuidean.

Aiel in the Waste

Today, the Aiel have all but forgotten their ancient ways; only their leaders remember that they once served the Aes Sedai, and no trace of the Way of the Leaf remains in their culture other than a total unwillingness to touch a sword, and the forced pacifism of gai'shain. The Aiel Wise-Ones and Clan chiefs do believe, however, that they were sent into the Three Fold Land as punishment for failing the Aes Sedai.


Not much is known about the Aiel by the outside world. Any wetlanders (as they call those who live to the west) are killed on sight; only peddlers, gleemen and Aes Sedai are given free passage. Tuatha'an can also move freely in the Waste if they so choose, as no Aiel will go near them. Aiel have a reputation for being vicious fighters, and "black-veiled Aiel" is a common epithet for belligerence.

The Aiel once allowed a fifth class of wetlander to traverse their lands: the citizens of Cairhien, in honor of the help they had given the Aiel during their wandering. The Cairhienin were allowed to travel through the Waste to Shara, where the Cairhienin were able to obtain precious silks, spices and other luxury goods. The Aiel also gave Cairhien a small tree: Avendoraldera, a cutting of Avendesora, the Tree of Life. Unfortunately, several centuries later, a Cairhienin king with more ambition than sense, Laman Damodred, cut down Avendoraldera to make himself a throne. Four clans of outraged Aiel boiled out of the Waste to bring back Laman's head. Led by a charismatic Tardaad clan chief named Janduin, the expedition was complicated when several "wetlander" armies mistook the Aiel for an invasion force and started fighting back. The Aiel cut them to ribbons, chasing King Laman across the nations, and by 978 NE they had pursued him all the way to Tar Valon. The Battle of the Blood Snow, as it was later called, saw the Aiel finally succeed in killing King Laman; the next day, they went home. Wetlanders call this the Aiel War; the Aiel called it justice. Since then, however, the Aiel have been even more hostile to the Cairhienin than to other wetlanders, calling them "treekillers" and "oathbreakers."


The Aiel have a number of cultural practices that are quite strange to outsiders. For example, women frequently become soldiers and fight alongside men. In addition, the taboo against nudity in practical settings is much weaker amongst the Aiel than in some cultures, much to the astonishment of many wetlanders. On the other hand, their capacity for public display of affection is almost nonexistent, and they are mortified to watch lovers kiss or even embrace. The Aiel moral code is called ji'e'toh, an Old Tongue word which roughly translates to "honor and duty" or "honor and obligation"; it codifies the Aiel responses to honor and shame (which is essentially synonymous with obligation). Outsiders consider it labyrinthine--one Aes Sedai who studied it for a month reportedly ended more confused than she started--but the Aiel live and die by it.


One of the most bizarre convolutions of ji'e'toh concerns the taking of gai'shain, "those sworn to peace in battle". Aiel earn honor and prestige for deeds in battle--or accumulate shame by misdeeds--but killing an opponent earns the least honor; "any child can kill". What earns the most honor is touching the opponent while they are holding a weapon, but without harming them, much like the practice of counting coup performed by the Native Americans. An Aiel so shamed is considered to have toh -- obligation -- to the person who touched them, and will march straight to that person and demand to be made gai'shain, at which point they don white robes, become that person's peaceful servant in all but name for a year and a day, and swear not to touch a weapon, or even defend themselves, during that time.

Becoming gai'shain is a way to answer for toh; it is totally voluntary and can be used to atone for non-battle-related shaming as well. Gai'shain are not slaves, and any wetlander who suggests it is soon straightened out. Conversely, Aiel are horrified and confused by the concept of "servants", people who work throughout their life in the service of others.

Wise Ones, children, pregnant women, women with a child under the age of ten, and blacksmiths cannot be taken gai'shain. Exact "ownership" of the gai'shain is a variable matter; though each gai'shain swears only to one person, they can be and are often instructed to obey commands from other people as well. On occasion a man will allow himself to be taken gai'shain by a Maiden he wishes to marry in an attempt to get her to fall in love with him during his time of servitude. The Maiden never does because they would never look at a gai'shain as a potential mate, and usually "teach them to sing", something Aiel men do not do unless a battle hymn or dirge for the slain.

The rules of ji'e'toh are so strong among the Aiel that even the Car'a'carn cannot make gai'shain fight, not even in the Last Battle.

Gender differences

Though only men can become clan chiefs, only women can hold property. The owner of any given roof (house) or holding (settlement) is the roofmistress, and she must give permission to step under her roof. Only women, likewise, can become Wise Ones. Only women can ask for marriage; a man may accept or decline, but may not ask, although he may make his interest known in other ways, such as giving a gift. The Maidens of the Spear mistake Rand's gifts to Aviendha as gifts proclaiming his interest. Along the same lines, a man who notices a woman eyeing him is supposed to ignore it until she vocalizes her interest.

Aiel practice polygyny, a form of polygamy in which a man has multiple wives (though not all Aiel men do), but not polyandry, in which a woman has multiple husbands. Wives of the same husband are referred to as sister-wives and share a close relationship. All parties must be in agreement for a polygynous marriage.

Water Oath

A water oath is an agreement traditionally between members of the Aiel that is sworn over water. It is considered an extremely serious oath and is rarely broken.

The Fifth

When a group of Aiel take one of the holds of an enemy clan in the Waste, by custom they carry away one fifth of all it contains, excepting only food.

Clothing and Appearance

The Aiel can be recognised by their height, light coloured hair and eyes, and sun darkened skin. The warriors wear clothing in various shades of tans, and have a black veil that would cover the face, letting only the eyes remain seen. The Wise Ones wear white blouses and long tan skirts, with jewellery at their necks, and wrists, and usually a scarf to keep their long hair back.

Phrases, Sayings and Adages

  • "May you always find water and shade." A traditional blessing and farewell saying to a friend.
  • "Life is a dream from which we all must wake." The Aiel's view on mortality.
  • Aiel Pledge: Pledge "Till Shade is gone, till water is gone, into the Shadow with teeth bared, screaming defiance with the last breath, to spit in Sightblinder's eye on the Last Day."

Response: "By my honor and the Light, my life will be a dagger in Sightblinder's heart." Further Response: "Until the Last Day, to Shayol Ghul itself."

  • Aiel funeral dirge:
    Life is a dream -- that knows no shade.
    Life is a dream -- of pain and woe.
    A dream from which -- we pray to wake.
    A dream from which -- we wake and go.
    Who would sleep -- when the new dawn waits?
    Who would sleep -- when the sweet wind blows?
    A dream must end -- when the new day comes.
    This dream from which -- we wake and go.
  • Request: Roofmistress, I ask leave to come beneath your roof.

Response: You have my leave, <name>. Beneath my roof, there is water and shade for you.

  • "I see you, <full name>." (in greeting)


See also |:Category: Aiel}} The list of names below come from Andoran characters created specifically for the Grey Tower.

  • Male names: Gaeln, Jhanic, Ladin, Rolanar, Terric,
  • Female names: Ahura, Deranih, Janis, Miledha, Akilah

Aiel do not tend to have surnames, but they list the Clan and Sept they are from.


The Aiel follow the Car'a'carn, though before that they followed their Clan Leaders.

Clans & Septs

The thirteen Aiel clans (including the ancient Jenn Aiel), and their known septs.

  • Chareen

- Cosaida - Jarra - White Mountain

  • Codarra

- Jaern Rift

  • Daryne

- Bent Peak - Shelan

  • Goshien

- High Plain - Jhirad - Mosaada - Red Salt - Red Water - Stones River

  • Miagoma

- Cold Peak - Smoke Water - Spine Ridge

  • Nakai

- Black Cliffs - Black Water - Salt Flat

  • Reyn

- Musara - Two Spires

  • Shaarad

- Black Rock - Haido - Imran

  • Shaido

- Domai - Green Salts - Jonine - Jumai - Morai - Moshaine - White Cliff

  • Shiande

- Neder

  • Taardad

- Bitter Water - Bloody Water - Chumai - Four Holes - Four Stones - Iron Mountain - Jagged Spire - Jindo - Miadi - Nine Valleys

  • Tomanelle

- Jenda - Serai - Shorara

  • Jenn Aiel

Warrior societies

  • Far Dareis Mai (Maidens of the Spear)
  • Shae'en M'taal (Stone Dogs)
  • Aethan Dor (Red Shields)
  • Seia Doon (Black Eyes)
  • Far Aldazar Din (Brothers of the Eagle)
  • Rahien Sorei (Dawn Runners)
  • Sha'mad Conde (Thunder Walkers)
  • Hama N'dore (Mountain Dancers)
  • Sovin Nai (Knife Hands)
  • Cor Darei (Night Spears)
  • Tain Shari (True Bloods)
  • Duadhe Mahdi'in (Water Seekers)
  • Mera'din (the Brotherless, described below)


Rhuidean is a small city located in the Aiel Waste. After the Breaking of the World, the Jenn Aiel and female Aes Sedai who accompanied them to escape the insane male channelers, built the first and only city there, which they named Rhuidean. The city was never fully inhabited, and was abandoned after the gradual extinction of the Jenn Aiel; however, it is still used for raising clan chiefs and Wise Ones.

Since Rand al'Thor destroyed the Power-woven barrier surrounding Rhuidean, and tapped into an underground water supply to form a lake on the edge of the city, Rhuidean is now being slowly populated and rebuilt. If this effort is successful, it will be the only city in the entire Aiel Waste.

The Wise Ones

Aiel women who can channel are not sent to the White Tower; instead, they remain among the Aiel and become Wise Ones. However a woman can become a Wise One without having the ability to channel. Some Aiel women are also skilled in dreamwalking Tel'aran'rhiod, the World of Dreams; they too become Wise Ones (even if they cannot channel). Wise Ones undergo a grueling testing period, culminating in a trip to Rhuidean; inside there are ter'angreal which administer the final test.

Clan Chiefs

Aiel clan chiefs must also undergo a test by traveling to the center of Rhuidean, four Wise Ones must say yes for them to do so. They come out marked with an iridescent dragon tattoo around one forearm--or do not come out at all. Women receive no such marking. Two of three who go, do not return; what they learn in Rhuidean is too much for some to bear as they learn the full complete history of the Aiel. Eventually, it is told, a man will emerge from Rhuidean at daybreak with two dragons, one on each forearm: a Car'a'carn, a chief-of-chiefs, He Who Comes With The Dawn.


There is also a Car'a'carn, a chief of chiefs, spoken of in prophecy, who will lead the clans and destroy them:

"He shall spill out the blood of those who call themselves Aiel as water on sand, and he shall break them as dried twigs, yet the remnant of a remnant shall he save, and they shall live."

The Shadow Rising, Chapter 34

Of late, Rand al'Thor has been proven to be that man. The arrival of He Who Comes with the Dawn has caused a number of upheavals to the Aiel way of life, manifest in a number of ways, such as:

The Shaido

At least one of the twelve clans, the Shaido, has splintered off from the Aiel proper; its now-deceased leader, Couladin claimed to be the real Car'a'carn and led the Shaido across the Dragonwall into Cairhien. His claim was bolstered by markings on his arms identical to those Rand received in Rhuidean; Asmodean placed them there to sow dissent. His claim has been supported posthumously by his wife Sevanna, although to what continuing effect remains to be seen.

The Bleakness

At Alcair Dal, Rand also revealed the secret he learned in the Rhuidean test, the secret that drove two of three Aiel to insanity: that the Aiel had once been the Da'shain Aiel, served the Aes Sedai, and followed the Way of the Leaf. To a culture that lives and dies by its oaths, the news that they were all oathbreakers was devastating, and many Aiel have since succumbed to the resulting "bleakness." Some take on permanent gai'shain white, in hopes of paying off a debt that can never be repaid. More forsake spear and cadin'sor and attempt to live the Way of the Leaf in the wetlander cities--or among the Tinkers, whom Aiel call Lost Ones--as their ancestors would have. Others simply disappear. And some of them run to join the Shaido, hoping for a return to an earlier, simpler time.


Because of this, the Shaido ranks are swelling, but these runaways, having abandoned their clan and sept, are scorned by the Shaido, and their warrior societies will not accept them. This resulted in the unofficial creation of a thirteenth warrior society, peculiar to the Shaido: the Mera'din, the Brotherless, those who have lost everything (we have not seen any Maidens of the Spear make this decision, as yet).

At present, the heads of the other eleven clans remain loyal to al'Thor, but as battle and the bleakness take their tolls, the number of loyal Aiel diminishes daily.