3.13: The Aiel, Native Americans, and the Zulu

[Contributed by msteakley@utsi.com, whose real name I never got.]

"Little tiger who hunts the northern pass" writes:

In reviewing the theories on the Aiel and who they represent, I have not found any references to any other cultures other than the thirteen tribes of Israel. At first glance I would also have agreed with this theory if I had not been initiated into Native American culture, and in particular the philosophies and history of the plains Indian tribes.

In reviewing their histories I have come across many similar tales in various tribes where the people were either forced to move to a new home or, for some unknown reason, chose to make the move of their own accord. The most notable would be the forced move of the Cherokee. This tribe could very easily pass for the peaceful Aiel who were forced to move to the hot dry lands of the Aiel Waste, a very fitting analogy for Oklahoma. However, due to the fact that they never became a serious threat in later years I have to discount them unless the Aiel are considered a blend of various tribes.

The two most notable tribes which I have encountered to date would be the Cheyenne and the Kiowa. Both tribes have tales which tell of their people moving from their ancestral home in search of a new home. There is a line in the Cheyenne tale which specifically says 'where every hand was raised against us'. This line I also believe was used by the Aiel in describing their migration. The Cheyenne were also made up of thirteen clans according to the original histories I have encountered about them. Having been an integral part of the Algonquin society of the northeastern tribes they were also a peaceful people until after their move to the northern plains. Their encroachment into other tribes' territories and the resulting wars is the most probable reason they became an extremely efficient warrior society. The Kiowa also have a tale of their movement from somewhere in the northwest area of the United States where they had to fight all the way to their current home, which I believe is in the Oklahoma territory, ending up with fewer than 300 people in the tribe. They also became an efficient warrior society due to their move and the expansion of the European colonists in later years.

The rituals of the Aiel are also distinctly Native American. The sweat baths taken by the wise ones and other Aiel are a definitive ritual of Plains Indian culture. (It may also be a part of other native American cultures but I have only been involved with the plains Indians and the Crow tribe to be specific.) The sweat lodge was described rather well by RJ, so I will not go into detail, but I know of no Israelite tales of sweat ceremonies or baths. The other ritual most notably used is the vision quest. This entails the seeker of the vision going out into the wilderness, stripping down to the bare flesh, and fasting for three to four days until a vision (hallucination from lack of food) is seen. In some tribes a 'sponsor' goes along as well to let the rest of the tribe know what is happening. This, of course, sounds just like Rand and Mat's trip into Rhuidean where they journey into the unknown without food or water, Rand has his 'vision' of his ancestors (another typical Indian philosophy), and they return three days later. I am not surprised if no one else had caught this, having been on a vision quest I did not catch this until I read it a second time and I was still unsure of it being one.

The thing that surprised me the most is the fact that no one has, to my knowledge, mentioned the fact that the Aiel warrior societies all sound distinctly Native American. I can understand about the clan names, two of which sound Japanese to me, but with names like Thunder Walkers, Brothers of the Eagle, Mountain Dancers, and Stone Dogs, I was surprised the connection had not been brought up before (to my knowledge). Being a Crazy Dog of the Crow Indian Nation I was pleased to note the connection between Stone Dogs and my own warrior society. Of course, Crazy Dogs drive a stake into the ground and tie their left leg to it in order to show they have no fear while protecting the tribe. I have yet to see an Aiel do that.

There were also tribe in the Northeast where each clan had a central meeting house. They also had a female as the leader of the clan. In order to gain entrance to the house permission was granted by her, like the Aiel House Mistress. [Leo Tokarski adds, "Also, in some Native American cultures, only women were allowed to own land."]

One last note, The more observant will have realized that the plains Indians were masters of the horse. But, if you could run as fast as one too, why bother? [Michelle Levine counters, "There is no problem with the lack of horses... there were no horses in North America prior to colonization."]

Eddie Bell mentions that the Sioux had a form of first-sister/brother acceptance - basically, if you decided that someone was honorable, you could adopt them into the family as a brother or sister. The Sioux's method of counting coup also bears remarkable similarities to ji'e'toh.

Tony Z. adds, "The thing with spear/shield, and then the Aiel battle tactics that Lan describes to Rand, for instance, are pretty much lifted from the Zulus."