Tear (Wheel of Time)

In the fictional world of Robert Jordan's fantasy series The Wheel of Time, Tear is one of the richest nations in the land. This comes in part from controlling the greatest port on the Sea of Storms, at the mouth of the River Erinin. A great deal of Tear's wealth comes from the oil produced on the country's numerous olive farms. This is supplemented by lucrative trade in grain, fish and spices.


The word "Tear," when referring to the nation (or capital city of the same name), is pronounced with a long E, as if in reference to an emotional sign of grief. Its natives, the "Tairens," however, are named with a flat A, as if referring to a rip in a piece of paper.

Socioeconomic disparity

Tear's distribution of wealth is highly top-heavy; the vast majority of it resides with the Tairen nobility. Tairen lords believe that commoners are actually lesser beings, and the societal rift between haves and have-nots is intense, to the point where they even dress differently. Furthermore, the inner city of the capital is surrounded by a high wall of gray stone, which protects the finer houses and palaces of the nobles, which line streets paved with stone. Outside the wall, commoners trudge through unpaved, muddy streets. Until the coming of the Dragon Reborn, it was not possible for a commoner to call a noble before a magistrate.

Unlike most nations, Tear is not ruled by a king or queen, but rather a council of High Lords. The number of High Lords has varied over time from six to twenty, as they are chosen by societal rank.

Geography and history

Tear's importance stretches back to antiquity, as is evidenced by the surprisingly large number of portal stones (dating from before the Age of Legends), four, within its present boundaries.

The location of the city of Tear is unclear. At the beginning of Chapter 48 of The Dragon Reborn, the city docks are said to be on the west bank of the River Erinin, but at the beginning of Chapter 50, Perrin, Moiraine, and Lan arrive by ferry from the west. At the beginning of Chapter 22 of The Shadow Rising, Rand leads the Aiel "out of the Stone and eastward." A map of the city appears in The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game, showing the docks to be to the west of the city, and the Stone to be on the north edge. The reference in Chapter 48 appears to be an editing error. A smaller city in the nation of Tear is Godan. Godan is very much an exceptional case, as the High Lords, wary of any other town growing to rival Tear, place stringent restrictions on urban development outside the capital. For example, no villages at all are permitted downstream of Tear, in order to prevent rival seaports. And almost everywhere else in Tear, village taxes are increased with the number of buildings in the village. Godan may have been exempted in order to provide a commercial rival for, and base for military operations against, the small neighbouring state of Mayene.

Stone of Tear

The city of Tear is dominated by the Stone of Tear, which towers above the city like a small mountain. It is believed to be the oldest stronghold (and oldest surviving structure) of mankind, erected shortly after the Breaking of the World. It was built by Aes Sedai using the One Power, Earth, Air, and Fire fusing stones together without joint or mortar.

Deep within the Stone is the Heart of the Stone. This is where the crystal sword Callandor was kept, waiting for the Dragon Reborn to claim it. None except the High Lords were allowed to enter the Heart, and even they rarely do so: four times a year for the Rite of Guarding there, and at infrequent intervals to raise Lords of the Land to the office of High Lord. Indeed, if the High Lords could manage to forget that the Heart of the Stone and Callandor existed, they undoubtedly would: Tairens of all classes have an avowed fear of anything to do with the One Power. This is due partly to the fact that it is prophesied that the Stone of Tear will never fall until the Dragon has been Reborn. The High Lords like to think that by protecting Callandor, they are protecting the world from the Dragon Reborn.

Ironically, the Stone also houses a collection of angreal and ter'angreal in its Great Holding. In the Westlands, this collection is second only to that held by the White Tower. There is uncertainty as to exactly why the Tairens have collected such an array; perhaps to prevent their use by Aes Sedai, or maybe to diminish by comparison the knowledge that they possess one of the greatest of them, Callandor, whose drawing by the Dragon Reborn will herald the coming of another Breaking of the World. One important item is a tall, twisted redstone door frame, once owed by Mayene, leading to the land of the Aelfinn. Rand, Mat and Moiraine have all passed through this doorway seeking answers to three questions.

The most prominent geographical feature of the country is the vast river delta, a maze of waterways and swampland called the Fingers of the Dragon. This lies immediately to the south of the city of Tear and extends for some miles to the Sea of Storms. Tairen pilots board all foreign ships to guide them through the Fingers.

Real-world references

Tear is thought by many to be based in part on Spain during the height of the Spanish empire; the nobles and soldiers of Tear bear a particularly strong resemblance, while the common people more closely resemble the peasants of China and Korea.


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