A Traveling Entertainer Reveals Crucial Lore

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Wheel of Time Episode 3, "A Place of Safety," and Episode 4, "The Dragon Reborn."

The last of the three episodes released as part of the premiere of Prime Video's The Wheel of Time introduces of a major new character, Thom Merrilin. In addition to befriending Rand and Mat, and showing off some deadly skills at a crucial moment, Thom is a handy source of information about the nameless world in which the fantasy series is set

Thom is a gleeman, The Wheel of Time's term for a traveling entertainer who sings and plays music, tells stories and sometimes performs tricks like juggling. They're generally respected and welcomed everywhere, and Thom's age and experience means he's well-informed about history as well as current events, which is more than the characters from the secluded Two Rivers can say.

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For the audience, he's also a great source of information that will come in handy as the complexities of the show unfold. In his first appearance, he sings a melancholy song titled "The Man Who Can't Forget," about the Breaking of the World. Although this has been referenced numerous times already, the lyrics hone in on the grief and the madness of the Dragon, who caused it, and even stir some sympathy for the dreaded figure.

Later, Thom has a confrontation with Mat, catching him in the act of robbing a dead body hanged outside the town. The dead man, Thom explains, was Aiel -- a warrior culture, but one that fights with honor, and the fact that his face wasn't veiled means he wasn't dangerous and was murdered due to the prejudices of the locals. The Aiel will become important in future seasons, and furthermore, Thom's exposition about them reveals something about the whole world.

"Aren't many things outside accent and dress that can tell you where a person's from," Thom says to Mat, after correctly inferring his roots based on accent and dress. "But it is rare to see that color of hair [red] outside the Aiel Waste." In a fantasy setting, skin tones and other racial features usually indicate a character's homeland to some extent, as it's assumed that not many of them have settled far from the land where their people originated. But in The Wheel of Time, catastrophic events displaced countless survivors, blending cultures until physical differences were erased, and that facet of the world is reflected in the cast.

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Thom joins Mat and his red-haired friend Rand after killing a Darkfriend who threatened them. That requires some explanation, too, as it's the first time Darkfriends have been mentioned. "Sworn body and soul to the Dark One," they're human, but they're too corrupted for reason or bargaining, and Thom alone knows better than to hesitate before striking a fatal blow.

In the most recent episode, Thom is still traveling with Rand and Mat, but this time he lets them in on some part of his own history: He had a nephew who could channel, and the young man was captured by the Red Ajah of the Aes Sedai. They "gentled" Thom's nephew in accordance with their policy, but the process left him dead to the world, and Thom witnessed his suicide firsthand.

The experience left Thom distrustful of Aes Sedai, but also savvy to the signs of a man who's about to manifest the power to channel. When he starts seeing those signs in Mat, Rand knows that it's time to pay attention and take the advice of someone who knows better. Thom has one more thing to reveal about himself: "We call ourselves gleeman because a silly name makes us less frightening. Nothing is more dangerous than a man who knows the past."

More songs and stories come out every week on The Wheel of Time, now streaming on Prime Video with new episodes released on Fridays.

KEEP READING: Wheel of Time: That Isn’t the Dark One in Their Dreams It’s [SPOILER]

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Mira Jacobs was bitten by a radioactive Oxford comma which transformed her into a writer and junior news editor for CBR. She lives in Colorado with a man and a dog and a cat and a bird and a miniature void with eyes. You can drop her a note at [email protected] or find her on Twitter.

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