Gleemen are wandering performers, acrobats, musicians, jugglers and storytellers predominantly, but other things as well, with cloaks covered in patches of multiple colours (TGH, Ch. 1). Thom claims he will make stories come alive before their eyes (TEotW, Ch. 1). When Thom learns that Seaghan has hired players to pretend to be Rogosh, Blaes and Gaidal, he is very dismissive, claiming that if they are put on after him, there will be a riot, as he makes the listener feel they are Gaidal Cain (TGH, Ch. 26).
Gleemen are indeed all men, though before she died, Dena had hoped to become the first female gleeman (TGH, Ch. 26). Thom did not approve “That's no life for a woman. Not much of a life for a man, for that. Wandering from town to town, village to village, wondering how they'll try to cheat you this time, half the time wondering where your next meal is coming from (TGH, Ch. 26). Typically, an innkeeper will give them both room and board, as well as an extra payment, for the increase in trade a gleeman will bring; Thom is quite disparaging of Bartim when he only offers free drinks (TEotW, Ch. 26).
Gleemen are not common, but before Thom, two visited during Rand's life (TEotW, Ch. 2) and several have visited Emond's Field in Bran's time (TGH, Ch. 1). Although they are wanderers, they can be hired but this is expensive for a small village (TGH, Ch. 1). When Thom goes to Emond's Field, the Village Council tries to keeps it a secret because the people there would be very excited if they knew and very disappointed if he didn't make it (TEotW, Ch. 1). Outside of the Two Rivers, they are a little more common, but most places do not see them often, Sara in Baerlon for instance claimed not to have seen one since before winter (TEotW, Ch. 7) and even the town of Whitebridge is not so big that the death of a gleeman would not be a major thing (TSR, Ch. 45).
They are primarily village performers, the only gleemen Elayne could remember seeing had been in the villages near her country estates (TSR, Ch. 20), though many of the larger towns and cities try and attract them and they are welcome in almost any inn, Mat for example, sees three in Maerone (LoC, Ch. 5). According to Bayle Domon, Illianers have “proper regard” for gleemen and there is no finer place in the world for the art of storytelling. During the feasts, Illian has a competition for the best telling of The Hunt of the Horn and the winner receives one hundred gold marks. Even aside from the competition, a gleeman can make his fortune in Illian (TEotW, Ch. 26). This draws gleemen from the world over. Before he was assassinated and the Shaido attacked Cairhien, Galldrian hired gleemen in the foregate, to try and take people's minds of their problems (TGH, Ch. 25. Rand sees one of these Cairhien (TGH, Ch. 25). They are also one of the few groups welcome in the Waste (TSR, Ch. 36) and receive fat purses for performing on Sea Folk ships (TGH, Ch. 26).
Tales Gleemen tell
There are many tales that gleemen will tell, depending on their audience. Tales of Mara, Susa, Anla are the type of tale normally told in villages, and nobles are unlikely to know them well (TGH, Ch. 34). After Illian announced the Hunt of the Horn, tales of previous hunts became extremely popular (TEotW, Ch. 17), some people wanting little else (TGH, Ch. 25).
- Goodwife Mili and the silk merchant
- How Susa Tamed Jain Farstrider
- King Darith and the Fall of the House of -
- The Seige of the Pillars of the Sky
- The Thousand Tales of Anla the Wise Councillor
- Gaidal Cain's Sword
- How Goodwife Karil Cured her Husband of Snoring
- Jaem the Giant-Slayer
- Lian's Stand
- Mara and the Three Foolish Kings
- Tales of Artur Paendrag Tangreall
- Tales of Lenn and Salya
- Tales of Materese the Healer
- Tales of Mosk the Giant and his wars with Alsbet
- Tales of Ogier and Aiel
- Tales of the Green Man
- Tales of the Time of Madness
- Tales of the Trolloc Wars
- Tales of Warders and Trollocs
- The Aptargine Cycle for the girls
- The Bargain of Rogosh Eagle Eye
- The end of the Age of Legends and the Dragon's attempt to free the Dark One
- The Fall of Aleth-loriel
- The The Karaethon Cycle
- The Last Ride of Buad of Albhain
- The War of the Hundred Years
- Various Tales of The Great Hunt of the Horn