Author: Kyria d'Oreyn
Unless stated otherwise, all information herein is taken from TWoRJTWoT.
Only the wary dare trade with the ever-shifting sands. – a Sea Folk saying concerning Shara
Not much is known about the continent, as it is almost completely walled off from the outside world. It seems that they want to keep any foreign influence away, but whether from fear of contamination or unwillingness to let their own people know about the outside world is not clear. Most of what we know comes from either the Sea Folk, the Aiel or Jain Farstrider, although the three sources can be contradictory.
Very little information can be viewed as hard fact with the exception, perhaps, of the experiences of traders.
Situated in the eastern part of the main continent, Shara is bordered by the Great Blight to the north, the Morenal Ocean to the east and the Sea of Storms to the south, as well as the Great Rift to the west and the Cliffs of Dawn to the northwest.
Only six trade cities along the Cliffs of Dawn and five trade ports on the southern shore offer connections to the outside world. The rest of Shara is hidden behind walls so high they shut off every sight of what lies behind. Foreigners who try to sneak a peek over them face a death penalty.
Few maps of the eastern shore exist and many are incomplete, but it is known that there are no ports on the eastern shore. Any ship that sails close enough to be sighted is destroyed by the native channelers.
Ever since the Breaking of the World, this land has been a mystery. The Sharans themselves claim to be a united nation that lives in peace without wars or rebellions. Even the Trolloc Wars supposedly did not affect them, though the Aiel say otherwise. Occasionally, a Sharan will admit that the Trollocs caused a problem, if only a minor one.
A fleet under the command of one of Hawkwing's daughters, whose name is unknown, was sent on an expedition to Shara. Little is known what became of it, though there are rumors claiming Hawkwing conquered "lands beyond the Aiel Waste." Landings on the coast of Shara were indeed observed in FY 993, according to the Sea Folk ships' logs. Other logs of that time report seeing "large numbers of ships burning in late FY 994, primarily in the same bays where the initial landings were recorded." The Sharans, however, claim that this fleet never even existed.
After Rand returned from Rhuidean, marked as the Car'a'carn, word of him spread and reached even Shara. There is fighting now and Sharans in the tradeports ask whether the Dragon Reborn will Break the World again (LoC, Ch. 17). It is likely that the land is in uproar because both the Sh'boan and her Sh'botay have been kidnapped by Graendal (LoC, Ch. 6).
Foreign trade is limited to the six trade cities situated along the Cliffs of Dawn and five walled trade ports on the Sea of Storms. Noal describes them as "great coastal [cities] that foreigners were not allowed to leave except by ship and the inhabitants were not allowed to leave at all" (KoD, Ch. 25).
No one from outside would want to deal with the natives' eccentricity, if their trade goods weren't so profitable. Silk and ivory are available only in Shara, with the exception of perhaps Seanchan.
"The Sea Folk conduct most of the trade in the port cities, though there are occasional ships from Illian, Mayene, and some of the other seagoing countries. Land-based trade used to be largely monopolized by Cairhien, because of the Aiel gift of safe passage, but since the Aiel War, however, most overland trade has been limited to the Aiel, and an occasional merchant friendly to the Aiel. For the most part, people are content to let the Sea Folk deal with Shara, even if it means they must pay a higher price."
Sharans do not believe foreigners deserve to be told the truth of the goods they are buying, so the traders quickly learn to check whatever they purchase. "When buying cloth, even in large quantities, each and every bolt must be unwound and checked from beginning to end to insure that full measure has been given, and that the material is the same throughout." Otherwise, they would find that only the outside layer is the wanted cloth (LoC, Ch. 17).
Before the Aiel War, the Jangai Pass was used as the major trade route between Cairhien and Shara.
Government and Nobility
The "monolithic empire" is reigned over by an absolute monarch, called Sh'boan if female, Sh'botay if male. This monarch reigns for seven years and chooses a partner for this time. At the end of the seventh year, the current ruler dies and the office is taken over by his or her mate, who will then take on a new partner and rule for another seven years.
This cycle has gone on since the end of the Breaking and the people think of it as the "Will of the Pattern," until Graendal broke it by kidnapping Chiape, the current ruling Sh'boan, and Shaofan, her Sh'botay (LoC, Ch. 6).
If a ruler fails to live the full seven years, the people see this as a sign of the Creator's displeasure and across the land, high and low will serve penances.
The ruler is surrounded by Ayyad women as servants all the time; if one wants to speak to the Sh'boan or Sh'botay, they have to do this through the Ayyad. Being allowed to see the monarch directly is considered a great honor and is rarely bestowed.
The writer of a document recently found (likely Jain Charin) claims that the actual power over the empire is held by the Ayyad.
Channelers in Shara, both male and female, are called Ayyad. They live in high-walled villages, cut off from the outside world. Women of any age can be seen there, but no male over twenty (KoD, Ch. 6). None except Ayyad are allowed to enter and the Ayyad themselves supposedly cannot leave without permission, though who gives this permission is unclear. Any non-Ayyad who manages to infiltrate the village is killed on sight.
All Sharans know the Ayyad receive the permission to channel from the currently ruling Sh'boan or Sh'botay and won't touch the Source unless instructed to do so. Therefore, when the channelers are seen outside, the people believe they were granted permission.
The Ayyad have their faces tattooed at birth. Anyone who is discovered to have the ability later in life (these people are believed to be the result of a union of one of their ancestors and an Ayyad) is seized, tattooed and taken to an Ayyad village.
The Ayyad women enforce their laws rigidly. Those with the tattoos may not marry one who does not have them (LoC, Ch. 6). "Sexual congress between Ayyad and non-Ayyad is punishable by death for the non-Ayyad, and for the Ayyad if it can be proven the Ayyad forced the other. Any child of such a union is killed by exposure to the elements." They also keep detailed records on each bloodline "in much the way the Cairhienin record the pedigrees of their pure-blooded horses."
Male Ayyad are used as breeding stock only. They are not educated in any way, not even taught to read or write, and perform only the simplest tasks. They are completely cloistered and there are only two times throughout the life of the men when they are permitted to leave their villages. First, at the age of circa sixteen, they are hooded and transported to a distant Ayyad village in a closed wagon, thus never seeing the outside world. Once they reach the age of twenty-one - or sooner, if they show any signs of channeling - they are hooded and taken away once more, though this time they are killed and their bodies cremated.
Not much is known about this subject, other than that the culture of Shara is entirely based on "the enslavement of the many by the few" and that the slaves live in a grim situation.
Unfortunate people who are shipwrecked on the eastern shore (or anywhere outside the designated area) are said to be either enslaved or killed on sight.
If Aiel capture treekillers (Cairhienin), they sell them as animals in Shara (TFoH, Ch. 2).
People and Customs
The people seem to be "deliberately duplicitous," shifty and wary, at least where outsiders are concerned.
Jain Charin claims it is an imperative in the Sharan culture to lie to outsiders. Rhuarc says that "if the next time in the tradehold you happen to find the man who traded with you, he will deny seeing you before, or coming to trade before. If you press it, the others kill him to appease you, then say only he could do anything concerning the silk, and try to trade you water as wine" (LoC, Ch. 17).
Among their musical instruments are "oddly elongated harps, with chimes that resonated to the plucked strings in crystalline echoes," playing "strange atonal music, full of complex harmonies and odd dissonances" (LoC, Ch. 6).
The people believe the deaths of their monarchs after seven years of ruling are natural. If rulers die before, they believe the Creator is displeased and everyone serves penances. To the Sharans, everything is the "Will of the Pattern" (LoC, Ch. 6).
Appearance, Clothing and Dress
People from Shara have very dark skin and curly hair (LoC, Ch. 6).
Sharan traders only show themselves cloaked and veiled.
The Ayyad have tattoos on their faces.
Characters from Shara
- It is said that if Hawkwing had not used up so much energy against Tar Valon, the Seanchan and Shara expeditions might have been launched sooner and more successfully with his own involvement.
- Siuan used to watch ships arrive from Shara and boasts that she would have had the nerve to sneak outside the trade ports there (NS, Ch. 3).
- In the story about Rogosh Eagle-eye and Dunsinin from the Great Hunt of the Horn, a "Shara Pass" is mentioned (TGH, Ch. 23). Maybe it is located somewhere along the Cliffs of Dawn, allowing the Aiel to trade with the Sharans.
- Perrin meets a suspicious fellow in the wolf dream whose description fits none of the other nations we know. He wears a "strangely cut coat and breeches, the coat flaring over his hips as the bottoms of the breeches flared over his boots. Both were bright yellow, and his boots were only a little paler." He also has an "odd accent, quick and sharp" (TDR, Ch. 9).
- Valan Luca claims he has led an expedition to Shara, where his "giant boar-horses" are from, and would like to tell Elayne his stories about "gigantic people twice the size of Ogier.” He claims that there are “Beings with no heads. Birds big enough to carry off a full-grown bull. Snakes that can swallow a man. Cities made of solid gold" (TFoH, Ch. 14).
- Graendal thinks to herself that anyone from Shara would have served her purpose of deceiving Sammael, but she has her standards and so put much effort into procuring Chiape and Shaofan. She also claims that they are much happier now and thank her for rescuing them (LoC, Ch. 6).
- The Travels of Jain Farstrider feature tales about his visit to the lands beyond the Aiel Waste, though Rand thinks they are too fanciful to be true (LoC, Ch. 17).