A Tinker is a traveling merchant and repairman. Tinkers travel about with carts and usually some kind of pack animal or horse to pull the cart. Tinkers act as a sort of independent traveling general store, commonly carrying uncommon merchandise that average folk would rarely find in their home towns. Sharpening knives seems to be a common service provided by many tinkers.
It is said that "a tinker's advice pays kindness twice," and various other variations on this concept, though they all appear to be truncations of a longer verse:
A tinker's debt is always paid: Once for any simple trade. Twice for freely-given aid. Thrice for any insult made.
It is considered bad luck to be rude to or attack a tinker.
In The Chronicle Edit
In chapter 3 of NotW, a tinker going through Newarre with a traveling group described himself as "Tinker, Pot mender. Knife grinder. Willow-wand water-finder". He sold cut cork, motherleaf, silk scarves, writing paper, sweetmeats, belt leather, black pepper, fine lace, bright feather, small cloth, rose water, limes from Tinuë, chocolate from Tarbean and polished horn from Aerueh, among other things unnamed.
According to Jake, on The Lightning Tree, a man posing as a Tinker once came into Newarre, but "that fellow wasn't any kind of proper tinker", so that Tinkers are expected to act on a certain way, and he was considered as 'posing as a Tinker' because he was trying to take advantage of others (in that case, of a girl). It isn't said if anyone can become a Tinker just by going by their ways or if there's something special needed to be one, but Abenthy is also accused as 'posing as a Tinker when he is not' by the constable of the city where Kvothe first meets him, so that it's possible that there's some special circumstance needed for someone to be recognized as a 'proper Tinker'.
Aiding Magic Edit
The Tinkers may have a magic of their own, being able to predict what may aid a person on the future, as they usually offer items that will be useful in the future, or at least they do so in Kvothe's adventures, always offering things Kvothe either ends up using later or regretting not have bought/trade because he needed/could use them later.
This 'power' seems to predict trouble and necessities on the future, offering things that will be of aid, and they usually offer important things after being given aid, as the verse about them implies.
The only other being in the books with powers to 'divinate' the future on a similar way is the Cthaeh, so that there may be a link between the Tinkers and the Cthaeh, both able to predict somehow the future (although the Cthaeh's power seems to be omniscient and all-encompassing, while the Tinkers have a much lessened power, able only to know what will be of aid for a person on the future).
A Tinker also appears on the story of Jax, where the boy insults and disrespects the Tinker. As that happened in a really old past, and the story seems to be only a legend/tale/myth created based on the story of how Jax stole the moon on the Creation War, the Tinker here could also be just a representation, the best figure that could be used today to describe a creature with similar powers on the past (where magic seemed to be stronger). Because Bast says Jax spoke to the Cthaeh before stealing the moon, and the Tinker provides all items needed on the story to steal the moon, there's speculation that that Tinker could be a powerful Knower tricked by Jax, who then turned into the Cthaeh itself.
According to Felurian, “most fae are sly and subtle folk who step as soft as chimney smoke. some go among your kind enshaedn, glamoured as a pack mule laden [...]".
Keeping this phrase in mind, the Tinkers could very well be Fae walking among the mortal realm, which would also be a good explanation for the theory described above as 'Aiding Magic', because, as Fae, the Tinkers would be able to use magic (although that specific way of knowing what will be of aid wouldn't be very well explained neither by glamour nor grammarie).
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