Valan Luca's Circus
Valan Luca’s Grand Traveling Show and Magnificent Display of Marvels and Wonders (WH, Ch. 15) is a travelling menagerie. This show travels with both performers and animals.
The menagerie gives shelter to main characters twice in the series. The show grows fifty times in size from the time Nynaeve, Elayne, Thom and Juilin leave the show (TFoH, Ch. 47) until the time Mat, Thom and Juilin see the show later in the series (WH, Ch. 15).
The banner over the entrance changes from Valan Luca in gold ornate script on a red banner (TFoH, Ch. 38) to Valan Luca’s Grand Traveling Show and Magnificent Display of Marvels and Wonders in brilliant large red letters on a wide blue banner (CoT, Ch. 2).
Entrance fee is a silver penny for adults, five coppers for a child above a certain height (waist high to Bollin, the money-handler at the gate), three coppers for a child smaller than that and entrance is free for a child that has to be carried (KoD, Ch. 7). Sometimes a town, for example, Runnien Crossing, will try to negotiate a lower price (KoD, Ch. 8).
The entrance fee is taken by a horse handler in a clear thick glass pitcher and dumped straight into a hole in the top of an iron-strapped box so wrapped about with chain that Petra has to put it in place before the first silver penny is put in (TFoH, Ch. 38).
Murel, a Seanchan soldier, tries to get into the show without paying. (KoD, Ch. 7) When this happens or when someone tries to cause trouble, one of the horse handlers gives a shrill three-note whistle that echoes through the show (KoD, Ch. 7). This signal causes every man in the show to appear, with a club of some sort, to stand up for themselves. As soon as this happens though, the show moves along as the local magistrate will not always be sympathetic to the show because they are strangers (KoD, Ch. 8). Two and a half leagues are covered in an average day's travel (CoT, Ch. 28) but never more than four leagues to a day (KoD, Ch. 8).
When coming into a large town the show makes a procession; the bears snarl and the Chavana’s tumble in front of Luca’s wagon to make townsfolk gasp in amazement and attract people to come to the show (TFoH, Ch. 36).
If there is no show Luca finds a clearing for the wagons or sometimes hires an unused pasture from a farmer though he will complain of the cost even if it is just a silver penny (KoD, Ch. 8).
Everyone rises late, as a rule (CoT, Ch. 2).
In difficult times Valan Luca may seek a patron to give the show financial aid in exchange for spreading the fame of the patron's generosity (TFoH, Ch. 13).
The s'redit destroy the front of an inn in Sienda called The King's Lancer, forcing all of its patrons to relocate to the other inn in town; The Light of Truth. Luca is forced to pay the damages to the innkeeper and fines to the town's fathers (TFoH, Ch. 13).
When the Seanchan requisition the horses around Ebou Dar the horses in the show are spared by a warrant signed by the High Lady Suroth (CoT, Ch. 2) for giving shelter to Cerandin and the s’redit. The warrant details the number of horses exempt from the lottery (CoT, Ch. 2).
Sedrin, the tightrope walker walked thirty spans across a high rope turning somersaults. (TFoH, Ch. 17) however one night, outside Sienda, he had too much brandy, fell and died (TFoH, Ch. 17). Morelin (Elayne), the tightrope walker walks, pivots, turns cartwheels and backflips across the rope (TFoH, Ch. 37) while Juilin acts drunk and pretends he is not a performer before wobbling across the rope (TFoH, Ch. 37).
Aludra, an Illuminator sends nightflowers three hundred paces into the sky to coax the people in nearby towns to come see the menagerie. (WH, Ch. 15) Every night before everyone goes to bed, she launchs her nightflowers, two or three for a large town or several villages close together (KoD, Ch. 6) or just a single nightflower for smaller towns (KoD, Ch. 8).
Petra, the strongman, has arms the size of tree trunks (TFoH, Ch. 17). He can twirl a large heavy iron bar in his hands, two people are needed to hand it to him, and he even spins the bar around his neck and across his back. (TFoH, Ch. 37) He can also straighten horseshoes with his bare hands. (CoT, Ch. 2).
Cerandin trains the s’redit, using a goad to encourage them (TFoH, Ch. 38).
Nana (Nynaeve), stands at a target while Maerion (Birgitte) shoots arrows around her and at pears held in her hand and on her head. Luca calls this “Rose amongst Thorns”. Nana is blindfolded during the act (TFoH, Ch. 33).
Four contortionists; including Adria (CoT, Ch. 2) and Muelin (TFoH, Ch. 40) They can sit on their own heads and twist themselves into knots that look beyond untying (KoD, Ch. 6). Muelin can also grip a wooden frame in her teeth and balance like that with her arms outstretched and white doves on each hand. (TFoH, Ch. 40).
Half a dozen male and female acrobats who perform on horseback (CoT, Ch. 29).
Four fools who paint their faces and douse each other with water and hit each other with inflated pigbladders (CoT, Ch. 3).
A slack-rope walker who swings back and forth on a sagging rope slung between two tall poles and performs other acrobatic feats (WH, Ch. 15).
A performer who can run on top of a twenty foot long egg-shaped wheel (WH, Ch. 15).
A performer who can roll three shiny balls along his arms and shoulders without ever having to touch them with his hands (WH, Ch. 15).
Among the show's animals are;
A black-maned lion and his two consorts, (TFoH, Ch. 13).
Brightly colored birds, (TFoH, Ch. 13).
Three s'redit; a bull, Mer, a cow, Sanit and a calf, Nerin (TFoH, Ch. 17) The “boar-horses” can balance on their forelegs, (TFoH, Ch. 37) and stand on each others’ backs (TFoH, Ch. 38). Every time the s'redit stand on their hind legs, the heads of the adults can be seen by those outside the canvas fence (TFoH, Ch. 38).
A huge snake from the marshes of Illian, four times as long as a man, (TFoH, Ch. 37).
Two black bears with white faces which perform tricks (TFoH, Ch. 13).
Brown-furred creatures with big eyes and round ears that sit placidly eating leaves, Luca was unable to think of a suitable name for them (TFoH, Ch. 37).
Long horselines, where two dozen men bundled against the cold were shoveling dung into barrows. Hundreds of horses (WH, Ch. 15).
Setting Up the Show
Getting the show set up takes roughly half a day including putting up the canvas wall and the banner. (CoT, Ch. 28)
The show’s canvas wall is ten feet high and tightly pegged at the bottom. There are thick ropes fastened to posts designed to herd crowds to the wide, arched entrance just behind the banner (CoT, Ch. 2).
Beyond the entrance, the show’s main street is thirty paces wide and weaves among brightly painted wagons and walled tents. There are wooden platforms with colored bunting, where the entertainers perform, along the street. (CoT, Ch. 2). Narrower side streets branch off from this with no platforms for performers. These streets are for living only, the narrowness is meant to discourage outsiders and lines for drying laundry hang between some of the wagons (CoT, Ch. 2).
Luca's big wagon sits in the middle of the show, as far as possible from the animals' smelly cages and the horselines which are situated along the canvas walls. (CoT, Ch. 2) It is surrounded by smaller wagons and by wall-tents. This is a favored spot, reserved for people who have been with Luca for years and were his most prized performers. (KoD, Ch. 6) Petra and Clarine’s wagon is near here (CoT, Ch. 2).
All but the s'redit perform on raised wooden stages Luca had built. (TFoH, Ch. 37) The showfolk refuse to perform outside when the rain is heavy. Luca talks of having a tent made large enough to hold the entire show (CoT, Ch. 28).
The train of wagons begins with Luca’s wagon, pulled by six horses, at its head. The storage wagons and animal cages and spare horses travel at the rear. (KoD, Ch. 8) It is unknown how they determine the order of leaving (CoT, Ch. 3) However, when Mat is with the show, Tuon’s wagon comes just behind Luca’s and the Aes Sedai wagon is near the middle of the long line (KoD, Ch. 8).
Wagons & Tents
Luca’s wagon is the largest in the show lacquered in red and blue, every surface spotted with golden comets and stars. The phases of the moon are painted in silver just under the roofline all the way around the wagon. (WH, Ch. 15) The chimney is painted in red and blue rings. (CoT, Ch. 2) Inside Luca's wagon he has a gilded chair at a real table, with stools tucked under for guests, whereas most other wagons have a table rigged on ropes from the ceiling (KoD, Ch. 6).
Clarine's dogs sleep on their leashes beneath Clarine and Petra's green wagon (TFoH, Ch. 33).
Aludra has a vivid blue wagon (CoT, Ch. 2).
The Chavana brothers have a green wagon (CoT, Ch. 29).
Balat and Abar have a green-striped wall-tent that they rent to Mat. It has a pair of brass-bound chests, a washstand, a ladder-back chair, a sturdy stool, and a small table (KoD, Ch. 8).
The four fools have a large whitewashed wagon with four beds, two of them folded flat against the walls above the other two. They rent the wagon to Mat and the Aes Sedai stay there (CoT, Ch. 3).
Tuon’s has a windowless wagon painted in faded purple. (CoT, Ch. 3) It is covered with cabinets or shelves or pegs for hanging clothing and has a table that could be let down on ropes or can be tucked snug against the ceiling. It has two narrow beds built into the walls and a drawered cabinet at the foot of one bed. (CoT, Ch. 3) It also has a small sliding door used to talk to whoever drives (KoD, Ch. 9).
Organization & Roles
Valan Luca is the ringmaster, though that is not the term used to describe him in the series. He keeps the show together through his own persuasion more than anything else (KoD, Ch. 10).
His wife Latelle, in addition to her role as a performer, dispenses ointments to the showfolk (KoD, Ch. 25).
As the show grew seamstresses joined the show but before this all costumes would have been sewn by Clarine. Now the seamstresses include Jameine (CoT, Ch. 3).
Petra takes it on himself to be the peacekeeper of the show breaking up fights between Nana and Cerandin (TFoH, Ch. 38) and a fight between horse handlers (CoT, Ch. 3). He also feeds the lion (TFoH, Ch. 33) and puts the coin box in place at the entrance (TFoH, Ch. 38).
Although there is no set hierarchy to the group, everyone but the children have a vote (KoD, Ch. 10).
The horse handlers are the lowest rung on the ladder as they perform no acts, earning the lowest pay and doing the dirtiest work. (TFoH, Ch. 17) Included in the horse handlers duties is cleaning the animal cages (TFoH, Ch. 17), guarding performers when the crowd rushes in (TFoH, Ch. 37), collecting the money at the entrance (TFoH, Ch. 38), guarding the performer's entrance against people who might try to sneak in without paying and erecting and taking down the canvas wall (CoT, Ch. 2).
There are not many horse handlers considering the size of the menagerie but everyone helps with the work (TFoH, Ch. 17)
The show’s costumes were originally sewn by Clarine when the show was small, however since the show has grown various seamstresses do most of the sewing. The choice of colors and cut are Luca’s however (TFoH, Ch. 47). Performers’ costumes glitter with spangles, beads and bright colors, but the cloth is whatever could be found cheaply (CoT, Ch. 29). The needlework of the show’s seamstresses meet with Tuon’s approval (CoT, Ch. 29).
Luca has a dozen cloaks, mostly red (CoT, Ch. 2), including a red silk cape (TFoH, Ch. 13), a red cloak with gold star and comets (WH, Ch. 15) and a scarlet cloak embroidered with golden sunbursts (CoT, Ch. 2).
Nynaeve & Birgitte wear matching blazing red silk dresses, snug over the hips and bodice with a square low cut neck. (TFoH, Ch. 40) They also have changes in various colors, blue, virulent yellow, and one in stripes (TFoH, Ch. 47).
Cerandin wears a blue dress with sequins and a high collar (TFoH, Ch. 37).
Clarine wears a green dress with sequins and a high collar (TFoH, Ch. 37).
Though Luca had a coat sewn for Thom covered in red sequins, Thom wears his own brown coat (TFoH, Ch. 37).
Petra and the Chavanas perform wearing only in bright blue breeches to show off their muscles (TFoH, Ch. 37).
Miyora wears skirts with silvery spangles (CoT, Ch. 29).
The contortionists wear filmy trousers and glittering vests (CoT, Ch. 29).
The acrobats performing on horseback wear white-striped coats and tight breeches (CoT, Ch. 29).
Another show had a woman who did sleight of hand tricks but the Whitecloaks whipped up the mob against this show, the woman was killed and the show was destroyed. Luca hired Muelin, the contortionist, away from this show (TFoH, Ch. 40).
Mairin Gome’s show has two women who, clinging to a rope hanging from a tall framework of poles, contort themselves and do horizontal handstands to either side of the rope above her florid green and gold sign to attract more crowds (TFoH, Ch. 38).
In an effort to outdo one another Luca ensures the boar-horses rear high enough to be seen over the canvas wall, Mairin Gome then puts her contortionists on ropes over her sign. None of the shows had anything visible from the outside, and their crowds queueing to get in were much smaller (TFoH, Ch. 38).
The show travels to Ebou Dar (WH, Ch. 15).
The show leaves Ebou Dar traveling along the Great North Road towards Lugard (CoT, Ch. 28) stopping at every last town and village along the way including Coramen, (CoT, Ch. 28) Weesin, (CoT, Ch. 28) Jurador, (CoT, Ch. 29) and Runnien Crossing (KoD, Ch. 8) and Maderin (KoD, Ch. 11).
"Where there are crowds, people want to be entertained. And where people want to be entertained, my show is always welcome." - Luca (The Fires of Heaven, Chapter 13)
Some of the showfolk talked of what they would do when they retired. Not Luca. He intended to keep on until he fell over dead in the middle of a show. And he would arrange it so he had the largest audience possible when he did. - Mat’s POV (Knife of Dreams, Chapter 6).