“TIN HINAN”, Chapter 1

It’s summer here, the dreaded month of August.  I am rewriting another novel, a just finished one, and trying to keep my nose to the grindstone. I would rather be doing other things, like blue-ing the white parts of the cats and dental-flossing between cabinets, but I’m stuck in a commitment to rewrite “Devil’s Revenge”.  A couple of people are holding sticks and look like they aren’t afraid to use them.  So….I am offering “Tin Hinan” as entertainment and there are lots of issues with this novel.  One, I haven’t looked at it in two years, and two, all of us are different people after a course of time.  And this is especially true about writers.  So I warn any reader, this work has much to reconsider, but I just don’t have the time right now for this.

Lady Nyo

(I started this story two years ago this summer. It grew legs and ran away with me. When I was dancing (I am a bellydancer, but NOT in the summer….) I had a number of Berber friends where I danced, and they patiently told me about their culture and customs.  I was fascinated by their stories, and from these came this novella, “Tin Hinan”.

Tin Hinan was an actual historical figure in the 6th century in Algeria.  She gathered the tribes from Morocco and Algeria into a nation.  There is not much known about her so this is a work of pure fiction.  I did try to stick to the ‘facts’ in her journey across the desert with her slave. That was known about Tin Hinan.

Considering the tribal traditions of any century, what Tin Hinan did in just this venture, leaving her tribe and setting out across these mighty deserts is amazing. Considering the odds of her survival, it is especially wonderous.

The Berbers opened the trade routes across northern Africa, and defended those routes from the Arabs.  Interestingly enough, Berbers were originally Christian, and resisted Islamic influence into the early 20th century. (Though Islam made great inroads from the 7th century onward.)  Between Christianity and Islamic religion, they were closer to the Egyptians in their worship of Ammon and Isis.

The story seemed to weave itself like a rug, knot by knot and color by color.  It’s 14 or so chapters and I plan next year to  finish it.

One important fact of Berber culture:  The Soul resides in the Liver. )



I am called Tin Hinan. I had the destiny of a woman ‘rooted in flight’.  Even my name means “Nomadic Woman”.  Sometimes I forget my birth name before I became Queen. It is now lost in the sands of the Great Desert.

I founded a nation from the stirrings of my womb.  This is my story.

I was born in an oasis near what is now called Morocco.  My people were nomadic, but if our tribe had a name, we would be Tagelmust, meaning “People of the Veil”. The Arabs, our enemy, rudely called us Twareg, “Abandoned by God”. We now are known as Tuareg, or Berber by the white Europeans. But since I am speaking from my short time of fifty years on this earth and now only spirit,  you should know my story and life harkens back to the sixth century.  Life was very different then. But men and woman were not so different from now. Hearts are the same.

Our tribe is matriarchal.  All things, possessions, are passed down through the women.  The men still make the laws, but we women have great power.  Nothing is decided until the council of elder women and men meet.

We basically had  two classes of Tagelmust people, Imajeren, the nobles, and Iklan, the slaves.  There are subgroups in all that, but that’s not important. My family were Imajeren, my father a tribal elder and leader.  My mother had great status as the first of his four wives.

I was born in the spring, during lambing time.  I was exceptionally tall for my sex, and poems were written by my mother and other women about my hurry to reach up to the stars.  That is the reason they gave for my height.  I had long, thick black hair and hazel eyes, which was not rare. As I grew to marriageable age, more songs were sung openly around the fires as to my beauty.

Perhaps you wonder when you think of Arabic women with the chador and burkah covering their features, how would you sing to a black sheath of cloth with two dark eyes staring back at you?  We, the Berber, are blessed by Ammon and Isis, for The Veiled People only applies to the men!  They wear the veil, an indigo dyed cloth that wraps around their heads and covers their faces, with only the eyes and the bridge of their noses exposed.  We, the women, carry our faces proudly to the sun, to the wind, and when it comes, the blessed rain.  The men are mostly stained a dark blue, like a devil or zar because their sweat makes the dye run from the indigo and stains their faces.  They look funny for it does not wash off, but seeps into the skin.  So when you marry, you beget children from a  Zar-looking creature.  Perhaps that is why children are such little devils.

“Aicha, Aicha!” The aunties were calling me in from where I was loafing.  I liked to stand at the edge of the oasis, and look at the sea of sand before me.  I would think of great spans of water, for some travelers once told me about the great ocean to the north.

I turned and ran towards my mother’s tent. To ignore the aunties would be rude, and besides, they had many surprises and secrets in the folds of their robes.

“You, Aicha!  Your mother wants you to come to her, hurry!  Here, be a good girl and take this basket.”

I slipped the large basket over my arm and went into the tent side of my mother.

She was sitting on the floor of the tent, shelling dried beans. There were other women, most of them my aunts, her sisters, also working on the floor.  Our clan was a large one, one of the largest that made up this particular desert tribe. Growing up, there were women enough to pull my ears when I was bad and to soothe me when I was mournful.

My mother looked up, noticed me standing there and motioned for me to sit down.

“Aicha, you are of the age when you should be married, or at least engaged.  Your father and I think it time that we look around for a husband for you.”

I knew it!  I saw the sly glances of the aunties, and heard the laughter when I passed a group of women. At the river, when I carried down the washing, I got looks and giggles even from those women and girls I didn’t know well. Something was brewing and this time I was the last to know.

“Come, you graceless girl.” My mother’s oldest sister, Aunt Aya called out to me.  She reached behind her broad hips and pulled out a packet wrapped in wool.  Slowly opening it, she revealed a heavy silver and amber necklace made up of many silver rounds and large amber beads.

It was fun for them, to dress me in the women jewelry like I was a child’s doll.   But they were serious in their business.

“Hold still, you silly girl. This kohl will poke out your eye if you don’t”.

My face and hair were fiddled with, and I suffered the blackening of my eyes and their hands twisting my hair into designs.  It hurt.

That day they had their fun, and I emerged from the tent at evening to be walked around the fire to the vocalizing  and comments of the collected tribe.  My hair was braided in intricate styles and small silver discs peppered my head like tiny,  beaten full moons.   Heavy silver and wood earrings weighted down my earlobes.  I was of course, without a veil, and two women held my hands, leading me around the tribe’s main fire to the sound of drums and the ney flute.

Although I could not to marry within my tribe, I was being presented for our tribe’s delight.  Grooming for marriage was a ritual and my blushes showed appropriate modesty.


There was a young man who was part of a neighboring tribe a day away.  During marriages, celebrations and festivals, I would see him and he would look for me.  We are modest women, but we do stare in the eyes of a man we are interested in marrying. We even wink at them.  Are you shocked?  Well, we did.   We had many customs, but  Berber women, before the hated Arabs, had much freedom.

Hasim was his name, and he was a tall man, taller than I was.  I thought only proper I be married to a tall man. What woman wants to look down on her husband?  It sets a bad example for a woman.  She starts looking down on him in other things.  Hasim was a few years older and at one marriage celebration, I danced a line dance with other maidens and gave him one of my bracelets.  This was an accepted way of flirting. When the musicians took a rest, I went to get my silver bracelet back, and he slipped it down the front of his robe. He crossed his arms over his chest and smiled boldly. I should have known then Hasim was trouble, but my foolish heart flip-flopped.  Ah! Girls can be so silly.

Hasim was handsome, already a man though only about twenty-two years of age.  He had golden skin where the sun had not burned him dark and black eyes like deep shaded pools of water in the oasis.  His nose was long and slightly bent, like the hunting hawk, and his mouth was full and red, like a split pomegranate.  His teeth were white like bleached bones in the desert.

How do I know this, if our men are veiled?  My Hasim, for I already claimed him mine with the certainty that he would be…. had unwrapped his indigo blue veil from his face. And yes, his cheeks were stained a light blue where his beard would be.  I should have known that the Zar blood was deep in him, not just on the surface, but Isis! How was I to know then?

“Come, little sister, fish deep in my waters and you will find your bangle.  You want your precious silver back, do you not?”

Ah! My father would kill him if he heard his words!  But Hasim just grinned, playing a man’s game and my head whirled inside.  Other parts of me were disturbed, but I only knew of this by our women’s bridal parties before the weddings.  My heart flipped and my stomach turned over, too.

I am not known for being shy, perhaps it is because I am so tall, but shy I was before Hasim.

He reached out his hand and traced my cheek to my chin, gently pushing the back of his thumb over my lips.  My eyes were locked to his and I could not pull away. I must have looked like a little fool, for my mouth opened a bit with the firm  pressure of his finger.

Hasim dipped into his chest and reluctantly pulled out my bracelet.  “Little sister, be careful in what hands you place your silver. .  You might come across one who will take more than your jewelry.”

I heard his voice off in the distance.  He closed his eyes slightly, his long, black lashes brushing downwards, and the spell was broken.  I staggered a bit, and he threw out a hand to steady me, an enigmatic smile on his face.

I saw Hasim a few times after this first occasion and each time grew dizzy by the sight him.  During the last harvest festival, Hasim was mounted on a large, white camel as he raced across the desert with the other riders.  The groans and bellows of the beasts, the yelling of the men placing their wagers and the dust churned up from many feet made it hard for me to concentrate.  I could only follow the white of his camel for he was surrounded by mounted men.

That autumn, my mother and father called me before them, and announced that it was time I marry.  I of course had no choice, I was of age, but I noticed an exchange of smiles between my parents.  Unknown to me, my father had consulted with the marriage broker and a visit had been made to Hasim’s parents.  He was considered a good prospect, and with the status of our tribe and that of my father, I was considered a likely bride for Hasim.

My heart was light and leaping about in my chest.  I walked now with confidence, my breasts pushed out and a smile upon my face.  I would have the status of a wife, not just a common, unmarried girl.  There were many things to settle, preparations to make and issues far beyond my concern.  These were the matters of the elders and my mother’s family. But I was to be a bride!  Finally, I would take my place in the tribe with all the authority of a wedded woman.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
2007, 2009
Copyrighted by the author.

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10 Responses to ““TIN HINAN”, Chapter 1”

  1. Berowne Says:

    What’s this, starting with Chapter 1? You’ll have us all confused.. 🙂

    I seem to recall reading three or four chapters of this a few months ago; is this a new draft?


  2. ladynyo Says:


    Yes, I did this to buy some time. I’ve been looking at “Devil’s Revenge” …ugh…just finished this 210,000 word novel…and now the cutting and slaughter begins.

    I thought about what we fiction writers do in life: we entertain. We are storytellers and we write to entertain others. So….”Tin Hinan” buys me some time…to spend on DR and I have received some private requests to post this (Tin) from the beginning so readers don’t have to hunt and peck. (There are 14 chapters and into Book II)

    As for new draft? A little. I catch the nits as I reread after posting…or before posting here. So there are some additions and some changes coming, but over all….I’m trying to concentrate on DR.

    And I am also hoping that readers turn to something else besides “The Power of the Ropes” because that is soooo old news. Those blog entries, (there are a bunch of them…on shibari, Jimi Tatu, etc.) are proving to continue to interest someone out there…but I am trying to offer something else with my writing.

    However, Jimi Tatu has linked my articles to his blogs, so if these are the majority of readers, it’s all to the good. Jimi is a fantastic ropeworker. A real gentleman.

    Actually, I am thinking of asking some friends who are true experts in shibari to post some of their blog entries here. If the interest holds up, and it seems according to my stats that it is, it would be good to hear from real shibari experts. My experience was pretty poorly.

    However, I hope you enjoy “Tin Hinan”. It’s a novella I am rather fond of, just got pushed back into the shadows by some other writings.

    Lady Nyo


  3. R.K.SINGH Says:

    Hi Jane, it appears you have been seriously engaged in writing longer pieces. Enjoyed reading this one.
    R K


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi RK!

    Love your pix on your blogspot.com!

    Thank you, RK. Over the course of three years I have attempted to write 4 or 5 novels or novellas. Sometimes they are too many words, and they need pruning shears.

    I like Tin, and decided NEXT year to finish it. It’s well into book II, but I don’t really have an ending yet, but I do know that generally these things seem to end themselves.

    (I was casually researching anything on Tin Hinan yesterday, and came across a NEW fact (there aren’t too many about her in history). Apparently, she was all powerful UNTIL she demanded that her troops and supporters raze all villages and pollute the local resources. This was one step too far, and she was assassinated. Probably a good thing, too. Sounds like power run amuck. )

    Which brings me to the issue of any new novelist: who and what writes the book?? When you introduce interesting characters, they seem to take on a life of their own and they are the ones that propel the book and adventure on. That is a chancy issue I am told but IF you have faith in your character(s) this can work. Or I think it can.

    But I think you have to be totally in love with your characters, good and bad, and it’s a bit like playing God for a while until they take over the picture. And they always do. LOL~

    There is also the issue of ‘exposition’ or ‘info dump’ here. It’s hard to avoid, but a good writer and friend, Bill Penrose told me that in a novel such as this, where there is little knowledge by the readers as to customs and traditions of 6th century Berbers, you HAVE to dump info on your readers…but you can cover the history and cultural lessons with a lot of dialogue. Hopefully. LOL!

    I’ve written a few poems lately but not of a great degree. I think I’m going through a ‘thoughtless’ period, after all the rush and bustle of a year. Perhaps I’m coasting…or perhaps it’s too damn hot? And about that, how have the monsoons shaped up this season in your neck of the woods?

    My best~


  5. Berowne Says:

    > who and what writes the book?

    I wonder about that too. Sometimes I feel I’m just following them around, writing down what they do and say. I thought I had finished XL5 when they started having another set of adventures, so I took the manuscript back in the shop to be extended.

    > There is also the issue of ‘exposition’

    Handling that is a critical issue, I think. Since the reader needs to be informed (whether the setting is exotic or not) and the characters presumably don’t, it’s something of a balancing act. Patrick O’Brian used the “outsider” trick: Stephen Maturin is a complete landlubber to whom all things nautical have to be explained, but that can wear thin in the hands of a less consummate story-teller. Another approach I like is simply to show the characters dealing with their environment. The best example I know of that is an actor who played Shakespeare’s Richard III; he tries to portray the character not directly as having a physical disability, but as somebody coping with it. I think it’s much more effective for the reader to infer a fact or mood than for the author to state it.


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Yes…to the first part. We can and do just follow around our characters….and react to them…it’s rather a strange issue, because it’s like an “Alice in Wonderland” theme. We ARE the originators of these characters, but they are so much more than ‘us’.

    Some people (of little imagination I believe) sneer at this phenomena but it’s the essence of writing…and entertainment…at least for me. Who controls what they do? Well, we make stabs at it, and perhaps this pertains to plot, but I don’t really know. They live out their lives on this particular stage we build for them….or give them the wooden foundation, and off they go.

    It never stops to happen. The characters WRITE the book…or develop the plot or have very independent and complete *until we kill them off* lives.

    as to expositon: that is a hard issue. I think it changes depending upon the book. I also think that the best way to handle something like this (because the info is interesting and necessary…) is to have it told in the mouths and experiences of your characters. It’s their information that makes them ‘real’…come alive….culturally significant or necessary….and out of their mouths….it lives.

    Or I at least hope so.

    Thanks for your comments, Berowne. I think we attempted something like this a couple of times on ERWA but I can’t remember that the argument (on characters..) went anywhere.



  7. Margie Says:

    I found this even more enjoyable than “Devil’s Revenge” — I do remember reading parts of this a while ago and found it very good. I love the character and I also love the history, which is why I asked in email how much of it is imagination and how much is research! Totally involving either way.


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Margie!
    I just saw your private email and answered that particular question.

    As there is very little known about Tin Hinan, it’s mostly imagination. But there is the fact that she left southern Morocco with her slave and set out across the huge desert to the Haggor Mountains in central Algeria.

    I did a lot of research for this novella, and the friends in the restaurant and clubs were helpful because they did reinforce the Berber facts and customs. That was a lot of good information that I was able to use, especially later on in the novella.

    Thank you for reading and your comments. I am dividing these rather long chapters up into two parts for posting here each week. I’m slogging through Devil’s Revenge, a very different kind of novel, and frankly, I would rather be researching to close and writing on Tin, but so it goes.



  9. Taziri Says:

    i am glad that someone abroad interested in my culture ! i am an Algerian berber.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Well, Hello Taziri~

    I am very much interested in Berber Culture, and Algeria.

    My second book, “The Zar Tales”, which can be purchased from Lulu.com (they ship internationally) is about Berbers….though as Zar spirits (who become men) in Turkey.

    Thank you for reading the first chapter of “Tin Hinan”…which should be published as a completed book by early next year.

    Lady Nyo


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