“Tin Hinan”, a novel…. beginning section of Chapter One.

(from the website: englishclass.jp)

(Tin Hinan and her slave making the journey from Morocco to central Algeria)

A couple of years ago I started writing a novel based on the historical Tin Hinan. I have posted many chapters on this website, but have not completed the book.  Life, especially poetry, not to mention publishing three books in the last three years, got in the way of continuing the work on this novel.  However, I have been informed there are consistant readers of this work, and surprisingly, somewhere in Finland.    Recently, I have received  emails asking when this book will be finished.   So I am going to take this spring to finish and publish “Tin Hinan”.  Bill Penrose, who has formatted my last three books is up for the job.  Without him, none of these books would have seen the light of day.  Bill is a wonderful friend, but also a fine author himself, also published at Lulu.com.

 Tin Hinan was an actual historical figure of 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 much was known about Tin Hinan, and her galvanizing power to unite the Berber tribes.  That’s about all, though her tomb was found in the Algerian mountains in the 1920’s.

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 amazing. 

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 so far.   I do hope to finish this book this spring, 2012.

Lady Nyo

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 a 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 stain 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’s.

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 the tribe. Growing up, there were women enough to pull my ears when I was bad and to soothe 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’s 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”.

This from another auntie.   My face and hair were fiddled with, and I suffered the blackening of my eyes and their hands twisting my hair into designs.

That day they had their fun, and I emerged from the tent at evening to be walked around the fire to the whistles and comments of the collected tribe.  My hair was braided in intricate styles and small silver discs peppered my head like 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 that evening.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009-2012


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10 Responses to ““Tin Hinan”, a novel…. beginning section of Chapter One.”

  1. katiewritesagain Says:

    I really like the way this starts. We readers are given just enough narrative to ground us, but your prose paints vivid images of women and their relationships.
    I am beginning my own journey to the Appalachian Trail tomorrow, and should be in Atlanta by the end of next week! Please let me know if this is a good time for you to have company. Nature is blessing me with warm weather to encourage me to begin as soon as possible.
    Looking forward to seeing you!


  2. Steve E Says:

    Jane, from what I’ve read from my few friends in Egypt, Pakistan and India–your description of this one girl’s thoughts and feelings brings that culture closer to understanding. Even though your story is set in the long-ago. Here is the line which meant the most to me:

    “…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.”

    You are a good writer, because here I am waiting for Chapter II.
    PEACE. And thank for sharing your art.


  3. ladynyo Says:

    LOL Steve!

    I’m awaiting Chapter Two, too! LOL! It’s written, in fact the book is close to closure…just one big battle scene, and Oh God….I am dreading this because of the tribal dynamics that will be called into play.

    I’m glad it rings true to you and your experience. Writing something three years ago and going back to it now…well, I have to put myself in a different mindset.

    Thanks, Steve…this is only about a third of Chapter I but after the lenght of “Lord Nyo’s Moon Child” last week, I took pity on readers….LOL!

    Thanks for reading and your lovely, encouraging comment.



  4. ladynyo Says:

    Of Course, Katie! We have been waiting for years to sit and talk!! Next week is great…and stay as long as you want and the cats allow you! LOL!

    This is only a third of the chapter…I wrote really long back then. LOL.

    You should jump on the warm weather, Katie…I wish I could go with you…but this ankle ain’t right yet. And the ‘farm’ here won’t exist without my labor.

    See you soon.



  5. brian miller Says:

    goodness jane, this is good…you def put us right there and give us a feel for the culture…your long form is just as good as your poetry…cant wait to read more…


  6. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Oh, Brian! I feel guilty after the length of last weeks poem, that I divided this chapter into thirds! LOL!… I will post it, but the Berber poetry comes later in the chapters. Berbers, and especially the Berber women were marvelous poets….and in fact, they were the only ones that had a written language back then. The men were generally too busy with war and raiding to recite poetry. LOL!

    I came to poetry after 4 unfinished novels…LOL! Perhaps I came to poetry because it was a way to shorten thoughts and writing? LOL!

    Well, thank you, Brian, for your reading this beginning Chapter. I will continue to post at least for a couple of weeks just to see how it lays with readers.



  7. hedgewitch Says:

    You have such a feel for women of other cultures, Jane, for making them seem ‘not other’ if that makes sense. I can see why people are asking for this book to be published. Forgive me for not typing more, as it deserves a much longer comment. Liked it very much indeed. Best of luck with the publishing process.


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Joy!

    Thank you, that is a lovely compliment about women of other cultures. We all share such similarities, regardless of culture, time or place.

    I know you took a bad tumble today and I hope that you are sitting (or better yet…) lying down and at least more comfortable than when on the pavement.

    Thank you, Joy…now go to bed or get a stiff drink and get comfortable.



  9. Laura Hegfield Says:

    wow Jane, I am completely intrigued and long to know more of her story…YOU MUST write it all down! You are so gifted my friend! This simple little line from the beginning says so very much “Hearts are the same”…I believe this to be true for all time that humans walk this earth.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Laura!

    Thank you! I have written 14 chapters so far, and this takes her and Tamaka into the mountains of Algeria…Ahoggar Mountains. She has crossed the desert, but not without trials, but with also the help and advice of another Berber tribe. Why she has done this will be revealed….very soon. LOL! It would have been extradinary for any woman to do this without her tribe around her, but Tin did, as we know historically. From Morocco to central Algeria! She is always fearful of Arab raiders, and also the Berbers doing the same….raiding caravans was part of the economy of the tribes back then, and even now.

    You are exactly right: “Hearts are the same”. For all of humanity, regardless of caste, creed, era. That is the thing of humanity we all share. With varations on both ends….

    Thank you, Laura for reading this partial chapter…and your lovely comment. I will post the two other sections of this chapter in the coming weeks for dverse, but it isn’t poetry, and dverse is a spot for poets….



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