How Many Times Does Braid-Tugging and Skirt-Smoothing Happen in The Wheel of Time?

You’re a few books into Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time epic fantasy series and then you realize… the characters in this series tug their hair braids a lot. More than seems particularly natural. And they smooth their skirts quite a bit and…oh goodness the sniffing, the endless sniffing! What is going on here?!?

Lots of authors have idiosyncratic phrases and character actions that get repeated in their work, either consciously or subconsciously. In a multi-volume epic like The Wheel of Time those idiosyncrasies over time become charming; an indication of authenticity, an in-joke that you share between yourself, the author, and the fiction.

Reddit user Nadyin recently conducted a simple condition phrase search through all 15 books of The Wheel of Time to see just how often Jordan used his idiosyncrasies. And what Nadyin found was a whole lotta skirt-smoothing.

Book tugs braids tugged smooths skirts smoothed
New Spring 5 1 41 5
The Eye of the World 39 1 53 1
The Great Hunt 18 0 80 1
The Dragon Reborn 45 20 69 3
The Shadow Rising 41 6 106 5
The Fires of Heaven 24 3 83 12
Lord of Chaos 30 11 101 16
A Crown of Swords 29 1 80 23
The Path of Daggers 19 2 85 13
Winter’s Heart 18 1 75 14
Crossroads of Twilight 36 1 107 16
Knife of Dreams 23 5 88 12
The Gathering Storm 19 6 37 1
Towers of Midnight 17 2 19 0
A Memory of Light 23 0 23 1

Braid-tugging also experienced quite a spike during the events of The Dragon Reborn. But then again, hunting the Black Ajah with no training or support seems like a stressful enough ordeal to warrant such braid-tugging on Nynaeve’s part.

We’re curious how prevalent sniffing is throughout the series. And how often Mat’s head-dice are remarked upon. The answers may appear as Nadyin’s Reddit thread continues to roll out.

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