The Edema Ruh are a nomadic cultural group known throughout the Four Corners of Civilization.
Having no country to call their own, the Edema Ruh are travelers and entertainers with talents ranging far and wide, but most commonly involving storytelling, acting, and music. They travel in large groups known as troupes, roaming the country in wagon trains. They generally trade entertainment for food and coin.
Some Ruh troupes have a wealthy patron who allows them to use his name and colors, and to travel freely under his protection. In exchange, the patron expects them to perform in his court for part of the year, and to conduct themselves in a manner that will reflect well upon his reputation. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement, as the patron gains notoriety as a tasteful and artistic individual, while the troupe gains financial support and the patron's influence to help overcome suspicion wherever they travel.
The common folk mistrust and reproach the Edema Ruh, who consequently developed many traditions to establish a tight-knit community. All troupes are bound under the maxim, "One Family". Other practices include the offering of wine upon greeting and branding betrayers of the fold. When this occurs a broken circle is burned into the offender's body, indicating that the person is no longer a part of the circle that is the one Edema Ruh Family.
In The Chronicle
Kvothe's parents, Arliden and Laurian, are the leaders of an Edema Ruh troupe under the patronage of Baron Greyfallow. His younger years are spent travelling and entertaining, while his parents train him in music and theatre. It is during this time he meets the Arcanist Abenthy who takes him into his tutelage, an act that later makes it possible for Kvothe to attend the University. Although Kvothe's troupe is slaughtered by the Chandrian when he is a child, forcing him to grow up a beggar on the streets of Tarbean, he continues to identify as one of the Family throughout the series. This notion is so central to his character that when he meets a fake Edema Ruh troupe in the Wise Man's Fear, he kills them all for disgracing the reputation of the Ruh and brands them each with the mark of betrayers. He then refuses to speak ill of the Ruh to the Lady Meluan Lackless, who despises them, going as far as to publicly wear the wooden ring she gives him as a vintish insult.
Some fans believe the word "Edema" is derived from the same root as "Adem". Before settling in Ademre, the Adem had also practiced a nomadic lifestyle. It is possible that, while the multitude of Ademic schools of thought were being formed, a splinter group arose whose beliefs opposed the traditional stoicism. Rather than withholding emotion, music, and passion, this group thrived on public performance; they were, in essence, the very antithesis of the Adem.
Haliax protects the Chandrian from the Amyr, the Singers and the Sithe. The Amyr are either angels or priests, the Sithe are fae warriors but the Singers are yet unknown. As the most prominent group of singers in the novel it is possible that the Edema Ruh are related to the Singers that the Chandrian fear.
It is possible that the Ruach who followed neither Tehlu nor Selitos are the first of the Edema Ruh, but there is little to support this idea besides the linguistic similarity in their names
- The symphonic metal band Nightwish has written a song titled "Edema Ruh" in their album Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015).
- Edema is a Greek derived word that means "swelling." Ruh means "spirit" or "wind" in Arabic. Whether or not intended by Rothfuss, this swelling or overflow of "spirit" is linked with Neoplatonic metaphysics of acts of creation being kinds of overflows of the Primal Mind. The Edema Ruh are creators of music, plays, and stories with an abundant overflow of creativity. Adam in Hebrew means "man" and adamah means "earth/dust," God breathes his "ruh" into earth-formed Adam to making him a living soul in Genesis. Likewise, the human is directly made by the Creator to become themselves creators, suggesting a close connection of the Edema Ruh in the novels with the first Namers in/before the Creation Wars.
- In Spanish the term was translated as Edena Ruh, since an "edema" is the swelling caused by fluid build-up in body tissues.