We were telling stories before Caluptena burned. Before there were books to write in. Before there was music to play.
The Edema Ruh, also known as "The Family", is 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 traveling 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.
- The Name of the Wind, Chapter 7, "Of Beginnings and the Names of Things"