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Many times in the series, we see or hear that people who choose the profession of blacksmith are given special consideration under the so-called Aiel's honour system of ji'e'toh.

They can't be taken gai'shain, a protection otherwise reserved for Wise Ones and children, and to kill one is considered as bad as killing a child.

Why?

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    Because blacksmiths are worth fighting for. If you lose one, it could significantly harm your town. – Valorum Sep 16 '16 at 20:43
  • I'm guessing for the same reason the surname smith is common in UK... Trades that are protected, even during war so that others can make war – Naib Sep 16 '16 at 20:46
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The Aiel never explain why blacksmiths are so valuable. This fits with the general approach Jordan takes: the Aiel just "get" ji'e'toh and consider it insulting and demeaning to explain it to anyone.

But in a society such as theirs, which is very big on martial skills (fighting, hunting, etc), it makes sense that the people that have the skills to make very good weapons would be highly valuable. Presumably it's difficult for the Aiel to come by the materials to make spearheads and such, so being skilled enough to effectively use the limited materials would be important.

As such, a blacksmith may possibly be considered the most important person in a given Aiel sept. The same goes for Wise Ones -- not everyone can be one and they are crucial to the survival of the Aiel.

So, it makes sense that, as a culture, they'd develop rules to protect blacksmiths, because those rules protect everyone -- if you can't kill other's blacksmiths, they can't kill yours either.

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Obviously blacksmiths are important because without them there would be no weapons, and weapons are very important in Aiel culture, as noted by @KutuluMike in his answer. But they also have a spiritual significance, since they give up their own right to fight in order to help others fight.

Brandon Sanderson addressed this issue at a signing in Salt Lake City in 2009. From the interview transcript:

Question: Why do the Aiel revere and protect blacksmiths?

Answer: It has a lot to do with the fact that without the blacksmiths there can be no warriors. The blacksmiths are the ones who make the spears and who keep them going. But, in a way the blacksmiths are among those who sacrifice being able to go and fight themselves so that others can and that’s kind of a holy calling to the Aiel. There is also a lot of spirituality to it related to where they live, being in the desolate wasteland and the whole concept of being forged. […] There is a spiritual aspect to a blacksmith forging something because of the place that they live. Those are the two of the main reasons. It’s cultural which means there is going to be more than one reason that it is deeply ingrained, but those are two big ones that roll of the top that are in the notes.

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