KaladinWorldsinger

Taln is a very problematic character...[Discuss]

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I think my opinion might be highly unpopular, but here goes.

To start with, I really loved the character of Taln while reading the four books. I remember being giddy whenever he had a scene. He was my top fav side character.

Just one problem. I thought he broke. I took the idea that taln broke as a fact.

I am dumb and didn't realise that RoW in particular was hinting that Taln didn't break. The arrival of the everstorm to circumvent the oathpact and taln breaking in the same time frame was a little too wierd. And then Brandon confirmed it in a WoB. Some fans cheered, some fans were surprised and some fans felt vindicated as they already were expecting it. I was less than thrilled.

The problem with Taln is he is JUST TOO DAMN PERFECT. I loved Taln when I thought that he tried his best and ended up giving humanity 4500 years of time. He was a very inspiring character. Now he is a freaking god. Apparently, he still has a lot more years of torture he can endure. He is nowhere close to being done. He is basically unbreakable.

Taln, as he is right now, is vey antithetical to the themes of SA, and the fact that nobody is talking about it drives me nuts.

First of all, NO HUMAN is strong enough to what Taln did. I mean where would you even cultivate the inner strength to endure so much torture? How can you even reach that level of determination? If instead, you think it's more likely that such strength can't be cultivated, you have to be born with it, it still makes Taln an angel who descended to earth compared to the rest of the humans. Because 4500 years is a mind-numbingly long time! A fact that I feel that many people are not giving the importance it deserves.

If a random stranger says that he will die for you, you won't be inspired, you would be creeped out! I feel the same way with Taln. No one should be that self-sacrificial. That is not healthy, that is insane and scary. I would stay as far as possible away from him in real life. Can you imagine if a guy like that got angry with you over something? He might chase you to the ends of the earth.

Second, he makes the lives of all other characters kinda pointless. The main theme of SA is that 'broken' people deserve to live happy lives (even after making mistakes). Teft deserves love. Shallan deserves love. Kaladin should not kill himself. Dalinar deserves forgiveness and redemption(debatable). But its very hard to say they deserve anything with the presence of an infallible person who has suffered so much more than them. All their conflicts and struggles seem melodramatic compared to the sheer amount of pain that Taln went through without making a mistake. . If the survival of humanity is the highest moral goal right now, Kaladin's life is just not priceless. It's nothing compared to Taln's  worth as an 'unbreakable' human being. Because Kaladin just can't hold the desolation back for that long.

Example: in tWoK, Kaladin briefly considers abandoning his friends and saving his own life. In WoR he doubts his own friends' love for him in the jail cell. In OB, he gets angry at Adolin for no reason and chides himself. These thoughts are not ooc for Kal even though he is a windrunner poster boy because everyone is fallible and breakable. Everyone makes mistakes and that's fine. 

Every character in SA has some insecurity about something, even Jasnah. If i must fall, I will rise each time a better man.

Finally, he legitimises the oathpact and trivializes torture. The oathpact is a horrible plan and anything else would have been better. No human should be asked for that much. But Taln makes it look like it was the heralds who were insufficient, not the freaking plan. Because of Taln, the other 9 heralds look bad, even though they were amazing people who went through the saddest times possible. SA is a optimistic series, but if you took a herald as the protagonist and went through their life, the desolations alone would put the series solidly in grimdark territory. They really deserve more respect, but who can NOT compare them to Taln?

He also trivializes torture. No way around it. Torture is horrific and inhumane. It scars people in irreparable ways physically and psychologically. In a series with realistic depictions of battle shock, Taln sticks out like a sore thumb. If I am right in thinking that the heralds can heal in braize, how many times do you think Taln's genitals were shredded like cheese? Cuz let's be sure, that definitely happened in 4500 years even if the books will never show it happening ( shivers).( I hope I didn't break any coppermind rules with that sentence)

I feel like there has to be an actual reason why Taln did not break. I have faith in Sanderson. Every other character in SA feels real to me. Even the evil ones like Sadeas and Rayse. I am just surprised that most fan discourse I see don't seem to question it and seem to think that Taln just weathered it with his own strength, which I find impossible. He must have had advantages right?

If the ans is just that Taln is a Super Mega Alpha male chad boy with a golden heart, I will probably keep ranting about it.

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Taln is Broken.  Badly.  I dont think he endure through Strength so much as he fractured in a way that wedged the metaphorical (or magical) door shut instead of opening it for them like the other heralds did.  

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I agree, there's probably an actual reason for Taln not breaking. He's gonna be one of the 5 main characters of the back half of the series, and an "ultra-perfect" version of Taln would not make for a good POV character.

As for what that reason is, well that's all just speculation for now.

Perhaps he was too mentally broken to even try at returning to roshar. Although he did seem pretty lucid when he first came back. Maybe something jank messed with the oathpack and he was physically unable to return. (Maybe something to do with Ba-Ado-Mishram? Hmm, that's worth thinking about.)

Maybe he wasn't being tortured the entire time, we know that they aren't constantly being tortured. The heralds "respawn" randomly across Braize, so they have time to hide and run before inevitably being caught. Maybe taln found a really good hiding spot or some sort of realmatic loophole to avoid his pursuers.

Maybe time-dilation is the answer, perhaps time moves slower on Braize or smthn, so taln wasn't actually there that long. We might've even seen time-dilation on Braize already in the Dog and the Dragon scene with hoid. (Although that might've just been hoid burning bendalloy, or even just weird dream crap)

 

4 hours ago, KaladinWorldsinger said:

The oathpact is a horrible plan and anything else would have been better.

I find this claim much more controversial than your actual point =P
If "anything else" would've been better, what do you propose they should've done?

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The word "break" may be being used in two different ways. He didn't "bend his oath" but that does not necessarily mean he isn't "broken" in the sense that the word is applied to other non-Herald Stormlight characters e.g. Kaladin and Shallan - I think he pretty certainly is "broken" in the latter sense.

2 hours ago, Ookla the Ingeniator said:

Taln is Broken.  Badly.  I dont think he endure through Strength so much as he fractured in a way that wedged the metaphorical (or magical) door shut instead of opening it for them like the other heralds did.  

That actually seems really likely. He probably has kind of been turned into "I Will Not Give In" as his whole identity. He is pretty thoroughly mind-shattered when he comes back to Roshar, just repeating the same mantra over and over.

2 hours ago, Ookla the unintelligible said:

I think that the reason Taln cannot break is because people saw him as unbreakable. We've seen spren be affected by perception, and we've seen that the fused become more and more set in their ways as they age, so it makes sense that Taln would eventually come to embody everyone's perception of him as an unbreakable hero.

This might also be operating. There may not be all that much left of Taln-the-human... Taln the Cognitive Shadow might be largely turned into something like the Spren of Endurance.

20 minutes ago, ookla the quantificational said:

I agree, there's probably an actual reason for Taln not breaking. He's gonna be one of the 5 main characters of the back half of the series, and an "ultra-perfect" version of Taln would not make for a good POV character.

Well, he will get flashbacks, but that doesn't confirm that he will be a functional character in the present of the second arc (flashbacks for a character dead in present-time are possible). The flashbacks may well be of the Ashyn exodus/first Desolations when Taln was still human.

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I have been summoned by Taln discussion.

My thoughts are thus: One: Taln was herald of War for a reason, was extremely tough and powerful, and could withstand a lot. He’s also extremely brave, we know he’d face crazy amounts of enemies by himself and hold his ground. Two: I agree that Taln has been changed by people’s perception of him as being unbreakable. Three: it’s also possible that after a certain point he became to insane to care about giving in or the pain, though it was still excruciating.

I disagree that Taln is too perfect. He is an absolute unit and is crazy skilled and amazing, but though he didn’t break, he is broken. He’s completely insane.

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Taln doesn't seem to be aware of how long it is, so obviously at some point he became unaware of what was happening. Heralds lasted for centuries, that certainly seems "Beyond human" but that isn't questioned, why is this?

Humans endured death and torture or their ideals, with the stakes so much greater, why not this?

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Taln doesn't go around telling strangers he would die for them, he just does it. There are medals for people who do things like that. I don't think that's creepy.

Edited by Vin(Diesel)
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On 12/4/2021 at 7:14 AM, Ookla the Frustrated said:

Taln doesn't seem to be aware of how long it is, so obviously at some point he became unaware of what was happening. Heralds lasted for centuries, that certainly seems "Beyond human" but that isn't questioned, why is this?

Humans endured death and torture or their ideals, with the stakes so much greater, why not this?

I realize that all the heralds are wierd like that but it is also a fantasy series so they don't bother me as much. I give them leeway because they clearly have changed very much due to the torture. Not just the magical madnesses but their personalities. The heralds all prolly started out very loving to humanity but now Ash sneers at our heroes for trying and kalak has simply stopped caring and even ordered some people's deaths as Restates.

The amount of the torture they survived is very unrealistic, but since they very clearly broke, I don't mind it that much.

On 12/4/2021 at 5:15 AM, Ookla the Taln Fan said:

Two: I agree that Taln has been changed by people’s perception of him as being unbreakable.

But only a handful of people on Roshar knew that Taln was betrayed. If the entire planet believed that he was unbreakable, I could see that. Also the other heralds seem to to show the inverse of their divine attributes, so I don't know

On 12/4/2021 at 5:15 AM, Ookla the Taln Fan said:

it’s also possible that after a certain point he became to insane to care about giving in or the pain, though it was still excruciating

Possible, but seems very convenient for Roshar. It also paints insanity as a good thing which is icky in a series about the struggle against mental illnesses. I think BS is trying to fight against the problematic idea that 'the broken are the more evolved' or the 'van Gogh did his best paintings in his depression (not actually true)' type idea. This seems too similar to that.

On 12/4/2021 at 5:15 AM, Ookla the Taln Fan said:

I disagree that Taln is too perfect. He is an absolute unit and is crazy skilled and amazing, but though he didn’t break, he is broken. He’s completely insane.

He seems to suffering from the same kind of magical madness the other heralds are facing because he comes back to his normal self after OB's 'I am unity' just like ishar was fixed for a second. He doesn't seem more affected or more 'broken' than the other heralds even though his ordeal was exponentially bigger. He does not seem completely insane to me. 

I don't think that Brandon has made him just a perfect character, but I think the fandom seems very comfortable in seeing him that wa. I don't know how to feel about that.

Am I just exaggerating?

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On 12/4/2021 at 3:36 AM, ookla the quantificational said:

I find this claim much more controversial than your actual point =P

Oh I meant it was very inhumane. I don't know why things got so bad, but if this was the best plan, sure.

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So, as people have already mentioned, Taln didn't break under torture, in that he never betrayed his oath. But the torture broke him. Badly.

Quote

Of fires that burned and yet they were gone. Of heat he could feel when others felt it not. Of screams his own that nobody heard. Of torture sublime, for life it meant.

"He just stares like that, Your Majesty."

Words.

"He doesn't seem to see anything. Sometimes he mumbles. Sometimes he shouts. But always, he just stares."

The Gift and words. Not his. Never his. Now his.

[...]

Why didn't they scream? That heat! Of death. Of death and the dead and the dead and their talking and not screaming of death except of the death that did not come.

[...]

They were on fire. The walls were on fire. The floor was on fire. Burning and the inside of a cannot where to be and then at all. Where?

A trip. Water? Wheels?

Fire. Yes, fire.

"Can you hear me, madman?"

"Elhokar, look at him. I doubt he understands."

"I am Talenel'Elin, Herald of War." Voice. He spoke it. He didn't think it. The words came, like they always came.

"What was that? Speak louder, man."

"The time of the Return, the Desolation, is near at hand. We must prepare. You will have forgotten much, following the destruction of the times past."

[...]

"I think . . . I think I am late . . . this time . . ."

How long had it been?

How long had it been?

How long had it been?

How long had it been?

How long had it been?

How long had it been?

How long had it been?

 

Too long.

-WoR, interlude I-7

I think it's safe to say that he's thoroughly scarred by his four-and-a-half millenia of torture.

I imagine that a lot of the time simply blurred together into a continuous experience of suffering, just being lost in agony.

And the Heralds are obviously superhuman in several respects.

Taln is something extra, to be fair. Presumably something like having the kind of mind that doesn't easily give in to torture, coupled with being superhuman.

I could also see the whole Herald madness thing being helpful here, as he probably didn't suffer the same sort of reaction to people's perception as the others. Assuming that his mind was busy with pain.

We know that the Stonewards are the Radiants most similar to their patron in temprament, and it's not improbable that the perception of Taln is an exaggeration of his known traits, such as stubborness.

 

In conclusion, the torture broke all the Heralds, but only caused nine of them to give in. Or all are broken by the torture, but not all broke under torture.

 

¤_¤

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I think Taln's arc could really work if he doesn't fight at all. Like he's so traumatized by the torture that he can barely even pick up a sword let alone go to battle. It could be a really interesting arc of a person who has defined themselves as a soldier who won't ever back down but can no longer fit that role and has to find some other way to give purpose to his life, and finding that he can find a worthwhile life without sacrificing himself for others.

That's kinda exactly what Kaladin goes through in RoW, but in there Kaladin still ends up getting a big heroic moment where he kills the bad guy so maybe Taln could commit to that idea more.

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I’m guessing that future Taln will not get back up to full strength ever again, though perhaps we’ll see occasionally bursts like him catching the dart. Possibly book 10. Other thing to remember is that the scope of things and whats possible will likely be completely different. The grand scope of things drastically shifts every book so far, so by the time we get to SA 10 things are gonna be wild.

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As others have said, the torture did break him, he just never betrayed his oaths. But the thing is, you're right about Taln having inhuman levels of determination and the like, and I think there is in fact a very good reason for that. Remember Zahel/Vasher's conversation with Kaladin in RoW:

Quote

"Grand ideals," Zahel said. "Optimism. Yeah, you'd make a terrible swordmaster. Be wary of those Fused, kid. The longer one of us exists, the more like a spren we become. Consumed by a singular purpose, our minds bound and chained by our Intent. We're spren masquerading as men."

Emphasis mine.

The Heralds are in the same boat as the Returned and the Fused, here. Ship of Theseus questions aside, the process of becoming and existing as a Cognitive Shadow has a tangible effect on behavior. Taln doing something inhuman in holding out on Braize for thousands of years isn't a plot hole or him being 'too perfect.' It's a result of him being, quite literally, inhuman.

Now, at the same time, that doesn't completely negate the impact of his actions. There's nothing we've seen to suggest becoming a CS strips you of free will, and the other nine Heralds did eventually give in and break their oaths (even those whose Intents were arguably just as suited to holding out, like Jezrien and Kalak). Holding out the way he did still required incredible amounts of willpower and choosing to go on (at least at first, before his mind broke and maybe it became more ingrained instinct than anything), but him being a CS and therefore more defined by Intent means it wasn't an impossible amount.

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11 hours ago, Inquisitor #5 said:

WoR, interlude I-7

I had almost completely forgotten about this interlude and had to go read it again. But if his mind is that incoherent, then why does he suddenly become coherent when Dalinar opens the perpendicularity? He recovers a little too quickly for PTSd-torture-induced madness. His quick fix and reverting back to original state makes me think it's magical madness than real madness in the interlude.

 

7 hours ago, Ookla the Taln Fan said:

I’m guessing that future Taln will not get back up to full strength ever again, though perhaps we’ll see occasionally bursts like him catching the dart

Yess I like that. That feels right to me. Like how Kaladin will never get 'cured' of his depression but he will learn to cope with it.

6 hours ago, Cocoa said:

As others have said, the torture did break him, he just never betrayed his oaths. But the thing is, you're right about Taln having inhuman levels of determination and the like, and I think there is in fact a very good reason for that. Remember Zahel/Vasher's conversation with Kaladin in RoW:

Emphasis mine.

The Heralds are in the same boat as the Returned and the Fused, here. Ship of Theseus questions aside, the process of becoming and existing as a Cognitive Shadow has a tangible effect on behavior. Taln doing something inhuman in holding out on Braize for thousands of years isn't a plot hole or him being 'too perfect.' It's a result of him being, quite literally, inhuman.

Now, at the same time, that doesn't completely negate the impact of his actions. There's nothing we've seen to suggest becoming a CS strips you of free will, and the other nine Heralds did eventually give in and break their oaths (even those whose Intents were arguably just as suited to holding out, like Jezrien and Kalak). Holding out the way he did still required incredible amounts of willpower and choosing to go on (at least at first, before his mind broke and maybe it became more ingrained instinct than anything), but him being a CS and therefore more defined by Intent means it wasn't an impossible amount.

So if people's cognitive perception of him changed him( he is more like a spren), do you think he has the normal PTSD torture madness? Because OB's perpendicularity moment really messes with my head.

Also the answer with him becoming more like a spren is fine and I can buy it if it happens in the books. It still feels a little convenient right now, you know. Maybe Brandon will flesh it out more and I will be ok with it.

I think a more interesting reason he didn't break would be something similar to a tinfoil theory with no evidence at all. The theory was that Taln bonded a peakspren before going to braize and for all this time he had a friend in his pain. I don't think this is true but I would love an answer more like this you know? Just not being alone could be the difference between breaking and not breaking. Maybe he had a fused friend who showed him kindness( Leshwi? Raboniel?) and that was enough for him to carry on? A magical reason will always feel a little convenient

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46 minutes ago, KaladinWorldsinger said:

I had almost completely forgotten about this interlude and had to go read it again. But if his mind is that incoherent, then why does he suddenly become coherent when Dalinar opens the perpendicularity? He recovers a little too quickly for PTSd-torture-induced madness. His quick fix and reverting back to original state makes me think it's magical madness than real madness in the interlude.

 

I found a WOB that says it wasn't normal PTSD.

https://wob.coppermind.net/events/445-rhythm-of-war-preview-qas/#e14135

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i made a theory at one point of what actually caused taln's and all of the herald's insanity

i'm not sure where it went but it was a good one

tldr: when Ba-Ado-Mishram was captured it caused all sorts of connection all over roshar to go wacko
spren becoming deadeyes etc
the heralds madness it the equivalent of them becoming deadeyes
as cognitive shadows and spren are very very similar

if you can find the actual thread i made, i think there are more details i thought of
can't remember them now tho

 

edit: just checked all the topics ive ever made and it wasn't there so i guess i posted it as a reply to someone elses topic
so that'll be almost impossible to find

Edited by ookla the quantificational
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4 hours ago, KaladinWorldsinger said:

I had almost completely forgotten about this interlude and had to go read it again. But if his mind is that incoherent, then why does he suddenly become coherent when Dalinar opens the perpendicularity? He recovers a little too quickly for PTSd-torture-induced madness. His quick fix and reverting back to original state makes me think it's magical madness than real madness in the interlude.

All of the heralds suffer from magical madness, Dalinar swore an oath so Taln gets better for a second.

Nothing about them is natural.

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The Heralds are Cognitive Shadows,  I'm not at all sure real world mental illnesses are even possible any more. Their minds don't really work on brain chemistry any longer ; they're Cognitive entities stapled to a body.

 

So yeah, it's magical madness, not any real world diagnosis, though symptoms might be similar.

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7 hours ago, Ookla the Frustrated said:

All of the heralds suffer from magical madness, Dalinar swore an oath so Taln gets better for a second.

Nothing about them is natural.

 

29 minutes ago, cometaryorbit said:

The Heralds are Cognitive Shadows,  I'm not at all sure real world mental illnesses are even possible any more. Their minds don't really work on brain chemistry any longer ; they're Cognitive entities stapled to a body.

 

So yeah, it's magical madness, not any real world diagnosis, though symptoms might be similar.

Yes I know that? I was responding to the idea that Taln was very broken( in a real sense) and the interlude was shown as proof, but OB perpendicularity moment makes it seem like the effect of a magical madness

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On 12/3/2021 at 3:09 PM, Ookla the unintelligible said:

I think that the reason Taln cannot break is because people saw him as unbreakable. We've seen spren be affected by perception, and we've seen that the fused become more and more set in their ways as they age, so it makes sense that Taln would eventually come to embody everyone's perception of him as an unbreakable hero.

There's something there I think, but I dont think it is as simple as the direct effect of popular opinion on the Heralds via the same Spren mechanisms, because they all very specifically and conspicuously Mad in a way that is opposite to their popular characterization.  This could be an Inverting effect of Odium and his new Pure Tone's impact on the metaphysics of Roshar, or it could be related to Honor and whatever Broke him.  But because it's opposite and not just unrelated, I do think there's some metaphysical element at play.  

Edited by Ookla the Ingeniator
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2 hours ago, Ookla the Ingeniator said:

There's something there I think, but I dont think it is as simple as the direct effect of popular opinion on the Heralds via the same Spren mechanisms, because they all very specifically and conspicuously Mad in a way that is opposite to their popular characterization.  This could be an Inverting effect of Odium and his new Pure Tone's impact on the metaphysics of Roshar, or it could be related to Honor and whatever Broke him.  But because it's opposite and not just unrelated, I do think there's some metaphysical element at play.  

I don't think they all went mad in a way that is opposite to their popular characterization. If they had, then Taln would have broken a thousand times more quickly than the other heralds. I think that they are going mad in a way that removes all humanity behind their ideals. Look at Nale: he sees himself as a perfect judge: emotionless, unbiased. He is actually an emotionless monster that looks like justice, but is lacking in humanity. Some of them, like Jezrien and Ash, seem to fight that insanity somewhat, Ash with her obsession with destroying all images of her (honestly, with how perception affects the heralds, she might actually be the sanest of the group) and  Jezrien with his constant drunkenness. 

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16 minutes ago, Ookla the unintelligible said:

I don't think they all went mad in a way that is opposite to their popular characterization. If they had, then Taln would have broken a thousand times more quickly than the other heralds. I think that they are going mad in a way that removes all humanity behind their ideals. Look at Nale: he sees himself as a perfect judge: emotionless, unbiased. He is actually an emotionless monster that looks like justice, but is lacking in humanity. Some of them, like Jezrien and Ash, seem to fight that insanity somewhat, Ash with her obsession with destroying all images of her (honestly, with how perception affects the heralds, she might actually be the sanest of the group) and  Jezrien with his constant drunkenness. 

His associated attributes in Vorinism are Dependability and Resourcefulness. Now he is entirely UnDependable as he will go effectively comatose at any moment (occasionally being competent just enough that you cant even count on him being a useless lump), and mostly goes around as luggage that isn't able to manage much of anything for himself, which is the opposite of Resourceful.  

Nale was Just and Confidence, and he no longer has Confidence in his own Justice and actively councils new Skybreakers not to follow him directly.  

Shash is Creative and Honest and she's been hiding, lying to herself and others, and is compelled to destroy any created images of herself.

Ishar was Pious and Guiding and he's off committing to most atrocious blasphemies while leading others down various paths of madness.  

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1 minute ago, Ookla the Ingeniator said:

His associated attributes in Vorinism are Dependability and Resourcefulness. Now he is entirely UnDependable as he will go effectively comatose at any moment (occasionally being competent just enough that you cant even count on him being a useless lump), and mostly goes around as luggage that isn't able to manage much of anything for himself, which is the opposite of Resourceful.  

Nale was Just and Confidence, and he no longer has Confidence in his own Justice and actively councils new Skybreakers not to follow him directly.  

Shash is Creative and Honest and she's been hiding, lying to herself and others, and is compelled to destroy any created images of herself.

Ishar was Pious and Guiding and he's off committing to most atrocious blasphemies while leading others down various paths of madness.  

Wait. Taln not breaking for four millennia is undependable? Nale is completely unjust despite having a code and sticking to it?

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23 minutes ago, Ookla the unintelligible said:

Wait. Taln not breaking for four millennia is undependable? Nale is completely unjust despite having a code and sticking to it?

Taln as we have actually seen him is entirely Undependable because he is either coherent and competent or far more often a shuffling, mumbling child, with no predictable pattern, so you cannot Depend on him for literally anything including Being Crazy.  He might be more stoic than the rest or have proven more resilient, etc. but he cannot be Depended upon for anything as he is now.  Taln's a special case in the Oathpact though. For all we know only recently and very suddenly gained the condition once he returned and was his fully capable self before he returned to Roshar this most recent time, where the others might have gained the effect slowly in the time they've remained here.  

Nale himself openly doubts his own interpretation of Justice to the point where he warns Szeth against swearing this Ideals to Nale directly, which is a level of self-doubt that the "Herald of Confidence" shouldn't normally reach.  

Edited by Ookla the Ingeniator
Awful spelling...
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