ShardlessVessel

Theory: the Scadrian alphabet is a catalog of Hemalurgic bind points

8 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

I was looking for a WOB on Hemalurgy today and happened upon this gem:

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CoffeeHolick

Did you intentionally make Kredik Shaw resemble hemalurgic spikes coming from Luthadel?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I did. The modern symbols of the metals (Spikes piercing skin) are also done intentionally.

General Twitter 2011 (Jan. 18, 2011)

I had already noticed that the symbols for the Allomantic metals look a lot like a simplified human body with spikes piercing it, but I didn't know how intentional that was.

Well, apparently it's very intentional.

Problem is, we don't know where most spikes go, so I can't easily validate this hypothesis, but I can speculate.

The first thing is to determine whether the symbol refers to the placement to the spike that grants that power, or to the spikes that are made of that metal. There's a world of difference between the two - to grant the ability burn pewter, you apply a steel spike to one of the shoulders; a pewter spike, on the other hand, steals Physical Feruchemy.

Let's look at one of the symbols:

I've screenshotted a piece of the Table of Allomantic Metals containing the symbol for iron. Looking at it from the perspective that it's a human body pierced by spikes, it looks like the dot is the head and there are two spikes in the upper torso. Sure enough, according to the Table of Hemalurgic Metals, there are Physical bindpoints in the torso - four of them. Which are the relevant two? I'll assume for now that they're the two bindpoints located in the sternum, on top of one another, as you would not need a frontal view of the body to represent them.

There's still a problem here. Iron steals strength, while to steal the Allomantic power of Iron, you use a steel spike. The bindpoints for both metals are listed simply as "Physical" in the Table of Hemalurgic Metals, so it's ambiguous whether this symbols represents the placement of spikes for the ability to pull metals or spikes for strength.

Let's find an allomantic metal that is stolen by a spike in a different quadrant. Duralumin should do - to steal duralumin (a spiritual metal), you use electrum (a temporal metal). There are two problems, however. The first is that the Hemalurgy Table is incomplete; the second is that the placement of all spikes except physical metals is symmetrical. A symbol that means "put electrum spikes here" can also mean "put duralumin spikes here".

Regardless, here's duralumin:

This looks like a view from the top of the head, with one spike through the center of the torso and four spikes through the sides of the torso (all of which seem to be inverted, with the back of the spike inside the torso). I can see one issue immediately: there are four bind spots for spiritual and temporal metals each in the torso - and they're all between the ribs (actually, not exactly - some of them are in the abdomen, in the place where ribs would be if we had them below the chest).

My results are inconclusive so far, but maybe someone else can make more sense of the symbols. I'm most bothered by those spikes that are "backwards". I believe that's just in-world artistic license, as the ancient Terris symbols don't have stylized spikes (the spikes are still there, though):

(screenshot from the Coppermind)

As a last note, I think these two symbols, plus what we know of Inquisitors, can help solve the puzzle: iron, steel, tin and pewter all display piercings in the torso; iron shows a body bent to the right and spikes coming in from the left - the spikes for iron go into the left side of the torso. Steel is the reverse, while tin and pewter go into the center of the chest, assuming that the vertical bar is the spike. If I'm right, that confirms that the spike placement is for spikes of that metal, rather than bind points for the allomantic ability. Spook during HoA had a spike for allomantic pewter in his shoulder, which could match the placement of a steel spike - inner shoulder, on the right. I'm not sure whether the books ever say which shoulder held the spike, and I can't find it, so it's still inconclusive.

EDIT: Well, the images didn't load, apparently. You can find them yourselves and have a look, though. This is the link for the Steel Alphabet: https://coppermind.net/wiki/Steel_alphabet

Edited by ShardlessVessel
realization
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I think the idea is fascinating, but I am struggling to see how the symbols can be human bodies, regardless of how heavily they are stylized. Do you think you can explain that a bit more?

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Posted (edited)

34 minutes ago, Argent said:

I think the idea is fascinating, but I am struggling to see how the symbols can be human bodies, regardless of how heavily they are stylized. Do you think you can explain that a bit more?

My assumption is that the dot represents the head of the receiver of a hemalurgic spike, while the arcs represent the rest of the body.

Looking at the symbol for iron, I envision a human body curled up, with the head facing towards the right and and a pair of spikes though the torso.

Looking at the symbol for duralumin, I envision a human body seen from above, with spikes driven into the sides and center of the torso (though as I mentioned before, the spikes seem to be backwards - maybe those are arms?).

The symbol for brass also looks vaguely like a human body seen from above, with a spike through the neck or head and a pair of spikes through the torso or shoulders.

Edited by ShardlessVessel
pluralizing a word
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I'm seeing some of the extra lines as arms, or legs now that I look at it.

giving a rough comparision between the symbols and the hemalurgic table I say this holds up.

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I think the intermediary alphabet (the one before late final empire in the table on coppermind) looks the most like a human body, and it gets further stylized as it goes on. I am having a bit of trouble seeing the symbolism of a body with spikes in the ancient terris alphabet, but it could totally be something where people reanalyze symbols to have different meaning.

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I've wondered for a long time how those symbols were designed. This is a really intriguing idea! It seems like a subset of all of the bind points that are available, but any guidance at this point is exciting. Spook's and Kelsier's Hemalurgy book is going to be a lot more interesting than I'd thought... I wish Lost Metal were here. I've never wanted Cadmium more.

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The more I look at the intermediary alphabet, the more it starts looking like it was designed as a point of reference. Every single character has a horizontal line at the very top and Pewter really makes it look like the spike placement is based on something proportional to the whole. Agreed, this is a fascinating idea. At least by The Final Empire it was altered to be a stylized bead (Allomancy), bracer (Feruchemy), and spike (Hemalurgy), confirmed here, but I think at least the intermediary could be a Hemalurgic catalog.

However, there are other things that I don't get quite yet. What's with that floating spike for Malatium and Brass? Is there a reason that this doesn't catalogue bindpoints on the head? I'll have to think about this.

 

I'll include a few WoBs that seem relevant, collapsed for convenience. 

Spoiler
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FireOx

Do we know the exact purpose for creating 3 different symbols for each book's metals (chapter symbols)? Is it for the 3 metallic arts? If so, which belong to which?

Isaac Stewart

Hi FireOx! The three sets of symbols show the progression of the Allomantic text through the ages. The earliest script is from Hero of Ages. It was changed and modified into the Terris script symbols we see in Well of Ascension. After more time, the Terris script morphed into what is now known as the Allomantic Alphabet or the Steel Alphabet, which are the symbols used in Mistborn: The Final Empire. We've extrapolated the Steel Alphabet into a script that's more-standardized and refined for the chapter headings in Alloy of Law, which takes place 300 years after Hero of Ages.

Miscellaneous 2012 (Jan. 24, 2012)
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Questioner

I just started Part 3 [of The Final Empire?] and I actually went over to your booth to ask them because I was confused. There are different symbols for the Allomantic metals but I only recognize one of them here. Why are there different symbols you don't know about at the beginning of different parts?

Brandon Sanderson

Part of it is they don't know all the metals yet, in the books, and so that's a hint. Part of it is because that their writing system is more than 16 letters and so there are symbols that do not represent a metal, necessarily, or an Allomantic metal so they can-- They write with them as well. It is both a writing system and each symbol is a metal.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 (Sept. 4, 2014)
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AndrewStirlingMacDonald (paraphrased)

I have a question about the way that the brass symbol changed. It looks like brass no longer has a dot. Can you talk about that?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

That is just Issac deciding how he wants the symbols to look. It is nothing of Cosmereological import.

AndrewStirlingMacDonald (paraphrased)

Is there anything of cosmereological import about the way that the symbols have changed over time?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes, slight import. I mean, it's just the idea that as things have evolved, and we are moving toward typesetting; we've moved into typesetting in the modern era, you're going to see the symbols change to kind of match different eras.

Shadows of Self Boston signing (Oct. 14, 2015)
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Kurkistan

Looking more closely at the [Steel Alphabet] font, it looks like we're missing some information. Note that the tin symbol for 'e' and 'i' are slightly different: the dot is in a different location. I suppose that the dots are diacritical marks, then.

Any other diacritical information we should know about the Steel Alphabet (or Alethi, for that matter), Peter?

Peter Ahlstrom

Moving the dot to distinguish vowels is a modern innovation, within the last 100 years by ALLOY OF LAW. I suspect that dots may be gone entirely (except for the two changed vowels, and maybe "capital" letters) in many fonts by the time you get to the second trilogy. Numbers might get a moved dot too. The placement of the dots in the original symbology has to do with Allomancy, but they're largely superfluous in writing.

The Feruchemical symbols (which are in the RPG) are evolved from the same root (the ancient symbols you can see in MISTBORN 3), but I don't know about their use in modern writing. It could be something like the hiragana/katakana distinction. But that's just speculation right now.

Miscellaneous 2012 (May 7, 2012)

 

As I dig deeper and look read the WoBs, WoIs, and WoPs, the parts that I'm not sure on is on what changed or was lost based on the Steel Alphabet, and how closely we should align in-world Hemalurgic knowledge to what was developed as both a metallurgic symbol and a writing system. Take Bendalloy, Cadmium, and Nicrosil, did Ancient Terris really have those or were they later arbitrarily assigned one of the alphabet letters? What about The Final Empire having a symbol for Ettmetal, did they somehow make a viable alloy of Lerasium and Atium and figure out how to stick it in someone without it exploding from making contact with blood, or was this assigned after the fact? I could see this perhaps working for the basic metals that were preserved, but I'm iffy on if the metals that only became known after the Catacendre were appropriately matched to the symbols that indicate Hemalurgic bindpoints for those metals.

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Posted (edited)

BoM Spoilers: 

Spoiler

Ettmetal is Harmony's metal

HoA Spoilers: 

Quote

The Lord Ruler knew about all of the metals (he created the Mistborn, after all) but he chose not to share them so he could control the power. 

I think that this idea is really great, but if you look at the Coppermind early Terris looks really weird. I guess you could count in the font and stuff, but Steel and Iron as well as a couple of others look nothing like a human. As you get closer to the Final Empire it looks more like a human, which I guess you could account to the increased knowledge of Hemalurgy, but that reposes the question about the Early Terris and Intermediary scripts. But knowledge of Hemalurgy can also account for the more modern style of the post-Catacandre script. The Terris Alphabet looks a little like a block stick figure human, but what really supports your theory is the Ancient Terris symbol for Tin. It looks like a caveman human. I have to say though, I think that the Final Empire one is that looks the most like Hemalurgic bind points because as far as we know that's when it took off, and then the post-Catacandre world adapted Final Empire symbols, while the Final Empire emphasized the Hemalurgic ideas after adapting the old language. I guess you could compare it to a situation where instead of scripts evolving from pictures to letters, letters became pictures which went back to letters that retained a bit of the symbols. Honestly, I think that it's too early to develop any actual theory on this. 

Edited by Flaming Coinshot
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