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Confused

A Confused Theory of Desolations

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“And the only sound that's left after the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up on Desolation Row.”


- Bob Dylan, “Desolation Row”

 

THIS POST IS INTERPRETATION AND SPECULATION. PLEASE READ IT AS SUCH.

 

Desolations are the critical narrative element of SLA, even more than the Highstorms Brandon based on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. What are they, what causes them, what is their purpose, how do they begin, how do they end? I made an earlier attempt to answer and will now try again.

 

Brandon seems fascinated by the question he has Kaladin ask: “Can you kill to protect?” Vin says that’s humankind’s nature: “Something that could both protect and destroy. Something that could destroy to protect.” (HoA, Tor Softcover, p. 711.) This theme informs my interpretation of Desolations.

 

Because Desolations are so central, a proper exposition requires background and context. I’ve written a number of posts to provide this context, some of which are controversial. To summarize before proceeding:

 

 

  • The Shattering” asserts that Adonalsium was Shattered vertically, along the fault lines of each mandate (intent), rather than horizontally across the spectrum of powers. IOW, each Shard has the same powers; the only difference from Shard to Shard lying in the powers’ expression through each mandate.

 

  • I identify each known “Mandate.” Honor is “Relationships.” Cultivation is “Survival.” Odium is “Aggression.” I’m not wedded to any of these words, although I’m comfortable with the latter two. I do think “Relationships” fits Honor both conceptually and in how I think Honor expresses his power, but the word itself stinks. I’m open to suggestions on that one…

 

 

 

 

  • And I argue that in Shadesmar thoughts can kill. I believe a Shard’s best and easiest tactic to kill another Shard is to destroy its mind, its ability to direct its power. I believe that’s what Odium did when he splintered Dominion, Devotion and Honor. I am still developing this argument.

 

Below is a summary of my theory of Desolations, without textual citation. Originally this summary was the introduction of a longer essay. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I’ve now grown too weary to write it. But I didn’t want to deprive you folks of your regular target practice. So here it is, in bare form, weaving together the ideas generated in the above-cited posts.

 

What

 

Desolations are the wars between Honor/Cultivation surrogates and Odium surrogates. Voidbringers include anyone under Odium’s influence. That means listeners, thunderclasts, humans and others. I speculate Odium spren resurrect dead greatshells as thunderclasts and dead – and disturbed – listener remains as the “mindless” Unmade (so described by the Diagram).

 

I’ve stated throughout my posts that Odium’s investiture doesn’t bond. How then does Odium exercise influence?

 

WoB states Odium has found a “hole” to “pour” his investiture into (like Hamlet’s uncle poured poison into King Hamlet’s ear). This is different from actually bonding with the host.

 

My analogy to explain the difference is this: place an electrode into an insect’s body. You can control the insect’s behavior through the electrode. But the electrode is never PART of the insect’s body. If you destroy the electrode, the insect is still an insect.

 

But imagine instead you spliced genes into to the insect’s body, so the insect no longer is an insect. It is now whatever that combination causes this new entity to be – a Knight Radiant, perhaps. (Or a Greatshell or Ryshadium?) That’s the difference between “carrying” investiture and bonding with investiture. Odium can only cause the former.

 

Why

 

Desolations impair Odium’s capacity to free himself from Greater Roshar. Humans are more susceptible to Odium’s influence than native Rosharans and better serve Odium’s purposes. Honor and Cultivation periodically need to “prune” their numbers (and also destroy other Voidbringers).

 

Who

 

Odium began the cycle. He created war on other planets to drive humans to Roshar. (WoB confirms that “the races are more distinct [on Roshar] and rub each other the wrong way…”) Once there, they committed genocide against listeners, wreaking “Desolation” upon them. In order to fight Odium (and incidentally to protect the listeners), Honor offered the Oathpact to the Heralds: fight for Honor against Voidbringers, who then mostly included Odium-influenced humans. Otherwise, Honor would annihilate ALL of Roshar’s humans if necessary to defeat Odium. At some point, Odium figured out how to influence listeners, and the Desolations lost their racial character. During the Vorin period, the original nature of Desolations was ignored, forgotten or deliberately reversed.

 

How

 

Roshar’s Physical Realm gaseous investiture – Stormlight – consists of equal amounts of each Shard’s investiture. Desolations begin when an “investiture imbalance” develops in Stormlight. Spren count as investiture. Honor made each Herald’s soul into an “identity spren” residing in an Honorblade. The Honorblades both monitor and consume investiture. When the imbalance develops, the spren emerges and bonds with a Stone Shaman, current keepers of the Blades. That Shaman-now-Herald signals the Desolation. When the Desolation ends, the Honorblade consumes the Herald’s identity spren, returning it to the Blade. Otherwise, the presence of the identity spren itself causes an investiture imbalance that would lead to a new Desolation, as Brandon has said. Desolations end when the Honorblades sweep Roshar clean of unbonded investiture, including spren.

 

I speculate that the Stone Shamans are the “current” Honorblade keepers because they are somehow related to Talenal, the one Herald who remained “true” (because he “died”). I don’t know whether Heralds had squires or whether some KR from each order attended to their patron Herald. But the Stone Shamans represent Talenal, whom Taravangian describes as the “Ancient of Stone” and whom Nale describes (IMO) as the “Spren of Stone.” IMO if other Heralds had “died,” there would be additional Keepers of the Blades.

 

Next

 

Unlike Desolations, the Everstorm IS of Odium’s design. It brings on the True Desolation (the destruction of most of Roshar) and the Night of Sorrows, when the Everstorm reaches Urithiru, blocking both daylight and Stormlight.

 

That’s the basics. Before you take aim, please make sure you’re wearing your orange vests…

 

AND HAPPY LABOR DAY WEEKEND!

Edited by Confused
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I'm not sure to understand how the Heralds unbalance the whole system.

Anyway I thought that Honor & Preservation mandate (or Intent) are Unity (so relationship is quite good) and Progression.
In a Q&A Brandon stated that of the 10 Surges, there are 2 that could be call "divine surges" (the Question was about the presence on Roshar of some similar to the "god metals") this two are Adeshion and Progression. Each one seems linked the idea of Honor(Adesion) and Cultivation (Progression) so probably are their mandates.

Edited by Yata
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I'm not sure to understand how the Heralds unbalance the whole system.

Anyway I thought that Honor & Cultivation mandate (or Intent) are Unity (so relationship is quite good) and Progression.

In a Q&A Brandon stated that of the 10 Surges, there are 2 that could be call "divine surges" (the Question was about the presence on Roshar of some similar to the "god metals") this two are Adhesion and Progression. Each one seems linked the idea of Honor(Adhesion) and Cultivation (Progression) so probably are their mandates.

 

Actually that's not quite what Brandon said, the original WoB that implied this was paraphrased, but we do have a verbatim follow-up question:

 

[Goodreads]

Argent

The "God Surges" you mentioned recently, are they a part of the WoK frontsheet?

Brandon Sanderson

All I said regarding this was to tell a fan that it was possible to make an analogy between the god metals on Scadrial and certain powers on Roshar. However, these are not a codified part of the magic system.

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