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Identity and Shapeshifting

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I was thinking about Kandra in Bands of Mourning and something occurred to me.  In Bands of Mourning it talks a lot about Identity, but it's all in reference to Feruchemy and Allomancy.  I was wondering if Identity could be important for Kandra.  Specifically, I was thinking that it may be part of how they are able to so convincingly take the forms of other people.  This eventually lead me to thinking about other shapeshifters as well, but first I'll talk about Kandra.

Young Kandra are only able to shapeshift into the form of a person after consuming their body.  After a lot of time spent taking on various forms they're eventually able to take liberties, mixing and matching, adding, subtracting, adapting, etc.  But at first they're only able to consume a body and then turn into a copy of that body.  Once they're in a form they have a hard time not acting like the person that form belongs to (like when MeLaan takes on the form of the Governor Innate at the end of Shadows of Self, she knows she's supposed to be placating the crowd, but that's not what Innate would have done.  This could be from training and practice, but I think that would only take you so far.  Particularly when she didn't actually know much about Innate.).

Anyway, so I'm proposing that when a Kandra consumes a body they are able to consume a portion of the person's Identity.  This helps them to not only copy the person's physical appearance, but their mannerisms, their speech patterns, etc.  It wouldn't give them the person's memories, but they would instinctively be able to tap into the way that person would do things.  This is similar to when Shai is testing pieces of the pattern for Ashravan's essence mark on Gaotona.  This effectively gave Gaotona a copy of a small portion of Ashravan's identity.  Sometimes Shai would incorporate actual memories into the stamps as well, but like with the part about how his favorite color was green.  I feel like that had more to do with Identity than memories.  For a Kandra I feel like they would get more of the person's Identity than Gaotona was getting, though not the whole thing.  For a Mistwraith I bet they get the bits of Identity as well, but without sapience it doesn't do them any good.

So that brings me to other kinds of shapeshifting in the Cosmere.  Here's a list of all the kinds of shapeshifting I can think of: Kandra/Mistwraith, Aimian, Dician Aimian, Forgery (minimal, but it does still happen), and Returned/Royal Locks.  Aimians and Dician Aimians we don't see enough for me to judge how much has to do with Identity, but I suspect that it does play a part.  Forgery you're only changing to different versions of yourself, but I still think that your identity is changing.  Returned we don't see too much of it, but the parts we do see seem to me like it's totally about Identity, and the Royal Locks we already know work the same way, just on a smaller scale.

Illusions aren't actually shapeshifting, but I think Identity frequently plays a part in them as well.

Anyway, I thought this was interesting.  Thoughts?

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Posted (edited)

We know so little about the functions of the Spiritual traits that I could very well be completely wrong here, but I disagree. From what we've seen Identity seems to be purely an Investiture fingerprint, and has nothing to do with "identity" in the way that we use the word outside of the books. 

Kandra learn to independently grow structures through repetition... But straight up mimicry isn't an issue. 

In the example of Melaan with the Governor, she never ate his body, just used his bones... And while we know the Kandra themselves would disagree, the bones don't impart anything to the Kandra when used. 

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Questioner

In The Emperor's Soul… you indicate sort of the opposite of the kandra in regards to… Soulstamps can be made with bone and are considered the lesser, with crystal is the highest. With kandras, if their true bodies are crystal, they are considered weak. Bones are considered strong.

Brandon Sanderson

Ehhh… I'm gonna stop you right there, just because that's gonna depend on the kandra, and their age, and how they feel about it. There are plenty of kandra, I think MeLaan would argue against that and be like "No! Non-bone true bodies are way better! Look, I can take my hands off and stab people with the swords underneath. This is super better!" Whereas TenSoon would be like, "That's not…" It's a little bit like when I was in Korea, and people are like "Things made out of concrete just feel worse! It's bad for the kibun to always be surrounded by concrete. Wood is better for you." I… think there are people who would disagree with that, I think there are people who would totally agree with that.

Questioner

My question. If you were to combine a Soulstamp of a crystal, with a kandra true body of a crystal, would they have additional powers that could compete with regards to Mistborn. If it compounds?

Brandon Sanderson

Alright, so if you took the crystal that they're making Soulstamps out of and you gave it to a kandra, and they used it for bones, generally the kandra are not drawing any sort of extra Investiture or power from the bones, they're making-- they're using. That's-- Though TenSoon would argue that I'm wrong. *general laughter*

JordanCon 2016 (April 23, 2016)

But, as much as the Kandra aren't typically used to mimic actual people anymore, playing a role is literally what they were built to do. I think MeLaan's  issue is a psychological issue stemming from their physiological brain structure. 

Edited by Calderis
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I considered that as well, and I get that argument, but I still think Identity is part of it.  I don't think that WoB is actually about this.  I think the question was poorly worded and confused Brandon.  He ended up answering a question more about whether crystal or bones are better for a Kandra body, and I don't think that's really what they meant to ask.  I think the bones do give them access to some of the person's Identity.  It's partially physical, but I think it's spiritual as well.

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Then we simply disagree on what Identity is. I don't believe it has any bearing on personality whatsoever. 

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@calderis, the coppermind article mentions Identity being involved (along with Connection) in the Parshendi changing forms. I guess this would be a different kind of shape shifting? Also, when Moash meets Leshwi for the first time after he had killed her, he notices that, while her body was different than before, the color patterns on her skin were the same. Does that mean that Prshendi color patterns are related to Identity? These spiritual attributes are a little confusing.

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3 minutes ago, Brightness Jencee said:

@calderis, the coppermind article mentions Identity being involved (along with Connection) in the Parshendi changing forms. I guess this would be a different kind of shape shifting? Also, when Moash meets Leshwi for the first time after he had killed her, he notices that, while her body was different than before, the color patterns on her skin were the same. Does that mean that Prshendi color patterns are related to Identity? These spiritual attributes are a little confusing.

You need Identity to change, yes, which is why the parshmen needed to have their Identity restored, but the colors have to do with the same thing as healing: it's how they view themselves and so it carries over to each body, as the soul connected to the Identity asserts itself and the body "heals" to what it thinks it should be.

At least that's my interpretation, don't take my word for it, I'm notorious for misconstruing things.

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2 hours ago, Brightness Jencee said:

@calderis, the coppermind article mentions Identity being involved (along with Connection) in the Parshendi changing forms. I guess this would be a different kind of shape shifting? Also, when Moash meets Leshwi for the first time after he had killed her, he notices that, while her body was different than before, the color patterns on her skin were the same. Does that mean that Prshendi color patterns are related to Identity? These spiritual attributes are a little confusing.

With the Fused, there is of course and Identity shift that take place in the body. The Original inhabitant of the body is expelled, and their identity leaves with the Investiture that composes them. The Fused takes over, bringing their Identity along with them, and the marbling pattern written into their Cognitive and Spiritual Aspects overwrites what existed in the Physical. 

As to the Connection and Identity restored to the parshmen by the storm... 

Quote

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

In terms of discussing Identity, I know that in Emperor's Soul, they talk about Identity, and the Parshendi talk about losing their identity, and then I was just rereading Bands of Mourning, and one of the kandra talks about how the spikes are their Identity. Are all of those things connected somehow or are they different forms of Identity?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

They are connected, although the Parshendi losing their identity is a little more metaphorical. But yeah, the idea of these things is Identity is an innate attribute in the cosmere that is related to your soul, your spirit, and it is one of the things that Hemalurgy can fiddle with and Feruchemy can fiddle with. It's kind of important to how the Metallurgic Arts play out, but it's important to all the magics.

Identity is involved in why you can't use another person's metalminds, right, that kind of thing. And those are all related. The Parshendi is more metaphorical. 

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

I wondered because it's always capitalized, in the book.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yep, and it's done intentionally. Peter always asks, "Are you sure this one is capitalized?" "Yeah."

Orem signing (March 10, 2018)

I think that one stretches the definition, by Brandon's own implication. 

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While reading the op I had to think about Shallan and her personas. At one point she adopts the role of a Brightlady in Kholinar and starts thinking the way the woman would, chastising servants, checking for cleanliness, rethinking her plan to steal the food etc. When she snaps out of it she is terrified. I can't help but feel that it's the same phenomenon that MeLaan experiences impersonating the Governor. I wouldn't get to hung up on whether or not it's identity, but I think it's safe to assume that it has a magical component. Nobody is good enough at impersonating someone that their behaviour and thought patterns change that dramatically in a matter of moments, and Shallan does it accidentally. So even if it's not a matter of identity, I think we're observing the same phenomenon in different characters interacting with different magics. Maybe they are tapping into the Conections the people they are impersonating have? I don't have an answer but I think it's a great observation. 

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Yeah.  I’m not positive it’s part of identity.  I think it is, but I’m not positive.  It could be connection.  Definitely something magical.  We know so little about both of those.  We know connection can be used for languages, but the ars arcanum in era 2 talks about using it to make friends.  Identity is related to keyed investiture, but that’s not all it is.  They’re both abstract, so they could each have multiple seemingly unrelated applications.

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