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Lord Bookwyrm

How could the Returned have children?

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I've recently reread Warbreaker, and I've been wondering why the Returned can't have children. After all, some of their other physiological functions, like muscle movement and blood flow (eating and sleeping aren't necessary (which reminds me; do the Returned go to the toilet?), for some reason) still work. So why can't they have kids?

Well, it could be to do with the fact that pregnancy requires sperm cells to ferment egg cells, and for the zygote to implant itself into the womb, which takes a while to occur. So, could it be that for a Returned can't have children because their reproductive cells die before the zygote can implant itself in the womb? If the sperm/egg cells run out of Breath before the zygote reaches the womb walls (I don't know the technical term), it would die, so the woman, Returned or otherwise, wouldn't get pregnant.

This would still allow for Returned or their partners to become pregnant; it would either require the sperm cells to already have some amount of Breath (which would be why care whether or not Siri had sex with Susebron; she could still get pregnant since Susebron had a lot of Breath on top the one that allowed him to Return), or for the zygote to be given a Breath before it would consume the breath that allowed it to Return, which would give it time to impregnate the woman.

But, for the first theory to work, there must clearly be some level of uncertainty in whether the woman would get pregnant. Otherwise, why would some of the Godkings before Susebron (the one that appears in Warbreaker, not the ones before him) not have had children? Of course, it could have been that he (the Susebrons before the one in Warbreaker) or his wife was infertile, but I find that unlikely; he could have just remarried. I think the amount of Breath the sperm or egg cell holds is proportional to its size compared to the rest of the body; tiny. Each sperm or egg cell would only hold a trillionth of what the total body holds, an extremely tiny amount. The cell could easily consume it, and then go on to consume the Breath that made it Return. However, that is the amount that the whole body consumes, not the amount that those cells consume. So, the amount that the cells would consume would also be extraordinarily small. However, only the Godking gets more than one Breath a week, so only he would be able to get his partner (in this case Siri) pregnant. So, that would explain why Susebron, but not other Returned, can have children; they simply don't have enough Breath.

But, for fun, I still want to calculate just how much Breath Susebron currently holds. So, assuming he gets 3 Breaths a week, of which he consumes 1 (per week), he would receive a net total of +2 Breaths a week. 2 Breaths per week x 52 Breaths in a year x 52 years (Warbreaker says around 50, so I'm going 51/2) = 13,520. He also has the store of 50,000 Breaths that is passed down from Godking to Godking, which makes it 63,520 Breaths. Add that to the Breath that allowed him to Return, which is equivalent to about 2,000 ordinary Breaths, and he has a grand total of 65,520 Breaths! So, even without the 50,000 Breaths that was given to him when he was born, he has enough to reach the Eight Heightening, allowing him to Break Commands. This is far from the 50,000 he needs to reach the Tenth Heightening, but even this is far more Breath than most throughout Nalthis' history have ever held.

 

I don't know that much about pregnancy, so I could well be extremely wrong. If you know more, please correct me!

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Any Returned can have children, but there's a trick to it that we don't know, so it's hard to speculate. It might be related to how their body is technically dead, in a way? Or it could be what you said, which now that I think about it, seems appealing to me. That the fetus also requires a Breath a week to survive, and they don't know it, so the fetus dies. But the priests know how it works, so they tell the God-king or arrange for someone anyway, to give it the needed Breath every week.

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3 hours ago, Lord Bookwyrm said:

After all, some of their other physiological functions, like muscle movement and blood flow (eating and sleeping aren't necessary (which reminds me; do the Returned go to the toilet?), for some reason) still work.

Returned actually do need to sleep, if not for all the same reasons that a normal person would. It's necessary for their brains to have low-activity periods in order to consolidate memories for long-term storage. Since Returned can eat and drink, they must have a functioning digestive/excretory system even if they don't need the nourishment and just do it for pleasure. So yes, they probably have Returned-scale toilets (calling them 'thrones' might not be out of the question) and need to make use of them if/when they've eaten.

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Quote

Mark

It was said throughout the book that you cannot just give some of your breath, but must give all of it. Perhaps I'm simply forgetting part of the book where this changes, but wouldn't Vasher have to give his Returned breath along with his others?

Brandon Sanderson

The "You must give up all of your Breath, not some" line was mostly perpetuated by Denth, who is saying it to Vivenna to stop her from giving away her Breath to all the people she passes. It is a lie. Now, it's a lie that's commonly accepted by a lot of people. But it's still a lie—as we find out midway through the book, you can stick some of your Breath in an object and bring it to life, and then recover that Breath. So it's very easy to give some of your Breath to someone if you know the logical steps to take. Invest most of it into an object, give what you have to someone else, then pull back what you Invested. So it's flat-out proven in the novel that what Denth is telling her is wrong. Now, he could dance around that lie by pretending to be the ignorant mercenary—he's just perpetuating a falsehood that many people believe. But it is a lie. In fact, a lot of the things people believe about BioChromatic Breath isn't true.

One of the things I was trying with this book was to take a few steps back from MISTBORN, where so much was understood. I feel that the approach I took in MISTBORN is right for that book, and yet people have so much superstition regarding all sorts of science. I worry sometimes that there isn't enough superstition in my books, regarding magic as science. What people believed and what people knew and what people understood was so varied and confused throughout most of history, that I worry that I lack realism in that. Vasher brings up at several points in the book that they don't know a whole lot and that people perpetuate a lot of myths and stories and lies.

Vasher has learned to suppress his Returned Breath. When it's suppressed, it's as if it doesn't exist to him. He's Invested it into a place within himself, much like you can Invest your Breaths into a shirt, and when he gives away the rest of his Breaths, he doesn't give that one away. He could split off others of his Breaths if he wanted to—he's learned to do that, so that he could give a few Breaths and not all. It's just a matter of practicing as long as he has. But even people who aren't as practiced as him do it all the time when they Invest an object with not all of their Breath but just enough to bring it to life

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A (Jan. 18, 2010)

I think it's that.  They need to suppress their Divine Breath, which reverts their physical form to normal mortal human instead of Greek God.  Most wouldn't want to do this because it would result in a loss of all their fancy powers that the one big Divine Breath gives.

There are benefits though.  Mostly to do with being stealthy, and I suspect being able to have children.

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15 hours ago, Subvisual Haze said:

I think it's that.  They need to suppress their Divine Breath, which reverts their physical form to normal mortal human instead of Greek God.  Most wouldn't want to do this because it would result in a loss of all their fancy powers that the one big Divine Breath gives.

There are benefits though.  Mostly to do with being stealthy, and I suspect being able to have children.

I 100% agree, this is the answer. We will know in the Nightblood book from Siri and Suse Im sure, he had the hint from Vasher and them having a child was such a focus of the first book.

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On 7/15/2019 at 3:48 PM, Subvisual Haze said:

There are benefits though.  Mostly to do with being stealthy, and I suspect being able to have children.

This makes perfect sense.  If Vo tried to hid (ie suppress) his nature (as no one new what was happening to him and he was scared) he would have ended up with children as a result.  I don't think anyone at the time new how to give away breaths.

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I wonder if Vo was something unique even among the Returned.  Instead of coming back confused about who he was, he apparently delivered some important religious teachings and conceived a child, all within the short week he had to walk the world before dying again.  Endowment must have been more involved than usual in his return.

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