Themes of the Stormlight Archive and clues for overall Cosmere Story Arc

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There is a theme that keeps coming up often enough that I'm starting to think its a clue as to the fate of the Cosmere, and the motivation of Adonalsium.

The heralds are immortal beings that have minds, that have been "corrupted" by madnesses unique to each of them. At first I thought this was tied to their torture on Braize in between desolations, but I think it's also been hinted at that more than just the torture is wracking their minds. The immortality itself means their memories have disappeared into oblivion, which has contributed to the destruction of their identity as well:

Kelek's Note:


Oh... Father... Seven thousand years. I remember so few of those centuries. I am a blur. A smear on the page. A gaunt stretch of ink, made all the more insubstantial with each passing day. Midius once told me...told me we could use enhance our minds, our memories, so we wouldn’t forget so much. Why would I want to remember? Maybe if I remember my life, I’d be capable of being confident like I once was. Maybe I’d stop vacillating when even the most simple of decisions is presented to me. Instead I think, if I were to remember my life in detail, I would become even worse. Paralyzed by my terrible actions. I should not like to remember all those I have failed.

It's not just the heralds. A lot of immortal beings are tired of life.


“A few,” Zahel said. “More than I normally share.” He leaned forward, elbows on thighs. Wind blew at the hem of his robe, dangling over a drop of thousands of feet. “You want to know what I am? Well, I’m a lot of things. Tired, mostly. But I’m also a Type Two Invested entity. Used to call myself a Type One, but I had to throw the whole scale out, once I learned more. That’s the trouble with science. It’s never done. Always upending itself. Ruining perfect systems for the little inconvenience of them being wrong.”


"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. That’s why she takes our memories. She knows we aren’t the actual people who died, but something else given a corpse to inhabit…"

Secret History:


“You didn’t think this was the end, did you?” God asked, waving toward the shadowy world. “This is the in-between step. After death and before…” “Before what?” “Before the Beyond,” God said. “The Somewhere Else. Where souls must go. Where yours must go.” “I haven’t gone yet.” “It takes longer for Allomancers, but it will happen. It is the natural progress of things, like a stream flowing toward the ocean.

Sanderson, Brandon. Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection (p. 206). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition.

I think Zahel is wrong. I think that cognitive shadows are the soul or contain the soul. The spren thing comes up a lot in RoW, but I think its wrong, if only because we see that the spren become more human-like over time rather than the other way around. Investiture becoming conscious and making decisions; it feels like spontaneous life from power, sort of Cosmere abiogenesis. I think that there are some more clues about this with Ishar's experiments trying to bring them into the physical realm. Also, is Ishar one of the five scholars? Something dark is going on there, maybe Ishar is the bad guy for the back 5?

Anyway, more issues with immortality:

Through Mistborn through era 2:


We also see this deterioration happening to other semi-immortal beings, like the Kandra. The first generation ends up sacrificing themselves, feeling old and stretched, etc. MeLaan also mentions that they've decided to be able to end their own lives to prevent being taken over by ruin. This leaves me with the impression that as they age, their mind goes, and they want an escape mechanism to prevent being enslaved again, but I also think its there so that some can.

From the Coppermind:


After the Catacendre, the kandra develop a way to take their own lives at will. Also developed by the kandra post-catacendre is a liquid which upon injection will disable kandra and make them transparent, but will not make them unconscious. Though it does not kill the kandra, further pulling out their spike will turn them back to mistwraith.[9] Destroying the spikes with explosion or by other means can turn them back into mistwraith, practically killing them.

This comes up with Paalm/Bleeder. She talks about serving the Lord Ruler, and I think more than just the trellium spike has influenced her - the ravages of time have started to make her worn as well.



The Elantrians are immortal, but when the chasm forms they lose their powers and RAPIDLY deteriorate on the mental side due to pretty much being in a permanent state of torture until they lose their minds. I think this is pretty straightforward.

Bringing it all back around:

In RoW we get the BEST vision that Dalinar has ever sent to anyone, and I think this gives us a clue as to the meta-theme of the cosmere:


Kaladin closed his eyes, letting himself enjoy this moment. “Is it real?” he finally asked. “Are you real? Or is this something made by the Stormfather, or Wit, or someone else?” Tien smiled, then pressed something into Kaladin’s hand. A small wooden horse. “Try to keep track of him this time, Kal. I worked hard on that.” Then Kaladin dropped suddenly, the wooden horse evaporating in his hand as he fell.

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) (p. 1140). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition.


He finally found the merchant shop Lift had told Dalinar about. Though the hour was growing late, the market was busy with people celebrating, so a lot of the shops were open, this one included. Kaladin was directed to a bin of salvage, and he began rifling through it, Syl on his shoulder. He found Rock’s razor. And some of Sigzil’s brushpens. And … He held up a miniature wooden horse, carved in exacting detail. Syl breathed out an awed sound. “I lost this before coming to the Shattered Plains,” Kaladin said. “I lost this in Alethkar. Tien gave it to me the day we were recruited into the army, and it was taken with my other things when I became a slave. How…”

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) (p. 1205). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition.

This is the real deal. Somehow Dalinar used connection to allow a conversation between Tien's REAL soul with Kaladin. I think this has major implications for "Journey before Destination" - that connection is formed on the journey, and that it is possible to revisit those moments through connection. And Tien somehow influenced the world to get this object back to him. I have no idea how. Fortune maybe? The message is here:


“See, that’s the wrong way of looking at it.” Tien held him tighter. “Since we all go to the same place in the end, the moments we spent with each other are the only things that do matter. The times we helped each other.” Kaladin trembled. “Look at it, Kal,” Tien said softly. “See the colors. If you think letting Teft die is a failure—but all the times you supported him are meaningless—then no wonder it always hurts. Instead, if you think of how lucky you both were to be able to help each other when you were together, well, it looks a lot nicer, doesn’t it?”

Sanderson, Brandon. Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive) (p. 1139). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition.

So what is the implication for the greater cosmere, history and direction? i laid it out kind of in a previous post


We know that Harmony holds two shards that oppose each other for the most part, and that he talks about how if he acts too much to favor one side bad things happen. Adonalsium would be this on an infinite level. All this power, but unable to use the power in any way to affect change without push-back, overrule, bad things happening. So I think the shattering was this plan to allow the separation of powers which would let the power be used without the interference of the other shards.

I think these all point to a risk of immortality / immortality being a double edged sword, as a theme in the Cosmere. Even Adonalsium is hinted to have known about, and perhaps even had some part in their own shattering. I actually think this is the inspiration behind the Iriali religion.


The Iriali worship a god they call "The One". According to this belief, the One knew everything but had experienced nothing. And so the One became Many in order to experience all things. As each experience is different, it brings completeness to the One. Eventually, all will be gathered back in when the sum of land is attained and they will once again become One. Every person is a different mind of a single being experiencing different lives. As Many, they need ignorance. Each fragment of the One’s mind has its own body with different passions and inclinations. They exist in variety to experience all kinds of thought. That means some people must know and others must not. Just like some people must be rich and others poor.

The philosophy behind the One is that the Spiritual Realm and the Beyond are the same thing. When a person dies, their soul rejoins the Investiture of the Spiritual Realm. Most cosmere philosophers disagree with this belief.[13]



That mural . . .  it was circular and — inlaid with golden foil — it seemed to glow with its own light. The writing on parts of it was unfamiliar to Rysn; she hadn’t seen the script during any of her travels. It wasn’t even the Dawnchant. The peculiar letters were art themselves, curling around the outside of the exploding sun — which was divided into mostly symmetrical pieces. Four of them, each in turn broken into four smaller sections. Her spear slipped from her fingers and clattered to the floor. She swore she could feel the heat of that sun, burning, washing over her. It was not angry, though she knew it was being ripped apart like a person on some awful torture device. She felt something emanating from it. Resignation? Confidence? Understanding?

Brandon Sanderson. Dawnshard. Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC.

I think Ado knew ("Resignation? Confidence? Understanding?") that the power needed to be separated as a way to experience the universe they created.


So I agree that <The shattering of Adonalsium> was a suicide, in that there is no way a godlike being with infinite power wouldn't know that their power was going to be ripped apart and distributed. And that they <Adonalsium> were unable to stop it, because using the power in any direction would be opposed by the opposite of their own personality. This also explains why the Shards are supposed to separate out (Pact of non-interference, but I believe Frost (or some other letter writer) implied that even 2 shards that got along with each other were breaking the rules by settling in the same system together.

So what is Odium's Endgame? I think with Odi-vangian we are going to see something interesting - Odium wants to preserve ALL life through making them immortal. I think this will end up being very anti-"Life before Death, Journey before Destination, Strength before Weakness". He wants to SAVE US ALL. To do it he will still likely want to destroy all other shards to be the last one standing. I think it might be interesting to see the endgame be the right to die (and go to the Beyond), versus the right to immortality but as a slave/servant/underling of the only god, Odium.


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I'll comment in more depth later but I like this. I wonder if that helps tie Mr T, who did everything to ensure his people (and only them) would survive at all costs. And whether Tanavast actually pulled a self-sacrificing Thanatos Gambit somehow


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