KSub

Where do all the Breaths come from?

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As we understand it a Breath is granted to every Nalthian person when they are born. When I read Warbreaker I wondered how Vasher and other awakeners got so many breaths but didn't think too much about it. But there are a lot of Breaths 

Susebron has at least 50,000. The story kind of explains it away by saying the Godkings were given the breaths by Peacegiver. AKA Vasher. So where did vasher get so many breaths?

The 5 scholars also burned through a ton of Breaths in their experiments. Nightblood used 1000 breaths to Awaken it. Kalads phantoms are said to be better than normal lifeless. If they required the traditional 50 Breaths each and there were only 20 phantoms that would be another 1000. And that's just two of their experiments. The scholars must have taken every Breath in Hallandren. Did they require the people to give up their Breaths? Remember that the Returned also expend a Breath each week, so the 5 scholars are using 250 each year. 

Also, when someone gives up their Breath it makes them weaker than someone who had never possessed a breath in the first place. They are more prone to illness and depression and typically have a shorter life span. It really makes Nalthis a lot darker.

So are people being forced to give up their Breath? On whose authority is it happening? 

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While they did probably get a lot of it from their cult of the Returned within Hallandren, which is a densely populated tropical country, they must've purchased a lot of it from elsewhere, Hallandren is a filthy rich country with tons of resources: one of the reasons for the Manywar. (perhaps I should say Hanald instead of Hallandren as that was what the land's was called at the time). The Five Scholars also probably had a long, long time to collect that many Breaths, they were popular so wouldn't have had too much problems with supplicants getting tired of them. (Was the Iridescent Tones even the organized national religion it is now back then? Wasn't it established by them/after them?). While the Five Scholars were Worldhoppers, Vasher does not know how to convert other Investiture into Breaths, so they probably didn't collect the Investiture off-world. Of course it's entirely possible that they got the Breaths via some kind of magical hacking (getting it from other Returned, getting it from Endowment's Perpendicularity, etc) or maybe they even got it directly from Endowment but we don't know so we can only speculate.

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I always thought that they used common sense and charisma to get the breaths. Let's say they lived for 1000 years, and they each choose one place to live. They still met up and corresponded, but they had a home in one city. They talked with all the people there and made a contract with them and their descendants. This contract said that when someone was about to die, the Scholar who was in residence would be allowed to collect it for research purposes. If this was agreed to, and it was a large city, they could collect breaths very quickly. This is a hypothetical example, which has been greatly simplified.

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I was surprised so many people would be willing to give up their Breath knowing that it is actually harmful to do so. But then I don't think they did know it so maybe it's not that strange. 

Still, it's pretty dark that Awakening requires that people give up their connection to Endowment and make themselves weak. Basically Awakening is fueled by suffering. So every week the Returned are alive requires another person to suffer. I wonder how much that weighs on Vasher?

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15 minutes ago, KSub said:

I was surprised so many people would be willing to give up their Breath knowing that it is actually harmful to do so. But then I don't think they did know it so maybe it's not that strange. 

Still, it's pretty dark that Awakening requires that people give up their connection to Endowment and make themselves weak. Basically Awakening is fueled by suffering. So every week the Returned are alive requires another person to suffer. I wonder how much that weighs on Vasher?

Yeah, they don't fully understand what being a Drab entails as the Returned themselves can suppress their Divine Breath, they think they know but they're mistaken

Quote

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna's Thoughts on Being a Drab

A lot of what happened to Vivenna—how she saw the world and how she acted—was influenced by being a Drab. As I've said before, the Hallandren aren't right when they say losing your Breath does nothing to you. Most Drabs struggle with depression, and the fact that they're almost always sick doesn't help either.

And so, Vivenna's time on the streets was artificially made more dreary and terrible than it truly was. Being a Drab, being sick, the shock of being betrayed—these things combined to give you the person you saw in the previous two chapters. It's a way to cut a corner. I wanted Vivenna to feel like she'd been on the streets for months, but for it only to have been a few weeks.

She is able to make her hair change colors again. This is a representation of the fact that she has started to pull out of the nightmare. She's slightly in control of her world again, and the roughest time for her has passed. There's also a clue in that hair, one that Vasher mentions. Because of it, and her heritage, and something very mysterious in the past, every member of the royal line has a fraction of a divine Returned Breath in them. That makes it much easier for them to learn to Awaken than a normal person.

Warbreaker Annotations (Feb. 22, 2011)

Quote

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-One

Vivenna, Sick and Disoriented, Gets Turned Away by the Restaurant Keeper

One of the ways I decided to make Vivenna's sections here work better was by enhancing the fuzziness of her mind. By giving her this sense of numbness, I hope to indicate that something is not right with her.

It's common for someone who suddenly becomes a Drab to get sick almost immediately. For a time, her immune system was magically enhanced and warded, in a way, to keep her from becoming ill. With that removed suddenly, sickness can strike. She hasn't built up immunities to the sicknesses going around, and by becoming a Drab, her immune system suddenly works far worse than that of other people.

These things combined made her come down with something pretty nasty the very day she put away her Breath. This would have killed her, eventually, if she hadn't done something about it. She would have grown so dizzy and confused that she wouldn't have even been able to walk.

By sending men to find her, Denth saved her life.

Anyway, I feel that these scenes work much better now. We can look at Vivenna's time on the streets in the same surreal sense that she does. They happened in the past, in a strange dream state. In that way, they can seem much longer than just two chapters and a couple of weeks.

Warbreaker Annotations (Feb. 7, 2011)

Quote

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna at the Safe House

Vivenna is right about what happens to a person when they lose their Breath. It is a part of your soul, and without one, you are more prone to depression, you get sick much more easily, and you're generally more irritable.

I included this mention here because I'm betting that most people who read the book side with Denth and assume he's right when he talks about these things. But don't be too judgmental about the Idrians—yes, they're biased, but the Hallandren are too in a lot of ways. It's not as simple as one side always being right and the other wrong. In this case, the Idrian teachings are correct, and most Hallandren are looking for justifications when they say that giving up one's Breath isn't all that damaging to them.

Warbreaker Annotations (Oct. 26, 2010)

Quote

Brandon Sanderson

Denth's Speed

Yes, Denth is inhumanly fast. He's a Returned, after all, and has all of the physical enhancements that come with that. Even when he's chosen not to manifest most of them, he's still got an edge, just like Vasher does.

How do they hide that they're Returned? Well, it comes down to mastery of their ability to change their appearance. They can't shape-shift entirely; they can just alter some things about their appearance. They can change their weight, their hair color, and things like that at will. Vasher doesn't do this often, but Denth has been known to use it as a disguise. The problem, after you do this once and someone realizes it, your nature becomes very suspect.

They have learned to suppress their divine Breath. This allows them to hide, but they must be careful never to give away all of their Breath. Denth has been a Drab before—he's not completely lying—but never for longer than a few days. And his divine Breath is always there, suppressed. So he doesn't know what it's like to be a true Drab, which is why in this chapter he says he doesn't think it changes you that much. He's never felt it.

Warbreaker Annotations (Oct. 26, 2010)

 

(Cosmere spoilers)

Spoiler

And it weighted on Vasher a lot, which is why he left Nalthis to go to Roshar, where he could get Investiture more easily to stay alive as a Returned and not have to take other's Breaths

Quote

Questioner

So we already know that Vasher was Kaladin's trainer with a Shardblade, 'cause you told me that last time I asked you. So does Vasher just have a large mass of Biochromatic Breaths and that's how he's surviving, or is he somehow feeding off Stormlight while he is there?

Brandon Sanderson

He is feeding off of Stormlight, which is the primary reason why he came to Roshar. Investiture is easy to access in plentiful amounts.

Questioner

How did he know how to use Shardblades so well when he got there, is that related to how they created Nightblood

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, he has experience with Roshar from hundreds of years ago.

White Sand vol.1 Orem signing (June 29, 2016)
Quote

R.E. (paraphrased)

Does Vasher have a different way of getting access to Stormlight than everyone else? Given that he has no spren, no honorblade and he isn't a squire?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes. He can use Stormlight to stay alive, but it doesn't let him Surgebind.

R.E. (paraphrased)

Could Szeth get access to this method?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes

R.E. (paraphrased)

And use it to fuel Nightblood?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes he could.

R.E. (paraphrased)

Can you tell me what that method is?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

*smiles*

Supanova 2017 - Sydney (June 18, 2017)

 

 

Edited by Honorless
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Spoiler

That makes sense. I'm sure he would prefer to use stormlight. I just assumed that he left Nalthis to escape his past and ended up on Roshar because it was easy for him to live there.

 

Edited by KSub
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