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Old Magic - The Double Edged Sword


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After re-reading Oathbringer, I started wondering about the old magics. So I went and looked it up on the coppermind where I found that Lift's bane isn't listed. That made me think some more.

It seems that the boon/bane effect is mostly physical with the Nightwatcher. She tried to convince Dalinar to choose a physical boon, either an object or physical enhancement. In addition the boon and bane can be completely unrelated: see Av's father who got a heap of good cloth in exchange for seeing the world upside down. 

The three times we have seen Cultivation step in, the boon/bane seems more cognitive/spiritual. More important they seem to be the same thing. The boon IS the bane, with a little added flair from Cultivation to influence the world without anyone knowing. To get what you want, you have to take all of the result. Like the old adage. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. If you eat it, you also have to lose the cake and potentially add a pound.

Think of Dalinar:

  • Boon - Loss of Spiritual whispers and guilt for the murder he had committed. -Cognitive loss
  • Bane - Loss of all memories relating to Evi -Cognitive loss
  • Cultivation's meddling: Allowing Dalinar to grow strong enough to resist the call of the Thrill and being used by Odium

Now, the boon could not exist without the bane. If Dalinar could remember her death, the boon would be ineffective. If Dalinar could remember her enough to ask about her death or, really, have any meaningful conversation with other about her, her death would be brought up eventually. So Dalinar could not remember her and grow the way he needed to become the "good" Dalinar of present day. So it was all boon, just with side effects. 

Next, Taravangian:

  • Boon - The intelligence to keep Kharbranth intact while Rayse was Odium and the capacity to become the Shard's new Vessel -Cognitive enhancement
  • Bane - The inability to have both intelligence and compassion at the same time -Cognitive enhancement 
  • Cultivation's meddling - All of it really. Mostly replacing a dangerous enemy with a potentially more amenable one.

Note: The boon and bane descriptions come from the coppermind oldmagic article. I would disagree a bit there. Taravangian needed BOTH intelligence and compassion to be able to do what he asked which was "Capacity. Capacity to stop what was coming. The capacity to save humankind." So, Cultivation gave him the capacity he needed: mental capacity and emotional capacity. She even made it inverse, which seems wise. It is very had to strategically plan knowing you will cause thousands of deaths and even more suffering if you are also being compassionate. At the same time, you need have time to be compassionate to be able to remember why you are doing what you are doing and relate to the people you are saving. You really cannot have both at once. If you really want to keep the boon/bane mentality, then I would say the bane was the unpredictability of the effects. But even then, someone smart enough to make the Diagram would figure out the pattern and design a way to work around the compassionate side. Like Dalinar, seems like all boon, just really annoying side effects. 

Now for Lift:

  •  Boon - Produce Lifelight from mass; using Lifelight to Surgebind, being partially stuck with the Cognitive Real, vision manipulation
  • Bane - unknown
  • Cultivation's meddling - Experimentation of creating her own kind of Radiant

 Note: As with Taravangian's section, I pull the descritions of boons and banes from the coppermind. That list of boons seems pretty long, doesn't it. Not really Cultivation or the Nightwatcher's MO, giving so many boons but no obvious banes. So lets theorize a bit here. Producing Lifelight from mass and using to surge bind are not part of the boon, but what Cultivation was trying to obscure with the granting of the boon. The boon it self was "she was suppose to stay the same and the world was supposed to change around her". So Cultivation uses this ask to change her spirit web to use Lifelight which pulls her partially into the cognitive realm. This in turn grounds her mind in how she sees herself ( ie not more than ten) cognitively like spren are controlled by perception. So she keeps her mental age, but her physical body continues to age. (Though I kinda like the idea of her being more like Returned, where when she hits a certain age, she will stop aging). Being partly in the cognitive realm allows her to interact with it more, hence touching of spren and vision manipulation. But there are what could be called banes or side-effects. Imagine being a child in a grown woman's body. Imagine being on the brink malnutrition constantly. Definitely down sides. But Cultivation doesn't have a storm. How else could she have gotten light to her budding Radiant?

I went on this particular tangent because of a WOB:



At the Pixel Project event, you talked about a further extent of Cultivation's magic than just the boon and bane? Are there any people alive at the end of Oathbringer who are influenced by that magic?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, Lift. Well, I guess that's a boon, isn't it? Yes, there are. But nobody on screen that has Cultivation magic, other than boons or curses from the Nightwatcher. Yes, there is such a thing, no, there's no one else on screen. But what Lift does is a hint.

Note that he mentions boons and curses from the Nightwatcher. In reference to Lift, it is just a boon.

Now this is some what proven to be an omission as in a different WOB he mentions both a boon and a curse:



Why does Lift need Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

Lift went to see the Nightwatcher, and got a Blessing and a Curse in that she can metabolize food to turn into Stormlight, but she can't use regular Stormlight. And there is something else, as well.


But I wonder if someone could actually use BOTH lights, or if the process of changing the spirit web makes that impossible or at least very unlikely. Note that he also calls it Stormlight here even though we now know it is Lifelight. 

Final supporting WOB:



Also, what did Lift get? If she didn't stop aging, what did she get? Read and find out?

Brandon Sanderson

Read and find out. It involves the way that she's getting Stormlight.


So, to sum up. Cultivation doesn't really give boons/banes. She sees a request that she can do a single cognitive/spiritual manipulation that will provide an effect at least correlated to the request but also serves to influence the world the way she wants. 

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There are record of the Nightwatcher doing the standard boon/bane routine I think Cultivation has only come out 3 times and only when she saw a opportunity I don't know if she does banes really it seems like she might only do what she judges necessary which people than interpret to include the bane cause they don't know her endgame. I think Cultivation is a schemer and a long term player I think she might end up ahead at the end of the whole war.

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