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Theory on Dawnshards and Shardic Intent


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Okay, having read all the Secret Projects and all the (currently published at time of writing) books, I have a theory about what the Primal Commands that the Dawnshards represent, and how they tie Shardic Intents.

The crux of my theory is 2-fold, that the Commands Dawnshards are related to the 4 Spiritual Components: Connection, Identity, Fortune and Investiture (or the 3 Spiritual Properties plus Investiture) and that as they were used as part of a weapon that split Adonalsium into the sixteen Shards and that these Commands helped form and shape the Shardic Intents; this is being extrapolated from the Mural that Rysn saw in Dawnshard.


Circular in shape, it depicts a sun exploding into quarters and then further shattering into sixteen near-symmetrical pieces.

This makes some sense to me, as the Cosmere was made by Adonalsium using Investiture [citation needed, but I think it's a safe guess] and these 4 Commands.


The Dawnshards are the four primal Commands that Adonalsium used to create all things.

From this, I think the 4 Dawnshards are:

  • Connect (This is the one that Hoid and Sigzil held and relates to Connection) - You can't harm living things, as they have Connection, since you'd be destroying Connection instead of forming it and binding things/creatures together. This is also reinforced by the fact that holding this Dawnshard makes you connected to everything in the Cosmere and I postulate that skipping works by Sigzil rewriting his Physical Connection to the Planet/Location in Space - I am unsure how Hoid has such a strong connection to Fortune as I don't think he holds the Fortune Dawnshard, but that could be because he changed his Connection to Fortune, or it could be related to his past while Adonalsium was still alive.
  • Control (Relates to Fortune) - Since seeing how things move and work on a Spiritual and Axi level (so both in very granular Time and Space) probably allows for insanely fine and accurate control of Investiture and relates to Future Sight.
  • Change (Relates to Investiture) - As Investiture wants to change from Potential to Kinetic, it wants to Change itself from one state into another. This is also reinforced by the idea that Rysn was explicitly told to not learn any Invested Art and that this is likely the Dawnshard which destroyed Ashyn. Also, as explained by Sigzil, that a creature holding a lot of Investiture - like the Chared and a being that is holding a lot of Stormlight - wants to act/change/do things. I think the reason that someone with a lot of Breaths don't have the same compulsion to act/change/do things is because Breaths are Innate Investiture and not Potential like Stormlight is.
  • Capacity (Relates to Identity) - This most likely provided creatures with Identity when Adonalsium was creating the Cosmere. This one might be semi-self aware, like a Spren, and I think is likely the one that Sanderson mentioned is different from the others, as the other Dawnshards just have self-preservation as we learnt in "The Sunlit Man".

Applying these to Shards, my idea is that opposite Intents cause tension between Shards and that these are related to the corresponding different Dawnshards that created/split them and the Spiritual Attributes/Primal Commands that Dawnshards themselves represent. This would also be why some Shards are better at Future Sight, for example, and why some have differing abilities/relate to the Commands used to control Investiture within their corresponding magic systems. (I don't think that all of these manifest directly, but sometimes they do like how Honor bound Odium to the Roshar System as he is closely tied to Connection and also require the need to form a Connection with a Spren to work.) I assign each Shard 2 different Dawnshards/Primal Commands that they are related to - a base one related to which direct Dawnshard they are most directly related to and then a secondary Intent/Dawnshard/Primal Command/Spiritual Attribute.

Shardic Intents:

  • Connect (Connection/Binding People/Not Harming Others) (Opposite of Change)
    • Devotion : Capacity (At tension with Dominion, yet their powers work together as the Dor -  so together they have opposite primal Intents/Commands. Devotion and Odium can also be argued to be opposite to each other.)
    • Preservation : Connect (Opposite of Ruin and wants to keep everything the same.)
    • Honor : Control (Was Married to Cultivation, and is said to uphold oaths and agreements, and to bind things together.)
    • Mercy : Change (Not much is known about their intent, but Harmony (pure Connection and Change) became troubled by Mercy as a result of their exchange.)
  • Change (Investiture/Entropy/Growth/Action) (Opposite of Connect)
    • Ruin : Change (Opposite of Preservation and the manifestation of Entropy.)
    • Cultivation : Control (Has good Future Sight, Cultivation's intent as a Shard appears to be related to transformation. In her own view, on the other hand, she wishes to grow things and people, and prune them if need be, to shape them in a desired form, even if she accepts that there will always be a degree of uncertainty.)
    • Invention : Capacity (After that initial contact, Harmony was unable to locate Invention again - so maybe wants to be free and by itself?)
    • Virtuosity : Connect (Virtuosity's Intent concerns artistic intent, and artistic talent, and artistic appreciation. It is said in Yumi that Art needs an Audience.)
  • Control (Fortune/Power) (Opposite of Capacity)
    • Odium : Change (Has good Future Sight, wants to be the only God in the Cosmere, said to be the vengeful anger of God. Opposite of Devotion.)
    • Dominion Control (At Tension with Devotion, Dominion's focus was probably related to amassing and maintaining control over others. Their powers, with Devotion, work together as the Dor - makes sense as they have opposite base Intents/Primal commands.)
    • Wisdom/Prudence : Capacity (Can foresee the Future very well, wants to be left alone and away from the coming conflicts. Antagonistic to Hoid (who would have picked up Endowment if they were to hold a Shard at the Shattering), so makes sense that they have opposite base Intents.)
    • Valor : Capacity (Wants to help Hoid, understands the issue which Odium shows, but very little is known about them yet.)
  • Capacity (Identity/Self Determination) (Opposite of Control)
    • Endowment : Control (Their Intent is not entirely clear; it's likely related to bestowing gifts or talents upon others. They are able to ignore their Intent somewhat, as they don't provide Hoid with help (which would be a form of Endowment); but this could be because of disagreements between Hoid and Edgli, related to the differing Intents that she and the Dawnshard that Hoid holds are or because Capacity Intent allows for some amount of self-determination. But there are certain things they are looking for when endowing Divine Breaths. They also have some capacity to perceive the future and bestow those visions upon others, so likely has some advanced Connection to Fortune.)
    • Autonomy : Capacity (Autonomy wants to remain alone; she does not wish to be corrupted by other Shards and thinks that all Shards are better off on their own. Her philosophy is very much focused on the survival of the fittest. Under Autonomy's world order, one must earn their right to keep existing, so it makes sense that they are the purest form of Identity.)
    • Ambition : Connect (Disliked by Endowment, but unsure if that is related to their opposite Intents or a disagreement between the Vessels.)
    • Whimsy : Change (Not much is known, but they are said to be not congruous with intense planning and ambitions. It is also not calculating nor deliberate, so no relation to Control. Likely either Connect or Change.)

All the information in brackets is from the Coppermind and WoB's. I am open to some of these being changed as we do know very little about most of these Shards, but we do know that some are truly opposite, like Ruin and Preservation and Devotion and Odium.

Please let me know if you have any different ideas or modifications of this idea, but I am fairly confident of the broad strokes of this theory having read "The Sunlit Man" and "Dawnshard".

Edited by Geneio
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I agree with your general theory based on the mural from Dawnshard and everything else we know that the four Dawnshards have four different Commands, one of which is something like Change, and the sixteen Shards can be divided into four groups of four.  I imagine it like a wheel with sixteen spokes creating sixteen segments and each Dawnshard would cover four segments.


The hard part is first identifying the remaining three Commands and then grouping the Shards accordingly. I have no idea what the other three Commands could be but maybe we can use logic to help simplify the process.  I believe Brandon has said that the fact that Ruin and Preservation have completely opposite Intents is causing Sazed difficulties currently as Harmony.  And that if one were to combine two Shards that were not such opposites you would not have the same problem as Sazed.  This would put Ruin and Preservation as opposite segments on my wheel along with seven other pairs of opposites.  Therefore I think it might be better to start with identifying these eight opposite Intent pairs first and that should make the sorting a bit easier.


Ruin - Preservation - this one is confirmed!

Honour - Whimsy - I feel very good about this one, adhering to your word vs capriciousness

Autonomy - Dominion - going your own way vs making everyone go your way

Devotion - Ambition - giving yourself to another vs wanting it all for yourself

Mercy - Valour - I'm iffy on this one, they are kind of leftovers

Odium - Wisdom/Prudence - letting your emotions rule vs using logic and reasoning

Endowment - Cultivation - give a man a fish vs teaching a man to fish

Invention vs Virtuousity - science vs art


Those are my best guesses for the opposites.  Arguments could be made for other pairs which would impact your groupings.

Now, knowing that one Command is Change, or something thereabouts, I would group Ruin, Cultivation, Invention and I guess Dominion.  This automatically groups Preservation, Endowment, Virtuousity and Autonomy together which leads me to believe I have erred in my pairs because this seems like an odd group.  But continuing the exercise anyway looking at the remaining pairs I would group Honour, Valour, Wisdom/Prudence and Devotion which finally groups Whimsy, Mercy, Odium and Ambition.  

Obviously it's a lot of speculation based on very limited information but a fun exercise anyway.


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Issue with that is that previous wobs indicate they aren't all divided into pairs and that P and R are outliers.



Do all Shards have a direct paired opposite intent...

Brandon Sanderson

No, I would say no, they do not all have a directly paired opposite intent.

Oathbringer London signing (Nov. 28, 2017)

Chaos (paraphrased)

Are Shards all paired? Does Endowment have a counterpart?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

RAFO. Also, yes and no. Not all Shards have perfect counterparts like Ruin and Preservation.

Questioner (paraphrased)

Why were Ruin and Preservation linked together?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Because they're such perfect opposites. Basically it's just an opposites attract thing.

Ancient 17S Q&A (May 1, 2010)


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I think you're right. I think that only a handful have truly opposite Intents like Ruin and Preservation and most likely Dominion and Autonomy, this is probably only when the Shards have diametrically opposed Intents, which on my theory would correspond to Shards that are related to a 'pure' Dawnshards Command. Like how Preservation is 'pure' Connect and Ruin is 'pure' Change.

If they're opposite in some other way I feel like they just might not get along but likely don't hate/want to destroy eachother.


Edited by Geneio
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On 12/10/2023 at 4:13 AM, Rorzikel said:

Issue with that is that previous wobs indicate they aren't all divided into pairs and that P and R are outliers.


I don't think that WoB completely discounts this.  While others may not be so diametrically opposed they are still somewhat opposed and, for grouping purposes, I still think it is a good way to start.

The more I have thought about it though I would make one change to my previous groups and I have thought about some possible Commands for the remaining Dawnshards.

Change would still be Ruin, Cultivation, Invention and Dominion. The opposite of that would presumably be something the lines of Preserve.  Preservation, Autonomy and Virtuousity all make sense for that Command.  Endowment does not seem to fit as well, but they way Biochromatic Breaths preserve one's innate investiture, allowing it to be passed on to someone else does fit.  Looking at the final two groups and trying to come up with two more opposite Commands I have come up with Think and Feel.  This is also where I want to make a change to the quartets.  For Think, I have Honour,  Valour, Wisdom/Prudence and Ambition.  And for Feel this leaves Odium, Whimsy, Mercy and Devotion.  The Feel group particularly captures the more emotionally based Shards.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think your theory is headed in the right direction- if we go back to the allomantic metals, there's physical, temporal, mental, and spiritual grouping of metals which could be the suggestion from Preservation about the exisitence of four Dawnshards, similar to how the 16 is a reference to the 16 Shards. I'm not certain if there is good evidence that the Dawnshards correspond to each grouping of metals or strictly the spiritual components.

What you've argued leads me to think that instead of the "plus Investiture" it's actually four spiritual properties- Intent, Fortune, Connection, and Identity with each related to one Dawnshard (and potentially a group of the allomantic metals). I say that because a key component of magic in the Cosmere is Intent, similar to Fortune or Connection.

In other words (drawing on the terms in the Allomantic chart and attributes of the Nahel bond):

  • Dawnshard 1 [PROTECT]- Connection, Physical; related to the "UNITE" that we hear from Dalinar, binding People/not harming others. Protecting, leading etc. Held at one point by Hoid and Sigzil.
  • Dawnshard 2 [CHANGE]- Fortune, Temporal; related to transformation, growth, and healing. Held by Rysn.
  • Dawnshard 3 [unk.]- Intent, Mental; related to learning, experience, determination, bravery, and creativity. Perhaps THINK/ EXPLORE/ UNDERSTAND?
  • Dawnshard 4 [unk.]- Identity, Spiritual; related to self-determination, autonomy, honesty, and emotions. Perhaps FEEL/ BELIEVE/ ABIDE?

And I assume that no Dawnshard would contain two "opposite" Shards. So with the pairings from @Belgarad and your list of Shards, we would have:

  • Dawnshard 1 [PROTECT]- Connection, Physical; related to the "UNITE" that we hear from Dalinar. Held by Hoid and Sigzil.
    • Preservation- Wants to keep everything the same, has wanted all be frozen in time, unable to act lest they harm one another. Likely Protect/Protect.
    • Dominion- probably was related to amassing and maintaining control over others. Likely Protect/Change.
    • Honor- said to uphold oaths and agreements, and to bind things together. Likely Protect/ DS3.
    • Mercy- unknown. Likely Protect/ DS4. 
  • Dawnshard 2 [CHANGE]- Fortune, Temporal; related to transformation, growth and decay. Held by Rysn.
    • Ruin- the manifestation of entropy. Likely Change/Change.
    • Endowment- related to bestowing gifts or talents upon others.  Likely Change/DS3.
    • Whimsy- unknown. Likely Change/DS4.
    • Cultivation- to grow things and people, and prune them if need be, to shape them in a desired form. Likely Change/Protect.
  • Dawnshard 3 [unk.]- Intent, Mental; related to learning, experience, determination, bravery, and creativity
    • Virtuosity- concerns artistic intent, and artistic talent, and artistic appreciation.  Shattered themself to experience more. Likely DS3/DS3.
    • Ambition- related to seeking to change/improve oneself. Likely DS3/DS4.
    • Valour- the bravery of God/ willingness to sacrifice themself. Mental fortitude. Likely DS3/Protect
    • Invention- unknown. Likely DS3/Change.
  • Dawnshard 4 [unk.]- Identity, Spiritual; related to self-determination, autonomy, honesty, and emotions.
    • Autonomy- driven to divide, go their own way. Rewards those who are bold, who survive against the odds. Likely DS4/DS4.
    • Devotion- has been stated to be God's love. Likely DS4/Protect.
    • Odium- said to be the vengeful anger of God, self-described as passion. Likely DS4/Change.
    • Prudence- wants to be left alone and away from the coming conflicts. Knowledge of when to act. Likely DS4/DS3. 

Though I'm not convinced with the groupings- some of the pairings didn't match the Dawnshard, so I had to take some liberties. It's unclear what constitutes a true opposite other than Ruin/Preservation and Virtuosity/ Autonomy pairings.

Parings between Shards influenced by the same two Dawnshards, which could be an argument for Shards with aligned intents, not opposites.

  • Dominion - Cultivation
  • Honor - Valour
  • Mercy - Devotion
  • Endowment - Invention
  • Whimsy - Odium
  • Ambition - Prudence
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  • 3 months later...

K, I just played around with some sticky notes to make a rough chart of what I think the Dawnshards are and how the 16 Shards might fall into those categories. I’m attaching a picture of it here. 

It’s definitely simpler than some other theories I’ve seen, but my thought is to mimic the mural that Rysn saw, a basic “divide by 4” then “divide by 4” again.

The category I feel strongest that I have right is what falls under “Change”:

Ruin: changing by ending

Cultivation: changing by growing

Ambition: changing oneself

Invention: changing your surroundings 


The others I am less sure on. The final two Dawnshards I “named” after looking at how they might be separated after the Change and (Peace) shards had been sorted. 


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  • 2 months later...
On 10/14/2023 at 5:03 PM, Belgarad said:

Commands I have come up with Think and Feel.

Thank you so much, this is exactly what I've been thinking ever since reading about Dawnshards!


I wonder if the four Commands aren't the only things determining Shardic Intent. My personal theorizing has involved grouping each Shard into two categories: the Shard's Command and the Shard's Intent group.

As it stands now, I have the four Commands as Change, Remain/Connect, Feel, and Think/Reason, with the four Intent groupings as Order, Chaos, Control, and Freedom. An example of how this could categorize Shards: Ruin has the Command to Change with the Intent of Chaos, Preservation has the Command to Remain/Connect with the intent of Order. They're opposites in the sense that both their Command and Intent are opposites.

Some other groupings that line up nicely include Honor as Think/Reason with an Intent of Order, Odium as Feel with an Intent of Chaos, and Cultivation as Change with an Intent of Order.

These are just my personal speculations, and there are definitely some holes with this theory, but that's where I'm at right now.


Also, this is my first post LOL.

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Here are my current thoughts on it. I feel stronger about what the unknown Dawnshards are than what Shard fits with them.  Make things, break things, modify existing things and (in the darkness) bind them. 


tWoK epigraphs gave us a Dawnshard that can bind all things. Dawnshard novella gave us CHANGE. 

Semi-Canon Dragon Steel Prime spoilers


Hoid's Dawnshard makes things grow and heals. It prevents him from hurting living things. Seems life focused.  

The main character, Jerick, suddenly, unwittingly obliterates people with a proto-form of Division. Hoid comments on him maybe being the same thing as Hoid, but with a different powerset. 

Why Mercy in the Destroy category? Mercy kill and speaking to Mercy creeped Harmony out. 

Edited by Child of Hodor
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