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What do you think about Aon Dor and the design of Aons?

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Sel is the major part of the Cosmere I have the most mixed feelings about. It simultainiously contains my least favorite Cosmere book (Elantris) and my absolute favorite (the emperor Soul)

There are some really cool ideas present, but at the same time I don't really vibe with the execution sometimes.
This applies to many of the aspects of that world but especially the magic system and even more specifically Aon Dor.

I like the concept of a simple shape dictated by the form of the land will form the basis of the symbols that essentially become a magical programming language if combined well. It's such a cool Idea. Especially the fact that the symbol in itself will gradually change with the landscape itself.

But on the other hand I don't really like how Aon Dor is executed. In a way it's the closest we come to feeling like a standard random fantasy magic system in all of sandersons worlds. It can basically do anything and doesn't have any real limits we know of. You can draw them in the air to get an effect. Inscribe objects to get an effect, shape objects to get an effect. But theres no real insight into how these things take effekt. It just works. Somehow. (Spoiler TotES)


This is the most obvious in Tress of the Emerald sea. Where the magic of the sorceress is litterally used as a random fairytale curse.

Which is fine, it's a fantasy story and magic isn't real after all. But It laks the typical Sanderson feel of "wow this almost feels like a real thing". It doesn't feel like we just don't understand it, it feels like there's not much more to it than that.

This is also represented with the diffrent Aons we get. I like the simple ones. The ones that are diffrent combinations of Aon Aon. That's a cool concept. But a lot of them look way to overcrowded and convoluted to be used in the way they are described. They are supposedly also the basis of the alphabet. But the time it takes to draw e.g. Aon Reo you'd be done writing an entire letter in any other script. It's hard to imagine someone drawing a shape this accurately to get the effect in the air as well. I would like the aspect that they are really complicated, if that learning curve was the main/only entry barrier to Aon Dor. But we still have the concept of an Elantrian. Only special people can do it.

I think the Emperors soul does almost all of the aspects better. (We don't know how the stamp shapes look in canon)
The magic feels deeper and more meaningful. Like you have to be an actual sholar and craftsman to practice it. it has a more limited use and stricter rules. And the vague nature of these rules adds to the feeling of there being a deeper knowledge that we don't understand.

What are your thought's on the wordbuilding of Sel?

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1 hour ago, Shaukan-son-Hasweth said:

What are your thought's on the wordbuilding of Sel?

I think AonDor and Forgery are not very different, and that neither are really meant to be combat arts. Sure, we see Raoden (and company) use a few basic Aons for defense in the climax, but AonDor (like Forgery) shines when a person who has studied and practiced applies their art in a meticulous fashion to achieve a specific effect. Both are based on classical Chinese (see below), and both require a huge investment of time and effort to become proficient, with Elantris noting that momy Elantrians didn't even bother learning AonDor (except maybe a few basic Aons)


Ch 25:


“My father was an Elantrian,” Galladon said quietly.

Raoden paused. To the side, he could see his friend. The large Dula had taken a seat on the freshly watered soil and was staring at a small cornstalk in front of him.

“I lived with him until I was old enough to move away,” Galladon said. “I always thought it was wrong for a Dula to live in Arelon, away from his people and his family. I guess that’s why the Dor decided to give me the same curse.

“They said that Elantris was the most blessed of cities, but my father was never happy here. I guess even in paradise there are those who don’t fit in. He became a scholar—the study I showed you was his. However, Duladel never left his mind—he studied farming and agriculture, though both were useless in Elantris.

Ch 43:


Raoden had been perplexed at first, but Galladon had explained that such a thing wasn’t uncommon. Even before the Reod, it had taken some Elantrians years to learn AonDor; if one began even the first line with an improper slant, nothing would appear.

Ch 55:


Raoden had stayed up late memorizing modifiers. AonDor healing was a complex, difficult art, but he was determined to make certain no one else died because of his inability. It would take months of memorizing, but he would learn the modifier for every organ, muscle, and bone.


Also note that there likely is or was a way to access AonDor without undergoing the Shaod (like "was" and that changed with the Splintering of Aona and Skai) because the City could not have been built without the use of Aondor, but people did not undergo the Shaod before Elantris was built. WoBs:


Brandon Sanderson

Aons are an interesting part of this book–perhaps my favorite of the world elements. If you think about the system I've set up, you'll realize some things. First, the Aons have to be older than the Aonic language. They're based directly off of the land. So, the lines that make up the characters aren't arbitrary. Perhaps the sounds associated with them are, but the meanings–at least in part–are inherent. The scene with Raoden explaining how the Aon for "Wood" includes circles matching the forests in the land of Arelon indicates that there is a relationship between the Aons and their meanings. In addition, each Aon produces a magical effect, which would have influenced its meaning.

The second interesting fact about the Aons is that only Elantrians can draw them. And Elantrians have to come from the lands near Arelon. Teoish people can be taken, but only if they're in Arelon at the time. Genetically, then, the Teos and the Arelenes must be linked–and evidence seems to indicate that the Arelenes lived in the land first, and the Teos crossed the sea to colonize their peninsula.

Only Elantrians can draw Aons in the air, so someone taken by the Shaod must have developed the writing system. That is part of what makes writing a noble art in Arelon–drawing the Aons would have been associated with Elantrians. Most likely, the early Elantrians (who probably didn't even have Elantris back then) would have had to learn the Aons by trial and error, finding what each one did, and associating its meaning and sound with its effect. The language didn't develop, but was instead "discovered."

There are likely Aons that haven't even been found yet.

Elantris Annotations (Feb. 14, 2006)

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

The Shaod is an effect of Elantris.

Alloy of Law 17th Shard Q&A (Nov. 5, 2011)



Spoilers for Tress, SA and Mistborn:


I feel that what we see in TotES is, like any group, just an example of an evil person using what they have learned for selfish and evil goals. It happens in every culture and class - and with the Ire being so long-lived they have time to learn more, time to be affected by the same age-related mental maladies as other long-lived Cosmere entities (Heralds, TLR, etc), and therefore time to become the kind of creature we see Riina become as the Sorceress.

It's also important to note that AonDor's main limitation (iaw Sanderson's Second Law) is the region lock - so Tress is a bit of a warning spoiler about what happens when something powerful breaks free of its main limitation(s). 


I would also like to note that writing an Aon in the air isn't considered much different than it would be to write an Aon on a canvas (or Whiteboard, chalkboard, or other vertical surface) and Calligraphy is a real world concept as well. As far as complexity, consider long-form Chinese. For example:


the Mythological Spirit Turtle:


Has a stroke count of 24 and 18 respectively (if I counted right - don't have my dictionary on hand to look it up and confirm). When you see it in calligraphy (see below), it's easier to imagine how the simple shapes and complex shapes combine into a whole greater than the sum of their parts.


Writing Aons then becomes like crafting Stamps - the knowledge pool may be a bit different, but you still have to learn the base forms, the modifiers, how they combine to achieve an effect, etc. 

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