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Rosharan Shards Theory


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So I've been reading the various cosmere books for a few years now and I've reread all of them several times as well. The other week I was rereading Words of Radiance and I noticed something I hadn't noticed before. This gave rise to a new theory about the Shards on Roshar. I did some research, did a quick search to see if anybody else posted anything like this before or not and my research seems valid to me and nobody else has posted anything like this that I could find in an admittedly quick search. So here's my first attempt at posting a theory anywhere.


If I missed something, especially WoB, please let me know!


We all know that Roshar has/had 3 shards on it: Cultivation, Honor, Odium. My theory is that at some point in time in the past, Roshar had a 4th shard on it. We are told in the epigraphs of Words of Radiance that there were normally only 3 Bondsmiths and they bonded to specific Spren, the "godspren" like the Stormfather. I can't imagine Odium/Hatred letting a hate-filled spren bond to a human Bondsmith. WoB also states that Odium arrived on Roshar later than the others and that he has killed at least one more shard than we know about. I think Odium is just borrowing the power of a 4th, splintered, shard on Roshar in Voidbinding. Odium wouldn't want to give up his own power to create a magic system anyways as that would leave him equal to or weaker than other shards. That would make it harder for him to splinter them. Having his power be tied to a specific world (as Devotion and Dominion are heavily tied to Sel) would also make it harder to travel between them to splinter the other shards.

I justify this theory through three primary things in addition to the above points.

First, in the epigraphs in The Way of Kings, Chapter 11's epigraph states that "Three of sixteen ruled, but now the Broken One reigns." Since Odium was apparently hateful from the start and arrived on Roshar later than Cultivation and Honor, it seems unlikely to me that he would have ever "ruled" with them. For Scadrial, Sazed tells us as Harmony that it took both Preservation and Ruin to create Scadrial. Roshar already existed before any shards showed up however creating the magic appears to have been a team effort as spren/surges/fabrials/etc all seem to have bits of Cultivation and bits of Honor in them. Therefore, there must have been a third shard that has since been splintered as the "Broken One" Odium arrived.

Second, the Ars Arcanum in Words of Radiance mentions the possibility of 4 different magic systems in use on Roshar. Surgebinding we know but the Ars Arcanum is also one of the few places to mention Voidbinding. These two are remarkably similar in that they involve Spren bonding with people/things to allow them access to the shards power. However, Khriss also mentions in the Ars Arcanum that she believes that there should be another more "esoteric" system than Voidbinding. She postulates that this may be the Old Magic but that it is also quite possible that the Old Magic is something else entirely. I was reading on these forums recently and saw that a WoB stated that there were indeed 4ish magic systems on Roshar: surgebinding, voidbinding, fabrials, and the old magic. I suspect that the Old Magic is something of a leftover, a separate pool of investiture that was on Roshar before the three shards arrived. I would postulate that surgebinding is of Honor, the fabrials are of Cultivation, and voidbinding was of my proposed dead shard. I think Odium then just took the leftover power and subverted it much as Ruin subverted the Terris Prophecies.

Third, on Scadrial, allomancy and hemalurgy are very similar. The same sets of metals work for all of them. Preservation and Ruin arrived on/created Scadrial together and the magic systems reflect this togetherness. Feruchemy is an odd sort of halfway point between Preservation and Ruin as it is. This similarity leads me to believe that the various magic systems on Roshar should also be similar if created at the same time and that another system coming in at a later time should then function differently (much as the various magic systems on Sel work completely differently than the magic systems on Scadrial). Since we have 2 known very similar sets of abilities on Roshar already, that makes me think that they were there before Odium arrived. I would postulate that his hatred infected the magic system already in place to make it help his side of things. In fact, his primary spren servants on Roshar seem to be the Unmade and the very name sounds like they were one thing and then were undone to become something else. If they were indeed subverted/twisted as I am theorizing, then that would legitimately lead to the name "Unmade". This is further tied up in the fact that the sDNA/spiritweb of the living things on Roshar wouldn't have had the ability to use a power that Odium tried to bring unless Cultivation/Honor allowed him to modify their sDNA/spiritwebs. Preservation and Ruin were equally balanced but Cultivation + Honor > Odium by himself.

As an additional note, it is repeatedly said that seeing the future is of the voidbringers. However Hatred as an emotion does not seem to me to be one that should grant the ability to see the future. I think voidbinding was not a bad/evil/negative magic system before Odium arrived. I think the Listener song stanzas from the Words of Radiance epigraph back this up. Other than Decayform, it doesn't sound to me as though Nightform, Smokeform, or Stormform are specifically made to be destructive and evil. Even Decayform could potentially have positive uses/needs much as Preservation needed Ruin to create Scadrial. A tree in the forest that never decays will never provide fertilizer for the next generation of trees. If however Odium's hatred was able to "infect" the voidish "godspren" to turn them into the Unmade, then he could easily affect other spren similarly as long as that sprens nature was one that was inherently "subvert-able". This is especially true since there can be multiple viewpoints of many things and a spren that was persuaded that another viewpoint was true wouldn't even have to deny their nature in order to do something else.

Another thought I just had about this is that the Listeners/Parshendi have to out into a Highstorm in order to change. The Highstorms are of Honor and the Stormfather himself is unable to stop the process of transformation that overtakes Eshonai. This further leads me to believe that the magic system of voidbinding is tied in with surgebinding much closer than it could be if Odium tried to tack it on sometime after Cultivation and Honor initially set things up.

On a vaguely related side note, I theorize that the process of splintering another shard also involves partially "splintering" or otherwise hurting himself thus leading to the name "Broken One".

As a final vaguely related side note, I think that humans could voidbind as well and that the listeners probably have more forms that could correlate to the Knights Radiant. However the Words of Radiance epigraphs make it sound like certain spren are avoiding the Listeners and therefore they don't get a chance to show that they can bond with them to make some sort of Windrunnerform or something. I think the higher orders of spren (like Honorspren and Cryptics) avoid them because they gain presence and mental faculties from bonding with a human but the spren don't gain those things from the Listeners (Words of Radiance chapter 32/33 epigraphs). This apparent ability of the Parshendi to use both magic systems also seems to me to be further evidence that voidbinding was on Roshar before Odium showed up because it is further proof of the interconnectedness of voidbinding/surgebinding, which as I mentioned is something I don't think Odium ever would have been a part of.

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Pretty sure Brandon has stated that there are only 3 shards on Roshar. Let me see if i can find the quote






So the number of Shards that have been on Roshar is three, correct?



People have been thrown by you saying that Odium is not native to Roshar.


Odium is not native, that's the thing. Are any of them native? So if you dig the deeper question, are any of them native, ehhh, none of them are native to the planets you've seen so far. What I probably should've said to be more precise is that Honor and Cultivation were there long before Odium showed up.

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I used to think the same as you, based on much of the same logic - that "three of the sixteen" line, especially, made me think that Odium wasn't one of the three. I was running with Vorinism, how instead of being Honor-focused (protecting others), it was all about elevating yourself, which might have come from a Shard called Glory. There was quite a bit of discussion on the number of Shards on Roshar a few years ago (you'd have to look a ways back, so that's probably why you didn't find it), but some pointed questions got us definitive WoBs (I think it was during the Words of Radiance tour, but I'm not sure) that there were no additional Shards in the Roshar system aside from Honor, Odium, and Cultivation.

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About the bondsmith, the Stormfather itself is somekind of "unique being", to me it's wrong take him like a template of a Bondsmith's Spren.


As far as we know all the Bondsmith may be bonded with the Stormfather or maybe the Stormfather is an "Strange being" among his "type".


For example but I have no sure proof I think the Bondsmith have bond with Adonalsium's Spren and the Rider of the Storm is an Adonalsium spren who merged with Tanavast's Shadow.


There are many possible theories but at the moment we have no sure proofs.

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While I am not 100% converted to this theory I do like imagining the possibilities if it is true. Could the Unmade be splinters of this Fourth shard that Odium has somehow coerced to do his bidding? Could the Fourth Shard be related to the Dawnsingers and why they haven't been around in a long time?

I would need to see a WoB confirm this theory before I believe it but it does make for some interesting speculation.

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