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[OB] Oathbringer's Purpose and Meaning


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This post brings in some of my thoughts on Oathbringer, Voidbringers, and Voidbinding but also builds on a lot of the ideas I've read on this site.

I’ve been speculating about the title of the book, Oathbringer, (and its likely in-world literary counterpart and Dalinar’s old sword) in light of the idea that “void” refers to the breaking of oaths, bonds, and contracts. If this is the case, “Oathbringer” serves as a very clear opposite to Voidbringer in a more substantial way. 

We know that this book will be about Bondsmiths, but I suspect that it is also necessary to lay the groundwork for the final two books of the first five. The idea that Roshar is bond-focused, rather than spren-focused (borrowing from others here!), makes a lot of sense when thinking about the tactics and strategies of the parties involved. There are those who create protective, consensual bonds and oaths to protect Roshar, and those who void oaths and (likely) form twisted, nonconsensual bonds. Spren are willing, and perhaps unwilling, partners in forming these bonds, too.

In addition to learning more about the significance of bonds and oaths and the role of Voidbringers and Voidbinding, I think the consensual nature of bonds and oaths will come into play.


One of the most significant, of course, is the enslavement of the Parshmen, which we know will be a big plot point.

Oathbringer blurb:

The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient Parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the Parshmen may be wholly justified.


We know that it’s possible for Listeners to voluntarily give up forms, so the bondage of the Parshmen is even more terrible. If humans used something on the void-side of things to deprive the Parshmen of forms, that would demonstrate a corruption of the honor-based system of bonds, as humans showed a willingness to use voidlike tactics.

I’m also thinking about the bondage of spren. Nahel spren, as far as we know, choose to bond, sometimes even against the wishes of other spren in the Cognitive Realm. But we’ll likely be seeing more about the consequences of bondage, perhaps especially with regard to spren trapped in gemstones against their will or against nature. 


This spoilery quote from the earlier version of the prologue seems to set up this storyline:


“Look closely,” King Gavilar said. “Look deep into it. Can you see what’s moving inside? That’s a spren. That’s how the device works.” Captive, like in a gemheart, she thought, attuning awe. They built a device to mimic how they applied their forms. 

“My ancestors,” he said, holding up the fabrial, “They’re the ones who first learned how to do this.” Hold a spren inside a gemstone. With a very special gemstone you can even hold a god.”


From WoR, it seems that the Parshendi may have started down a dangerous path when they learned how to trap spren, rather than attract them:



She hated trapping them. The right way was to go into the highstorm with the proper attitude, singing the proper song to attract the proper spren. You bonded it in the fury of the raging storm and were reborn with a new body. People had been doing this from the arrival of the first winds. 

The listeners had learned that capturing spren was possible from the humans, then had figured out the process on their own. A captive spren made the transformation much more reliable. Before, there had always been an element of chance. You could go into the storm wanting to become a soldier, and come out a mate instead. 

This is progress, Eshonai thought, staring at the little smoky spren inside the stone. Progress is learning to control your world. Put up walls to stop the storms, choose when to become a mate. Progress was taking nature and putting a box around it.

Sanderson, Brandon. Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive, The) (p. 198). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition.  

And who knows what the dark side of fabrial science might be? We might find out more in this book, though.

At any rate, I think that Oathbringer will help set up the opposition between forming a bond and voiding or twisting a bond, while also exploring the nature of bonds made freely and bonds that more closely resemble bondage. This will establish more specific stakes for the last two books.

I’m interested to see where others think this possible focus for the book might lead!

P.S. Sorry if I got carried away with hiding spoilers on a spoiler board!

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