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[OB] Re: Theory on the Shin Society.


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This is an update on a theory I built in a previous post. The goal of this theory is to analyze the Shin society, based on their relation to Stone or their inherent pacifism. For those not willing to click the link I posted, I will just quote the theory into spoilers.



First let's lay out the basics that everyone knows:


  • The Shin are extremely pacifists. Drawing blood, fighting, and worse, killing is seen as extremely tabou and if someone commits such an act, he abandons his right as a Shin "citizen"and is seen by his prior peers as someone who is less than a Shin.
  • Stone is sacred for them. So sacred that even walking on Stone is considered a blasphemy (the first one that Szeth tells us in his narrative).
  • Declaring that a New Desolation is on the way is totally blasphemous.


These two facts will be the key of the timeline and analysis I will propose to explain them. To start the analysis, we have to go back very far. So far, that we go back to the prologue of the Stormlight Archive. The day Kalak walks a desolated battlefield, to arrive upon 7 honorblades cast out into the rock and to Jezrien. Thus, they talk, and thus a decision is made: to fade away, letting Taln to his fate. Kalak and Jezrien abandon their honorblades alongside the other, and announce to mankind that the greatest victory has been made: the cycle of Desolation is over. And so it was said that peace everlasting had been won.

Let’s abandon the Heralds Point of View now, and focus on Mankind. Their gods disappeared, announcing an eternal peace. As a testament of the truth, they let their most precious tools encased in Stone. The Heralds will never need these weapons again, and therefore discarded them as useless. The very Heralds of War, that had been protecting mankind left their weapons behind, as a testament to the futility of killing now that Voidbringers are gone.



My theory is that what would become the Shin society originated from there. After all, if the gods declared warring and fighting as utterly pointless, and as a testament to that left their weapons behind, what greater calling left to Man that to follow them? And thus, killing another human became seen as one of the greatest sacrilege that can be committed in the proto-Shin society. What more sacred than a life, when even the gods turned away from killing to live in anonymity? What more sacrilege that to doubt that the gods themselves bought peace, by thrusting their weapons into stone?

And thus Stone is made sacred, by holding the Covenant of Everlasting Peace. Walking on Stone in Shinovar is walking on the most sacred element, that hold the peace promised by the gods. Before continuing, and to make clearer the worship of Stone in the Shin religion, let me quote Steven Erikson (yeah I’m a fanboy like that):


In ritual, you abased yourselves, I saw it in the courtyard, many times. But the gesture was rote – even in your newfound fear, the meaning of that abasement was lost.

You carve an altar from stone. You pain the image of waves upon the wall and so fashion a symbol of that which you would worship. You give it a thousand names, and imagine a thousand faces. Or a single name, a single face. Then you kneel, or bow, or lie flat upon the ground, making yourselves abject in servitude, and you may call the gesture humble before your god, and see in your posture righteous humility. And by this means you lose the meaning of the ritual, until the ritual itself is meaning. These are not gestures of subservience. Not expressions of surrendering your will to a greater power. This is not the relationship your god seeks, yet it is the one upon which you insist.

So the proto-Shin saw Eternal Peace as the most worthy path shown by the gods. And the symbol of that peace was kept by stone. As ages came and passed, the two became slightly separated: The ritual becomes what is sacred, and most Shin may not be able to tell you why Stone is sacred.

Nalan say that Szeth’s people revere the spirits of Stone, but that Him, as a Herald (of Justice) is Szeth’s god. He is even surprised that Szeth does not recognize him. That would not be the case if Nalan only appointed himself as a patron and personal god of Szeth, but it reveals us that Szeth should have made the link by himself and recognized one of his gods, that participated in the Covenant of Eternal Peace.


And there we are, at the moment we have a society which revers peace to the point of extremism (which is not a bad thing is itself, mind you), would rather die than to walk on stone, and for whom announcing a Next Desolation is betraying the Greatest Gift the Gods ever left to mankind.

The Shins are a model from our modern point of view: they are one of the only society known to man to have (nearly) eradicated all violence within itself. And to think that all of this is based on a lie is something that I find very tragic. They trusted their gods who told them that they were forever safe from Voidbringuers, and thus followed their deities closely by forsaking violence. But they have been deceived, for the True Last Desolation is coming.



The first part of the update is the most obvious, as we get new shiny text evidence that establishes a link between the Heralds and the Shin, which is a pretty nice confirmation that there was at least relation of worship between the Honorblades as a symbol and the Shin.


Here, they found nine Shardblades rammed into the stone. Abandoned. Navani put her gloved safehand to her mouth at the sight—nine beautiful Blades, each a treasure,


A shadow moved at the entrance to this little alcove, and a moment later a young man stumbled in. He was pale of skin, with strange, wide Shin eyes and brown hair that had a curl to it. He could have been one of any number of Shin men Dalinar had seen in his own time—they were still ethnically distinct, despite the passing of millennia. The man fell to his knees before the wonder of the abandoned Honorblades.

Sanderson, Brandon. Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive (p. 409). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition.

Note that the Shin walking up to the Honorblades and kneeling happens after Jezrien announces that the Desolation is over.


The second part is more tenuous. With Oathbringuer, we didn't get many insights into the Shin society. There was a post postuling that Stone was holy for the Shin, because it was a reliquat of the era when Parshendi forbid the Shin to walk out of the mountains. I like this a lot, as it is a phenomen that exist in our world. For exemple, the prohibition to eat pork stemed from the fact that pork spoils very fast when you can not refrigerate it. Other reasons may include the fact that unlike many other forms of livestok, pigs are omnivorous scavengers, eating virtually anything they come across, including carrion and trash. This restriction on pork carries still into our modern day, when most Muslim and Jews don't eat pork. Even in countries where the sanitory reasons are moot, the religious tabou is still strong, and the rule is still obeyed as an absolute unbreakable rule.

What is the link with the Shin ? Well it is simple. Being prohibited to walk out of the mountain, they decided that the most effective and simple way to respect the agreement with the Parshendi was to create a religious interdiction to walk out of the mountains. With time, this degraded to an interdiction to walk into the mountains, and as the mountains are pretty much the only thing made of stone in Shinovar, it soon began to be seen as forbidden to walk on stone. Now, the initial reason of the prohibition has disapeared, as humanity is all over Roshar, but the tabou and religious beliefs are still present in the Shin society.


As an aside, I wonder if the propention of the Shin to keep to their agreement flawlessly is what drove Honor to the humans.


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