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[WoR Spoiler] Identity of the Broken One


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“Three of sixteen ruled, but now the Broken One reigns.”

Collected: Chachanan, 1173, 84 seconds pre-death. Subject: a cutpurse with the wasting sickness, of partial Iriali descent.


This epigraph, more than any of the others, interests me. It hints at the influence of the Shards of Adonalsium on Roshar in the past and in the present, which still being vague enough to make it's true meaning indecipherable. Unlike most (but not all) of the other epigraphs, it doesn't seem to be delivered in the first person -though if it is, it raises more questions about how aware of the cosmere the forces of Roshar are. The biggest question it raises, of course, is "who is the Broken One".


I realise the obvious answer (given the reference to the three and the sixteen) is that it's Odium. Of course, I dislike obvious answers, so I thought it might not be a bad idea to make a list of the potential suspects, and what that might mean moving forward.


Odium- As I said, the obvious choice. He is one of the Sixteen Shards, and has succeeded in killing Honor. If Wyndle's words are taken at face value, and Honor's death caused Cultivation to effectively give up on humans, that would leave Odium as the only "reigning" Shard by default. There's also something to be said for how fragmented certain lands, like Alethkar, are; the Thrill inspires a battle frenzy and a hatred that could be compared to Odium's influence. And, frankly, as a epithet, 'The Broken One' is a pretty awesome name for a villain.

On the other hand, it's also sort of obvious that Odium would be the main villain. There's also some pretty big questions raised by it; in what way is he broken that separates him from Honor, Cultivation or any of the other Shards? They are all Broken, in the sense that Adonalsium was shattered, and while Rayse may be villainous, we also know he's purposeful. He doesn't seem to fit the idea of someone who is broken in a metaphorical sense. There's also the issue of his reigning over Roshar; Odium's main base is Braize, and while he may have power and influence on Roshar,. he certainly doesn't rule it. Isn't part of his motivation, specifcally, to destroy Roshar and recover what he's invested in it? That said, it might be intended to stand as an example of a poor king, using his land and subjects to his own end.


Cultivation- According to Wyndle has withdrawn and given up on humanity. It might seem that leaves her unlikely to 'reign', but quitting on something would seem to be the direct opposite of her Intent. If 'broken' is meant in a metaphorical way, it might be a reference to her turning her back so decisively on her Intent. Even if she doesn't actually actively rule in any capacity, the fact that she is the only Shard left on Roshar would make her the ruler by default. Furthermore, if she (or a Cultivationspren) is the Nightwatcher, it might emphasise that point even more; she deals out gifts and pubishments, like a king rewarded or punishing subjects.


Honor- is dead. Which would make him pretty unlikely. But that does leave the 


Stormfather- by his own admission, the Stormfather is a 'part' of Honor thats been 'broken' off from Tanavast. Unlike the other two Shard powers, the Stormfather is more than a little active on Roshar. His Highstorms have actively shaped the life and culture of virtually every nation on Roshar. His storms appear to travel the world (a trek arguably comparable to Nohadon, to connect to the 'king' theme I keep harping on about).


Spen- like the Stormfather, they are broken pieces of creation, and a virtually omni-present part of Rosharan life. They have a strong foothold in Roshar, they are capable of changing Parshendi forms, granting Surgebinding abilities, and Syl and Wyndle both express desires to make their bonded companions 'better', by living up to their ideals as Radiants. 


Jezrien- A semantic point mostly; he's the first character in the series to be explicitly described as broken, and that came from the thoughts of someone who had known him for a very long time. There are lots of theories on this forum about how Jezrien could have been 'broken' over time, or twisted in some other way.  


Knights Radiant- the crackpot theory, but hear me out. The term broken is used in reference to surgebinders; they are broken, cracking the soul, allowing the magic of creation to fill it. While the epigraph seems to suggest that the Broken One is a member of the sixteen, who is to say that that's the case? During Dalinar's visions, Nohadon laments that not all spren are as discerning as Honorspren, and we've seen Stormform as an example of that. What if the epigraph of the Broken One (like the one about protecting the one who killed my promises) is a prophecy of the future? That rather than any of the Shards, the ruler of Roshar is a surgebinder, or an unscrupulous Knight Radiant? 

Eshonai describes the voice inside as both being herself, and being something distinct and different- something that could be argued as having her identity broken.

Adolin's murder of Sadeas looks like something that will have repurcussions down the line, and I suspect that it's going to be traumatic enough to attract a spren. If so, he's the son of the Highprince of War, and Sadeas suggested he would make a good ruler; maybe book five will end with Adolin ascening to the Throne of Alethkar?

Or...Szeth. Who is just all kinds of broken.


Any other suggestions for the Broken One? 

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Ruled and reign also have different meanings. These words are only partial synonyms. The term ruled is more of an active governance, meaning that those who ruled Roshar (the Three Shards) ruled it more actively. "Reigns" on the other hand, points to a more passive governance, meaning this latter period is an era where the Shard is unable to take on active rule, or isn't interested in actively ruling Roshar. 


Honor fits the first possibility. Since Honor is a Splintered Shard, he could be seen as Broken (as you pointed out), but since reigning is a passive activity, one could say that Honor's splinters reign, thus the Broken One (that is Honor) reigns...in the form of his Spren and the Stormfather. These are broken off parts of Honor could be seen as reigning, since Honor's spren (plural) are not necessarily active in their governance of Roshar.


On the other point, Cultivation isn't interested in the humans of Roshar, but I'm not sure I would consider her broken, and you've already explained Odium. Just that he could easily reign from Braize, one could easily say that his governance of Roshar isn't active in this era, but passive. This reigning is part of the long-term game he's playing with Roshar..., to make them think he's not interested and that kind of thing.


And yeah, sorry if this didn't make any sense, it's rather early here...

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Welcome! Have an introductory upvote.

Do we know that Odium is still in one piece? He killed honor, but did he do it without harming himself? Something has kept him away from Roshar since Honor died.

Given that the Stormfather refers to him as reigning, it seems likely.  In WOR, Wit mentions that the father of Hatred will dismember his soul if Wit lets himself get caught.  The letters in the epigraphs in both books refer to him as an active entity that is a threat to other Shards. 


There is WoB that splintering is an arduous process, but I doubt Odium would do it if it meant suicide or powerlessness.  Given the evidence in favor, I see no reason to doubt his intactness.  The Broken One name is puzzling, but since "One" is part of the name, it doesn't seem like it should refer to a post splintered set of entities. 

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I agree with Leuthie; the "Odium reigns" bit has always screamed to me that Odium is the Broken One. Of course, there is always the possibility that the epigraph is not necessarily referring to the present day... Though that's pretty unlikely.

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Maybe "broken" refers to his mind, rather than power, etc.  The second letter speculates that he's more of a force than a personality now.  I imagine millennia as pure Hatred messes with one's thought processes.

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