Hey all, and welcome back to our featured theories column. Today, I do not want to highlight any specific theory from the forums, but rather create a new and revised beginner's guide to the cosmere. For those of you that frequent 17th Shard, what I say here will not be news to you, but hopefully this will be helpful to those of you that are still trying to get a grasp on the scope of the cosmere. This will contain spoilers for many of Brandon's cosmere novels, (Elantris, Mistborn, Warbreaker, and Stormlight are the main ones) so read on with caution.
The cosmere is a shared universe that many of Brandon Sanderson's novels, novellas, and short stories take place in. These stories take place on a variety of planets in a small star cluster in a dwarf galaxy. The cosmere works along very similar rules to ours, most of the time, but magic is built into it as well. The main stories of Brandon's that take place in the cosmere are The Stormlight Archive, Mistborn, Warbreaker, The Emperor's Soul, Elantris, and the forthcoming graphic novel White Sand.
In the beginning of cosmere, there was one supreme being known as Adonalsium. To the best of our current knowledge, this god-like being controlled the powers of creation, a type of spiritual energy known as Investiture. Many planets existed that were populated with people, but one one planet in particular, Yolen, a group of people conspired to destroy Adonalsium. In an event known as the Shattering, Adonalsium was killed, his power split into sixteen fragments known as the Shards of Adonalsium. These fragments of power were taken up by sixteen individuals, called Vessels, who Ascended into what is essentially godhood. Each Shard has a drive, or intent, that it desires to act in accordance with which gives it its name, such as Honor or Ruin. When a person takes up a Shard, initially they remain themselves, but over time the Shard will influence them into acting in accordance with the Shard's intent, until they have little desire or will to take any action in conflict with their intent.
These Shards settled on a variety of planets, where their Investiture gave rise to various magic systems, which are referred to as manifestations of Investiture. Shards may also themselves be split into smaller fragments known as Splinters. These Splinters often have a consciousness of their own. In addition to that, people that have at one point held a large portion of a Shard of Adonalsium and given it up are known as Slivers, their souls expanded by the spiritual energy. One of the Shards of Adonalsium named Odium wished to become the most powerful being in the cosmere. He has since traveled from world to world, Splintering and killing other Shards in his quest. The Shard Honor has managed to trap Odium in a single system, Greater Roshar for now, but it is unknown how long this will last.
The structure of the cosmere is made up of three Realms, the Physical, Cognitive, and Spiritual. Every object and person exists simultaneously in all three Realms, although typically it has a stronger presence in one of them. The Physical Realm works very much like our own universe, with similar laws of physics, planets and galaxies, and so on. The Cognitive Realm is the realm of thought. Ideas have power here, and every place where life, particularly sentient life, is present is represented in the Cognitive Realm. The Spiritual Realm is more mysterious, it is Realm of ideals, where connections between people and spiritual energy are crucial, and where time and location is far less relevant.
Elantris and the Emperor's Soul
These stories both take place on the same planet, a world known as Sel. There are two Shards of Adonalsium present on Sel, Devotion and Dominion, formerly held by Aona and Skai respectively. Both Shards were killed by another Shard Odium, long ago, and their power was Splintered, to prevent anyone else from taking up one of the Shards. Some of these Splinters are part of the seons and the skaze. The remaining power of both Shards is mostly present in the Dor, a reservoir of Investiture in the Cognitive Realm. There is technically only one magic system on Sel, but it is expressed differently depending on the region of Sel. AonDor, Dakhor, ChayShan, Bloodsealing, and Forgery are the known variations although others exist on the planet.
The Mistborn trilogy takes place on a planet known as Scadrial. There are two Shards of Adonalsium present on Scadrial, Preservation and Ruin. They were originally held by two men, Ati and Leras, who actually created the planet of Scadrial themselves. During the course of the Era 1Mistborn trilogy, Ati and Leras were both killed and Sazed took up both Ruin and Preservation. As Sazed holds both powers, they have commingled into a larger power that is called Harmony. There are three magic systems present on Scadrial, Allomancy which is derived from Preservation, Hemalurgy, which comes from Ruin, and Feruchemy, which is a balance system derived from both Shards. There are no Splinters of either Ruin or Preservation. As of recently, a third unknown Shard working under the guise of "Trell" has began exerting an influence on Scadrial, but this Shard is not on the planet itself as of yet.
Warbreaker takes place on a planet called Nalthis, which is home to a single Shard named Endowment, held by a woman named Edgli. Awakening, the only magic system on the planet is derived from Endowment's powers. Endowment also chooses to call people back to Return, showing someone who has died a vision of a potential future and giving them the opportunity to Return to life and change that future. To do so, Endowment gives them a Splinter of her Shard, known on Nalthis as a divine Breath.
The Stormlight Archive
The Stormlight Archive takes place on a planet known as Roshar. There are several other planets in the system, including Braize, which will play a part later in The Stormlight Archive, and Ashyn, which will appear in a story called The Silence Divine one day. There are three Shards present in the solar system, referred to as Greater Roshar, Honor, Cultivation, and Odium. Honor was originally held by Tanavast and Odium is held by Rayse, but Cultivation's Vessel is unknown. Honor has been killed and Splintered by Odium, his power is present in the spren that form Nahel bonds with the Knights Radiant. Cultivation and what remains of Honor's power are on Roshar, but Odium currently resides on Braize. There are a variety of magic systems present on this planet, including Surgebinding, Voidbinding, and fabrial magic. Which Shard is responsible for which magic system is still unclear.
White Sand (forthcoming)
White Sand takes place on a world known as Taldain. This planet has only a single Shard, called Autonomy, held by a man named Bavadin. Very little is known about this world at present, but more information will become available once the graphic novel is released in a little over a month.
Dragonsteel/Liar of Partinel (forthcoming)
A final, very important planet is Yolen. All of the original Vessels that took up Shards of Adonalsium are from Yolen. Brandon will one day tell the story of the Shattering of Adonalsium, but it will not be for many years.
Shadows for Silence/Sixth of the Dusk
It is important to note that not every populated planet in the cosmere has a Shard on it. Many may only have a Splinter on it, or may have no influence from a Shard at all. Two such planets are Threnody and First of the Sun. Threnody appears in the short story Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, and First of the Sun appears in the short story Sixth of the Dusk. These planets may still have magics though, they manifest out of background spiritual energy and are less powerful than planets that have Shards on them. Threnody has the shades, which enforce the Simple Rules, and First of the Sun has the Aviar, birds that grant their owners a variety of powers.
While one day many of these planets will develop faster-than-light travel and meet one another, they are not yet at this technological level. However, a limited number of people have learned how to use magic to travel from planet to planet. They make appearances in multiple stories and are often participating in behind the scenes struggles that the main characters of the novels know little to nothing about. Many Worldhoppers make use of Perpendicularities, areas on a planet, often in the form of a pool of liquid, where a Shard's power concentrates. They use these Perpendicularities as gateways into the Cognitive Realm, where all the planets are arranged adjacent to one another, divided by mountains. As interstellar space has little Cognitive activity, it is much smaller in the Cognitive Realm, and Worldhoppers may simply walk to another planet. Several Worldhoppers are members of a group called the Seventeenth Shard, a coalition of Worldhoppers with unknown goals. There are several Worldhoppers of a variety of importance in the cosmere:
- Hoid - A man who often appears in the guise of a beggar, fool, or storyteller, Hoid holds immense power. He makes use of Allomancy, Feruchemy, Awakening, and Lightweaving (not the type of the Radiants, but very similar) and has other powers that allow him to dilate time and travel to other planets. Hoid is ancient, he is from Yolen and was heavily involved in the Shattering of Adonalsium. Hoid hates Odium, and is attempting to counter him. He also goes by Wit, Dust, and other aliases
- Khriss - A woman from Taldain (a main character in White Sand) that is the author of the Ars Arcanum that appears in the end of Brandon's cosmere books. She studies magic systems scientifically, seeking to explain how they work.
- Nazh - A man from Threnody, Nazh works as Khriss' assistant. He often collects first hand documents such as maps, and drawings that appear in the books, which are occasionally annotated by him.
- Iyatil - A masked woman that appears on Roshar, Iyatil is a seasoned traveler, who has been on a variety of planets in the cosmere.
- Mraize - A man from Roshar who is heavily involved in the Ghostbloods, Mraize is Iyatil's student, who has been taken to a few planets under supervision from Iyatil.[/background]
- Vasher/Zahel - A Returned from Nalthis, Vasher has traveled to Roshar because it is easier to get Investiture there. He is a master Awakener currently serving as a swordmaster for Renarin Kholin. His Awakened sword Nightblood was patterned after Shardblades and is also currently on Roshar.
- Demoux - One of the rebels against the Lord Ruler, Demoux has since joined the Seventeenth Shard and traveled to Roshar seeking Hoid.
- Galladon - An Elantrian and friend to King Raoden, Galladon is also a member of the Seventeenth Shard that has traveled to Roshar in search of Hoid.
- Felt - A spy in the employ of House Venture, Felt is now on Roshar working in the army of Dalinar Kholin for unknown reasons.
There are several other Worldhoppers whose identities are still unknown. There is a third man, known as Blunt, traveling with Demoux and Galladon trying to find Hoid, but his name has not been officially confirmed. There is also a Terriswoman that has appeared in Warbreaker and a female kandra Worldhopper hidden somewhere in the books. In addition to the Worldhoppers, there is a dragon known as Frost that lives on Yolen. Frost is heavily involved in the Seventeenth Shard, although it is unknown if he has ever traveled to a different planet.
There is an overarching story to the cosmere that all of these characters play a role in, but Brandon does not wish to bring this to the forefront just yet. Eventually he will write books detailing some of the behind the scenes events, but for now, since Brandon wants his books to stand on their own, they mostly serve as easter eggs and other random pieces of information. I realize that this is a lot to absorb all at once, and we've only really began to scratch the surface. A good next step, if you want to know more, is to check out the Coppermind, where many of these topics are discussed in much greater detail.
There has been a plethora of new information since the last article, mostly from a signing in San Antonio and JordanCon. Thanks so much to Paladin Brewer and Ruru272 among many others that reported information, recorded signings, or transcribed information. You guys rock!
- Odium has a lot more knowledge that Sazed because he has had the power longer, and there are forces purposely trying to limit Harmony's knowledge.
- Kandra cannot duplicate Parshendi carapace
- Spren and seons can travel to other worlds, although they are more bound to their home planet
- The theory that Shardplate guards are made from aluminum may be, "on the right track"
- Sazed cannot communicate with Ati and Leras
- Hoid didn't take both beads of lerasium for himself because of his innate ability to tell him where he needs to be and what he needs to do
- Spren can be combined together
- Khriss knows too much for Brandon to say what she knows about the "red haze" on Scadrial
- Wax has seen the influence of a Shard that is not Ruin, Preservation, or Harmony
- Odium's plan always involved not getting stuck on one planet
- Dragonsteel will now be a trilogy
- Official cosmere timeline should be out sometime after White Sand is released
- Lift will have a POV in Stormlight Three, in addition to the novella Brandon is writing
- Hoid's ability to speak various languages is magical
- Expanding ones soul is sometimes involved in Worldhopping
- Kelsier has hazel eyes
- The Ire's use of the word "fortune" indicates a very similar concept to Feruchemical fortune
- Felt, the spy from Scadrial, is the same Felt that appears in Words of Radiance
- Rashek did not create lerasium, he had to "go and get it"
- Nahel spren and seons are very similar things
- If a kandra could get a Dakhor monks bones, it would not grant them additional powers, but is a step in the right direction to gaining his abilities
- All things of deific level power in the cosmere are related to the Shards
- Highstorms on Roshar predate the Shattering of Adonalsium
- Worldhoppers have three ways of obtaining immortality, time dilation, slowed aging, or true agelessness
- The entire continent of Roshar is not crem, there is a real continent with mineral deposits below the crem-covered surface
- Khriss is very in favor of freedom of information, and willing to share her knowledge with those working for the good of the cosmere
- Nalthians with a Breath have more Innate Investiture than someone born on a planet without a Shard, but those without a Breath would have less
- If Brandon writes a sequel to Secret History, it would occur in the time interval between Mistborn Era 1 and Mistborn Era 2.
- There is a place in the cosmere where a lot of Worldhoppers tend to congregate
- Arcanum Unbounded, the cosmere story anthology, will contain an introduction to each planet by Khriss and a map of the solar systems in the cosmere.
There's a lot of new work going into the Coppermind lately, and I'd like to thank everyone that helps out. Even correcting a typo or adding one piece of information in is incredibly helpful, and we appreciate all you do.
Featured Article: Dalinar Kholin
Much of the work on this article was done by a Greywatch and Kynan. This article is beautiful, full of art and in-depth information, exactly what we want from an article. There's only a little bit of work left to do on it, and it's a great example of what passionate wikiiers can do with a little bit of hard work. Kudos to everyone who contributed to this awesome article!
Featured Fix-Me-Up: Susebron
The current article on Susebron, God King of Hallandren could use a little love. It's got a good start, but it needs more information and better division between sections. Portions that talk about important relationships in his life, quotes, trivia about him, and other information of that nature are always a good addition to the regular baseline history and personality descriptions.
Random Little-Known Fact:
This random fact comes to us courtesy of one of the most foundational Q&As we've had, the Hero of Ages forum Q&A from Timewaster's Guide. This is probably the first time that Brandon's ideas for the overall cosmere began to be truly apparent. Here's the fact!
So Hemalurgy was at least a little bit known before even Allomancy was well-known on Scadrial. I wonder if Brandon will ever do much expansion on the Classical Era of Scadrial before the Ascension of Rashek in the eventual Mistborn Worldbook, or if it will forever remain a mystery? Hopefully one day we'll know!
Alendi's "Piercings of the Hero"?
This is part of the manipulation Ruin did during the classical era on Scadrial, before the coming of the Lord Ruler. Piercings, and Hemalurgy, were part of the world before the coming of Allomancy in its modern form. Then, they were seen as a means of communicating with deity—which, indeed, they were. Ruin manipulated this to make sure any Hero of Ages who came would be under his influence. The reference is included mostly to indicate that yes, Alendi was under Ruin's influence. He ignored Rashek, though. (At least, right up to the moment when everything went 'wrong' for Ruin, when Rashek killed his chosen Hero of Ages.)
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next month for a more traditional featured theories column!