Featured Theories: Cosmere 102


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.

Cosmere 102

Introduction

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.

Mistborn

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

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.

Worldhopping

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.

New Information

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!

San Antonio

  • 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

Jordan Con

  • 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.

The Coppermind

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!

VEGASDEV

Alendi's "Piercings of the Hero"?

BRANDON SANDERSON

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.)

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!

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next month for a more traditional featured theories column!


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I'm glad someone asked about Highstorms. That's a question I've had for a while as well.

 

And that's very interesting about the Innate Investiture for Nalthians. Everyone has a Spark of Life, which is a type of Investiture, but I always assumed they were on equal level with each other. Thus, someone giving their Breath away would be equal with a person on a world without a Shard because of that. But it sounds like the Nalthian Spark is weaker than, say, one from First of the Sun. Maybe because Breath is designed to compensate?

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I don't think Leras and Ati actually created Scadrial. Can anyone find WoB to confirm either way?

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This a great general overview, thanks for taking the time to put it all together! ^.^

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I disagree with the paraphrasing of new information. There is already one instance I can see where I recall the WoB and disagree with the interpretation. I am not saying I am right, but I feel posting the WoB themselves would allow people to derive their own conclusions. 

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Thanks, jameleecee!

 

I'm sorry Pathfinder, that's not something that's going to happen,it would take up too much space.  I think you mistake the purpose of me listing all these facts like this. It's meant for people who don't keep up as closely with new information, most of this stuff was posted a couple weeks ago, or for those who want a brief overview of the new interviews as a jumping off point. I don't even include every new question because that would take up too much space, and there's not much point in me simply posting a whole interview on this article. It's meant to be a quick overview of what was said. I'll add links to the interviews themselves next time, but most of these use essentially the same words that Brandon did. If you disagree with my interpretation, feel free to discuss it here, that's what comments are for.

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Minor issue: Odium has not been trapped on Greater Roshar, but on Braize, another planet in the same system.

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Unless you've got a quote, there's no confirmation that he's trapped on Braize specifically. The quote from the second later states that he cannot leave the "system" that he bow inhabits. He certainly is on Braize right now, but we haven't been told that he cannot leave that planet.

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Chaos

Posted

I disagree with the paraphrasing of new information. There is already one instance I can see where I recall the WoB and disagree with the interpretation. I am not saying I am right, but I feel posting the WoB themselves would allow people to derive their own conclusions.

If you have specific issues with the interpretations here, please do say so. But I do think there are space concerns. Full quotes take up a huge amount of space.

I intend to have future things of this nature to involve direct links, however. Those we will have. That way the balance is better on this issue.

This article is already one of the longest articles on 17S news. I like long articles, but they do need to be distilled appropriately. Additionally we generally discuss factoids (with people like Windy, Weiry, Zach, and I, and some more) and stand by minor interpretations made. We are always happy to discuss, however, as is already occurring in the comments.

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Eki

Posted

"Greater Roshar" is the name of the whole solar system, which Braize is part of. So it's not wrong, even if he is stuck on just Braize.

 

About Ruin and Preservation creating Scadrial: I believe there are different WoBs saying they created the planet, and that they found it and terraformed it.

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Sorry for the nit-pick. I think a lot of us love Brandon because of all the perfect details and so can get carried away focusing on them.

 

Terrific summary! I'll send this to anyone that has read one or two and asks me what the Cosmere is. Oohhhhh you're in for a treat friend.

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Chaos

Posted

Sorry for the nit-pick. I think a lot of us love Brandon because of all the perfect details and so can get carried away focusing on them.

 

Terrific summary! I'll send this to anyone that has read one or two and asks me what the Cosmere is. Oohhhhh you're in for a treat friend.

Absolutely no need to apologize for that! We want to make sure stuff like this is right and solid. I believe Windy and others are a bit busy in finding the relevant Scadrial quote, so it will be here for you soon. That is a very relevant question :)

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Yeah, there's nothing to apologize for Whim! Stating that Ruin and Preservation made Scadrial is a big claim, one I'd have argued vehemently against in the past. It took me a lot of searching to find this, and there was a moment where I was pretty sure that I'd made it all up, but I found it here!
 

QUESTION
If another Shard came to Scadrial, would that be enough to create a godmetal?

BRANDON SANDERSON
If another shard just came to visit, probably not.


QUESTION
If they brought a spren or-


BRANDON SANDERSON
If they came and completely Invested the world, then things might start happening. But there's some special circumstances, remember. Ruin and Preservation created that planet. Specifically. And so there's some goofy things that happened because of that. For instance Roshar was not made by Honor, Cultivation, or Odium. That's one of the big differences about what's going on there.

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The theory that Shardplate guards are made from aluminum may be, "on the right track"

Is it a typo? shardblade guards?

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As there does not seem to be a quote feature on this page, I will bold my answers (edit: LOL and now I realize the quote button is greyed out unless you move your mouse over the post. whoops! lol)

 

I'm sorry Pathfinder, that's not something that's going to happen,it would take up too much space.  I think you mistake the purpose of me listing all these facts like this. It's meant for people who don't keep up as closely with new information, most of this stuff was posted a couple weeks ago, or for those who want a brief overview of the new interviews as a jumping off point. I don't even include every new question because that would take up too much space, and there's not much point in me simply posting a whole interview on this article. It's meant to be a quick overview of what was said. I'll add links to the interviews themselves next time, but most of these use essentially the same words that Brandon did. If you disagree with my interpretation, feel free to discuss it here, that's what comments are for.

 

I hope I did not come off personally critical or confrontational Windrunner. I was not stating that to say your interpretation is wrong, and I am right. I was stating to say that there can be two ways to look at the WoB and I felt it would be helpful to those viewing it to be able to reference the source and derive their own conclusions from it. I understand there is a space issue which is why I whole heartily agree with yours and Chaos's idea to include links to the WoB themselves. I think that solves both issues perfectly. 

 

If you have specific issues with the interpretations here, please do say so. But I do think there are space concerns. Full quotes take up a huge amount of space.

I intend to have future things of this nature to involve direct links, however. Those we will have. That way the balance is better on this issue.

This article is already one of the longest articles on 17S news. I like long articles, but they do need to be distilled appropriately. Additionally we generally discuss factoids (with people like Windy, Weiry, Zach, and I, and some more) and stand by minor interpretations made. We are always happy to discuss, however, as is already occurring in the comments.

 

Sure, I would be happy to :). So basically the WoB I am referencing is this:

 

 

QUESTION

Can spren be put back together through the Bondsmith? Like Shards can be combined?

BRANDON SANDERSON

They can be combined, but I won’t say if the Bondsmith is the method.
I bolded what I feel is the pertinent parts for my point. I took this to mean that the questioner was asking regarding a spren that was killed via an oath being broken, and then the radiant dying. That could a bondsmith, whose literal name is regarding smithing bonds, could use their abilities to reforge the bonds for the dead spren to new people to increase the ranks of the knights radiant. Potentially turning all those dead shardblades into new knights. That since Shards (big S to refer to Shards as in Harmony and etc), could be picked up by people and combined (as they were once a whole like a dead spren was), and potentially reform Adonalsium, could Bondsmiths do the same for dead spren. Now again, that is totally my own interpretation. Not saying I am any more right or wrong. That is my own take from those words that is completely different from the take away that different spren such as creation spren and lifespren can be combined into a new spren. Or I could be completely misunderstanding your interpretation Windrunner. The fact is, the ability for me to misunderstand your interpretation, or having an interpretation of my own that is completely different than yours means people should be able to see the WoB itself so they can come to their own conclusion. Which as I stated, I whole heartily agree with you both. Including a link to the WoB itself right under your own interpretation allows people to decide for themselves if they agree with what you came up with or not and fosters further discussion which is the core purpose of these forums. 

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@Pathfinder, I myself interpret that WoB differently.

 

Like: Honor has Shattered into spren, can they be put back together?
So the question is basically whether a Bondsmith could reforge spren into whole Honor again.
 

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@Pathfinder, I myself interpret that WoB differently.

 

Like: Honor has Shattered into spren, can they be put back together?

So the question is basically whether a Bondsmith could reforge spren into whole Honor again.

 

Although I am still leaning towards my own interpretation, that is an excellent point. So like I said, the fact that there can be three different understandings of it, shows it needs to be referenced. Putting links to the full WoB would solve that and I whole heartily support. 

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Chaos

Posted

Just so you know Pathfinder, you can quote things! There's no multiquote here (yet) but you can copy and paste relevant text into this BBCode:

[quote]Insert stuff here[/quote]

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Hello everyone,

I am trying to build an Italian community for Sanderson's books and universe; I have since created a site called mattandthebooks.com where I write articles about books (mostly sanderson's), do rereads etc. I wanted to know if I could translate and post this post in order to explain to the reades of said site wht the cosmere is, as I think that this article is very well-written and can be understandable by any who haven't started "studying" the cosmere. I would of course link to the original article here on 17th Shard.

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