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I’ll endeavor to avoid spoilers for the individual books in question. Oh, and I’ll be confining my sources to the fiction. I could go scouring the internet for things he’s let slip in his podcast or hints from his creative writing courses. Too much bother.
The King’s Wit
His name is Hoid. Ostensibly his job is to please the king by insulting the various nobles in Alethi society. He’s very enthusiastic about the insulting people part. Sample quote, not because the point is particularly important or anything, but because it’s fun:
The King’s Wit, The Way of Kings
You see Sadeas, you make it too easy. An uneducated, half-brained serving boy with a hangover could make mock of you. I am left with no reason to exert myself, and your very nature makes a mockery of my mockery. And so it is through sheer stupidity you make me look incompetent
In a tradition that’s at least as old as Shakespeare, the Fool knows more than anyone else. He knows secrets nobody’s told him. He shows up and spins a tale when one of the protagonists needs a kick to get their story moving. And, as befits a good jester, it’s impossible to tell when he’s being serious and when he’s, well, fooling around.
He also has a habit of being exactly where interesting things are happening. In the epilogue to The Way of Kings, he shows up at exactly the right spot for a momentous event that absolutely nobody had any business knowing was happening beforehand. He repeats this in the epilogue of Words of Radiance. “When I was young…” he explains to Shallan in Oathbringer, “I made a vow. I said I’d always be there when I was needed. […] It turns out I should have been more specific, as ‘there’ is technically anywhere.”
Anywhere indeed. Here we get to the world-hopping. In Mistborn, on another world, when Kelsier seeks out a rumormonger he buys his information from a man named Hoid. In Warbreaker, in the Court of the Gods, Princess Siri requests a professional storyteller to speak of history. His name is Hoid. When Shai the Forger from The Emperor’s Soul gets captured, it’s because she was double-crossed by The Imperial Fool. No name is ever given, but I have my suspicions.
He should have been more specific about that “Always” part too. The character shows up in the second Mistborn trilogy as well, several hundred years later. He’s one of a surprisingly large number of Sanderson characters who seem to have that old age problem figured out.
The Mixing of Worlds
This Hoid fellow isn’t the only one who walks between worlds. (Here, I’m going to get into some mild spoilers. Sorry, it’s inevitable.) The Ghostbloods, nefarious types who also seems to know a great deal more than they let on, show up as antagonists in at least two series set on different worlds. Mraize at one point praises his washerwoman for getting an “aether” stain out of his good shirt. We’ve had no explanation for what aether means in context, but it appears to be red, not native to Roshar (the world of The Stormlight Archives, where this conversation took place), and a stubborn stain.
Lady Azure, who shows up in the third Stormlight Archives book, is hunting for Nightblood, the sword from Warbreaker. From what we learned in Shadesmar there’s a certain amount of trafficking between worlds that happens unbeknownst to the wider societies. Lady Azure carries a shard blade. It’s described that way by the viewpoint characters, natives of Roshar. When they see a magical sword they presume it’s a shard, but Lady Azure’s doesn’t fit. It doesn’t behave quite like a shard, but she can still use it to cut stone. Did her sword always do that, or did it only acquire that capability because shard blades in Roshar can cut stone?
Wit at one point is tuning an instrument, and he casually remarks that it’s easier now that he has perfect pitch. Wit being wit, that might not mean anything, or it might mean he attained the Second Heightening by acquiring enough BioChromatic Breath. That’s the stuff of magic in the world of Warbreaker. At one point a character asks a Knight Radiant what heightening he’s attained, before realizing he was dealing with the wrong magic. We’ve seen very few examples of what happens when the various magic systems Sanderson has carefully crafted collide with one another.
Beyond the tourist types, there seem to be individuals who don’t just wander. These are the powers that shake the worlds. The central conflict of the Stormlight Archives revolves around two of those individuals, Honor and Odium. Honor is the deity worshiped by the human population of Roshar. Odium is the opposition; the god who commands the Voidbringers, the one who wreaks desolation on the world. In ages past Odium killed Honor, but somehow Honor still has him bound to Roshar. Odium’s whole purpose in destroying the world, killing humanity, and so forth, is to break free of those bonds so he can traverse the Cosmere once again. Well, probably not his whole purpose; he’s also kind of a jerk.
I called ’em gods a paragraph ago, but at most they’re gods in the Greek model. Amazingly powerful, yes. Unaging, certainly. But gods who can be killed. In Hero of Ages, when Ruin finally meets his end he leaves a body. (Yeah, spoiler alert on that one. Although if you can’t figure out that the big bad gets beaten at the end of the book, well, lemme just rip the bandage off and tell you your parents were lying about Santa Claus too.) Ruin had a body. Without spoiling any more (I’ve also got bad news about the Easter Bunny), we also see people ascend to that sort of godhood.
There are, we’re told in the chapter headings in the Stormlight Archive, sixteen of these. Honor (whose name is Tanavast, incidentally), Odium (named Rayse), and Cultivation from those books. Ruin, Preservation, and Harmony from the Mistborn series. Possibly Austre from Warbreaker. I don’t know; Austre gets the same deity treatment, but as he never acts as a character in the story it’s hard to tell if he’s actually there. And, of course, Wit. Can you see why I didn’t title his section “Hoid?”
This is the meta plot I mentioned previously. I’ve identified up to eight of the 16 so far, but that number is surprisingly slippery. Do people join and leave the group? Regardless, there are more we haven’t seen. Who are they, and what are they doing? Even among the named ones, there’s little that’s known. After three thousand some pages we’ve got barely any hint of who Cultivation is, what she’s doing, and what she’s after. I’ll be looking for more clues as to who and what and why these characters act as the series progress.
What Then Are We to Make of This?
We haven’t seen anything like an Avengers movie out of these books to tie all these threads together. I expect we’ll see more and more mixing of the worlds as their respective series progress. Can you run allomancy off of stormlight? Does the color sense granted by BioChromatic Breath make Forging easier? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I expect Mr. Sanderson does. I’m content to wait and see.
I’m only going to do a little speculating. A simple enough game to play at home; Spot the world jumper. Without further ado, here’s a list of minor characters who I suspect of traveling between worlds:
- Zahel, the Swordmaster. This one’s sort of obvious; Lady Azure, who we know came from another world, trained under his tutelage. Even so, you can sort of tell from the way he doesn’t quite fit in in Roshar. He forgets the word for “highstorms,” which are the fundamental fact of life that shapes everything else on that world. Oh, and his age. If a viewpoint character can’t tell how old he is, if he could be either thirty or seventy, you can bet he’s closer to seven thousand years old.
- Bluefingers, the chief Scribe. The highest-ranking bureaucrat in the God King’s employ in Hallandren, It’s hard to keep track of in the confusion, but he survived the end of his book. He seems like the sort.
- The Five Scribes. Or the ones who are still alive after several hundred years. Oh, and one had a suspiciously Alethi name. I’d be more specific, but I don’t want to ruin the tooth fairy for you too.
- The Lopen. “What do you call a one-armed Herdazian who travels between worlds? Call him whatever you want; he won’t hear you.” The Lopen hasn’t planeswalked yet, but you and I know it’s coming.
- Old Ironeyes. The last surviving of the Lord Ruler’s inquisitors, he already knows a great deal more than he lets on. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he turned up in Elantris.
- Stick. “I am a stick” is what he says. Sure. He’s also been known to say “I am a stick.” I’ve got my eye on you buddy.
Have you spotted any?Published in