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WoR Ch17


Dullform dread, with the mind most lost.
The lowest, and one not bright.
To find this form, one need banish the cost.
It finds you and brings you to blight.

–From the Listener Song of Listing, final stanza


Point of view: Shallan
Setting: The Frostlands

Progression of the Chapter:

Shallan covers her anxiety with scholarship; her collection begins again with the santhid, a leaf, and Bluth; a column of smoke is observed behind; Tvlakv covers his anxiety with activity and faked reassurance; parshmen are made uncomfortable by conversation; another column of smoke is observed ahead; Shallan makes an executive decision; symbiosis is considered; excrement is vehemently NOT considered; Shallan consciously draws in Stormlight, but can’t figure out what to do with it; buzzing is interpreted and Pattern is revealed to be a scholar; hints about the Recreance are dropped; hints about Shallan’s past are also dropped; the cook fire ahead is most definitely not a cook fire.

Quote of the Chapter:

"You spoke oaths."

Shallan froze.

Life before death ... The words drifted toward her from the shadows of her past. A past she would not think of.

"You live lies," Pattern said. "It gives you strength. But the truth ... Without speaking truths you will not be able to grow, Shallan. I know this somehow."

  • This is enough to let the reader know that Shallan was already well on her way to being a Lightweaver. (According to reports, Brandon has confirmed that Shallan spoke the Ideal(s) of her Order when she was younger, but nearly broke her bond with Pattern due to the trauma of the "Red Carpet, Once White" night.) The disturbing thing about this conversation, though, is how deliberately Shallan has blocked her memories, and how vast is the gulf between her past and present selves.

Commentary:

Shallan has turned to scholarship to cover her anxiety about the probably-bandits who may or may not be following them. In this case, her ability to choose her mental focus is a wonderful thing. Can you fix it? No. Then do something you can do. She does it a couple more times in this chapter as well. Once, it’s in a good way again, when she does more studying and drawing to distract herself from things over which she hasn’t the faintest bit of influence. Once, though, it’s back to suppression at all costs, when Pattern tries to get her to remember. Is it painful to Pattern when Shallan quashes her memories of him?

Then there’s this conversation:

"You consume some things, and turn them into other things ... Very curious things that you hide. They have value? But you leave them. Why?"

"We are done with that conversation," Shallan said ...

The title of this chapter is "A Pattern." Obviously it refers to Pattern, but it’s probably also related to this line:

"It happened to the others," Pattern said, his voice softer now. "It will happen to me. It is ... a pattern."

Is he referring to the Recreance? Is he right? Is there some kind of pattern set in place that will eventually cause the current Radiants to have to break their oaths?

This chapter gives a good strong hint that Shallan’s Memories are a distinctly different thing from normal memories, and that they are somehow released when she draws them. Her drawing of the santhid from her memory is good, but not as good as the first one. Likewise with her drawing of Yalb; it’s not quite right. But the picture of Jasnah, with her exhaustion and fear, is perfect, because Shallan’s never drawn it before.

Sprenspotting:

Except for a brief mention of chasing away rotspren, and Shallan being vexed by Bluth’s lack of spren to tell her how he’s really feeling, it’s all Pattern here. Shallan tries to figure out his various buzzes: confusion, excitement, annoyance, puzzlement.

Pattern reveals that he is essentially a scholar, that he came to Shallan hoping to learn about humans again. Is this scholarship true of all Cryptics? It might well be because there are some hints in this chapter about why they’re called Cryptics rather than the suggested “liespren.” While Pattern is fascinated by what he considers “lies” (i.e.: any non-literal figures of speech), he seems to love truths even more. What he really seems to be drawn to is the place where the figurative and the literal balance to reveal Truth; and of course, the more complex that Truth, the better.

  • Often there’s more to life than what we can see around us. If we’re limited to literal descriptions, we can’t get very far in expressing it; we must turn to figures and metaphors, and when we get the right combination, it comes into focus to reveal greater Truth than we can see. "Cryptic: beyond one’s powers to know, understand, or explain."

So ... back to the spren. The symbiotic relationship formed by the bond gives the human the ability to control two of the natural Surges of the world, and it gives the spren sapience. Ideas that live and think. The spren acquire the ability to manifest, communicate, and interact in the physical realm, while the humans acquire the ability to "control" and interact in the cognitive realm, each to a far more conscious and deliberate extent than they can without the bond.

At least until you get to that bit about “The knights killed their spren.” It’s hinted that the Knights didn’t realize what would happen to the spren when their oaths were broken.

Theory:

Did some of the original Radiants feel that some of their own had been betrayed by Odium's spren, and that if they maintained their own bonds, they would inevitably become the betrayers of all humanity? To prevent that, perhaps the only thing they could come up with was to stop being bonded, and they didn’t realize just what effect breaking those bonds would have on the spren. It’s just a theory, and articulated based only on supposition.

All Creatures Shelled and Feathered:

Shallan makes some interesting observations about the flora and fauna here. One, the plants she’s been observing are cleverly designed to start new shoots from the leaves, which break off easily with a high wind or when brushed by an animal and so are carried and propagated far and wide. Two, chulls are smart enough to respond to rhythmic commands. Three, here in the Frostlands the land is much flatter than her home in Jah Keved; there are fewer plants here, but they are much more robust than those she knew in lands to the west.

Brandon has referred to Roshar as a lush planet. "Just look at the Shattered Plains, there’s grass everywhere and plants going all over the place. It’s just before a storm it becomes barren and then it becomes lush again." However, the Frostlands aren't quite so lush; they seem to be tundra-like.

Ars Arcanum:

The only thing the reader gets to observe in this chapter is Stormlight healing Shallan’s feet, but there are two other allusions worth mentioning. One, there are a couple of references back to her Illusion at the campfire which terrified Tvlakv so much, in which her dress and hair suddenly looked better and she did that whole glow-in-the-dark bit. Two, there’s a picture ... !

Endnote:

Just what, exactly, was Nazh up to, retrieving Shallan’s (and presumably Jasnah’s) luggages from the bottom of the ocean? Was that his own idea, or did his "friend" put him up to it? Did she ever give him that new coat?

- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson[1]

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