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Elantris Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Aons are an interesting part of this book–perhaps my favorite of the world elements. If you think about the system I've set up, you'll realize some things. First, the Aons have to be older than the Aonic language. They're based directly off of the land. So, the lines that make up the characters aren't arbitrary. Perhaps the sounds associated with them are, but the meanings–at least in part–are inherent. The scene with Raoden explaining how the Aon for "Wood" includes circles matching the forests in the land of Arelon indicates that there is a relationship between the Aons and their meanings. In addition, each Aon produces a magical effect, which would have influenced its meaning.

The second interesting fact about the Aons is that only Elantrians can draw them. And Elantrians have to come from the lands near Arelon. Teoish people can be taken, but only if they're in Arelon at the time. Genetically, then, the Teos and the Arelenes must be linked–and evidence seems to indicate that the Arelenes lived in the land first, and the Teos crossed the sea to colonize their peninsula.

Only Elantrians can draw Aons in the air, so someone taken by the Shaod must have developed the writing system. That is part of what makes writing a noble art in Arelon–drawing the Aons would have been associated with Elantrians. Most likely, the early Elantrians (who probably didn't even have Elantris back then) would have had to learn the Aons by trial and error, finding what each one did, and associating its meaning and sound with its effect. The language didn't develop, but was instead "discovered."

There are likely Aons that haven't even been found yet.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
#2 Copy


If an Elantrian were to tattoo someone with an Aon with the intent of it working...

Brandon Sanderson

Could that work? Yes... you could make that work. There is some trouble with moving some Aons around, so it's gonna depend on how you're building and things, but you can make that work.

Oathbringer release party ()
#4 Copy


So, I just had a question about the name Hoid. I've gone through all these [Aons], with the "OID," I know he really cares about how it's spelled. Is there anything you can give me the "O" and the "I" and the "D"? The only ones that have the "O" and the "I" are these two right here. Am I onto anything here, or is that just a coincidence?

Brandon Sanderson

No, those are just a coincidence.

Arcanum Unbounded Hoboken signing ()
#5 Copy

PatrickDiomedes (paraphrased)

Will we ever get some sort of dictionary/guide to Aons or Forging? One that tells us how they're made, with what all the various parts of a seal mean and how we could theoretically design them?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

We might, but it would be a ton of work for him to put together. He compared it to when people ask if we'll ever get the full text of The Way of Kings--the in-universe book--and he said that we might, but all he has is an outline.

Firefight release party ()
#6 Copy


I know you went on mission in Korea, as did I, did anything come from that?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, quite a number of things have been influenced by it. I'd say the biggest influence is Elantris, the writing system is based on the idea of Korean and Chinese mixed together. But Asian philosophy, like the kami and things like that are also common in Korea, that belief that everything has a soul. So yeah it's had a huge influence on me, just the way I worldbuild-- I mean just the fact, I don't know if you've read The Way of Kings… I don't know if you know but everyone's Asian, right? Like Szeth, the white dude, is the one that looks weird them. And that's just because-- It was partially influenced by that.

JordanCon 2014 ()
#7 Copy


Where did you get the idea of the Elantris magic system?

Brandon Sanderson

The drawing glyphs is based on Korean and Chinese writing systems. I'm Mormon, I served a mission in Korea for two years, loved the writing system and the language. It was part of what inspired me to do that. There is this really cool thing where in Korea they used Chinese characters to write for a long time and they are very difficult to learn because you just have to memorize them and there was a great king, named Sejong, who said, "My people are being mostly illiterate because this is so hard and we don't even speak Chinese, we are not Chinese. We use their characters, can we develop a language, a writing system that will allow us to do this" and his scholars got together and devised Korean which is a way to phonetically write Chinese characters kind of? It's their own thing. You write them in little groups to make little Chinese characters, it's the coolest thing ever. But you can write most Korean things, not everything, most you can write as a Chinese character or as a phonetic Korean construction of three letters that create that Chinese character sound and I liked that idea and it spun me into the idea of the Aons and the Aonic language and things like that.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
#8 Copy


Did you have any hand making Aons for the first Elantris book, or preparing some for the second book?

Ben McSweeney

No, that's all Isaac Stewart. He's been working with Brandon much longer than I have, and he's responsible for all the maps and icons and symbols and most of the chapter heading illustrations, with the exception of The Rithmatist where I got to do it all.

FanX 2018 ()
#9 Copy


When you were writing Elantris, did you think of the artwork for all the symbols and stuff as you were writing?

Brandon Sanderson

I did, I drew them myself. Those are the only ones that I did the symbols for. After that book, I went and got somebody who knew what they were doing, so they look a little pedestrian compared to the other ones, but I did them all myself.

Arcanum Unbounded release party ()
#10 Copy


What is the Aon for communication.

Brandon Sanderson

I don't know it, but there is one.

Isaac Stewart

The thing I do is, if somebody asks me those, I go and look at the Aons that we already have, and see if there's one that is close.

Brandon Sanderson

If it's not named yet, and then we give it to you. So we can do that.

Stormlight Three Update #2 ()
#12 Copy


I ordered a copy of the 10th anniversary edition of Elantris (and another for a friend) and asked you to draw the Aon for Mathematics in the cover. However, I forgot to ask for the actual name of the Aon! Can you enlighten me, or do I need to wait for the next book I get signed? :P

Brandon Sanderson

It's actually one that isn't in the books. Should have mentioned it. Soo (Pronounced So-oh.)

Footnote: I picture of the personalization the questioner is referring to can be found here.
Sources: Reddit
Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
#13 Copy


In Elantris the Aon used for healing is Aon Ien, but the definition given in the back of the book says it means "Wisdom". The other Aons have effects and definitions that go together, but "Healing" and "Wisdom" don't seem to match. Is there something there or is it an error?

Brandon Sanderson

It's more a cultural thing. When I was naming the Aons I had some of them cross-align like this because I feel that languages, and cultures, are often messy. (Drive on a parkway, park in a driveway kind of issues.) This is the only one that ended up in the glossary that was like this, though, so I probably should have spotted that and changed it.

Oathbringer release party ()
#14 Copy


Would you care if I took what we have on, like, Aonic, and sort of rolled it into a conlang?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, that'd be fine. Aonic is the one that, like, in some ways the least useful.


It has the most words that I've found for it.

Brandon Sanderson

If you're interested in conlangs, go talk to Peter, and maybe we'll sic you on something. Maybe we can get you working on something officially. I've tried to get Peter to do something... Go talk to him. Talk nerd stuff with him.

Holiday signing ()
#16 Copy


I was noticing that some of the Aons from Elantris, have similar names to the Surges on Roshar. Like there's an Aon for Cohesion, which is a Surge. Does that have anything to do with each other?

Brandon Sanderson

Vaguely, yes.


What about the ones with the names of Shards, like Endowment, which is a Shard.

Brandon Sanderson



Those are related?

Brandon Sanderson



What do they have to do with each other?

Brandon Sanderson

It's a tangential relationship.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
#17 Copy


I just finished reading the 10th anniversary edition of Elantris. I'm... still a LITTLE fuzzy on how the Chasm Line looks, added to the city. Is there any chance you might post a picture of Rao with the chasm line added?

Ben McSweeney

I wish I could, but Elantris artwork is all Isaac's space. I haven't read the 10-year edition yet, but I was hearing it had all-new maps... they're not clearing it up? I'll have to take a look and see what you're seeing.

General Twitter 2015 ()
#19 Copy

Evgeni Kirilov (Part 1/Part 2)

Is asking for an Aonic version of my name (Eugene also works) as the leatherbound Elantris personalization too much work?

I wanted to check before I put the order in. If it is, I'll do something more standard.

Brandon Sanderson

I can totally do that. EnE is an Aon. (Sarene's Aon, of wit.) You'd probably just be Evene.

Evgeni Kirilov

Would the Arelish write that like in Hangul? If so, would each Aon represent a single sound, or its full name?

Brandon Sanderson

They would write the ENE as a single Aon, and the Ev in their equivalent of hangul, where each letter is a single sound.

Evgeni Kirilov

But those are not available in the book? I was aiming for 100% in-world version of my name, but this looks hard now...

Brandon Sanderson

The Aonic Alphabet is not something I ever designed, I'm afraid. This was before I had Isaac.

General Twitter 2015 ()
#20 Copy

Nathan Cutler

The question is where does the Chasm line go on new Aons? The bottom right, away from the Aon?

Peter Ahlstrom (Part 1/Part 2) The chasm line is under the bottom of the square, right of the center dot.

On the Rao it's above the bottom circle, just to the right of the small vertical line.

Nathan Cutler

Ahh, ok. So would it be going down and away from the line (which is the road, right?) in a SE direction?

Peter Ahlstrom (Part 1/Part 2)

Yes, the same angle as the chasm in the picture I linked to.

Though of course, Raoden drew it ending by the road rather than starting by the road. (Stroke direction.)

Nathan Cutler

Thanks Peter! Does this imply that stroke direction/order doesn't matter as long as the end result is right?

Peter Ahlstrom

I can't remember what it says in the text—but you certainly won't go wrong if you draw it like Raoden did, since that obviously works

ICon 2019 ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The linguistics there, with the... for the Aonic... so, I had a couple of inspirations there. By the time I was writing this book, I was looking to do a little bit more interesting linguistics, I was looking to explore linguistics, and I like that one of the ideas I had is... I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Letter-day Saints - Mormon - and I served a two year mission in Korea. While I was in Korea, I fell in love with the relationship between the Korean language and the Chinese language.

If you're not familiar with how that is, in a lot of Asia, Chinese was the writing system for years. For centuries, people wrote in Chinese, even if they didn't speak Chinese, because Chinese is a logographic language, it's not phonetic. When you write the character, the <Hànzì>, you can pronounce it in any language. It can be written... read in any language - we can read them in English, you can read them in Hebrew. They just mean a concept, it's like hieroglyphics, right?

But what this means is, it's really hard to learn to write, because you just have to memorize every symbol and they're very complex, very intricate. So, around... I think it's 1400, someone will have to look that up to make sure, but... the king Sejong of the Korean people, who is remembered as their favorite king, he came in and said "My people are illiterate because Chinese is just too hard to learn. We aren't Chinese, we don't speak Chinese, we're trying to use their writing system for our language. Let's develop an alphabet."

They got a bunch of scholars together and they built an alphabet by which you can write Chinese in Korean, in an alphabet that's a Korean alphabet. It's really fascinating linguistically, because they create Chinese characters that are phonetic to take the place of Chinese characters in their language and then surround them with grammar only in Korean. So, you have like "Chinese character, Chinese character, Korean grammar... Chinese character, Chinese character, Korean grammar..." and you could replace those characters with Korean ones if you want, or you could just leave the Chinese - really cool.

I wanted to develop a language that had these symbols that would also have... that were from an old language... that would then have grammar around them in another language. It was really interesting to me and that's where the Aons came from, this kind of language that predates their culture, predates their linguistics in Arelon. And that they have developed alongside and that they use in their writing system... and if you were to read Aonic, you would see these big Aons and then little Aonic text between them that is bridging all these ideas together with actual linguistics.

So, the Aons I wanted to stand out, I wanted to... when you read them in English to be able to say... and I experimented with making them all caps and it just looked really weird, but that that would be the way that... then you would have to have "RAO" and "den", "RAO" would always be in caps and "den" and readers had real troubles with that. It just read... it looks like you're screaming, right? So, people would read the name *loud* RAO- *speaking normally again* den, *laughter from audience* which is not what I wanted to say.

So I went back, but I still wanted these... So, I used the two long vowels sounds. Whenever you hit a name, they're all gonna have two long vowel sounds in them that are stressed and then an unstressed Aonic portion pushed onto it. So it's /ˈɹeɪ.ˈʊ.dɛn/ [Raoden], where you've got a-o, and you've got /iːniː/ [Ene], /sɑː.ˈɹiː.ˌniː/ [Sarene], and things like that. And even Elantris... I say /e.ˈlɑːn.tɹɪs/ [Elantris], they would say /ˈiː.leɪn.tɹɪs/ [Elantris], and things like that.

I built this just, like, have... I love it, when in fantasy, the form and the function meld together, so that what you're putting on the page actually enhances in all ways the culture and the magic together, but it did make for a difficult reading experience. My first review I ever got for Elantris [...] My first review that ever came in was "This book is great, but the names are terrible. Brandon Sanderson can't name anything. Keep him away from naming things, because the first book he published might be the most linguistically challenging, let's just say."