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Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
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Questioner

What would happen if a Parshendi were to attract a spren and bring it into the Highstorm? Like, an Honorspren of some sort?

Brandon Sanderson

Sapient spren have a choice of whether they get bonded or not, unless you entrap them some way. But simply attracting them...simply going into the Highstorm with one wouldn't work, what you said is 'attracted a spren', so, to answer that actually... The thing is, honorspren, all the spren of Honor and Cultivation, not honorspren capital, Honorspren or whatever... The spren that create the orders of the Knights Radiant have not, in the past, been attracted to Parshendi because of certain events in the past.

Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

You'll have to Read and Find Out.

Tor Instagram Livestream ()
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Questioner

Are Parshendi/human hybrids possible?

Brandon Sanderson

They are. In fact, both the Horneaters and the Herdazians are descendants of human/Parshendi, human/listener hybrids. And there's very, very small remnants of it; they are mostly human. But they have a bit of listener heritage, just like a lot of us have some Neanderthal heritage. They, perhaps, have a little bit more in their past.

So, yes, this is possible.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Blightsong

Nightform seems to be a form capable of powers but doesnt seem like it destroys the original [singer] and replaces it with a Fused like other forms of power, at least based on what they have said in the Listener songs and its surrounding historical context. Am I right here?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Stuttgart signing ()
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Krios (paraphrased)

If you have a form of manipulating your Identity and a form of healing, are you able to shapeshift or even evolve your body like growing wings?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

You'd have to do some real work on your Spiritweb to make that work. It'd take more work than you're implying, but the [singers] for instance are doing this. It'll take a little more work, it's not just blanking your Identity. Hemalurgy would make it very easy, but also very evil. But what you want to achieve is possible.

BookCon 2018 ()
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WeiryWriter

At Emerald City Comic Con earlier this year, you stated that Singer gemhearts are a "milky white" color, and looked like bone/bone marrow. You also said they were related to something in Dragonsteel. Having read the sample chapters of The Liar of Partinel a while back, I couldn't help but be reminded of the skullmoss, which is a bone-white color. Are the singer gemhearts related to the fainlife in any meaningful or important way?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah they are very similar to Tamu Keks.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
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Wetlander

Do you have a single name that you use to refer to all the singers, and the listeners, and the Parshmen: that entire species?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I usually use listener, but that's a cultural thing. So, I don't right now.

Wetlander

I keep struggling with what to call them as a species, and eeehhh are they all singers? I mean they aren't really all singers.

Brandon Sanderson

We'll settle on something eventually.

Wetlander

Okay, but we don't have anything right now.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

YouTube Spoiler Stream 4 ()
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DoritoJH

Is what happened to the singers on Roshar when Ba-Ado-Mishram was imprisoned mechanically [comparable] to what happened to the Terrismen on Scadrial when they were turned into mistwraiths?

Brandon Sanderson

It's more like what happened on Sel with the Elantrians than it is like what happened with the Terrismen. I can see where you're going, but that's not the [analogy] I would've gone to.

Skyward Denver signing ()
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Questioner

Can you turn a parshman into a Parshendi by giving them breath?

Brandon Sanderson

Parshendi is a nationality. So, no. No more than you could make someone an American by teaching them to speak with an American accent. But also, how do you define being a Parshendi when the culture is basically collapsed at this point? Basically, no.

Oathbringer Portland signing ()
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Questioner

If a kandra were a Parshendi, would he be able to take the forms?

Brandon Sanderson

The Forms? The actual-- To an extent, yes. To an extent, yes, but part of that is the spren bond. You're not gonna get everything. You could look like one, but there'll be certain things you won't be able to do, even with the Form. You couldn't take a form of power... You could pass.

Skyward Houston signing ()
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Questioner

How close is the enslavement of the parshmen to the Recreance, timeline-wise? 

Brandon Sanderson

Um, fairly close, as timeline issues go, but still many decades.

Questioner

Did it play any kind of factor in the decision?

Brandon Sanderson

Absolutely. But we're not talking about it happening next year. But it was a factor, how about that?

Skyward Seattle signing ()
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Questioner

What is the inspiration for the Parshendi?

Brandon Sanderson

There are a lot of different inspirations. One is wanting to build out of the setting a species that interacted with the setting and had a symbiotic relationship with the setting. The other was the idea of a people whose caste system, you could change castes and physically change into other castes of the system. So something like the hives you see, where you can switch from worker to various different tasks. I liked the cultural aspects of what that did.

Berlin signing ()
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Questioner

What happens in cosmere terms with Parshendi? Like, they Connect to a spren. And then, by it do they change their Identity, or what?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Basically what's happening is, that symbiosis has a similar effect to Hemalurgy, but not so nasty. And it's being reflected there in the Physical Realm.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Questioner

I know you have gay and lesbian, and you are planning on trans characters and have trans-ish characters. Do you have any asexual characters?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, though I'm cheating. All the [singers] are asexual in certain-- I do have a non-[singer] asexual character, but I cheated and made an entire race of asexual characters.

Skype Q&A ()
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RenegadeShroom

Have any groups of singers ever had any nonbinary genders? That is to say, a fifth gender recognized by their culture, rather than malen and femalen, which seem to function as more of an extension of the gender binary than anything our culture would recognize as nonbinary.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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wiresegal

In OB, you explained that the Singers have four sexes. I was wondering... Can the Singers have genders other than those four, like humans? Even as simple as just not going with male, female, or malen/femalen. Could a transgender Singer use their ability to shift forms to change their biological reality? And, finally, could a Spren be non-binary, if it wasn't personified in a typical male/female way?

Brandon Sanderson

In the cosmere as a whole, a person's perception of themselves has a lot of power over both their Spiritual and Physical forms. It is possible, with Investiture, to change their biology to match Cognitive perceptions--and while this could be easier for some races (like the Singers) it's not outside plausibility for any race.

There are non-binary spren, actually--and you should be meeting one important one quite soon in the books.

General Reddit 2015 ()
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HorseCannon

I didn't realize Horneaters had parshmen blood, didn't even realize that was possible. How closely are humans and parshmen related, do they have a common ancestor? Or is one an artificially created version of the other?

Brandon Sanderson

There was intermixing long ago. Horneaters and Herdazians are both a result. (Signs of this are the stone carapace on Herdazian fingernails and the Horneater extra jaw pieces--in the back of the mouth--for breaking shells.)

Humans and parshmen don't have a common ancestor. And as a side note, both of these strains of humanoids predate the ascension of Honor, Cultivation, and Odium.

ccstat

Are there Aimian-Human hybrids as well? (Either type of Aimian) If so, are the Thaylen people one of these?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO.

Blightsong

*via private message*

Some of us believe that you are saying that humans and listeners existed pre-Shattering while some of us believe that you are saying that Horneaters and Herdazians existed pre-Shattering (you have mentioned that humans had been on Roshar since before the Shattering recently). What were you trying to say here?

Brandon Sanderson

Humans (other than those on Yolen) existed pre-Shattering, as did parshmen.

English Reading Series at BYU 2018 ()
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Finallity (paraphrased)

We've seen a number of human/singer hybrids (Unkalaki and Herdazians) and even human/Aimian hybrids (Natans). How is such a thing possible biologically or is there some outside influence there?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

He said that they (humans and parshendi/aimians) can interbreed because they were made by the same person, or rather that they were made with the same intent, that they were made that way on purpose. They don't have a common heritage or anything though.

YouTube Spoiler Stream 2 ()
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snowdayplease

Does the fact that singers have red bones mean that they have red teeth?

Brandon Sanderson

I have not indicated that to the artists, so I'm going to say no. It would cause a revolution in fanart. Though Isaac can overrule me on that as he's art directing and things. It probably would make sense for them to have red teeth, but we haven't done much color art and I don't know if they've ever been smiling. They probably would but I have not described them that way. I don't think I've described it the other way either, so we could move forward that direction. They probably should have red teeth. It looks pretty cool, red teeth looks kinda nifty, I do like that. Sinister to our preconceived notion of what is sinister is how I'm kind of designing the singers.

YouTube Livestream 14 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Horneaters are capable [of drinking the Horneater White]. They actually are human-singer hybrids, like the Herdazians, but in a different line. And they have a different physiology. And they actually are not 100% human and are capable of eating and ingesting things that would kill a person.

Isaac Stewart

Can singers?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, singers can drink the Horneater White.

Words of Radiance Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

Is it possible - not will there be, but is it possible - for a Parshendi to become a Knight Radiant?

Brandon Sanderson

In the past, they would've said— How about this, in-world everybody would tell you no. It's never happened.

Footnote: It has since been revealed that singers can become Radiants.
Boskone 54 ()
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yulerule

If a Parshendi takes a parshman by the hand, gives them a gemstone with a spren in it, leads him out into a highstorm, can the parshman become a Parshendi in the same way that they become a voidbringer?

Brandon Sanderson

Now, yes, before no. The everstorm changed them, there’s something going on. In fact, as that scene continues, with Gavilar and Eshonai, there is a clue in that scene. But I didn’t get to that part.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Questioner

For the creatures on Roshar... where do you start in your worldbuilding for that kind of hting?

Brandon Sanderson

So where I started for Roshar was the highstorm. So I knew I had the highstorm and I was going to want to build out from that, and I would want an ecology that incorporated the magic. Those were kind of the two things I was looking for. I wanted everything to deal with the storms in some way and be affected by them, and I wanted Stormlight and spren to be integrated into the way that the worldbuilding happened because this was my big worldbuilding epic. So I started along those two lines, and that's where gemhearts came from. That is where-- The [singers] grew naturally out of that. A lot of the creatures and things I looked toward tidal pools because I figured this was kind of a similar sort of thing, an environment that has to deal with a drastic change, a biome that deals with this repeatedly every day.

JordanCon 2021 ()
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Chaos

Another friend, the one who needed to eat a shoe because Eshonai died, is obsessed with direforms, the Regal forms, and would love to know their ability set.

Brandon Sanderson

You can tell her, or him, or them, that the ability set will be decided upon as they are relevant to the nature of the story.

YouTube Spoiler Stream 1 ()
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Phillip

Did true spren prior to the Recreance have many mannerisms and societies based on the singers?

Brandon Sanderson

This gets into tricky sorts of things, because there's a long history to Roshar. So when you ask a question like this, the question becomes: when? There is a time when the spren were mostly focused on the singers. And there's a time before the humans arrived when they were fully focused on the singers. And so, the answer to that question is "yes", but I don't think that's what you're asking. I think you're asking: "During the years of the various Returns and things like that," and the answer then would be: "No, not in large quantities." What is happening here, with Rlain and Venli and the crowd, is all kind of new ground for both them and the singers. Both the spren and the singers.

Starsight Release Party ()
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Questioner

Can you explain the difference between a singer and a listener? 

Brandon Sanderson

Singer is the name of the people in their own language. Listener, this group that split off from the singers and did not want to be called singers anymore, called themselves listeners and that name perpetuated. You could say that singer is the name of race and listener is the name of the nation.

YouTube Spoiler Stream 5 ()
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ParshendiOfRhuidean

Is there a connection between the roles of a certain order of Knight Radiant and the singer form associated with their Platespren, such as artistic Lightweavers and artform both having creation spren?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, there is a connection, a deliberate connection on my part there. It's hard to keep all of these things one-to-one because there are way more forms than there are orders of Knights Radiant and things like that, so don't read too far into it, but I do make those connections deliberately where I can.

Oathbringer Houston signing ()
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Pagerunner

Were there always slaveform parshmen between Desolations, or did that only happen after the False Desolation?

Brandon Sanderson

That, I believe only happened after the False Desolation. I have gone back and forth on that, but I think I can canonize it there. You do have to check with Peter. We had a big conversation about this a few years ago. But I'm pretty sure slaveform is a creation of the Last Desolation.

Pagerunner

Of the Last? Or the False one? ...Because, in the epigraphs, they're talking about how that one Unmade was getting in on them--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. Oh, the False? No no no...

Pagerunner

So, it was done in the Last Desolation, but it was undone somewhat in the False Desolation, and that's what we saw in the...?

Brandon Sanderson

Uh, no no no-- yeah, it is False. It is False Desolation.

Peter Ahlstrom

Slaveform happened at the False Desolation.

Words of Radiance Houston signing ()
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Questioner (paraphrased)

How about the other way around? Can a Parshendi bond a Knights Radiant spren?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Historically, the Parshendi were not made Knights Radiant, or the parshmen weren't.

Questioner (paraphrased)

Can they become squires maybe?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Historically they did not, but it's not impossible.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Argent

Would a parshman who received multiple breaths, or any other type of Investiture, be able to gain sentience or become more like listener-- Kind of like mistwraith/kandra?

Brandon Sanderson

That would require some Identity changes and transformations.

Argent

So it's not just a dump of--

Brandon Sanderson

It's not just a dump. It's a biological thing for them, they've adapted. So they've evolved to the point where this sort of thing-- It would be like trying to power DC with AC current or the wrong voltage or something like that... I mean once you figure it out it could be an easy hack but finding out that hack it's like-- You know it's like going back to people in the 1800's and being like "Why don't you guys have electricity?" *laughter*

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Questioner

I was wondering, in Stormlight, what kind of gem the [singer] gemhearts were, or do they just, do they hold Stormlight well?

Brandon Sanderson

So, this is a good question. This is one that people have been asking me since the first book, if they had one, and I've finally kind of confirmed it in book three. So the reason people don't think [singers] have a gemheart is it is milky white, and looks like bone.

Questioner

But aren't their bones red?

Brandon Sanderson

Their bones, well-- Their bones are red-- not completely. If you're going to pull out the bone, what you're going to see-- I'll explain it in the next book. So what you're going to do is, if you break open the bone, you're going to find this white-- It's not marrow but it is, yeah I guess it's marrow. Anyway at the center kind of in their sternum there is a gemheart there, but it is fused to the bone and it is grown into the bone, and you have to kind of snap it open and find it inside, and it kind of just looks like marrow, but there's a gemheart in there. And it kind of relates to some stuff in Dragonsteel that I'm not gonna get into. But you'll see in the next books. But there's a good reason people just don't think that [singers] have a gemheart. 

Questioner

So they must not glow much then, I'm assuming.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, well, it's surrounded by bone. So it's a different special thing. We'll bring it out in the following books. It might not be the next one.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner

Music on Roshar... How, why is it important, I mean more a why--

Brandon Sanderson

Why music? Music, the Rhythms you are speaking about specifically, or what?

Questioner

...There seems to be a lot that connects to music, with like the Dawnsingers, there's lots of people hearing the Rhythms--

Brandon Sanderson

It all comes from the Rhythms. That's all kind of interconnected.

Questioner

So they kind of hear where the Rhythms are originally coming from?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm not saying that.

Starsight Release Party ()
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Questioner

So the Parshendi Rhythms. They talk a lot about them as like music. So do you imagine them as rhythms where they talk like this or is their a melodic quality to it? 

Brandon Sanderson

That is what they're doing. There's not very much melodic quality to it. They set songs to the Rhythms. The way I have it in the books, in my mind, and the canon, is there is Connection between them and the songs of Roshar. That they can pick up a Rhythm when there's actually not enough of it, even in a sentence, because of the intent of the Rhythm and what the other person's hearing. So they can hear a Rhythm even if it's only a couple words being said, that you couldn't learn, if you were just a human listening. No matter how good you were. Some you wouldn't be able to pick up because there is not enough information there. 

Questioner

So they're just like kind of complex rhythmic things that you could write out musically.

Brandon Sanderson

You could. You definitely could write them out.

Rhythm of War Preview Q&As ()
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jurble

So there's speculation in this thread about whether the Singers have a Fishform relating to the Thrill getting tossed into the sea...

and that makes me wonder - are all Singer forms predetermined by whatever deity created them or evolution, or can new ones arise spontaneously when new spren are created?

Brandon Sanderson

New forms could exist.