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The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I've already talked about how much I love the maps in this book. Isaac is amazing. He also did the chapter symbols, which are interesting in that they are based off of the symbols in the first book. If you compare, you can see that they're the same symbols, only changed. The idea is that these symbols in this book are earlier versions of the same alphabet in the previous book, used here since this book will be partially about the characters looking into what happened in the world a thousand years back. You can imagine the epigraphs (the italicized things at the beginnings of the chapters) written in this alphabet. Modern people in the book, then, write in the version of the alphabet that is used in book one.

We had planned some pretty dramatic artwork to use in the book along with these–some large-scale symbol glyphs using the alphabet–but eventually decided not to go with them. Not only was Isaac swamped, but Tor was giving us grief about the length of the book (I'll talk about that later.) In the end, I'm glad we went with only these–they are elegant, and I like how they work with the previous symbols.

Interview with Isaac Stewart ()
#2 Copy

Trevor Green

I know some of us have heard the story of how you came up with the symbols for Mistborn, but tell those of us who haven't how they came about.

Isaac Stewart

I'd drawn about a half dozen pages of symbols inspired by my first reading of the book. Pages with dozens and dozens of tiny, intricate symbols—maybe someday I'll write a post about the process: Failed Allomantic Symbol Designs. But nothing was really working for me or Brandon.

I'd collected a lot of reference material for the steel inquisitors—nails, railroad spikes, those sorts of things—and one day when I was looking at a picture of a rusty pile of bent up nails, I saw the symbol for iron. It was a Beautiful Mind experience. The symbol just jumped out at me. Glowing and everything.

After that initial experience with the symbol for iron, it was easy to come up with the others. The bent nail part eventually became the crescent shapes used in the final book.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
#3 Copy

Questioner

I actually have a weird question. From the Mistborn series it says there are 16 Allomantic metals but then you go into Alloy of Law and the 16 are listed there, minus the atium and another one, so are there really 18 metals?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, you see those two were not really metals. Those were pieces, fragments, of a god.

Questioner

I thought that might be it but the symbols are the same above them from-- the atium symbol is the same as--

Brandon Sanderson

No, it's a different symbol, it might be reversed though.

Shadows of Self Boston signing ()
#4 Copy

AndrewStirlingMacDonald (paraphrased)

I have a question about the way that the brass symbol changed. It looks like brass no longer has a dot. Can you talk about that?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

That is just Issac deciding how he wants the symbols to look. It is nothing of Cosmereological import.

AndrewStirlingMacDonald (paraphrased)

Is there anything of cosmereological import about the way that the symbols have changed over time?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes, slight import. I mean, it's just the idea that as things have evolved, and we are moving toward typesetting; we've moved into typesetting in the modern era, you're going to see the symbols change to kind of match different eras.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#5 Copy

EHyde

I was also wondering, with the Steel Alphabet in the Mistborn books, each of the letters aesthetically looks like it's built from a cuff, a spike, and a bead, and was that intentional to reflect the magic systems?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Do remember that that writing system was developed by the Final Empire. They actually took the ancient Terris symbols and they made them more to their own aesthetic over time.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

I just started Part 3 [of The Final Empire?] and I actually went over to your booth to ask them because I was confused. There are different symbols for the Allomantic metals but I only recognize one of them here. Why are there different symbols you don't know about at the beginning of different parts?

Brandon Sanderson

Part of it is they don't know all the metals yet, in the books, and so that's a hint. Part of it is because that their writing system is more than 16 letters and so there are symbols that do not represent a metal, necessarily, or an Allomantic metal so they can-- They write with them as well. It is both a writing system and each symbol is a metal.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#8 Copy

Questioner

The symbols before the chapters [in The Well of Ascension], are those alloys for the god metals?

Brandon Sanderson

No, the symbols before the chapters are the same symbols as in the first book from a different era. Same thing for the third book, they are the exact same symbols from a different era.

Miscellaneous 2012 ()
#10 Copy

FireOx

Do we know the exact purpose for creating 3 different symbols for each book's metals (chapter symbols)? Is it for the 3 metallic arts? If so, which belong to which?

Isaac Stewart

Hi FireOx! The three sets of symbols show the progression of the Allomantic text through the ages. The earliest script is from Hero of Ages. It was changed and modified into the Terris script symbols we see in Well of Ascension. After more time, the Terris script morphed into what is now known as the Allomantic Alphabet or the Steel Alphabet, which are the symbols used in Mistborn: The Final Empire. We've extrapolated the Steel Alphabet into a script that's more-standardized and refined for the chapter headings in Alloy of Law, which takes place 300 years after Hero of Ages.