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Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Another big change was renaming the Lord Ruler's priests. Originally, they were called just that–priests. And, the Steel Ministry was the Steel Priesthood. I made the change to Steel Ministry and obligators because I didn't want the religion and government in the Final Empire to feel so stereotypical. This was a world where the priests were more spies and bureaucrats than they were true priests–and I wanted the names to reflect that. So, I took out "Priesthood" and "priests." I really like the change–it gives things a more appropriate feel, making the reader uncertain where the line between priests and government ministers is.

By the way, my friend Nate Hatfield is the one who actually came up with the word "obligator." Thanks, Nate!

Anyway, I when I changed the priests to obligators, I realized I wanted them to have a more controlling function in the Final Empire. So, I gave them the power of witnessing, and added in the aspect of the world where only they can make things legal or factual. This idea expanded in the culture until it became part of society that a statement wasn't considered absolutely true until an obligator was called in to witness it. That's why, in this chapter, we see someone paying an obligator to witness something rather trivial.

This was one of the main chapters where obligators were added in, to show them witnessing–and keeping an eye on the nobility. Moshe wanted me to emphasize this, and I think he made a good call. It also gave me the opportunity to point out Vin's father, something I didn't manage to do until chapter forty or so in the original draft.

Alloy of Law 17th Shard Q&A ()
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Chaos (paraphrased)

For people really into the obscure workings of the politics of the Final Empire, we asked about the legality of assassinations.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It turns out that you have to ask the obligators' permission to assassinate someone--and permission, of course, means bribe in this context. The Steel Ministry can say yes or no. Presumably more high level people would cost more money to be killed. Of course, if the Ministry says no, you can always risk it and assassinate illegally, but you'd have to be very careful not to get caught. Even with legal killings you need to keep things quiet. Brandon said the Steel Ministry has much more corruption than governments in our world. Corruption which we would abhor is commonplace in the Final Empire.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Yomen Is a Seer

That raises the question of how Yomen discovered that he was a Seer. He mentions that atium was too valuable to waste on testing for atium Mistings. That's true, but incomplete. The Lord Ruler did test his obligators for the power, particularly the high-ranking ones. Those he found were told of their power and used as an extra level of security. There weren't many, but there were some—and they tended to rise very quickly in the ranks (like Yomen) and be given important positions. Yomen's power with atium made him a valuable secret weapon, and when in a position of power, he could use his ability to quell rebels or perform feats of wonder to keep the people in line.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This altar room is about all you get to see of the actual religious trappings of the Final Empire. As I've said earlier, I intentionally gave the religion in this book a bureaucratic feel. I think that with a living God, the people would be less inclined to faith, prayer, or that sort of worship–and it would be more about obedience and loyalty. So, the obligators and Ministry are police more than they priests.

Yet, I did want to hint that there are some ceremonial aspects to the religion–they just aren't things that the Lord Ruler cares about the public masses taking part in. This little room, with its strange bowl of tiny knives and odd altar, was intended to evoke a kind of mystical, religious feel. Enough to hint that there's more that the readers don't know, but not enough to get boring.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I like the obligator scene in this chapter, as it gives Vin a chance to realize just what the whole obligator system is about. Regular priests watch over the spiritual well-being of their people. The Lord Ruler doesn't really care about that. So, his priests watch over the economics of his empire. Seems like something a living god would do.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Metal Triangles

The triangles Marsh uses to kill people were requested by my writing group. For those up on your obscure Mistborn trivia, in book one we get some glimpses (really our only glimpses) of the ceremonial aspect of the Lord Ruler's religion. In that religion, the common people—even the nobility—were not asked for devotion or faith. They were required to obey and fill their roles in the Lord Ruler's empire, but they never had to worship.

The priests, however, were required to do more. They had to perform daily prayers and ceremonies to the Lord Ruler, worshiping him and maintaining a religious air that the rest of the world never saw or knew about. Involved in these rituals, on occasion, was the process of slicing one's body with small triangular razors. When Vin and Kelsier infiltrated Kredik Shaw in book one, one of the Inquisitors shot a handful of the razors at Vin.

My writing group wanted a return appearance of these things, though I don't know why. Still, I stuck them in, as they were a nice reference back to book one.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

What happened to the Ministries?

Brandon Sanderson

The Ministries, being a legacy of the time of the Lord Ruler's rule, there are trappings of them left but they don't use any of the same names or anything like that.

Ben McSweeney

Can't have the old labeling.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. I mean-- There are cities you can go to where there are more echoes of that sort of thing.

Questioner

Yeah because New Seran made me think of that.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. I mean there are cities you can go that have more echoes of that but in Elendel you can barely even find the trappings anymore-- but you can find some of them. But You won't go in there and find, like, the Ministry of this-or-that. Because it was run by Kelsier's crew, most of that did not make the transition. Though there were notable Obligators who made it through and so they have left their mark. You have to search for it though.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Eight

Vin and Elend's Marriage

A very simple wedding, all things considered. I found that appropriate, as I though that Sazed would approach such things in the most elegant–but simple–way possible.

This is also kind of a strange scene, when you think about it. I write myself into some interesting situations in this series. I don't know that I before this moment, I'd ever thought I would be writing a wedding involving a half-naked eighteen year old girl who is bleeding from three wounds, one in one of her breasts.

Some people have complained that this is just too quick a marriage. One thing to remember is what Sazed explains. For a thousand years, the only way to get married was to get the witness of an Obligator. Even for skaa, an obligator was required to authorize a wedding. And that's ALL it took. If an obligator said you were married, then you were. Sometimes, the nobility or the skaa had their own ceremonies surrounding a wedding, but they were more civil than religious. In fact, it's a tiny bit of a stretch to even have Elend associate a wedding with religion.

Of all the people in the book–heck, in this entire world–Sazed is probably the closest thing to a real spiritual leader one could find. In that way, Vin and Elend were quite fortunate to have his blessing. Breeze and Allrianne, for instance, didn't bother with a wedding. Now that the Lord Ruler is gone, those sorts of things have lost a lot of meaning–if, indeed, there ever was any meaning to them in this society.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Obligators. This is the first time you see them in the book. It isn't the last time you'll see them, but it's nearly so. They just don't have much of a part in the story now.

I toyed with making them villains in the novel, involving them a lot more in politics, but discarded that concept. I decided that 1) The Lord Ruler's power was broken, and that fighting against remnants of it would be a little anti-climactic. 2) There just wasn't any more space in the book for more villains.

The armies invading Luthadel, and their leaders, are bad enough. Part of my rational is that the warlords–not the priests–are going to be the real danger in this new world. The priests were a force for stability. Now that everything has been overthrown, they simply won't have any power to be of a threat.

Though, I will note that a major force in the third book is, indeed, an obligator who has taken control of a section of the empire.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#13 Copy

Questioner

We hear a lot in The Final Empire about various titles and such from the Steel Ministry. Can you give us very little as to their actual structure and what they do...

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah I can talk about this.

Questioner

They only thing you can't is the ranks.

Brandon Sanderson

So the Steel Ministry, in the Mistborn books. The interesting thing I considered when I was writing them was "What is the purpose of the priesthood when god is there in the palace and everyone knows it? And if you disobey you just get your head cut off." So what do you do? I made the Steel Ministry more government, like the post office is run by priests. And a lot of what priests do is witness official business, take your money for doing so and give you a stamp that "Yes I witnessed this" and things like this, but they also run all the public works. It's not like they're cleaning the sewers themselves but overseeing the sewers, overseeing engineers, most of the engineers who built the city plans would be obligators.

Which by the way you named didn’t you? There he is, Nate Hatfield was in my writing group for many years. We were driving to writing group once and I wanted a cool word for a priest, because I was just using priests in the original version of Mistborn.  I'm like "I need a great word" and he-- How did you even come up with that word?

Nate Hatfield

You really want to know?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

Nate Hatfield

Thesaurus. *laughter*

Brandon Sanderson

...There's Nate. You can congratulate Nate on coming up with obligator. And was it you that came up with the Conventicle, or was that Peter? Conventicle was Peter.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Conventical is Moshe's word, by the way. I’d originally called it the Covenant of Seran. However, not only did the Halo games decide to make good use of the word Covenant, but my editor found it somewhat inaccurate. So, he suggested Conventical–which I liked immediately. It's a real word, though I think I spell it differently, which refers to a meeting of high level church officials. The term fits with the Steel Ministry, which doesn't have priests, but instead has Obligators and doesn't have a Priesthood, but instead a Ministry. Everything's pseudo-religious, instead of being directly "on" religious.