Jun 10 2014 1:00pm

Brandon Sanderson Answers Your Questions About The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson Q&A The Way of Kings Stormlight Archive You asked, and Brandon Sanderson has answered! In conjunction with the end of our reread of The Way of Kings, we gave Tor.com commenters the opportunity to ask Brandon Sanderson questions about The Way of Kings. He sat down and took the time to answer some of them!

The following answers are transcribed from audio he recorded specifically for this Q&A. Click through to find out whether people get dairy to eat all these lobster-dogs with, how a certain pair of royal siblings gets along, and possibly everything you could ever want to know about social climbing.


1) From Michael Pye:

One thing I’ve noticed around the release of Words of Radiance was you pointing out that The Stormlight Archive is really two series of 5 books each. Was that something you wanted to make clear so as not to be daunting to perspective readers or just more about how the story has developed since you began?

It’s a mixture of both, honestly. I do want to be wary of not being too daunting to readers who are jumping into this thing and have been reading The Wheel of Time. They might think, “The Wheel of Time was ‘promised’ to be six books and it ended up at fourteen. If you promise six, how long is this one going to be?”

But it’s also because I want to start preparing readers for the break that’s going to happen at book five. I’m going to stop writing the series for a few years, and then the “back five” (as I’m calling it) will focus on some different characters than the front five. So I have a lot of good reasons to be preparing people for what’s going to happen there. Our expectations are a very big part of our enjoyment of all different kinds of entertainment mediums.


2) From JeremyG:

How is Kaladin able to consistently recognize Syl, even when she’s in different forms?

This has to do with their bond.


3) From Underbelly:

As a man of many projects, you seem very good about compartmentalizing your workload to be able to complete or advance a project independently while midway through even larger commitments. That being said, even authors such as Stephen King have viewed a certain project as their ‘life work’. Would you consider The Stormlight Archive to be this to you (or at least your early life’s work—being as young as you are) or rather does your ability to compartmentalize extend to your accomplishments as well as your workload in that you can view your achievements independently?

I consider the Cosmere sequence to be my life work—of which the Stormlight Archive is a major part, but it’s not the only part. Compartmentalizing projects is the nature of how I work, to keep myself fresh, but the interconnection of the Cosmere means it’s not entirely compartmentalized.


4) From cyddenid:

How well do Elhokar and Jasnah get on?

Fine, I would say. This is a bit of a spoiler for the end of Words of Radiance, but you will eventually see that they’re the sort of siblings who are both used to doing their own thing and getting their own way. They’ve both learned to stay out of one another’s business. That said, Elhokar is also used to being surrounded by domineering people of various sorts. So having a domineering sister is really nothing different to him.


5) From thanners:

Dalinar can’t hear his wife’s name (or at least it seems to be magically censored to him, anyway), nor can he recall anything about her. But what happens if another woman with the same name is mentioned. Can he not hear her name? Or will he instead be unable to retain the fact that that name is the same as his wife’s name?

It would be more the second.


6) From shdwfeather:

One of my favourite parts about Roshar is the diverse set of cultures that exist in the world. Could you talk about some of the inspirations for the complicated cultures such as the Alethi?

Building Roshar, I wanted to make sure that I was doing a little extra worldbuilding work. I don’t want to say that for something like Mistborn I’m not doing worldbuilding work, but my focus was in other areas. I wanted Mistborn to be accessible, so I made it an Earth analogue.

I consider Roshar my showpiece for worldbuilding, and as such I wanted everything about it to display some of the best of what science fiction and fantasy is capable of: new ecologies, new cultures, cultures that feel real but that at the same time are not just earth analogues. Because of that, I’ve done a lot of work to individualize and distinctify a lot of the various cultures on Roshar.

Now, that said, creativity is really the recombination of things you’ve seen before. We as human beings, by our very nature, can’t imagine something we’ve never seen. What we can do is take different things we’ve seen and combine them in new ways. That’s the soul of creativity. It’s the unicorn idea—we’ve seen things with horns, and we’ve seen horses. We put the two together and create something new, a unicorn.

Because of that, I don’t know if it’s possible to create a culture in a fantasy book that isn’t inspired in some way by various earth cultures. I’m trying not to be as overt about it as The Wheel of Time was, because one of the cool things about The Wheel of Time was its twisting and turning of Earth cultures into Randland cultures.

That’s a big preface. What are my inspirations for the Alethi, for all of the different cultures? There’s definitely some Korean in there. There’s some Semitic cultures in there. The magic system table, the double eye, is based on the idea of the Sefer and the Tree of Life from the Jewish Kabbalah. That’s where I can trace the original inspiration of that. I can trace the original inspiration of the safehand to Koreans not showing people the bottom of their feet because they felt that that is an insult—that’s not something you do. I can trace the Alethi apparel to various different clothing influences. I’m hoping that a lot of where I get the cultures is based off the interplay between the setting, the histories, the idea of the highstorms, and the metaphor of the desolations. My influences come from all over the place.


7) From MRC Halifax:

To what extent has the economy of the world been planned out? Obviously, there’s a refreshingly fair amount of economic activity happening in the novels, often times helping to move along the story. But to what extent do you have it planned out already vs. “I’ll come up with it when I need it.”

That is to say do you know that place A sells to place B, but place B has nothing to sell to place A and so sells to place C, which sells to place A, influencing the trade patterns of ships. And what the price of a horse is in A vs. B vs. C., or the price of an inn for the night, or the price of a pair of well made boots. Have you worked out how people are taxed and tithed, how the trade routes flow, how comparatively wealthy people are around the world, etc?

For a lot of these things I’ve done some of it, and for others I decide what to do when I need it. One trick in worldbuilding is to focus your attention on the things that are going to be a source of conflict or passion to the characters. It would be very easy to spend twenty years worldbuilding and never writing. So there is a fair bit of both, but most of what I focus my attention on is where is the conflict. Trade deals are a source of conflict, and so where it’s a source of conflict to the cultures I have spent more time dealing with it.


8) From Neuralnet:

The characters eat all of these crustaceans... do they have some sort of butter to dip into—even without cows, although maybe they have cows in shinovar? (I can’t be the only one who envisions himself on Roshar eating dinner every time I eat crab or lobster)

Their milk products are much lesser used, but they do get cream and whatnot from sow’s milk. The pigs on Roshar produce more milk from years of natural genetic modification—breeding and whatnot—in the same way that humans have bred cows over the centuries. So they do have milk products. Some of their curries will have different types of cream. Whether they’re dipping the crustaceans depends on the culture. For instance, Horneaters have teeth that break claws. Their back molars are different from standard human molars. To a lesser extent, the Herdazians have the same thing going for them. For those two cultures, they’ll chew the shells and eat them. For the Alethi, they’re probably dipping the meat in a curry, or just preparing the curry with the crustacean meat in it. There are other cultures where they’ll sauté it or have a sow’s milk dipping sauce or things like that.


9) From Jasuni:

When Szeth walked through an area he had lashed in Interlude-9, could he have decided to let himself be affected by his own full lashing? How does this extend to other surgebinders?

Using a full lashing to stick yourself to something is inherently inferior to changing the gravitational pull and being able to move on that plane instead. So I see very rare instances where you would want to. But it is within the scope of the powers to be affected by it if he wanted to be. It will still affect other Surgebinders, and they will not be able to not be affected, unless there is a specific ability or item that is preventing it.


10) From Phantrosity:

In The Way of Kings, we see a lot of worldhoppers on Roshar. Have you already seeded worldhoppers FROM Roshar in your other works?

Yes. You’ve met several.


11) From EMTrevor:

Would an Awakener be able to awaken a corpse that was soulcast into stone more easily because it used to be living, thereby being able to create lifeless similar to Kalad’s Phantoms without having bones in the framework?

Yes. That would definitely work.


12) ESSH and Isilel both wanted to know:

What are the mechanics of rising or falling in dahn/nahn rank? Isilel provided these examples:

Let’s say somebody from a very low nahn, who is basically a serf, right? I mean, they don’t have the freedom of movement. So, what if a man like that rises to a sergeant and serves 25 years with distinction, does he go back to being a serf when/if he retires from the military? Would he be required to return to his village/town of origin? Can something like this be properly controlled, even? I mean, do they check travelling people’s papers?

There’s a lot of parts to this. Rising within nahns and dahns happens more easily in Roshar than rising in social status did in most societies that had similar things in our world—for instance India, or even England. To an extent, it is very easy to buy yourself up a rank. What you’ve got to remember is the very high ranks are harder to attain. By nature, the children of someone of a very high rank sometimes are shuffled down to a lower rank—until they hit a stable rank. There are certain ranks that are stable in that the children born to parents of that rank always have that rank at as well. Your example of the soldier who serves with distinction could very easily be granted a rank up. In fact, it would be very rare for a soldier to not get a level of promotion if they were a very low rank—to not be ranked up immediately. The social structure pushes people toward these stable ranks. For the serf level, if you’re able to escape your life of serfdom and go to a city, often getting a job and that sort of thing does require some measure of paperwork listing where you’re from and the like. But if you were a serf who was educated, that would be pretty easy to fake. What’s keeping most people as serfs is the fact that breaking out of it is hard, and there are much fewer of those ranks than you might assume. The right of travel is kind of an assumed thing. To be lower ranked than that, something has to have gone wrong for your ancestors and that sort of thing. There are many fewer people of that rank than there are of the slightly higher ranks that have the right of travel. It’s a natural check and balance against the nobility built into the system. There are a lot of things going on here. Movement between ranks is not as hard as you might expect.

Ditto with the lighteyes—does exemplary service raise one’s dahn?

It’s much harder for a lighteyes, but the king and the highprinces can raise someone’s dahn if they want to. But it is much harder. In the lower dahns, you can buy yourself up in rank. Or you can be appointed. For instance, if you’re appointed as a citylord, that is going to convey a certain dahn, and you could jump two or three dahns just by getting that appointment. Now, if you serve poorly, if a lot of the people who have the right of travel leave—which this doesn’t happen very often—if your town gets smaller and you’re left with this struggling city, you would be demoted a dahn, most likely. If a lot of the citizens got up and left, that would be a sign. They could take away your set status by leaving. That’s something that’s built into the right of travel. So these things happen.

If parents have different nahns/dahn’s, how is child’s position calculated? For instance, if Shallan had married 10-dahner Kabsal, what dahn would their children belong to?

The highest dahn determines the dahn of the child, though that may not match the dahn of the highest parent. For instance, there are certain dahns that aren’t conveyed to anyone except for your direct heir. The other children are a rank below. I believe that third dahn is one of the stable ranks. If you’re the king, you’re first dahn. Your kid inherits. If you have another kid who doesn’t marry a highprince, and is not a highprince, then they’re going to be third dahn, not second, because that’s the stable rank that they would slip down to, along with highlords and the children of highprinces.

Or, and another thing—what happens if a lighteyed child is born to darkeyes or even slaves? Which should happen often enough, given that male nobles seem rather promiscous. Anyway, are such people automatically of tenth dahn?

The situation is very much taken into account in these sorts of cases. Normally—if there is such a thing as normal with this—one question that’s going to come up is are they heterochromatic. Because you can end up with one eye of each color, both eyes light, or both eyes dark. That’s going to influence it a lot, what happens here. Do you have any heirs? Was your child born lighteyed? This sort of thing is treated the same way that a lot of societies treated illegitimate children. The question of, do I need this person as an heir? Are they born darkeyed? Can I shuffle them off somewhere? Set them up, declare them to be this certain rank. Are you high enough rank to do that? Are you tenth dahn yourself? What happens with all of these things? There’s no single answer to that. The most common thing that’s probably going to happen is that they are born heterochromatic. Then you’re in this weird place where you’re probably declared to be tenth dahn, but you may have way more power and authority than that if one parent is of a very high dahn, just as a bastard child in a royal line would be treated in our world.

The Way of Kings Reread on Tor.com: ‹ previous | index
Jeremy Guebert
1. jeremyguebert
Yay! Many thanks to Brandon for answering our questions, and to Carl et. al. for organizing this. Plus, I got one of mine answered, which is nice :)

Some fascinating stuff here, particularly the answer to number 10. Any speculation as to who those would be? If there's any truth to the theory that Vasher = Ishar, then he would be one. Any others?
2. jenken89
JeremyGuebert - Hoid is definitely a world hopper. He's in several of Sanderson's books already, such as Mistborn - he's an informant - and he's also in Warbreaker.
Jeremy Guebert
3. jeremyguebert
Well, yes, of course. But Hoid isn't from Roshar, is the thing. The wording here implies to me that there are world hoppers that we've seen in other books who have originated in/on Roshar, which is what I'm finding interesting.
Jordan Frandsen
4. jorgecuervos
Cool answers Brandon, good questions everyone.

I too am curious about the travelers FROM Roshar. Might need to do a little bit of re-reading and look for names/personalities in the other books that might give clues to Roshar nativity, such as nearly symmetrical names, foreignness, etc.
5. Rachel G
"8) From Neuralnet:.....(I can’t be the only one who envisions himself on Roshar eating dinner every time I eat crab or lobster)"

No, Neuralnet, you are not. Furthermore, anytime I eat chicken I think "Mmmm! Exotic chicken from Shinovar!" :D
Dixon Davis
6. KadesSwordElanor
Do I seriously have to now go back and reread all of Brandon’s works to see who from Roshar is a worldhopper?!! Arrrrgh ::Grumbles, stupid OCD::
Nick Hlavacek
7. Nick31
As always, I'm impressed by the creativity of the questions and the depth of the responses. Some of these are questions I wouldn't have thought to ask myself, but I'm glad someone did!
8. tnv
One question I really wish someone would ask/answer is what happens to left-handed Roshar women? Presumably they would be forced to use their right hands anyway, the way a lot of lefties were forced to convert, but surely they would have messy handwriting for no clear reason.
Adam S.
So wait, wait, wait. Really? There are worldhoppers from Roshar in the other books? When did that happen? Who are they? Answer me!!!!
Yes, I loved this piece, I've been very excited about it and I'm so glad you guys did it, thank you. But BWS just totally discombobulated me with that bit of info, and like KadeasSwordElanor@6, I'm worried that I have a couple thousand pages' worth of Cosmere re-reading to try to find these Rosharian worldhoppers.
Jordan Hibbits
10. rhandric
Great questions and answers! Time to go reread ALL the things, to find those Rosharan worldhoppers!
Alice Arneson
11. Wetlandernw
It's nice to have friends who are just as OC as I am...

Actually, I hope y'all are more OC than I am, because then you'll go do all the reading and report back, because I seriously don't have it in me to reread all the Cosmere books this week.
Deana Whitney
12. Braid_Tug
Just when I thought it was going to be Thursday...
So, Carl... Did anything get a RAFO?

Re: Worldhoppers -
if their appearance is a quick as Hoid's first one in Mistborn - how will you spot them?
13. Nkhborn
Are you ever planning on making an RPG out of roshar, or cosmere even? Or are there any you know of? That would be damn near the best thing ever
Andrew Berenson
14. AndrewHB
I thought Brandon's answers to Question #12 to be fascinating.

Thanks for reading my musings.
(aka the musespren)
15. Phantrosity
Woo, got it answered! Now to speculate!

Thanks a lot, Brandon!
Rich Bennett
16. Neuralnet
Wow, Thanks for the answers Brandon!

Lots of new details to absorb and think over. some of the answers really make you appreciate the deep level wordbuilding Brandon has done with this series and the cosmere in general.

@Rachel G - Glad I am not the only who likes to immerse themselves in the imaginary smells/tastes of Roshar.
Jeremy Guebert
17. jeremyguebert
Nkhborn @ 13 - There isn't anything I know of for Roshar specifically or the Cosmere as a whole, but there is one for Mistborn/Scadrial. Check out the Mistborn Adventure Game: http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CC4QFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.crafty-games.com%2Fcontent%2Fbuy-mistborn-adventure-game&ei=23KXU-i9G9eyyASChIHYDg&usg=AFQjCNGX6XRVHjtY1sAADAyleO15pI0E9w&bvm=bv.68693194,d.aWw

There's also Mistborn: Birthright, which is a forthcoming video game set in the Final Empire era.
Robert Dickinson
18. ChocolateRob
@5 Whenever I eat a parrot I think exotic Shin chicken.
Jeremy Guebert
19. jeremyguebert
Also, relating to question 9 in the article: there's an interesting application of Kaladin doing this very thing in WoR (specifically, the "Monsters" chapter).
Karen Fox
20. thepupxpert
Wow I just stumbled into this today, I knew Brandon was taking questions but didn't know it was coming out today, thanks!

I love the idea of chickens being so exotic, there's a real clash of cultures going on, I can't imagine evolution bringing chasmfiends and horses together on the same world so there's definitely some world-hopping and DNA-sprinkling going on...
Carl Engle-Laird
21. CarlEngle-Laird
Some things got RAFO'd, and were not included. (Such as WetlanderNW's question. IT HAPPENS TO ALL OF US)
Jennifer B
22. JennB
The genetics are different than I expected. I can't think of a heterochromatic character ever being mentioned. Maybe he will show one in a future volume.
23. miriam12
Sow milk and crustaceans? Yeah, I'd starve to death on Roshar.
I knew that Brandon based the safehand concept on his time in Korea, but I didn't pick up on the Kabbalah influence. That being said, Kabbalah is kind of overused in fantasy, especially considering how insanely complicated it all is and how it takes years of studying to even begin to understand the Zohar.
26. E.N. Weiry
@21 - Would you mind sharing the questions that got RAFO'd its helpful to know what has been RAFO'd in the past so people don't ask questions that have already been asked. Even RAFO's can be valuable in there own way.

@22 - There aren't any mentioned heterochromatic individuals in WoK, but there is one in WoR.
Maiane Bakroeva
27. Isilel
Hm, some interesting things there. We have already seen worldhoppers originating from Roshar? Multiple ones? Very intriguing.

Nice to learn more about social ranks too, particularly the stable and heir-only dahns.

A bit confused about how military service affects one's social rank. There is a lot about "buying one's way up", but doesn't it contradict the view of military service as the highest calling for a man? As, apparently, it is difficult and rare to raise one's dahn through service alone.
Easier with nahns, seemingly - does it mean that pre his enslavement Kaladin, as a legendary squadleader in Amaram's army, had reached the first nahn? If so, it hasn't ever been mentioned, IIRC.
Also, at least one of the kids at Hearthstone had a father who had been a soldier, yet the family still was of a very low nahn. In fact, wasn't it one of the problems of Kaladin's family, that everybody else in town was of much lower nahn than they?

And why on earth should hetherochromia be common? Also, it appears that genetics of eye color must be different on Roshar, because Sanderson seems to envision that only direct bastards of lighteyes have a chance to be born with light eyes themselves.

Swine milk?! Yikes.

Awakening of corpses soulcast into statues could be horribly effective, it seems. Here is to hoping that Awakening doesn't work on Roschar like it does on Nalthis...
Alice Arneson
28. Wetlandernw
miriam12 @23 - I console myself that at least they have bacon...

Isilel @27 - Re: increasing one's nahn through military service, I'm assuming that it does happen, but that it depends on a lot of other things. Like, you have to have a high-ranking light-eyes willing to make it happen, and probably it takes a LOT of service time and promotions before it gets done. You can't have someone move up a nahn every time they move up in rank, or it would skew the balance of power too much. So even though Kaladin had moved up a rank (or two?) it might not be enough to make anyone consider changing his nahn.

You're right, though; it does seem like military service ought to have more of an effect on nahn, given the Alethi's "highest calling" mindset. On the other hand, given how much the Alethi dedicate themselves to fighting all the time - internally, if there's a lack of handy external opponents - it looks like an example of how pragmatism generally has more effect on everyday life than idealism. There's also the argument that a soldier will be rewarded in the afterlife by having the "privilege" of fighting for the Tranquiline Halls, and I'm sure there are plenty of people in power who will use that as a facile alternative reward to actual social change.
Leeland Woodard
29. TheKingOfCarrotFlowers
Yeah, there was a guy that was in the military in Kaladin's village, but that doesn't mean he had any sort of high rank. Remember, the one that was in the military also tried to get people to believe that he won a shardblade.
Glen V
30. Ways
So now I'm craving a lobster roll or 2, but a trip to New England for lunch is not likely. Instead, I'll cogitate on world-hoppers from Roshar who we have seen in other cosmere novels.

jeremyguebert @1
I hadn't heard the theory that Vasher = Ishar. Interesting. I expect someone has already verified that time lines allow for the possibility. However, we don't have WoB that the heralds are native to Roshar. That question has been asked and RAFOd more than once.
Jeremy Guebert
31. jeremyguebert
Ways @ 30 - I think the biggest argument in favour of it is the fact that for both chapters in WoR featuring him, all four Herald icons were Ishar (whited out for WoR spoilers, not sure if that's necessary anymore). Wetlander was the first one I heard the theory from, she might have more details/background.

Good point on the origin of the Heralds, now that you mention it. There are also a couple characters seen in WoR that obviously have some worldhopping connections (Mraize's group of Ghostbloods), but again no firm indication that they originate on Roshar either...

It's always a pleasure to re/read Bradon's works, but I don't know if I'd actually notice anyone just based on description, to be honest. Very curious to hear what others discover, though.
Rob Munnelly
32. RobMRobM
@30 - had lobster roll yesterday in Rhode Island. Tasty.
Karen Fox
33. thepupxpert
All - this has probably been discussed ad naseum somewhere but can someone give me the difference between dahn and nahn or direct me to the discussion?
Karen Fox
34. thepupxpert
I also assume that anyone who discovers who the Roshar world hoppers are will share with the group, right? I don't know if that would be considered a spoiler...
35. miriam12
Wetlandernw @28: Bacon won't help me either, I keep kosher.
Alice Arneson
36. Wetlandernw
thepupxpert @33 - Dahn is the ranking system for lighteyes, and nahn is for darkeyes.

Also @34 - I certainly hope so!!

miriam12 @35 - I'm thinking Roshar may not be a great vacation destination for you... Shinovar might be okay, but in the rest of the world, you're going to have a tough time finding kosher proteins, I think. You might have to bring a large supply of jerky.
Karen Fox
37. thepupxpert
Thanks for dahn/nahn info, Wetlander, it's all so obvious now!
Andrzej Pietkiewicz
38. quintus79
@28, regarding ranks:

We know Kaladin's father was of the third nahn, a pretty high rank with some privileges. Kaladin must have either inherited his father's nahn or the next stable rank. So there's little room for social advancement for him, he was already quite high up and being a squad leader is not something that'd ever push him above 3rd nahn.

On the other hand, I infer from what Brandon said that becoming a soldier would bestow a certain minimum rank on a person if they were of a lower rank than that minimum. There's nothing there that suggests an automatic rank up unless you're below the lowest stable rank for a soldier.

I must say this system is pretty ingenious.
39. elezraita
I asked Brandon about the cosmere chronology at a WoR booksigning. If I remember right, he said that all of the cosmere books so far have come out in chronological order. It's been awhile, so I could be remembering wrong, but I doubt it. I then asked about where in the chronology the prelude fell; he refused to answer the question, but said it was a good one. So, it seems that the only worldhoppers originating from Roshar would necessarily be the Heralds, assuming that we have actually met the worldhoppers from Roshar in the Stormlight Archive as well as in other books. As far as Ishar=Vasher, it seemed pretty apparent to me given his mannerisms and the presence of a certain sword (Nightblood must love Roshar, as I imagine it can feed off of stormlight as well as breath).
40. elezraita
Sorry about that last part. I tried to white it out, but for some reason my formatting got lost and I can't edit the post. So annoying.
41. Katesco
I've known that the plan was to break the series into two parts, but...I really dislike the idea of becoming so invested in these characters and then focusing on completely different ones in the last five.

I know I should trust it will be done well, and satisfying, but the idea of only having Kaladin and the others for three more book (barring what will sure to be some deaths I'm sure) makes me ... Frowny.
Kerly Luige
42. Celebrinnen
No Kaladin and Syl for books six to ten? That is ... extremely sad :( And to lose all the others as well, even if it is done well ... :(

Vasher is a good guess. Since I doubt I myself will be capable of making the connections without somebody pointing them out to me, I'm looking forward to revelations about other worldhoppers :)
Jordan Hibbits
43. rhandric
@42 I'm pretty sure the idea isn't that it won't be no Kaladin and Syl, they'll just be relegated to secondary characters - so, no Kaladin and Syl PoV, but they'll still be involved in the story. Current secondary characters, like Renarin (and Lift!) will become the PoV characters.
Maiane Bakroeva
44. Isilel
Yea, as I understood from the reports of Sanderson's Q&As, the second pentology will have PoV characters that we are already familiar with, and who have already featured in the Interludes as PoVs. So, it isn't like he'll switch from established characters to somebody completely new.

Quintus79 @ 38:

Kaladin's parents are from the second nahn and so is Kaladin. It has been mentioned that their ancestors bought their way into it.
From Brandon's answer it doesn't look to me like there are "unstable" nahn ranks. There are only 5 of them, after all, as opposed to 10 dahns, which do feature "heir-only" ranks.
And IIRC, "squadleader" was the highest military rank open to darkeyes, prior to Dalinar naming Kaladin "captain". Surely, reaching it and being the best squadleader in an army should be worth some social promotion? In a society where military career is considered to be the highest calling, for a man?
45. Gimpman
@42, 43, & 44
Yeah, definitely not brand new characters, unless Brandon changes his plan. Link! http://www.theoryland.com/intvmain.php?i=612#7
E.N. Weir
46. WeiryWriter
@44. There are only 5 nahn? Where did you see that?
Alice Arneson
47. Wetlandernw
Re: nahn - The lowest one mentioned is sixth nahn, but I'd think there are probably ten nahns just like the ten dahns.
49. Idealsofaith
How does the dahns and nahns works? I'm really confused about this and really need someone to explain it to me.
Alice Arneson
50. Wetlandernw
@49 - For lots of info, check out the Coppermind article: http://coppermind.net/wiki/Dahn and jump from there to the related article on nahn.

Quickly, it's a social ranking system. Lighteyes rank from 1st dahn (the king and his heir) to 10th dahn (the lowest you can be if you're a lighteyes. Below that - always below, socially, though there are other situations where it matters less - are the darkeyed nahn ranks. Again, they go from 1st nahn, which will be the wealthy and often well-educated darkeyes, to 10th nahn, which is essentially a serf. Most darkeyes are between 3rd and 8th or so.

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