Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter One Hundred Three

Welcome back to the Oathbringer Reread! This week is either meta or surreal, depending on your perspective and/or your definition, as Dalinar has a lovely chat with … well, with someone who may or may not be a product of his imagination. Or maybe it’s a Shardic interaction. Or… who knows? Click on through and see what you think it is.

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread—if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done. This week’s reread doesn’t contain spoilers for any other books; although there’s a very brief discussion of Realmatic Theory, it’s just what was in the text.

Lyndsey and Aubree were unavailable this week for various real-life-related reasons, so yours truly will be flying solo. Wheee!

Chapter Recap

WHO: Dalinar
WHERE: Though Dalinar is physically in Urithiru, the action is in Vision-Kholinar
WHEN: 1174.2.5.4 (Three days after fleeing from Vedenar, the Thrill, and the curates)

Dalinar “wakes” in a place he just barely recognizes, and finds Nohadon writing a shopping list. The two of them converse about life and leadership issues until Dalinar is smashed out of his presumed vision by a bunch of thunderclasts; he discovers that he’s in bed in Urithiru, it was (probably?) a dream, and he remembers the night of Gavilar’s funeral in great detail.

Beginnings

Title: Hypocrite

“I’m a lie, Nohadon. A hypocrite.”

“Sometimes a hypocrite is nothing more than a man who is in the process of changing.”

As Dalinar notices, this is something he himself said in the past. He just didn’t realize how true it could be, and how hard it could be to deal with your own past once you’ve changed.

Heralds: Jezrien, Herald of Kings, patron of Windrunners, Protecting/Leading, King

This chapter couldn’t really have anyone else, could it? The whole thing is Dalinar interacting with a legendary king on the subject of leadership.

Icon: The Kholin Glyphpair indicates Dalinar’s POV.

Epigraph:

Many cultures speak of the so-called Death Rattles that sometimes overtake people as they die. Tradition ascribes them to the Almighty, but I find too many to be seemingly prophetic. This will be my most contentious assertion I am sure, but I think these are the effects of Moelach persisting in our current times. Proof is easy to provide: the effect is regionalized, and tends to move across Roshar. This is the roving of the Unmade.
–From Hessi’s Mythica, page 170

She’s got a valid point about regionalization, from what little we know of the Unmade. The Almighty could (or could have in the past, anyway) affect things planet-wide, but the Unmade have localized effects. Some are very concentrated, like Yelig-Nar who deals with a single individual, while others affect a wide area, like Moelach or Nergaoul. Some… we don’t know yet. Hopefully we’ll get more information from Hessi, for whatever reliability you place on her words.

Also, notice the underlying assumption (pointed out to me by Aubree)—the Death Rattles can’t be from the Almighty, because they’re too often prophetic, and of course we know that seeing the future is evil and from Odium, not our precious Almighty!

Stories & Songs

Yes, he remembered this place well. This was the vision where he’d met Nohadon, author of The Way of Kings.

We return to history and legend, and there’s no way to know where they overlap. This is a familiar place, as Dalinar has returned to this vision several times. Except that, of course, it’s not the same vision. I question the validity of this vision, honestly. Or rather, I really wonder about its provenance. It’s clearly not a new vision from Honor. Is it from Odium? Cultivation? Or is it just a nightmare—Dalinar’s brain trying to sort out all the craziness that’s going on in and around him?

(Side note: I have a quibble with the Coppermind entry on Nohadon; it reads as if Dalinar’s visions are true to life and this is really what Nohadon was like when he was older. We really don’t know if that’s true; it depends totally on the source of this vision/dream/whatever-it-is.)

Speaking of which… what is it?

Dalinar started toward the balcony, but storms, that light was so intense.

This reminds me of … well, somewhere along the line, when Odium invades one of Dalinar’s visions. The light is super intense until Odium moderates it for him, if I’m remembering it right. Does that imply this is from Odium?

“Yes, you shop, don’t you?”

“I … usually have people to do that for me.”

“Ah, but of course you do,” Nohadon said. “Very like you to miss a simple joy so you can get to something more ‘important.’”

This is really bugging me now. This sounds like someone who actually knows Dalinar. Honestly, I’m leaning more and more toward this being Cultivation, but I’m not sure I can articulate why—other than I’d rather have her than Odium messing with Dalinar’s mind. And that last crack about missing a simple joy for something more ‘important’—to me, that sounds more like Cultivation than Odium, but I can see the opposite argument.

Nohadon leaped off the side of the balcony. He laughed, falling and sliding along a cloth banner tied between a tower window and a tent below. Dalinar cursed, leaning forward, worried for the old man — until he spotted Nohadon glowing. He was a Surgebinder — but Dalinar had known that from the last vision, hadn’t he?

First off—so you still have to go up the hard way, but why not go down a slide instead of the stairs, if you can? Second, I now really wonder what Surges Nohadon could bind. The first time we saw him, in the vision of The Way of Kings, Chapter 60, he mentioned that “not all spren are as discerning as honorspren.” Does that mean he is bonded with an honorspren? Or is Karm, the man Dalinar stands in for in that vision? On a bet, I’d guess Nohadon is a Windrunner just prior to the establishment of the Orders, but that doesn’t really explain why he’d need the slide. (And of course there’s always the question of whether the spren at that time were already limited to the two Surges per race, and all that, but… that’s another area of speculation altogether.)

“I walked all the way to Urithiru on my own. I think I can manage this.”

“You didn’t walk all the way to Urithiru,” Dalinar said. “You walked to one of the Oathgates, then took that to Urithiru.”

“Misconception!” Nohadon said. “I walked the whole way, though I did require some help to reach Urithiru’s caverns. That is no more a cheat than taking a ferry across a river.”

This made me laugh—Dalinar telling Nohadon what he really did. Like you’d know better than he would, dude? Heh. (Of course, neither Dalinar nor I believe he’s talking to the real Nohadon, but still!) I also like the way this ties into the beginning of Part Two, when they discovered that there was a tunnel system below Urithiru that, followed far enough, took them out into the foothills of Tu Fallia. According to the book, Nohadon claimed to have walked “from Abamabar to Urithiru”—but we know that his seat was a much-earlier Kholinar. Could Abamabar be the likewise much-earlier name of Kholinar? I mean… why not? If I can go on the assumption that he started from his home—which, if Abamabar = Kholinar, had its own Oathgate, no walking required—he would have had ample space to do all the things he recounted, but it would still have been a reasonable distance. And I don’t see why Nohadon would talk about the journey through all these lands if he hadn’t done it. Look at where Tu Fallia is on the map:

If you’re walking from Kholinar to Urithiru, you go through Alethkar, Vedenar, Triax, and Tu Fallia—and, come to think of it, possibly right up Cultivation’s valley. Huh. Obviously Dalinar has been there; I wonder why he hasn’t put this together. Unless he’s just accepting the standard explanation without really thinking about it, which… well, people are known to do that. From time to time. I guess.

Ooookay. Back to the matter at hand.

He reminds me of Taravangian, Dalinar suddenly thought. How odd.

We just recently got a new WoB telling us that Taravangian also dealt with Cultivation rather than the Nightwatcher to receive his boon and curse (though he doesn’t seem to realize that, per his thoughts in Chapter 121). If this vision is from Cultivation, could that resonance be what Dalinar senses as a similarity between Nohadon and Taravangian, like Lift noticed in Dalinar? And in that case, are all the odd visions (the ones that don’t come from Honor/ SF or obviously from Odium) from Cultivation? I sure do enjoy speculating some days…

Then there’s this fascinating—and central—discussion about principles, with Dalinar thinking that making the right decisions should always have good results. Nohadon disagrees, at least in the immediate sense.

“Isn’t a principle about what you give up, not what you gain?”

“So it’s all negative?” […]

“Hardly. But maybe you shouldn’t be looking for life to be easier because you choose to do something that is right!”

It’s a very human thing to think: if I make the right choices, life should go well for me. And yet, if you want to talk about right and wrong in an absolute sense, rather than “right = what is good for me personally,” Nohadon is absolutely correct: sometimes, doing the right thing bears a tremendous cost in the short term. Sometimes, the benefit is a long, long way off; sometimes, the benefit is for someone else. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

A wise person once said, “We all choose what we want most.” The immediate response is, “No, we don’t, or I’d stay in bed instead of going to work.” If you think about it, though, you get out of bed and go to work because in the long run, you want the paycheck (and you want to keep the job so you get the rest of the paychecks) more than you want to stay in bed today. Often, we do things in the way that is socially acceptable not because of the thing itself, but because of the social acceptance that comes with it. Or, if you’re in one of my Facebook groups, you refrain from talking about RL politics even when you think it’s a relevant topic, because you’d rather stay in the group than start that discussion.

Dalinar knows this, at some level, but it’s fun to see him work through it consciously.

He saw it above the buildings, a stone creature with an angular face and red spots glowing deep in its rocky skull. Storms! And he had no weapon.

Nohadon stepped from the tent, holding his bag of grain. He looked up and smiled.

(Gotta say, that creeped me out! I thought for sure this was an Odium-vision at this point!)

The creature leaned down, then offered a large, skeletal hand. Nohadon touched it with his own, and the creature stilled.

“This is quite the nightmare you’ve created,” Nohadon said. “What does that thunderclast represent, I wonder?”

This is just getting surreal. The person in his dream/vision, likely created by a Shard, is now asking Dalinar about the nasty creatures with which he’s populated said dream/vision. ACK. But Dalinar’s response to the question just hurts:

“Pain. Tears. Burdens. I’m a lie, Nohadon. A hypocrite.”

And without copying it all, Dalinar finds himself surrounded by monsters who crush buildings.

The rest of the interaction belongs in the next section.

Weighty Words

“All things exist in three realms, Dalinar,” Nohadon said. “The Physical: what you are now. The Cognitive: what you see yourself as being. The Spiritual: the perfect you, the person beyond pain, and error, and uncertainty.”

Welp. There you have Realmatic Theory in a nutshell. Good luck understanding all the implications, though!

“You’ve said the oaths,” Nohadon called. “But do you understand the journey? Do you understand what it requires? You’ve forgotten one essential part, one thing that without which there can be no journey.”
“What is the most important step a man can take?”

“Journey before destination.” This is so big, so profound. Nohadon, or Dalinar, or a Shard (probably), knows that while he’s said the words, Dalinar hasn’t really grasped the concept of the journey. Or at least he hasn’t grasped how intentional his own personal journey needs to be, completely aside from leading the nations. As before, he’ll soon assume (chapter 105, I think?) that the most important step is the first step. It’s not until nearly the end of the book that he realizes the truth: the most important step is always the next step. You can’t just start; you have to keep going.

Bruised & Broken

It had been … what, three days since his return from Jah Keved? His excommunication from the Vorin church?

He remembered those days as a haze of frustration, sorrow, agony. And drink. A great deal of drink. He’d been using the stupor to drive away the pain. A terrible bandage for his wounds, blood seeping out on all sides. But so far, it had kept him alive.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about the professional definition of alcoholism, but it occurs to me that Dalinar may not ever really have been an alcoholic. He was, if anything, a Thrill addict; he couldn’t stay away from that particular adrenaline rush. But alcohol… it was never anything more than a way to numb his mind, either from lack of the Thrill, or from his own painful memories. He wasn’t, as near as I can tell, irresistibly drawn to drinking most of his life; he turned to it as the only available means of drowning out his brain. As I said, I’m no expert, and I’m not saying that many alcoholics don’t do exactly that. It just seems that, except for a few years, Dalinar has always been able to have wine with a meal, or at a social event, without any inclination to drink too much. It’s only when he’s bored and missing the Thrill (e.g. Chapter 49) or after the destruction of Rathalas and Evi’s death (Chapter 88) that he turns into a complete drunken sot. Most people I’ve talked with who have actual experience indicate that “a single drink” virtually doesn’t exist for them; one inevitably leads to many, or at least to the nearly-overwhelming urge for more. They have to stay away altogether.

So… he’s broken, that’s for sure. Who wouldn’t be, with such knowledge suddenly bursting in? But I’m not sure he’s an alcoholic; I think he’s just a tormented man who uses liquor (or firemoss) to drown out the things he can’t cope with any other way. Once there’s another way to deal with it, whether it’s Cultivation pruning his memories or—as in the current sequence—returning them, he simply sets aside the alcohol and gets on with what needs to be done. I could be wrong, but that doesn’t sound like any description of alcoholism I’ve ever heard.

Dalinar awoke, huddled in his bed in Urithiru, asleep in his clothing again. A mostly empty bottle of wine rested on the table. There was no storm. It hadn’t been a vision.

Speaking of alcohol… He certainly thinks the whole thing was an alcohol-fueled nightmare. I think it was a vision from Cultivation, who doesn’t need a highstorm, like the Stormfather does, to touch his mind.

He buried his face in his hands, trembling. Something bloomed inside of him: a recollection. Not really a new memory—not one he’d completely forgotten. But it suddenly became as crisp as if he’d experienced it yesterday.

The night of Gavilar’s funeral.

The night that started him on The Way of Kings. But we’ll deal with that in his next chapter, in two weeks.

Places & Peoples

“I’ll be cooking Shin loaf bread today, if I can get the ingredients. It always breaks people’s brains. Grain was not meant to be so fluffy.”

You have to do a little connecting of dots, but in just a few chapters, Szeth will comment on a grass that reminds him of wheat. I’m thinking that Nohadon is going to buy wheat to make bread that’s more like what we’re used to—and that most of Roshar eats some form of flatbread rather than anything resembling a loaf. Yet another reminder that Shinovar is very Earth-like, while the rest of Roshar is very not.

The men wore long skirts, tied at the waists by wide girdles, some of which came all the way up over their stomachs. Above that they had bare chests, or wore simple overshirts. The outfits resembled the takama Dalinar had worn when younger, though of a far, far older style. The tubular gowns on the women were even stranger, made of layered small rings of cloth with tassels on the bottom. They seemed to ripple as they moved.

Seems like this ought to be verifiable somehow; was this really a style from … whenever this was? Roughly five thousand years ago, or maybe six thousand? Come to think of it, that might be hard to verify! But there’s no way this is Dalinar’s imagination or memory creating these images. I just don’t buy that.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

“Stormfather?” Dalinar called, his voice echoing. “Stormfather, why have you sent me a vision? We agreed they were too dangerous.”

It’s worth noting that, though Dalinar doesn’t point it out, the Stormfather never answers. In a later chapter, he’ll deny any knowledge of this event. I’m assuming (as noted above) this means that Honor had nothing to do with this one.

Quality Quotations

It swung open easily beneath his touch, and he stepped out of the loud sunlight to find himself in a circular room.

“Loud sunlight.” What a lovely, unexpected phrase.

Welp. The more I work through this chapter, the more I’m convinced that it’s one of the Shards. There’s just too much knowledge represented that Dalinar couldn’t possibly have. And for a lot of different reasons, not all of which make much sense, I believe it was from Cultivation. What do you think it was? Nightmare? Odium vision? Cultivation vision? Something else entirely? Discuss!

Also, join us next week for Chapter 104, in which Navani tries to keep the show on the road.

Alice is excited and apprehensive: volleyball playoffs begin tonight!

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