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World Roshar
Featured In The Stormlight Archive

The listeners are a species of sapient creatures on Roshar.[1] There are two main groups of listeners, the Parshendi on the Shattered Plains, and the docile parshmen. The Stormfather called them the Old Ones. [2]

The listeners can communicate their emotions through certain rhythms to each other and can keep perfectly in time with these rhythms even when apart, although the parshmen do not have this ability. Male listeners grew beards, which they thread through beads infused with Stormlight.



Warform by User:Khal

By staying out in a highstorm with a spren, listeners are capable of bonding with said spren, which has the effect of changing their appearance,[3] physical abilities, and mental capabilities. These changes are known as forms. Many forms are mentioned in the old listener song, the Song of Listing, but most are lost to modern listeners.

With several exceptions -- such as mateform and slaveform -- most Listener forms are asexual.[4][5]

Warform is worn for battle and reign,
Claimed by the gods, given to kill.
Unknown, unseen, but vital to gain.
It comes to those with the will.
—15th stanza of the Song of Listing[6]

Warform gives listeners an armor-like carapace; it also seems to give them advanced physical capabilities, although it severely hampers artistic ability and is not equipped to handle abstractions. Most Parshendi that interact with the Alethi are in warform.

Workform worn for strength and care.
Whispering spren breathe at your ear.
Seek first this form, its mysteries to bear.
Found here is freedom from fear.
—19th stanza of the Song of Listing[7]

Workform also endows significant physical strength, although without the armor of the warform; those in workform also have thinner fingers. While in workform, the Parshendi find it difficult to commit violence and did not like confrontation.

Mateform meek, for love to share,
Given to life, it brings us joy.
To find this form, one must care.
True empathy, one must employ.
—5th stanza of the Song of Listing[8]

Mateform is used for reproductive purposes. A few listeners maintain mating form constantly, although most enter it only briefly in order to reproduce with a partner; if these partners later entered warform they became a warpair. It is a distracting form which makes productive work difficult.

Dullform dread, with the mind most lost.
The lowest, and one not bright.
To find this form, one needs banish cost.
It finds you and brings you to blight.
—final stanza of the Song of Listing[9]

Dullform is an older form which was rarely used after the discovery of the newer forms. Those in dullform are not very intelligent.

Nimbleform has a delicate touch.
Gave the gods this form to many,
Tho' once defied, by the gods they were crushed.
This form craves precision and plenty.
—27th stanza of the Song of Listing[10]

Nimbleform is a form used by the Parshendi scholars because they do not know the correct spren to bond with for scholarform. It does not impede the mind and the fingers are delicate enough for recording their findings. It grows long hair without any carapace to block it and yeilds delicate swirling patterns in their skin, along with a thinner facial structure.

Scholarform shown for patience and thought.
Beware its ambitions innate.
Though study and diligence bring the reward,
Loss of innocence may be one's fate.
—69th stanza of the Song of Listing[11]
Artform applied for beauty and hue.
One yearns for the songs it creates.
Most misunderstood by the artist it's true,
Come the spren to foundation's fates.
—90th stanza of the Song of Listing[12]
Artform for colors beyond our ken;
For its grand songs we yearn.
We must attract creationspren;
These songs suffice 'til we learn.
—279th stanza of the Song of Revision[13]
Meditationform made for peace, it's said.
Form of teaching and consolation.
When used by the gods, it became instead
Form of lies and desolation.
—33rd stanza of the Song of Listing[14]
Nightform predicting what will be,
The form of shadows, mind to forsee.
As the gods did leave, the nightform whispered.
A new storm will come, someday to break.
A new storm a new world to make.
A new storm a new path to take, the nightform listens.
—17th stanza of the Song of Secrets[15]
Decayform destroys the souls of dreams.
A form of gods, to avoid it seems.
Seek not its touch, nor beckon its screams, deny it.
Watch where you walk, your toes to tread.
O'er hill or rocky riverbed
Hold dear to fears that fill your head, defy it.
—27th stanza of the Song of Secrets[16]
Smokeform for hiding and slipping between men.
A form of power, like human Surges.
Bring it 'round again.
Though crafted of gods,
It was by Unmade hand.
Leaves its force to be but one of foe or friend.
—127th stanza of the Song of Histories[17]
Smokeform for hiding and slipping 'tween men.
A form of power—like Surges of spren
Do we dare to wear this form again? It spies.
Crafted of gods, this form we fear.
By Unmade touch its curse to bear,
Formed from shadow—and death is near. It lies.
—51st stanza of the Song of Secrets[18]
Stormform is said to cause
A tempest of winds and showers,
Beware its powers, beware its powers.
Though its coming brings the gods their night,
It obliges a bloodred spren.
Beware its end, beware its end.
—4th stanza of the Song of Winds[19]

Storm form is a newer form re-discovered during the War of Reckoning. It allows the user to have control over wind and lightning. This form causes protective ridges to form along the skin, and causes the eyes to turn red. This form makes its users more aggressive and angry. Listeners bonded to this form can jump chasms without a running start, and shoot lightning from their bodies.

Slave form (Parshmen)[edit]

slaveform, the form with no spren, no soul, and no song. (...) It wasn't really a form at all, however, but the lack of any form.
—Eshonai musing about listener forms[1]

There is also "slaveform," which is not a true form, but the lack of a bond with a spren or lack of a form. The creatures known as the parshmen throughout Roshar are actually listener in this "slave form".

Parshmen live among humans (notably the Alethi but also in Jah Keved and Kharbranth[20]) and generally function as servants.[21] Barely of intelligence,[22] it is said that these people, if left in the woods, would stand around amiably until someone comes along to tell them what to do.[23][24] Generally, a parshmen would take orders without any objection.[20] They could speak but rarely did so.[25]

Physically, slave form listeners are strong enough to perform physical labor.[22] Their skin has either a marbled pattern of black and red or white and red, although the white and red is more common in Alethkar.[21][26]

They care about and are protective of their dead, usually objecting to anyone other than one of themselves tending to them.[27] This care for the dead presumably extended to corpses of other listeners as well.[22]


The listeners speak to Rhythms. These Rhythms are underlying tunes that seem to exist independently from their actual use. Also, Rhythms are "playing" constantly. For example, Rhythms can be used to measure time.[28] Rhythms represent a certain state of mind, the feelings of the person using it. When not paying attention, Parshendi will attune to the Rhythm that corresponds to their mood, but they can attune to another Rhythm in order to fit with their message. Dullforms and "Slave forms" don't use Rhythms. The rhythms connect the listeners.[29]

List of Rhythms[edit]

  • Rhythm of Amusement[30]
  • Rhythm of Annoyance[28]
  • Rhythm of Anticipation[31]
  • Rhythm of Anxiety[28]
  • Rhythm of Awe[32]
  • Rhythm of Appreciation[28]
  • Rhythm of Betrayal[28]
  • Rhythm of Confidence[33]
  • Rhythm of Consideration[28]
  • Rhythm of Craving[31] (new rhythm)
  • Rhythm of Curiosity[30]
  • Rhythm of Derision[33]
  • Rhythm of Destruction[33] (new rhythm)
  • Rhythm of Excitement[30]
  • Rhythm of Fury[33] (new rhythm)
  • Rhythm of Irritation[28]
  • Rhythm of Joy[33]
  • Rhythm of Lost[30]
  • Rhythm of Mourning[30]
  • Rhythm of Peace[33]
  • Rhythm of Pleading[28]
  • Rhythm of Praise[30]
  • Rhythm of Remembrance[28]
  • Rhythm of Reprimand[30]
  • Rhythm of Resolve[30]
  • Rhythm of Ridicule[33] (new rhythm)
  • Rhythm of Satisfaction[33]
  • Rhythm of Skepticism[30]
  • Rhythm of Spite[33] (new rhythm)
  • Rhythm of Supplication[28]
  • Rhythm of Tension[33]
  • Rhythm of Winds[28]


Listeners have existed on Roshar a very long time, even before humans existed there.[Citation needed]

At some point, after listeners felt spren betrayed them, giving Surges to humans instead of them, the listeners turned to other gods.[34][35] These gods, perhaps the Unmade[18] -- though definitely something of Odium[36][37], changed them, into what became the Voidbringers. Later, after the Desolations, Jasnah Kholin theorized that these Voidbringers were not eliminated, but enslaved into what were called the parshmen.[26]

After the Desolations, not all listeners were the unintelligent parshmen; there were several tribes of the dullform listeners, having thrown off the forms of their gods. Raids and assassinations were commonplace, and this later created norms as to how assassinations should have been carried out.[38] These disparate listener tribes eventually unified and moved near the Shattered Plains.

The Alethi discovered this tribe of listeners, shocked that there existed sapient versions of the parshmen. They named the listeners Parshendi. Eventually Alethkar formed a treaty with these Parshendi, but on the eve of the treaty, King Gavilar was assassinated, in an attempt to prevent the listener gods from returning. This led to the Alethi forming the Vengeance Pact, and the War of Reckoning to destroy the assassins.

During the war, these listeners moved their population to Narak from the western edge of the Shattered Plains, where the Alethi warcamps are now situated, though hundreds of thousands of listeners had lived scattered across the entirety of the Plains.[30][28] Eventually, Venli persuaded Eshonai that they would die unless they did something drastic. Venli had discovered stormform, one of their old gods' forms, and Eshonai took the form and was controlled by the form, forcing many other listeners to adopt it as well in order to stop the Alethi and the destruction of their species.

At the Battle of Narak, where Highprince Dalinar Kholin led an expedition to end the War of Reckoning, the listeners in stormform, now referred to as Voidbringers, summoned a storm. Eshonai thought the stormform abilities would summon a highstorm, but they instead summoned the Everstorm, leading to the start of the True Desolation.

Parshendi at some point in their history interbred with humans. The descendants of these Parshendi-human hybrids are modern Roshar's Unkalaki and Herdazian peoples.[39][40]

The Parshendi learned how to capture spren in gemstones by watching humans, then working out the process for themselves. This allowed them to make changes to their forms much more reliably, where before there was an element of chance with the transformation.[28]

See Also[edit]


  1. a b Words of Radiance chapter I-1
  2. Words of Radiance chapter 89
  3. Do Parshendi need a highstorm to change form?
    Theoryland - 2012-11-06
  4. I originally conceived the asexual nature of most Parshendi forms after reading a very thought-provoking article written by someone asexual.
    — Reddit - 17 may 2015
  5. Most Listener forms are asexual, but several forms are different, including slaveform.
    — Reddit - 19 may 2015
  6. Words of Radiance chapter 13 epigraph
  7. Words of Radiance chapter 15 epigraph
  8. Words of Radiance chapter 14 epigraph
  9. Words of Radiance chapter 17 epigraph
  10. Words of Radiance chapter 16 epigraph
  11. Words of Radiance chapter 18 epigraph
  12. Words of Radiance chapter 20 epigraph
  13. Words of Radiance chapter 29 epigraph
  14. Words of Radiance chapter 21 epigraph
  15. Words of Radiance chapter 23 epigraph
  16. Words of Radiance chapter 24 epigraph
  17. Words of Radiance chapter 25 epigraph
  18. a b Words of Radiance chapter 31 epigraph
  19. Words of Radiance chapter 22 epigraph
  20. a b The Way of Kings chapter 3
  21. a b The Way of Kings prologue
  22. a b c The Way of Kings chapter 55
  23. The Way of Kings chapter 28
  24. The Way of Kings chapter 36
  25. The Way of Kings chapter 7
  26. a b The Way of Kings chapter 72
  27. The Way of Kings chapter 26
  28. a b c d e f g h i j k l m Words of Radiance interlude I-4
  29. Are Parshendi like a hive mind sort of culture?
    Theoryland - Sep 22nd, 2012
  30. a b c d e f g h i j Words of Radiance interlude I-1
  31. a b Words of Radiance interlude I-13
  32. Words of Radiance interlude I-8
  33. a b c d e f g h i j Words of Radiance interlude I-11
  34. Words of Radiance chapter 28 epigraph
  35. Words of Radiance chapter 32 epigraph
  36. {{{text}}}
    — Reddit - {{{date}}}
  37. Words of Radiance chapter 34 epigraph
  38. Parshendi once dis-unified
    Theoryland - 2013-02-22
  39. Horneaters are human/Parshendi hybrids.
    Theoryland - August 13th, 2014
  40. The Horneaters and the Herdazians are both descendants of Parshendi/human interbreeding.
    — Reddit - 17 may 2015
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