From The Coppermind
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Coppermind has spoilers for all of Brandon's published works, now including The Sunlit Man. Information about books that have not yet been released, like Stormlight 5, is allowed only on meta-pages for the books themselves. For more details, see our spoiler policy. To view an earlier version of the wiki without spoilers for a book, go to the Time Machine!

Type Cognitive Shadow
Sapient Yes
World Nalthis
Universe Cosmere
Featured In Warbreaker, The Stormlight Archive
This page or section needs to be updated with new information for Yumi and the Nightmare Painter!
Be aware that in its current state, it may not include all additional content yet.

The Returned are resurrected humans on Nalthis. Vasher referred to them as Type One BioChromatic Entities--Spontaneous Sentient BioChromatic Manifestations in a Deceased Host.[1] But upon further study, he now classifies them as a Type Two Invested entity.[2] They are a kind of Cognitive Shadow.[3]

The Returned, who retain no memory of their previous existence, are worshipped as gods in Hallandren. The exact process of a Returned's resurrection is unclear; however, Lightsong had a Voice speak to him.[4] This voice is confirmed to be the Shard Endowment.[5] The Voice gives people a glimpse into the Spiritual Realm, which let them see a possible future, she then offers a chance to Return and change the events of the vision. Any Returned can have children, but it requires special knowledge.[6]

Becoming a Returned[edit]

A person can become a Returned when dying on Nalthis. The exact process of a Returned's resurrection is unclear, but they are chosen deliberately by the Shard Endowment, where she gives people a glimpse into the Spiritual Realm (which lets them see a possible future in the Physical Realm[7]) and offers them a chance to Return and change the events of the vision.[5][8] Endowment can be somewhat erratic when choosing.[9] A person can be any age when they Return and there have been children, babies, grandparents, and people in their middle years who have Returned.[10] A person who Returns keeps their soul.[11] If a person has Returned before reaching adulthood, their minds will grow very quickly and their bodies will grow normally then stop once reaching the point of adulthood.[12]

How long it takes for a person to Return after they have died can vary, but can take hours or longer. Once the process starts, the person will start glowing, their body will heal, and they will wake up.[13] This generally leaves the Returned confused and disoriented, and they will retain no memory of their previous existence.[14] Returned will retain general knowledge and skills of their previous life,[12] although, if they were a Knight Radiant prior to death they will lose their Nahel bond.[15]

Becoming Returned without being born on Nalthis is very hard,[16] but is possible, even without having collected any Breath.[17] Lifeless can Return if they were made into a Lifeless right after they died.[18] There are ways to use other magic systems to create a Returned.[19]

A larkin nearby can prevent a person from Returning.[20]


Each Returned is gifted with a single, powerful Breath which allows them to reach the Fifth Heightening. To those of the First Heightening, this Breath appears infinite and immeasurable.[21] This divine Breath is a Splinter of Endowment.[22] A Returned may give this Breath in an act of self-sacrifice to heal one person.[23] Giving away their divine breath will lead to the death of the Returned.[24] Their divine Breath can be suppressed by Investing it into a place within themselves, but this will remove the abilities granted by the Heightenings.[25] The divine Breath, if given to another, will not stick with the person or make them Return.[26]

Each Returned consumes one Breath per week as a consequence of being reborn. The bodies of the Returned feed on any Breaths they have available, and many Returned live for one week only because their bodies consume their divine Breath on the eighth day, killing them a second time.[27] On the seventh day, they start to grow weak and sluggish and will return to full strength after consuming a Breath on the eighth day.[27] This is due to their nature as a Cognitive Shadow and not a function of the divine Breath itself.[28] If they suppress their divine Breath they still need to consume a Breath a week.[29] Returned can survive without extra Breaths until the day they need to consume one.[22] Returned can receive more Breaths on top of their single divine Breath, stockpiling them to consume so that they don't need to receive one each week.[30] Returned can also consume other types of Investiture, such as Stormlight, to feed their divine Breath. They must consume the same amount of Investiture per Nalthian week when doing so,[31] though it is unclear if they must do so all at once or if it can be spread out over time.

If a Returned has extra Breaths, they can use them to Awaken like any other person would.[30] When Awakening, Returned will use regular Breath before using their divine Breath, and will only give away their divine Breath if they push for it.[26] They can use their divine Breath to Awaken objects.[32]

Divine Breaths interfere with other forms of Investiture such as spren bonds, making it harder for the bond to form.[33]

Abilities and Appearance[edit]

All Returned have increased strength and speed, and are able to move inhumanly fast.[34] Their bodies will not grow stronger from exercise or weaken from a lack of it.[35] They are also immune to most physical sicknesses and ailments,[36] including headaches,[37] and all toxins, including the effects of alcohol,[38][37] and are possibly also immune or resistant to insanity.[23] They do not need to eat or drink to survive, but do need to sleep so their short-term memories get moved to long-term storage.[39] A Returned has the inherent ability to see into art and perceive the artist's soul and interpret correctly an abstract piece, based on what the artist is trying to convey, in a way that a normal person cannot.[40] Their raw levels of Investiture are very high, being almost as high as an Elantrian.[41]

Their divine Breath allows them to reach the Fifth Heightening. Children and animals can sense a Returned's divine Breath, which has an effect on their spiritweb and in the Cognitive Realm, making them feel comfortable and react positively to the Returned.[42][43] A Returned may give this Breath in an act of self-sacrifice to heal one person. The healing ability can cure diseases, heal almost any wound, and regrow lost body parts. The sacrifice does not grant the Fifth Heightening to the receiver.[23] The divine Breath can be used for things other than healing, though no one in-world has figured out how to do it yet.[44]

The new appearance of those that Return are in accordance with what they subconsciously think physical perfection is or how they see themselves.[29] However, this is based on how they view societal standards on beauty and perfection rather than purely on their own standards.[45] The old gods look old and the heroic gods look strong, for example.[46] A Returned can, with the correct training, learn to change their appearance, such as changing their height, weight or hair color, but only to a reasonable extent.[34] A Returned's appearance can react to their emotions similar to the Royal Locks, and they sometimes start reverting to their default appearance while extremely emotional or not paying attention.[43] However, common traits include being larger than normal humans, around seven feet in height, and giving off the color-altering aura of the Fifth Heightening.

A Returned is able to suppress their divine Breath, altering their appearance to look like a normal human, losing the Fifth Heightening in the process.[46] However, a normal-looking Returned still has traits commonly associated with Returned, such as increased strength and speed.[34] They can also be affected by toxins like alcohol, although still not as much as a normal human.[47] When a Returned reaches the moment that prompted them to Return, they often remember why they chose to Return and much of their previous life.[48][4]

Cultural impact[edit]


In Hallandren the Returned are worshiped as gods sent by the Iridescent Tones to guide their followers. As such the Returned are fed one Breath each week in order to maintain their lives. The Returned are petitioned by the people of the city to give up their Breath as a cure for illnesses.[23] The more caring of the Returned would help the people via other methods if they reject petitions. They are also expected to perform auguries by reviewing works of art sent by citizens, and their priests record their dreams, words, and acts at all times to search for prophetic glimpses.[49] It is also a belief that every Returned exists for a specific reason.[50]


Due to their religious beliefs, Idrians consider it an abomination to give up their Breath. Lacking a supply of Breath, Idrian Returned usually live for one week and die on the eighth day when they consume their divine Breath. Whether this fact affects the vision they see when Returning is unknown. It is not unheard of for Idrian Returned to travel to Hallandren to avoid dying and be worshipped instead.[51]

Pahn Kahl[edit]

Pahn Kahl believe that Returned are people who deny the power of the gods and are forbidden entrance into heaven. They are otherwise seen as just normal people and not sinners worthy of hell, so they’re given a chance to come back to have another try at life and to try to find belief this time.[52]

Other cultures[edit]

A person in any area on Nalthis can Return. They are treated in very strange ways some places. One kingdom will immediately sell the corpse of someone who dies in a way that might be seen as heroic, where they are purchased by a nobleman hoping to hit the jackpot and get a Returned. They are kept since they can heal people and are used as an emergency insurance plan to restore the health of their owner.[53] In some places Returned are seen as something akin to vampires.[27]

Notable Returned[edit]


  • A Returned looks different in the Cognitive Realm compared to a regular human.[54]
  • A Returned could reclaim Breath they put in objects before dying and Returning.[55]


  1. Warbreaker chapter 46#
  2. Rhythm of War chapter 15#
  3. Stormlight Three Update #6
    Arcanum - 2017-01-20#
  4. a b Warbreaker chapter 57#
  5. a b Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A
    Arcanum - 2009-07-08#
  6. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-03-01#
  7. JordanCon 2018
    Arcanum - 2018-04-21#
  8. JordanCon 2016
    Arcanum - 2016-04-23#
  9. /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-06-06#
  10. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-11-30#
  11. Bands of Mourning release party
    Arcanum - 2016-01-25#
  12. a b Warbreaker chapter 30#
  13. Stormlight Three Update #4
    Arcanum - 2016-09-27#
  14. Stormlight Three Update #4
    Arcanum - 2016-09-27#
  15. FanX 2021
    Arcanum - 2021-09-18#
  16. Manchester signing
    Arcanum - 2014-08-06#
  17. Orem Signing
    Arcanum - 2019-03-16#
  18. 17th Shard Forum Q&A
    Arcanum - 2012-09-26#
  19. /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-03-12#
  20. Shadows of Self Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2015-10-12#
  21. Warbreaker chapter 14#
  22. a b Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A
    Arcanum - 2010-01-18#
  23. a b c d Warbreaker chapter 12#
  24. Warbreaker chapter 27#
  25. Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A
    Arcanum - 2010-01-18#
  26. a b /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-06-24#
  27. a b c Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-09-16#
  28. General Reddit 2020
    Arcanum - 2020-10-04#
  29. a b Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A
    Arcanum - 2009-07-08#
  30. a b Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-09-09#
  31. Stormlight Three Update #5
    Arcanum - 2016-12-13#
  32. 17th Shard Forum Q&A
    Arcanum - 2012-09-28#
  33. Firefight Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2015-02-20#
  34. a b c Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-10-26#
  35. Warbreaker chapter 44#
  36. Warbreaker chapter 18#
  37. a b Warbreaker chapter 7#
  38. Warbreaker chapter 5#
  39. Steelheart Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2013-10-01#
  40. Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A
    Arcanum - 2010-01-18#
  41. Yumi and the Nightmare Painter chapter 32#
  42. /r/Mistborn
    Arcanum - 2016-09-08#
  43. a b Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-04-09#
  44. Skyward Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-16#
  45. Skyward San Francisco signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-08#
  46. a b Warbreaker epilogue#
  47. YouTube Spoiler Stream 4
    Arcanum - 2022-06-16#
  48. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-03-21#
  49. Warbreaker chapter 3#
  50. When Worlds Collide 2014
    Arcanum - 2014-08-09#
  51. /r/fantasy AMA 2017
    Arcanum - 2017-02-28#
  52. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-11-23#
  53. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2010-08-10#
  54. Skyward Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-10#
  55. /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-07-30#
This article is still missing information. Please help The Coppermind by expanding it.