|Magic||Surgebinding, Fabrials, Singer forms|
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
”Spren appear when something changes—when fear appears, or when it begins to rain. They are the heart of change, and therefore the heart of all things.
Spren are fragments of the powers of creation that have gained sentience through the influence of sapient beings on Roshar. They are vastly varied in their appearances, characteristics, and levels of intelligence. They are deeply connected with the Knights Radiant, as a Nahel Bond between humans and spren is what allows the former to use Surgebinding. They are also used to create fabrials.
Spren are far more extensive and numerous than the closest comparable entities, seons and skaze, Splinters of Devotion and Dominion respectively. This is one of the reasons Roshar does not have the same problem with travelling to the Cognitive Realm as Sel -- even though Honor is Splintered just like the other two Shards, on Roshar, spren act as a "release valve" for the uncontrolled power of Honor.
”We don’t sleep; we don’t eat. I think we might feed off humans, actually. Your emotions. Or you thinking about us, maybe. It all seems very complicated. In Shadesmar, we can think on our own, but if we go to your realm, we need a human bond. Otherwise, we’re practically as mindless as those gloryspren.
For Rosharans, the term "spren" has broad application. Entities such as Shards, Cognitive Shadows and other beings from beyond the Physical Realm would be considered spren by the Rosharans. Among those are Cognitive aspects of objects. Those Cognitive aspects are based on how the objects are viewed by the surrounding entities and how long they've been the way they currently are. These "spren" can be spoken to in the Cognitive Realm and bribed with Stormlight, which forms the basis of Soulcasting. In Shadesmar, they usually take the form of small beads, akin to spheres that serve as Roshar's currency. A skilled person can "manifest" a bead, making it take the form of its Physical counterpart.
In the strictest sense, however, spren are splinters of one or more Shards, with a single spren being composed of one or more types of Investiture. Most spren are splinters of Honor and Cultivation, or a mixture of both that leans towards either one Shard or the other. There are said to be thousands of different kinds of spren, each named for a different type of phenomenon. They vary vastly in size, with the smallest being the size of a thumbnail, while the largest can dwarf buildings.
Spren are generally personification of certain cognitive ideals and concepts; as such, they come into being in the realm of thought, the Cognitive Realm. In the Cognitive Realm, loose Investiture left behind by the Shards comes alive, shaped and given cognizance by the ideas and concepts of the collective experience of sentient creatures. Over time, those ideas and concepts, imprinted upon scraps of Investiture, become personified as an external entity, becoming spren. All of them are based off of an "Ideal" in the Spiritual Realm; for example flamespren are all based on an "Ideal of Fire."
Some spren predate the arrival of Honor and Cultivation to Roshar, and perhaps even the Shattering. These are Splinters of Adonalsium itself that it left behind intentionally and that have attained sentience on their own since then. These spren are still very much of Cultivation, however. Their tendency towards sentience, which can be seen both in Shard-derived spren and Adonalsium-derived spren, is a result of cosmere-wise phenomenon of Investiture attaining sentience when left on its own. However, while comparable entities exist on other worlds -- most notably, seons and skaze -- the sheer amount of spren created is unique to Roshar.The cognitive ideals that create spren are similar to those that determine the appearances of the Returned on Nalthis and the plausibility of Forgeries on Sel, and are based off of human perception.
Spren do not need to sleep, but they can die. Spren with a Nahel Bond can die if their bonded Surgebinder breaks their Oaths to an untenable degree. However, there are stages to spren death, and it's not necessarily one-way. If the Radiant who broke their Oaths is not yet at the point where they would acquire a Shardblade, the spren simply seems to disappear. Such a spren can be brought back to life if the Radiant returns to abiding by the Oaths, and re-swears them. It's possible that swearing the next level of the Ideals is a necessary part of the process.
By contrast, a spren that has been killed after their Radiant acquires a Shardblade leaves behind a dead Shardblade, and while in Shadesmar, they take the form of a deadeye. A deadeye is a zombie-like figure with scratched-out eyes, constantly striving to mindlessly reach the location of its Blade. Deadeye spren can be at least partially revived. Mayalaran, Adolin's deadeye shardblade, regains consciousness during Adolin's trial by witness in Lasting Integrity while under extreme emotional stress.
Similar to a Cognitive Shadow, a spren can be permanently killed by the use of a raysium dagger embedded with a gem of anti-Stormlight. Through unknown methods, a spren can have their cognitive form pulled into the physical realm, where the new body will spontaneously form organs and muscles, but the spren will die within minutes. The Stormfather calls this act an abomination, and claims that it should not be possible. Cryptics and Ashspren cannot be brought over properly, because the process of creating bodies for them results in a physical form that collapses upon itself immediately. Ishar speculates that their physiology does not conform to the natural laws of the Physical Realm.
In Shadesmar, spren appear to feed off Highstorms, growing more lively and energetic when one passes over them. They are attracted to the particular phenomena they are named after, popping up around the affected area or person -- for example, someone who is scared will attract fearspren. However, the causal link between spren and their namesake is not fully understood on Roshar, as some spren, like rotspren, are believed to cause their namesake rather than being attracted by it.
Larger spren have the ability to shape-shift, often mimicking faces, as well as being able to mimic voices. They also have the ability to pick up small objects and give small pinches of energy. They will often appear to a singular person, who they will taunt and play with. Some humans have the ability to see these spren, even if the spren in question does not explicitly reveal itself to the viewer. These people are called alaii'iku by the Unkalaki.
Spren can be combined, similar to Shards.
Spren notice when they are being watched and will change based on direct individual perception.
Classification of Spren
While their variety is near-infinite, all spren can be classified into several groups.
Nature and Emotion Spren
Spren naturally found on Roshar are divided into nature spren and emotion spren. Emotion spren are attracted to sensations like anger, joy or passion; they are composed of more Honor than Cultivation. Nature spren are attracted to natural phenomena like wind, decay or rain, and have more Cultivation than Honor in them. Emotion spren will react to emotional Allomancy.
While the lesser spren are often invisible, they are said to be ever present and will pop up around the phenomenon they are named for. Some spren are easier to find than others, though even the most common will, at times, fail to appear. In Shinovar in particular, all types of spren are exceptionally rare. Additionally, emotionspren are said to be rare in packed gatherings of people, even when emotions run high.
The vast majority of all spren are non-sapient; these are called the lesser spren, or subspren. Although some can speak, talking with them is generally an exercise in futility, which leads to people ignoring them a lot of the time. Spren of the same sub-type are essentially the same individual, with no differences between any two entities. They are capable of forming a bond with humans, though it is different from the Nahel bond of true spren. As creatures of nature, spren are not particularly concerned with good and evil.
Lesser spren vary in how much they appear in the Physical Realm. Some, like windspren, exist almost entirely in the Physical, having next to no imprint on Shadesmar. By contrast, others exist mostly in Shadesmar, with only parts of them, like tongues or drool, visible in the Physical. There are also spren like mandras (luckspren), who will often and easily switch between existing in the Cognitive and the Physical. In Shadesmar, this phenomenon is called "dropping", as the spren appears to drop out of existence, and then drop back in.
”There are no foolish oaths. All are the mark of men and true spren over beasts and subspren. The mark of intelligence, free will, and choice.
In contrast, spren that do possess sapience are referred to as true spren. They seem to all represent higher concepts, such as honor for honorspren and truth and lies for Cryptics. Nine types of true spren bond with humans to grant them Nahel Bonds and thus, the power of Surgebinding; however, there might be more types of sapient spren.
While true spren can transition into the Physical Realm, they do so rarely, and only when seeking to bond a prospective Knight Radiant. This is because transition between the Realms leaves holes in their memories and impairs their cognitive functions in some ways. Even after forming a bond, moving too far from their bonded Surgebinder will cause the spren's mental capacity to degrade once more.
Once the true spren make the transition, they cannot affect the Physical Realm in any but the most minor ways. While in Shadesmar, most sapient spren have a humanoid shape and size, in the Physical Realm they usually take on a smaller and simpler form.
In Shadesmar, true spren have their own culture, politics and nations; though the Cognitive Realm was created by creatures of the Physical, it is spren who shape and rule it. Some spren, like Cryptics or highspren, have nation-states, composed wholly of spren of their own kind; others, like honorspren, seem to rule a nation of their own, but also allow other types of true spren to live with them. There are also city-states such as Celebrant, where various spren live together.
Lesser spren can be corrupted by Sja-anat, a process which she refers to as "enlightening". Such corrupted spren will appear to be misshapen compared to their regular counterparts, with various parts of them exaggerated to a more painful degree -- for example, a hand becoming more wiry and bony, or petals turning into shards of glass.
Separately, there exist voidspren, spren made up of the essence of Odium. The lesser voidspren are, like their native Rosharan counterparts, non-sentient. They can, however, form bonds with singers, granting them Regal forms, which often include supernatural powers and a change in mindset in the singer.
Some spren of Odium are also sapient, making them true spren. Unlike their Honor- and Cultivation-aligned kin, sapient voidspren are capable of retaining their higher functions in the Physical Realm without bonding a person. Those spren are usually imprisoned on Braize, along with the rest of Odium's forces, but they are capable of escaping and traveling to Roshar. They tend to look like small Shin humans, and have colors such as yellow or red. Whether sapient voidspren are capable of granting powers to other creatures is uncertain.
Sja-anat has also gained the ability to corrupt true spren -- something she was unable to do in the past Desolations. Spren corrupted by Sja-anat undergo the same type of physical change as the lesser spren. They can still form Nahel Bonds, although the bond will behave somewhat differently in a manner that remains poorly-understood. Notably, the corruption does not force the spren to turn to Odium.
There are a small number of spren that are one of a kind, with no other like them in the world. Those include the native spren of Roshar, such as the Nightwatcher, the Stormfather, Cusicesh, and the Sibling, as well as the nine great spren of Odium called the Unmade. Each of them appears to have a unique power or ability -- for example, the Nightwatcher can grant boons and banes, Moelach can induce Death Rattles, and the Stormfather commands the highstorms. The intelligence of unique spren varies greatly -- while some have almost humanlike minds, others are animalistic and act more as forces than they do as people. The former are capable of communicating with humans, and picking who can and cannot hear them.
At least some unique spren can be bonded. Bondsmiths gain their powers from such bonds, with the Stormfather being one of the three great Bondsmith spren. Some Unmade also bond with people -- Yelig-Nar grants the use of all ten Surges to whomever swallows a gem containing him, and Re-Shephir attempts to displace a Nahel Bond. Whether an Unmade can become a Bondsmith spren is unknown at this point in time.
Some types of spren exist in symbiotic relationships with various other creatures living on Roshar. In most cases, such a relationship is facilitated by a gemheart, a crystal inside a creature's body that allows them to house the spren.
Bonds With Animals
Large animals, most notably the greatshells, utilize spren bonds to grow to enormous sizes that would not be otherwise possible. There seem to be two types of spren facilitating this -- an unknown type living in their gemhearts, and mandras, which decrease the pull of gravity on their bodies. Skyeels also form bonds with mandras, which allow them to outright fly despite not having wings.
Non-crustacean creatures forming spren bonds include the Ryshadium, a breed of horses which have evolved to attract some type of spren -- most likely musicspren. This bond is the possible reason for the Ryshadium's unusually high intelligence, as well as their prodigious strength and other adaptations to Rosharan environment. The "magic fish" of the Purelake are another example of Rosharan fauna forming symbiotic bonds with spren. Eating the fish grants numerous benefits, ranging from medicinal, like curing aches, to outright supernatural, like predicting when someone will come to visit or locating missing persons. Whether or not the Ryshadiums and the fish have gemhearts is unknown.
Singers can attain different forms by taking a spren into their gemheart during a highstorm. Each such form comes with a slightly different physical shape, and even different biology -- for example, only mateform, slaveform, and possibly dullform are capable of reproducing, while warform is taller and more muscular, with ridges and natural plating to protect its wearer.
Such bonds are formed only with non-sentient spren, and once the singer changes a form, the spren is released from the gemheart, unharmed. When the bond is formed with a lesser voidspren, the singer gains a Regal form.
Each Order of the Knights Radiant forms a Nahel Bond with a different type of true spren. This bond is similar in nature to the bond between a seon and its master, albeit unlike a seon bond, a Nahel bond grants numerous benefits to both parties. The spren gains the capacity to retain higher mental functions while bonded; their partner gains access to Surgebinding. Though historically, only humans could become Surgebinders, during the True Desolation some spren have managed to form a Nahel Bond with a singer, although how this changes things is unknown. It's theoretically possible for someone to bond multiple spren, although this would require a lot of upkeep on the bondee's side in an effort not to break the rules of either bond.
Each Nahel Bond grants access to two Surges, with every Surge shared between two orders. Surgebinders that are organized into proper Orders, rather than acting on their own, are known as Knights Radiant.
The bond between a Knight and their spren can be strengthened by verbally or mentally stating certain Ideals or ideas related to their Order. Once the bond has strengthened to a certain point, the spren gains the ability to become a Shardblade when needed. A sword is the base form for a Shardblade, since they were fashioned after the Honorblades, but they can become any shape their Knight needs, such as a spear, hammer, or shield. While in a Shardblade form, the spren can communicate with their Surgebinder through their mind.
Spren known to facilitate Nahel Bonds include:
Notable Radiant Spren
- Sylphrena: Honorspren of Kaladin
- Pattern: Cryptic of Shallan
- Ivory: Inkspren of Jasnah
- Stormfather: Dalinar's spren
- Wyndle: Cultivationspren of Lift
- Rua: Honorspren of Lopen
- Spark: Ashspren of Malata
- Glys: Enlightened mistspren of Renarin
- Timbre: Reacher of Venli
- Winnow: Highspren of Ki
- Mayalaran: Deadeye cultivationspren of Adolin's Shardblade
”Agonyspren, like upside-down faces carved from stone, twisted and faded in and out.
Agonyspren, a much rarer spren drawn to a person’s agony and suffering, appear as upside down faces carved into stone.
”Test successful. Have noted spren who appear only when one is severely intoxicated. Appear as small brown bubbles clinging to objects nearby. Further testing may be needed to prove they were more than a drunken hallucination.
A rare type of spren that appear only in Iri. They are occasionally seen by people who are under the influence of alcohol. They look like small brown bubbles that cling to objects close to the observer. They were given the name "alespren" by Axies the Collector, a scholar who studies spren, after considering the name "intoxicationspren". The locals refer to them as sudspren. They may also be called winespren.
Axies theorized their existence, but was only able to observe them once, leading him to doubt whether they're real. As there are other stories of people seeing them, their existence is likely.
”Vamah was watching them stand there, and his expression was as thunderous as a highstorm, angerspren boiling up from the ground around him like small pools of bubbling blood.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Fifteen
A common type of spren that appear around people experiencing anger. They generally, have the appearance of pools of boiling blood bubbling up from the ground around the feet of the angry individual.
In Shadesmar, they have an unspecified appearance but make a loud screeching noise similar to sheets of steel grinding against each other when attracted. Angerspren are said to be "nasty" and very dangerous even to other spren. The pools of boiling blood seen in the Physical Realm are actually saliva drooling from their mouths.
”Certainly there were painspren appearing in droves in the room, even a few rare anguishspren, like teeth growing from the walls.
A rare type of spren drawn by anguish and extreme loss. They appear similar to human teeth.
”A few anticipationspren—like red streamers, growing from the ground and whipping in the wind—began to sprout from the rock and wave among the soldiers.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Six
A common type of spren that appear around people looking forward to something, or who are nervous about something. They appear as red streamers that grow out from the ground and blow in the wind. They often appear around soldiers directly before a battle.
The streamer that appears in the Physical Realm is actually the tongue of the anticipationspren. The spren itself has a round bulbous body and is about the size of a human toddler. It will open its mouth and stick its tongue in the air when near feelings of anticipation.
”A few anxietyspren, like twisting black cross shapes, appeared around Rysn.—Dawnshard: Chapter One
”A single awespren, like a ring of blue smoke, burst out above him, spreading like the ripple from a stone dropped in a pond. Shallan had seen such a spren only a handful of times in her life.—Words of Radiance: Chapter 78
A very rare type of spren that appear around people who are very awestruck. They take the form of a ripple of blue smoke spreading slowly outwards. They usually appear above and around the awed person's head, like a halo. Most of the time, only a single one can be seen at once, though a whole group of people can attract several.
”He thought he could faintly make out tiny spren, dark blue and shaped like little splashes of ink, clustering around the place where the rock met the wall.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Fifty-Seven
Spren that appear around objects bound with a Full Lashing. They appear as small splashes of dark blue ink. Their relationship to the Lashings is not fully understood -- Kaladin believes they are what hold the objects together, while Sylphrena disagrees, saying they could be attracted to the Full Lashing Kaladin had created.
”It appears I'll have another chance to search for captivityspren.—Axies the Collector
A type of spren theorized by Axies to appear around people in captivity. Despite being imprisoned numerous times he has never observed them, leading him to doubt their existence. However, while imprisoned, Kaladin sees strange spren like taut wires crossing before him, which have been confirmed to be captivityspren.
It's possible that rather than being attracted to the state of being imprisoned, captivityspren are attracted to the feelings of being trapped. This would explain why Axies, who sees being in prison as an opportunity, never witnesses any, while Kaladin's degrading mental state in prison summons several.
”Concentrationspren rippled in the air like waves overhead.—Oathbringer: Chapter 53
A type of spren that looks like ripples in the air, similar to a drop in the pond, although without the pond. They are rare in Alethkar, but can be found in Urithiru and Tashikk. They most commonly appear around people who are deeply focused on their task.
”Her drawing gathered about a half-dozen of them, pulling them by her act of creation just as a bright fire would draw flamespren.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Seven
An uncommon type of spren that appear around creative acts such as painting or drawing. They are of medium-size, about finger-length, and glow with a silvery light. They take the form of objects they have recently seen, but move them in odd ways, such as a table that rolls like a wheel. In the Cognitive Realm, they appear as small swirling shapes that change colors, and evoke impressions such as faces.
When drawing, the more skilled one is, the more likely creationspren are to appear.
”Only the dying could see deathspren. You saw them, then died. Only the very, very lucky few survived after that. Deathspren knew when the end was close.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Thirty-Eight
A type of spren that appears only to people near death. Very few people survive after seeing deathspren - due to this rarity some consider them not to be real. They look like black, many-legged, fist-sized creatures, with glowing red eyes that leave trails of light when the deathspren moves. They whisper with voices like paper being torn. Lirin said that deathspren are repelled by water. Deathspren are sometimes referred to as a euphemism for dying.
It is also possible that only the dying can see the deathspren because they can temporarily into the other Realms (either Spiritual or Cognitive); when Kaladin sees Syl defending him from the deathspren, she appears differently than before, as a solid figure of glowing light as opposed to her normal translucent manifestation in the Physical Realm.
”I didn't know men got this old. You sure he's not decayspren wearing a man's skin?—Sylphrena to Kaladin
A type of spren referenced by Sylphrena. It appears that they are attracted to things that have been abandoned or neglected, as well as rotting food. They look like barnacles, and usually appear in large numbers, huddling close together.
”She noticed something sweeping through the air above her. She cringed, looking up to find large, birdlike creatures circling around her in Shadesmar. They were a dark grey and seemed to have no specific shape, their forms blurry.—Words of Radiance: Chapter Eleven
A type of spren that appear around exhausted people. In the Physical Realm, they appear as brown-colored jets of dust shooting up in the air. In Shadesmar, they seem indistinct yet also large and birdlike.
”Fearspren—wiggling and violet—sprang up through the wood and wriggled in the air.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Six
A common type of spren that appear around people experiencing fear. In the Physical Realm, they look like small, violet globs that crawl up from out of the ground and gather around the feet of the fearful. They seem to be attracted to the highest concentration of fear in an area; people experiencing less fear will fail to attract fearspren. In Shadesmar, fearspren appear as large eel-like creatures with multiple stumpy legs, ridges on their backs, and long, globby purple antennae: the antennae appear to be the part that visually manifest in the Physical Realm.
A type of spren related to fermentation.
”...instead watching a pair of flamespren dance along one of the logs. These seemed vaguely human, with ever-shifting figures.—Oathbringer: Chapter Thirty-Six
A common type of spren that appear around and in fire. They look like tiny humanoid figures made of congealed light. They will often dance around, constantly changing in size, shape, and luminosity like the flames themselves.
The ardent Geranid was studying flamespren when she discovered that if she measured them, the spren seemed to be "stuck" by that measurement. This is similar to the physical process of wave-function collapse in quantum mechanics.
Flamespren are attracted to ruby Polestones, and are the easiest to split, making them commonly used in conjoined fabrials.
”Long, grey, like a tattered streamer of cloth in the wind. It wound around him, fluttering.—Oathbringer: Chapter Five
”Below, his men cheered, sending up calls that rose above the Parshendi war chant. Gloryspren sprouted around him.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Sixty-Five
A type of spren that appear around people when they experience pride in their accomplishments. In the Physical, they look like as golden orbs of translucent light, while in the Cognitive, they take the form of avian-like creatures with bulbous bodies, long wings, and flowing tails, with a golden ball for a head.
A type of spren mentioned in Navani's notebook. They can be captured in gems of a certain cut and used in fabrial machines. They are possibly another name for groundspren, luckspren, or gravitationspren.
A type of spren that has a symbiotic relationship with greatshells, enabling them to grow to such large sizes. They look like tiny tongues of smoke, such as those from snuffed candles, but can only be seen when they leave a greatshell's corpse after it has been killed.
The Tai-na of the Reshi Sea have an extraordinary variant of spren, referred to as the "soul" of the greatshell by the Reshi. It allows them to grow to far more gargantuan sizes. These "souls" will sometimes show themselves to people. They seem to have some measure of control over the Surge of Gravitation, letting them slow a person's fall.
A type of spren to which Rosharans attribute the pull of gravity.
A type of spren mentioned in Navani's notebook. They can be captured in gems of a certain cut and used in fabrial machines. It's unknown whether this is a scientific name for a flamespren, or a different creature entirely.
”As he spoke, he attracted a few hungerspren. They looked like brown flies that flitted around the man's head, almost too small to see.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Two
A type of spren that appears around people experiencing extreme hunger. They appear as tiny brown flies that flit around the hungry person.
”Joyspren rose around her, like blue leaves that started at her feet then moved up in a swirl before flaring out above her as if in a blast of wind.—Words of Radiance: Chapter Twenty-Eight
A relatively rare type of spren, usually accompanied to intense feelings of happiness or accomplishment. In the Physical Realm, they take form of a blue leaves or petals that rise around a person in a flutter, circling them or trailing behind as the person moves. In Shadesmar, they appear as a spinning cyclone of color.
”A few laughterspren—minnow-like silver spirits that darted through the air in circular patterns—began to zip about them.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Fourteen
A type of spren that appears in the presence of laughter. They have the appearance of small, silver minnows that dart in circular motions around those who are laughing.
”A few lifespren—tiny, glowing green specks—floated around the shalebark mounds. Some danced amid the rifts in the bark, others in the air like dust motes zigzagging up, only to fall again.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Thirty-Nine
A common type of spren that appears around plantlife, particularly just after highstorms. They look like motes of glowing green dust, or swarms of tiny, translucent insects. In the Cognitive Realm, they look very similar, but they have tufts of white hair that ripple as the lifespren move. Singers view them as having white spines in addition to the glowing green mote, and can bond them to enter mateform. They can be used along with Stormlight and music (specifically one of the Rhythms) to make plants grow faster.
Rarely, lifespren may appear in particularly populated areas.
”There were said to be logicspren—in the form of tiny stormclouds—who were attracted to great arguments...—The Way of Kings: Chapter Seven
A rare type of spren that appear around good and well-thought-out arguments. They take the appearance of tiny stormclouds. They seem to be quite rare, although they can often be seen in Azir.
In addition to this, they also make up the Shardplate of Elsecallers.
A type of spren that flies around skyeels and some greatshells. In the Physical, have the appearance of tiny, blue, arrowhead-like fish that dart around the skyeel in the general direction of its travel. It is commonly believed by Rosharans that they allow the skyeel to fly in some manner, but the accuracy of this belief is not known. Larkin and other greatshells bond to mandras as they grow.
In Shadesmar, luckspren are known as mandras. There, they are far larger, with long, sinuous bodies and arrow-shaped heads. They are often harnessed by various spren to pull ships through the seas of beads, as there is no wind to sail on. They have a habit of "dropping out", vanishing temporarily into the Physical Realm, and then reappearing in Shadesmar, necessiting any single ship to have several mandras hitched to it.
They are known as chasmspren to the listeners.
”Musicspren zipped through the air around [the drummers], the tiny spirits taking the form of spinning translucent ribbons.—The Way of Kings: Prologue
A type of spren that appear around musical performances. They have the appearance of spinning, translucent ribbons that whirl around the playing instrument. A single, pure note is enough to draw at least one musicspren, if only for a short time. They also seem attracted to Ryshadiums, suggesting that they might be the spren the horses bond with.
”Painspren swarmed the ground, like small orange hands or bits of sinew, reaching up from the ground amid the blood of the fallen.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Forty-Seven
A common type of spren that appear around those experiencing pain. They have the appearance of sinewy, orange hands. They crawl out of the ground and swarm the pained, latching on to the wounded areas. Singers bond with them to enter warform.
”Passionspren, like tiny flakes of crystalline snow, floated down in the air around them.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Sixty-One
A type of spren that appears around those experiencing passionate feelings. This includes both intense love and more violent passions, like the Thrill. In the Physical Realm, they look like small flakes of snow. In Shadesmar, they are long flying spren with mustaches and graceful bodies. They have the ability to eject tiny crystalline shards that float down and vanish.
”So good with words. Humans are like persuasionspren. I can't speak with one of you without being changed.
”Have you seen any plaguespren on these refugees? If those spren get into the city, it could kill everyone.
Plaguespren are a type of spren which seem to be of recent origin, with the first known modern manifestation happening as recently as 1173 when the plague (of common cold) began in the west. They appear on the bodies of people who have the plague, but their exact appearance is unknown.
”[Rainspren] were said to be the souls of raindrops...—The Way of Kings: Chapter Forty-Four
A type of spren that appears most often during the Weeping. The have the appearance of glowing, ankle-height, blue candles that, despite seeming to melt, never grow shorter, with a single eye at the top of their body. They often stand in puddles. Singers see feet on rainspren.
A type of spren related to rainbows.
”[The Purelake] was filled with tiny fish, colorful cremlings, and eel-like riverspren.—The Way of Kings: Interlude One
A common type of spren that appear in bodies of water such as rivers or the Purelake. They are often described as being eel-like. They are among the larger varieties of spren and have the ability to mimic faces and expressions, as well as voices, often choosing to torment people while doing so.
Listeners see riverspren as having carapace.
”Rest... and keep that wound clean. We don't want to attract any rotspren. Let me know if you see any. They are small and red, like tiny insects.—Kaladin
Unlike most spren, which most Rosharans believe are only attracted to their namesake, rotspren are often believed to be the cause of sickness and infection. They are seen to be repelled by water and antiseptics such as Lister's oil, Knobweed sap, and Larmic mucus.
”Well toss me overboard and call me a fish ... if you can see it, I guess you are a real sailor! You win the bet, then.
Sailorspren are a fake spren. These spren are described as large and yellow with tentacles and a bright red stripe on its back. New sailors are tricked into thinking that they exist and they eventually bet a lot of money, against other sailors, on the existence of sailorspren. They would then learn that sailorspren are not real.
Spren attracted to feelings of shame or embarrassment. They look like red and white flower petals floating down to the ground.
A rare type of spren that appear around people experiencing fearful shock (as opposed to awespren, associated with pleasant surprises). The look like pale yellow triangles breaking and reforming around the person who attracted them.
”It was the time between moons, and so he was lit mostly by the firelight; there was a spray of stars in the sky above. Several of those moved about, the tiny pinpricks of light chasing after one another, zipping around like distant, glowing insects.—The Way of Kings: Chapter Forty
A rare type of spren that appear at night amongst the stars. In the Physical Realm appear as small points of light that chase one another like insects. In Shadesmar, starspren appear as huge, dark, long-necked greatshell-like creatures that are only visible from a certain angle. The have seven sets of wings. It trails clouds behind it, and other clouds cling to its chin giving the appearance of a beard. Pinpricks of light dot the starspren's ashen carapace, which is what is seen in the Physical Realm.
They were not imagined into existence by greatshells.
Stormspren are a variety of Voidspren. They are small red spren that look like tiny lightning. Among the listeners, they are described as looking smoky, as well as giving off a "strange red light" and splinters of lightning.
Listeners can bond stormspren to attain stormform, granting them the ability to shoot red lightning. They also cause the listener to be more callous and feel superior to others, and give access to Odium's Rhythms.
Their color implies that they are normal spren who have been corrupted. They were not originally of Honor, however.
Stormstriders are large spren on glowing legs that are seen during highstorms. Kaladin and Shallan see one when they are in a chasm during a highstorm. Dalinar also sees one while he is out in a highstorm traveling between stormshelters. The name "Stormstriders" is a fan-given name that has not been canonized.
”Wavespren danced atop the tips of whited caps across a field of shimmering blue.—Dawnshard: Chapter Five
These spren are four-legged with smooth skin and large eyes. They are found in the ocean, and have been seen splashing into the air after the collision of two waves as well as riding waves on the beach.
”Windspren were devious spirits who had a penchant for staying where they weren't wanted...—The Way of Kings: Chapter Two
”The windspren themselves were entranced by you, Brightness Shallan, and led us here!
A common type of spren that appear in the presence of wind. As one of the larger types of spren, windspren are able to change their appearance at will, though they often appear as ribbons of light. The leading edge of a highstorm is home to thousands of them. They are also common at the tail of a highstorm, as if chasing after it. They are a rare sight in Shadesmar, as they spend almost all their time in the Physical Realm. A windspren in Shadesmar is described as a pinprick of light trailing a long luminescense behind it, moving much like it would in the Physical Realm. Windspren also seem attracted to Radiants moving particularly fast, such as Windrunners and Edgedancers utilizing Gravitation and Abrasion.
Windspren are closely related to honorspren, such as Sylphrena. This is evidenced by their ability to stick things together, making use of a rudimentary version of the Surge of Adhesion. They generally use this ability to play pranks on people, doing things like sticking shoes to stone or sticking shoelaces together to cause someone to trip. Additionally, windspren form Windrunner Plate.
Singers bond windspren to use nimbleform.
All true spren are created by Honor and Cultivation.
A type of sapient spren that forms Nahel Bonds with the Knights Radiant Order of Dustbringers, granting them their powers. Ashspren grant the Surges of Division and Abrasion. In Shadesmar, they have a humanoid form with ash-white skin that falls away when the ashspren moves, revealing bones underneath before quickly growing back. In the Physical Realm, they manifest as branching patterns of fire that appear to burn through the air or across the surfaces of objects, leaving behind illusionary cracks but not actually damaging their medium. They seem to have the ability to hide from both other humans and other spren.
They seem to be fond of destroying the things around them.
Also known as liespren, Cryptics are a type of sapient spren that forms Nahel Bonds with the Knights Radiant Order of Lightweavers, granting them their powers. Cryptics grant the Surges of Transformation and Illumination. They represent fundamental mathematical laws of nature, and truths that explain the fabric of existence.
In Shadesmar, they have the appearance of figures in robes that hang stiffly, as if made of glass rather than fabric. Instead of heads, they have a floating symbol full of impossible angles and geometries. There, Cryptics reside in a single city-state, and do not wish to expand. In the Physical Realm, Cryptics take the shape of a complex and constantly shifting geometric pattern slightly raised off a surface or object. They can also manifest as a floating three-dimensional mass of twisting lines.
A type of sapient spren that forms Nahel Bonds with the Knight Radiant Order of Edgedancers, granting them their powers, which include the Surges of Abrasion and Progression. They appear in the Physical Realm as a growing vine with crystals, while in Shadesmar they take a form of a humanoid seemingly made out of thickly-bound, thin vines and pieces of crystal. They are generally considered the spren that express the purest form of Cultivation.
Cultivationspren are ruled by a group of them called the Ring, which, among others, dictates which spren are to bond whom. They have the capacity to let their kinsmen travel into the Physical Realm without the usual accompanying loss of mental functions.
In the Physical Realm, highspren are described as looking like black slits in reality, with white glowing stars shining through. They seem to have their own settlements in Shadesmar and appear rather isolationistic, with none to be seen in places like Celebrant. Other spren consider them to be strict and rule-bound.
A type of sapient spren that forms Nahel Bonds with the Knights Radiant Order of Windrunners, granting them their powers. Honorspren grant the Surges of Gravitation and Adhesion. They are said to be quite "discerning" in deciding who they would bond with. They are generally considered the spren that express the purest form of Honor.
In the Physical Realm, they can change their forms, although in any shape, they are blue-white with a matching glow. In Shadesmar, they look like humans with blue-white skin and clothes that are part of them. They are noted to be highly warlike, with numerous cities and fortresses, as well as their own fleet.
A type of sapient spren that form Nahel Bonds with the Knights Radiant Order of Elsecallers, granting them their powers. Inkspren grant the Surges of Transformation and Transportation. They look like small, human-shaped figures with ink-black skin and clothing, coated in what seems to be oil, with a mother-of-pearl or prismatic quality to their look. They are capable of blending into shadows. In addition, they can change their size, but not their shape.
A type of spren mentioned by Wyndle, who considers 'growing a garden for keenspren' to be a comparison point for the weirdness of a conversation. It is unclear if they are sapient, since they do not create Knights Radiant.
A type of sapient spren that formed Nahel Bonds with the Knights Radiant Order of Willshapers, granting them their powers. Lightspren grant the Surges of Transportation and Cohesion. In the Physical Realm, they appear as glowing balls of light. In Shadesmar, they appear as humans with metallic bronze skin and holes for pupils, like living statues. There, they are also known as Reachers.
Reachers are often guides in Shadesmar, as they like to travel to different places, trading and selling goods. They have ships pulled by teams of mandras, inlaid with lines of copper that may serve as a medium of communication.
A type of sapient spren that forms Nahel Bonds with the Knights Radiant Order of Truthwatchers, granting them their powers. In Shadesmar, they take the form of humanoid figures made out of swirling, indistinct fog. Their faces look like porcelain masks, and they wear gloves, trousers and vests that adhere to their bodies' shape despite their seeming incorporeality, and take the form of light reflected through the mirror while in the Physical Realm.
”We are apologetic. We have been… alone very long. We would enjoy granting passage to men again. But we cannot do that which was forbidden.
Oathgate spren reside over the Oathgates. They take the form of enormous, statue-like humanoids, many times taller than a person, wearing armor and holding fittingly large spears. They always appear in pairs, with one being mother-of-pearl shimmering white, while the other is shimmering black. They act and speak in concert, with no visible differences in their opinions or demeanor.
The Oathgate spren facilitate transfer between Oathgates, with any pair being able to transport anything on the Oathgate's physical platform and in its control chamber between themselves and a matching Oathgate in either Urithiru or one other city. Their existence is a crucial element of the Oathgates' functionality, as an Oathgate can be rebuilt so long as the spren are left uncompromised. It appears they are bound to the eleven gemstones that are used to operate the Oathgate. While the Oathgate spren can be corrupted, this does not impact their ability to send travellers to uncorrupted ones.
In the past, those spren also allowed people without the Surge of Transportation to travel to and from Shadesmar; however, Honor forbade it to them shortly before his death. While the Oathgate spren are highly regretful about it, they are physically incapable of disobeying his orders.
A type of sapient spren that forms Nahel Bonds with the Knights Radiant Order of Stonewards, granting them their powers. In Shadesmar, they take the form of a humanoid figure with skin of cracked stone and molten light glowing from within.
The Unmade Sja-anat has the ability to corrupt spren, which she calls Enlightening. In the past, she could only corrupt lesser spren; presently, even Radiant spren and Oathgate spren are possible for her to Enlighten. These corrupted spren are drawn to the same phenomena, but are different in appearance from the typical spren. Syl believes that corrupted spren can be recognized by vividly red color, though not all spren fit this description.
- Angerspren: instead of pools of blood, they resemble bubbling pools of tar. Upon popping, the bubbles burn red, like embers.
- Anticipationspren: instead of the typical flat streamers, they have long, thin tendrils that resemble whips or tentacles.
- Awespren: corrupted awespren appear as soot-black puffs.
- Exhaustionspren: they are bright red instead of their typical brown, and distorted, looking more like small red whirlwinds.
- Flamespren: vivid blue instead of the traditional red and orange. They appear more jagged than their non-corrupted counterparts.
- Gloryspren: take the shape of a cube instead of a globe. In Shadesmar, they are described as looking bone-white and brown, with wings extending to the sides, long tresses for a tail, and golden cubes for heads.
- Hungerspren: much more rare than their uncorrupted versions, even in Kholinar. They are black, and resemble the flies seen on rotting plants.
- Oathgate Spren: the corrupted spren of the Kholinar Oathgate are described as looking like stretched-out versions of people, 30 feet tall, hovering in the air. One is pitch-black and the other is red.
- Painspren: sickly green as compared to their normal orange, as well as deformed or distorted, no longer resembling human hands.
- Shamespren: resemble pieces of broken glass instead of petals.
- Windspren: the corrupted windspren are only described as "...trailing red light." Whether this means that the ribbons of light themselves were red is unclear.
- Mistspren: rather than looking like a reflected light, Glys appears as a crystalline structure dripping red glow upwards. While the Progression Surge he grants appears to remain unaltered, Renarin seems unable to use Illumination and has visions of the future.
Known unique spren
Unique spren are spren that are one of a kind, or at least exceedingly rare and powerful. Most of them appear to have been created, or at least heavily affected, by direct Shardic influence. They include:
Also known as Cusicesh the Protector, it's one of the largest known spren to take physical form. It makes its home in Kasitor Bay, where it rises from at exactly seven forty-six in the morning every day. It takes the form of a tall column of water, topped with a face turning towards the Origin. The face is constantly changing, cycling through numerous different sets of features for ten minutes before retreating back into the water. Cusicesh also has four long feet, which it plants on the shore as it rises.
Cusicesh is worshipped by the people of Kasitor, who not only set their clocks by its arrival, but have also built golden plinths at the spots where Cusicesh's feet land. However, people who are in the vicinity of Cusicesh when it appears often report a sense of fatigue after it vanishes, which may or may not be because of expectation.
Cusicesh is not as powerful as the Bondsmith spren.
The Nightwatcher is a splinter of Cultivation, and has been raised by Cultivation akin to a child. She holds court in an overgrown, fertile region known as the Valley of the Nightwatcher, slightly south of Urithiru, in the mountains of Greater Hexi. Any visitor there can ask for a boon; she might bestow something that strives to fulfill that boon. However, each boon is also associated with a curse, which is not necessarily matching. Boons can range from mental alterations, such as renown or skill, or physical gifts, like wealth or magical objects. However, the Nightwatcher has some problems understanding more abstract requests, like forgiveness or unchanging. For this reason, Cultivation monitors her closely, intervening if need be.
The Stormfather is one of the oldest entities on Roshar, having existed in some form prior to the Shattering. He is the Cognitive manifestation of peoples' impression of the highstorm. He exists mostly in the Physical Realm, with only a minor presence in Shadesmar. He commands the highstorms that circle the planet, with the ability to choose when to send one. While he generally accompanies storms, his level of power allows him to be much more omnipresent. He's one of the three main Bondsmith spren, granting the Surges of Adhesion and Tension.
To the singers, the Stormfather is known as the Rider of Storms. At some point, he has switched sides to humans, leading to listeners feeling betrayed by him. He was also changed by Honor shortly before the latter's death, providing him with more awareness, and partly merging him with Tanavast's Cognitive Shadow. Dalinar's ability to open Honor's Perpendicularity might have something to do with it.
The Sibling is one of the three Bondsmith spren and inhabits and powers the tower-city of Urithiru. They have pretended to be dormant since the Recreance, after a prolonged decline that saw many of the tower's life support systems failing, eventually forcing the Knights Radiant to abandon the city. Stormfather asserts that the Sibling's withdrawal is tied to humankind hurting them in the past in some manner.
Unlike most known true spren, the Sibling did not view themselves as male or female, and in fact found the spren's adherence to physical creatures' gender norms to be bizarre.
”We were made, then unmade.
The Unmade are a group of nine ancient spren of Odium. Each of them are exceedingly massive and powerful, and each has a unique form and effect on the surrounding environment. They vary vastly in not only their appearance, but also their level of intelligence, with some being mindless, while others are capable of complex thought. Unlike most servants of Odium, many Umade have remained on Roshar after the Aharietiam, and dwell there to this day.
The Unmade are:
- Ashertmarn - also called Heart of the Revel. Causes people in its sphere of influence to give into mindless debauchery and excess. Last seen in Kholinar, although it withdrew to lure Shallan into using the local Oathgate, making its current location uncertain.
- Ba-Ado-Mishram - one of the intelligent Unmade. Can connect with the singers, granting them access to Voidlight and Regal forms. She has been trapped at the end of the False Desolation, and is yet to be seen in the present day.
- Chemoarish - also known as the Dustmother. Very little is known about her, as she is yet to be seen.
- Dai-Gonarthis - sometimes called the Black Fisher. As with Chemoarish, his true nature is unknown at this point in time.
- Moelach - doesn't appear to have a presence in the Physical Realm, but causes Death Rattles in some people who die within his sphere of influence. Last seen in the environs of Vedenar.
- Nergaoul - an animalistic Unmade; usually doesn't have a presence in the Physical Realm, but can take the form of a cloud of red mist with various shapes within in. Its presence causes a lust for battle known as the Thrill. At the present, it has been captured and imprisoned in the King's Drop by Dalinar.
- Re-Shephir - known as the Midnight Mother. She can create Midnight Essence, monsters that mimic the creatures around them. Has been nesting in Urithiru until Shallan banishes her; her current whereabouts are unknown.
- Sja-anat - one of the intelligent Unmade, once called the Taker of Secrets. She can "enlighten" spren, corrupting them with Odium's Investiture. In the present, she appears to be unwilling to continue working with Odium, and is looking for a way to switch sides.
- Yelig-Nar - sometimes called the Blightwind. He's capable of bonding with people who swallow a gemstone containing him, granting them the use of all ten Surges. Was present at the Battle of Thaylen Field, although the Fused have presumably took him back when they withdrew.
Myths and Lore
Apart from the real spren, Rosharan folklore has a small number of creatures whose existence is questionable, but which are also referred to as spren. Chief among them are the Dawnsingers, which the Vorin theology teaches were servants of the Almighty, sent by him to care for mankind on Roshar. In the lore, Dawnsingers are credited with bestowing numerous gifts upon humanity, including the Dawnchant, humanity's original written language, and Dawncities, a group of ancient settlements following cymatic patterns. The ardents of Palanaeum claim that their library was constructed by the Dawnsingers. It's eventually revealed, however, that the Dawnsingers aren't spren, but rather the ancient singers, the original inhabitants of Roshar.
Standing in opposition to the Dawnsingers in the folklore are the Voidbringers, which in the Era of Solitude are believed to be a type of evil spren. They are said to have existed in ancient times, walking the land with bodies of stone. Other stories claim that the Voidbringers stalk the most violent highstorms, or that they live out in the wilderness, coming out only at night. Most tales agree that Voidbringers would eat human flesh. Those stories appear to be inspired by different types of Odium's servants, who likely merged together into a single, nebulous entity in the public consciousness over the millennia.
Finally, there are several types of spren that the common knowledge doesn't align with Odium, but which are considered malicious nonetheless. Those include the raspings, the stormwhispers, and the nightspren, of which the last are considered to be the most fearsome and dangerous. Those spren are mostly believed in by the more traditional, rural followers of Vorinism. The more educated segment of the populace considers them to be ancient fabrications, created by the Knights Radiant past to support their dominance.
Theories and Speculation
Each order of the Knights Radiant bonds to a different true spren, and each has been shown to attract a different kind of lesser spren in various circumstances. For example:
- Kaladin, a Windrunner, attracts windspren on numerous occasions, most notably when fighting Szeth and when forming the "wind break" in Revolar. Windspren are also called Syl's "cousins" several times.
- Shallan, a Lightweaver, has been known to gather a large number of creationspren when drawing or crafting illusions. Although this might simply be a function of her being an artist, the numbers Shallan attracts are unnatural, with hundreds surrounding her at one point.
- Lift, an Edgedancer, attracts lifespren from time to time.
- Dalinar Kholin, a Bondsmith, brings together an incredible amount of gloryspren during the Battle of Thaylen Field. Notably, people around him often draw a gloryspren or several, despite the type's supposed rarity.
- Jasnah, an Elsecaller, is surrounded by a glow of geometric patterns for a moment during the Battle of Thaylen Field. However, it has been confirmed that her Plate is formed of logicspren.
These lesser spren form the Shardplate of the relevant Radiant order.
There has also been some speculation regarding whether an Unmade can form a Bondsmith bond. The most common topic of such speculation is Sja-anat, who has previously shown interest in breaking ties with Odium.
- The Way of Kings chapter 37#
- Words of Radiance chapter 3#
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— Arcanum - 2016-04-23#
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- Skyeel Illustration Description
— Inkthinker's DeviantArt #
- Shallan's Sketchbook: Skyeels
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