The Way of Kings (in-world)
|The Way of Kings|
|Related to||Silver Kingdoms|
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
The book was written as a narrative of the life of Nohadon, an ancient king, as he acts as a ruler should, with honor and dignity. The narrator always strives to lead by example, despite the objections of those close to him. In this manner the narrator gains the respect and loyalty of his followers.
There are apparently forty parables in the book. The eighth parable is presented below in its entirety, as quoted by Dalinar.
I walked from Abamabar to Urithiru. In this, the metaphor and experience are one, inseparable to me like my mind and memory. One contains the other, and though I can explain one to you, the other is only for me.
I strode this insightful distance on my own, and forbade attendants. I had no steed beyond my well-worn sandals, no companion beside a stout staff to offer conversation with its beats against the stone. My mouth was to be my purse; I stuffed it not with gems, but with song. When singing for sustenance failed me, my arms worked well for cleaning a floor or hogpen, and often earned me a satisfactory reward.
Those dear to me took fright for my safety and, perhaps, my sanity. Kings, they explained, do not walk like beggars for hundreds of miles. My response was that if a beggar could manage the feat, then why not a king? Did they think me less capable than a beggar?
Sometimes I think that I am. The beggar knows much that the king can only guess. And yet who draws up the codes for begging ordinances? Often I wonder what my experience in life—my easy life following the Desolation, and my current level of comfort—has given me of any true experience to use in making laws. If we had to rely on what we knew, kings would only be of use in creating laws regarding the proper heating of tea and cushioning of thrones.
Regardless, I made the trip and—as the astute reader has already concluded—survived it. The stories of its excitements will stain a different page in this narrative, for first I must explain my purpose in walking this strange path. Though I was quite willing to let my family think me insane, I would not leave the same as my cognomen upon the winds of history.
My family traveled to Urithiru via the direct method, and had been awaiting me for weeks when I arrived. I was not recognized at the gate, for my mane had grown quite robust without a razor to tame it. Once I revealed myself, I was carried away, primped, fed, worried over, and scolded in precisely that order. Only after all of this was through was I finally asked the purpose of my excursion. Couldn’t I have just taken the simple, easy, and common route to the holy city?
For my answer, I removed my sandals and proffered my callused feet. They were comfortable upon the table beside my half-consumed tray of grapes. At this point, the expressions of my companions proclaimed that they thought me daft, and so I explained by relating the stories of my trip. One after another, like stacked sacks of tallew, stored for the winter season. I would make flatbread of them soon, then stuff it between these pages.
‘Yes, I could have traveled quickly. But all men have the same ultimate destination. Whether we find our end in a hallowed sepulcher or a pauper’s ditch, all save the Heralds themselves must dine with the Nightwatcher.
‘And so, does the destination matter? Or is it the path we take? I declare that no accomplishment has substance nearly as great as the road used to achieve it. We are not creatures of destinations. It is the journey that shapes us. Our callused feet, our backs strong from carrying the weight of our travels, our eyes open with the fresh delight of experiences lived.
‘In the end, I must proclaim that no good can be achieved of false means. For the substance of our existence is not in the achievement, but in the method. The Monarch must understand this; he must not become so focused on what he wishes to accomplish that he diverts his gaze from the path he must take to arrive there.”
The second relatively long sequence is as follows:
I once saw a spindly man carrying a stone larger than his head upon his back. He stumbled beneath the weight, shirtless under the sun, wearing only a loincloth. He tottered down a busy thoroughfare. People made way for him. Not because they sympathized with him, but because they feared the momentum of his steps. You dare not impede one such as this.
The monarch is like this man, stumbling along, the weight of a kingdom on his shoulders. Many give way before him, but so few are willing to step in and help carry the stone. They do not wish to attach themselves to the work, lest they condemn themselves to a life full of extra burdens.
I left my carriage that day and took up the stone, lifting it for the man. I believe my guards were embarrassed. One can ignore a poor shirtless wretch doing such labor, but none ignore a king sharing the load. Perhaps we should switch places more often. If a king is seen to assume the burden of the poorest of men, perhaps there will be those who will help him with his own load, so invisible, yet so daunting.”—
I stood in the darkened monastery chamber, its far reaches painted with pools of black where light did not wander. I sat on the floor, thinking of that dark, that Unseen. I could not know, for certain, what was hidden in that night. I suspected there were walls, sturdy and thick, but could I know without seeing? When all was hidden, what could a man rely upon as true?
Candle flames. A dozen candles burned themselves to death on the shelf before me. Each of my breaths made them tremble. To them, I was a behemoth, to frighten and destroy. And yet, if I strayed too close, they could destroy me. My invisible breath, the pulses of life that flowed in and out, could end them freely, while my fingers could not do the same without being repaid in pain.
I understood in a moment of stillness. Those candle flames were like the lives of men. So fragile. So deadly. Left alone, they lit and warmed. Let run rampant, they would destroy the very things they were meant to illuminate. Embryonic bonfires, each bearing a seed of destruction so potent it could tumble cities and dash kings to their knees. In later years, my mind would return to that calm, silent evening, when I had stared at rows of living lights. And I would understand. To be given loyalty is to be infused like a gemstone, to be granted the frightful license to destroy not only one’s self, but all within one’s care.”—
There are also several smaller quotes scattered through the book, such as:
”There is honor in loss, if that loss brings learning.—
”You must find the most important words a man can say
”A man's emotions are what define him, and control is the hallmark of true strength. To lack feeling is to be dead, but to act on every feeling is to be a child.—
”A monarch is control. He provides stability. It is his service and his trade good. If he cannot control himself, then how can he control the lives of men? What merchant worth his Stormlight won’t partake of the very fruit he sells?
”Never fight other men except when forced to in war.
”Let your actions defend you, not your words.
”Expect honor from those you meet, and give them the chance to live up to it.
”Rule as you would be ruled.
I passed a curious pile of stones along my path, of a type I found remarkable. The fractured shale had been weathered by highstorms, blown up against stone of a more durable nature. This pile of thin wafers lay as if stacked by some mortal hand.
But no man had stacked these stones. Precarious though they looked, they were actually quite solid, a formation from once-buried strata now exposed to open air. I wondered how it was possible they remained in such a neat stack, with the fury of the tempests blowing against them.
I soon ascertained their true nature. I found that force from one direction pushed them back against one another and the rock behind. No amount of pressure I could produce in that manner caused them to shift. And yet, when I removed one stone from the bottom—pulling it out instead of pushing it in—the entire formation collapsed in a miniature avalanche.”—
”As I fear not a child with a weapon he cannot lift, I will never fear the mind of a man who does not think.—
Written by Nohadon, it is revealed during the events of The Way of Kings that rather than being an account of his life, Nohadon wrote the book after he had already risen to power. Thus, while the book does exemplify the virtues of a ruler, it is meant to act as an allegory rather than a method by which to inspire others.
This book had enormous impact on both Gavilar Kholin and, later, Dalinar Kholin. After having this book read to them several times, they become more and more honorable, which is a large contrast to typical Alethi behavior.