IRJE: Nov. 15 (Oathbringer)

In Oathbringer, book three of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, Highprince Dalinar Kholin is thrust into a position of leadership when a Desolation comes for the first time in centuries. Dalinar is chosen by the Stormfather to receive visions created by Honor, who is one of the gods of Roshar. These visions warn him of the coming Desolation, and encourage Dalinar to unite the kingdoms of Roshar in order to fight it.

In his youth, Dalinar cared only about fighting– he lived and breathed war, and killed thousands. He did this for the purpose of uniting the Althekar. However, this time he is determined to take a more peaceful route to unification. Dalinar models his ruling after the Way of Kings, which was a book written by Nohadon, a king who lived hundreds of years ago. Dalinar has a vision in which he is walking with an elderly Nohadon, discussing his issues with him.

“Being a ruler is a burden, not merely a privilege,” Dalinar said. “You taught me that. But storms, Nohadon, I can’t see any way out! We’ve gather the monarchs, yet the drums of war beat in my ears, demanding. For every step I make with my allies, we seem to spend weeks deliberating. The truth whispers in the back of my mind. I could best defend the world if I could simply make the others do as they should!” (p. 1014)

This issue, of whether it is best to force people to do the right thing or leave them be and watch them do all the wrong things, occurs throughout history, as well as in current events, both small and large scales. It is one of the fundamental problems with democracy– what if you let everyone decide what they do, but they decide the wrong thing? What if, like Dalinar, you had to choose between using war to force people to make the right decision, or letting them keep their freedom, but in so doing allow them to make decisions that will end up with the human race enslaved or extinct? I think it is good for us to realize the complexities of ruling, and to consider that sometimes when someone makes a bad decision, it is because their choices are between that and an even worse one.