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In The Well of Ascension, the second Mistborn book by Brandon Sanderson, the heroes piece together the events that led to the rise of the Lord Ruler and discover that he took the power at the Well in order to defeat something called The Deepness. Eventually they come to believe that the Deepness is the mists; and we do indeed learn that the Lord Ruler moved the world closer to the sun in order to burn off the mists, and then had to create the ash to counteract this.

But, at the end of the third book, Hero of Ages, we learn that

the mists are really the body of Preservation; and Vin takes them into herself, gaining the power.

So, was there ever actually a threat from the mists? Was the Deepness actually something else? Or was the whole concept of the Deepness, and needing to go to the Well to beat it, a deception by Ruin?

(Note, I've only read the original trilogy; if the answer is in the subsequent books, I'd appreciate spoiler space. Thanks.)

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No, the Mists were not a danger in the sense that the people of Scadrial thought that they were. From the Hero of Ages Epigraphs: Chapter 81 (Emphasis mine)

Snapping has always been the dark side of Allomancy. A person's genetic endowment may make them a potential Allomancer, but in order for the power to manifest, the body must be put through extraordinary trauma. Though Elend spoke of how terrible his beating was, during our day, unlocking Allomancy in a person was easier than it had once been, for we had the infusion of Preservation's power into the human bloodlines via the nuggets granted to nobility by the Lord Ruler. When Preservation set up the mists, he was afraid of Ruin escaping his prison. In those early days, before the Ascension, the mists began to Snap people as they did during our time—but this action of the mists was one of the only ways to awaken Allomancy in a person, for the genetic attributes were buried too deeply to be brought out by a simple beating. The mists of that day created Mistings only, of course—there were no Mistborn until the Lord Ruler made use of the nuggets.

The people misinterpreted the mists' intent, as the process of Snapping Allomancers caused some—particularly the young and the old—to die. This hadn't been Preservation's desire, but he'd given up most of his consciousness to form Ruin's prison, and the mists had to be left to work as best they could without specific direction.

Ruin, subtle as ever, knew that he couldn't stop the mists from doing their work. However, he could do the unexpected and encourage them. And so, he helped make them stronger. That brought death to the plants of the world, and created the threat that became known as the Deepness.

So yes, Ruin manipulated the Mists to serve his own purposes, just as he manipulated the prophecies to create the legend of the terrible Deepness. This in turn furthered his goal, which was to have someone go to the Well, and release him.

  • Great answer; so, the mists were a threat, but only thanks to the intervention of Ruin. – Daniel Roseman Feb 23 '17 at 21:00

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