The Ars Arcanum section that is in most Cosmere books is known to be written by Khriss, as shown in Arcanum Unbounded.

Is there some specific Worldsinger or god or Shard or something who in-universe is the one writing all the actual books, or is the explanation just that it’s a book in our universe that exists only here?


I suspect the answer is mostly that they are not written in the voice of an in-universe character. The reason being is that most of the text is written in a third person limited voice, which is not the type of voice I would expect if it were being written as an account of historical events.

Third person limited voice, as explained in depth in this blog post https://blog.reedsy.com/point-of-view/third-person-limited-omniscient is characterized as

the author narrates the story from the close perspective of one character (at a time) to create the immediacy and intimacy of a first-person narrative, without being "trapped inside" a protagonist's head.

My reasoning why this literary choice seems to me to indicate it's not supposed to be an in-universe quotation is as follows:

  1. If the point of view character was the person relating the story, they would most likely speak in first person.
  2. If the books are a quote by a second party who was told the story by the point of view character, it seems to me unlikely they would be able to write about the inner thoughts of the point of view character in such intimate detail.
  3. If the books are a quote by an omniscient or semi-omniscient character (which exist in the Cosmere), and therefore would have some idea about the point of view character's inner thoughts, they would probably not write in a perspective limited to a certain character's point of view.

The major exception being the epigraphs preceding each chapter in certain novels, such as the Mistborn novels, or the Stormlight Archive, which are written in a different voice entirely. They can be attributed to various different characters, as listed at https://coppermind.net/wiki/Category:Epigraphs

  • Mistborn - Alendi
  • Well of Ascension - Kwaan
  • Hero of Ages - Sazed
  • Way of Kings - Death Rattles (Moelach?) most likely recorded by King Taravangian, Hoid, Jasnah's notes from various sources
  • Words of Radiance - Navani, quotes from Listener Songs, quotes from Words of Radiance (the in-universe book), Hoid, Taravangian's diagram
  • Oathbringer - quotes from Oathbringer (the in-universe book), Endowment, an avatar of Autonomy, Harmony, quotes from the Urithiru gem archive, quotes from the in-universe book Mythica by Hessi, quotes from the translation of the Eila Stele and from the The Way of Kings postscript
  • It might be worth putting at least the Hero of Ages's author in spoiler markup – Nolimon Jun 7 '19 at 13:18
  • Great answer. Too little has been revealed about the Cosmere overall to give a definitive answer on this, especially given that many characters can see the future to varying degrees, and it's not clear how "fated" those future events are. At present, there is little reason to believe that the books are "in-universe" records. – Upper_Case Jun 7 '19 at 15:41


Sanderson uses the hypothetical translator as a writing construct, not because there is a canon In-Universe Author.

Questioner: Hang on a moment.... I always assumed that the translation effect from in-world language to English (or other Earth languages that allowed us to read the books) was more of a passive thing, almost like we are 'Connecting' to the stories which enables us to read the words that make sense to us.

Are you saying here that the process is actually by design? That someone (from the sounds of it Khriss) is somehow actively translating the events of the books and that's why we read them in our native language? Is this something that has been discussed before and I missed it?

Brandon Sanderson: I've always imagined a hypothetical translator into English, more as a writing construct (to explain certain things and the way I do things) than anything else. I wouldn't consider it canon, in that there is no Earth in the cosmere, but it's how I frame the process for myself. It's how I explain to myself that certain metaphors work and the like.
Arcanum | Coppermind

He goes into greater depth about the process in this quote:

Questioner: So, when there's wordplay in The Stormlight Archive, we know they aren't speaking English, so are you to assume that that is a translation of the...

Brandon Sanderson: This is what Tolkein said, and I always rely upon this. You're reading the book in translation, and the person translating it is going to try to use the closest in feel, but to also make it translate to English. So even when they use idioms and things like that, sometimes they translate and the translator can drop them in. Sometimes they just don't translate, so the translator comes up with something that works in English... It gets you a lot of loopholes, like if you accidentally call something an ottoman and people are like, "But there's not an Ottoman Empire in this fantasy world!" But you're like, "Yeah, all words work that way." It's in translation. This is why when you read something like Allomancy, and they're like, "Well, it's got Latin roots, right?" Yeah... it's just the roots in their language would be something old Terris, and the easiest way to convey that feeling is to use something that's got-- you know. Stuff like that.
Arcanum | Coppermind

Obviously there are some In-Universe texts that are "translated" directly, in whole or in part, outside the story. The Ars Arcanum, Alendi's Journal, Kwaan's Inscription, The Words of Founding, Death Rattles, and The Diagram to name a few. But these are exceptions, not the rule.

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