Mistborn, Hero of Ages - The 'snapping' done by the mists reveals mistings. Of these, 1/16th burns Atium. Why 1/16th? There are supposedly 16 Allomantic metals excluding Atium. If you include Atium and Malatium, the number goes up to 18. Should it then not be 1/18th of the affected people (mistings) that can burn Atium? Then, would there not also be a mistborn or two that 'snapped'? Of the 5000 plus in Elend's army that 'snapped', would there not be at least a few mistborn? And would they not stay in bed even longer than the 16 days the Atium mistings (seers) did? Being a mistborn means that they can burn Atium plus all the other Allomantic metals.

  • Assuming that Mistborns were to have a flat 1/18th chance, to follow the argument, then there should have been 277 mistborn in the 5000 troops. Also, at the end during the big fight weren't there multiple people burning the atium in the fight against the Koloss?
    – Xantec
    Aug 20, 2012 at 21:03
  • 2
    Yes, those were the Atium mistings, 1/16th of those who snapped. Also, mistborns seemingly requiring very pure bloodlines, I doubt we can just assume full mistborns to have equal representation compared to the other mistings, especially in a skaa army.
    – Dungarth
    Aug 20, 2012 at 21:25
  • Atium and Malatium are not natural metals. Atium is literally the body of a god, bound in earth and extruded over time. After the rise of Harmony, who brings the two gods into one being, Atium no longer exists.
    – Tim
    Oct 20, 2016 at 19:24

3 Answers 3


I've wondered about this "1/18th vs 1/16th" discrepancy too. I assume that it's one of the author's plot devices, but thought that 1/18 would have made more sense.

Regarding why there were no mistborn within the soldiers that snapped, keep in mind that even among nobles mistborn were rare, as Kelsier noted when he first revealed Vin's mistborn status. Within the trilogy, there were only three known skaa mistborn that Kelsier was aware of - his old master, Kelsier himself, and Vin. Of course, it's possible that there were others, but since noble mistborn were rare, skaa mistborn would be even harder to find.

Kar, one of the Inquisitors, noted that Vin's Allomancy was amazingly strong during the final meeting with Tevidian, the Lord Prelan:

Why, for her to have such strength, she must be of an extremely pure line. At least... one of her parents must have been from a very pure line.

Due to this fact, it's highly likely that the no members of the army had inherited enough Allomantic genes to enable mistborn to be snapped, thereby leaving only newly minted Mistings within the army.

EDIT: In this forum, one of the members recalled a conversation had with the author about this topic:

I asked Brandon about this at his Eagle Eye Books signing during Dragon*Con 2010. (Although you worded it much better than I did at the time.)

Essentially, Brandon said that Preservation wanted the number 16 to be noticeable in a multitude of places. This would make it easier for humanity to realize that something specific / unusual / planned was going on. Brandon didn't say why Preservation chose 16 over 18 (or more, due to other atium alloys), just that Preservation wanted the number 16 to be noticed.

The author also has some notes regarding mistsickness in his annotations for book 3.


On the discrepancy between the known metals and the proportion of mistings in Elend's army

At the end of the original series, We know of the following metals :

Physical Metals

  • Iron (external)
  • Steel (external)
  • Tin (internal)
  • Pewter (internal)

Mental metals

  • Zinc (external)
  • Brass (external)
  • Copper (internal)
  • Bronze (internal)

Temporal metals

  • Gold (internal)
  • Electrum (internal)

Enhancement metals

  • Aluminum (internal)
  • Duralumin (internal)

God metals

  • Atium
  • Malatium
  • Larasium (this metal is particular and no larasium mistings would be found)

At this point, Sazed reveals to Spook that there are two metals left. Yet, when looking at other works from Brandon Sanderson, we now know that there are in fact four other metals. It is my theory that Sanderson decided to tweak his magic system a bit.

It is my opinion that, originally, Atium and Malatium were intended to be temporal metals. It all fits the allomantic structure known at the time. Atium and Malatium both let you see other people's shadows/past selves. As such, they would perfectly fit as the external temporal metals. One is also an alloy of the other, another important rule. It can probably also be assumed that one would be a pushing metal and the other a pulling one.

If you decide to classify Atium and Malatium as the missing temporal metals, Sazed is totally right in saying that there are still two metals remaining. Those would be Chromium and Nicrosil, the external enhancement metals that have effects similar to those of Aluminium and Duralumin, except applied to another allomancer (thus justifying the external classification).

This is, in my humble opinion, why there are only 1/16th of Elend's army that could burn Atium, and not 1/18th. This is either an oversight on the part of the author or a simple and forgivable act of retcon.


Sanderson's answers to the question unearthed by JW8 really strikes me as a justification for a retcon by giving another reason for the number 16 to popup, especially since Sazed, at the end of Hero of Ages, explicitely states that there are only two remaining metals to be discovered, not four.

On the reason behind the lack of mistborns in Elend's army

Prior to Rashek giving Larasium to his friends, there were only mistings, and no mistborns. The direct descendants of these original mistborns have a much purer bloodline, augmenting their chances of yielding allomancers.

Through interbreeding, most Skaa have some traces of allomancer blood but it's normally too diluted to be of any use. Only those with nobles as close parents have a bloodline pure enough to allow for snapping and, even then, Skaa mistborns are practically unheard of. And since, in the era described in the original trilogy, nobles seemed to be very careful about half-breed offsprings, it is highly unlikely that Vin or Kelsier's circumstances are shared by many people.

And, as the Asker mentionned, Mistborns in Elend's army would've been among the most afflicted by the snapping. They would probably have been mistaken for Atium mistings, since very few tests were done for lack of time (it was pretty much the end of the world for them).

  • I felt that the God metals (Atium, Larasium) didn't really count... but then that leaves Atium mistings as an anomaly. Either way, we need more clarification from Sanderson. Maybe I'll ask him on reddit and see if I get a reply.
    – Corwin01
    Aug 21, 2012 at 15:34
  • 1
    It would indeed be very interresting to know for sure. Larasium (and it's alloys) is usable by non allomancers and should not normally be included in the regular allomantic metals since they have no power other than granting allomancy. However, the other God metal, Atium, has associated mistings. As Sansderson's magic systems are normally pretty well designed, one can only wonder... Is there a hidden meaning to this that we will uncover in later works? I'd really like FallingBullets to add a source to his claim that the Allomantic rules were changed at some point!
    – Dungarth
    Aug 21, 2012 at 15:57
  • 1
    Sanderson has said, that while pure Larasium created Mistborn, if you cut the Larasium with another allomantic metal, it would create a misting for that metal. I think there are just some facts that we don't have as of yet.
    – Corwin01
    Aug 21, 2012 at 16:20
  • I agree with you on this. But our current state of information remains that some facts are contradictory, like the amount of metals to be discovered at the end of "Hero of Ages", for instance. Which is why I can't wait for an official statement or more books from Sanderson ^_^
    – Dungarth
    Aug 21, 2012 at 16:48
  • 1
    Indeed. Though I'm more excited for Stormlight Archive 2 =)
    – Corwin01
    Aug 21, 2012 at 17:07

Regarding the '1/18' question, Brandon has confirmed that Preservation or The Lord Ruler actively changed the magic behind Allomancy, replacing the temporal metals (Cadmium and Bendalloy) with Atium and Malatium (in the Final Empire, the symbols are also used to represent numerals, and Atium and Malatium are in places 10 and 11, cadmium and bendalloy are up at 17 and 18). This meant that there were still only 16 metals, and it also allowed for the creation of atium/malatium mistings, which is where the 1/16th. I dont think it's a retcon either.

  • 2
    "Brandon has confirmed that Preservation or The Lord Ruler actively changed the magic behind Allomancy, replacing the temporal metals (Cadmium and Bendalloy) with Atium and Malatium" - Can we get a source? I'd love to see one!
    – Dungarth
    Aug 21, 2012 at 15:59
  • 3
    here you go
    – fbstj
    Aug 22, 2012 at 7:13
  • Nice, thanks! Reading his answer, it can make sense, as Cadmium itself is mostly found as an impurity in zinc carbonate (it is about 650 times rarer than zinc, too). And as the known uses for both cadmium and cerrobend are fairly modern, it is more than likely no one would have ever found them as allomantic materials. Now, the question that comes to my mind is "Are those metals completely gone as allomantic metals as Sazed seemed to imply or could a mistborn use them if he ever found some?"
    – Dungarth
    Aug 22, 2012 at 15:06
  • 1
    as in: could a mistborn use cadmium/cerrobend in the Final Empire? or could a theoretical mistborn in Harmony's time use the god metal alloys? both I'd think, but you wont get atium/malatium mistings any more, and there were no cadmium/cerrobend mistings in the Final Empire
    – fbstj
    Aug 22, 2012 at 15:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.