Symbolism of Mistborn

Spoiler Alert: The below post contains many spoilers about the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. Do not read this if you haven’t read the books. You have been warned!

With character names like Vin, Kelsier, Dockson, Ham, Breeze, Clubs, Spook, Elend, Marsh, Rashek, Sazed and Straff, on first read you might wonder what Sanderson was smoking when he decided to name his characters. It isn’t until the last chapter of the last book (not counting Alloy of Law, which takes place many years after the original trilogy) that things start to make sense.

If you’re reading this, I assume you’ve read the books, and have probably come to many of the same conclusions I have. I look forward to reading the comments to see what viewpoints other people have on this theory. And, yes, it is a theory. Brandon Sanderson himself hasn’t descended from the mists to impart upon me some strange knowledge, nor have I spent eons on some Mistborn forum coming up with this idea by bouncing it off of others – but I doubt I’m the first to think of it.

Rather than going alphabetically, I’ll start with the easiest ones first and move forward from there to the more wild speculations.


“Breeze”, actually one of the easiest in the entire cast of characters to understand, refers to both his personality and his affect on those around him. His suggestions and manipulations are as soft and gentle as his name. When things come down to the wire, as they did in the battle in Luthadel, his courage and strength end up being as transparent and fleeting as the weather for which he is named.


“Vin” seems to be a shortened version of the word “divine”. As she ends up replacing Preservation in its war against Ruin, she becomes deified – albeit for a short time.


“Elend” seems to stand for “I lend” as that seems to be his sole purpose throughout the entire series (as far as character advancement is concerned). He is not important himself and is only important for what his actions do to and for others. He lends strength, knowledge and humanity to Vin. He lends a passion and fire to his father Straff’s actions. He lends stability and hope to his people.


“Sazed” seems to stand for “saved” as he is, in his own words, unfortunately, the Hero of Ages. Saved from his people’s fate, saved from the battle that could have meant the end, saved to rebuild the world – and savior of that very same world.


“Ham” provides an educated form of comic relief. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “being a ham” or “hamming around” this will make sense. It basically means to be silly or to call attention to yourself. Ham does the latter by being different than most Pewter-burners.


“Clubs” seems to refer literally to a bat or club. Clubs owns the carpentry shop that the team use as their hideout, making the association with wood literal, but also his appearance and personality (when you first meet him) are gruff.


“Dox” is reminiscent, to me, of the docks of a city. He is the organizer, the hustle and bustle of the team. All but Dox has an allomantic or furchemic ability of some kind. He’s the “dock worker”, so to speak.


“Lestibournes” is translated directly from Spook’s slang language in the Hero of Ages, (“left I’m born”), and the nickname “Spook” is explained shortly after Kelsier gives it to him. Aside from signifying a ghost in the shadows, “Spook” also has a transparent and wavering personality. Very little worth of his own, constantly left in the shadow of others, Spook embodies his name in every way possible.


“Marsh” seems to be a shortened version of “Marshall” or “Sheriff”. Once the original leader of the Skaa rebellion, his personality is very brisk and police-like. Once he becomes an Inquisitor, this reference is only strengthened.


“Mare” seems to stand for “nightmare”. Her existence, that for which she lived, the way she died – all of it eventually becomes Kelsier’s nightmare.


“Tindwyl” seems to be a contraction of “tin” (the allomantic metal that increases the senses) and “dwell”. As soon as she comes into the story, people start paying attention to things they never bothered to notice before – Elend acting more princely, for example – and Sazed dwells upon her for most of his life (and after the end of hers).


“Straff” seems to refer to the “staff” (of people around him) upon which he is so dependent. In juxtaposition, he is also as solid and unbending as a (walking) staff.


“Zane” seems to be a play on the word “sane” – which he believes he is not. Ironically it was Ruin’s influence on him that left him to doubt his sanity, but his entire existence seems tied to the word “sane”.


“Shan” seems synonymous for “sham” – indicating that she is not as she appears.


Unknown; theories/suggestions requested. Rashek is the real name of the man who became Lord Ruler by killing the original Lord Ruler and taking his place.


Unknown; theories/suggestions requested. Lord Renoux is the noble that the Kandra pretends to be while they infiltrate Luthadel.


Unknown; theories/suggestions requested. OreSur is the Kandra who played as Lord Renoux in the first book.


Unknown; theories/suggestions requested. TenSoon is the Kandra who killed OreSur and took his place.

Additional information about the series for reference can be found at the Wikipedia page for the Mistborn series. If you feel the desire to look up any of this on Brandon Sanderson’s annotations, feel free, but I ran out of steam for it several characters up.

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