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The Way of Kings - Chulls

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One of six illustrations scattered amongst the pages of Brandon Sanderson's new epic fantasy series The Way of Kings that describe the natural flora & fauna found in the novel.

The chull serves as a common beast of burden on the world of Roshar, similar to an oxen or buffalo in our own world. As with most of the creatures on Roshar, the original design mandate begins with arthropods of great size. In this case it started as a type of crab. Brandon wanted a giant crab-beast which defended itself from predators and the hurricane-like highstorms that sweep the land by pulling itself into a boulder-like shell... when curled up, the chull should resemble a giant rock.

One of the things Brandon lets me do is try and develop a design based on some sense of natural ecology, in an attempt to make something as fantastic as a giant boulder-carrying crab feel potentially realistic. He puts up with me asking a lot of odd questions, and in some cases what I feed back to him ends up in the book itself, which is very gratifying. Most of it just ends up as errata and notes that may not ever be useful.

In this case, it was suggested that the chull excretes certain minerals from its food supply and the water it drinks (this is a common function of many living creatures on Roshar) through the shell on its back, slowly building up a large mound of stony material that resembles a massive boulder.

Because of the way it builds up from excreted material over time, the "boulder" is actually made of very light, porous stone. The rock of domestic chull can be carved and shaped fairly easily, and in the wild various plants and small insects will make their home upon it, creating a symbiotic little environment that goes wherever it does.

I'm not a very good biologist, but designing parts of the natural world that Brandon is creating makes for some interesting challenges that are a lot of fun to explore. Sometimes (most of the time) I don't really know what needs to be included in a design until someone talks about it, so if you have any questions feel free to ask.

©2008-2010 Brandon Sanderson, all rights reserved. The Way of Kings continues to be a fun project for me to work on, and I expect I'll be drawing a lot about the natural world of Roshar in the books to come.
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vick330's avatar
I loved the concept of Chulls in the book, and it's great to see the drawings here in a bigger format. I am really happy I happened on your art :clap: