The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season

by

N. K. Jemisin

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Fifth Season can help.
Sanze was originally a nation and racial group beginning in the Equatorial regions of the Stillness, thousands of years before the events of The Fifth Season. Over the course of several Fifth Seasons, they conquered other comms and grew into an empire, calling themselves the Sanzed Equatorial Affiliation and increasing their power throughout the Stillness via warfare, rape, and cannibalism. Though the empire officially ceded its power to local control after centuries of domination, most comms in the Stillness still adhere to Sanzed imperial and cultural systems at the time that the novel takes place. The Sanzed race is also still considered the physical ideal by which all other human beings are measured. Sanzeds are supposed to be tall, bulky, and bronze-skinned, with “ashblow” hair, or hair that is thick, kinky, and gray-colored. All of these features are supposed to help them survive better than other races during Fifth Seasons.

Sanze Quotes in The Fifth Season

The The Fifth Season quotes below are all either spoken by Sanze or refer to Sanze. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Orbit edition of The Fifth Season published in 2015.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“Tell them they can be great someday, like us. Tell them they belong among us, no matter how we treat them. Tell them they must earn the respect which everyone else receives by default. Tell them there is a standard for acceptance; that standard is simply perfection. Kill those who scoff at these contradictions, and tell the rest that the dead deserved annihilation for their weakness and doubt. Then they’ll break themselves trying for what they’ll never achieve.”

Related Symbols: Stonelore
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

He’s not just small but stocky, as if his people are built for a different kind of sturdiness than the ideal that Old Sanze has spent millennia cultivating. Maybe his race are all this white, then, whoever they are.

But none of this makes sense. Every race in the world these days is part Sanzed. They did rule the Stillness for centuries, after all, and they continue to do so in many ways. And they weren’t always peaceful about it, so even the most insular races bear the Sanzed stamp whether their ancestors wanted the admixture or not. Everyone is measured by their standard deviations from the Sanzed mean.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite, Hoa
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

There’re so many ways to die in this place. But they know about all of them—seriously—and as far as I can tell, they don’t care. At least they’ll die free, they say.”

“Free of what? Living?”

“Sanze.” Alabaster grins when Syen’s mouth falls open.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Alabaster (speaker)
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Fifth Season LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Fifth Season PDF

Sanze Term Timeline in The Fifth Season

The timeline below shows where the term Sanze appears in The Fifth Season. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4: Syenite, cut and polished
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
...dark black skin and is very lean, exhibiting none of the “physical superiority” associated with Sanzed ancestry. (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
The chapter ends with a quotation from a Sanzed emperor thousands of years in the past. Referring to an unnamed group of people, the... (full context)
Chapter 6: Damaya, grinding to a halt
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...then she killed him with her other knife. This ended Misalem’s great threat to the Sanze Empire. (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...obelisk floating overhead. She thinks about how, even though some comms have survived Fifth Seasons, Sanze is the only nation to survive a Season—it has survived seven—and that is “because the... (full context)
Chapter 7: you plus one is two
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...shocked once again. His hair is long and of the coarse “ashblow” texture that the Sanzed prize. But it is pure white, just like his skin—whiter than anyone Essun has ever... (full context)
Chapter 8: Syenite on the highroad
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...are is the only possible way, but Alabaster goes on, saying that other empires besides Sanze must have been successful, and there must be other ways of treating orogenes besides their... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...an emotionless voice, Alabaster explains that sometimes a “rogga” can’t learn proper control, but “Mother Sanze can always find another use for them.” (full context)
Chapter 11: Damaya at the fulcrum of it all
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...the grits have lessons from their various instructors, learning things like the history of the Sanze empire and mathematical equations involving orogeny. After the lectures or exams, the children have lunch... (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...that wiped out a staple crop and caused mass starvation. Because the comms of the Sanze Empire fared so much better than others, when the Season ended, many comms voluntarily joined... (full context)
Chapter 15: you’re among friends
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
...what the “average Equatorial” would condemn about her breeding. The woman next to her looks Sanzed and is very intimidating: she’s wearing dark eyeliner and a thick fur vest, and her... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...that this is a comm unlike any other. If this Fifth Season is short, then Sanze will surely destroy them soon enough, but she doesn’t believe that the Season will be... (full context)
Chapter 16: Syen in the hidden land
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...aware of all the dangers and choose to stay here where they are free of Sanze. They claim that Meov and some other island comms have been around for thousands of... (full context)
Chapter 17: Damaya, in finality
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
After this Fifth Season was the Madness Season, during which Warlord Verishe founded Sanze and became the first Emperor. Verishe built Yumenes around the mysterious artifact that everyone feared,... (full context)
Chapter 18: you discover wonders down below
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...there for centuries, built by other people who were seemingly smarter about using orogenes than Sanze is. Essun disagrees, and Ykka asks if she was trained at the Fulcrum, since all... (full context)
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...water, and creating electric power with a turbine. Most of it was built before the Sanzed Empire began. Tonkee notices that the crystals themselves are glowing, and Ykka says that this... (full context)
Chapter 20: Syenite, stretched and snapped back
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
The chapter ends with an old folk song from before the Sanzed Empire, saying that the Earth is angry because he is alone. (full context)
Chapter 21: you’re getting the band back together
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
...own. Essun silently agrees, and she physically assesses him—he’s not tall or bulky like the Sanzed Equatorials prefer, and he is too mixed racially for them to find him attractive, but... (full context)
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Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...for 10 years, leading to mass starvation but also a rise in mental illness. The Sanzed Warlord Verishe used psychological warfare to conquer many comms during this time, and she was... (full context)
Chapter 22: Syenite, fractured
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Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Alabaster continues: during the Season of Teeth almost everyone in the Stillness starved, and the Sanzed comms started working together to attack others. This is also when they started calling other... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...into her hands, telling her that orogenes are what built the Fulcrum and made the Sanzed Empire so powerful, even if they did it as slaves who also enslaved their own... (full context)
Appendix 1: A catalog of Fifth Seasons that have been recorded…
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Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
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...comms and named herself Emperor when the sun returned. This was the official founding of Sanze. (full context)
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Before the Sanzed Empire, the Fifth Seasons were not as well-documented, and many of their causes are unknown.... (full context)