Somiss comes from a royal/noble family, which means money and a sense of entitlement. According to Franklin, Somiss "has as good a claim as ten or fifteen others" (45.50) to the throne should something happen to the crown prince.
Franklin tells Sadima a bit about Somiss's background: "His family is very wealthy. His father has turned a small fortune into a big one. But it is his mother who is giving him money to do this work. She inherited much of her mother's estate" (23.18). According to Franklin, Somiss and his dad have always had a bad relationship: "He has always wanted to do something amazing, something that would make his father proud. He would give anything to make his father love him" (29.15). Does that remind you a little bit of Hahp? He definitely popped into our minds.
According to Franklin, Somiss is "brilliant and willful—and spoiled. Try to imagine never even having to wait for anything you wanted, what it would do to you, the way you understood the world" (43.18). So basically, as a kid he had his every wish fulfilled instantly, and that turned him into an adult with warped expectations. Color us surprised.
Regardless of Somiss's screwy family issues, the fact that he grew up in such an overprotective environment contributes to his belief that he has a mission—which, in turn, feeds his paranoia. At one point, Sadima discovers that Somiss is changing small parts of the songs that he has her and Franklin copying (37.56), and it's almost as though Somiss wants to keep all the magic he's discovering to himself.
Apparently he's hot stuff, since Maude Truthteller tells Sadima to make a pass at him (17.4). He's got "blond hair" and eyes that are "an odd, too light blue" (17.25). His eyes show how cold of a person he is, though, since some characterize him as "The one with ice for eyes" (59.14). And if the eyes are the windows to the soul, then… well, you do the math. It definitely doesn't sound like a compliment.
Somiss seems to care about his research more than he cares about people—or himself for that matter. At one point, he announces that he's decided to stop eating since it helps him work: "Not eating seems to clarify my thoughts… The work feels effortless" (31.34). We don't recommend studying on an empty stomach, but hey dude, whatever works for you.
Thing is, Somiss actually is pretty clever. On the one occasion when he's in enough of a good mood to make a joke, he responds to Franklin (who's just told him that he's too thin): "My sagging trousers mentioned it this morning" (35.21). Then he horses around with Franklin, teasing him about not laughing at his joke. Somiss is intelligent enough to think of unconventional solutions, too, such as "counting vowels and comparing hundreds of versions of the old songs—and repeating certain words thousands of times to himself to see how the words might have changed over time" (50.5). Okay, intelligent and obsessive.
At first we get little hints that Somiss hurts people. When Sadima first arrives at their household, Franklin cautions her: "He can sometimes get angry about small things… If he does, just stay out of his way" (19.20). And when Somiss decides to stop eating, he makes Franklin fast too.
But then there's the scary stuff, like when Sadima goes into Somiss's room after the incident with the runaway boy and finds blood all over the main room… and on Somiss's sheets (41.9). Earth to Somiss: it's not cool to try to have sex with an underage kid. We get another hint that Somiss might swing that way when Sadima puts on a cap to hide her distinctive hair. Just as she's wondering whether it makes her look like a boy, Somiss holds her close to admire it and sorta touches her inappropriately in the process (49.12). Shudder.
Of course, Somiss covers up about the blood by saying the boy was sent by his father to find his whereabouts and spy on him. Even after getting busted Somiss says, "I should have killed him" (41.25). Because killing a kid is a totally appropriate response to being paranoid about your family looking for you.
Somiss also uses people's emotions against them. When he figures out that Sadima is thinking of leaving, he tells her: "If you leave us, Franklin will be very sorry… I will make sure of that" (49.14-16). Ugh—this guy takes manipulation to a whole new level.
It's pretty heavily implied that Somiss becomes the Founder of the academy of magic, and that he's also the headmaster. We've got some good clues: the dude who appears in Hahp's portion of the story has the same name (Somiss) even though a ton of time has passed since Sadima's portion of the story. Our best guess as to how: magic. His life story fits, too. When Hahp reads about the history of the academy, it tells him:
The Founder was of royal descent. He could have been the next king, but he gave it up to begin the academy. His royal family had thought him deluded, and they had tried to kill him several times. (24.4)
We're guessing the Founder exaggerated some of this for dramatic effect.
Hahp figures this out while reading another passage about the Founder:
He was brilliant and he was honorable and admirable. His family had tried to stop him—they had been too self-centered to see what he was doing, too selfish to appreciate him.
I closed the book thinking that there were thousands of people who admired my father the way the writer of the book admired the Founder. (32.24-25)
Hmm, yeah—Hahp's got a point there.
In Hahp's timeline, Somiss apparently still looks pretty young, which is kinda freaky: "He looked young, but his voice belonged to a man near death" (14.10). That's a really disturbing combination in one person, right? We sure think so.
Somiss is pretty good at sowing discord among the boys at the academy. When Hahp makes a whole crate of apples manifest and shares them with the other boys, Somiss appears to tell everyone how stupid they are: "Fools! … Do you think he means to help you? Or keep you weak?" (28.37). Needless to say, the mood kinda shifts at this point.
Every time Hahp sees Somiss, he says something intimidating or scary. When the boys are trying to learn and recite the first song, Somiss makes them "all tongue-tied with his ridicule and the constant interruptions to correct the pronunciation of almost every word" (60.14). Oh, and he starves the boys as an incentive for them to do better. Clearly not much has changed in Somiss's psychology since the time he lived with Franklin and Sadima.