The Elder Scrolls
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The Elder Scrolls is a vidya series, and the setting of five main games and a number of spinoffs. Despite being a vidja, it is considered a type II game.
Its canon is notoriously unstable. Long story short: imagine every canon clusterfuck 40K has ever experienced, only there are no editions to draw a neat line between lore changes. And on at least one occasion, time has been known to break in order to allow simultaneous mutually exclusive outcomes. You know how in 40K everything is canon, but not everything is necessarily true? Here, nothing is canon and everything is true, especially when it contradicts itself.
- 1 Setting
- 2 Gods, Deities and other important people
- 3 Races
- 4 Games
- 5 Gallery
- 6 See also
The games mainly take place in Tamriel, a continent consisting of nine separate lands. After being buttfucked by the Ayleid for several centuries, humanity rises up and overthrow their elven overlords, and took control themselves. Then, a few thousand years later, a man named Tiber Septim steps up and leads his armies to conquer all of Tamriel to found the Third Empire of Cyrodiil. But instead of exterminating all the elves and beast races, they were allowed to co-exist with the other races and a time of prosperity began, ending with the death of Emperor Jean-Luc Picard the 7th, and Mehrunes Dagon then began to fuck his way from Oblivion into Tamriel, starting a chain of events that resulted in him being kicked back into hell by the Emperor's lost son, Sean Bean.
Being Sean Bean meant he died in the process, and without an Emperor the Empire began to crumble. The Aldmeri Dominion (think Ayleid 2.0) sensed their weakness and began a war to subjugate the lesser races. The Empire only barely managed to stop them, and a tense cease-fire is currently in effect. The fluff of this series, unfortunately, suffers greatly from dissonance between written background and shown foreground due to all the shit mentioned in the intro.
There's also a bunch of other weird cosomology crap involved, but it's all kind of trippy and kind of in a grey area when it comes to canon. Don't think too much about it, unless you're into that. The setting works if you don't care for it, and it works if you do. The games themselves don't acknowledge the "deeper" lore outside some in-game books and a few references thrown in some main-story dialogue.
If you do want to read on some of the (possibly) weirdest, at times incomprehensible, yet at times original without being ~~subversive because we can~~ lore ever written, click to open.
Creation of the world
Listen to this. This is the main theme of Morrowind, the third game in the series. It also contains the history of the cosmology of The Elder Scrolls. Listen to it, because it's a damn fine tune. But as you listen to it, you might realise there are no spoken words in this music. So how can it tell the history of a setting? Well, sit that five-dollar ass of yours down before I make change.
Long ago there was an entity who had fallen deeply in love, but his brother loved the same person, so he out of jealousy killed his loved one. That brought such distress to him that he fell into a coma of sorts, he "hid in a sun" and started dreaming. Thus he became The Godhead. From his dreams sprung Anu and Padomay, Stasis and Change. These "brothers" (the term used in the loosest sense here, solely on being related but different forces) accidentally created Nir, Grey maybe, personification of creation itself. But Padomay grew jealous of the relationship between Anu and Nir and out of spite decided to break her. Nir was killed and Creation was shattered, maimed for ever. Anu then fought Padomay and they were cast out of time forever, even though they still exist and will always exist as long as there is Order and Chaos. You might have thought to yourself, "Didn't that happen twice?", yes it did. Everything in the Dream mimics original Godhead and his mind, everything comes from it. In this case Anu was avatar of the Dreamer while Padomay represented Godheads brother and Nir their shared love. Same scenario of two mirror brothers, one being force of Stasis, The King and one being force of Change, The Rebel always repeats. The souls or core concepts of Anu and Padomay on which all of creation runs are called, Anui-El (IS) and Sithis (IS NOT).
Eventually from endless energies and "blood" of Anu and Padomay came the Et'ada (Et'ada means original spirit, while Ada means just generally any spirit), each representing different idea and concepts. Et'ada tended to categorize themselves with Anu or Padomay. Auri-El, Kyne and other Et'ada who lean more towards Order are Anuic while more chaotic ones like Mehrunes Dagon or Molag Bal are more Padomaic. Later after creation of realms those who were Anuic became Aedra, which means "our ancestor" in Ehlnofex, because Aedra took part in creation of the world we usually visit in TES games, while those Padomaic spirits who did not take part in creation and created their own solo realms became Daedra, which translates to "not our ancestor" (though that was not always the case, Jyggalag for example is a Daedra, but he is clearly Anuicly aligned.)
In the Dawn Era, time, in the shape of Akatosh (Ara, Auriel, Auri-El Tosh'Raka, AKHAT; take your pick), was non-linear. It flowed freely wherever it wanted, without direction, form of shape. In this temporal soup floated the souls of the proto-Mer. Think pea soup, except with millions of Ada of all sorts instead of peas. Time, in this form, was a single point. It was called the Ur-Tower, Ada-Mantia. Except it was not really a point or a tower, but more of a sound.
Bom. (0:00 to 0:01 of the song)
The Et'Ada saw it, and it was good. Except for one. A being born from Padomay who wanted no name, but eventually came to be first known as Lorkhan (LKHAN, Shor, Sep, Shezarr, maybe even Shepard). Having little interest with the rest of the Et'Ada's activities, or more likely inactivity, he spent his time wandering the Aurbis (all of existence), eventually coming to the very edge. He saw the universe, shaped like a wheel with eight spokes. Then he looked at the wheel from another perspective, and it looked like a Tower, a perfect line. An I.
This was his first word, and he would never, ever forget it. He understood everything right then and there, all of creation and its true nature was revealed to him.
Wanting to share this revelation with the other Ada but knowing that none of them would be able to comprehend it as they were, he came up with a plan for a creation and showed it to Magnus, The Grand Architect. Magnus went along with the plan and recruited the help of the Et'ada that we know as Aedra today: Akatosh, Dibella, Julianos, Kynareth, Mara, Stendarr, Zenithar and many other lesser spirits that you probably never heard of to serve as the basis of their creation. Except that they did not know this last part, Lorkhan had fooled them. Their divinity was drained into the creation, or re-creation of long shattered Nir, Nirn was born. When they discovered they were tricked the Et'Ada were not amused. Magnus buggered off into infinity along with his servants, tearing through the edge of Mundus and creating The Sun and The Stars in the process...yeah, everything you see in sky is a giant non euclidean portal to realm of infinite energy, the original crib of Et'ada, The Aetherius. Others gave Lorkhan his due: Trinimac tore his heart out and Auriel(Elven aspect of Akatosh) shot it out over the sea, where it landed in a spot and created a crater that would gain the moniker "Red Mountain". The halves of Lorkhan's body became the moons Masser and Secunda, the last visible remnants of a corpse god. But this was just as planned, throughout the whole thing the Heart of Lorkhan was laughing at them like a maniac, because Red Mountain was Red Tower, the second Tower, and the beat of his heart would be added to the sound of Akatosh. His Heart would become the prison for The Dragon God of Time.
Bom bom. (0:01 to 0:07 of the song)
This completely, utterly and irrevocably buttfucked spacetime. Because there now was a second point in existence, time could no longer flow anywhere it wanted and had to flow from Akatosh to Lorkhan. With time becoming linear, Nirn could start to grow. Aedra were drained and "dying", so they had to reproduce, create worshipers or someone that could sustain them. Slowly Ehlnofey, the "Earth Bones", Ada of all forms and shapes, some descendants of crazy reproduction, started popping up. Some created simple truths and laws for Nirn, for example gravity, others reproduced more, creating less energized spirits that slowly stabilized in different ways, slowly becoming mortal. They are ancestors of Humans (Men) and Elves (Mer). These Ehlnofey fortified their borders from the chaos outside, hid their pocket of calm, and attempted to live on as before. Other Ehlnofey arrived on Nirn scattered amid the confused jumble of the shattered worlds, wandering and finding each other over the years. Eventually, the wandering Ehlnofey found the hidden land of Old Ehlnofey, and were amazed and happy to find their kin and a comfy place, built by them. The wandering Ehlnofey expected to be welcomed into the peaceful realm, but the Old Ehlnofey being arrogant douchebags, refused to accept their kin. Anywho, war broke out between them and raged across the whole of Nirn and sunk large part of planet in ocean. Old Ehlofney (the asshole ones), who primarly lived in Tamriel, became Elves (gee, you didn't expect that, did you?), while their kin on other continents became Humans (Yokudans, Atmorans and Akaviri/Tsaesci).
Bom bom. (0:07 to 0:39 of the song)
The Mer, one of the first to mortalize were not not pleased by this. They blamed Lorkhan for their predicament, naming him the Doom Drum, bringer of mortality, death and the herald of all misfortune. But they made the best out of the situation, and the races of Mer prospered. New Towers came into existence, one by one: Walk-Brass Tower, White-Gold Tower, Snow-Throat Tower, Crystal-Like-Law, Orchalc, Khajit and Tree-Sap.
Bom bom. (0:39 to 1:19 of the song)
But, as time went on (something new back then), more and more happened. New peoples stood up. Empires were founded and fell. The races of Men were discovered, the beast races prospered, and the Empires of Men were founded.
Bom bom. (1:19 to 1:42 of the song)
Yet nothing is eternal. The Thalmor, the ruling faction of the High Elves, desires nothing less than the destruction of the Doom Drum and all of creation so time once again becomes non-linear, mortality would get destroyed and they could return their eternal soup-floating. Removing Lorkhan would stop the music of existence, and everything once again becomes singular.
Bom bom. Bom. (1:42 to 1:55 of the song)
And then... silence.
On the importance of Towers
For every Tower there is a Stone, an artifact that can be used to activate or deactivate a Tower. For Ada-Mantia Tower this is the Moment of Creation itself (making it rather difficult to obtain), for Red Tower this is the Heart of Lorkhan and for White-Gold Tower this is the Amulet of Kings. The Towers serve many purpose besides keeping spacetime from becoming a massive alinear clusterfuck. What is this? Well, it's easier for you to do it yourself that for me to explain. Make yourself a print of the map of Tamriel further down on this page. Then get yourself a pin board and a black, a red, two brown, three white, and two green tacks. Put the map against the pinboard and do the following:
- Put the white tacks through the map in the Imperial City in Cyrodiil, the Throat of the World slightly south-east of Whiterun in Skyrim, and Crystal Tower in the Summerset Isles (northern part, west of King's Watch). (White-Gold, Snow-Throat and Crystal-Like-Law)
- Put the green tacks in Yokuda (exact location unknown) and in Valenwood (somewhere in the middle). (Orchalc and Tree-Sap)
- Put the brown tacks in Daggerfall (southernmost tip of High Rock) and in Elsweyr (again in the middle). (Walk-Brass and Khajiit)
- Put the red tack in the middle of Vvardenfell in Morrowind. (Red)
- Put the black tack on the little island deep in the Iliac Bay near High Rock. (Ata-Mantia)
That's the locations of the Towers that keep time flowing. All's fine and dandy with those holding the world together, right? Wrong! Some have been destroyed or deactivated over the course of time; three times, this was done by the player. Whoops. Remove the following:
- Red Tower (deactivated in Morrowind by you)
- White-Gold Tower (deactivated in Oblivion by you)
- Crystal Tower (destroyed in Oblivion by the Daedra)
- Khajiit Tower (Their leader, the Mane was killed, likely assassinated by Thalmor. S/He was also known as the Mane Moon which appeared when Secunda and Masser overlap)
- Tree-Sap Tower (both located in Thalmor territory, likely deactivated)
- Orichalc Tower (destroyed along with Yokuda)
Snow-Throat Tower is very much active (but damaged), but its Stone is an unknown cave. Walk-Brass Tower is very much active, but somehow it is "besieging reality well into the Fifth Era", meaning that it's in the future yet somehow active. Which is not a bad thing, since Walk-Brass tower is a fuckhueg robot that has a nasty habit of fucking Time so hard it breaks. So yeah, the only things standing between Tamriel and the primordial time-grog are a mountain and one of the Void Dragon's action figures. Unless, of course, Akavir and\or Pyandonea would be revealed to host their own Towers, which is likely since certain prominent rulers of both lands somehow managed to achieve godhood, something that Towers are very helpful at.
Removing the Tower-Tacks has another side effect: the veil between Nirn and Oblivion becomes thinner. At the time of Oblivion it had even grown so thin that the Daedra could slip into this realm on their own accord. So your actions in Morrowind partially caused the Oblivion Crisis. Way to go, champ. And what happens if you remove all the tacks? Right, your map falls off the pin board, Mundus falls into Oblivion.
Thalmor, who often claim the need to deactivate all Towers, don't really need that. Their main goal is the biggest and newest anchor of existence, Talos (essentially Lorkhan 2.0), hence why they try to ban his worship so hard and unmake him. Thalmor want him and all of mankind to be gone, believing their extermination necessary to unmake the Mundus.
How to Break your Dragon (Or Jump Your Shark)
You might have heard the phrase "Dragon Break" (both words capitalized) a few times. Simply put, this means cock-slapping Time so hard it breaks and becomes non-linear for a while. But not just any cock-slap, oh no. This is the hard part: Imagine a dick if you will. A really big dick (no, this does not make you gay
unless you imagine balls touching). So big in fact, that even Long Dick Johnson would say "That's a big fucking dick". Right, you see it? The biggest fucking dick your feeble mind could comprehend? Good.
Now, imagine if you will, Time. How you do this is up to you: causality, a linear progression of cause and effect, floaty magic thingies, sand, a clock, perhaps even a more anthropomorphic presentation in the shape of a loli or a cute monstergirl. Right. Now take the dick and slap Time in the face. Cockslap it so hard that time itself just outright breaks and loses its linearity. This is a Dragon Break. The name itself is derived from the notion that the Linearity of Time is Akatosh, who is a dragon. Hence if you break time, you "Break the Dragon". While inside a Dragon Break time is perceived to pass normally, but when one exits it might appear that a lot more or less time than you observed has passed in the rest of the world.
The first known Dragon Break occurred near the end of the Dragon War, where a trio of Nords confronted Alduin the World-Eater, First-Born and Aspect of Akatosh that personifies the End of Time (meaning that somehow he was his own father), the leader of the dragons. The Nords created a localized Dragon Break to fling Alduin into the future so that he wasn't their problem anymore. Mind you, they had no idea where the stuff they shunted was actually going; they just knew it disappeared things, and decided that making Alduin someone else's problem was as good as killing him, essentially causing (or at least amplifying) all the problems in the 4th Era out of laziness. What a bunch of dicks.
The second known Dragon Break happened during the Battle of Red Mountain, where the First Council of the Chimer went to war with the Dwemer. The Dwemer were working on a giant golem they called Numidium. However, it had one minor design flaw: every time someone pushed the "ON" switch it fucked the dragon right up the butt, no lube. This allowed for the multiple truths on the events that transpired on Red Mountain: Ayem, Seht and Vehk stood by their friend Nerevar as he succumbed to his wounds. Almalexia, Sotha Sil and Vivec murdered their Hortator (war-leader) Nerevar. Ayem Seht Vehk = Almalexia Sotha Sil Vivec = ALMSIVI. Everything is true, nothing is correct.
The third suspected Dragon Break occurred during the time of the Alessian Empire, when Saint Alessia freed Man from the slavery of their Mer rulers (think of her as a booby Sigmar). A cult of the Alessian Order known as Marukhati, lead by monkey man Marukh. wanted to exorcise the aspects of Auriel from Akatosh, basically substracting the Elf from the Dragon. This is said to have resulted in a thousand-and-eight year Dragon Break and might have resulted in creating more Dragon aspects than just Auri-El and Akatosh. But some claim that this was little more than a fuckup of the scholars and historians of the time.
The fourth known Dragon Break took place when Tiber Septim unleashed Numidium on the Khajiit of Elsweyr. This included the subjugation of Elsweyr, Valenwood and eventually the Summerset Isles. Tiber Septim threatened to activate it again and have it wreck the Aldmeri Dominion, but they liked their assholes to only be violated by one another, so they too stood down. It has been recorded that Numidium was then used to destroy hostile royal families to replace them with the Emperor's puppets, likely by having it step on them.
The fifth and currently final known Dragon Break occurred during the events of Daggerfall, where it was turned on in the Iliac Bay. But because of the nature of Numidium fucking space-time a new lovehole when it activates (hence, "turned on"), a number of the states in the region obtained the "FUCK EVERYTHING" button of Numidium and pressed it at the same time. Two days of hilarity later, everyone conquered one another until the Empire ended as top dog and everyone swore fealty to the Empire. Because of the events surrounding the activation of the Dragon Break, Numidium disappeared and fell into the future, where it still stands as Walk-Brass Tower.
When the Dragon Breaks happen, Akatosh deploys the Jill to fix time so that everything does not fall apart. These minute-menders (akin to angels) tend to take the form of great wyrms who fly around and fix the little bits of time with the power of their Voice (i.e.: they shout at holes in space-time until they bitch down). If this sounds familiar to you... it is! Jills are female Dragons, while Drakes are the male ones; Dragons can't really reproduce and are born of Time/Akatosh, but it's more of a conceptual thing, with Jills having the concept of healing while Drakes have the concept of Domination. So yeah, Dragons you kill, fight, kill and soul-rob to increase your own unholy power are actually servants and minor aspects of Akatosh. So in other words, you have been killing the heralds of a new era.
...Or at least you would be if they were actually doing what they were supposed to do - as it turns out, some time before that first Dragon Break Alduin, who is also aspect of Akatosh himself decided that he would rather rule over the broken bits of time himself, and the dragons are bound to obey him without question. It's not certain if he did it because he knew that he wouldn't get to eat the world this time around or if he just felt like ruling the world instead of resetting it. So all of reality is increasingly fucked and the only beings who can fix it stopped giving a shit a long time ago. Gods plotting against themselves is fairly common in TES since most of the Gods are broken and crazy with tons of split personalities.
There is also the whole issue of Aka-Tusk, or simply Aka. Apparently all the Dragon Aspects of time at one point or another were Great Dragon God of Time known as Aka-Tusk, but got broken and shed millions of times, maybe even before the Marukhati Dragonbreak. We may never know because Dragonbreaks are usually at least partially retroactive.
And then there is the whole issue of Akatosh and Lorkhan being one being and Akatosh being trapped in Heart of Lorkhan literally. This timey wimey bullshit is really getting out of hand.
CHIM: Or "You took HOW MUCH LSD!?
That muffled explosion you just heard was caused by a number of people exploding out of sheer rage. Sit tight, because this shit is meta wrapped in an enigma inside a mindfuck.
In Morrowind you can find a series of books titled the 36 Sermons of Vivec. If you pick them up and read them at face value they might appear as parts of a religious text, filled with metaphors, truths twisted throughout the ages, and copious amounts of buttfucking (no, seriously). In these books you will find several references to CHIM, The Tower, and The Ruling King. Now, early on in the books Vivec is shown as the teacher of Lord Indoril Nerevar (more on him below), yet Nerevar does not understand the lessons. Because he was not the intended student. Instead, these lessons were meant for you. Not only for your player character, but for you, the player. For if one attains CHIM, one's physical form becomes a mere avatar of the self.
But now you may wonder, what the Charles fucking Dickens *is* CHIM?
Imagine if you will, a great wheel with eight spokes. The wheel is everything that exists: Aurbis. The hub is Nirn, the world that the series takes place on. The spokes are the Aedra, the
Nine Eight Divines. The space between the spokes is Oblivion, where the Daedra reside. Mundus encompasses both Nirn, its moons and the realms of the Aedra. Now, if you were to turn the wheel 90 degrees, you'd be looking at the rim of the wheel so it resembles I (as in, the thin side of a disk). This is the Tower, the Secret of Aurbis, holder of the secret. CHIM. The wheel is the entire universe. Outside there exist only two forces: Anu and Padhome, stasis and change. Think a great void filled with only two bubbles: there where these bubbles touch exists the wheel. Now, the Tower is not something physical, but an ideal. Something that can be attained, conquered, stolen. For one to reside within the tower, is to know the truth of all that is. This was the revelation of Lorkhan's that made him want to create Nirn.
This truth is that everything is a dream. The supreme power in TES is the Godhead, the unknown creator of all. Everything, Aurbis, Anu, and Padomay - all created in the dreams of the Godhead. Attaining CHIM is to know this, the relentless alien terror that is God and your place in it. Everything you know, are and do is but a dream. Now, if you discover this one of two things can happen. The most common one is to realize you do and don't exist at the same time: you lose your individuality (you zero-sum) and become one with the dreamer, the Godhead, and you disappear in the proverbial puff of logic. The second option is the rare one: to realize that you are part of the Godhead, you *are* the Godhead. If everything is an extension of the same thing, and that the thing can reshape reality with a thought, being a dreamer within the dream.
If you thought that shit was meta, just you wait. The principles behind CHIM can be taken further to mean that the Godhead and its dreams are a metaphor for the computer running the game and the game itself. In-universe the metaphor of the godhead and being awake within the dream is needed to prevent characters who realize this from zero-summing out of existence at the resulting paradox. It can be inferred that a character who achieves CHIM essentially gains access to the console and the Construction Set. Talos used the Construction Set to retcon Cyrodiil from a jungle land into a generic European fantasy land (Talos has a terrible imagination). Vivec gave himself levitation abilities by using the console to erase the texture file for his chair (no seriously). Whether or not the player achieves CHIM varies. Generally when a player becomes fully immersed in the game, they do not have CHIM. However, a player who gets fed up of getting bugged by cliff racers every five seconds and installs a mod that removes them from the game is using CHIM. They are remembering that the world they are in is a game and altering it as they see fit. Exploits, mods, console commands, etc can all be explained in-universe as the player character achieving CHIM and using it to reshape reality or bend its rules... or all of that could be stupid speculation.
Meta as FUCK.
You can go deeper than that and find Amaranth though, but that is whole another level of mindfuck.
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine
We've mentioned a few times that the world of Nirn is slowing being destroyed by a few reasons. In a normal fantasy setting, this would be a terrible thing, and the hero must try and stop it; however, the Elder Scrolls isn't a normal fantasy setting. One of the dragons, Paarthurnax, mentions that when the world ends, Alduin, the first born of Akatosh, will/might simply recreate it, thus returning it to the point of creation. Granted he also states liking the current one is a good enough reason to fight Alduin (that and the fact that Alduin is an absolute prick who would rather rule over the broken remains of the old one instead of actually doing his job).
This is due to the Kalpic nature of Nirn; Kalpa is the time span from Convention to the end of the world, one turn of a wheel. Eventually, Alduin The World Eater grows in size and literally eats the world, turns the Kalpa like a wheel and everything resets back to the Convention, the moment when Heart of Lorkhan was torn out, time became linear. From that point on things can go differently in different Kalpas; for example, according to Seven Flights of Aldudagga, one Kalpa had Molag Bal as its ruler and Dreughs as the supreme race. That being said, it is possible to end the Kalpic cycle and destroy shit for good, hence what the Thalmor are trying to do. They also believe that this will make them Ada (Spirit/God) again.
In essence, the world might be ending, few care and fewer understand, and Elder Scrolls lore is more complicated than trying to keep track of the number of penises Slaanesh has at the moment.
Remember way at the beginning of this page, we said that how crazy the Elder Scrolls series is depends on if you take an ex-writer's blogposts as gospel? Well, if you don't, and only trust what you see in-game, it looks a bit like this.
The Godhead almost certainly doesn't exist. Neither does CHIM. Only two in-game sources claim it does; one is a colossal liar and the other is shown to be wrong about absolutely everything that comes out of his mouth. They're both bugfuck nuts and they both end up dead at your hands. The big historical event allegedly caused by CHIM could easily not have been. At least two alternate theories have been suggested: either the event never actually took place and was the result of a transcription error, which is boring, or the White-Gold Tower did it on its own after humans booted the elves from the Imperial City and moved in, which is not. Speaking of, the Tower thing is definitely true, because the plot of Oblivion is, broadly, that the bad guy shut one down and tore reality a new asshole. The Dragonbreak is an empirical event that happens within living memory; in Oblivion you can read the Imperial report on what the fuck happened in the last one, and you can see one happen in Skyrim. The kalpa thing is definitely happening, and you hear as much directly from the mouth of a time-spirit who knew Alduin personally. You meet Pelinal Whitestrake's ghost in a DLC questline, and he doesn't seem to be a robot, or even remotely crazy.
Mantling deserves special mention, even though it hasn't been mentioned anywhere else on the page. Basically, by adopting the mannerisms and vestments of something else, you become that something else. In a word: apotheosis. You mantle a daedric prince at the end of Shivering Isles, and use your new divine powers to kick the ass of another daedric prince. Have we mentioned that these games are really, really good and you should play them? SI also added the caveat that whatever you're mantling has to be either dead or gone in a big way for you to pull it off, and you're basically filling in its place in the universe.
Gods, Deities and other important people
Most of the Gods in The Elder Scrolls are Et'Ada, the "original spirits" that came from the interplay of Anu and Padomay. These spirits later depending on their alignment with creation got categorized into Aedra and Daedra, if you took part in creation of Nirn you are Aedra, if you were egotistic dick and went to Oblivion to make your small shitty realm, you are Daedra.
The Aedra (Our ancestors in Aldmeris) are Et'Ada of Anuic origin. Many of them took part in the creation of Nirn, during which they "died", their essences fused together into Mundus. As such they do not have "physical" forms like the Daedra have. Yet their spirits live on in Nirn: as the Gods of the world they live in every part of it. While not as "focused" as their Daedric counterparts they are more widespread, worshiped and give their blessings and artifacts more freely than the Daedra, plus they have control over one realm that everyone wants to have, Nirn.
Eight of the Aedra are worshipped in Tamriel as the Eight Divines (along with the human god-hero Tiber Septim, aka. Talos, to make the more alliterative Nine Divines):
- Akatosh: Also known as Auri-El to the Altmer and the father of the dragons, the chief deity of the Eight and the top god of the Cyrodiilic Empire as he represents duty, legitimacy, endurance and obedience.
- Arkay: Lord of the Wheel of Life, master of life and death, burials and funeral rites. Arkay priests are some of the fiercest necromancer hunters around, as their foul practices are an affront to their god.
- Dibella: Goddess of beauty, love and affection, as well as art and music. Effectively Nirn's equivalent of Aphrodite. She teaches that, "No matter the seed, if the shoot is nurtured with love, will not the flower be beautiful?" Oh boy.
- Julianos: God of wisdom and logic; literature, lore, history and contradiction are the domains of Julianos. Though Magnus is the god of magic, many wizards worship Julianos. The scholarly Bretons also hold a particular reverence for him. Monastic orders dedicated to Julianos are the keepers of the Elder Scrolls.
- Kynareth: Goddess of heavens, winds and the elements. Known as Kyne among the Nords and the widow of Shor. It is said that Kyne gifted men with the Thu'um so they could harness the power of dragons and save themselves from Akatosh's errant children.
- Mara: Goddess of agriculture, compassion, fertility, love-... Hey, wait a minute, doesn't that overlap with Dibella? Well, it does, and it is complicated. Among the Nords, Mara is Kyne's handmaiden and Shor's bit on the side. Among the Altmer, Bosmer and Bretons, Mara is the wife of Akatosh/Auri-El. Among the now extinct Kothringi of Black Marsh, Mara was just one of three aspects to an older Mother goddess with Kynareth and Dibella as the other two aspects. Whatever the case, weddings in Tamriel are overseen by priests of Mara.
- Stendarr: God of mercy, charity and justice. Apologist of men and patron deity of the Imperial Legion and many Breton knightly orders. Stendarr welcomes heretics, the afflicted, hopeless and forgotten just as readily as his devout followers. However his mercy ends at the enemies of mortals, the abhorrent and unnatural. Stendarr's priests are often hunters of lesser Daedra, lycanthropes, vampires and undead. Real bro-tier god overall.
- Zenithar: God of honest work and commerce. Very strong ties to the people of Cyrodiil, and many in High Rock and Hammerfell too.
- Talos: NOT actually an Aedra, but worth mentioning as he is often placed among the other Eight. Talos, known in life as Tiber Septim and Ysmir to the Nords, is the greatest god-hero of mankind. He conquered all of Tamriel and ushered in the Third Empire of Cyrodiil at the end of the Second Era. When he died, his spirit ascended to godhood. As of the Fourth Era, Talos worship is banned in the Empire as per the terms of the White-Gold Concordat, because the idea of a man becoming a god pisses the stupid sparkly prisses off to no end. That, and it is also likely that Talos is singlehandedly holding the world together, and the Thalmor know this and want to starve him of worship, effectively destroying all Nirn to regain the divinity Lorkhan is said to have stolen from them. Fucking elves.
"Not Our Ancestors" in Aldmeris, the Daedra (singular: Daedroth, not to be confused with the crocodile-like Daedra called Daedroth) are the Et'Ada who did not partake in the creation of the world. Because they didn't quasi-suicide themselves to pour their essence into the world, their power is both more focused, but their power on Nirn is more limited compared to their Aedric counterparts. As such their powers are limited to the likes of curses and artifacts, and can only walk the realm in forms that severely limit their powers.
Daedric Princes instead have their own singular realms, the Realms of Oblivion. In those realms Daedric Princes have full control over everything because it is part of them and their mind. Their own realms are made out of them, similar to how Nirn is made out of Aedra; the Daedra are still fully alive and have much greater control over their own realm, but the tradeoff is that each realm is pretty small. Despite serving as the setting's "devils" (in that the word Daedra pretty much means Devil), they are not all completely evil. They range from "hate undead" and "wants to hunt dangerous game" to "prince of destruction" and "king of rape". Even if they are benevolent at times, the Daedra are not to be trifled with and are very dangerous.
- Azura: The Daedra associated with periods of change, twilight in particular, and magic and prophecy. Allegedly Nocturnal's sister, and one of the few Daedra not to be considered evi. Azura is worshipped by by Dunmer and Kahjiit, though she had a mutual hatred for the Dwemer. Her Oblivion Realm is Moonshadow, a beautiful place of silver cities, gardens, and perpetual twilight. Her artifact is Azura's Star, an item which can hold the souls of living creatures. If this sounds like the soul gem items found across the series, it is, but Azura's Star is a max capacity soul gem they doesn't get consumed upon use, and is thus reusable.
- Boethiah: The daedra associated with deceit, conspiracy, treachery and sedition. Despite sounding like some kind of fucked up noble, Boethiah often takes the appearance of a patrician warrior (can be female, but usually male), and he enjoys inflicting mayhem and bloodshed on mortals. Regarded by the Dunmer, either through worship or hatred, and some versions of their origin tale has all sorts of scholarly pursuits emerging from his teachings. His realm is Attribution's Share (also known as Snake Mount), a place of labrynthine policies and betrayals. His artifacts are Goldbrand, a high end katana, and the Ebony Mail, high end armor.
The first two Elder Scrolls games had eight playable races; the three after that added Imperials and Orcs as playable races. There's also a ton of unplayable races as well, but UESP can explain them better than us.
The races of Tamriel are generally divided into three categories; the races of Men are the various ethnicities of human, the Mer races are the different species of elf, and the Beastmen are explained as "where the fuck did these dudes come from?"
- Imperials: Also known as the "Cyrodiilics", the Imperials are a civilised and cosmopolitan people, more or less Roman in culture (but in very early lore they were actually Mesoamerican). Like practically all humans in fantasy settings, they're average at nearly everything, control the world, and are kind of boring compared to everyone else. They've forged three continent-spanning empires in their history, and the first time involved a time-bending magical giant robot. They've also in the past had a space race with the Altmer to colonise Masser and Secunda. Yes, really.
- Nords: The First Men of the setting. Basically manly, magic and elf-hating not-Vikings from the frozen land of Skyrim. Tend to be very very badass because they have to live in an inhospitable hellhole with bears, sabre-tooth cats, trolls, giants, big nopey frost spiders the size of bears and they also fought and killed all the dragons in the past. Their ancestors, the Atmorans, nearly exterminated the entire Snow Elf race with just five hundred warriors. Nord women are tall, blonde and gorgeous, and love candlelit conversations over mead, long walks on the frozen beaches, and killing things with big swords and axes.
- Bretons: Best described as half-elves from Bretonnia with a hint of French-ness. Probably the least badass of the humans here (which is all relative - many great heroes throughout Tamriel's history were Bretons) but they are still the most gifted with magic because of their elf blood. They even get a magic resistance out of the deal. True to the French stereotype, they're great cooks but also a bit snobby. Their home province of High Rock isn't even a united kingdom, but rather a patchwork quilt of petty kingdoms, embroiled in political conflict and usually only tangentially aligned with the Empire.
- Redguard: Fantasy Moors/Africans. Skilled warriors hailing from the sunken islands of Yokuda (of which they were the apparent cause by their warriors overusing a forbidden sword technique that let them split atoms), and the only guys to have invented gunpowder. Redguards are some of the greatest sailors in Tamriel, and they tend to scorn magic due to religious taboos against necromancy and their many past wars with the magic-proficient Bretons. Destruction magic is the only kind of magic they tolerate because doing more damage can't be a bad thing.
- Bosmer (Wood Elves): Wood Elves in the "Dwarf Fortress" sense, only less insane. They are some of the greatest archers in Tamriel and they have a long history of warring with the Khajiit. They also happen to be cannibals because of an ancient pact they made with the forest god Y'ffre. Through this pact they can also turn themselves into monsters, though this trick is only used when the existence of Valenwood itself is threatened. They also have no understanding of woodworking and they brew alcohol from the fermented flesh of their dead enemies. Hardcore.
- Altmer (High Elves): Every stereotype of Elves being narcissistic pricks, amplified a hundredfold. As of the Fourth Era, their home of Summerset Isle (now Alinor) is governed by the Thalmor, fucking literal elven Nazis who are out to unravel all creation because they believe mortality was a cruel trick played on them by the gods of Men (and no, this belief is not just some quirk of the Thalmor, the ancient Aldmer believed this as well). They even practice eugenics and kill any undesirable progeny. Nearly every Altmer is either a wizard or a magical warrior.
- Dunmer (Dark Elves): Elves with a blue-grey tint to their skin who got cursed by their Daedric patron for complex reasons. Their culture is a bizarre mish-mash of China, Japan, Mongolia, ancient Mesopotamia and the Biblical Israelites, with northern English accents. They primarily worship the Daedra along with the Tribunal, three mortals who ascended to godhood by tapping into the Heart of Lorkhan. Highly supremacist and xenophobic, the Fourth Era has bitten them in the arse hard, as most of Morrowind was devastated by volcanic eruption and their Argonian slaves have occupied what's left, leaving most surviving Dunmer as unwelcome refugees. How the mighty have fallen.
- Orsimer (Orcs): Also known as the "Pariah Elves", descended from a race of Elves who got screwed over due to Daedric faggotry. Most Orsimer live assimilated into other cultures or in destitute and isolated strongholds, akin to native reservations, far out in the wilderness. Every time they have tried to build a new city-state in High Rock, Orsinium, the Bretons or Redguards came and knocked it over and as of the Fourth Era the Orcs have been effectively enslaved by the Bretons at sword-point. Also, the Nords only wish they could be as hardcore warriors as the Orcs, which means the two races have something of an odd friendship.
- Argonians: A race of warm-blooded lizard people, well-spoken and skilled as both warriors and mages. Have a weird connection to semi-sentient trees called Hist where they may or may not be gene engineered super soldiers enslaved by said Hist trees. Despite being weirdos and the targets of discrimination, they have an unbreakable hold on their homeland: Tiber Septim never truly conquered Black Marsh, he just barely conquered some of the border towns and called it a win and apparently the Argonians didn't care enough to contest it; and during the Oblivion Crisis, the Dremora were eventually forced to close the gates because the Argonians were sending invading armies through them.
- Khajiit: Technically related to Elves, but hard to tell by looking because they have many different forms that are determined at birth by the waxing and waning of Masser and Secunda: some Khajiit look like the Bosmer, some like furries, some look like housecats except they can talk and use magic, and some get to be completely badass horse-sized tigers, named Battlecats by the Imperials. They are skilled desert raiders, merchants and farmers. Their culture is basically the Romani. Their prime export is said Moon Sugar, a substance that can be best described as magical cocaine made from crystallised moonlight. Like Argonians, they are a prime target for racism.
Though several spinoffs were made, when referring to "The Elder Scrolls" only the five central games are being referred to.
The Elder Scrolls I: Arena
Jagar Tharn, the Imperial Battlemage and trusted servant of the Emperor Uriel Septim VII turns evil, locks the Emperor inside Oblivion, and takes over Tamriel. His apprentice Ria Silmane discovered this and told the player, so Tharn killed the former and imprisoned the latter. Yet Silmane persisted, and helped the player escape prison and revealed how Tharn could be destroyed: by recovering the eight parts of the Staff of Chaos from all over the empire. The player succeeds, kills Tharn, returns the Emperor and all is well. This was the only game to take place in all of Tamriel.
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
The player, a personal friend of the Emperor, is sent to the city of Daggerfall, High Rock to investigate a haunting by the ghost of the former king. Things quickly get out of hand when you discover the Numidium, a massive golem used by Tiber Septim to gain control over Tamriel. There are several mutually exclusive endings possible; canon opted to make them all happen in an event called the Warp in the West, a Dragon Break, where time and space took it up the ass hard.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Morrowind ships the player to the island of Vvardenfell, in the Dunmer province of Morrowind, where you are to report to the perpetually shirtless crackhead called Caius Cossades to investigate a cult that is growing rapidly in size. This cult is revealed to be the doings of the Sixth House, a clan of Dunmer that was destroyed after its leader, Lord Voryn Dagoth, rebelled against Lord Indoril Nerevar, the leader of the war against the Dwemer. Nerevar died shortly afterwards (though it is unclear if he died from the wounds Dagoth inflicted on him, or that his advisors, the Tribunal, killed their lord so they could use the tools of the Dwemer to grant themselves near-divinity), and the Tribunal took over as the god-kings of the Dunmer. There was only one problem: Dagoth wasn't actually dead, and he granted himself near-divinity too.
You take the role of Nerevar's incarnation, and long story short you kill him properly.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Emperor Uriel Septim VII and his heirs are assassinated, and it's up to the player who was unintentionally released from prison to fix that shit by finding the Emperor's last son who had been sought out the last known child of the Camoran Dynasty, the family who had ruled over man for years before Alesseia came and slap their shit. It was the first big-name RPG to appear on seventh generation consoles, and made the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 work for their money. By the end of the game, you end up driving off an army of Daedra but the Septim dynasty comes to an end.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Also known as the Volsunga Saga: The Game.
You're a prisoner, but in a shocking turn of events, this time you're actually told WHY! Turns out you crossed the damn border illegally, you filthy alien (of course, if you are a Nord it's just chalked up to bullshit bureaucracy). And you're to be executed along with the a group of captured rebels called Stormcloaks, along with their leader - Ulfric Stormcloak (who is voiced by Vladimir Kullich). Before you're sent to Sovngarde (Guess what that is. Go on.), a giant dragon god named Alduin the World Eater decides to introduce himself to the world. Alduin being referred to as Akatosh's firstborn son is an outright confirmation that he is also an aspect of him. Some background characters speculate that Alduin is Akatosh himself in the role of a destroyer. You end up learning you're the legendary Dragonborn who can basically do any of the shit a real dragon can do, and defeat Alduin. And possibly stop the civil war too.
The Elder Scrolls Online
TES: the MMORPG. Early on it suffered from growing pains and problems, but after surviving the hate (and glaring lore inconsistencies) and becoming only buy to play, it became a rather nice game.
The Elder Scrolls VI
Recently announced at E3 2018, the game was confirmed to be in production. Rumors speculate that, based on the trailer, it will be based in either High Rock or Hammerfell.
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- The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, the definitive wiki for the series.
- Scrollhammer: if the Elder Scrolls and Warhammer had a bastard son, it would probably be like this.
- Unofficial Elder Scrolls RPG: A pen and paper RPG currently dead because Seht decided to take a break, but he's back now. Core 3E is pretty polished with many supplements actively being worked on and released by various anons.