Elder Scrolls
Elder Scrolls
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For other uses, see Elder Scrolls (Disambiguation).
For the series, see The Elder Scrolls.

An Elder Scroll, as it appears in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The Elder Scrolls are artifacts of unknown origin and quantity, being simultaneously archives of historic, past and future events. They often tell of events that require a Hero to resolve them, although the Scrolls themselves do not select such individuals.[1] They are also known as the "Aedric Prophecies," suggesting that they may have been created by the Aedra, although this designation may be inaccurate.[2] Without technological aid, Elder Scrolls cannot be read without extreme side-effects, among which are blindness[3][4] and insanity.[5]

They are also the namesake for The Elder Scrolls series.


"Can we flow through the Scrolls as knowledge flow through, being the water, or are we the stuck morass of sea-filth that gathers on the edge?"
Septimus Signus[src]

The Elder Scrolls are said to "exceed both Aedra and Daedra,"[6] implying that neither group of deities created them.

Until the events each Scroll describes comes to pass, they contain information about possible events in the future, with each viewing containing a possible version of events.[7] Once a prophecy contained in an Elder Scroll is enacted in Tamriel, the text of the parchment becomes fixed. After that time, all readers ingest the same divine message, creating a historical document declaring the unequivocal truth of a past event. The contents of a scroll, once solidified, cannot be altered by any known magic.[2]

The Scrolls have some relation to time, and offer a view through a fixed point in time to the flow to time itself.[7] However, they appear to be dependent on the flow of time in order to function; events which alter the linearity of time, known as Dragon Breaks, cannot be recorded or predicted by the Elder Scrolls.[8]

Paarthurnax explains that dragons are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of the Elder Scrolls, being born of Akatosh, the god of time. This would explain how Alduin was cast into the future and how a Time Wound was formed at the point of his banishment.[9]

Reading an Elder Scroll

Dexion Evicus reading an Elder Scroll (Sun).

"To glimpse the world inside an Elder Scroll can damage the eyes. Or the mind, as it has to Septimus."
Septimus Signus[src]

Reading an Elder Scrolls correctly takes time, preparation and training. It is said that those with no ability see only unknown etchings and runes, often claiming to recognize constellations and birth signs. With increasing levels of knowledge a reader can gain insight, but also risks both their sight and their sanity.[4]

True insight into the divine contents comes at a price as each new foretelling and interpretation strikes the reader with blindness that gradually increases with each reading, while simultaneously granting them a broader view of the scroll's contents. Ultimately, the reader, having engaged in frequent acts of prophecy, is left bereft of their vision, forever after removed of their right to read the scrolls.[6]

By time-honored tradition only those of the Cult of the Ancestor Moth may read from the scrolls, the younger members caring for the elder as they gradually lose their sight for eternity. The loss of sight for the reading of an Elder Scroll is described as "a price," probably for the learning of what the Elder Scroll chooses to reveal to the reader.[6] Some go insane from reading an Elder Scroll because it is too much knowledge for some to handle.

The Dwemer were so technologically advanced that they were able to develop a device, called a Lexicon, which allowed someone to read an Elder Scroll without going blind or insane.[10]

Ritual of the Ancestor Moth

The Ritual of the Ancestor Moth is a rite performed by Moth Priests in order to read an Elder Scroll. It usually takes place within one of the many secluded Ancestor Glades scattered across Tamriel. Usually Moth Priests take months to prepare themselves for reading an Elder Scroll as only the most resilient of the Moth Priests can read an Elder Scroll with this ritual and it takes years to interpret the harmony. As such, only a few get the chance to perform this ritual.[3]

The voice of the Ancestor Moth has always been an integral part of reading an Elder Scroll. They maintain a connection to the ancient magic that allows a Moth Priest to decipher them. Moths within an Ancestor Glade emanate a soft harmonious trilling that when amplified tap into a form of primal augur. This allows the moths themselves to become a conduit for deciphering the scrolls. By having the moths close to the Moth Priest, they can utilize the conduit and share the moth's augury.[3]

The ritual itself involves carefully removing the bark of a Canticle Tree with a traditional tool called a draw knife which in turn attracts the Ancestor Moths. Once enough moths are in the vicinity, they grant the reader with the second sight needed to decipher the scroll.[3]

Opinions of the Scrolls

"The simplest way to put it is 'knowledge,' but there's nothing simple about an Elder Scroll. It's a reflection of all possible futures and all possible pasts. Each reader sees different reflections through different lenses, and may come away with a different reading. But at the same time, all of it is true. Even the falsehoods. Especially the falsehoods."
Urag gro-Shub on the Elder Scrolls.[src]

The exact number of Elder Scrolls itself cannot be counted, as was proven by the Cult of the Ancestor Moth. Each attempt to quantify their number or even location causes the scrolls to change place and number, for no discernible reason.[11]

The Greybeards consider seeking and studying the Elder Scrolls to be a blasphemy.[12]

The dragon Paarthurnax describes the scrolls as being "artifacts that exist outside of time" as well as "fragments of creation."[9]


"The edged lexicon, for inscribing. To us, a hunk of metal. To the Dwemer, a full library of knowing. But...empty."
―Septimus Signus on the Lexicon.[src]

Merethic Era

Tyranny of the Sun

During the Merethic Era, the remaining Snow Elves who had not been massacred by the Atmorans or had fled to the Dwemer for help had fallen back to the Forgotten Vale as a new safe haven for them. The Snow Elves who had gone to the Dwemer for help had been enslaved by them, and had been forced to ingest a toxic fungus which blinded them.[13] Over time, those Snow Elves had evolved into the Falmer. At some point, a large group of the Falmer had discovered the Forgotten Vale, and they began to massacre all of the Snow Elves in the Vale. Ironically, the genocide the Falmer were committing was against their own former brothers and sisters, who had not been affected by the actions of the Atmorans and Dwemer. Early before when one of the initiates came before Arch-Curate Vyrthur and bit him turning him into a vampire despite the fact that he was supposed to be protected by Auri-El. In revenge, Vyrthur created the Tyranny of the Sun prophecy foretold in three Elder Scrolls. In the end, Vyrthur and his brother, Knight-Paladin Gelebor, were the only known survivors of the attack,[14][15] and the Tyranny of the Sun prophecy would continue to be unfulfilled until the Volkihar Clan discovered the prophecy and began to uncover it.

Time Wound

Main article: Time Wound

During the Merethic Era, Alduin led the dragons in a war against all of the people of Tamriel.[16] Atop the Throat of the World, the Tongues, three Nord heroes, fought against Alduin and his dragons. When Alduin arrived, the Tongues used the Dragonrend shout to face him. After Alduin killed one of the Tongues and proved too strong for the heroes to defeat, the others decided to use an Elder Scroll to defeat him. Alduin was banished by the scroll, and returned to Skyrim in 4E 201.[17] The usage of the Elder Scroll broke time and resulted in the formation of the Time Wound.[9]

Second Era

"The scrolls contain records of all past and future events, but they cannot be read without a severe price―madness, blindness, even death. Many believe they were created by the Aedra, but why or when is unknown."
Protector Arfire[src]

During the Three Banners War, the Elder Scrolls were an important aspect of the battles waged in Cyrodiil. The three factions would steal each other's scrolls back and forth, and as such power shifted between them. Varen Aquilarios, the Emperor prior to the Soulburst, had begun studying with the Moth Priests and read the scrolls. He gained a significant amount of knowledge, but had soon lost his sight.[18]

In 2E 582, a moth priestess known as Sister Terran Arminus tasked the Vestige with retrieving an Elder Scroll from the White-Gold Tower in order for them to fulfill the prophecy written in the scroll. However, their plan was thrown into jeopardy as the Daedra Molag Kena masqueraded as the Empress Clivia Tharn and stole the scroll for her master Molag Bal. The Vestige slew Kena, and returned the scroll to Terran.[19]

Third Era

While on a mission for the Gray Fox, the Hero of Kvatch stole an Elder Scroll from the Imperial Palace, whereby the Gray Fox then passed on the curse of Nocturnal's Cowl to the Hero of Kvatch.[20]

Fourth Era

In 4E 175, all the Elder Scrolls housed in the libraries of White-Gold Tower vanished and were scattered across Tamriel by unknown forces.[3]

Septimus Signus read an Elder Scroll and went mad, eventually writing a commentary on the abstract nature of the scrolls entitled Ruminations on the Elder Scrolls. During his experiments at his outpost north of the College of Winterhold, he discovered that the Dwemer developed a device known as a Lexicon, which allowed the contents of an Elder Scrolls to be inscribed and read without side-effects.

Dragon Crisis

The Elder Scroll's receptacle in the Tower of Mzark.

Main article: Dragon Crisis

The return of Alduin to Skyrim in 4E 201 was foreseen by the Elder Scrolls.[21] The Dragonborn was sent by Paarthurnax to obtain the Elder Scroll that banished Alduin in the past, in order for the Dragonborn to be able to observe through the Time Wound and learn the Dragonrend shout in order to defeat Alduin.[22]

Tyranny of the Sun

Main article: Tyranny of the Sun

The Volkihar Clan, lead by Harkon, sought an Elder Scroll from the Soul Cairn, to end the sun's threat to vampires with Auriel's Bow. Serana, Harkon's daughter, was in possession of an Elder Scroll, which was draped across her back in plain sight. The third Elder Scroll was the third key in the Tyranny of the Sun prophecy; it had to be read in the Ancestor Glade to locate Auriel's Bow.

Named Elder Scrolls