There are five organizations of Dunmer in the region of Morrowind that are known as Great Houses. They have their origins in ancient Velothi tribes, and function effectively as political parties within the Morrowind polity, as well as controlling much of the trade and local administration in the province.
Representatives from each of the Great Houses form the Grand Council, the body that has ruled Morrowind since the late First Era. The Houses themselves also have ruling councils, which enforce House policy and conduct.
Great Houses that have been referenced in the games to date are House Dagoth, House Dres, House Hlaalu, House Indoril, House Redoran, House Sadras and House Telvanni. All but House Dagoth and House Sadras had a stake in Morrowind's governance for most of its history. House Dagoth was destroyed following the events at the Battle of Red Mountain, while House Sadras replaced House Hlaalu following the Red Year. During the time of Resdayn in the First Era, the Dwemer were also accorded the status of a House, referred to as "House Dwemer."
History[edit | edit source]
Each Great House is made up of a network of families and subclans, that date back to the tribal cultures that emerged following decline of Velothi culture in the late Merethic Era. However, sources detailing the nature of the Great Houses only go back as far as the First Era.
First Era[edit | edit source]
The First Council[edit | edit source]
This ended at the time of the War of Succession in 1E 416, where the Chimer and Dwemer were united to destroy the First Nordic Empire. During this time, the predecessor organizations that would lead to the Great Houses were formed, with the First Council as its governing body. Armed conflict between the Houses still continued to some degree during this time, however, despite the formation of an overarching government for Resdayn.
The First Council dissolved some time after the ejection of the Nords, over religious differences between the Dwemer and the other houses, and possibly the discovery of the Heart of Lorkhan beneath Red Mountain. These disagreements grew into the War of the First Council. This war saw the disappearance of the Dwemer at the Battle of Red Mountain, and the eradication of House Dagoth shortly after.
The Grand Council[edit | edit source]
Following the Battle, the First Council was reformed into the Grand Council, consisting of the Orthodox Houses of Dres, Hlaalu, Indoril, Redoran and Telvanni. Also emerging at this time was the Tribunal Temple, following the apotheosis of Almalexia, Sotha Sil and Vivec, and the outlawing of open House conflict, precipitating the rise of the Morag Tong in order to continue such disputes less openly, although this did not end all open conflict between the houses. The Tribunal also founded the Grand Council out of the ashes of the First Council, to govern the province.
Several nomadic groups of Dunmer refused to worship the Tribunal, continuing the old ancestor and Daedra worship that was prevalent before the War of the First Council. Although previously identified as a distinct group from the settled mer, these Ashlanders became more marked in their differences as the House Dunmer integrated further with the Tribunal Temple and the Ashlanders retained the old ways. Over time, the webs of allegiances between the settled Dunmer and the peace brought by the Grand Council meant that they developed rapidly, forcing the nomadic Ashlanders into the less fertile lands of the province.
Second Era[edit | edit source]
The Armistice[edit | edit source]
The Treaty of the Armistice was agreed after several skirmishes between the Empire and Resdayn during Tiber Septim's conquests, and created the Imperial Province of Morrrowind. The Houses were split on how to react to this, with several refusing to fight the empire directly, leaving House Redoran the impossible task of defending alone against the Empire. House Hlaalu was enthusiastically supporting the treaty, while House Indoril vehemently opposed it, and others remained neutral. However, the terms of the Armistice allow Morrowind a high degree of local autonomy and self-governance in cultural affairs, leading to several houses, particularly those supportive of slavery, to later support the terms of the Armistice.
Third Era[edit | edit source]
The Hortator[edit | edit source]
As a result of Imperial and Temple machinations, the Hortator emerged with the support of all Great Houses during the late Third Era, to defeat Dagoth Ur. At this time, King Llethan was assassinated and replaced by Helseth. Helseth replaced all the members of the Grand Council, shaking up the Houses out of a long-established order.
Fourth Era[edit | edit source]
The Red Year[edit | edit source]
Baar Dau fell and Red Mountain erupted in 4E 5, destroying Vivec City and causing much destruction elsewhere. This destroyed much of the power base of House Indoril, who became synonymous with the Temple itself. House Redoran survived with much of its power base intact, who rose to fill the power vacuum left by the event. Meanwhile, House Hlaalu was removed from the Grand Council and replaced by House Sadras.
Present Houses[edit | edit source]
House Redoran[edit | edit source]
House Redoran is a martial house that consider themselves the hereditary defenders of Morrowind. The House Redoran prizes the three virtues of duty, gravity, and piety, and they are typically considered one of the more honorable Houses in the region. The house claims their first duty is to the Temple, although not as part of its structure as House Indoril is. The House motto is, "A Redoran is a warrior whose duty is first to the Tribunal, second to House Redoran, and third to family and clan."
They have holdings on Vvardenfell island and west of the Morrowind mainland. Their holdings in the mainland of Morrowind include a large portion of the northwest of the province. Their capital on Vvardenfell and council seat for much of their history was Ald'ruhn. In the Fourth Era, They also control much of the island of Solstheim, including the settlement of Raven Rock, following the departure of the Empire in 4E 16.
The house was seen to be in decline for much of the Third Era, losing influence on Vvardenfell as the more expansionist and underhand Telvanni and Hlaalu houses, in addition to suffering from severe levels of crime organized by the Cammona Tong and the Thieves Guild. The most severe blow came during the Oblivion Crisis, when Ald'ruhn was destroyed.
After the Oblivion Crisis, House Redoran established holdings on Solstheim and mainland Morrowind, taking over Raven Rock after the withdrawal of the Empire. On the mainland, House Redoran was one of the least damaged houses following the Red Year and was able to take over the position of leadership on Morrowind's Grand Council.
House Telvanni[edit | edit source]
House Telvanni is a house governed by powerful and idiosyncratic mage-lords, with little formal code of conduct being imposed by the House hierarchy. As a result, many of the most powerful Telvanni lords work in solitude, and do not concern themselves directly with House affairs. During the Three Banners War, despite being a member of the Ebonheart Pact, the Telvanni were most concerned with keeping the other Pact members out of their territories.
Despite this, there is a de facto code of conduct in the House, which considers that might makes right. The House motto reflects this, being, "The forceful expression of will gives true honor to the Ancestors." This cut-throat attitude also means that murdering one's political opponents is a perfectly acceptable way of resolving disputes. It is also the way that the current ruling Archmagister must be deposed.
Their indifference to politics is reflected in the structure of their House governance. While the Telvanni council is made up of some of the most powerful wizards in the House, they are represented and their votes are cast by "Mouths," who speak for their patron in council so that the actual councillor does not have to. Unlike Houses Redoran and Hlaalu, most Telvanni Councillors do not live at the Vvardenfell district seat of Sadrith Mora, but have their own towers, populated by their retainers. Their isolationism is also reflected in the governance of their main territories. Non-members of the House are required to have "hospitality papers" to be in Sadrith Mora at all.
Despite being laissez-faire in their attitude to internal and political affairs, House Telvanni is one of the most competitive when it comes to obtaining resources and power. The House was in direct competition with House Hlaalu for land on Vvardenfell for much of the Third Era, and dominated much of Vvardenfell's eastern regions. Alongside House Dres, House Telvanni is one of the more vocal proponents of slavery on Morrowind, as it allows them to have a fresh supply of both test subjects and cheap labor. They even worked with House Hlaalu to break the Mages Guild monopoly on transportation magic in the Third Era.
During the Oblivion Crisis, the House was rumored to be defending Morrowind directly by invading and closing Oblivion gates. However, the House suffered badly from the subsequent Argonian invasion in 4E 6, with some fearing that the House would be wiped out altogether.
House Indoril[edit | edit source]
House Indoril is one of two Great Houses that does not have holdings on Vvardenfell. Its capital is Almalexia, which also functions as the capital of Morrowind as a whole. The vast majority of members serve the Temple, a tendency which only increased following the events of Red Year and the fall of the Tribunal, resulting in all of House Indoril's power passing into the hands of the Temple in the Fourth Era.
The Chimer warlord Nerevar was an Indoril, and the House claimed that the Tribunal as a whole came from the House. These connections allowed them to maintain a strong control of Morrowind's governance throughout much of Morrowind's history.
When the Third Empire invaded, House Indoril wished to fight to the death rather than submit, and proposed fighting a guerrilla war against the invaders. Following the Armistice, many House Indoril nobles committed suicide rather than accept the treaty, and lost a great deal of influence because of it.
House Dres[edit | edit source]
House Dres has a power based on agriculture and the slave trade, and is located in the south-eastern part of Morrowind, and has no holdings on Vvardenfell. Previously a strong and rich House, with a thriving economy, its influence on Morrowind politics has weakened considerably since Morrowind's surrender to the Third Empire, which it strongly opposed.
House Dres is the most conservative of Morrowind's Great Houses, to the extent that the Daedra worship of the Chimer is still commonly practiced by its members. During the war in which Morrowind became a province of the Empire of Tiber Septim, it was one of the Houses, along with House Indoril and House Redoran, to resist Imperial forces, opposing the treaty even after Redoran agreed to its terms.
More recently, after the events of Morrowind, House Dres has apparently undergone some significant changes. Since then, King Hlaalu Helseth has outlawed slavery in Morrowind, but Dres is apparently prospering in spite of this.
House Sadras[edit | edit source]
Disbanded/Revoked Houses[edit | edit source]
House Hlaalu[edit | edit source]
House Hlaalu was always one of the weaker Great Houses, and so tended to rely on trade and relations with external political forces to keep up with the rest of the Houses. This meant that they were one of the few sincere members of the Ebonheart Pact during the Three Banners War. The House itself positions this as the ability to be nimble and adjust to events, which is for them a political necessity. The House had holdings on Vvardenfell during the Third Era, and its old capital was Narsis. However, the key members of the Hlaalu council all resided on Vvardenfell.
House Hlaalu was always pro-Imperial in its outlook, urging accommodation with Tiber Septim in the period leading up to the Armistice. When the head of the Grand Council, an Indoril, refused to sign the treaty that Vivec negotiated, he was assassinated and replaced by a member of House Hlaalu. Their co-operation with Imperial authorities during the Third Era allowed them to expand aggressively and build and support many new settlements on Vvardenfell. The exact status of these settlements in the political climate following the events of Red Year and the Argonian invasion is unknown. Following the abdication of Queen Barenziah, Athyn Llethan, a member of House Hlaalu, became King of Morrowind. He died shortly after her return shortly before the events of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
House Hlaalu saw its status of Great House revoked during the Fourth Era. This was due to Empire (supposedly) abandoning Morrowind during the Oblivion Crisis. Since the other Great Houses could not take their anger out on the Empire, they targeted House Hlaalu, who were staunch Imperial supporters. The House became an outcast and a pariah, losing almost all of its power.
House Dagoth[edit | edit source]
House Dagoth was one of the six Chimer Great Houses of Morrowind, counted among the "Secular Houses," alongside House Dwemer. Known for being subtle, the House was condemned following the Battle of Red Mountain for treachery, possibly because they invited outsiders into what was an internal Dunmer conflict. This destruction is likely to have happened immediately following the battle itself.
Before this series of events, Voryn Dagoth, the leader of the House, allied himself with Nerevar and the Tribunal. In some accounts, it is Voryn Dagoth that uncovers the Dwemer use of the Heart of Lorkhan, and so may have been the instigator for the war in the first place. Other accounts place Voryn Dagoth as a traitor to his own people who assisted the Tribunal. After the battle, Nerevar left Voryn Dagoth to guard the tools while Nerevar and the Tribunal discussed what to do with them. When the Tribunal returned, Voryn Dagoth (now referred to as Dagoth Ur) drove them off and fled with the tools into Red Mountain's depths. The Ash Vampires, referred to as Dagoth's "kin" in various texts, also likely fled with him at this time.
After this, the mere mention of House Dagoth was considered offensive. They continued to exist for many years, and gathered in force under Dagoth Ur during the Third Era, gathering followers and carrying out a range of covert operations with the ultimate goal of establishing a new theocracy in Morrowind, worshipping Dagoth's created god, Akulakhan. The House was ultimately destroyed in the Third Era, by the actions of the Nerevarine.
Minor Houses[edit | edit source]
In addition to the Great Houses themselves, there are Minor Houses in Morrowind, which generally owe allegiance to one or other of the Great Houses. Due to their inferior political status, there is little detail available about them, so what is known is presented here.
House Sotha[edit | edit source]
House Sotha was one of the minor Houses of Vvardenfell until its destruction by Mehrunes Dagon in the times of Indoril Nerevar. The only one who survived the destruction of the House by Dagon was Sotha Sil, who was rescued by Vivec.
House Mora[edit | edit source]
House Mora was one of the minor houses of Morrowind. They are said to have produced a hero who at one time drove the Nords from Morrowind. Notable members were Queen Barenziah, King Moraelyn, and Empress Katariah. In time the house had disbanded, many of its members being adopted into House Hlaalu.[UL 1]
References[edit | edit source]
- Great Houses of Morrowind
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Morrowind
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Morrowind
- War of the First Council
- Dialogue with Adril Arano
- Before the Ages of Man
- Nerevar at Red Mountain
- A Short History of Morrowind
- War of Two Houses
- Zainsubani's Notes
- Notes from Huleeya
- On Morrowind
- The Arcturian Heresy
- Brown Book of 3E 426
- Events of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
- The Red Year, Vol. II
- The Reclamations
- History of Raven Rock, Vol. III
- The True Noble's Code
- Mottos of the Dunmeri Great Houses
- Guide to Ald'ruhn
- History of Raven Rock, Vol. II
- Red Book of 3E 426
- History of Raven Rock, Vol. I
- The Great Houses and Their Uses
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Rules of House Telvanni Dialogue
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - dialogue with Master Aryon
- The Affairs of Wizards
- Guide to Sadrith Mora
- Hospitality Papers
- Telvanni Requirements
- Rumors in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- Lymdrenn Tenvanni's Journal
- Dialogue with Vivec
- Grasping Fortune
- Yellow Book of 3E 426
- Dialogue with Ocato
- Dialogue with Marius Caro
- Hasphat's Notes for Cosades
- The Real Nerevar
- Nerevar at Red Mountain
- Plan to Defeat Dagoth Ur
- Dagoth Ur's Plans
- Dialogue with Tholer Saryoni
- 36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 22