Lore is the term used by most fans to refer to the information about the setting of The Elder Scrolls universe. It covers a range of topics, such as the geography, history, and metaphysics, which combine to describe the nature of the setting.
- 1 Sources of lore
- 2 Nature of lore
- 3 Scope of the lore
- 4 References
Sources of lore
Lore can come from a range of sources, which are discussed below.
The Elder Scrolls games
Most of the lore that exists in The Elder Scrolls universe comes from each of the Elder Scrolls games that have been published, along with their expansions:
- The Elder Scrolls: Arena
- The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
- An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire
- The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
- The Elder Scrolls Travels: Stormhold
- The Elder Scrolls Travels: Dawnstar
- The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey
- The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion Mobile
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- The Elder Scrolls: Legends
- The Elder Scrolls: Blades
Most of the lore in the games is presented in the form of in-game books and character dialogue, which supply information about the setting from a particular perspective. However, the presence of some objects or people in the games may in itself constitute lore for the setting. For example, the mere presence of Jarl Balgruuf the Greater as Jarl of Whiterun in 4E 201 implies that he was Jarl at that time in the lore.
Lore versus gameplay
However, there are differences between the setting as presented in in-game texts and dialogue and in the games themselves. This is most obvious in the case of city populations. For example, Oblivion has 1,839 named NPCs, and yet there is reference to "thousands" of rice workers in the east of the province alone in a text. Differences like this mean that how something is represented in the games may not match their precise nature in lore.
The events of the games themselves as carried out by the players also constitute lore in the definition given above. The exact status of some of these events is unclear; for example, if a given quest is not completed by the player character, is it considered done in the history of the universe? Due to the imprecise nature of referencing past games this is rarely if ever confirmed. A common opinion that resolves this problem is that each game protagonist completes the games' main questline, but other quests are completed by someone, who may or may not be the game protagonist. However, in a few instances, such as the Kill the Telvanni Councilors Morrowind quest, there is some evidence that the quest was not carried out.
Changes made due to gameplay reasons sometimes get an explanation in the lore. The most prominent example of this is the landscape of Cyrodiil. This is described in the Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition as mostly being "endless jungle," and yet the game Oblivion portrays it as forested. This is explained in a variety of places as having been changed after Tiber Septim's conquest of Tamriel, may have been a scholarly error in the Pocket Guide to the Empire, or happened as a result of a change in ownership of the White-Gold Tower. Similarly, changes to the game engine between Morrowind and Oblivion meant that cities needed to be built in self-contained cells, and therefore levitation spells were not included as they were incompatible with the new cell structure. This was explained in the lore by the introduction of a Levitation Act in Imperial Law, passed in 3E 421.
Elder Scrolls books
There are a variety of printed books that have been made available which contain lore information. These fall into various different categories and are discussed below.
Elder Scrolls novels
There have been two novels published set on Tamriel universe, An Elder Scrolls Novel: The Infernal City and An Elder Scrolls Novel: Lord of Souls, centered around the Umbriel Crisis, which occured between the events of Oblivion and Skyrim.
Manuals and Pocket Guides
Each game is accompanied by one or more written manuals which largely focus on in-game quest walkthroughs, character builds, statistics, and other data. However, they often contain a significant amount of information related directly to the wider lore of the series. Some of these books include The Daggerfall Chronicles, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Game Guide, and the Hero's Guides to The Elder Scrolls Online. Depending on the manual, they may be written from an in-universe or out-of-universe perspective.
The physical disk copy of The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard came with a booklet entitled Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition in the case. The collectors edition of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion came with the Third Edition of the Pocket Guide included in the case. These texts have never been depicted in games (other than an excerpt of The Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's load-screens), but are written from an in-universe perspective.
The in-game books are collated in a range of printed texts, such as the Tales of Tamriel anthology containing texts from The Elder Scrolls Online, or The Skyrim Libraries, which does the same for Skyrim. However, these merely reproduce existing texts from the games with additional artwork, and do not contribute new information to the lore.
Developer interviews and texts
At various points during the development of the series, particularly in the 1990s and early 2000s, game developers would frequently post in-character information on the official Bethesda forums and their own websites. These often elaborated on ideas and concepts that are only tangentially addressed in the games. One particularly prevalent writer of these texts, and the most commonly associated with them, is Michael Kirkbride, who continued writing such texts long after other developers retreated from this form of audience engagement.
Some of these texts have been included in The Elder Scrolls games after their publication, or referenced by the games without necessarily including all or any of the original text itself. A notable example of this sort of inclusion is in Heimskr's sermon, which includes a portion of From The Many-Headed Talos.[UL 1]
Some The Elder Scrolls fans consider these texts to be valid sources of lore about the series, while others do not (see Canonicity and Elder Scrolls Lore below).
Nature of lore
The Unreliable Narrator
Lore in The Elder Scrolls uses a narrative device called the Unreliable Narrator, whereby the person or thing conveying information may not be telling the whole truth, either because they do not know the truth, have a particular agenda to promote or wish to willfully deceive their audience. Typically, a source of lore within The Elder Scrolls will have a definite or implied person or group of people presenting the information, giving it a context and possible set of reasons for it to be true or false.
This means that the information presented to players and readers by its nature requires interpretation and a degree of skepticism in order to arrive at an accurate picture of a particular event or thing, or even that a totally accurate retelling is impossible. A particularly prominent example of this is the various accounts surrounding the Battle of Red Mountain.
Canonicity and Elder Scrolls lore
- Main article: Canon
A canon is an accepted body of texts that are considered authoritative or true. Due to a combination of both the Unreliable Narrator and the presence of the developer interviews and texts elaborated above, there is some debate among fans about the canonicity of certain lore concepts or particular pieces of developer texts.
Some fans consider that only material officially published by Bethesda Studios and its licencees can be considered to be valid lore. Others have a broader view of the canon, including developer interviews and texts—often referred to as "unlicensed texts," "out-of-game texts," or "obscure texts," despite (in some cases) the Bethesda-licenced novels and Pocket Guides technically falling under this category as well—as valid lore. Others reject the notion of a set canon altogether, and uphold subjective canonicity.
The nature of canon and its place in the Elder Scrolls universe is still a point of contention for many in the Elder Scrolls lore community. One text that is particularly divisive is C0DA, written by Michael Kirkbride, which implicitly calls for an end to the notion of canon. Bethesda has not to date taken an official position on the canonicity or non-canonicity of any texts.
Scope of the lore
Much of the lore is comprised of recorded events that are not experienced in any of the games. Most of the lore in The Elder Scrolls comes from the continent of Tamriel, in which currently all the games have taken place. The lore itself may describe places beyond Tamriel, which include other continents or realms of existence.
There are three realms in the Elder Scrolls universe. These are:
- Mundus – The realm in which all mortals reside, It consists of multiple planets, of which Nirn is the one in which all games and most lore takes place. There are a variety of plane(t)s orbiting Nirn within Mundus, which most scholars associate with the Aedra.
- Oblivion – This is the realm where all Daedra reside. Each Daedric prince controls their own piece of oblivion, each differs greatly for every prince.
- Aetherius – This is where the Magna Ge reside, and the Divines according to Imperial belief. It is the belief of several cultures that this is also where the souls of the dead reside.
- Dawn Era – This is the time before creation of Nirn and the establishment of linear time. The only beings that existed in this era are the Et'ada. It ended with the establishment of Nirn itself.
- Merethic Era – The time between when Magnus left Nirn and the founding of the Camoran Dynasty. It lasted 2,500 years, and is reckoned backwards from year zero, representing the founding of the Camoran Dynasty.
- First Era - The time between the founding of the Camoran Dynasty and the assassination of Reman III. It was reckoned to last 2,920 years. However, the events of the Middle Dawn have cast some degree of scholarly doubt on this figure.
- Second Era – The time period between the assassination of Reman III and the founding of the Third Empire by Tiber Septim. This era lasted 896 years, and is when the events of Online, and Redguard occurred.
- Third Era – The time period between the founding of the Third Empire and the end of the Septim Dynasty during the Oblivion Crisis, and lasted 433 years. This is when the events of Arena, Daggerfall, Battlespire, Morrowind, Stormhold, Dawnstar, Shadowkey, and Oblivion occurred.
- Fourth Era – This era has to date lasted 201 years, and has not yet ended in the games' timeline. This is when the events of The Infernal City, Lord of Souls, and Skyrim took place.
Geography of Nirn
The continent of Tamriel is divided into nine provinces:
- Black Marsh – Home of the Argonian race.
- Cyrodiil – The Imperial province, comprising the Nibenay valley and Colovia.
- The Elsweyr Confederacy – Home to the Khajiit. At the time of The Elder Scrolls V, it is split into two states, Anequina and Pelletine.
- Summerset Isles – A chain of islands which is home to the Altmer.
- Hammerfell – A desert region which is home to the Redguard.
- High Rock – Home to the Bretons. Also often the location of Orsinium, the city of the Orsimer, which has been destroyed, relocated and rebuilt many times. The location of Orsinium in the 4th era is unknown.
- Morrowind – Home to the Dunmer. Dominated by the island of Vvardenfell and the Red Mountain volcano.
- Skyrim – Home of the Nords. Allegedly the first province to be settled by man, although this is disputed.
- Valenwood – Forest region that is home of the Bosmer.
There are several other known regions on Nirn. Much of what is known of these places comes from Tamrielic-centric sources.
- Aldmeris – Also called Old Ehlnofey, Aldmeris is the mythical home of the ancestors of modern mer. The location of the continent is currently unknown, and some doubt its current existence.
- Akavir – Very little is known about Akavir. The continent is allegedly home of four races, the Tsaesci, the Ka Po' Tun, the Kamal and the Tang Mo. These terms may also apply to provinces within the continent. According to some, this is where Dragons originated from, before migrating to Tamriel.
- Atmora – Traditionally held to be the home of men before they came to Tamriel, although this is not the only claim. The word means "Elder Wood."
- Pyandonea – A chain of islands southwest of the Summerset Isles. Home to the Maormer, who have attempted to conquer the Summerset Isles at various points in history.
- Thras – A chain of islands on a coral reef, sometimes called the Coral Kingdom. Home of the Sloads.
- Yokuda – Where the Redguard race originated before they set foot in Hammerfell. An unknown phenomenon caused Yokuda to sink beneath the waves in the First Era.
Cosmology & religion
There are a wide variety of religions in Tamriel, mostly tied to a single dominant culture. These are discussed in the Pantheons article.
The cosmology itself involves several common concepts. An outline of some of these are:
- Dragon Breaks – Periods of time in which linear time, and therefore causality, do not apply. The events of the game Daggerfall caused a dragon break, making all possible endings to the game true simultaneously.
- Elder Scrolls – The Elder Scrolls are artifacts of an unknown provenance, that show various interpretations of future events, of what might be. Each reader comes away with a different interpretation, until the events described in the scroll come to pass, at which point the scrolls become fixed. Reading an Elder Scroll takes a toll on the reader, who loses part of their sight with every reading, eventually going blind.
- Et'ada – Also called the Original Spirits, the Et'ada were spirits that were present at the creation of Mundus. Those who took part are most frequently termed the Aedra, those who did not the Daedra, and those who did initially but abandoned the world as it was being created the Magna Ge.
- Subgradience – In the universe of The Elder Scrolls, all creation flows from the interplay between two entities, which go by many names but are most commonly called Anu and Padomay. These two entities split themselves in order to know themselves better, resulting in the Et'ada, who subsequently subgradiated again to produce Mundus and the mortal races.
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Cyrodiil
- As an example, the Listener of Oblivion is mentioned by the Spectral Assassin, but it is not stated wether or not this was the Hero of Kvatch.
- Mythic Dawn Commentaries 3
- Heimskr's sermon in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- The Heartland of Cyrodiil
- Subtropical Cyrodiil: A Speculation
- On Oblivion
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Birthsigns
- Before the Ages of Man
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Eras
- The Dragon Break Reexamined
- Provinces of Tamriel
- The Great War
- Frontier, Conquest
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Other Lands
- Before the Ages of Man
- Mysterious Akavir
- Children of the Sky
- The Warp in the West
- Divining the Elder Scrolls
- Lost Histories of Tamriel
- Pension of the Ancestor Moth
- The Monomyth
- Exegesis of Merid-Nunda
- The Annotated Anuad
|The Elder Scrolls Lore|
|First Era • Second Era • Third Era • Fourth Era |