Saarthal is an ancient Nordic tomb in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It used to be the capital of Skyrim and was built by Ysgramor, before it was sacked by the Snow Elves. It is the final resting place of Jyrik Gauldurson.
It was once the capital city of the Empire of the Nords, founded by Ysgramor. It was one of the first cities established by men in Tamriel. The Snow Elves destroyed the city in what would come to be known as the Night of Tears, and only Ysgramor and his two sons escaped during the carnage.
Later, the destruction of this city would be avenged when Ysgramor returned with his famed warriors, the Five Hundred Companions. The famed enchanter known as Ahzidal heard of the arrival of Ysgramor and the Five Hundred, he went to them, and offered his services to him and his army. With steel imbued with powerful enchantments, Ysgramor, the Five Hundred Companions and Ahzidal began to hunt down the remaining Snow Elves across Skyrim and Solstheim, and a war would begin between the two races. The Five Hundred Companions eventually won, with the vast majority of the Snow Elves dying in the line of duty. Archaeologist Floronius discovered that the Snow Elves had an intricate understanding of the city's layout before launching their assault. The battle which destroyed Saarthal may have been related to the "Eye of Magnus," which the Snow Elves held dear to their culture.
The Dragonborn visits this location with three other mage-apprentices after joining the College of Winterhold. First, they are instructed to help a fellow College of Winterhold scholar, Arniel Gane, to retrieve 4 enchanted artifacts from various locations in the ruins.
Doing so, the Saarthal Amulet is discovered. When the amulet is worn and a spell is cast towards the door it opens to a burial chamber. Along with Tolfdir, the Dragonborn enters the room where they see a vision of Nerien, a member of Psijic Order. If the location is visited before "Under Saarthal," the door to the inner rooms remains locked.
Nerein warns that the Eye of Magnus, an artifact found within, must be obtained and protected by the College of Winterhold, because interested parties want to exploit its power. The Dragonborn and Tolfdir discover the device, and slay the Draugr protecting it. Afterwards, the Dragonborn rushes back to the college to warn Arch-Mage Savos Aren of the discovery.
Solving the puzzle
The first puzzle with the rotating pillars is solved by discovering the animal symbol behind each pillar. This can be done by carefully looking at the wall while using a torch or casting Magelight or the Candlelight spell, or turning up the game's lighting via the Settings menu.
The second puzzle is solved by rotating pillars in a certain order. Activating certain pillars will rotate a number of the others. The pillar on the left closest to the door will turn all of the other pillars, the pillar on the left furthest from the door will turn both of the pillars on the right, the pillar on the right closest to the door will turn the pillar in front of it and the pillar on the right furthest from the door will not turn any other pillars. The pillars should be activated in descending order of how many other pillars will turn with them, and should be set to (in that order): whale, snake, hawk, whale.
After stealing his share of his father's amulet, Jyrik Gauldurson fled to Saarthal, and was eventually defeated in battle there and was entombed within Saarthal, bound by a Writ of Sealing. The Dragonborn destroys Jyrik and recovers his fragment of the amulet needed to reconstruct the original.
- One silver ore vein outside the entrance along the walkway.
- Two iron ore veins.
- One gold ore vein.
- Two quicksilver ores.
- One refined malachite in a bucket.
- Two orichalcum ingots in a bucket.
- Staff of Jyrik Gauldurson, on the altar, in front of the Eye of Magnus.
- A Word Wall for the dragon shout Ice Form.
- To the west of Saarthal, a dead, frozen Mammoth sticking out of a wall of ice can be found. Spears of Dwarven make are lodged in its body. Dwarven arrows can also be found.
- Once cleared of enemies, the location remains cleared out, though the sound of the Eye of Magnus remains on its "pedestal."
- In The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr, a Bosmer expert mechanist named Vole mentions falling into Saarthal via a pit. He found himself in Dwemer ruins instead of Nordic in which he swallowed a soul gem and became a genius mechanist.
- Followers may disappear upon entering the ruin. They may also refuse to enter at all, remaining outside.
- The pillars may not be able to be rotated when trying to solve the puzzle. To fix this, reload the game to an earlier save, or just simply walk back and re-enter the area.
- The door may not open when the pillars are in the correct position. Reload to a point prior to entering that area and replay to fix.
- It is possible to retrieve the amulet without retrieving any of the other artifacts.
- Under Saarthal." To fix this, wait a few hours near the door, or fast travel to the college and back. The Dragonborn may not be able to enter because Tolfdir will not show up during the quest "
- It is possible that Tolfdir will not follow you in. The only real solution appears to be reloading.
- It is possible the Tolfdir will not attack the orb.