"Slavery is protected by law in Morrowind. Slavery is illegal throughout the rest of the Empire, and considered barbaric by most citizens."
―"Slavery" dialogue topic[src]

A House Dres member whips a slave on a saltrice plantation.

Slavery was a cultural and economic system in which people are treated as property. Slaves were sold, traded, and forced to work for their owners. It is unknown how long slavery was practiced on Nirn, but the oldest mention dates back to the time of the Ayleids, who enslaved the Nedic humans in the early First Era.[1][2][3] Among them was Saint Alessia, liberator of the slaves.[1][4]

History[edit | edit source]

Alessian Era[edit | edit source]

St. Alessia, referred to as the "Slave Queen," led a rebellion against their Ayleid masters, abolishing the enslavement of her people, becoming queen, and founding a religion.

The Ayleids kept human slaves, when their empire ruled the Cyrodilic province. Generally, the Ayleids worshipped the Altmeri divines, but also dealt frequently with Daedric Princes for assistance in keeping their slaves in line.[1] The Nords of Skyrim worshiped a distinct group of divines, who were much more sympathetic to humanity than merfolk. Alessia began to pray to these divines for assistance in freeing her people, in particular Kynareth, whom the Nords called Kyne.[5]

Kynareth sent her son, the Nordic demi-god hero Morihaus, to advise and aid Alessia.[6][5] During this period, Morihaus is usually identified as Alessia's lover, though the Song of Pelinal claims he was embarrassed at his appearance because of her.[7] He helped her to rally the other slaves to her cause. From that moment she was known as the Slave-queen. Kynareth also sent Alessia visions that would aid her fight against her masters. The third of these visions was of another legendary figure of the First Era, the infamous Pelinal Whitestrake, who was sent to Alessia to become the leader of her army.[5] Pelinal was a demi-god like Morihaus, possibly the son of Lorkhan.[8][7]

Regional slavery[edit | edit source]

Morrowind[edit | edit source]

House Dres[edit | edit source]

House Dres is one of the Great Houses of Morrowind. This House found its origins due to a successful slave raid, which secured their position as the primary source of slaves for the other Houses. Even so, the primary source of income for House Dres was their agriculture, with the slavery only coming in as a bonus.[9]

Great House Dres, located in the south of Morrowind, borders the province of Black Marsh. House Dres focuses itself on agriculture, and its saltrice plantations were entirely fueled by slave labor. They are hostile to Imperial law and culture, and particularly opposed the ideas and attempts to limit or remove the practice of slavery.[10] Not just House Dres used slaves to fuel their plantations; within the Ascadian Isles of Vvardenfell the plantations also heavily relied on slave labor,[11] notable plantations using slaves being the Dren Plantation and the Arvel Plantation.[12]

Third Era[edit | edit source]

A slavers market in Tel Aruhn.

During the late-Third Era, Morrowind was the only province of Tamriel where slavery was still legal as part of the Armistice. Despite this, abolitionists attempted to put an end to slavery, and aid runaway slaves. While there were many who at least understood the reasoning behind this, the Dunmer of House Telvanni despised the abolitionists.[13] Others, while not owning any slaves, opposed the abolitionists due to the fact that the owning of slaves was legal in the province.[11] Some slave owners within the province opposed the outlawing due to them having trust issues with people who weren't slaves.[11] The enslavement of humans, Orcs, Argonians and Khajiit had traditionally been permitted by Morrowind's Dunmer,[14] while in some circumstances, even Dunmer themselves would be sold to slavery.[15][16] The practice of slavery was uncommon in the districts of House Hlaalu and House Redoran, but very common in the districts of House Telvanni,[14] Dres, and Indoril.[17]

Within Morrowind, many Argonians were used for the practice of slavery,[18] despite them being generally poorly suited for the practice.[19] The Dunmer of Morrowind have performed countless slave raids into Black Marsh, and despite the outlawing of the Third Empire to do this, the practice persisted, resulting in a deep hatred between Argonian and Dunmer.[20] While less popular among the Ashlanders, who never outlawed slavery,[21] Khajiits were also commonly used by the Great Houses as slaves as well.[22]

Within Morrowind, slaves were bound by enchanted slaver bracers.[23] These bracers drained the magicka of the slaves, preventing them from using magic to escape. The only way to get the bracers off is by having the key.[24]

Most citizens of the Empire presumed that the barbaric practice of slavery would disappear in Morrowind as it adopted Imperial ways. The topic itself caused for little passion, except for Argonian and Khajiiti abolitionists, who were outraged by the Empire's neglect to suppress illegal slave raids.[14] At this time, in 3E 427, slavery was on the wane in the province of Morrowind.[17]

Twin Lamps[edit | edit source]

To aid runaway slaves, an organisation known as the Twin Lamps was created,[13] which became the main abolitionist movement in Morrowind. The faction was dedicated to the outlawing of slavery. Notable members were the the Argonians of Ebonhearts Argonian Mission,[25][26] as well as the daughter of Duke Vedam Dren, known as Ilmeni Dren, a House Hlaalu member.[27][28]

Cyrodiil[edit | edit source]

The Ayleids were well known for their cruel tradition of keeping many slaves. They were said to herd men from all across Nibenay, such as the Kothringi, Nedes, al-gemha, men-of-'kreath, men-of-ket Keptu, men-of-ge, and al-hared.[4] The Alessian Slave Rebellion put an end to this, and city-states that allied with Alessia, like Nenalata, were also forced to transition to a slaveless economy.[29] While not a common practice among Imperials, Tiber Septim sold captive Bretons into slavery after defeating them in the Battle of Sancre Tor.[30]

Summerset Isles[edit | edit source]

"Byz told to muck out dung pits, clean floors, run when small Elf-masters throw rocks."
Byz, a goblin on his enslavement[src]

The Altmer have often kept Goblins as slaves, though this practice is usually on the main Isle of Summerset.[31] Some Dunmer were also enslaved during the late Second Era, with the most famous being Ulvul Llaren, a slave who betrayed his masters by revealing the secret of forging Elven Armor.[32]

Black Marsh[edit | edit source]

Argonians have not traditionally kept slaves, as they despise the enslavement of their kind by the Dunmer. However, under the effects of the Mad Hist, the Xit-Xaht tribe enslaved many of their own species to rebuild the Ruins of Mazzatun.[33] Argonian mothers would sometimes sell their own children into slavery.[34] In Thorn, a city in Black Marsh heavily influenced by Morrowind due to being on the province's border, the Archein clan kept many slaves in and around the city.[35] They were generally despised by their own kind, whom considered them traitors.[34][36]

Skyrim[edit | edit source]

Following the Nordic-Falmer War, most Snow Elves sought refuge with the Dwemer, but in exchange for protection they had to eat toxic fungus that would blind and eventually degenerate them, while being servants to the Dwemer. Those who agreed became the savage Falmer, soon becoming slaves to the Dwemer, while most whom declined the deal perished.[37] The Nords also captured many Falmer during their war with them. The Nords mistreated their slaves, being noted for cutting out the tongues of many of them,[38] as well as killing slaves while marching. The city of Windhelm was created with slave labor under the command of Ysgramor. About as many Falmer were killed by the Nords on their way to the site, as died during construction itself.[39]

While Nords did not keep slaves in the Fourth Era, a colony of Falmer enslaved a number of people in Blackreach.[40]

Hammerfell[edit | edit source]

An Argonian slave known as Walks-Softly was brought from Black Marsh to Hew's Bane and kept as a slave, before running away and being replaced by Pimsy. Due to the region not being under the control of Forebear High King Fahara'jad, it is unknown what the rest of Hammerfell's views on slavery is.[41]

Outlawing of slavery[edit | edit source]

Within Valenwood and the Summerset Isles, the practice of slavery was first outlawed, long before they became part of the Empire. When the practice of slavery was outlawed in Summerset is never specified, though it must have been after the seventh century of the Second Era.[42] After these provinces, the nations of the Empire outlawed the practice,[14] with Morrowind being the last province to outlaw the practice, by decree of King Hlaalu Helseth in 3E 432.[43] The only two Great Houses who are recorded to have let go of all their slaves were Great House Hlaalu and Great House Dres.[44]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Appearances[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Amulet of Kings
  2. Shezarr and the Divines
  3. Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Eras
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Adabal-a
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The Song of Pelinal, Book II
  6. On Minotaurs
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Song of Pelinal, Book V
  8. Trials of St. Alessia
  9. Understanding House Dres
  10. "House Dres" dialogue topic in Morrowind
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "latest rumors" dialogue topic in Morrowind
  12. Events of Morrowind
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Abolitionists" dialogue topic in Morrowind
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "slavery" dialogue topic in Morrowind
  15. Events of "Zainab Nerevarine"
  16. Events of "Hlaalu Stronghold"
  17. 17.0 17.1 Dialogue with Brallion
  18. "Argonian Neighbors" dialogue topic in Morrowind
  19. "Argonian" dialogue topic in Morrowind
  20. "Black Marsh" dialogue topic in Morrowind
  21. "Ashlanders" dialogue topic in Morrowind
  22. "Khajiit" dialogue topic in Morrowind
  23. Events of Morrowind
  24. "Morrowind lore" dialogue topic in Morrowind
  25. Events of "The Runaway Slave"
  26. Events of "Rabinna's Inner Beauty"
  27. Events of "The Twin Lamps"
  28. Events of "Free Hides-His-Foot"
  29. A Life of Strife and Struggle
  30. Battle of Sancre Tor (Book)
  31. Dialogue of Byz
  32. Light Armor Forging
  33. Events of Shadows of the Hist
  34. 34.0 34.1 The Argonian Account, Book IV
  35. The Argonian Account, Book III
  36. From Argonian to Saxhleel
  37. Dialogue of Knight-Paladin Gelebor
  38. Songs of the Return, Vol 7
  39. Songs of the Return, Vol 19
  40. Events of Skyrim
  41. Events of Thieves Guild
  42. Light Armor Forging
  43. Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Morrowind
  44. 44.0 44.1 Overheard rumors in Oblivion
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