Snow Elves (Aldmeris: Falmer), occasionally referred to as Ice Elves or Ancient Falmer, are a race of Mer that has nearly completely disappeared. During the Merethic Era, they were the main inhabitants of Skyrim, and had a very advanced society.
The few known remaining Ancient Falmer call themselves "Snow Elf," and refer to those that are called by the modern term "Falmer," as "The Betrayed."
Despite most of this civilization's history being lost, a surviving Snow Elf by the name of Knight-Paladin Gelebor revealed details about the fate of his race. Gelebor explains that they were once a "proud and prosperous race," before the war with the Atmorans and their subsequent enslavement by the Dwemer. The Snow Elves had a society that almost rivaled that of the Altmer from the Summerset Isles. The Snow Elves also possessed a remarkable aptitude with magic, as can be seen with Arch-Curate Vyrthur.
The Snow Elves were originally a wealthy and prosperous society that made their home in portions of Skyrim. They were the first race of Mer in Skyrim and were present long before the first Atmoran colonies that were established by Ysgramor. Their origin was part of the initial exodus of dissident Mer groups from the Summerset Isles along with the Dwemer, Chimer and Ayleids, although the only Mer to settle in Skyrim were the Snow Elves and later, the Dwemer.
Peace with the Atmorans
When the Atmorans arrived from Atmora, the Snow Elves had a somewhat comfortable relationship with the humans. Initial coexistence between men and Snow Elves was largely peaceful, though this was not to last, as conflict soon arose between the two peoples.
Night of Tears
- Main article: Night of Tears
The peace was short-lived, as an attack by Snow Elves destroyed the rapidly growing settlement of Nords in Saarthal. As they considered the humans to be a lesser species, the elves had little qualms about the slaughter they committed. The ensuing genocide was known as the "Night of Tears" and the raid on Saarthal caused the demise of the entire population of the city. However, Ysgramor and his two sons managed to escape the attack, who then fled back to Atmora. The death of his countrymen prompted Ysgramor to summon his Five Hundred Companions — the namesake and forebears of the Companions in Whiterun — and vow to return and drive the Snow Elves from Skyrim.
The Sacking of Saarthal
The Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Skyrim and Fall of the Snow Prince suggest the conflict may have been related to the rapidly increasing Nord population and a struggle for control over territory and resources, which took the form of a war of extermination—with both sides apparently pursuing the utter destruction of the other. The Night of Tears as well as the Imperial Report on Saarthal suggests the conflict may have rather been more specifically related to, or escalated by the Snow Elves desire to control a powerful artifact uncovered by the Nord settlers and the Nords of Saarthal's desire to keep such power buried beneath the rocks and soil of their city.
Later during the events of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a Thalmor representative, Ancano, as well as the Psijic Order member Quaranir, took actions and made statements giving credence to the theory that this object, known as the Eye of Magnus, may have played an important role in the conflict.
- "High King Ysgramor took the loss of the Dumb Old Giant, one of his greatest counselors outside of Torc and Talking-Belt, with great anger, and sent his Thanes and Shield-Biters against her, equipped with great relics and enchanted weapons of wasabi. And though the fight was hard, the champions of the Atmora managed to seal Kinmune beneath the always-burnt borders of Saarthal, imprisoning her in its prismatic network of misunderstood dwemercraft."
Conflict with the Nords
- Main article: Nordic-Falmer War
However, the decision to eradicate the Nords would come at a great cost - to their entire civilization - as Ysgramor survived the attack on Saarthal and returned to their homeland of Atmora to raise an army. Ysgramor and his army, known as the Five Hundred Companions, would return to Skyrim to take revenge on the Snow Elves. The series of events that would soon follow would be known as The Return, and with this return, a new war would begin. As time passed, the Atmorans once again returned to Tamriel. They landed in Skyrim, and began a march across Skyrim under Ysgramor's leadership to avenge their fallen brethren. The elves would wage war with the humans for years, slowly losing to the very "creatures" they had culled in years prior.
Battle of the Moesring
- Main article: Battle of the Moesring
The Snow Elves were broken and scattered, following numerous losses to Ysgramor and his Companions, and retreated to the island of Solstheim for safe harbor. Led by an elf only known as the Snow Prince, the Snow Elves took a final stand against the Nordic people, inspired by their leader, to seek their victory anew. During the Battle of the Moesring, which was to be the last battle against the Nords, the Snow Prince was slain by a child by the name of Finna, who, in her grief after the death of her mother, threw her mother's sword at the Prince, which struck him in the breast and killed him.
The death of the Snow Prince caused the elves' hope to be shattered, and many attempted to flee the battle. It is not known what the exact date of this loss was but it was towards the end of the Merethic Era.
With the elves' military power destroyed, the Nords, then, mounted a genocidal campaign and killed the Snow Elves by the thousands.
Interactions with Sai
Following their defeat, the Snow Elf resistance was eradicated. Sai had agreed to help all living creatures of Nirn with his luck, and thus attempted to help the Snow Elves. He had to find them first, as this was not an easy task, for the few remaining survivors had vanished into hiding. When he did find them, he did not manage to win their trust and they refused his help.
- "We had always maintained an uneasy alliance with the underground-dwelling dwarves, and when faced with extinction we turned to them for help. Surprisingly, they agreed to protect us but demanded a terrible price... the blinding of our race. There were splinter groups that resisted the agreement, and even some that sought alternate alliances. But when it was all said and done, those elves were either slaughtered, vanished or gave up and took the dwarves' bargain."
- ―Knight-Paladin Gelebor[src]
Eventually, the Snow Elves sought refuge with the Dwemer, in their underground fortresses. The Snow Elves had always maintained an uneasy alliance with the Dwemer, also known as Dwarves, and since the Snow Elves were experiencing the eradication of their culture, they turned to the Dwarves for help.
The Dwarves agreed to grant the Snow Elves refuge, but at a high price. They were forced to eat toxic plants in order to live underground. This toxic fungus naturally came from Blackreach, and the Dwemer fed the toxic fungus to the Snow Elves. The toxins gradually destroyed their sight, and this loss happened over generations. The Dwemer then forced the blind Snow Elves into slavery. Not all of the Snow Elves agreed to such a price. Splinter groups had formed to search for alternate solutions. These elves sought out other alliances, but, ultimately, most were slaughtered, vanished, or gave in and accepted the Dwemer's offers.
Birth of the Falmer
Over time, the Snow Elves began to devolve into twisted, blinded creatures, becoming the degenerate race now known as the Falmer. They were slaves of the Dwemer and over time, their history was lost as they became an increasingly primal people. Because of this, it is commonly believed that the Snow Elves were actually tricked into blindness and slavery, rather than having agreed to the situation to survive. Although contradictory reports state that most Snow Elves sought the Dwemer's help and agreed to their terms to avoid eradication.
Sometime later, the Snow Elves/Falmer revolted against their masters, which started a war that lasted decades. The full-fledged and bloody conflict was known as the War of the Crag. The war raged deep below the surface of Skyrim, unbeknownst to the surface dwellers, the Nords. Then, in 1E 700, the Snow Elves came to face the Dwemer in battle, but the Dwemer people had completely disappeared.
The Dwemer's demise
At that time, the Dwemer were also fighting another war against the Chimer, east of Skyrim, in Morrowind — the War of the First Council. This war, in Morrowind, was fought over religion, philosophy, and issues over ethics, technology, and magic. However the central contentious point was the fact that the Dwemer were in possession of the powerful Heart of Lorkhan. The war started in 1E 668, and in 1E 700, the Battle of Red Mountain took place in and around the Dwemer citadels on Red Mountain. It is reported that, as the battle was being fought, Kagrenac, the Chief Tonal Architect of the Dwemer, used his tools to tap into the Heart, which caused the Dwemer race to disappear. The disappearance of the Dwemer subsequently freed the Snow Elves. However, years of enslavement and war had left them bloodthirsty and in a primal state.
Some pockets of Snow Elf resistance remained, although, it appears that most were eventually eliminated. Skorm Snow-Strider's Journal discussed a military campaign against Snow Elf refugee forces as late as 1E 139 under the First King of Skyrim, Harald. Despite this, Gelebor believes there may be other isolated Snow Elf survivors scattered across Tamriel.
The last of the Snow Elves
Not all Snow Elves suffered the fate of the Falmer: it appears that elves, such as Knight-Paladin Gelebor and various other religious followers, were able to evade death at the Nords' hands or their enslavement by the Dwarves. These last Snow Elves live in seclusion, and appear to have remained as keepers or guardians to their shrines.
Gelebor shows pity toward his "primal brethren," whom he calls "the Betrayed." He also states that he rejects the name of "Falmer," preferring to be called "Snow Elves."
The largest gathering of these elves were at the Chantry of Auri-El. However, after a massive raid by the Betrayed, Knight-Paladin Gelebor and his brother, Arch-Curate Vyrthur, seem to be the only survivors left there.
It is unknown how many other Sanctuaries exist in Skyrim, where these Snow Elves may be found, but it should be noted that several tomes states that many fled Skyrim, and may probably be living in other parts of Tamriel or on different continents.
- Main article: Snow Elf Pantheon
During the Merethic Era, the elves established monuments and shrines dedicated to their gods. Some of these gods are common Aldmeri gods, such as Mara. However, their chief-deity was Auri-El, also known as Akatosh. One such monument is known as the Chantry of Auri-El, this monument was originally so large it covered an entire valley. This chantry may have also been the epicenter of the Snow Elf religion, having several rituals for initiates who sought out enlightenment.
Following the regression of their race into the malevolent Falmer, many of the elven priests, known as Prelates, were killed during Falmer raids. Subsequently, according to Gelebor, Auri-El evoked their spirits, allowing them to continue their work in Tamriel as "spectral Prelates" at the wayshrines.
One of the rituals of the Snow Elves required the initiates to visit each of these wayshrines on their paths to enlightenment.
It appears that these 'spectral Prelates' are unaware of the disrepair of the chantry and will not respond to anyone, unless that person is on the path of the initiate, and possesses the Initiate's Ewer.
According to Knight Paladin Gelebor, they worshiped the following gods:
In the Fourth Era, during the events of The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard, two living Snow Elves were encountered; Knight-Paladin Gelebor and his brother Arch-Curate Vyrthur, as well as five 'spectral Prelates,' none of whom are female.
Their appearance is very similar to that of the High Elves, with the exception of their skin and their hair, which is white. As the Chantry did not enter disrepair until after the fall of the Snow Elves, it is unknown how long Snow Elves live. As Gelebor stated, the Chantry was in disrepair long before he arrived. Thus his age cannot be fully determined.
The Snow Elf's life span
Similarly to their cousins, the High Elves, they have a rather extensive lifespan. Attesting to this, the report that Arch-Curate Vyrthur brought about the prophecy of the Tyranny of the Sun, that, much later became the obsession of Harkon. There is also the fact that Gelebor and Vyrthur were alive before the rise of the Alessian Empire, as Serana mentioned not knowing about the Empire, she was, thus, imprisoned before Cyrodiil became the seat of an empire.
From what is known, Gelebor and Vyrthur are at least over 4,000 years old. Due to the fact that the Snow Elves worshiped the god Phynaster and are very similar to the Altmer, in comparison to the other races, it is, also possible that Gelebor had his life extended directly from Auri-El.
There is speculation that the Falmer will eventually become a surface-dwelling race once again. In 2E 582, the Falmer remained dormant, keeping quiet within the Dwarven Ruins for centuries to come.[UL 2] By 4E 201 however, there are reports of increasing organized surface raids from the Falmer; attacking cattle and crops, abducting civilians, and killing travelers and explorers who would venture too close to their dwelling. There have also been cases where they have broken through underground tunnels into habitations and decimated those that lived therein.
Reports from Dwemer ruin explorations reveal that the automated guardians that the Dwemer left behind are keeping the Falmer from escaping the depths of the ruins, causing them to resort to digging tunnels and find other exits.
During the events in The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard, the Dragonborn, while seeking Auriel's Bow, meets two living snow elves. The first one, Knight-Paladin Gelebor, who owns the bow, believes that his brother, the other living Snow Elf, has been corrupted by the Falmer. Gelebor proposes to relinquish Auriel's Bow if the Dragonborn defeats his brother and ends his reign of terror.
Gelebor also mentions that the Falmer are becoming more intelligent, and if a line of communication could be established, relations may improve. Furthermore, Gelebor hopes that the Falmer will one day end their ways of hatred, and even begin to worship Auri-El like the Snow Elves once did.
Notable Snow Elves
- Knight-Paladin Gelebor
- Arch-Curate Vyrthur
- Faire Agarwen
- Mirtil Angoth
- Engwe Emeloth
- Parnion Saldor
- Snow Prince
- Prelates of the Chantry Paladin Order
- The race "Snow Elves" was added to Skyrim's common races with the Dawnguard expansion as "
- Brynjolf claims to sell Falmer Blood Elixir during the quest "A Chance Arrangement."
- The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (mentioned only)
- The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon (mentioned only)
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (mentioned only)
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (mentioned only)
- The Elder Scrolls Online (As ghosts)
- King Edward, Book X
- The Betrayed
- Ancient Falmer Armor
- Events in The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard
- The Falmer: A Study
- Dialogue with Enthir in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Dialogue with Knight-Paladin Gelebor
- Events during the "Touching the Sky
- Events in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Frontier, Conquest
- Night of Tears
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Skyrim
- Fall of the Snow Prince
- Night of Tears
- Imperial Report on Saarthal
- Aevar Stone-Singer
- Journal of Mirtil Angoth
- The Battle of Red Mountain
- Nerevar at Red Mountain
- Dialogue with Arch-Curate Vyrthur in The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard
- Dialogue with Serana in The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard
- Observations of Falmer activity around Chillwind Depths
- Observations around Adventurer's Campsite
- Torn Note
- Adventurer's Journal
- Merchant's Journal
- Events during the quest "Frostflow Abyss"
- Observation of Falmer activity within the Dwemer ruins
- Overhearing Brynjolf's distraction in "A Chance Arrangement"
|Common||Altmer (High Elves) • Bosmer (Wood Elves) • Dunmer (Dark Elves) • Falmer • Maormer • Orsimer (Orcs)|
|Extinct/Endangered||Aldmer • Ayleids • Chimer • Dwemer • Sinistral Elves (Lefthanded Elves) • Snow Elves (Ancient Falmer)|
|Humans||Akaviri • Atmorans • Bretons • Imperials • Keptu|
Kothringi • Nedes • Nords • Orma • Redguards
|Mer||Aldmer • Altmer • Ayleids • Bosmer • Chimer • Dunmer|
Dwemer • Falmer • Maormer • Orsimer • Sinistral Elves • Snow Elves
|Beast||Argonians • Imga • Khajiit • Lilmothiit • Sload • Giants|
|Akaviri||Ka Po' Tun • Kamal • Tang Mo • Tsaesci • Dragons|
|Et'Ada||Aedra • Daedra|