The Greybeards are an ancient and honored order that dwell in their mountain sanctuary High Hrothgar, which is located on the highest mountain peak in Tamriel, the Throat of the World. As masters of Thu'um, or "the Voice," they live in absolute silence in order to better attune themselves to the voice of the sky. They are a peaceful order, not using their Thu'um to augment their martial skills, but to worship and honor the gods, as the "Way of the Voice" decreed.
When the Greybeards speak, storms brew above High Hrothgar, and people are forced to evacuate due to the imminent danger of avalanches. When they even so much as whisper the word "Dovahkiin," it rumbles through the world, and the mountains shake. Such is their power, the last time that they spoke was when they announced the greatness of Tiber Septim.
The Greybeards were founded by a powerful Tongue, Jurgen Windcaller, in the First Era. After he suffered a disastrous defeat at Red Mountain, where his army was annihilated, he spent seven years pondering the meaning of his defeat. He finally concluded that the gods had punished the Nords for their arrogant and blasphemous misuse of the Thu'um.
Following this revelation, Jurgen developed a pacifist creed called the "Way of the Voice" that thought that the Thu'um should only be used for the worship and glory of the gods, rather than military exploits. He built High Hrothgar, located near the peak of the Throat of the World in Skyrim, which served as the monastery where he and his disciples meditated and perfected their voice.
It is unclear exactly when in the First Era that the Greybeards were formed, as the exact time of Jurgen Windcaller's seven-year meditation is not known. It occurred after a momentous defeat at Red Mountain, and the most well-known defeat of the Nordic forces at Red Mountain was the Battle of Red Mountain, circa 1E 700. However, the Nords had been driven out of Morrowind hundreds of years earlier, around 1E 416, and the Five Songs of King Wulfharth suggests that the Greybeards were already in existence before Wulfharth's first death in 1E 533.
During the Second Era the Greybeards were silent for years until they spoke a name; Tiber Septim, who was called to High Hrothgar to be blessed and named Dovahkiin. It was also during this time that Tiber Septim learned that he was destined to become Emperor of Tamriel.
By the Fourth Era, there are only five members of the Greybeards. Four of the monks live in High Hrothgar. Their grandmaster, Paarthurnax, resides higher up on the Throat of the World in constant meditation. The leader of the Stormcloak rebellion, Ulfric Stormcloak, was once a student, learning the ways of the Thu'um.
The Greybeards are featured prominently in the main questline. When the quest "Dragon Rising" is completed, they call out for the Dragonborn, summoning them so that they may meet and test them. They also help the Dragonborn understand the unique power they wield. They do meet and test the Dovahkiin, then they give some training. Upon arrival, the Dovahkiin must prove they are Dragonborn by demonstrating the power of the Thu'um. They teach a couple of shouts and then, for the final test, they send the Dragonborn on a quest to retrieve the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller.
Words of Power
Arngeir will reveal the locations of Word Walls throughout Skyrim to the Dovahkiin if they favor the Greybeards, as opposed to the Blades. He mentions how the Dragonborn arrives, at this certain moment in time, at the turning of the age. If asked if it is a coincidence that they were brought here at the time of the dragons returning, he states that it is not a coincidence.
Upon attacking a member of the Greybeards, they respond with the Ice Form shout to paralyze the attacker, as well as utilizing a plethora of other shouts and spells. Unsuccessful pickpocket attempts cause them to attack as well.
The Greybeards do not wield weapons and may engage in unarmed combat when foes reach melee range. Weapons dropped near the Greybeards may be picked up and used by them.
Flagged as essential, it is only possible to reduce their health to a low level. After this, they crouch down until their health regenerates and resume battle with their attacker. Using Unrelenting Force or Vampiric Grip on a Greybeard to knock them off the mountain does not cause them to re-spawn.
The Greybeards will also initiate combat with the Dragonborn or follower if they are caught stealing in High Hrothgar.
- Amulet of Talos
- Potions and ingredients
- It is possible to obtain the Greybeard's Robe by using the Console commands.
- If the Dragonborn attempts to engage in conversation with any of the Greybeards in High Hrothgar besides Arngeir, they simply respond with a respectful greeting—"Dovahkiin" and a gentle bow. When they speak, the building tremors and if outside, a loud, distant bell can be heard. Arngeir can be asked to elaborate on the reason why none of the Greybeards can be engaged in conversation. The reason is that the other Greybeards' voices are so powerful that even a whisper could kill a man.
- When the Greybeards greet the Dragonborn in the dragon tongue after completing The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, they say, "Lingrah krosis saraan Strundu'ul, voth nid balaan klov praan nau. Naal Thu'umu, mu ofan nii nu, Dovahkiin, naal suleyk do Kaan, naal suleyk do Shor, ahrk naal suleyk do Atmorasewuth. Meyz nu Ysmir, Dovahsebrom. Dahmaan daar rok." This translates roughly to "Long has the Storm Crown languished with no worthy brow to sit upon. By our breath we bestow it now to you in the name of Kyne, in the name of Shor, and in the name of Atmora of old. You are Ysmir now, the Dragon of the North. Hearken to it." This translates literally to "Long sorrow await Stormcrown, with no worthy head rest on. By our Dragon shout, Dragonborn, we give it now, by power of Kyne, by power of Shor, by power of Atmora of the old. Come now Ysmir, Dragon of the North. Remember this he."
- Interestingly, the Greybeards make no reference to Ulfric Stormcloak (other than in Season Unending), despite his training in the Way of the Voice.
- Despite both factions serving the Dragonborn, the Blades seem to distrust and mock the Greybeards, calling them a "pesky cult," while the Greybeards believe the Blades are trying to manipulate the Dragonborn for their own purposes: which is proven when they disown the Dragonborn when they refuse to kill Paarthurnax; even though for them the Dragonborn's word should be law, and not the vice-versa.
- Sneaking behind the meditating Greybeards can help the Dragonborn raise the Sneak skill. Caution is advised, as detection causes them to attack the Dragonborn.
- While sneaking and attacking them with a Dagger (preferably Iron), it will raise the sneak and One-Handed skills.
- The Greybeards use a different version of the shouts Disarm, Dismay, Elemental Fury, Fire Breath, Frost Breath, Ice Form, Unrelenting Force, and Whirlwind Sprint shouts: they have a cool-down time of five seconds and without voice sounds.
- If the Dragonborn kills Paarthurnax, the Greybeards will no longer aid the Dragonborn in locating words of power and the Dragonborn will not be their apprentice anymore.
- With subtitles on, shouting in a town may cause a guard to say "By all I hold holy... A shout! Like the Graybeards on their mountain!" Notice the spelling of Greybeard here is with an A; Graybeard. This is an inconsistency.
- The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard (mentioned only)
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (mentioned only)
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim