Elder Scrolls
Elder Scrolls

Under Saarthal is a quest available in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and is the second quest in the College of Winterhold's quest line in which the Dragonborn must explore the ancient Nordic ruins of Saarthal with the other members of Tolfdir's class as part of an educational and research expedition. This quest is also mandatory if the side quest "Forbidden Legend" is to be completed.


Tolfdir has decided to take us to investigate the ruins of Saarthal to explore the more practical uses of magic.


  1. Meet Tolfdir outside Saarthal
  2. Follow Tolfdir
  3. Find Arniel Gane
  4. Use the Saarthal Amulet to escape the trap
  5. Follow Tolfdir
  6. Tell Tolfdir about the vision
  7. Follow Tolfdir
  8. Find danger within Saarthal
  9. Talk to the Arch-Mage


Tolfdir's class meets outside the ruins of Saarthal before beginning an academic exploration of the ruins. The Dragonborn may travel there with the other students as a group, and they will help deal with any bears or trolls encountered on the way. 

Saarthal excavation[]

After some touring inside, Tolfdir will ask the Dragonborn to find Arniel Gane (one can simply run ahead to the quest marker and speak to Arniel without waiting for Tolfdir).

The Dragonborn must now find four artifacts, one of which is the Saarthal Amulet. The other three are very small and hard to see Enchanted Rings, but clearly marked on the quest indicator as long as they are taken before the Amulet, or else the quest markers will disappear. The artifacts do not have to be returned to Arniel and can be kept.

Retrieving the Saarthal Amulet will trap the Dragonborn. Escape can be achieved by equipping the amulet and casting any spell (Shouts such as Unrelenting Force and staves such as the Wabbajack are also effective) on the tablet from which it originally came. (Tolfdir will approach outside the trapped area and suggest using the amulet if the Dragonborn should try to return to Arniel.) The tablet will break into pieces, revealing a passage and removing the blocking gates.

Tolfdir will then take the lead. When he gets to the room at the end of the passage, Nerien, a member of the Psijic Order, will appear in a vision, which only the Dragonborn will see. After talking to Tolfdir about the vision, the Dragonborn will have to deal with draugr that appear from the three coffins in the room. The draugr can be killed with little or no risk of injury using archery; Tolfdir cannot be killed, so an effective tactic would be to shoot the draugr attacking him. If Tolfdir is knocked down the draugr will likely switch their attacks to the Dragonborn until Tolfdir gets up again.

Tolfdir will pass through the middle coffin and The Dragonborn should then follow Tolfdir to a barred gate in a room. Tolfdir will stop and wait there and do nothing until the Dragonborn pulls the lever and opens the gate. The lever to open the gate is on the right; the room beyond holds more draugr to be dealt with. Both will lead into a large room where four draugr will arise from their wall crypts. The Dragonborn must help Tolfdir slay all of them (again, good Sneak and Archery can help the Dragonborn remain unnoticed and unharmed).

The two chains, one on each side of the gate, open the way to the next area.

Saarthal proper[]

There are a number of inconveniently placed traps that have the potential to provide a great deal of problems for some of the Dragonborn's followers, especially dogs. Most are pressure pads, so they can be avoided with some caution. The swinging pendulums are also difficult for followers to navigate, so keep healing spells handy or be ready to wait.

Ideally the Dragonborn should proceed alone, killing draugr as necessary. In a large room, there is a draugr, a rune trap, and two more draugr. An effective tactic would be to kill the first draugr and get the attention of the next two, so that when they approach, the trap can be triggered to damage them.

First pillar puzzle[]

After several more rooms and traps, there will be a door on the second floor near a broken coffin. Beyond there is a puzzle with six different movable pillars. The correct position for each pillar is shown on the wall directly behind and above them. This fact could easily be missed if the Dragonborn were not up close to the pillars. The Candlelight spell (or Night Eye) makes them easier to see. Once the pillars are properly set, the lever can be activated to open the gate.

In the next room there are two wooden ramps. As the Dragonborn nears the top of either one, a Draugr Deathlord, Draugr Wight or Draugr Scourge (level dependent) arise. An effective tactic would be to lure the draugr back to the pillar puzzle room and shut the gate. The Dragonborn would then be able to shoot arrows at the enemy whenever it appears from around the corner. The nearby coffin also makes a fine obstacle against melee, though you need to then pursue and kite him back to the coffin as he attempts to recover. Alternatively, a high Sneak skill and a potion of invisibility could be combined to sneak through the door near the top of the ramp, and close it. Provided the Dragonborn were quiet, the draugr would almost certainly remain unaware. There is a chest and other items to loot here. Beyond an iron door, there are two rune traps to pass. Activating either trap using a shout or magic will make noise and attract the draugr, while walking over the traps will not. The first rune trap can be easily avoided by walking around it, while the second rune trap in the doorway can be avoided by using any type of magic on it, or jumping over it. Passing over the second trap means the draugr is ultimately evaded.

Second pillar puzzle[]

Solution spinning puzzle pillar

Solution to the second pillar puzzle.

There are four pillars that give you the solution to the spinning puzzle pillars ahead. The second pillar on the left should be turned to whale first (because it turns the other three with it.) Then, the first pillar on the left should be turned to snake (that will turn the two on the right.) Next, the second pillar on the right should be turned to hawk (that one will turn the last one.) And finally, the first one on the right should be turned to whale.

Final battle[]

After passing through the gate, Tolfdir will reappear. There is an Alchemy Lab in the north side of the room. Take caution, however, as there is also a poison dart trap trigger in the center of the floor.

Through another iron door, in the final room, approaching the glowing orb will summon the draugr-shape of Jyrik Gauldurson. Initially, Jyrik is invulnerable, but after about 30 seconds, Tolfdir is able to weaken Jyrik by casting a spell on the glowing orb in the room, allowing the Dragonborn to deal damage. Jyrik can be a very difficult foe for a lower-level Dragonborn, as he knows a variety of Destruction spells, and wields an Ancient Nord War Axe with a frost enchantment on it. He also sports an elemental cloak that changes between fire, ice, and lightning, rendering him immune to Destruction spells of that element while the cloak is active.

Jyrik Gauldurson is powerful, on the level of a Draugr Deathlord. If the Dragonborn possesses good sneaking and archery skills, he can be defeated without risk. The Dragonborn should stay on the balcony, standing close enough to see the floor below without standing near the balcony's edge, and shoot Jyrik with arrows. He will run up to the balcony, but will only run along the edge and will fail to spot the Dragonborn; enough arrows and he will eventually perish. This requires a very high Sneak skill, as he will notice the movement of the Dragonborn otherwise.

Another alternate strategy can be achieved very quickly by utilizing the game's mechanics to the Dragonborn's advantage. Wait until Jyrik Gauldurson charges the balcony. As he comes up the stairs, use the full force "Unrelenting Force" shout to knock him off the balcony. He suffers massive damage, aproximately 40%, from this fall. Hit him with a few arrows or spells, anything ranged. Wait until the shout recharges, then lure him up again and repeat. This should work after only two shouts.


Jyrik's corpse bears a fragment of the Gauldur Amulet and the Writ of Sealing. The writ, when read, will start the quest "Forbidden Legend", if it has not been previously started. The Dragonborn should talk with Tolfdir to advance to the next stage of the quest (Return to the College). The Staff of Jyrik Gauldurson, which is on the altar, is an artifact worth collecting. Through the door behind the artifact and down to the garden is a Word Wall with the Dragon shout Ice Form, as well as a chest with leveled loot. Upon finally leaving Saarthal, the Dragonborn should travel back to the college to find Arch-Mage Savos Aren and inform him of the discovery. He will usually be found upstairs in his personal quarters. The Arch-Mage will reward the Dragonborn with the Staff of Magelight, and the quest "Hitting the Books" will start.


Under Saarthal – MG02
ID Journal Entry
0 Tolfdir has decided to take us to investigate the ruins of Saarthal to explore the more practical uses of magic.
10 Tolfdir has asked the Apprentices to meet him at Saarthal, the site of an ongoing excavation by the College.
  • Objective 10: Meet Tolfdir outside Saarthal
  • Objective 20: Follow Tolfdir
25 In the College excavation at Saarthal, I've been asked to assist Arniel Gane with his work uncovering the ruins.
  • Objective 25: Find Arniel Gane
30 I've been asked to assist Arniel Gane in his work at the excavation in Saarthal by collecting enchanted objects scattered around the ruins.
  • Objective 30: Search for magical artifacts (<Global-MG02ItemsFound>/4)
40 While helping in the excavation in Saarthal by gathering enchanted items, I somehow triggered some sort of trap. It has revealed an unexplored section of the ruins, and Tolfdir would like me to follow him further in.
  • Objective 35: Use the Saarthal Amulet to escape the trap
While exploring the excavation in Saarthal, I somehow triggered some sort of trap. It has revealed an unexplored section of the ruins, and Tolfdir would like me to follow him further in.
  • Objective 40: Follow Tolfdir
50 While following Tolfdir through an unexplored section of Saarthal, a vision from the Psijic Order has suggested that something has been set in motion by the exploration of Saarthal. Tolfdir should be warned.
  • Objective 50: Tell Tolfdir about the vision
60 While in an unexplored area of Saarthal, I received a vision from someone in the Psijic Order saying there's something dangerous in Saarthal. Despite this, Tolfdir wishes to forge ahead and has asked that I follow him.
  • Objective 60: Follow Tolfdir
  • Objective 65: Find the danger within Saarthal
70 During an expedition to Saarthal, I uncovered a new section of the ruins, and was warned by a vision from someone in the Psijic Order of danger within. Despite this, Tolfdir and I have explored further and found a strange orb buried deep within Saarthal. Tolfdir has asked that I take news of the discovery to the Arch-Mage.
  • Objective 70: Talk to the Arch-Mage
200 I've delivered word to the Arch-Mage that something interesting was found deep within Saarthal.
  • Quest complete


  • After completing the quest, Hold Guards will comment on how "Saarthal is a place for Nord dead, not the mages' weird experiments".
  • Taking the Gauldur Amulet Fragment off Jyrik Gauldurson's corpse will activate the quest "Forbidden Legend" if the Dragonborn has not already read Lost Legends or a Writ of Sealing.
  • After completing the quest, the Dragonborn may offer one of the other college students to become a follower.


This section contains bugs related to Under Saarthal. Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:

  1. Please reload an old save to confirm if the bug is still happening.
  2. If the bug is still occurring, please post the bug report with the appropriate system template  360  /  XB1  ,  PS3  /  PS4  ,  PC  /  MAC  ,  NX  /  PS5  ,  XS  , depending on which platform(s) the bug has been encountered on.
  3. Be descriptive when listing the bug and fixes, but avoid having conversations in the description and/or using first-person anecdotes: such discussions belong on the appropriate forum board.
Click to see the list of bugs encountered
  •  PC   After completing the second pillar puzzle, Tolfdir may not catch up with the Dragonborn. To fix this, go into the console and type Prid 0001C1A1 (Tolfdir's RefID) and then moveto player. Tolfdir will then appear and the quest should continue.
  •  360   It is possible that when the amulet on the wall is picked up and the trap is sprung, Tolfdir may not approach the Dragonborn and speak to them through the bars, leaving the Dragonborn stuck. In this case, a save from before picking up the amulet needs to be loaded. Also, make sure to pick up all enchanted quest rings before touching the amulet, as only this seems to make him approach the trapped Dragonborn after the trap is sprung, and will null this bug.
  • Sometimes outside Saarthal, Tolfdir may think there is an enemy nearby and wander off. There is a chance he cannot be found again, thus rendering the quest unable to be completed.
  • Upon entering Saarthal, after Tolfdir goes through the door, he can sometimes end up in a completely random part of the world. After waiting a day, he reappears inside the dungeon.
  •  PC   360   PS3   NX   In the room where Tolfdir stays and the Dragonborn moves on alone, the door has some kind of invisible wall in front of it and cannot be activated to the next zone. Reloading the autosave fixed it. On PC open the console "~" and type tcl to turn collision off. After getting through just re-open the console and repeat thus turning collision back on.
    •  NX (Fix)   walk over to the chain that moves the spikes and use whirlwind spirit facing the door as the spikes rise. Best save before atemping this just incase the door remains blocked.
  • When taking the Saarthal Amulet and moving any direction immediately after, the amulet will not freeze the Dragonborn. The game will progress normally even so.
  • The door on which the Saarthal Amulet is found may cause the game to crash when a spell is cast on it. This occurs while the Dragonborn is trapped in the room and Tolfdir is watching.
    • Solution: equip the amulet plus one of the rings the Dragonborn has just collected.
    • Solution: Try firing Firebolt or another projectile spell at the door, then look away as quickly as possible so that it is not in the field of view when it breaks. Try standing up against the barred door in front of Tolfdir, aiming the reticule at the left side of the door, firing the spell, and then jerking the view as far to the left as possible. If the door breaks while looking away from it, the game should not freeze. Another way is to go to the barred door farthest from the stone door, where one can only see the lowest part of the stone door, and cast a destruction spell on it.
    • In some instances where Firebolt freezes the game, using Flames works. If none of these work, as the spell is about to hit the door open the console, or keep tapping the console key as soon as the spell has been fired. Playing the scene in windowed mode (as opposed to full-screen) may work as well.
    • Another option is setting the graphics settings on low, breaking the wall down and restoring the settings. Unfortunately, this necessitates exiting the game twice.
    • It has been found that equipping the amulet then standing as far from the breakable wall as possible, then using the Unrelenting Force Shout can cause the barred doorways to open. Alternatively, one may also use Candlelight or Magelight to break open the wall.
    • Sometimes, if one stands right next to the door in first person, looking only to half of the door, this can prevent the crash by using Flames and quickly turning one's view from the door to the wall.
  • The gate before finding the amulet may sometimes close when the Dragonborn equips the amulet, trapping Tolfdir. If the Dragonborn continues down the hall the quest will update and he will warp through, however, when done with the events in Saarthal and are to return to the College, the gate will remain closed, and the Dragonborn is trapped. This cannot be fixed once it has happened. Save the game and make sure the gate is open before progressing with the quest. Last resort: console command TCL will toggle no-clip to walk through the gate.
  • If the gates before the amulet are closed before the quest solution walkthrough (Xbox): Step 1: Bring a follower, Step 2a: (If the 3rd ring is stuck inside), send a follower in to grab the ring (their bug will warp them into the room), then call them back and trade with them to get the ring (this will not give quest credit), Step 2b: Face down the hall to the left and drop the ring; it will give an arrow to pick it up, thus rendering the quest portion complete. Step 2c: When at the gates, have a follower activate the amulet (this will put the follower near the amulet), Step 3: Unrelenting Force in between the follower and the amulet; the gates should drop after this is done.
  • Jyrik Gauldurson's body may fall through the floor or disappear.
  • Equipping the Saarthal Amulet can cause the Dragonborn to have infinite magicka.
  • If the Dragonborn is in Beast Form when Tolfdir catches up, they may not be able to progress in the quest, even if the beast form wears off.
  • The draugr deathlord or scourge may not appear after the first pillar puzzle. Instead, a restless draugr or draugr Wight may come from the coffin and attack. Fortunately, these are both relatively easy to defeat.
  • The six pillars may not rotate when trying to spin them. This can be fixed by saving and reloading. If this does not work, try leaving the area and reentering.
  • Pulling the lever in the room with four rotating pillars (right before Tolfdir rejoins) can cause the Dragonborn's follower to disappear.
    • To avoid this, dismiss the follower before pulling the lever.
  • At the second pillar puzzle, the game may not recognize the completed puzzle. When it is solved, darts still fire and the door will not open.
    • In a few circumstances, some have found the solution to be some other random combination of pillar faces.
    • Some have opened the door by placing the pillars in the following order:
      • Left front: Snake
      • Left back: Whale
      • Right front: Whale
      • Right back: Bird
        • This can also be resolved by entering the console, selecting the lever at the center of the puzzle, and entering 'setpv numPillarsSolved_var 4', followed by 'setpv puzzleSolved_var true'. After exiting the console and activating the lever, the door should open as normal.
  • For some users, Tolfdir does not appear at the meeting place outside of the Saarthal entrance and cannot be found anywhere between Saarthal and the College of Winterhold. This persists after waiting several days in-game.
    • Solution: Traveling back to the college, entering the Hall of the Elements, and then returning to Saarthal (do not fast travel) fixed this.
    • Also, reloading a previous save may fix this.
    • Another solution would be to fast travel to another area (Whiterun for example) and then turn off both the "Under Saarthal" quest and the "Forbidden Legend" quest. You can then fast travel back to Saarthal, and Tolfdir will be there.
    •  PC (Fix)   Use console command player.placeatme 0001C19E while standing near the quest pointer.
    •  PS3 (Fix)   If one opens the door and tries to return to the hall of elements, the system may crash.
  • After taking the amulet and going through the door, being killed by a draugr and reloading may cause the amulet to become invisible.
  • The Dragonborn can fall through the floor in the hallway with the shock rune and will end up in the room in front of the glowing orb. Jyrik Gauldurson will be still seated and will not rise until the Dragonborn backtracks and finds Tolfdir. However, Tolfdir will never cast a spell on the orb, and Jyrick will be invincible indefinitely.
  • Sometimes in the room where the vision is supposed to take place, the spirit will appear but the dialog may not occur, and the game will be stuck. This cannot be fixed if the Dragonborn is inside the room because the way out will be blocked by an invisible wall. However, if it reoccurs, one can fix this by quickly running in and then out of the room. Once the spirit appears, walk back out into Skyrim. This will allow the quest to continue.
  • Sometimes when the Dragonborn enters Saarthal from the Saarthal excavation one of the Dragonborn's followers (Lydia) will become invisible. Normal interaction with her can still take place by hovering over where she should be. The Dragonborn may still continue to progress, but with the knowledge that the draugr deathlords may also be invisible and, therefore, hard to kill. Exiting and reentering Saarthal does not correct this problem. The Dragonborn may be able to sneak past and into the next area, basically bypassing the problem.
  •  PC   When searching for the amulet, quest markers also point to enchanted rings with a +20 health increase. These can be exploited and worn simultaneously with any other ring in the game, given that the Dragonborn equips the enchanted ring first. However, the Dragonborn must also have the Archmage's Robes equipped, which is awarded much later in the College's questline.
  • Sometimes the door blocking the exit to Saarthal excavation may not open.
  • If the Dragonborn has Barbas along when going into battle, Tolfdir may cast explosive spells that can hit Barbas. If Barbas is hit enough times, he will attack Tolfdir, but neither of them can die. Reloading a previous save and leaving Barbas behind should fix this.
  • Sometimes if the Dragonborn is talking to Arniel Gane while having a torch equipped, it may disappear. Load the last save to get it back.
  • Using the Whirlwind Sprint onto the broken platform after going upstairs in the room with a draugr scourge, draugr deathlord, or draugr wight may let the Dragonborn jump through the wall into the final battle room. One should then take all of Jyrik's belongings that are around him on the table and go back to find Tolfdir. Once found, go back to the final battle room and the regular final battle will continue.
  •  360   It is possible, when first encountering the orb, for the Dragonborn to spontaneously receive two of exactly the same active effects, Fortify Magicka Regen, that will increase the magicka regen rate by 100% each and will last for 7 days each.
  • When Tolfdir is outside of Saarthal it is possible that he will be attacked by giants. He will try to defend himself but will be launched in the air, never to return to Saarthal.
  •  360   Sometimes the pillars from the first puzzle cannot be rotated by activating them. Reloading the area (going back to the previous area and returning) fixes the problem.
  •  PC   An invisible wall may appear at one of the doorways.
  •  PC   After picking up the Saarthal amulet, it may not be listed in the inventory, making it impossible to progress in the quest.
  • Sometimes Tolfdir and the class will be stuck up and around the ice hill, fighting an ice wolf. He seems unable to defeat it so will stay there indefinitely until the enemy is killed for him. Once the enemy is dead, go to the quest marker and wait several hours. Tolfdir should appear, starting the next phase of the quest.
  • In the room where the Dragonborn meets Nerien, Tolfdir may remain stuck in place and unable to open the coffins. This keeps the quest from progressing.