Races of The Elder Scrolls
The Elder Scrolls series of role-playing video games are populated with a number of fantasy races, ten of which are playable. Generally, these races fall into one of three distinct archetypes, namely, humans, elvenkind, and beastfolk. Within the lore of the Elder Scrolls universe, men and mer (elves) are descended from an ancestral race known as the "Ehlnofey", and are capable of interbreeding.
- 1 Playable races
- 2 Non-playable and extinct races
- 3 Wild races
- 4 Lycanthropes
- 5 Vampires
- 6 Aedra and Daedra
- 7 References
There are ten different races from which the player can choose: Altmer (High Elf), Bosmer (Wood Elf), Dunmer (Dark Elf), Orsimer (Orc), Breton, Argonian, Khajiit, Nord, Imperial, and Redguard. Each race excels in certain areas of skill over others and start off at a higher level in these areas than other races which may have only a basic skill level, such as five or fifteen. For example, Wood Elves start with an elevated Archery level, whereas Argonians start with an elevated Lockpicking level.
The Bretons are a human race with a small amount of Elven ancestry, but are not generally considered half-elves. Their race is heavily based and influenced by French and Franco-Canadian people and culture, with some Celtic influence. They populate the province of High Rock, where the second game of the series, Daggerfall, takes place. Due to their High Elven ancestry, Bretons are pure spell weavers, and they are advanced in all the arcane arts. While they tend to lack in physical skill compared to the Nords, Bretons are able to make up for it in their ability to resist and cast spells that overwhelm most whom they encounter, although not to the same level as a seasoned High Elf. They are generally known as being quite passionate, eccentric, poetic, flamboyant, intelligent, willful, along with being extraordinary cooks. They feel an instinctive bond with mercurial forces of magic and the supernatural world, thus explains their strong tie with their magical abilities and the arcane arts. They are most likely to be either a battle mage, necromage, or witch hunter. High Rock society is strongly influenced by the pursuit of prosperity and wealth. Thus, Breton culture is known for its high social mobility as well as strict but easily propserous class system in which lowly peasants and beggers may easily become prominent citizens given the right motivation and skill.
The Imperials are natives of the province of Cyrodiil. Hence their name (along with their continental empire ideology), they are based on the Romans - for instance, their forenames and surnames unmistakably derive from Latin and armour is reminiscent of garments worn by Roman legions. Though less physically imposing than the other races, the Imperials are shrewd diplomats and traders. These traits, along with lots of training for soldiers, have enabled them to overcome their seemingly less imposing physique and subdue all the other provinces of Tamriel and unite them under the banner of their empire.
Imperials were not a playable race in Arena or Daggerfall, and "the Imperial Province" (that is, Cyrodiil), was declared to have "no indigenous race". The Imperial race is playable in Morrowind as well as Oblivion and Skyrim. They are playable in Elder Scrolls Online. You must buy the Imperial edition of the game to unlock this race. They are mostly known to be knights, templars or paladins.
The Nords inhabit the northern province of Skyrim, which serves as the setting for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Originally hailing from the frozen continent of Atmora, Nords are known to be fierce, strong and enthusiastic fighters, and many become renowned warriors, soldiers and mercenaries all over the continent of Tamriel. Their origin is from the northern lands above on the map - it is believed that humans first set foot on Tamriel in the Skyrim Province.
When designing the Nordic people and culture, Bethesda Softworks took inspiration from a combination of real-world historical sources, such as the Nords' usage of woad, a warpaint also used by North European Celtic peoples of the Iron and Dark Ages. Primarily, though, Nords seem to be based on Scandinavian Vikings, evidenced in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by the design of housing, fences, ships, weapons, names, important figures, and even beds. Nords are typically depicted as being pale-skinned and muscular, with long blonde or brown hair that is usually grown out and braided or tied. They are well-adapted to the frigid lands they call home, so they have a natural resistance to ice-based magic. They often wear armor created from leather, furs, and iron or steel.
The Redguards are from the province of Hammerfell in western Tamriel. The Redguard are the greatest, most talented warriors on Tamriel, on which they took a province for themselves through war, after migrating to the continent from their homeland, the lost continent of Yokuda. Their appearances are based on the tribes of African and Arab cultures. They take value in martial virtues and are great mercenaries and assassins, have an effective naval force and are known for their headdress and "curved swords". They are hardy, resistant to poison and do not easily get fatigued.
The Altmer, also called High Elves, live in the Summerset Isle. They are typically taller than the other races and have a golden skin and eye color. They tend to be proud and consider themselves the most civilized race. Altmer are among the most magically-inclined races on Nirn, surpassing even their Breton cousins in magical aptitude.
Their depiction has changed throughout the series to reflect changing times. In 'A Pocket Guide to the Empire,' which shipped with the game Redguard, they were initially portrayed as arrogant in their superiority and heartless to the point of inhumanity. A new edition of the same fictional 'guide' was shipped with Oblivion which contained a much more favorable view of the Altmer, mentioning deep class and social struggles in which the young were rebelling against the notion of their race's superiority in general and the superiority of the Altmeri nobility in particular with many even abandoning worship of the traditional Altmeri pantheon of gods altogether. They believe they are descended from the Aedra; the gods who were involved in the creation of Nirn and mankind, but were tricked by another god, Lorkhan. In the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a faction of Altmer known as the Thalmor acts as the main social antagonist, primarily because of their banning of the worship of Talos, the Dragon God of War and patron of the Nord people. The Thalmor reject the notion of Talos (Tiber Septim) ascending to godhood for several reasons, including the fact that they did not believe a mere man was capable of such a feat, as well as the fact that Talos was responsible for the invasion of Summerset Isles, the Altmeri homeland, and the resulting deaths of thousands of their people as well as the near-defeat and subsequent humiliation of the Altmer, spawning resentment throughout the Altmer people.
The Bosmer, also called Wood Elves, inhabit the province of Valenwood. They are the shortest race with a brown to dark tan complexion, they are also remarkable thieves and archers, due to their superior dexterity and agility, presumably because they spend their time hunting in dense forests. They are also religiously carnivorous and cannibalistic as a result of the Green Pact, a central portion of the Bosmer faith. This pact also dictates that the tree of their home province, Valenwood, cannot be used as a lumber resource. Thus, they often import wood from other provinces.
Dunmer, also called Dark Elves, hail from Morrowind.They are the Elder Scrolls variation of dark elves, a popular fictional race in role-playing games and fantasy literature, though they are quite different. They are descended from the Chimer, a group of Aldmer who worshipped the Daedra. The Chimer became the grey-skinned, red-eyed Dunmer after they were cursed by the Daedric Prince Azura.
The Dunmer homeland of Morrowind is very inhospitable, dominated by the volcano Red Mountain and covered in ash. Elder Scrolls lore states that in 4E 5 (between the games Oblivion and Skyrim) Red Mountain erupted, causing the destruction of the island Vvardenfell (upon which the game Morrowind takes place) and widespread havoc in the rest of Morrowind. Morrowind was the last province to outlaw slavery in Tamriel.
The Orsimer, or simply Orcs are descended from a group of Aldmer that worshiped a god named Trinimac. Orsimer were the former inhabitants of the province of Hammerfell, but lost their land to the armies of Redguards. The Orcs now reside in a small mountain kingdom known as Orsinium. The kingdom has been sacked and rebuilt numerous times, and is located near the Breton homeland of High Rock. Orcs are distinguished by their imposing physique, green skin, and prominent under bite. They are famous as the greatest craftsmen in Tamriel and are incredible warriors, clad in heavy armor.
Argonians are a beast race of reptilian humanoids consistently portrayed throughout the Elder Scrolls series of games as intelligent, quick and agile, tending towards the in-game character classes of the mage and the thief. Within the ES world, Argonians inhabit the swampy inhospitable region of Black Marsh, home to sentient trees called the Hist, which are worshiped by Argonians and play an essential part in their religion and life cycle. Years of defending their homeland has made them masters of guerrilla warfare. They can breathe underwater and are resistant to poison and diseases.
The Khajiit are an anthropomorphic feline race hailing from the province of Elsweyr. They enjoy change, wealth and adventure. Though there are many breeds, Cathay and Suthay-raht appear most frequently. Remarkably stealthy, agile and good with blades, they are excellent thieves and assassins, which leads many to distrust them. They are also great warriors. Many Khajiit take to selling an illegal drug called Skooma, which is made from the Moon Sugar, a cash crop of their homeland in Elsweyr. This has sullied the Khajiit's reputation to being lowly bandits and penny pinchers. Khajiit are shunned outside their homeland and are frequently barred from entering cities.
Non-playable and extinct races
In Elder Scrolls lore, the Aldmer, translated as the First or Elder Folk, are thought to be the first race to appear in the world, Nirn. The Oblivion in-game book "Before the Ages of Man" is the most comprehensive source of their history. It traces their origins first to the mythic continent of Aldmeris, noting the alternate rendering of Old Elhofney for the place. Certain maps are cautious enough to exclude the mythic continent from their mappings of Nirn, while others place it to the south of Tamriel. As is often the case with Elder Scrolls lore, many contradictory accounts concerning Aldmeris exist, with some suggesting it to be entirely mythological. Beyond Aldmeris, their first known settlements were in southwestern Tamriel, from which they eventually moved on to settle the entire continent. By the beginning of recorded history, they had already branched off into a number of distinct populations, among them the present-day Altmer. The term "Aldmer" is sometimes used to describe the entire Elven race, as in the "Aldmeri Dominion", or in common Elven usage, as evidenced by the entry for "Aldmer" in the Elder Scrolls of Treasury. Although the Aldmer no longer exist as a distinct race, their culture lives on throughout the Empire, forming the basis of Tamrielic language and religion.
Dwemer, meaning "Deep Elves", are a lost race that lived primarily in the region of Vvardenfell, but also had a presence in High Rock, Skyrim, and Hammerfell. They are often referred to as "Dwarves" in western cultures, although they were no shorter than a human and the name seems to have been derived from a supposed encounter with Giants who saw the Dwemer as short. They were a reclusive, independent race, dedicated to the principles of Science, Alchemy, Magic, and Engineering and they are based on the ancient Mesopotamians. The Dwemer of Morrowind were engaged in conflict with the Chimer until they united to defeat the approaching Nords. One clan of Dwemer, the Rourken Clan, refused to unite with the Chimer and their clan leader threw his hammer, Volendrung, across Tamriel, declaring that the clan would settle where it landed. The hammer landed in what would eventually become modern day Hammerfell, explaining the region's name. The Dwemer soon began excavating into the Red Mountain of Morrowind, and found the Heart of Lorkhan. The Dwemer used it to create a new god, Anumidium, the brass god, a large stone golem powered by the heart. This is linked to their disappearance during the Battle of Red Mountain.
It is thought that the Falmer ("Snow Elves") were the original elven inhabitants of Skyrim, the northernmost province of the continent of Tamriel, and were defeated and displaced by the Nords. The Pocket Guide to the Empire in the chapter on Skyrim mentions the Snow Elves as a local superstition, with Nord villagers blaming them for a number of random misfortunes and scant physical evidence of their existence.
It is revealed in Skyrim that the Falmer were driven to near extinction by the invading Nords thousands of years prior. Due to this, the Falmer fled to safety within the Dwemer underground. With their superior technology and higher knowledge of the caves beneath Skyrim, the Dwemer were eventually able to push the Falmer deep into the Blackreach. After an unknown amount of years, the Falmer revolted. One day, however, when preparing to enter another battle, the Falmer found that their enemies had mysteriously vanished.
The Falmer have now degenerated into a hideous breed of subterranean monsters the player character will often face within Dwemer ruins or in caves. Due to their long existence underground, they have become hunched, blind and are no longer very elven; however, they have gained keen hearing and hunt their prey using this ability. With the addition of the Dawnguard add-on, it is revealed that two Snow Elves survived their races' extinction by remaining hidden in a secluded valley in the northern mountains of Skyrim.
The Maormer ("Sea Elves") are one of the many types of elven races. They are related to the Aldmer, but were exiled to Pyandonea after a failed revolt by their King Orgnum, who is not only immortal, but grows more youthful by the century. Pyandonea has not been shown on any official maps to date, but is thought to be south of the Summerset Isle. In Elder Scrolls Online, several Maormer appear in coastal areas of Elsweyr, Valenwood and Auridon in Summerset Isles.
The Imga, or Great Apes, are native beastfolk of Valenwood. They see the Altmeri as their superiors and as a portrait of an ideal, civilized society. Imga go to desperate measures to emulate the Altmeri: they wear capes, practice with the dueling sword, and attempt to speak with perfect enunciation and courtly manners despite their gravelly, baritone voices. These intelligent apes are said to have flourished in Valenwood long before the Aldmer ever arrived there. They cohabit in the forests with the Bosmer tribes, and also inhabit many of the abandoned human trading posts which had been established during the Second Empire.
Dragons are large reptilian-like creatures with bat-like wings and talons, and one of the oldest sentient races. Though they are believed by some to be beasts, dragons are immortal as well as highly intelligent and are capable of speech, though most of them hold a strong hatred for almost all other living creatures and only show respect for creatures who prove more powerful than them. In the lore of the Elder Scrolls, dragons are a race of lesser Aedra descended directly from Akatosh, the God of Time and the original dragon. Because of this unity with their father and the other Divines, dragons are attuned to the flow of time and are bound to Nirn for all eternity. They communicate through their own archaic language, which includes a power known as the Thu'um or "the Voice"; dragons are able to unleash a powerful magic called a Shout, which can take the form of a blast of fire, ice, concussive force, or some other magical effect. When a dragon is slain, their souls either stay within Nirn or are consumed by another dragon. In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the player character is the Last Dragonborn. A Dragonborn is a rare individual (of any race) who has the blood and soul of a Dragon, but the frailties of a human. As such he or she can use Thu'ums and, upon killing a dragon, absorb its soul, as dragons can. There have been many Dragonborns, notably Tiber Septim, aka the god Talos. With the exception of the Last Dragonborn (whose race is chosen by the player) the Dragonborns have been almost exclusively men, mostly Nords, though some have been Imperials. The dragons have gone through a variety of events which have led to the race becoming almost extinct, the most notable of which is the Dragon War. In Skyrim, Alduin, the first-born dragon who is feared and worshiped by the Nords as the God of Destruction and World-Eater, is the final boss of the storyline quest and serves as both the main antagonist and catalyst for the entire events of the game.
Giants are massive people who can be found throughout northern Tamriel. They resemble huge, bearded, muscular men. Giant civilization is basic, revolving around herding mammoths, harvesting their cheese and meat and collecting shiny or valuable items. It is rare for any more than two giants to live in the same place. Giants are not particularly hostile but will attack when provoked or when they feel threatened. Their mammoths generally help to defend them, as Giants will defend their mammoths.
Goblins are a small race of beings, typically green, gray or blue skinned, and can be found all across Tamriel. Goblin villages are typically located inside caves, and can contain a variety of structures, from prison cells to religious centres, though most of these "buildings" are usually ordinary patches of cave, separated from the rest by some wooden planks or fencing, with a few chairs and chests scattered about the place. Goblins seem to exist in a merit based society in which the strongest earn the right to lead. Goblin tribes are usually led by a shaman, who carries the tribe's totem staff and seems to be their religious leader, and a warchief, a rank which seems to belong to the ultimate leader of the tribe. Goblins are the primary race of the group known as "Goblin-ken", and obviously the namesake. No Goblins are found in Skyrim or on Vvardenfell Island, although the goblin-like Rieklings inhabit an island off Skyrim known as Solstheim.
Lycanthrope is an umbrella term used to refer to various people who have either had animal-like transformations forced upon them by the disease Lycanthropy, or have been given Lycanthropy willingly. Lycanthropes have appeared in The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. According to game lore, Lycanthropes are the servants to the Daedric Lord Hircine, and will serve him for eternity in his Hunting Ground upon their death. Lycanthropes are created from being bitten or scratched by an existing Lycanthrope, or by drinking the blood of one. There are a number of different Lycanthropes within the lore, though werewolves are the most prominent. Others include werebears, werecrocodiles, wereboars, werelions and weresharks.
Vampirism, which produces vampires, refers to those inflicted with either of the diseases Sanguinare Vampiris or Porphyric Hemophilia. A higher state of vampirism, the Vampire Lord, can be attained through the Daedric Prince Molag Bal.
Aedra and Daedra
The various people of Tamriel worship a variety of deities and otherworldly powers. The principal among these are the Aedra and Daedra. Aedra, translated from Aldmeri to "Our Ancestors", include the "Nine Divines" of the Imperial cult. Both the Aedra and the Daedra belong to an immortal race of celestial beings called the et'Ada or "Original Spirits," the primordial beings who existed before Mundus (the universe) was formed. The Aedra are rarely reported as taking an active hand in the affairs of mortals except for certain extreme circumstances, such as the end of Oblivion. The Daedra, translated as "Not Our Ancestors", are viewed as far less benevolent by most in The Elder Scrolls, embodying the more menacing aspects of human existence.
The Aedra, also known as the Nine Divines, are the divine beings who are worshiped by virtually all races of men, mer, and beast, with their own forms and names to identify these deities. The Aedra are the et'Ada who remained to create Nirn after Lorkhan tricked them into his plan to create the world of men by pouring their own divine power into Creation, thus binding them to the mortal world and robbing them of the lion's share of their power and immortality. They eventually regained enough power to ascend back into Aetherius. The Aedra consist of nine important figures:
- Akatosh, is the Dragon God of Time and father of dragons. Akatosh created the dragon blood of Saint Alessia and is thus creator of the Dragonborn and the Dov. In Oblivion, Martin Septim shatters the Amulet of Kings and becomes the host of Akatosh. In the process he becomes a fiery golden dragon, and when Mehrunes Dagon is defeated he turns to stone.
- Arkay, God of Life and Death.
- Dibella, Goddess of Beauty, Friendship and Sexuality and patroness of artists and pilgrims.
- Julianos, God of Wisdom and Knowledge.
- Kynareth, Goddess of the Wind and Nature.
- Mara, the Goddess of Love and Compassion, the Mother Goddess and wife of Akatosh
- Stendarr, God of Mercy and Justice
- Talos/Tiber Septim, God of War and Governance. Tiber Septim, a Dragonborn and the first Emperor of the Septim Empire, became the god Talos upon his death.
- Zenithar, God of Wealth and Commerce.
The Daedra are creatures native to the realm of Oblivion, typically split into Daedric Princes and Lesser Daedra, though the latter is split into even further categorization. As with the Aedra, the true origins of the Daedra are unknown, with one myth suggesting they are the children of the Dread Lord Padomay, while another claims they are merely a subdivision of the et'Ada who wanted nothing to do with the creation of Nirn. They are viewed as evil by Aedric worshipers due to their inability to comprehend the mortal concepts of good and evil, though it's clear to the player that not all of them are. There are 17 known Daedric Princes, each one controlling a plane of Oblivion, modeled to whatever the Prince wills it to be. The Daedra each are associated with different things, like the Aedra. The Daedric Princes will often have sects of dedicated followers, sworn to carry out their commands and wishes. The Daedric Prince of Destruction, Change and Deceit, Mehrunes Dagon, appears as the main antagonist in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, where he attempts to expand his realm beyond the plane of Oblivion, thereby ending the world of Nirn and the land of Tamriel. Some races of Lesser Daedra include Dark Seducers, Dremora, Golden Saints, and Xivilai. A common feature in The Elder Scrolls games is to complete quests for the Daedric Princes to become their champions, and earn their artifacts which are very powerful and unique.
The 17 Daedric Princes and their spheres are:
- Azura, Prince of Dusk and Dawn
- Boethiah, Prince of Deceit and Treason
- Clavicus Vile, Prince of Pacts and Shapeshifting
- Hermaeus Mora, Prince of Knowledge and Memory
- Hircine, Prince of the Hunt
- Jyggalag, Prince of Order
- Malacath, Prince of Ostracism
- Mehrunes Dagon, Prince of Destruction
- Mephala (sphere unknown)
- Meridia (sphere unknown but associated to life)
- Molag Bal, Prince of Domination and Enslavement
- Namira, Prince of Ancient Darkness
- Nocturnal, Prince of Night and Darkness
- Peryite, Prince of Pestilence
- Sanguine, Prince of Hedonism
- Sheogorath, Prince of Madness
- Vaermina, Prince of Dreams and Nightmares
Each of these Daedric Princes own their own realm of Oblivion suited to them, other than Jyggalag, who shares a realm with Sheogorath.
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