The Iliad and the Elder Scrolls

As we prepare our next season, one of our listeners has decided to help us bridge the gap by sending to us a paper he’s written examining the lore of the Elder Scrolls universe when contrasted with Greek mythology.

Tamriel, also known as “Dawn’s Beauty” in the Elven tongue, or “Tah’zukhan” in the language of the Dragons; is the continent on which all The Elder Scrolls games take place. Tamriel is a land of many unique natives, and even more mysteries and conflicts. Many have experienced this world through their own adventures, but completely overlooked many hidden secrets. In The Elder Scrolls mythology there are hundreds of undeniable similarities to that of Greek mythology, acting as an example as to how our understanding of Greek mythology may have changed.

The paper, in its entirety, is available now!


The Story of Arden Sul

In a companion piece to our most recent episode about the Enantiomorph, I present you with some Extended Reading on the topic. Those listeners who knew the topic, or understood it well enough from the episode, might have been curious as to the mysterious absence of one of the most obvious examples of the Enantiomorph. This particular example we, as players, experience first-hand during the events of the Shivering Isles expansion pack to Oblivion. So, here goes nothing: Sheogorath, Jyggalag, and the strange story of Arden Sul

Updates to Extended Reading

In the interest of organization, I’ve moved the Extended Reading articles to their own pages. They will now appear when you mouse-over the navigation link along the header. You can have one-click access to any of our articles right from the front page.

In addition, I’ve uploaded the transcript of our three-episode special on Vivec’s 36 Lessons. If you’ve listened to the episodes, then you won’t find anything new in the script, but I figured it might be interesting to some people (or easier to use as a reference). I’ve also punctuated the script with illustrations from Michael Kirkbride himself, with the appropriate Sermons. Keep in mind: it’s a script, and there might be grammatical errors. They bother me just as much as they bother you, but it’s not meant to be academic and scholarly.

St. Jiub the Eradicator

We first meet Jiub on board a prison ship that has just pulled into the small port town of Seyda Neen, on the southern coast of the the island Vvardenfell. I’m talking, of course, about the very earliest moments of the game Morrowind. Jiub is a prisoner as well, having been arrested after a “botched” assassination attempt on a high ranking Redoran official. He arrives in Seyda Neen on the same ship as the prisoner who would eventually be called Nerevarine. It is not until seeing him again, during the Dawnguard expansion pack, that we learn the specifics of his arrest.

For people like me, whose first glimpse of the wild and beautiful world of Tamriel was in this game, Jiub was the first person I met. Jiub has the crimson red eyes characteristic of the Dunmer people, though one eye is shriveled and dead as a large and deep scar passes over it. He has no hair, but many earrings, up and down both long ears. He speaks with a low voice made of gravel and dust.

Once the Nerevarine steps off the boat and into the Census office, however, we never see Jiub again. Did he, too, disembark at Seyda Neen? Or did the boat carry him further along the Inner Sea to the great city of Vivec? Or Ebonheart? Did he rot away in a dark and festering cell? Or did he have a different kind of destiny?

In this auto-biography, titled The Rise and Fall of Saint Jiub the Eradicator Hero of Morrowind and Savior of the Dunmer, he talks about what destiny did have in store for him whenever (and wherever) he got off that boat.

At some point, Jiub found himself hunting Cliff Racers. Anybody who has played Morrowind will shudder at the mention of them, but it begs some explanation for those of you who haven’t. The Cliff Racers are extremely pesky and annoying enemies. You can hear them from a mile off, sometimes causing you to search and search in vain. They fly, allowing them to sneak up on you very easily, and are difficult to hit even with ranged weapons. It was not long after Morrowind’s release that fans were complaining about the Cliff Racers.

Well, thanks to Jiub, they are now extinct. Or, more accurately, they’ve been driven from the island of Vvardenfell. The status of the Cliff Racers as a species is unknown. In his auto-biography he recounts the events of one particular hunt, when he exhaustively pursued what he calls a Lingerer (a Racer without a nest). He gives chase riding on the back of a silt strider, common transport in Morrowind, nocking an arrow to take it down. Jiub explains that he “had sworn to eliminate the foul beasts”, but he does not specify who the oath was sworn to.

Finally, as Jiub’s strider is tiring and the Racer climbs over the lip of a foyada (lava flow), he fires. The shot nails the Cliff Racer who falls out of sight dead. Jiub’s excitement is cut short, however, when a whole brood of angry Cliff Racers emerge from the lip of the foyada and set their sights on Jiub.

According to the auto-biography, the battle lasts two days. However, if we look at how he talks about his deeds and the title he gives his autobiography, he thinks very highly of himself and his accomplishments. At long last, all of the Cliff Racers lie dead, and Jiub is up to his knees in their corpses. “I smiled to the heavens and all went black.”

“When I awoke, all I felt was my back on a cold stone floor. Every muscle in my body was on fire, and my vision was blurred. Slowly, I tried to climb to my feet. It took several agonizing minutes, but I finally managed to do it. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light of my new surroundings, I realized that I was standing before Lord Vivec himself. He was simply staring at me… floating above his throne and staring at me with his piercing eyes. When I began to prostrate myself as a sign of respect, he held up one of his hands as if to say it wasn’t necessary. Was I dead? Was Lord Vivec pleased with me? Was he about to strike me down in anger for my somewhat sordid past?

Suddenly I understood everything. Suddenly I realized that I was brought here for a reason. I should have died in those ash wastes, but Lord Vivec must have seen something inside me that he hadn’t seen in millennia and decided to spare me from my fate.

Thus began my ascent to Sainthood. Thus began the rise of Jiub!”

After the eradication of the Cliff Racers, Jiub moves west to Kvatch to focus on writing his auto-biography. This is how he ended up in Cyrodiil when the Mythic Dawn cult assassinated the Emperor and his heirs, and Mehrunes Dagon opened up Oblivion gates linking his world of the Deadlands with the seat of Imperial power: Cyrodiil.

So it is that, in 3E 433, Saint Jiub the Eradicator is killed by a Dremora during the Siege of Kvatch, and his soul trapped inside a soul gem.

Jiub can be found in the Soul Cairn, during the events of the expansion Dawnguard. He has more hair now, but he still has that same voice. He is unaware that any time has passed since his death, and believes that the Oblivion crisis is still at hand. You can do a quest for him too, if you like. Special thanks to stavius and ServerofJustice for clarification on a few points.

The Witchmen of High Rock

“Since the legendary victory of Tiber Septim over the “barbarian natives” in the Battle of Old Hroldan, Imperial and Nord scholarship has cast the people of the Reach as little more than savages, prone to irrational fits of violence, worshipping old, heretical gods, and fetishizing beasts and nature spirits that any civilized person would best well avoid.”

This is taken from from the the book The Madmen of the Reach: A Cultural Treatise on the Forsworn as written by Arrianus Arius.You may have heard mention of the Forsworn in the past, without really knowing it, for they go by many different names. In some accounts of Tiber Septim’s conquest they are referred to as the Witchmen of High Rock, sometimes they are the Madmen of the Reach, Reachmen, or the Forsworn. It would be their defeat at the hands of Tiber Septim that would begin a long period of exile from their lands, and the beginning of Tiber Septim’s career as a Commander and (eventually) Emperor.They are a tribal people, mostly composed of Bretons from High Rock. They primarily use primitive weapons made from stone or tusk. They wear mostly furs and pelts as armor, styling themselves after the likeness of wilderness animals. Their appearance and lifestyle often leads more civilized Nords to look on them as primitive, but they have been known to wield powerful nature magic and are masters of insurgent and guerrilla warfare.The Witchmen are a powerful force and, according to some sources, oppose all political systems in Skyrim in the Fourth Era, and wish to drive everybody from their land (Empire and Thalmor alike).

Let us continue with Arrianus Arius’ book, in which she acts as a justifier for the almost universally condemned actions of the tribal group:

“Let us begin with the Forsworn, the so-called “madmen” of the Reach. The Imperial Legion classifies them as little more than brigands, noting their constant raids and ambushes within the Hold. But none of their military reports asks the question of “why?” If they were merely a group of bandits, surely they would be focused on acquiring gold and minimizing deaths among their own. But the opposite is true in Forsworn attacks. Large sums of coin are often left behind, and their fighters easily throw away their lives rather than risk capture by Imperial soldiers.”

Traditionally, the Witchmen have a strong reverence for hagravens who are treated as societal matriarchs. The hagravens are responsible for the ritual that turns a Reachman into a Briarheart, a spirit of vengeance. In said ritual, an individual’s heart is removed and replaced with a Briar Heart, which replaces the individual’s humanity and gives them inhuman strength and resilience. You can witness, or rather interrupt, the ceremony in progress at the Lost Valley Redoubt near Markarth.According to the non-heretical look at Tiber Septim’s early life, when he was twenty years old he leads the invasion of Old Hroldan, in which he takes back the Reach from the “Witchmen of High Rock.” We are left with a bit of a mystery as to how they got there, but we can make assumptions. It is possible that the Witchmen came out of High Rock and settled the area early in Tamriel’s history. Not much has changed for them in the time that has followed, which is why they still use primitive gear. Even after Tiber Septim, however, they are never truly wiped out and, over time, begrudgingly accept the presence of Nords and the Empire. This all takes place over the course of centuries, we must keep in mind, so it’s easy to see that the Reachmen are not really open to change or negotiation. They see an opportunity arise, however, at the beginning of the Great War between the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion.Noticing that the Empire no longer had the resources to suppress their uprising, the Witchmen revolt in 4e174 and took back the Reach, calling it the Forsworn Kingdom. Despite the violence of the insurgency, the Witchmen ruled their kingdom relatively peacefully. After two years, in fact, they were doing so well that they began the process of seeking out recognition and sovereignty from the Empire. All of this came crashing down, however, when (in that same year) the Empire signs the White-Gold Concordat.So, in 4e176, Ulfric Stormcloak leads a Nord militia against the Witchmen and deals them a fatal blow. Escaped Reachmen settle in the wilderness in any defensible place they can find, but most of the ranking Reachmen are imprisoned, namely Madanach who, after being thrown in the Cidhna Mine, is called the King in Rags.

One might look at the Uprising in two different lights. On the one hand, the Forsworn are simply trying to expel invaders from their homeland which was taken from them eras ago. They are powerful and prideful warriors who will not bend the knee if it risks their sovereignty. On the other hand, Ulfric manages to lead a relatively small militia against them and, with the help of his thu’um, obliterate the Uprising. Perhaps they are not such great warriors, after all. In addition to that, their hatred for the Nords is so great that it seems they will stoop to murdering any Nord, regardless of political affiliation, gender, or even age. The Forsworn in Skyrim tend to attack anybody nearby without provocation. Perhaps it is the dying gasp of breath of a proud and vanishing people, or perhaps they are indeed simply bandits and murderers.

Finally, I would like to close with a quote from Arrianus Arius again, in which she quotes a common Forsworn mantra:

“You want to know who the Forsworn are? We are the people who must pillage our own land. Burn our own ground. We are the scourge of the Nords. The axe that falls in the dark. The scream before the gods claim your soul. We are the true sons and daughters of the Reach. The spirits and hags have lived here from the beginning, and they are on our side. Go back. Go back and tell your Empire that we will have our own kingdom again. And on that day, we will be the ones burying your dead in a land that is no longer yours.”

Extended Reading: The Tribunal

In our most recent episode we examined politics in Morrowind and, in so doing, we talked a little bit about the Tribunal Temple and the Almsivi. What I didn’t have time for, during the episode, I would like to address now: the lives of the Tribunes themselves.

First, we will talk about Almalexia, who is also Ayem. She was wife to Indoril Nerevar and, later, consort to Vivec. The Chimer viewed her as a benevolent mother-figure, protecting and healing her people from her home in Mournhold. Her city, Mournhold, is alternatively known by her name: Almalexia city. She was very close with House Indoril, being wife to Nerevar, and used the Ordinators as her peace-keepers and punishers when Chimer strayed from the Tribune Way. As can be seen in this screenshot from the game Morrowind, Almalexia retains the Chimer appearance, and sometimes can be seen wearing a terrifying armored war headdress. Almalexia is said to be the Anticipation of Boethiah, the Daedric Prince of Plots and Murder. As time wore on the three Tribunes would slide further and further into insanity. As it turns out, being separated from the Tools that had given them divinity was taking it’s toll. (Spoiler alert for the game Morrowind!) In a fit of madness, Almalexia murdered Sotha Sil in his Clockwork City, before the Neveravine has a chance to put her down.

Sotha Sil was the sorcerer of the Tribunal. Sometimes called Seht, it’s believed that he came from rather humble beginnings, rising through study to become a great wielder of magic. He spent some time, near the end of the First Era, on the island of Artaeum with the Psijic Order teaching some of the newer recruits. Sotha Sil was believed to have been the Anticipation of Azura, and spent most of his time in his Clockwork City. He also still has the Chimer coloration, although (as seen here) there is not much resemblance to much of anything anymore. After the town of Gilverdale, in Valenwood, was destroyed by Molag Bal, Sotha Sil traveled into Oblivion and made a pact with eight of the more prominent Daedric Princes. The exact details of the pact are unknown, but the Princes agreed to not threaten mortals directly (they could still, however, manifest themselves through a medium: a witch, a sorcerer, or the Psijics). This did not prevent Mehrunes Dagon from destroyed Mournhold, the city of Almalexia, when he was summoned by a witch who wanted revenge for her murdered child. Sotha Sil, with some help from Almalexia herself, managed to banish Dagon back to the Deadlands.

The last of the Tribunes is Vivec, also known as Vehk, the Warrior Poet. Vivec is known to embody the dichotomous spirit of the Dunmer people, which is manifested in his half-Chimer half-Dunmer appearance. He is one of the only people in Tamriel to have achieved or “known” CHIM, a kind of Enlightenment. As a result, he has the spiritual power to re-write his past in a way that leaves us with more questions than answers, and the truth is often buried beneath multiple layers of metaphor. Vivec is known as the Anticipation of the Daedric Prince Mephala. Unlike his friends, he dealt with the slow and steady loss of divinity with quiet resolution. However, somewhere near the end of the Third Era, he disappeared. Without him there, within his Temple in Vivec City, the moon Baar Dau (the Ministry of Truth) came crashing into the city. Whether or not this collision caused the eruption of the Red Mountain or if they were just unfortunate concurrent disasters is unknown, but it was the beginning of the end for Morrowind.