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Reichmar's Rant: The Noob's Guide to the TES Galaxy
by Reichmar12, Member — Category: Editorials
Post #23531

The average TES player makes a new character and assigns a guardian constellation without any thought – they read what the skill bonuses are and pick the one that’s most desirable for their play style. They then proceed to adventure across the world reading quest text about gods, Aedra, Daedra, Nirn and Tamriel. They hear about things like the Dwemer and the Orrey, and they’re inundated with lore books describing ages long since past. Most players can go through every TES game without giving much thought to the lore or world around them; they just follow quest objectives, kill enemies and enjoy the action. They move from town to town, joining guilds, killing enemies and finishing stories. But for those who care to know more about the world which their virtual avatar occupies, there is a vast and complex cosmological structure that dictates every aspect of TES life (and afterlife) and enough metaphysical philosophy that would make Kant crack a smile.

To understand the relationship between The Elder Scrolls, philosophy and cosmology is to attempt to understand how parts of its universe interact. Stars, planets and space all play a pivotal role in life on the player inhabited world. Everything is connected, and that’s an important point to understand if one wants to fully comprehend the complex nature of the relationship between Aedra, Daedra, creation and the cosmos. This is a sparknotes-style Reichmar’s Rant that consults the Imperial Library, the Academy for Dwever Studies and the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages (website links at the bottom). Lore is quite different than my usual subject matter, but many among the TES community often discuss this and other philosophy and I felt that I might be beneficial for newer members of the TESO community who don’t have the years of experience with the lore. Hopefully, it’ll help. If not, read it anyway.

Long before the creation of Nirn, and before the universe had its shape, there existed a state of pure nothingness called Sithis. Within this void existed what is, and what is not. The interaction between these two forces resulted in the creation of a center of existence between what is and what is not – a middle ground between the black and the white, the light and the dark. This is a “grey” zone which contains the realms of Oblivion and Aetherius. This area is known as the Aurbis.

Upon its creation, the Aurbis was inhospitable to any semblance of consistency (elven tradition claims that this was due to Aurbis, or Anuiel in the Aldmer tongue, using the nothingness of Sithis to contemplate its own existence). Eventually, entities known as the et’Ada were born from the Aurbis. For some time, the et’Ada were prone to failure – dissolving as they moved from the grey Aurbis without purpose – as they were young and still learning the nature of their own existences. One of them, Akatosh, became the first to learn to traverse the Aurbis. Eventually, many of the et’Ada became able to do this as well.


One of them, Lorkhan, had an idea of a world inhabited by creatures who would breed families, embrace individual responsibility but live short, mortal lives. Half of the immortals joined with Lorkhan and began work on creating a mortal world – Nirn (Mundus) was created. Those et’Ada are known as the Aedra. The other half, who did not agree with Lorkhan, are known as the Daedra. The creation process was taxing on the Aedra, draining them of much power. Many lost their youth and many ceased to exist. They were tricked.

Some Aedra left the group and traversed the Aurbis to Aetherius. Others decided to stay and support the mortal world they had created, becoming Elhnofey, or the Earthbones. Of all the Aedra that created Nirn, only eight remained to oversee it: Akatosh, Arkay, Dibella, Julianos, Kynareth, Mara, Stendarr and Zenithar. This last point demonstrates an important dynamic of the existence of the remaining Aedra – the eight divines – and the Daedra.

In the lore volume, “Aedra and Daedra”, we learn that the Aedra are representative of stasis, whereas the Daedra are representative of change. Because the Aedra are tied to creation, they are subject to a divine contract. As the creators of the consistent mortal world, they are subject to death as all of their creation. By contrast, the Daedra are not subject to the rules of the mortal world, and cannot be killed. They can only be sent back to Oblivion after the destruction of their physical form.

An example of the Aedra mortality is the destruction of Lorkhan. For his trickery of the other Aedra, the eight remaining Aedra punished Lorkhan. As punishment, the eight destroyed him on the surface of the planet he helped create. Accounts differ as to Lorkhan’s downfall between the Elven and Human inhabitants of Tamriel, and some debate whether the destruction was completely involuntary. He is considered as an enemy of Elves and patron of Mankind among some. Most striking is the difference between Altmer perceptions of Lorkhan’s role and those of Orcs and Chimer.

Above: Red Mountain in Vvardenfell, surrounded by the Ghostfence, where Lorkhan's Heart was discovered. Deviant Art by Lelek1980.

The Altmer believe that Lorkhan is the single impediment to their traveling to the spirit plane of Aetherius. Their stories surrounding his destruction state that Trinimac, Akatosh’s champion, defeated Lorkhan, tore out his heart and threw it down to eastern Tamriel (where it would be found later). The Altmer seek ascendence to the spirit plane because Nirn is a prison; an illusion of what their potential existence could be. Some among the Altmer believe that Lorkhan’s creation is a testing ground for a truer ascendance.

By contrast, the Orcs and Chimer (later Dunmer) believe that Elven theology spreads lies about Lorkhan’s test. The Daedric Prince Boethiah, in their perception, slew Trinimac and assumed his form and encouraged followers of Boethiah and Trinimac to abandon their Altmer societies. For their faith, the Mer who followed them were instructed on the Psijic Endeavor – or a means through which a mortal can surpass their creators (gods). This was primarily advocated by Saint Veloth and Vivec. These followers (the Chimer) were guided by Boethiah, Mephala and another Daedric Prince, Azura, to the northeastern region of Tamriel – Morrowind as it is called today.

Each of the celestial bodies in the universe has a purpose. The various planets in TES cosmology are the Aedra themselves; their very planes of existence (just as Nirn is a “planet” but also the mortal plane of existence). The Daedra, too, have their own realms within the planes of Oblivion. Both the Aedra and the Daedra occupy the void of Oblivion – observable from Nirn as the night sky above or, more simply put, the blackness of outer space. Also observable from Nirn are two moons -- once vibrant and bright -- now darkened and decayed. These moons are the ascendant spirits of Nirn and are called Masser and Secunda. As spirits tied to the mortal plane, they too are subject to the laws of mortality (which explains their shift in appearance). In Fal Droon’s, “The Lunar Lorkhan”, the moons are stated to be the very remnants of Lorkhan’s body. According to the text, the duality of the moons represent the shattering of Lorkhan – his “body” split in half [into two moons] and his heart crashing into Nirn.

The stars are a topic for another article, as they incorporate the study of constellations and their impact on life on Nirn. For the sake of this article, though, stars can be understood as pathways or bridges to the plane of magic, Aetherius. To understand this, imagine the universe as existing inside of a sphere. Nirn and the other planes would exist in the empty space inside the sphere and the stars, who are all equidistant from Nirn, exist against the edge of the sphere. Because the stars are bridges to Aetherius, imagine them as holes in the sphere’s edge that allow the brightness of Aetherius to flow towards Nirn.

This is all but a brief sample of the Elder Scrolls creation dynamic and how it interacts with the Aedra and Daedra. I’m not a lore expert, and I'll leave the more specific works to them.

Okay, lore mode off.



What strikes you about TES cosmology, metaphysics or mythology? Are you disappointed in Reichmar because he decided to write on lore this week? Comment below!

Share your thoughts for next week's topic as well! What would you like to read?



Sources/Links:

http://imperial-library.info
http://www.uesp.net
http://dwemerstudies.wiwiland.net/planets.html
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Comments on Reichmar's Rant: The Noob's Guide to the TES Galaxy
Post #23541
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A lot of this can be found by reading books in Skyrim, cant remember the names of the ones i read though... :/
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Post #23559
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(January 13th 2013 10:01 PM)ifghar Wrote:  A lot of this can be found by reading books in Skyrim, cant remember the names of the ones i read though... :/

There are several. The point of this is to get the general story in one small place for new people to digest.
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Post #23589
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(January 13th 2013 10:01 PM)ifghar Wrote:  A lot of this can be found by reading books in Skyrim, cant remember the names of the ones i read though... :/

Best thing to do is read everything you get your hands on in all TES games, don't just open the book and close it to get your books read count up.

Enjoyed the article....errr rant Riechmar!
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Reichmar12
Post #23599
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AS always thank you for hard work, yet again a enjoyable rant about ES universe.
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Post #23790
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Very nice article. I remember back in the day when TES III was released. That was my first experience with TES lore and playing TES III was like a puzzle when I tried to understand the cosmology. I collected all the books related to Nirn, Aedra, etc. I still collect them when I play a new TES game.
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Post #23834
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Nice guide,dude. I hope this helps a lot of people.
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Reichmar12
Post #23907
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youre a bit inaccurate on a few things. for one.
For example the divide between the aedra and daedra is a little more complicated than wether or not they helped lorkahn.

keep in mind many of the aedra are not actually staying willingly. they have become the earthbones.
A more accurate (althought not fully correct at all) interpretion would be their alingment with anu and padomay,

with the Daedra beeing more padomay aligned, while the aedra more anu aligned. (wich makes sense since the aedra come from aetherius)

Also you simplified these two concepts a bit too much too. First of Sithis =/= Padhome. Sithis is considered the soul of padhome, brother to anuil. Or in some beliefs even aka-tosh.
They are not "what is and what is not" that wouldnt make sense. Unless you talk about the aldmeri worldview. But i wouldnt think about that one too hard since its pretty much the same as the tsaesci one and i wouldnt consider it as any more valid.

Anu is everything. But without possibilities. Padomay is nothing, but with infinite possibilities. As you can clearly see. in neither of those two anything can exist. you cant exist if nothing can happen. You also cant exist when there is nothing that can change.

So aurbis is the place where those two overlap.
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Post #23915
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@Sordak . Yeah, I know.

It's true that the dynamic between Aedra and Daedra are more intricate that what I espoused, but for the purpose of someone that has never read into the subject, its good enough. I'll cede that if I were writing this for an audience of Sordaks, it would be twice as long and more in depth.

Also, I know that there are varying outlooks on the nature of Anu and Padomay (which by the way, "what is and what is not" is not wrong by itself, its just not explicative enough for real understanding) and Sithis themselves. I just decided to pick one and run with it so I wouldn't confuse TES lore noobs with many different interpretations of the creation story. I'd love to write about it all, but frankly, this serves its purpose as a noob guide.

I'm glad the other 2/3 were free of Sordak scathing though.
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Post #24220
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@Reichmar : The lore hidden in Morrowind (my first TES game) is what got me interested in the endgame, after the quests got dull but before I discovered mods. Because of this, I'd consider myself a bit of a lore nut when it comes to the TES universe, and I have to say that, for the purposes of a newbie guide, I enjoyed reading this.

@Sordak : I'm pretty sure he was using the Aldmeri viewpoint as an opening point, anyway.
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