Skyrim Has Really Complex Politics [Spoilers?]

[DISCLAIMER: This post deals with the history of the Nords in Skyrim, and briefly about events surrounding the Stormcloak rebellion, as well as speculative lore regarding elves.  I try to keep vague about any details specific to quests and outcomes, so I don’t think there are any actual spoilers.  But that depends on how much information you think counts as a spoiler.  You can probably read on safely without risk, as long as you’re not super uptight about what constitutes a spoiler, and really, if you ARE that uptight, why are you reading a blog post about a game you don’t know anything about in the first place?  Anything could be a spoiler!  THERE ARE ELVES! =o  Now you hate me. 😦 ]

Hello, my name is Adalind and I finally got a copy of Skyrim.

Initially I made an Altmer (High Elf) mage whom I named Kivara, who– no, that’s wrong.  I made a Bosmer (Wood Elf) archer named Malloriel, but that was on Amy’s console, so I don’t know how much she counts except to say that she, too, was entirely the wrong first character to make.  Why? Because I quickly found that while adjusting to the setting and storyline, choosing a character that might require a little focused dedication instead of natural inclination in order to play well might not have been the best plan.  I discovered THAT by watching my brother play HIS first character and remarking to myself how useful a shield was for hiding and bashing people in the face, both of which are activities I knew were lacking in my life.  With that little realization under my belt, I set to work creating a character as applicable to the events in Skyrim as possible without imposing any unnecessary racial bias I wouldn’t know was even implied, because, yes, I am THAT player.

Thus was born Cordelia (because I swear to Dibella she looks just like Charisma Carpenter when she was on Angel).  She’s a Nord because the main conflict in Skyrim revolves around the Nords, thus

My TV doesn’t have Print Screen. Shut up.

she would potentially have a vested interest in Nord affairs, not because of the wide-reaching effects the way the Aldamari Dominion would be interested, but because it is her home and her people fighting each other.  She came in as unbiased as I did, which is to say leaning slightly toward the Stormcloaks, because, c’mon!  Down with the Imperialist pig-dogs!  But it’s not really that simple when you take the time to read the books you find scattered throughout the land.  Which I do.  Because I am THAT player.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Skyrim was, as was the rest of Tamriel, the land of the elves. Mortal, human settlers filtered in and for the most part managed to get along fine with the native elves, sharing their toys and everything.  The Bretons even became nearly indistinguishable from their elven hosts with the high level of commingling (that’s sex), but this was not the case for Skyrim.  When the proto-Nords, like blobs of Nedic plasma, crossed the sea from their original land, which was locked in some kind of civil war, they saw the elves and decided they didn’t like the cut of their jib.  The proto-Nords said “GTFO” and started a new war, because the old one didn’t have any elves, which is probably why the Nords hated it and left.  The elves, understandably, were less than cool with this.

There was a great war between man and elf (believed to be the now extinct Snow Elves), with the Nedic army headed by Ysgramor and his five hundred Companions, which he insisted on calling Companions even though I doubt he knew any of their names personally.  The Snow Elves were led by their forever nameless Snow Prince (which supports the idea that Ysgramor was terrible with names).  The short of it ends with humans winning the battle with many a touchdown dance and thrusting of hips, the Snow Prince slain by a little girl, of all things, and Ysgramor becoming a big fat hero.  Now, even if the conflict was started because the elves were like “GTFO” when the Nords stopped by looking for a kegger and maybe a cup of sugar, the Nords’ answer to the native population’s “We want to keep our homes, thanks,” was to invade and obliterate them, so I’m not seeing a whole lot of nobility in the motives for the war in the first place.  Add to that the speculation (lore speculation, so probable in-game fact) that the Snow Elves descended into the bowels of the earth to seek refuge with the Dwemer (Dwarves) who poisoned them blind like the jerks they were, indentured and then enslaved them for fun, and then, just to make sure they never had any trace of self worth again, they bred them into the cave-dwelling Falmer everyone loves to encounter at night.  By “love” I mean I don’t hate them like I hate undead Draugr warriors, but I wouldn’t mind not hanging out with them ever again.

I now see the Nords as being single-handedly responsible for the total destruction of the native population of elves, not just in having killed them, which they totally did, but in being the catalyst that would also rob them of their sense of identity, history, and self.  Because fuck elves, I guess.

Repeating the pattern is Ulfric Stormcloak — leader of one of the two faction options you’re given as you play through– with the native people of Markarth.  Markarth has a lot of history behind it, but all you need to know is that those Dwemer  jerks who turned elves into mutants built it and then up and left like it was Roanoke (but probably with a far less plausible explanation than Roanoke’s), and humans live there now.  Built into the rocky face of a mountain, it would resemble Rivendell if not for all the hard angles and beds made of stone, which are wicked comfy if you hate yourself and all the joys life has to offer.  The people of the Reach, that is the humans who first settled there, were ousted more than once, the latest occasion being when Ulfric Stormcloak decided to kill the High King for ending a war by saying Nords couldn’t worship their man-god, Talos, because it upset the Thalmor of the Dominion.  To be fair, though, the Thalmor look really terrible when they cry, so it was a pretty big issue.

Until recently, Skyrim didn’t even have an issue with the Empire.  The problems started when the Aldamari Dominion decided that a mortal can’t become a god, so if Skyrim didn’t want to find out what “cleansed by fire” meant first hand, then worship of Talos would have to be outlawed.   Actually, no, that wasn’t even the problem.  The problem was when the High King made the Jarls (kings of individual Holds/cities) actually enforce the law.  That’s when Ulfric threw his dinner across the room and put on his fighting breeches, and a bunch of other people went “YEAH!” and joined him.

In this initial uprising, Ulfric removed the remaining native born people of the Reach from their homes allowing Nords to completely supplant them, so those who remain, now called The Forsworn, hate all Nords.  I can totally sympathize with that, especially when all those who remain in the city from the original blood are enslaved in the silver mine/prison by their friendly Nordic hosts.  Playing a Nord, though, I don’t really appreciate their tendency to still try to kill me even though I helped them this one really important time.  My ability to sympathize with their cause is also hindered somewhat by the way they insist on terrorizing the citizens of Markarth who had nothing to do with the uprising, but are apparently evil because they’re Nordic.  Very much a “Sins of the . . . That Guy You’ve Never Personally Met are the Sins of the . . . Everyone Else” situation.

With all this, you might wonder why it’s not an obvious choice to go with the Imperials, then.  Well, I mean other than because they’re obviously pig-dogs.  Partly I can say it’s because I haven’t met an Imperial who isn’t a douchebag and/or royal tool (ha!) except for the first one you meet at the beginning of the game. (I call him Smelly.)

All the Thalmor I’ve met have been super mean, too.  Just all kinds of arrogant.  Also, they’re trying to kill me.  I mean, Cordelia.  Apparently helping  Forsworn is a no-no in their book worthy of clandestine assassination attempts that aren’t even officially sanctioned.  Not the kind of people that encourage me to encourage Cordelia to join them.

I can’t get behind the Imperial army because they’re under the boot heel of the Dominion, the aforementioned arrogant meanies, and from a personal standpoint I’m really not into one religious view dictating to entire races and countries of people what they are and aren’t allowed to believe based on what does or doesn’t offend them, so while I may not fully support from where the Nords have come or their inherent attitude of Right by Conquest, if I were going to pick a cause it would be to fight against religious oppression, but dang, Bethesda!  You didn’t make them a very sympathetic people!

So, no one’s right, everyone has baggage, and I AM THAT PLAYER!

—–

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Adalind Monroe is a writer and gamer who listens to Malukah sing The Dragonborn Comes on repeat because it’s pretty much the coolest arrangement of a Skyrim song ever.  She is an avid reader and writer of fantasy fiction, and feels much inspiration coming to her revolving around conversations she pretends happened between Cordelia and the NPCs.  Currently, she swears a lot at Lydia for getting caught in a glitch at Sungard and pretends her mercenary in full Dwarven plate is an Animunculus.  Cordelia’s second horse is named Artax.

Check Adalind out on Facebook or Twitter for all the fun, and don’t forget to stop by her Smashwords page to get all the reading.

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2 thoughts on “Skyrim Has Really Complex Politics [Spoilers?]

  1. Ed says:

    I love this post. I read a lot of the books scattered throughout the world, too, because I’m fascinated by the fact that people at Bethesda actually wrote all of this history down. I agree that the choice is difficult, which is why I still haven’t joined one of the factions. I think I was slightly tainted by an Imperialist bias, though, from having played Oblivion (which is set in Cyrodill). On the other hand, being a Texan, I hold a certain secessionist kinship with places like Quebec, Scotland, and Skyrim.

    Glad to hear I’m not alone in my gaming dilemma!

    • Larissa says:

      I struggle so much. A huge part of me wants to be Imperial. The empire itself is not the bad guy, and it’s entirely the Thalmor and the Aldmeri Dominion that have me so frowny at the moment. But then the Stormcloak rebellion stands for Skyrim and the Nords, and their national freedom from the oppression of the Thalmor. Except, Ulfric Stormcloak is a jerk, as are the Nordic people as a race.

      Obviously I’ll have to try a little of both, but it makes it difficult when my main exploratory character is the one I’m most emotionally connected through. I want to make the decision for her that I would want to make for myself, and I just don’t know what that is yet.

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