Ash has played "Skyrim" for several years now and enjoys writing about it and her various Dovahkiin.
A lot of gamers have been known to jokingly mock Skyrim's romance system—or its lack thereof—but I actually enjoy it the way it is. Bethesda games are about the world building and lore—not the characters—so having all the marriageable characters be playersexual is perfect for the setting.
This wouldn't bode well in a Bioware game where realistic and well-developed characters are paramount. But in a Bethesda game? It works just fine.
I'm aware that Bethesda recently stepped up their romances with Fallout 4 (after doing a test run with Serena from Skyrim's Dawnguard). I'm just saying: I was fine with the vanilla system that shipped with the original Skyrim in 2011.
I don't need my robotic pixel wife to love me or dote on me or talk to me. I need her to give me experience bonuses and buy crap from me so that I can continue mindlessly killing and looting. If my wife actually has a personality, an interesting backstory, and sweet combat abilities of her own, that's a bonus.
Aela is the perfect wife in this regard.
I know a while ago I wrote an entire article about why Mjoll was actually the best wife in Skyrim. If I'm honest with myself, though, Aela has always been and will always be my favorite Skyrim wife.
With Aela, you actually get what is known as a "cute meet" in romantic comedies. In other words, you meet her in a cute way.
On my first playthrough as a khajiit warrior, I didn't reach the giant in time (I didn't have the unofficial patches to fix that glitch because they didn't exist yet) and Aela berated me as a milk drinker.
Aela was so initially sneering and dismissive, it's no small wonder I ran to sweet, friendly Ysolda instead. When you later learn that she's actually a werewolf, it will dawn on you that Bethesda made her a literal bitch that becomes a howling beast with the changing of the moons as a sort of (sexist) PMS joke.
Not cool, Bethesda.
For some reason, however, I kind of liked the fact that Aela was willing to tell it how it is, rather than dote blindly on me. She didn't think much of me—I mean, the Dovahkiin—when we first met, but I was able to earn her respect by finishing the Companion's questline, which is pretty awesome.
I guess that's why I also like Sten from Dragon Age: Origins. He likewise doesn't think much of the Warden and the Warden has to earn his respect.Watching the relationship evolve is pretty interesting. It's a shame they didn't put more into that regarding Aela, but Bethesda has always been about world first, characters second.
Not complaining. Just stating facts.
To be perfectly clear, Aela was actually the second woman I married in Skyrim, not the first. On my first real playthrough (meaning I didn't quit and start over as a different race), I played a khajiit warrior who joined the Companions just because she wanted to stop being homeless. I didn't know about the house in Whiterun yet and even ignored the main quest for a while—as most people do who play Bethesda games.
My khajiit married Ysolda just because she was the first Nord in Skyrim who didn't trash khajiit. If anything, Ysolda makes for the perfect wife if you're going to play a khajiit thief character, as she is a cut-throat business woman. Much like Aela, she has a secret dark side.
I guess I just like red-headed archers with secret dark sides to them.
The Benefits of Aela as a Wife
As these things tend to go, I wound up falling in love with Aela's character after playing the Companion's questline while married to someone else. I liked her enough that I started over and married her instead.
Here are the benefits to marrying Aela:
- Because I was playing a tank build at the time, Aela seemed perfect for me. She was one of the best archers in the game, which allowed her to provide great support. And if she was surrounded, she was pretty good with a shield and dagger.
- Aela can teach you archery for free if you marry her. She is also one of the best archery trainers in the game.
- Aela is marked Essential. Like Mjoll, she can't die.
- Aela will open a store, allowing you to sell stuff to her while in the middle of a dungeon.
- You actually have to do something impressive to earn Aela's respect and love, rather than just putting on a necklace and asking for her hand. This is probably what makes "romancing" her and Mjoll so much better than the other Skyrim wives.
- Unlike Mjoll, Aela is quiet, mysterious, and doesn't talk all the damn time. You can ask her about her background anytime you please, rather than having her repeat it over and over non-stop.
- Aela's A.I. is set to Brave (or Foolhardy), meaning she won't abandon you when the going gets tough (coughTovarcough).
- Also, she's a werewolf. How awesome is that?
Independent and Fierce
Another cool thing about Aela is that she doesn't sit around waiting for the Dragonborn to come home. Instead, she goes on adventures with the Companions, and you might run into her fighting a bear out in the wilds. You'll help her, kiss her, and then each of you go your separate ways. Awesome.
Of course, if you marry her, Aela stops this cool behavior and becomes a boring housewife. This is one reason why it used to break my heart to marry her. She starts out this hard, strong, independent woman—which was the reason I loved her in the first place—only to become my doting domestic servant?
Thankfully, the Amorous Adventures mod (the clean version) makes married life to Aela less disappointing. I love romancing her with this mod because it does a nice job of playing up the physical, mental, and emotional connection the Dragonborn feels to Aela due to their shared wolf blood. Instead of being a brainless devoted house slave, Aela retains some of her fire, aggressively asking for sex from the Dragonborn (which is utterly hilarious) and calling the Dragonborn her "love."
A lot of the romances in AA are a little cheesy, problematic, and cringeworthy (my opinion, what ya gonna do?), but the one with Aela (and argumentatively Farkas) is pretty awesome.
They Low-key Made Her a Goddess
There is also the fact that, any devote pagan would play this game and recognize the moon goddesses in Aela.
Artemis was known as the Great Huntress, Goddess of the Moon, and a protector of women. She was fiercely independent, refusing to marry to the point that many believed she was actually gay. There is one story that heavily implies Artemis would sleep with her priestesses (the story of Callisto), and she was known as one of three virgin goddesses, which meant she never lay with a man.
Of course, because the ancients idealized fertility and birth, it made little sense for one of their gods to (continue to) be gay. So there were later texts implying that Artemis loved men as well, even if she never slept with them. And of course, she also helped women give birth, even if she never had children herself.
Aela very much resembles Artemis in that she is known as a huntress, worships the moon and the night, and is fiercely independent. She ridicules various male characters a lot, making funny remarks about their "snow berries," and if the Dragonborn is a woman, she constantly tries to encourage her not to let the men intimidate her, while showing a great deal of affection and respect for her based on dialogue choices.
Male gamers will not like hearing this (ha ha, like I care), but Aela is also probably one of the most low-key gay characters in Skyrim, given that she has no real romantic association with any man, unless the Dragonborn happens to be male, and then he becomes her Orion.
Again, much like Orion, Aela's romance with Skjor is little more than fan fiction, a rumor implemented to appease the straight crowd. She and Skjor are not in love but are believed to be by various characters, even though all they're doing at night is hunting in werewolf form.
I believe this was done on purpose, to make her seem more like Artemis.
There is also Hekate, Queen of the Witches, Lady of the Lupine, and yet another goddess of the moon.
Hekate is known to transform into a dog and guards the gates between worlds, guiding the dead to their rest and traveling back and forth from the underworld. Because of this, she is known as the Keeper of the Keys and Bearer of the Torch.
She is also fiercely independent, has no male lover and is another of the virgin goddesses, is stern but loving, and is a mentor and guide to pagan witches. She is ancient, older than the Greek religions that worshipped her. Older, possibly, than any goddess ever known.
When you get Aela as a follower, you will realize these things:
- Aela has the key to Whiterun's gate and guards the gate. If you attack Whiterun as a Stormcloak during the civil war and Aela is your follower, Aela will attack you and the Stormcloaks to defend the gates.
- Aela always has a torch in her inventory and can be seen holding one during some of the Companions quests.
- Aela will help you lay Kodlak's spirit to rest. She is the only companion to do it.
- And of course . . . Aela is a werewolf.
I have been pagan for years, and without even realizing (until very recently), I have always loved Aela because she resembles the ancient goddesses.
Coming to this realization kind of makes me sad, though. Elder Scrolls portrays paganism in a fun, light-hearted way, while BioWare's Dragon Age series does nothing but spit on paganism, depicting it as horrible blood magic and demon worship for fools . . . sigh.
Well, at least I still have Aela.
© 2019 Ash