"The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" (2011): Why Lydia Is My Favorite Housecarl
Lydia is the first housecarl you can get when playing Skyrim. You get her automatically after killing your first dragon at the Whiterun watchtower, and once you have her, she effectively becomes your slave.
The great thing about Lydia, though, is that she isn't like the other housecarls. She is not your willing slave and she is not there to stroke your ego.
Most fans hate Lydia because of her snarky "burdens" line, but I remember thinking that was hilarious. I was pleasantly surprised to find a character who actually had, well, character, in the bleak land that is Skyrim.
If you try to make Lydia sleep in the same bed as you (when you aren't married to her, naturally) she has a funny retort. She is also one of the few vanilla characters who actually has dialogue during the DLCs, Dragonborn in particular.
She's just . . . so much more alive than the other housecarls.
I also love that Lydia doesn't worship the Dragonborn but at the same time, she isn't mean to them. In fact, take her on your adventures, and she becomes your friend!
Now don't get me wrong. I recognize that Lydia is also a pain in the ass for reasons that largely involve game mechanics. This is so much to the point that a lot of fans (myself included) refer to her as Lydiot.
When I first started playing years ago, I remember playing a lot of sneaky characters. I took Lydia into that one dungeon in Whiterun with the big dead mammoth. I tried sneaking and shooting down one of the oil lamps, but what did Lydia do? She ran in, roaring at the top of her voice, sword drawn . . . banner flying . . . and got us both swarmed and killed. (I was a really low level and in really weak armor).
Having to reload because Lydia's a fool was really aggravating at the time, but now? Now I can look back and laugh at those playthroughs with my nostalgia glasses firmly in place.
Because if anything, Lydia's foolishness—while annoying in the beginning—has only deepened my appreciation for what an entertaining character she is. And over the years, I have developed a sort of love/hate relationship with her. It's become a tradition to use Lydia on a low-level character, until she either A) dies or B) outlives her usefulness as a tank.
Because I'll just state what everyone knows: Lydia is probably the most useless follower in the game.
She sets off traps.
She ruins your Sneak.
She gets in the way of your arrows and spells.
She dies easily.
The only thing she's remotely good for is carrying your burdens (Er . . . that is not a sexual pun).
You can hire Jenassa in the same town, a dunmer ranger who is infinitely more useful. Or you can do a bit of walking and grab Stenvar from Windhelm, a giant Nord who is a much better tank -- but who also has a temper and will kill you if you (accidentally?) hit him during a fight.
That's another nice thing about Lydia: she forgives you for friendly fire. She complains and says "Watch it!" but she doesn't go ape-shit like Stenvar and bury her axe in your face.
Add in a couple mods, and Lydia suddenly comes to life (even more). Vanilla Lydia is actually quite pretty by Skyrim standards, but the Bijin Warmaidens mod gives her a small level up.
Also, the custom follower, Inigo, has some hilarious dialogue with Lydia. He basically says everything that most players have thought about her over the years, which makes it a sort of inside joke between Inigo and the players.
To be perfectly honest, my love for Lydia probably has a lot to do with nostalgia. It probably shocks people to read this, but I love her a lot more than most of the unique Skyrim followers we were supposed to love.
Yes, I love Lydia more than Serana, more than Mjoll, more than Aela. Even though I wrote entire articles about those three, I don't love them as much as the articles make it seem.
I rarely play Dawnguard because years later, I'm still utterly disappointed that the DLC was less about killing vampires and more about babysitting a vampire princess. Also, why wasn't there more werewolf content??? And I don't care that much for Serana, just the novelty of her (she was new and different compared to what we'd seen before in that she had an actual personality!).
Mjoll, I had to warm up to over the years because her popularity was initially fucking annoying. Aela, I also warmed up to because failing to kill the giant (which most people did before the patch) leads Aela to be really rude to you.
But Lydia? Lydia just carries your stuff while hilariously making the occasional complaint. Because at the end of the day, that's all I really want: someone to carry my burdens.
Lydia does that exceptionally well.
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