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The Many Races of "The Elder Scrolls" and Their History

James Robertson is an author and freelance writer who specializes in just about everything—and he loves writing about video games.

A Guide to the Races of the Elder Scrolls

To begin, if you want to get a little history on Elder Scrolls first, you can read my article A History of Elder Scrolls. In this article, I will go into as much detail as I can for all of the known races that have lived on Tamriel. Just a warning: I will go into in-depth detail on all of the races. The knowledge is all here if you want to read; otherwise, feel free to skim. The main races that are going to be in Elder Scrolls Online are listed below in the “Playable in Games” section, but if you want to know how all of the races came to where they’re at, just keep reading. (There are a lot of races that I left out—Dragons, for example—and I did that because the article was just too long. Please feel free to skim the Elder Scrolls Wiki online if you want to learn about them.)

“The Divines” (as I like to call them) are the technical starters of all this (just like, if you believe it, God created Earth and Humans). Though the Divine created the world and all the races on it, I will not start with them. Since they’re not hugely involved in the game they will be at the end of the this article, though they will consist of the most information. I advise anyone serious about joining the Elder Scrolls universe, or anyone who just wants to know more about it, to read all of this. This game has so much detail that it could take you all day to learn all there is to know. But this is a good place to start!

In this article, I'll cover:

  1. The “starter” races (these are the three races that all of the playable races branched from)
  2. A race in the game that was bred out of existence and became another race
  3. The playable characters (every character you have ever been able to play as in the games)
  4. The “extinct” races (the ones that no longer exist)
  5. The being (Sithis) that created the beings (Aedra and Daedra) that created our world (Nirn)

Hope that makes sense! How about we get started?

Ysgramor. One of the Nedes who first settled in Skyrim. He was the first Nede historian. Leader of the 500 companions that settled and established the Nords in Skyrim.

Ysgramor. One of the Nedes who first settled in Skyrim. He was the first Nede historian. Leader of the 500 companions that settled and established the Nords in Skyrim.

The Races That Started It All

Ehlnofey

Where we start this section is with the Ehlnofey:

  • These people were the first to set foot on Nirn. Back in this time the planet consisted of four continents: Tamriel, Yokuda, Atmora, and Akavir. Tamriel is of course where our story takes place. Yokuda is where the Redguards and Left-Handed Elves called home until a cataclysmic event caused the land to sink completely underwater, forcing the Redguards to leave their land to find another. Atmora is a barren, frozen land where the Nede came from. The last continent, and the only other one still inhabited, is Akavir, the homeland of the Dragons.
  • The form of the Ehlnofey is unknown but what we must come to understand is that every creature in the game branches off from this one race. Two of the races that branched off created the elves and humans but others that branched off eventually turned into Imga, Hist and even Dragons (keep in mind that any form of Daedra comes from the world of Oblivion and is not a descendant of the Ehlnofey). More will be explained on this race in the last section.

Aldmer

The next race, one of the two founders, is the Aldmer:

  • This race is responsible for all of the Elf races after it: Altmer, Ayleid, Dunmer, Dwemer, Left-Handed Elves, Orsimer, Chimer, Bosmer, Snow Elves/Falmer, Maormer, and even the Bretons (a cross breed of Elf and Man).
  • Aldmer translates to mean First/Elder Folk and it is believed that they were the first race to walk Nirn. They hail from the mythical island of Aldmeris, a land that is not noted on any maps and is not confirmed to exist. Though we can’t say whether they were the first on Nirn or not we do know that they were the first to Tamriel. Settling first in Southwester Tamriel, they eventually settled across the entire island. By the beginning of recorded history they had already branched into many of the elf races we know today.
  • Though humans believe themselves created by the Gods (Aedra), the elves believe they are descendants of the Gods. The Aldmer no longer exist as a race entirely but they do live on as the father of many races that inhabit Nirn today.

Nedes

The last race in this section, the second of the two founder races, is the Nedes:

  • This race is responsible for all of the Human races after it: Imperials, Nords, Redguards, Kothringi, and Bretons (again half of them at least).
  • The Nedes initially called the land of Atmora home. There on that continent they broke off and formed smaller colonies. The colonies eventually began fighting and a great civil war erupted. A small group of Nedes broke off from Atmora and ventured out to find the land of Tamriel, landing on the northern tip of Skyrim. There the Nedic hero Ysgramor and his five hundred companions built Saarthal. They lived next to the Aldmer in relative peace until the Aldmer noticed their quick growth of the Nedic population. The Aldmer fought the Nedic and after much fighting the Nedic eventually defended themselves and continued to prosper in Tamriel.
  • The Nedes no longer exist but from them three separate races were born. Those Nedes that stayed in Skyrim became the Nords. Those Nedes that traveled west with the Aldmer breaded and became the Breton. Those Nedes that traveled south became the Imperial. The remaining Nedes that stayed on Atmora eventually began taking ships over to Tamriel, joining the battle against the elves, until the last two ships that came to Tamriel from Atmore were filled with dead Nedes. Atmora was left barren after their departure.

Ayleid: Bred Out of Existence

The one race that became extinct through breading into another race is the Ayleid. This race, known as the Wild Elves, was the first race to establish rule in the Imperial City - the first empire in Tamriel. Through their alliance with the Daedric Princes and their use of magic the Ayleid gained control over the Cyrodiilic and Nordic populations and turned them into slaves. The Ayleid were cruel to their slaves and after years of abuse their slaves finally revolted against them and overturned their empire. Forced from their empire by their former slaves the Ayleid fled to Valenwood where they breaded with the Bosmer.

Altmer

Altmer

Dunmer

Dunmer

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Bosmer

Bosmer

Orcs

Orcs

Breton

Breton

Imperial

Imperial

Nords

Nords

Redguard

Redguard

Argonian

Argonian

Khajiit

Khajiit

The Playable Races

Altmer

The Altmer, called the High Elves, call Summerset Isle their home. They are much taller than the other races and they have golden skin. Their proficiency with magic is greater than all the other races. Because of this it also makes them the most susceptible to magic attacks. Altmer is translated to “High Folk” and their name is derived from their ancestors, the Aldmer. They consider themselves the successors and direct descendents of the Aldmer; they believe they are higher than all other races.

Dunmer

The Dunmer, also called Dark Elves, have ashen skin with blood red eyes. They are an untrustworthy race with above average intelligence and strength. They are great warriors and magicians. All Dunmer are descendants of the Chimer. One theory of how they came to be the Dunmer is with a punishment. The Tribunal, consisting of the three Chimer, Vivec, Sotha Sil, and Almalexia, fought the Dwemer to prevent them from using Lorkhan’s heart. Unable to stop them, the Dwemer used the heart and vanished. The Tribunal, with the help of the Nerevar, found the tools to access Lorkhan’s heart. Once the Nerevar died the Tribunal used the tools and Lorkhan’s heart to turn themselves immortal. Once confronted by the Daedric God, Azura, the Tribunal told Azura they didn’t need her because they were their own Gods now. Azura cursed the Chimer, turning their skin to ash and their eyes red. (Of course I’m leaving out A LOT, but that’s as short as I could summarize it. Play Morrowind or research the Chimer online to get the full story.) Another possible reason is given to the disappearance of the Dwemer. The Dwemer were very big into their technology and another belief is that when the Dwemer vanished their machines malfunctioned and turned the Chimer into the Dunmer. Of course the Imperials believe that the Chimer killed all of the Dwemer and their skin turned bluish-gray from their harsh environment.

Bosmer

The Bosmer, also known as Wood Elves, call Valenwood their home. Their short stature makes them great thieves and archers. A pact the Bosmer follow, called the Green Pact, makes the race complete carnivores. Because they call the trees home, the Bosmer are not allowed to harm any plant for their gain. This strict pact that the Bosmer stick to heavily influences every aspect of their life. They must import most of the materials they use so they don’t harm any plants around them, greatly restricting what they can build. Most of their weapons must be constructed from bone. They are also restricted by the pact because every time they kill something they must consume them completely. This greatly determines how the Bosmer go to war; they are forced to fast for days before battle. The last aspect of the Bosmer is that they have the ability to transform their shape. The most notable use of this is when the Bosmer must defend their homeland. They transform their body into mindless, blood thirsty creatures that consume everything in sight. This is known as the “Wild Hunt” and it is noted that all the creatures in Tamriel can be followed back to previous Wild Hunts.