The Many Races of "The Elder Scrolls" and Their History
The Long Winded Introduction
To begin, if you want to get a little history on Elder Scrolls first you can read my article, A History of Elder Scrolls. 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.)
Though “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). The Divine created the world and all the races on it but I will not start with them. Since they’re not hugely involved in the game they will be at the end of the paper, 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!
I will first cover the “starter” races. These are the three races that all of the playable races branched from. Then I will cover one race in the game that was breaded out of existence and became another race. Then I will cover the playable characters, every character you have ever been able to play as in the games. Then I will cover the “extinct” races, the ones that no longer exist. For the last part, as I mentioned before, I will go into detail on the being (Sithis) that created the beings (Aedra and Daedra) that created our world (Nirn). Hope that makes sense!
How about we get started?
The Two Races That Started It All
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.
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.
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 cotenant the 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.
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.
The Playable Races
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.
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.
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.
The Orcs, call the Orsinium Area their home. This area is a section of High Rock between Menevia and Wayrest. Orcs are very strong and unwavering in their courageousness. Orcs have a very tough history, spanning from the loss of their homeland Hammerfell, to the loss of their elvin features, transforming them into the beastly Orcs. The Orsimer worshipped a God named Trinimac. Their God led them into a battle against the Chimer, who coveted the Dwemer’s technology. Before they could begin though, the Daedric Prince Boethiah ate their God Trinimac, turning Boethiah into the Daedric Prince Malacath. With this act the Orsimer were transformed into the beastly Orcs.
The Bretons, part elf and part human, call High Rock their home. They are average sized people with a knack for weaving spells. They are intelligent and very capable with magic and magic resistance. After a series of raids on the Nedic civilization controlled by Ysgramor, the Nedes lost all of their cities to the Aldmeri. Some of the Nedic people were captured and brought into slavery. The Aldmeri conducted tests on the Nedes and they bred them, creating Manmer (half man, half Aldmeri). They remained slaves for a while longer until the Aldmeri lost control of them and the Manmer were able to return to their people where they interbred creating the current day Breton.
The well educated and well spoken Imperials are natives of the central continent Cyrodiil. They aren’t as strong as some of the other races but their lack of strength is made up by their diplomatic skills. With their diplomatic and light armor skills they were able to bring the rest of Tamriel under their control. They were brought to Cyrodiil as slaves by the Ayleids, but once the Ayleids lost power and were overturned the Imperials gained control of Cyrodiil. Gaining as much land with diplomacy as they did with war; eventually the Imperials gained control of all of Tamriel. The Imperials are divided into two smaller sects, the Colovians and the Nibenese. The Colovians rule the west side of Cyrodiil while the Nibenese control the rest.
The Nords, considered nomadic and barbaric by some, control all of the country Skyrim. Sometimes called “people of the sky”, don’t let their fair hair, blue eyes and pale skin deceive you. This race of people is very strong and powerful. Their heritage can be traced back as far as Ysgramor on the continent of Atmora. Once they seceded from the rule of the Aldmer, the Nedes officially became the modern day Nords.
The strong and agile Redguards are known for being skilled warriors with a sword and shield. Hailing from the land of Yokuda, they are very dark skinned with a great amount of resistance to hot and dry conditions. When their land sank under the sea, probably resulting from tectonic shifting, they set sail from their land to come ashore in Hammerfell. Knowing that they must fight for land and for the survival of their people they pushed the Orsimer from Hammerfell, taking the country for their own. The attack they sent upon the Orsimer (and allied Breton as well) is known as a Ra’gada among their kind. It is from the name of this attack that the Redguards get their name.
The reptilian race of the Argonians is most commonly known for their waterbreating capability that allows them to survive in the harsh conditions of their homeland, Black Marsh. Known as Saxhleel in their native tongue of Jel, meaning “People of the Root”, they have scaly features with a long tail. Experts at “guerrilla warfare” they have grown accustomed to constantly defending their borders from enemies. The brutal history of their life is plagued with abductions of Hist sap and many brutal wars with the surrounding countries. Many of the Argonians were taken slaves by their northern neighbors, Morrowind, the Dunmer. It is because of this reason that the Argonians have a strong hate for the Dunmer.
The Khajiit, a cat-like race hailing from the country of Elsweyr, are great fighters that have an odd knack for referring to themselves in third person. Not much is known about the history of this race but their frail features and pointy ears point towards being descendants of the Aldmeri. One of the greatest exports from Elsweyr, and creating the drug that the Khajiit are most commonly known for, is Moon Sugar. This drug is used to create a highly addictive drink called Skooma. Khajiit predominantly travel Tamriel in Caravans where they sell their wares, and of course their drugs.
The Extinct Races
The first race to ever go extinct in Elder Scrolls is the Left-Handed Elves. Not much is known about this race besides the fact that they lived on the continent of Yokuda and that they were completely destroyed by the Redguards before the continent was destroyed. Even if they weren’t completely destroyed by the Redguards they confirmed to be extinct once Yokuda sank. (If you’re starting to get the impression that the Redguards just don’t get along with anyone during this series, you would be completely correct. They love taking people’s homes and they don’t like people living in their territory.)
Beating the next species to the extinction race is the Orsimer, now known as Orcs. As I stated above, the Orsimer worshipped a God named Trinimac. Their God led them into a battle against the Chimer, who coveted the Dwemer’s technology. Before they could begin though, the Daedric Prince Boethiah ate their God Trinimac, turning Boethiah into the Daedric Prince Malacath. With this act the Orsimer were transformed into the beastly Orcs, making the Orsimer extinct.
Already mentioned in the Dunmer section the next race to go extinct (only barely beating our next race to go extinct) were the Dwemer. A lot of speculation surrounds the disappearance of the Dwemer and no one to this day knows how they did it or why they did it. Dwemer, meaning “Deep Elves”, are an ancient race that mainly settled in Vvardenfell (“City of the Strong Shield in Dwemeris) and Hammerfell. They are a very reclusive race of people who heavily concentrates on their research and advancements in technology. From records, dating back to the first era, we learn that the Chimer and Dwemer were great enemies until they created an alliance to expel the Nords from Morrowind. One clan, the Rourken, didn’t agree with this and they left to settle in another region of Tamriel, decided by one of their clan members who threw his fabled hammer (Volendrung) and settled where the hammer fell, in Hammerfell. Soon after their alliance the Chimer and Dwemer began to fight again and battle broke out that culminated in The Battle of Red Mountain. Under the mountain, the Dwemer found the Heart of Lorkhan a mythological artifact believed to be able to grant immortality. A Dwemer named Kagrenac developed tools to harness the power of the heart and when he used it the entire race of Dwemer disappeared. Some believe they were killed for their attempt at immortality while others believe they succeeded and are Gods among the skies now. No one has seen a Dwemer since 1E 668, not counting Yagram Bagam, the last surviving Dwemer.
The next race went extinct very shortly after the Dwemer, and they were the Chimer. The Chimer broke off from the Aldmeri because of religious conflicts and they left Summerset Isle to live in Morrowind. This expedition was lead by a Chimer named Veloth. They left the Aldmeri so they could worship the Daedra. They thank the Daedric Prince Boethiah for this revelation. After he ate the prominent figure of Aldmeri religion, Trinimac, he used his voice to tell the Chimer about the lies of the Aedra. Once in Morrowind the Chimer were under constant attack with their neighbors, the Dwemer and the Nords. Indoril Nerevar eventually came to lead the Chimer and through him a pact was forged with the Dwemer. Together they fought against the Nords. This didn’t last for long though. When the Chimer learned that the Dwemer were using The Heart of Lorkhan to make a God they attacked the Dwemer. Once they had stopped the Dwemer from creating Numidium, and the Dwemer had vanished after activating the Heart, they were punished and turned into the Dunmer. Some people believe that it was done because of The Tribunal’s disobedience to Azura by making themselves Gods or by their betrayal of the Nerevar. The last known Chimers to exist are the three immortals that make up The Tribunal.
The last race that went extinct is the Kothringi. Little is known about this race because of their limited publicity in the games, only mentioned in a few game books from Black Marsh during the second era. They were said to be humans with metallic skin and they called the Black Marsh home. Speculated to be a cross between Nedes and Argonians, the race was not around for a long time. They were wiped out by a plague before the dawn of the third era.
Sithis is the creator of the Aedra and Daedra and is much older than either of them. He is everything and nothing all at once. Though he is not the God of Death, he enjoys people dying and suffering. Legend says that The Night Mother bore children for him and then sacrificed all of her children in his name. They are said to be wed and the Dark Brotherhood is her children.
et'Ada are the physical form of the spirits, much like Sithis. Some of them created the mortal plane of Nirn, turning them into the Aedra; while the rest went on to become the Daedra.
Aedra is one of two broad groups of supernatural beings who are attached to Tamriel and the plane it exists on. Aedra roughly translates to “Our Ancestors”. Though the Aedra are immortal they can be killed/murdered. Because of this, most people choose to not worship them because they are not worthy of worship. It is believed that all of the planet presences around Nirn are actually past Aedra kept on the same plane of existence. When the Aedra helped create Nirn they were bound to the same plane of existence. With the loss of their power they lost the ability to manifest themselves on Nirn. This group of spirits is smaller than the Daedra and each of them possess their own identity and a great degree of intelligence.
Daedra is a term used to loosely describe one of two groups of immortal beings with minimal intelligence. This of course doesn’t apply to a smaller subset of Daedra known as the Daedric Princes. The Aedra’s inability to manifest themselves on the mortal plane and effect their creations greatly cripples them. The Daedra are able to manifest themselves and affect the mortal on Nirn. For this reason many people worship the Daedra instead of the Aedra. Daedra can be killed on the mortal plane, sending them back to Oblivion but the only theorized way of officially killing them is by conquering them on their home plane of Oblivion.
Akatosh is called the Dragon God of Time. He was the first God to take form.
Kynareth is the Goddess of the Heavens, the Winds, the Elements, and the Unseen Spirits of the Air. She was the first God to agree to Lorkhan’s plan to create a mortal plane and she provides the space in the void for its creation.
Arkay is the God of Funerals and Burial Rights.
Dibella is the Goddess of Beauty.
Julianos is the God of Wisdom and Logic.
Mara is the Goddess of Love.
Stendarr is the God of Mercy.
Zenithar is the God of Work and Commerce, The Trade God.
The Eight Divines original Pantheon of Cyrodiilic Empire, consisting of: Akatosh, Arkay, Dibella, Julianos, Kynareth, Mara, Stendarr, and Zenithar.
Lorkhan (referred to as “Sep” among the Redguard) known as “The Trickster”. He influenced the original spirits to create the mortal plane. After Nirn was created he was torn apart and separated from his Divine Center.
Magnus is an Aedra that tried helping Lorkhan to create Nirn but once he discovered all of his power would be taken he fled. When he fled from the plane of Nirn he punched a hole in the night sky, visibly noticed as the Sun. Also, with his departure from Nirn, he created magic.
Jode and Jove are two Aedra who attempted to leave the creation of Nirn but didn’t leave in time. With their departure they created the two moons seen revolving around Nirn.
Trinimac is an Aedra who was eaten by Boethiah and turned into Malacath.
Tava partially assimilated into Kynareth after Hammerfell was conquered by Redguard.
Phynaster credited for teaching the Aldmer to take smaller steps and through that learned to live longer.
Boethiah is the Daedric Prince of Murder and Deceit. Through everything he does he is considered to be one of the “good” Daedric Princes.
Malacath is the Daedric Prince of Curses, Keeper of the Bloody Curse, Lord of Sworn Oath, Enslaver of Mortals, and Corner of the House of Troubles. Trinimac turned into Malacath after being swallowed by Boethiah.
Sheogorath is the Daedric Prince of Madness, Mad-God, and Demented Duke.
Azura is the Daedric Prince of Dawn and Dusk, Mother of Roses, and Queen of Twilight.
Clavicus Vile is the Daedric Prince of Wishes and Bargains.
Hermaeus Mora is the Daedric Prince of Knowledge, Knower of the Unknown, Keeper of Knowledge, and Keeper of Forbidden Secrets.
Hircine is the Daedric Prince of the Hunt and The Father of Man-Beasts.
Jyggalag is the Daedric Prince of Order, Hatred of Madness, and Enemy of Freedom. He is the original form of Sheogorath. He was cursed by the other Princes into what he despises most out of jealousy. Sheogorath becomes Jyggalag at the end of each era.
Mehrunes Dagon is the Daedric Prince of Destruction and Change, The Changer, and Corner of the House of Troubles.
Mephala is the Daedric Prince of Spiders, Whispering Lady, and Spinner.
Meridia is the Daedric Prince of Life, Enemy of the Dead, and Lady of Infinite Energies.
Molag Bal is the Daedric Prince of Domination, The Corruptor, Creator of Corpus, Corrupted Creator, Corner of the House of Troubles, Lord of Domination, and The King of Rape.
Namira is the Daedric Prince of Ancient Darkness, The Spirit Daedra, and The Eater of Children.
Nocturnal is the Daedric Prince of Night, Mistress of Night, Mother of Thieves, and Lady of Raven. Legend says she had Sithis’ children and then killed them to create a sacrifice for him. She is the Mother of the Dark Brotherhood.
Peryite is the Daedric Prince of Pestilence, The Taskmaster, and The Lord of Lower.
Sanguine is the Daedric Prince of Debauchery, The Lord of Sins, and The Master of Sins.
Vaermina is the Daedric Prince of Nightmares, Lady of Evil Omens, The Dream-Lady, and The Collector of Minds.