Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions


Lore Event: Defining the Bosmer

  • March 31, 2016

    oh good, i just love those kind of sources. Also, Bosmer should totally have a racial trait to ransom stolen goods to the person you stole it from. That rite of theft thing is just amazingly awesome

  • Member
    April 18

    I've had a holiday for the last week and spent a fair bit of time going through the Aldmeri Dominion questline in ESO. I have been through Grahtwood and Greenshade, am now in legendary Malabal Tor. It's funny, in that time my appreciation for Tree Trolls, Pact Pixies, Glade Goblins, Bark Bogies, Frond Fairies, Sylvan Sprites, Bark Brownies, Green Gremlins, and Bosmer has actually deepend. 

    I have spent a lot of time investing in disliking the Wood Elves over the course of my time with TES, and the root of that dislike stems from a very old idea: 

    Because Bosmer represent the idea that Women Are Always Beautiful and Men Are Always Short Ugly Trollish Creatures.

    It's hard to argue with: the Bosmer were designed to be like that in somewhat of a social commentary, perhaps. I mean, you'll be hard pressed to find a wood elf lady as irksome as Fargoth, The Adoring Fan, Glarthir, Fargoth, or Maglir, and the older games did their very best to remind you that they suck. 

    ESO, though, now that game gets it right. The idea remains intact as most of the ladies are feisty, dominant and incredibly hot, slightly overshadowing the males who are a bit more passive in comparison. The accents used help a great deal, or maybe I understand the nuances better than I once did as they are predominantly British accents. Regardless, the females are assertive and gorgeous, while the males remain somewhat meek in contrast. The real trick is that it is balanced - they are not pathetic, and often the "meekness" of the males is simply quiet wisdom against the females' more aggressive approach to problem solving. 

    It is hard to pinpoint exactly, but there have been many instances in which the more energetic and passionate she-elves have taken courses of action which are led by their emotions, be that revenge (in the case of the Rotmeth theft), invoking the Right of Theft to get a male to agree to a marrying her (as in the case of the Greenshade debt), or having to be talked down from commiting murder which would go against the wishes and meaning of the Silvenar (as we see early on in Khenarthi's Roost when the red mist descends upon the Green Lady). However, that is not always the case - the race has balance and the game takes great pains to make sure that it isn't as clearly defined as before. 

    So from that societal and gender perspective, the Bosmer have been extremely compelling. In terms of culture, well again the game nails it. The Green Pact which has ever overshadowed everything Bosmer has become much deeper. On the surface it remains the "don't eat or harm the green things" but the game really digs into it and makes it an organic thing, ever changing and needing to be interpreted by the priesthood, the Spinners. From early on we are told that many Bosmer don't adhere to it, or some do so more than others, and we hear both zealots of the pact and much more laid back elves discuss it. As the game progresses we experience points of view ranging from those who see the hypocrisy in paying others to cut and import wood, to those who take the pact so seriously that they are willing to cut the paws off a Khajiit because the cat was caught eating a flower. 

    I'm at the point now in which the new Silvenar is due to get married to the new Green Lady, the souls of the previous incarnations of these beings ambiguously absorbed by the current incarnations, each "chosen by the Green" due to their abilities and merit. The Silvenar himself? What a guy! Indaenir doesn't just become the mortal representation of the spiritual side of the Bosmer, the game takes it's time to show you why that happens. He is both passive and hippy, yet decisive and noble. And the Green Lady? I am just getting to know her, but after visiting her shrine in Deepwoods and witnessing moments of her past play out, the Bosmer could not have a better paradigm to represent their physical nature. She is as wild as the woods as the Silvenar is as tranquil. Here's a pic of that shrine:

    There have been so many moments of dialogue in which I wished I had taken shots, because although we learn the theory by reading the books, it takes witnessing it and immersing in it to truly see the bigger picture. The moral decisions the game forces you to make - such as deciding if the new caretaker of The Fading Tree should take up his mantle and stay behind to guard the tree, as is the traditional compact made with the Wilderking and part of the far more nuanced Green Pact, or if he should go with his village and be a father to his unborn child he only just found out about - make you question the Green Pact again and again. 

    And the Spinners? I have discussed them at length, how their ability to create reality or alter events by weaving a new tale is a living and observable piece of Tower magic and mythopeia, a microcosm on how the world of TES works. Yet actually seeing it? The quest in which you are sent into the memories of a desperately lonely young Altmer maiden in order to influence who she becomes simply by being her friend? Breathtaking and heartbreaking, a superb piece of storytelling that brings the metaphysics right down to earth. 

    Anyway, thought I'd share some rare Bosmer enthusiasm. Here are a couple of shots of dialogue that caught me by surprise or made me think: 

    On the gender of the Silvenar. Is the inverse also true? Can there be a Green Man? Likely, yes.

    The more brutal nature of the Mourning Wars and Right of Theft are examined, in addition to the punishments meted out by the Green.

    Bosmer tracking techniques: Crouch. And sniff. 

    To summarise, ESO does a fantastic job of letting the player experience Wood Elf culture, spirituality, gender roles, and history in a balanced manner. The player by turns sees and questions the peaceful Green Pact, and it's darker and ruthless side. It shows you how Rotmeth is made, makes you harvest the beetle organs needed, yet also hints that the tradition of brewing this drink can be questioned too. The game makes this player smile in delight at the stunning serenity and natural harmony the Bosmer have with nature, while making him shake his head in anger at how little freedom an ancient treaty imposes on the younger generation, and the dire consequences they might face should they have the simple wish to grow and farm crops. 

  • Member
    April 30

    I came across another charming Bosmeri tradition, that of the pact hostage. Treethane Ranneth explains it:

    What is Unthrappa, gentle elf?

    It really is as brutal as that. Pircalmo almost ate his wife, and not in a good way.