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Arms and Armor of the Second Era: High Elves

  • Member
    October 23

    Arms and Armor of the Second Era: The High Elves

     

    Ian S. McClure

     

    Here we have the first in a series dedicated to examining the various racial motifs of Elder Scrolls Online! This first entry focuses on the High Elves, or Altmer, of the Summerset Isles.

     

    Overview

     

    It’s obvious, looking at the armor sets and weaponry of the haughty mer, that despite their love for ancestry and history, there has been a stark evolution in their craftsmanship. Even within the context of ESO, the High Elf and Ancient Elf (the style of the Aldmer, which I’ll touch on in a later entry) arms and armor are notably distinct, to say nothing of the Elven armor from later games set in the Third and Fourth Eras. In TESIV: Oblivion and TESV: Skyrim, the armor (which only comes in a lightweight variety) is golden-hued and very smooth-angled, with an open horned helmet and little to no suggestion of nature. However, in ESO, the armor is uncolored (unless you dye it, of course), with more sharp points and angles. Both the plate and leather advanced helms are closed, and there is an abundance of elements that suggest natural elements, especially birds.

     

    Elven Armor (Skyrim)

     

    Elven Armor (Oblivion)

     

    Bladed Weapons (Dagger, Sword, Greatsword)

     

    Interestingly, the blade designs of the Altmer in the Second Era are very similar to those of the Elven style in the Fourth Era. Looking at the ESO weapons and comparing them to Skyrim, we can easily see a logical evolution; they're recognizably the same people making these blades. Even if the 4E ones are more elaborate than the 2E ones, they do share a general shape. In ESO, Altmer swords are average length, a bit longer perhaps than the real-world arming sword (though not by much), and the daggers and greatswords are average length as well.

    Elven Sword (Skyrim)

     

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    High Elf Sword (ESO)

     

    Elven Dagger (Skyrim)

     

    High Elf Dagger (ESO)

     

    Elven Greatsword (ESO)

     

     

    High Elf Greatsword (ESO)

     

    Axe Weapons (War Axe, Battle Axe)

     

    The axes are a strange case. Whereas the War Axe (or One-Handed axe in ESO) has changed little between ESO and Skyrim, the Battle Axe has seen much change: in ESO, it's a double bladed weapon evocative of their cousins, the Dark Elves and especially the Wood Elves (and, in a fit of supreme irony, it has some resemblance to the Nord battle axe!). However, in Skyrim, it's a far slimmer, single-bladed weapon, which while not as visually impressive is undoubtedly lighter; something the Altmer, who skew more towards magic rather than large weapons, would appreciate. Also, the Second Era similarity in Elf weapons is attributable to how they had recently (or at least somewhat recently) split from the Aldmer.

     

    Elven War Axe (Skyrim)

     

     

    High Elf Axe (ESO)

     

    Elven Battle Axe (Skyrim)

     

     

    High Elf Battle Axe (ESO)

     

    Blunt Weapons (Mace, Maul)

     

    Similarly to the axes, blunt weapons have evolved differently depending on their weight. The mace, a flanged weapon, has changed little, though unlike prior examples there are some changes to the basic shape of the weapon. However, in ESO, the two-handed maul is, for all intents and purposes, simply a massive version of the mace. In Skyrim, the High Elves use warhammers instead, with a lightweight design similar to the battle axe. In contrast to the blades and axes, the avian motifs are more evident in the Fourth Era, when compared to the Second.

     

    Elven Mace (Skyrim)

     

    High Elf Mace (ESO)

     

    Elven Warhammer (Skyrim)

     

     

    High Elf Maul (ESO)

     

     

     

    Misc. Weapons (Staff, Bow, Shield)

     

    First off, the staves of the High Elves have no Fourth Era counterparts; indeed, it's my belief that staff designs were standardized by this time. In ESO, the staff is an elegant weapon, and with the pointed ends it rather resembles, and can no doubt be used as, a spear. I can envision some Altmeri warrior firing spells one moment, then switching his grip to stab his foes. The bow and shield are both similar to the Fourth Era counterparts, though in both cases the ESO version is more ornate. Additionally, the shield is bigger in ESO; justifiable, seeing as how shields are generally designed to accompany plate armor in this Era.

     

     

    Elven Shield (Skyrim)

     

    High Elf Shield (ESO)

     

    Elven Bow (Skyrim)

     

    High Elf Bow (ESO)

     

    Various winged spear tips (Middle Ages)

     

    High Elf Staff (ESO)

     

    Heavy Armor (Plate armor: Iron, Steel, Orcichalc, Ebony, etc.)

     

    The High Elven plate armor, while certainly evocative of typical fantasy knight armor, is at once distinct thanks to the abundant avian motifs. The cuirass and girdle obviously have the eagle insignia on them, the helm has the striking "wing-brows" and "beak", and even relatively minor elements, such as the kneecaps and tassets, either evoke birds with their shape or with their feather-like texture. Of course, unlike many ornate armors in other MMOs, this armor is still realistic; I'd trust that armor to stop a dagger or arrow.

     

    High Elf Heavy Armor Male (ESO)

     

     

    High Elf Heavy Armor Female (ESO)

     

    Medium Armor (Scout armor: Rawhide, Hide, Leather, Full-Leather, etc.)

     

    High Elven leather armor, similarly to the plate, is an example of the devs taking traditional fantasy armor and giving it an Altmeri avian twist. Unlike the heavier armor, which is very eagle-like, the medium armor is more evocative of owls, particularly in the helmet area. Beyond this, however, there are quite a few design elements in common between the two armor weights, especially in the cuirass/jack and kneecap areas. In addition, it takes a lot of subtle inspiration from typical fantasy rogue armor; note the masked face and understated ornamentation.

     

    High Elf Medium Armor Male (ESO)

     

    High Elf Medium Armor Female (ESO)

     

     

    Light Armor (Mage clothes: Homespun, Linen, Cotton, Spidersilk, etc.)

     

    The High Elves are, perhaps, the race most stereotyped as a "mage" race, which makes sense considering their natural magical aptitude. It therefore makes sense that their light armor is extremely evocative of the typical image of a mage, both in Tamriel and in other fiction. Supporting this is the maskless hood; something of a rarity in ESO mage attire, but very common in most other ES games. Also, the ornate design lends itself not only to battlefield spellcasting, but general display as well; from this, it can be concluded that it was made for both wizards and Altmeri nobility. Seeing as how it's very likely most High Elven nobles are well-versed in at least the common forms of magic, the connections only become more evident with observation.

     

    High Elf Light Armor Male (ESO)

     

    High Elf Light Armor Female (ESO)

     

    That's all for this post! Next up, we'll be tackling the gear of the Dark Elves of Morrowind. Thanks for reading!

  • October 23

    This is great, and I never before noticed how much their armor and weapons are centered around wings or to be more accurate the Eagle. I am guessing that has to do with their religion and beliefs, or it may be like that as well because when Auri-El ascended he took the form of an Eagle. Either way great job. :)

  • Member
    October 23

    Gwen, the Last Blade said:

    This is great, and I never before noticed how much their armor and weapons are centered around wings or to be more accurate the Eagle. I am guessing that has to do with their religion and beliefs, or it may be like that as well because when Auri-El ascended he took the form of an Eagle. Either way great job. :)

     

    It probably has quite a few religious connotations thanks to Auri-El (which actually may be a reason the Aldmeri Dominion has an eagle as their banner... hmm.), however I think there's more to it than that. Though they aren't quite as fanatical about it as their Wood Elf cousins, multiple sources from ESO state the High Elves' admiration for the natural world. And I imagine they admire birds the most due to their simple elegance and majesty. This would explain why they use motifs of hawks and owls, specifically; hawks are known as fierce and powerful, and are arguably the "superior" bird, which the Altmer would love. And owls have always been seen as wise, which is another trait the High Elves would see in themselves. Additionally, I'm sure there's some kind of argument as to how birds obviously can fly and spend a lot of time in the sky... Which is where the stars are. But I'm sure that there is a whole other Lore post...

  • October 23

    Tenebrous said:

    Gwen, the Last Blade said:

    This is great, and I never before noticed how much their armor and weapons are centered around wings or to be more accurate the Eagle. I am guessing that has to do with their religion and beliefs, or it may be like that as well because when Auri-El ascended he took the form of an Eagle. Either way great job. :)

     

    It probably has quite a few religious connotations thanks to Auri-El (which actually may be a reason the Aldmeri Dominion has an eagle as their banner... hmm.), however I think there's more to it than that. Though they aren't quite as fanatical about it as their Wood Elf cousins, multiple sources from ESO state the High Elves' admiration for the natural world. And I imagine they admire birds the most due to their simple elegance and majesty. This would explain why they use motifs of hawks and owls, specifically; hawks are known as fierce and powerful, and are arguably the "superior" bird, which the Altmer would love. And owls have always been seen as wise, which is another trait the High Elves would see in themselves. Additionally, I'm sure there's some kind of argument as to how birds obviously can fly and spend a lot of time in the sky... Which is where the stars are. But I'm sure that there is a whole other Lore post...

    Yes, the Eagle on the Dominion Flag does represent Auri-El and since its wings are up it signaled the readiness of war or conflict and the protection of its people. Right, I knew the Altmer loved the natural world for it was the beauty and order of it that amazed them even believing magic was a "natural" thing. They admire birds mainly for the fact that they sore in the skies which were close to the heavens and thus close their Gods something the Altmer wish they could do. From what I was told the Eagle was mainly used by royalty as the Eagle is a majestic bird, the Hawk was used by the military for it was fierce and powerful, and the Owl was used mainly for mages as Owls were always seen in most cultures as being wise just like you pointed out. This is even reflecting in the cultures of Man where the Hawk is Kyne or Kynareath and the Owl is Juilanos or Jhunal. I don't know a lot of the Altmer, and what little I do know was told to be by David, who was a Altmer historian basically.

  • Member
    October 23

    Gwen, the Last Blade said:

    Yes, the Eagle on the Dominion Flag does represent Auri-El and since its wings are up it signaled the readiness of war or conflict and the protection of its people. Right, I knew the Altmer loved the natural world for it was the beauty and order of it that amazed them even believing magic was a "natural" thing. They admire birds mainly for the fact that they sore in the skies which were close to the heavens and thus close their Gods something the Altmer wish they could do. From what I was told the Eagle was mainly used by royalty as the Eagle is a majestic bird, the Hawk was used by the military for it was fierce and powerful, and the Owl was used mainly for mages as Owls were always seen in most cultures as being wise just like you pointed out. This is even reflecting in the cultures of Man where the Hawk is Kyne or Kynareath and the Owl is Juilanos or Jhunal. I don't know a lot of the Altmer, and what little I do know was told to be by David, who was a Altmer historian basically.

     

    Oh, I wasn't aware any of this was outright stated in the lore; I just extrapolated from real-world cultures and the Tamriel ones. The whole comparision of the human cultures is very interesting: the ideas of Kyne-as-hawk and Jhunal-as-owl come (unless I'm mistaken) straight from the Nords' ancestors, the Nedes of Atmora; in other words, the worship of these creatures (and others, of course) predate any Elven influence. Unless of course, the Nordic myth of there being Aldmer over there at one point is true; a definite possibility, seeing as how both Nordic and Altmeri have tales of such a population. But then, we know very little of Aldmeri beliefs, so it's entirely possible the Nedes were the ones that inspired the Elves to associate Auri-El the god-ancestor to eagles.

     

    Bah, my head hurts now.

  • October 23

    Tenebrous said:

    Gwen, the Last Blade said:

    Yes, the Eagle on the Dominion Flag does represent Auri-El and since its wings are up it signaled the readiness of war or conflict and the protection of its people. Right, I knew the Altmer loved the natural world for it was the beauty and order of it that amazed them even believing magic was a "natural" thing. They admire birds mainly for the fact that they sore in the skies which were close to the heavens and thus close their Gods something the Altmer wish they could do. From what I was told the Eagle was mainly used by royalty as the Eagle is a majestic bird, the Hawk was used by the military for it was fierce and powerful, and the Owl was used mainly for mages as Owls were always seen in most cultures as being wise just like you pointed out. This is even reflecting in the cultures of Man where the Hawk is Kyne or Kynareath and the Owl is Juilanos or Jhunal. I don't know a lot of the Altmer, and what little I do know was told to be by David, who was a Altmer historian basically.

     

    Oh, I wasn't aware any of this was outright stated in the lore; I just extrapolated from real-world cultures and the Tamriel ones. The whole comparision of the human cultures is very interesting: the ideas of Kyne-as-hawk and Jhunal-as-owl come (unless I'm mistaken) straight from the Nords' ancestors, the Nedes of Atmora; in other words, the worship of these creatures (and others, of course) predate any Elven influence. Unless of course, the Nordic myth of there being Aldmer over there at one point is true; a definite possibility, seeing as how both Nordic and Altmeri have tales of such a population. But then, we know very little of Aldmeri beliefs, so it's entirely possible the Nedes were the ones that inspired the Elves to associate Auri-El the god-ancestor to eagles.

     

    Bah, my head hurts now.

    Okay I am going t try to explain this the David told me, and as a warning, this gets pretty meta you could say.

    It wasn't stated in the Lore but implied in a way for Man copied everything that was Elven in a way. Remember the Nedes were star worshippers, and once they became enslaved soon adapted Eleven beliefs. It was never confirmed, and it mainly a theory but the Altmer would have animals that were associated with their Gods and as such the Nedes and early humans adapted that belief into their own. Also, Atmora was where Auri-El had his kingdom at before he and his followers/children left due to being overrun by giants that were created by that Devil known as Shor. So they could have seen these drawings/cravings and adapted.

    Again, I am very sorry I am not that great at things that deal with the Altmer, but I know some things.

  • Member
    October 23

    Gwen, the Last Blade said:

    Okay I am going t try to explain this the David told me, and as a warning, this gets pretty meta you could say.

    It wasn't stated in the Lore but implied in a way for Man copied everything that was Elven in a way. Remember the Nedes were star worshippers, and once they became enslaved soon adapted Eleven beliefs. It was never confirmed, and it mainly a theory but the Altmer would have animals that were associated with their Gods and as such the Nedes and early humans adapted that belief into their own. Also, Atmora was where Auri-El had his kingdom at before he and his followers/children left due to being overrun by giants that were created by that Devil known as Shor. So they could have seen these drawings/cravings and adapted.

    Again, I am very sorry I am not that great at things that deal with the Altmer, but I know some things.

     

    The whole "Elves enslaving the Nedes" ordeal happened in High Rock, after the Nedes had come to Tamriel, so while the first theory explains the Breton religion (which, indeed, is a mix of traditional Nord/Imperial and Altmeri gods; notably, Xarxes and Jephre come from the Elves), it doesn't apply to the other humans of Tamriel. The second theory of the city of Auri-El is possible, though as I mentioned we don't know how the beliefs of Aldmer differ from their descendant Altmer. We know that Auri-El, while he is a divine, walked the mortal plane at one point according to various mythologies. The area I find murky is whether the ancient Aldmer always associated Auri-El with the eagle (and therefore your theory of Nedes beginning to worship said bird from Elven origin is correct), or the Aldmer didn't have such symbology, and the idea of a god that manifests as an eagle comes from the Nedic pantheon (and therefore the situation is opposite, that the Elves got the idea from the Nedes). Two additional items of note: While the Nedic and early Nordic pantheon included the owl and hawk, to my knowledge eagles are not directly mentioned, meaning it is possible the Elves were the original worshippers of the bird. However, the Nedic pantheon included multiple animals with no symbolism to the Aldmer/Altmer, such as the whale and bear, and it is possible that the worship of the eagle "died out" after the Aldmer took it as their own.

  • October 23

    Tenebrous said:

    Gwen, the Last Blade said:

    Okay I am going t try to explain this the David told me, and as a warning, this gets pretty meta you could say.

    It wasn't stated in the Lore but implied in a way for Man copied everything that was Elven in a way. Remember the Nedes were star worshippers, and once they became enslaved soon adapted Eleven beliefs. It was never confirmed, and it mainly a theory but the Altmer would have animals that were associated with their Gods and as such the Nedes and early humans adapted that belief into their own. Also, Atmora was where Auri-El had his kingdom at before he and his followers/children left due to being overrun by giants that were created by that Devil known as Shor. So they could have seen these drawings/cravings and adapted.

    Again, I am very sorry I am not that great at things that deal with the Altmer, but I know some things.

     

    The whole "Elves enslaving the Nedes" ordeal happened in High Rock, after the Nedes had come to Tamriel, so while the first theory explains the Breton religion (which, indeed, is a mix of traditional Nord/Imperial and Altmeri gods; notably, Xarxes and Jephre come from the Elves), it doesn't apply to the other humans of Tamriel. The second theory of the city of Auri-El is possible, though as I mentioned we don't know how the beliefs of Aldmer differ from their descendant Altmer. We know that Auri-El, while he is a divine, walked the mortal plane at one point according to various mythologies. The area I find murky is whether the ancient Aldmer always associated Auri-El with the eagle (and therefore your theory of Nedes beginning to worship said bird from Elven origin is correct), or the Aldmer didn't have such symbology, and the idea of a god that manifests as an eagle comes from the Nedic pantheon (and therefore the situation is opposite, that the Elves got the idea from the Nedes). Two additional items of note: While the Nedic and early Nordic pantheon included the owl and hawk, to my knowledge eagles are not directly mentioned, meaning it is possible the Elves were the original worshippers of the bird. However, the Nedic pantheon included multiple animals with no symbolism to the Aldmer/Altmer, such as the whale and bear, and it is possible that the worship of the eagle "died out" after the Aldmer took it as their own.

    You know what I don't know how to answer this because I don't know that depth of Lore like someone else so I will say this instead. Bretons are the best race. :P

  • Member
    October 23

    Ah, a Breton fan! I myself like all the playable races (even if my Redguard lore is rusty), but I find it sad how Bretons get so much flak. Then again, their ESO zones are... Uninspired, so I guess I can understand how people don't like them. But really; they are the only ES half-breed race to actually be a race and not "the mommy's race, with maybe some of the daddy-race perks". And their culture is actually pretty interesting besides.

  • October 23

    I don't know about ESO as I have never played it, but I can relate to the Bretons since they are half-elf and half-man just like how I am half-French and half-Japanese. Plus, their culture and landscapes remind of where I grew up in France. And I never see Bretons get flak as much as the Altmer do and even Nords.