Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

Talos' Doctrine or the Lack of It

Tags: #Aedra  #Religion  #Historical Figures 
  • October 8, 2018

    Talos, the Ninth Divine. There always was one thing that sort of bugged me, especially after Skyrim was introduced. By now pretty much everyone knows what Tiber Septim achieved, how he became a god, because frankly, that is pretty much everything you get from the so called Talos worshippers - who are more often than not Nords. They are like on a repeat. Talos did this, Tiber did that.

    But I have to ask… how exactly do you worship Talos? I mean, what exactly do you do, especially if you are his priest? How does he figure in day to day life as the Ninth Divine? Because what we get from Skyrim is pretty much a hero-cult, not an actual worship of a god.

    There are some bits and pieces that offer some insight to that such as The Ten Commands of the Nine Divines

    5. Talos says: Be strong for war. Be bold against enemies and evil, and defend the people of Tamriel.

    Now this is very theologic for me, because “evil” is an abstract term almost impossible to define. In this case it could mean something along the lines of: “Do good, follow laws, help others, don’t steal your husband’s wife, don’t stand idly when bad things happen to others.” I am kinda cooking from plain water here, which only supports how little we know about the actual worship.

    The second bit: “Be strong for war” is quite curious. I have seen people call Talos “a god of war” but actually never saw the source or reference for that and I think it could be perceived as an interpretation of this tenet. I would like to point out though that “be strong for war” is not the same thing as “wage war” - I’m also inclined to say that Mede’s Empire failed horribly in upholding this tenet. But I find this tenet a bit ironic, considering Tiber waged a war of conquest and after he became a Divine his command became “be strong for war” which basically says “Now that I’ve conquered everything you had better do your best to keep it that way”

    So that is the direct tenet. What else we have? Well, pretty much nothing. Infuriating if you ask me, considering how important Talos should be. But okay, let’s look somewhere else then, like Oblivion and Morrowind description of Talos.

    Tiber Septim, Talos, the Dragonborn, Heir to the Seat of Sundered Kings, is the greatest hero-god of Mankind, and worshipped as the protector and patron of just rulership and civil society.

    So at the first look this seems like a pretty big deal. My first thoughts are something along the lines of Talos’ priests being rather important in the bureaucracy of the Empire, like advisors or clerks, something tied closely to earthly laws and not spiritual ones. And yet…

    When we look at Reflections on Cult Worship in the Empire it might not be so simple.

    The Septim emperors have made it a policy to limit the influence of cult authorities in aristocratic, military, and bureaucratic affairs. Cult worship is regarded as a private and practical matter, and public pronouncements by religious figures are not welcomed.


    Now this is very important because this is what sets the Third and Fourth Era Empire apart from let’s say the Tribunal or the Alessian Empire, or even the Christian religion of medieval times. Faith and law are two different things. Faith doesn’t dictate the law.

    So this completely obliterates my previously stated idea that Talosians play a big role in the Empire’s governing system. They do not. They have very little to almost none influence in the Empire’s doings - at least I think so.

    So how does this help us determining how the actual worship looks like? It doesn’t. At all.

    Though it sort of gives explanation why the ban of Talos wasn’t that big of a deal for the Empire itself, which sort of explains the propaganda piece of The Talos Mistake. And this is what sets the Imperials’ and the Nords’ views apart.

    For Imperials Talos is a god, and even though they acknowledge he was the greatest man ever for achieving godhood and founding the Empire, the worship itself doesn’t play a major role. But for Nords?

    Talos is a hero-cult worship for them. He is an example for them, a hero everyone wants to grow up to be. So they will repeat what he did and achieved, over and over, because to them it matters a great deal - and not only to them apparently - which is supported by Reflections on Cult Worship in the Empire.

    Nordic hero-cults provide a strong counter-current to the dominant secularism of the Empire. The Imperial cult of Tiber Septim is just such a hero-cult, and among the military, provincial colonists, and recently assimilated foreigners, the cult is particularly strong and personal.

    Now notice that this piece likens the worship of Talos to the Nordic kind of worship, making this cult somewhat an exception among the worship of Nine Divines in the Empire, contradicting their approach to faith. So could that be it? Could this actually be the worship of Talos that Imperials practice? Blind reverence of a hero turned god just as is the Nordic way as shown in Nords Arise!?

    Mighty Tiber Septim, himself the first emperor, conqueror of all Tamriel, ascended to godhood to sit at the right hand of Akatosh. Tiber Septim, a true son of Skyrim, born in the land of snow and blood, bred to the honor of our people, is now Talos, god of might and honor. The Empire has no right to tell us we cannot worship him.

    But how could that be? How could Imperials suddenly start worshipping a god completely differently than other gods, giving him much more importance and yet somehow not letting it mingle with the politics and government? Also notice that Nords dub Talos as god of might and honor. Another bit.

    It’s a tough nut to crack. There is something though that might or might not explain it a bit. I am honestly not sure, so take everything with a grain of salt. I have to thank Thorien for bringing this gem up, because it certainly is a gem among gold, and one I have failed to notice in all the years peering into the Lore.

    Symmachus had an apartment in a great house two blocks from the palace, past the Temple, the Temple of the One, he said, as they passed it, an ancient Nordic cult which Tiber Septim had revived. He said that Barenziah would be expected to become a member, should she prove acceptable to the Emperor.

    Barenziah, right? Never stops to surprise. And even though we know that she’s a lying slut and not a very reliable narrator, it is still worth at least giving this a thought.

    The Temple of the One. Since it is where the Dragonborn Emperors of old lit the Dragonfires we always assumed the Temple of the One refers to Akatosh. But “ancient Nordic deity” doesn’t really correspond to that. So I was trying to wrap my head around what kind of ancient Nordic deity Tiber could have revived and made his subjects worship that said deity?

    Two come to my mind. Shezzar and… Ysmir.


    Now the implications of the second… Well, was Tiber paving the way for his own worship? The history says that it were Greybears who were the first to call Talos "Ysmir", who gave him that name, but now I have to wonder.

    What if the history is wrong?

    I think I might end it with this, leaving some room for discussion about the actual worship of Talos and the whole Temple of the One thing.


    Peace out. :)


  • October 8, 2018

    5. Talos says: Be strong for war. Be bold against enemies and evil, and defend the people of Tamriel.

    I can bet my black and gold robes that if you ask a priest of Talos what is the definition of evil according to his supposed doctrine, you won't get a legitimate answer. Most likely, it's something along the lines of "pick a thing you see as evil and go to war against it". It can be any kind of Elves, Orcs, a dragon, your neighbor, just some random guy you dislike the look of. Just go to war and become a "great hero". To the Nords, it most likely means just that. No matter who is your enemy, the goal is to win.

    For Talos himself, naturally, the goal was different, but who cares, especially since it's unlikely that this command is actually his words.

    The history says that it were the Greybeards who called Talos that, who gave him that name, but now I have to wonder.

     What if the history is wrong?

    Maybe it's not wrong, what if it's lying?)))

    The Arcturian Heresy:

    Hjalti was a shrewd tactician, and his small band of Colovian troops and Nord berserkers broke the Reachman line, forcing them back beyond the gates of Old Hrol'dan. A siege seemed impossible, as Hjalti could expect no reinforcements from Falkreath. That night a storm came and visited Hjalti's camp. It spoke with him in his tent. At dawn, Hjalti went up to the gates, and the storm followed just above his head. Arrows could not penetrate the winds around him. He shouted down the walls of Old Hrol'dan, and his men poured in. After their victory, the Nords called Hjalti Talos, or Stormcrown.

    It wasn't the Greybeards who called him Talos, but his own soldiers...


  • October 8, 2018

    Justiciar Thorien said:

    It wasn't the Greybeards who called him Talos, but his own soldiers...

    Greybeards were the ones calling him Ysmir for the first time, according to history. That's what I was saying. Should rephrase that now. 


  • October 8, 2018

    Shadow Arm said:

    Greybeards were the ones calling him Ysmir for the first time, according to history. That's what I was saying. Should rephrase that now. 


    Yes. But then there's a cute thing. They call the LDB "Stormcrown" after s/he brings them the horn. Nords and their love for tales...

  • October 8, 2018

    In Hjalti's naming as Ysmir by the Greybeards shouldn't we take into account all the other things that led to him becoming Talos and the whole act that led to his apotheosis with Wulfharth, Zurin Arctus, dragon break etc? The time we perceive of his naming might not be in a "linear" manner. Then again to be honest Talos lore is the least lore I 've looked into and I might be saying nonsense here. :P

  • October 8, 2018

    Hjalti wasn't the first to be named Ysmir, not even the tenth. It seems the Nords called every somewhat-famous hero of their by that title, so that wasn't something unique to him, it's likely that they called him that solely because he was Dragonborn.

  • October 8, 2018

    Oh I see. Although I should have elaborated on that a bit.I also meant that his naming at that point might have overlapped with some of Wulfharth's nature while time was reshaping at some point he was also named Ysmir since he partook Wulfhart's nature in the end as well. I might be mistaken though it's been years since I last gave a read on Talos's nature from lore. I have the impression that he managed to become a god due to the whole act of Wulfharth vs Zurin Arctus and him being the last standing and taking the nature of those two as well not sure if that is mantling. I probably need to check my books regarding Talos lore. But yeah what I mean is if what I mention is the case and what we know as Talos has Wulfharth's nature as well then after time was reshaped he would be called Ysmir at some point as well.

  • October 8, 2018

    Something else I wanted to comment on is The Temple of the One. I always thought actually that the temple of the One might not refer to Akatosh but Talos. Also it is likely that Talos was preparing his way to godhood with that we just need to see how belief works in the ES.

  • October 8, 2018

    Wulfharth also was not first to bear the title and it is generally unrelated to him or his nature. Wulfharth was named Ysmir because he was a hero to the Nords, not specifically because he was a Shezarrine. And Hjalti wasn't a Shezarrine but a Dragonborn. There were also people who were neither, yet were called by the same title. I honestly have no slightest idea as to why some people try so hard to label Arctus as a Shezarrine as well, when he was just a normal mortal, at least until his (un)death. Apparently they think that if anyone on Nirn is even slightly more powerful or talented than an average Joe, or has done anything that impressed the Nords, that person just has to be a Shezarrine, no matter if it doesn't make any sense at all.

    Duvain said:

    Something else I wanted to comment on is The Temple of the One. I always thought actually that the temple of the One might not refer to Akatosh but Talos. Also it is likely that Talos was preparing his way to godhood with that we just need to see how belief works in the ES.

    Or he just thought it was not enough that he is an emperor and wanted people to worship him as a god too. He wasn't the first yo come up with that idea, a lot of people wanted it, some even succeeded.

  • October 8, 2018

    Didn't know that Ysmir was a general title for heroes of the Nords I thought that only notable figures that had traits like being dragonborn or Shezzarine etc would be given this title. Also I have my doubts on Talos or Hjalti to be precise being a dragonborn with the whole incident that he was injured during an assassination attempt and couldn't shout afterwards... I kinda don't buy it :P

    I went to our lore section and gave a few things a read including this one which says some interesting things --> Click Here

    I also think that Zurin wasn't a Shezzarine but just a powerful mage.

    Yeah that could be the case as well wit hthe ancient nordic cult, from my point of view Hjalti apart from ambitious and all that should have been quite the greedy character. :P