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Khajiit Part 3: Culture

  • July 2, 2014


     Disclaimer: This lore article was written by Loremaster Vix but was inexplicably deleted. I have recovered it for your reading pleasure.

         While a great deal of the Khajiiti nature is bound to the aspects of their gods there is nevertheless a great degree of sectionalism between North and South which greatly determines prevailing social attitudes. This is not abnormal at all, the very nature of the Khajiit is to be at the extremes, both nice and malicious, good and bad, sometimes by their very being at the same time or occurring within the same individual. This inherent bi-polar personality is seen as perfectly natural and the Khajiit see these contradictions as being perfectly normal and acceptable behavior. I digress.


          The gods and the nature of their heroes tend to edge towards characters governed by passion and wit there is one factor that affects Khajiit in a more normal way. Their culture, of course, is shaped by the world around them as well. This in itself is part of the creation myth, specifically mentioning two places, the forests and the desert. It is therefor likely no surprise that the two major tracts of land in Elsweyr are forests and deserts.



          The southern expanses of the Khajiiti Kingdoms are tropical rainforests and deep lush foliage and called Pa'alatiin to antiquity. Here glades and groves supporting sugarcane plantations have fostered a diverse and fertile sedentary agrarian society. The principle industries revolve around the cultivation of sugarcane and saltrice plantations (Provinces of Tamriel). Despite this agriculture the south is also highly industrialized and urbanized with a strong tapestry of mercantilism. In fact, the Khajiit are said to have been amongst the very first widespread traders and had a well established system before the Atmorans had came to the shores of Tamriel in the late Merithic era. Perhaps as much because of the Tenmar forests in the far south this leads to a very different nature of the Pellitine's which is antithetical to the desert roaming nature of the Northern Khajiit. (Elsweyr, after all, was dissolved as a province in the the 4th era). These people are said to be eminently civilized, niceties and pleasantries are paramount and they look to their northern neighbors in Anequina as barbarians. However, they are widely decried as decadent and depraved in the North, and there is some truth to this in that Skooma and Moon sugar have taken their toll socially in places such as Rimmen.

          Rimmen is essentially its own kingdom straddling Anequia and Pellitine on the far eastern boarder near Cyrodiil. It has become an enormous cultural melting pot, growing from Akaviri influence in the second era and a mercantile caravan hub bringing in wealth from across Tamriel as well as facilitating the adoption of foreign traditions (Pocket Guide to the Empire 3rd edition). Its people, like all the southerners, are said to be quite pleasant and accepting of outsiders. One of the stranger customs is the lengthy period in which business transactions occur that stems from a culturally required norm. Before business can be discussed it is required that people know their merchant, to this end merchants will offer tea, cakes, and sweets and routinely discuss entirely unrelated affairs in 'small talk'. More over, there is still no obligation on the part of the buyer to actually purchase anything only that they can not refuse hospitality (The Buying Game). However, for all its pomp and civil tradition the city and the south by extension is known for its destructive Skooma dens and degenerate culture (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition).

          Curiously, the city of Senchal on the Quin'rawl peninsula had this same problem until a Skooma dealer Ya'Tirrje established his palatial villa here. It is not a surprise, Senchal is the largest and greatest city in the south of Tamriel and the primary trade and travel hub. What is a surprise is the rapid development leading to the 4th era (Pocket Guide to the Empire 3rd edition). Crime has all but ceased to exist, the external drug problem is seen to be minimized, security is a non-issue, and it has undergone a physical rejuvenation that has destroyed the squalid slum of Black Keirgo (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition). It has become a resort city which belies its earlier status as one of the most dangerous ports of thieves and sell swords in Tamriel.



          The term Khajiit is said to have come from two principle words, Khaj meaning desert, and iit which is the suffix meaning 'one who does'. There is an old saying for them that there is nothing to do in the desert but walk, which allows them their name Khajiit, 'desert striders'. This is mostly from an extra-canonical design decision but it shows both the legacy that the Anequina Khajiit have as well as their nature of being quite contrary to their southern counterparts. Originally ruled from the city of Ne Quin-al until its destruction this northern district encompasses deserts and grasslands with wooded regions bordering Valenwood and Pellitine. However, there are many ruins and cities that were swallowed up by the dunes which explains why there is no significant settlements known of in the middle of the territory. The Khajiit here or typically nomadic though a number of cities exist, generally along the Cyrodiil and Valenwood borders (Provinces of Tamriel). The northern cities tend not to be quite as inhabited as the sedentary south but this has made them centers of trade and travel not habitation (Alik'r). Despite this close proximity there has been no more of the Khajiit of Anequina to take advantage of chaos and expand their holdings into Cyrodiil at any time (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition).

          The people are warlike and barbarous (Provinces of Tamriel) yet their mentality and legacy have ensured that they have never been externally conquered but dealt with by treaty (Pocket Guide to the Empire 3rd edition). This has fostered a distinct independent and warrior like culture. Yet the expansionist ideals are minimal, allowing mostly for defense of their realm against slow encroaching aggressors like the Bosmer. They are derided in the south for being uncouth barbarians and the title isn't seen to be far wrong given the higher disposition of the more aggressive breeds as well as frequent raiding of neighboring areas. This may very well be a drive to survive given the nature of the harsh desert sands.



          The lush city of Torval is an oddity in this kingdom though it is nominally part of it under the guidance of the Mane. The city itself is independent in external matters and is one of the more exotic places in the land. It has a number of palaces built from Valenwood trees (the Kingdom does control tracts of territory there as well) and is lined with sugarcane gardens.

          The Temple of Two-Moons-Dance is also here and used as the foremost training center of martial arts in Tamriel teaching not only antiquated rituals but modern versions as well and is open to all people across Tamriel (Master Zoaraym's Tale). Such martial arts include Goutfang, Whispering Claw, and Rawlith Khaj meaning Rain of Sand (Extra-cannonical Interview with Three Booksellers). The Temple of Two-Moons-Dance is a center not only for combat, but philosophy as well, holding rituals and competitions which are supposed to bring a personal balance and ward off the folly of vanity.



          Returning to the issue of the Khajiiti gods we see the dual nature of the three pantheons. The third may deal with creation and the physical reality but the first two are more important. The first pantheon encompass aspects of all living sentient things, the second pantheon is what they consider certain aspects of themselves as well. In Hircine they see their own lycanthropic nature, natural hunters and stalkers without parallel. In Mefala they values secrets and keep their language the Ta'agra and customs hidden from prying eyes by the Clan Mothers which bear her name. Merrunz is seen as their whole aspect of destruction and disaster, warfare, things of that kind. Sangiin is chief in Khajiit behavior which is often controlled by passions as well. Shegorath is merely what they are, he is blamed for all the excesses of excessive moonsugar.

          The Khajiit themselves not the most adept at reflective thinking. As such they act and observe, learning in that way rather than by scholastic knowledge (Ahzirr Traajijazeri). This also explains why they were able to obtain a very civilized and complex structure even in an allegedly preliterate society.

          While rules are called “thjizzrini” meaning 'foolish concepts' there are still traditional non-written beliefs that encompass other actions. These are concepts of justice, compassion, and mercy all seen as natural gods-given acts (once more reverting to the importance of Khajiiti religion). The Renrijra Krin is a good example of a Khajiiti group for mentality. They mourn the dead but keep upbeat; they value courage and honor but believe last stands and certain death to be idiotic; they indulge in drunkenness, lechery, and moonsugar; being charitable; and having no problem poisoning, ambushing, blackmailing, burning, or otherwise devastating whoever and whatever they consider their enemy (Ahzirr Traajijazeri). Khajiit are said to remember vendettas in a less traditional way.  Instead of keeping complaints written down in books, some have given to airing these vendettas in public by way of writing or depicting them on their faces with tattoos or paints (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition).  In this way it's something of a visual history of that individual's outstanding issues with others.  They are, by their general nature, seen to be easily aggrieved and unpredictable by outsiders.  More over, the Khajiit have a cultural affinity for deceptions and keeping secrets which is even seen as a coming of age rite (Words of Clan Mother Ahnissi).

          Despite the difference between bipedal and quadrupedal Khajiit one of the commonalities of interest is that they appreciate bright rich colors. This manifests itself in many ways from tattoos to fabrics, the latter of which in particular is one of the most prevalent exports next to Moonsugar. Attention to detail and rich coloration make Khajiiti tapestries quite important, and even the master artisans will create quality reproductions of their works and sell them all over Tamriel. This reproduction is done through textile factories set up throughout Elsweyr where single owners may own a number of factories (Cherim's Heart of Anequina). Tattoos are common both as a method of record keeping as well as for religious ceremonies, as is the same with jewelry. Their clothing itself often consists of a shawl of bright patterned cloth that acts as both protection from the sun and from weapons. Beneath this they wear a shirt called a budi which fastens on the right side with braided cord. This is out of the belief for bipedal khajiit that seeing part of the torso fur is indecent and barbaric (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1stedition). Commonly, nightshade is used as a decoration and talisman of the Khajiit who believes that it helps with stealth and quietness (Special Flora of Tamriel).



          Of course, the question of moonsugar is bound to come up given it's so ubiquitous both in language and in physical form. On the most basic level moonsugar is an addictive narcotic sugar that is found in the Tenmar forest. The sugar is then used in many things, from food to drink, medical poultice, and magical ingredient. Khajiiti cuisine uses sugars as one of its principle ingredients resulting in a society where cakes, pasties, puddings, sugarmeats, and all other sweet things are quite typical of their diet. In a more peculiar note, the flesh of the Khajiit is described as tasting remarkable like sugared pork (Dance in Fire). Moonsugar does seem to be different than cane sugar in many contexts but both are used extensively. The Khajiit, due to resistances, gain a natural immunity to modest amount of sugars where as outsiders will suffer severe effects similar to madness resulting in fits and seizures.

          Moonsugar can be, and often is, eaten raw but it can also be used in a wide variety of culinary pursuits. However, refining it will result in Skooma which is far more potent and more addictive. Where as sugar fits are relatively mild if taken in moderation Skooma is not. This water-pipe smoked narcotic commonly causes both a dull eyed 'zombie like' state of lethargy as well as powerful fits and seizures. This became far more problematic in the third century when the sugar trade became Tamrielic wide and more cultivation for export occurred. This led to more self used and led to instability caused by various traffickers and petty nobles turned crime lords (Pocket Guide to the Empire 3rd edition).

          The Khajiit themselves believe that this is part of the third secret of Azurah and it is inexorably linked to Khajiiti culture. Their actual form is said to be crystallized moonlight trapped by the tides of Hermorah where it is gathered to sacred groves which are zealously protected. In this manner they are linked with the Lunar Lattice and a divine gift. This has given rise to their linguistic aspects which might be metaphorical or something simply not understood. 'Sugar', being essential, is also used to refer to anything else that is required essential in many contexts. Having not enough sugar is the same thing as saying colloquially 'guts' meaning courage, but 'leaking your sugar' is said to happen when people bleed to death. In that way it is an all encompassing metaphor used quite prominently (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition).


    Governance and Social Structure:

          Family units are clan that were called Prides by Imperial scholars. These units are rarely based around any one breed of Khajiit and may have great diversity in who encompasses such a group.

    “A particular family-tribe, or pride, might include a hunting party of males that appear like upright jaguars, a few beautiful youths who could pass for Elves were it not for their swishing tails, an uncle or two that would stalk the perimeters on all fours, and a chief who, depending on the moons of his birth, might have the form of any of the above.” ~Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition.

          Base equality does seem to be something fairly common with the Khajiit but there are still classes and hereditary ranks so far as has been seen. Socially Clan mothers dictate religious teachings and family teachings where clan chieftains will take care of external affairs. There are other affairs though, lords and ladies govern tracts of land staked as family territory and Kings and Queens rule over larger cities (2920 Last Year of the First Era).

          The Mane oversees these actions though and is the one that is nominally in charge as a result. The New Moon means that Torval will be in control, the full moon Senchal. The Mane, situated in Torval, is the nominal leader of the Khajiit in a spiritual sense and sways political sympathies. Thus, while they have great influence they are not an all powerful dictator but they do regulate who has power. Due to the internal nature of the Khajiit, the Mane also dictates over foreign affairs (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition)and external groups will visit the Torval court and swear allegiance to him as an overall confederacy.  While he is typically a sedentary figure by nature of tradition.  All Khajiit are to shave their manes as a mark of subservience to him and he in turn braided their locks together with his own.  This practice, of course, became quite unwieldly so now all Khajiit shave their manes but discard them.  The sole exception to this practice resides with the Mane's own tribe and that of his Cathay-raht warrior guard in Torval.  Even then, the numbers are so great that when the mane's are cut and braided with the Mane's own they make walking all but impossible.  As such when he is required to be moved he is carried on a palanquin born by Cathay-raht servants of the guard.


          While the Kahjiiti Kingdoms have no standing army they remain a powerful and dangerous military force. Most of this comes from the diversity in species. While not all the Khajiiti races can speak, all of them understand and can communicate very effectively. They are not only exceptional raiders and ambushers but present a powerful and diverse field army as well. The various morphological differences ensure that almost every conceivable role is able to be filled in times of war. Wars have been seen defending against a Cyrodiilic invasion under Pelinal Whitestrake in the first era as frequent border wars with the Bosmer and at times the Argonians.

          The maneuvers of the Khajiiti armies are complex and often quite peculiar in approach, comprising a multifaceted front with a great deal of natural fluidity and support from each and every kind of Khajiit. As such even the small seemingly insignificant Alfiq and Dagi have prominent roles that have been seen to work with astonishing effectiveness, summarily destroying many Bosmer contingents several times one after another in quick succession based on tactics of isolation, direct pressure, and fluid maneuvering to more vulnerable fronts. The tribal nature of the Khajiit in the North does not seem to be a hindrance as they nevertheless form effective war bands and will muster under a common flag and commander if need be. The Khajiit often take advisers from other realms notably Cyodiil and Skyrim.

          Far from being poorly equipped the Khajiit seem to have their own favorite styles of weapons and armor, preparing equipment for both efficiency and aesthetic value. The equipment of the Khajiit forces has been described in Cherim's Heart of Anequina. They prefer to wear plated mail, metal that are holed and stitched to lacquered leather backing. Helmets are often leather and cloth caps similar to the Redguard though those who can afford it typically wear silver helms. This medium armored combination allows for a great deal of mobility while retaining a good deal of protection. One of the primary benefits imparted by this medium armor is rather peculiar. When being shot by a barbed arrow, the arrow will either bounce off or go straight through both armor and Khajiit. One arrow is said to rarely kill the Khajiit and healers are easily able to repair the damage caused if the wound is not immediately fatal. Heavy armor is said to have arrows deflect more but when penetrated the barb remains in the victim, not often being able to make it out the plate backing. This means that the arrow is moved and jostled within the body of the victim creating far more damage. This would necessitate removing the arrow in the heat of battle which is time consuming. It also reduced discomfort in metal armor in the warmer climate which reduces battle fatigue and heat exhaustion.

          Khajiit tend to favor their claws in combat, this may be both because of ambushes and vertical movement in trees, but it is also to take advantage of a long lineage of exceptional martial arts developed over the eras. All are said to be extremely dangerous, making the Khajiit deadly close quarters fighters, but in addition to this they will use scimitars, sabers, daggers, and long bows (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st Edition).

          The Khajiit do believe in courage in battle but the notion of honor is less prevalent, attacking from behind, using poisons, and various tricks and stratagems both for causing strife and for survival are highly important. While they honor their dead, they seem to not care what happens to the body after death. This subverts the Arkay laws which prevent misuse and tampering of bodies (Corpse Preparation II).


          The Khajiiti culture is one of the more peculiar in Tamriel given its extreme nature.  They are a diverse group, further apart from many of their contemporaries Nibanese compared to Colovians, Crowns and Forebearers, Altmer and Chimer, but for the most part had far less internal conflict than any of those groups.  From the land to the dress and the way in which they deal with foreigners there is a distinctive gap born from an initial harmonic relationship.  However, this was altered, they were set to become rivals as we will see. 


    ←Part 2: Physiology      Part 4: History→