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Understanding the Altmer

  • Member
    July 2, 2014

    Disclaimer: This is an article of our former member, renown Loremaster Vix, acknowledged by Bethesda themselves. It ended up being deleted and I'm merely reposting it.

    It seems to be the common consensus, polls and people generally say the same thing: the Altmer are people's least favorite race. They don't suffer the neglect the Redguards and Orcs do, there's a genuine hostility towards the 'snobbish' elves. So I figured it might be worthwhile to look at them a little more closely.

    Their Beginnings:
    What makes Mer so fundamentally different from Man's understanding of things? Without digressing into the basic aspects of pre-mortal existence and the primal forces we can reasonably say that the Elves view themselves as pre-creation spirits attached to a former existence. At that time all was encompassed within a single realm called the Beginning Place. The Elves had no physical form, they were all connected, they never died, there was no concept of time, no terrible disasters, it was a utopian paradise.

    Then something happened. Lorkhan was 'split', his divine essence spark fell to a newly made world and the old spirits, called the et'Ada, had solidified those basic principles of time, physics, all the rules that govern the moral plane of Mundus. The Elves were thus 'entrapped' in a fragile mortal body. They have lost a connection to an infinite abyss of knowledge and instead the whole of reality had been confining and isolating. The Altmer and the Mer in general still believe they are born elsewhere; they believe that every spirit comes from beyond the veil thus the very act of creation was considered a cruel abduction. It's no surprise that Lorkhan is reviled in their pantheon where as Auriel is revered as he taught the Aldmer how to 'ascend'.

    This is entirely opposite to the theory of thinking Men have. Men, except the Redguard, believe that people were created at the founding moment of Nirn's birth. Lorkhan in that way is seen as being a fundamentally merciful god rather than a cruel one. Men came into being because of creation, and the Elves notion of perfection was perceived to be irrevocably altered by it.

    Their Lives:
    It goes without saying the Elves, the Altmer in particular, live for an exceptionally long time. This may be several hundred years, or several thousand years, and it may be that they are functionally immortal. The point doesn't entirely matter, what does is that they see themselves as trapped by mortality which didn't benefit them.

    This lengthy period allows them to work on perfecting their own arts. Those arts are usually whatever they chose, artistic of course holds merit and this in itself means that they can be considered the best in their field. They're geniuses because of the time afforded to them by nature. When compared to other 'talented' members of other races it would seem like an amateurish attempt. It might even be good but it's still like taking a college art student and having their work posted up next to a child in the third or forth grade and having people say 'well they're both good'. It seems insulting to those long lived individuals who can see the subtleties of their craft.

    Their World:
    The Legacy of the Altmer stems from the Aldmer. Of all the descendent Mer races the Altmer are indisputably the closest and perhaps identical. They have one of the oldest kingdoms, an exceptionally proud and lengthy history, incredibly architecture (that's still in use), plus they explored and settled most of Tamriel. The men and beast, went so far as to praise themselves while stealing the aspects of governance, art, sciences, and then claim them as their own. The human Allesian order essentially took all the elven accomplishments, appropriated them, then erased anything that pointed back to Elven origination.

    Even the other elves seem to have believed they were 'better' in their own judgment and were expelled or voluntarily left Aldmer society. As such the Altmer have the strongest links to their past and the purest bloodline. That bloodline fosters a sense of pride not only because they are the most closely linked to their Aldmeri ancestors, but for a much darker reason as well. The Altmer did or does practice infanticide to weed out the impurities where as it has mutated and altered the other races. In that sense it might explain some of the reproach the Altmer have for the other elven races.

    The Chimer, who would in time become the Dunmer, decided to follow the prophet Valoth who decried the Aldmer as decadent. The Maormer were either exiles of the Summerset Isles or tried to start a civil war on Aldmeris and were exiled from there. The Bosmer had the distinction of remaining both loyal and treacherous depending on faction. During the Camorian dynasty feud of 2E 830 a number of Bosmer were about to go to the human Colovians (Imperials) and ask for support in exchange for peace and a working relationship. Thus they'd turned on the Altmer and the 'loyalists'. The Thalmor government was established and the Altmer and loyalist Bosmer defeated the Colovian Army.

    Their Fall:
    It was only later that Tiber Septim, with help from a united human race was able to defeat them. More accurately, Tiber Septim's control over Numidium was the principle cause. So essentially it was a super weapon that brought the elves to their knees. It should be noted one of Tiber Septim's notable way of bringing a unified humanity together was a crusade against the Elves.

    After that it went downhill. They'd been humiliated by a human force, and for the first time in their history, externally conquered. They'd resisted the Sload and Maormer and every horror that was unleashed even during their own times of internal strife and it was a human empire that brought them down. The next time the Sload invaded the Altmer had to beg for Imperial assistance. It's little wonder that they feel an enormous amount of humiliation and anger at the indignation of needing to ask for help from their conquerors. As such more and more Altmer youth are going back to the 'old ways'. It's gotten extreme enough that many are rejecting the established gods and returning to ancestral worship.

    Things deteriorated in the past 600 years. It's caused civil war and an enormous amount of internal tension ranging from loss of the pure-blood identity with miscegenation to the murder of their royals. Even now the Altmer maintain a literal shared memory of prior events. The old ways are formal and ordered in society that was stratified quite early on. Even so it was once an egalitarian society focusing on merits of wisdom. The arrival of the Imperial culture shattered their prior existence. That presence has admitted foreigners and stripped away much of their other identities while retaining the hierarchy without the support it was founded on. It's brought social unrest, fundamentalist and extremist ideals to the forefront of a culture that was forced to change against its will.

    If you're still following me after that long I'll say you people really are fantastic. But here comes the real question: what is there to learn from the Altmer? Are their views justified? Consequently how may we view the other races, especially the other Mer, in comparison?

  • January 18, 2015

    Amazing article, thank you very much!