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Details of the Dwemer Part 1

  • 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.



    Alright, well we get to one of the more requested topics (I think the requests stand at.... 3 but it's still the most!) So lets talk about the Dwemer. Now, of course caveat's being what they are, this is a long subject so it'll be split into three corresponding parts. Don't worry it's merely to keep everyone from feeling overloaded. The three parts will be dealing with the Dwemer and their culture, then their artifacts, and finally a short history and speculation on their demise.


    There's a lot of information out there; I've had to go back and reread more than a score of books and sources that dealt with the Dwemer and of course I could have still missed quite a bit. Still, I'll do my best to talk about the Deep Elves known as the Dwarves. We'll start with a quote from Dwemer History and Culture to set the stage:


    [The traditional image of the Dwemer are] so much more comfortable, so much friendlier, so much more familiar, than the real Dwemer, whose truly mysterious nature we are only beginning to understand. The public prefers the light, trivial version of this vanished race. And from what I have learned in my years of studying the Dwemer, I have some sympathy for that preference. As the following essays will show, the Dwemer were, to our modern eyes, a remarkably unlikeable people in many ways.”


    Nature of the Dwemer:

    This is a relatively new area in many respects. But the culture of the Dwemer is now at least partially understood thanks in part to Skyrim's books.


    We'll start with the basics, the Dwemer are an elven race more commonly referred to as the Dwarves or literally the Deep Elves. Their beginning colonization period of Tamriel is not well known and there is conjecture regarding if they were split off from the Aldmer and settled the coastal areas early on while the Aldmer settled Alinor (Pocket Guide to the Empire 3rd edition). While many sources point to them being about elf or man sized there are still modern sources that point to their diminutive status (Herbane's Bestiary: Dwarven Automatons). More frustratingly, these have to be given some credence as older tales speak of machines and armor that are mostly scrap pieces that had to be put back together. As such they are thought to be merely the external parts of other centurions that were stripped down (Ruins of Kemel-Ze). Most other sources state that they are called Dwarves due to the relative size compared to the giants of the Velothi mountains.


    They speak their own language known as Dwemeris which is their own somewhat incomprehensible manner of writing that deals as much in subtleties as what is outright stated (Douglass Goodall Interview). This makes their subjects somewhat difficult to understand for Tamrielic scholars who may lose contextual clues implied in the subject. The language itself seems to have 26 letters but beyond this their actual full context as to style and grammatical structure is speculative at best as examples exist of Dwemeris runes spelling out particular subjects in the common tongue as well as 'gibberish' texts being found. Then again there are significant differences between some of the runes between games which might simply be designer oversight, or explained simply as dialects and differing languages built on the same core principles. The Dwemer seem to be displayed similar to their speech in that they are complex, subject to skepticism, and certainly on the whole are an enigmatic riddle (The Importance of Where, Azura and the Box).


    The Dwemer are great metallurgists and are known for creating mechanical creatures such as the golems. It's said that it was a very important part of their society focused on strange and not well understood methods of control. Soul gems were used as focusing crystals but were not the entombed sources of thought of control. As such study and creation of golems was considered a practical widespread skill. While it may be nothing but boastfulness it seems that the Dwemer said that even their children were being taught to create such mechanical creatures (Chimarvamidium).



    The Dwemer social order seems to revolve around kings and yet beyond this there is known to be Councils. Nobles are the indicated Councilors yet maintain individual titles as well, thus they are depicted as being a rudamentary parliamentary system (Chronicles of Nchuleft). Conflict between lords was common enough and settled in duels. Artificers and engineers have replaced the clergy as the first estate of the Dwemer (Dwemer Inquiries vol 2); titles seem to be interchangeable but the quasi-religious manner of the Dwemer can be emphasized quite simply: Kagrenac's Tools refers to the titular authority as a "High Priest of Magecraft" where as Vivec's The Battle for Red Mountain calls him "High Engineer".


    Dwemer law seems to stem from Aldmeri customs which further reinforces that they were at least joined at one point despite the lack of records dealing with the Dwemer. There are provisos for the proper place of both slaves and automatons such as that of Karndar Watch stating: “"If one who is owned by another slays one who owns himself, the owner must pay the associates three fine instruments and the body of the one who his owned." It also mentions both 'Marsh cats' and Argonians which furthers that there was a deal of overland travel, trade, or at the very least expansion (Antecedents of Dwemer Law). We know full well about the Falmer ordeal that roughly corresponds with period following the Dwemer-Chimer war of 1E 122 (It is in the Falmer lore section). But as a refresher, it states that the Falmer were tricked into a lull in their security by the 'hosts' after being defeated and scattered by the Nords, their food was laced with toxic fungi which made the Falmer blind and chemically dependent and thus became slaves of the Dwemer.


    The rituals for the Dwemer burials seem to be the entombment of their armor with the heads removed and placed at their own feet. Such is a mark of honor and respect usually given to high nobles and Kings (Ruins of Kemel-Ze). The removal of helms and bowing seems to be the common theme for showing respect as it is noted in Nchunak's Fire and Faith as well. The image of a King seems to take priority and as such their likeness is remembered by the construction of larger animunculi (automatons). Much of what could be learned has been lost by looters and pillagers over the years but thankfully Skyrim literature seems to indicate some hope for the west rather than the east where the settlement patterns of cities is comparatively different from that of Vvardenfell.



    The Dwemer religion is not well understood and not well described in the various sources. In fact, a number of sources claim that no known rites and rituals remain at all which may be as much for the secular nature of the Dwarves as lost knowledge itself (Ruins of Kemel-Ze). What is generally believed is that the Dwarves are an agnostic people driven by reason rather than gods. Dwemer value logic and science, their master engineers received social status similar to that of clergy and often the titles are mixed depending on sources. This caused a great deal of stress between themselves and the arriving Chimer, and after that the Nords who were affronted by their secular ideals (Pocket guide to the Empire 3rd edition). More over, it seems that the Dwemer themselves caused many of the affronts by mocking Chimer rituals (Battle of Red Mountain).


    The Daedric prince Azura seemed to still factor into their religions. She was a proponent of the Chimer against the Dwemer and may have contributed to their losses in the war of the first council and perhaps their disappearance. This is said to be from a personal slight as recalled in Azura and the Box: the Dwemer wanting to uncover and 'bend' the laws of nature and to relegate the Aedra and Daedra to a secondary position by controlling creation themselves. Azura was tested to a game, letting the Dwemer try to demonstrate their skill and the fallibility of the Daedra with a simple question “If you're all knowing, what's in this wooden box?” she answered “a red petaled flower” but the box was empty or seemed to be. The actual red flower was there but had been snatched away as a simple matter of typical theater magic, that was, it was snatched in the sleeve of a robe. In a literary sense this seems to suggest a rose wilting and dying in a short span, as such, it was a curse that fell onto the Dwemer civilization which fell soon afterward just as the perpetrator died that night. The Dunmer version of this tale include Azura knowing the trick and slaying all the Dwemer present before cursing them. The Altmer version is not so different from the 'Cyrodiilic' version above.


    All in all it seems that the new depth to the Dwemer come from two principle layers: there is added emphasis on their logical pursuits, and there is an additional element in their personality. These are expressed through a less idealized society that merely stresses the importance of single ideals of a logical reason pursuit over sentimentality or external convictions. While detail regarding their society is still lacking there is at least some peculiarities and parallels that allow the Dwemer to be somewhat comparable to other races. In general it seems the Dwemer are not so demure as they have been popularly conceived.


    Part 2: Artifacts -> Part 3: History ->>


  • Member
    June 26, 2016

    Awesome, nice article, I'm going to play Dwemer Character, I get a lot of mods related to them, to make my game according to my character, I like to know about them, and this article looks really well made, nice job! I'm planning to write a short story about my Dwemer character and I like to add lore friendly features and thanks!

  • Member
    June 26, 2016

    Hugely positive to hear! Let the Lore Group know how you get on :) Personally, I cannot stand Dwemer :D