Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

Altmer Part 5: Piecing Together the Thalmor

  • 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.


    Piecing together the Thalmor

    The Thalmor, quite possibly the most hated groups not only in Skyrim, but now in the whole Elder Scrolls story. They're vicious, vile, bigoted, anti-religious, reactionary, racist, and their mothers dress them funny. There's dozens of insults and curses thrown their way almost all the time for a fairly extensive list of reasons. But there's always the simple question 'why are the Thalmor the way they are?' Most people will answer it 'because they're bad guys and I hate them'.

    Of course, that's not what we're looking for here. We've looked through the Elven Old Way and myth (not only in this Altmer Article but the Bosmer article as well) we've gained an understanding of their culture, we've glimpsed their homeland, and most of all, we've seen their shared history. Every single element of the Altmeri identity is at play with the Thalmor, so to properly understand them you have to understand the Altmer. So what can we deduce about the Thalmor, what they are, and why they act in the manner we've seen.

    This is the capstone subject in our Altmer series and one of the topics that has a great deal of relevence for The Elder Scrolls as we progress. If you haven't read the previous topics I suggest you do so as they are all intrically bound to this final subject.


    Who are They?

    So lets start with the basics, who are the Thalmor and who are the Aldmeri Dominion. In the easiest words possible, the Thalmor are the ruling body of the Aldmeri Dominion, but it's not a political party (The Talos Mistake). The Thalmor would be like saying 'Congress', 'The Legislature', and most accurately 'The Senate'. There is no King of the Thalmor, they are a council made up of individuals from across the Aldmeri Dominion given fair and equal representation. As of now, that is two unified regions, Valenwood, and Alinor, both of which get equal say in the Thalmor Council (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition) which is located in Alinor itself (Thalmor Dossier: Esbern).

    Taking what we know of the earlier Thalmor and knowing that it was simply refounded rather than re-envisioned, we can point out several things. The Thalmor constitutes a large council, acting on behalf of a pan-nationalistic Mer conglomerate. Half the representatives comes from the nobility and elders of the Summerset Isles, and half come from representing family clans in the form of Branch Chieftains. While the traditional Thalmor swore that they would be in the service of the High King of Alinor (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition) we have no way to know if they still have a High King (The Rising Threat). But, given they are supposed to serve Alinor, it may bring a new dynamic to the reason why the Summerset Isles was renamed Alinor. If there is no High King, then the Thalmor serve Alinor, and if the Thalmor serve Alinor then they are serving all the Aldmeri People.

    Through the purges of blood from before they took power, to the vicious wrangling of dissenters like Lethanil, the Thalmor has gained control of the Isles. For all intents and purposes, the Thalmor is the ruling clique and the 'Thalmor' agents are the same as any government style employee as we've seen that they are only acting on behalf of the Thalmor thus are said to be extensions of the Thalmor. Yet the principle power lies in a central council recognized by the various attaches (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition, Y.R asks if anyone 'on the Thalmor' know).

    Is it just a small corrupt senate of elite aristocracy imposing their will on others? It's tempting to say yes, but we don't know. Instead, what we do know is there are many different divisions and there are smaller regional leaders with a great amount of power. Not all 'Thalmor' are equal in station (Flight from the Thalmor). These are comprised of 'First Emissary' which are regional powers. These would be not only the equivalent of an ambassador but also a co-governor given the extra tasks they were assigned by the edicts of the White Gold Concordat. These emissaries are also responsible for all operations within their jurisdiction, thus it gives them more autonomy but are also required to be more personally responsible (Thalmor Dossier: Ulfric Stormcloak). Individual Thalmor agents (whether emissaries or agents) that fail are often quickly relieved of their post and sent back to Alinor for punishment, evaluation, and re-education (Thalmor Dossier: Esbern). However, we also know that this is the first of a number of tiers of responsibility as there is also mention of a third emissary as well (Thalmor Dossier: Delphine). These aren't simply nobles but long standing agents who have worked their way up the ranks (Thalmor Dossier: Ulfric Stormcloak).

    Aside from this are the simple rank and file agents of the Thalmor, they're employees and carry out orders much like any government organization required to do so. They themselves hold no power, they merely are authorizes to act on behalf of the government. Justiciars are the commonly seen example here. They are agents put in place that act as Marshals. The whole purpose of their existence is to keep the security of the Emissaries secured and most of all, to enforce the edicts of the White-Gold Concordat.

    It should be noted that Aldmeri Dominion soldiers are not Thalmor, Thalmor constitute civic service while groups such as 'Northwatch archers' are genuine Aldmeri Dominion soldiers. There does seem to be some degree of separation between Thalmor agents and the Aldmeri Dominion soldiers themselves, they are not synonymous, but sometimes at odds (Skyrim Dialogue). It's a subtle difference but important enough to mention. As a last final point of note, it's worth a mention, not all Altmer are Thalmor, and not all Thalmor are Altmer. The Thalmor are a council with agents of just about every race working towards goals that just so happen to be steeped in Altmeri tradition.


    What is their Creed?

    The purpose of the Aldmeri Dominion's Thalmor is simple: to “purify and pacify Tamriel to create a new Merethic era” (Lord of Souls). A Dangerous statement also issued in dangerous and tumultuous times before there was any agreement in the Thalmor as well. Nevertheless, this is what we were given, which seems fairly condemning.

    But that's not taking into account the Altmeri mindset. Take out the assumptions and you're left with a very simple goal in that they want to recreate the Merethic era. With what we know now, we can see that the past eras, notably the third but to a degree the first and second as well were viewed as catastrophic for all elves. Even the Tribunal was considered a decline from their earlier culture and the Chimer were essentially tribal barbarians despite their popularity (Pocket Guide to the Empire 3rd edition). Thus, the Thalmor is charged with doing the best for Elvenkind as a whole. With this, they gave up the efforts of the isolationists and accommodating political figures such as Andel Crodo which led them to disaster (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition). Now, they want to simply return to society to a Merethic state (Lord of Souls). It should be noted, if they go back to the actual Merethic state, it means that it would be not just a time of mer dominance, but also of mer unity, and peaceable interaction with humanity as well as what happened before the belligerent times of Ysgramor and his retinue.

    The Thalmor doesn't want mer to rule the world, they want to bring mer cultural supremacy back to the world instead of the stagnant and bloodthirsty human Imperial culture which violently usurped it. Altmeri culture is one of the brightest points they have for a race: most of the major advances in Tamriel have come from either the Altmer or the Akaviri Tsaesci. The current eras, the warring, the vicious ethnocentrism of the human rulers, the whole aspect of change for change sake isn't something positive to them. “Proving mer superiority one century at a time”, the way to look at it isn't as them snubbing one's nose in the 'I'm better than you' fashion, it's understanding they generally do mean that they will replace the vicious Imperialistic Human culture with a more pure Altmeri culture. We see the Khajiit as client states, there is no motivation to wipe anyone out or enslave anyone; the Thalmor aim for the promotion of something that they see is healthy. Yet the existing Imperial culture doesn't see this, so the Thalmor believe it simply needs to be soundly proven.

    Much of this is lost in translation because of the pre-existing Altmeri view of events and culture. To be convincing is to be truthful with them, they see themselves as guardians who possessed their ancient laws, powers, and good rule. But they also have a lot of trouble understanding humans, it makes this a point of debate and of difficulty in communicating values: an identical happening occurred with the Septims before when the Psijics had to introduce the Mythic Aubris to make the humans understand what they were getting at in the first place (Old Ways).

    In the most basic way possible, the Thalmor want to prove Mer cultural superiority over the Imperial human superiority that has been rampant since the 1st era. This doesn't mean humans are bad or unwelcome, it doesn't mean purification by ethnic cleansing or some other matter like that, it means that they intend to prove that they were right and destroy the brutal Imperialistic culture surrounding humanity. The Thalmor wants to act as an inclusive force for world change. They see Imperial human culture as a disease, and for some reason, the patient wants to stay sick rather than be cured. Humans have the same pride, believing their way far superior and not looking at the alternatives. Quite a number likely won't give it up, but they believe in the purification of these values, and pacification is likely the only way to do it. It's a realistic goal for them, from a logical perspective it makes sense A+B=C: Through purification of the loathsome Imperial culture, very likely through the pacification of foreign powers and subjugation of opposing forces, they can create their idea of the best possible course for all of Tamriel.


    The White Gold Concordat.

    One of the most obvious points of contention for people is the terms and conditions of the White Gold Concordat. On first inspection, they seem harsh and unjustified, but just about every term was really just the result of them reclaiming what they believe would have been fair to them had they been dealt with fairly. Let us go through them one by one:


    1. Paying tribute money:

    The payment of tribute money is likely spawned from a very old long lasting issue or issues. Perhaps there are combined given the amount which was said to be quite high. During the first era Alinor in particular was noted for paying tribute and protection money to the Imperials under Reman Cyrodiil to avoid problems and war (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition). It was appeasement money, and yet Alinor had to endure occupation as did likely other Summset Isle locations. Furthermore, despite this protection sum being paid, the Imperils have never been noted in defending them from the Sload during the war of the Isle. Essentially they paid protection money and got nothing from it.

    The second possibility is that this is the sum that should have been gained if it weren't for the combined Blades/Penitus Oculatus forays into Valenwood which created and perpetuated a proxy war. It was expensive and took an incredible amount of time, yet the Penitus Oculatus are an official Imperial agency which make them responsible for their own actions which would make this total reparation money.


    2.Disbandment of the Blades:

    This seems to be, from outside eyes, a ridiculous statement. Shutting down a state run intelligence operation because of their counter-intelligence activities. The difference is, that mantle passed to the Penitus Oculatus, the Blades had no real reason or intrinsic right to be inside the borders conducting raids when they had no authorization (Rise and Fall of the Blades). We know they were 'active' that's all the Blades themselves were willing to say, that they weren't willing to say is that they are the reason for a fire that claimed a large part of an Aldmeri Doiminion city (Falinesti fires, Thalmor Dossier: Delphine, Thalmor Dossier: Esbern). It also wasn't said that they were responsible for the large scale prison breaks (Prison Break of Blue River Thalmor Dossier: Esbern). The Blades activities were never sanctioned, they were never governmental, it was a rogue agency that simply did as it pleased and caused an enormous amount of damage in the Dominion over an extended period of time. Thus, the Thalmor called for the close of what would essentially be a terrorist organization that might very well start another major conflict.


    3.Ceding sections of Southern Hammerfell:

    Quite possibly one of the hardest to explain and even conceptualize for the Thalmor to have posed as demands is this point. Nevertheless, there are a number of very likely possibilities for its inclusion.

    The first is that this is essentially rooting out the well known pirate trade in the southern port cities of Hammerfell. The Abscean sea piracy has been a plague on Alinor since at least the second era, and likely the first though the source of the attacks have likely shifted. The Altmer themselves have already went to war with allies in the past to deal with this issue (during the War of the Blue Divide) so it's certainly not just a remote possibility.

    The second is the most dangerous of all. The Altmer do have a right to southern Hammerfell as being one of the initial occupiers through their ties to the Direnni. This option, however, would show not only that the Thalmor are working on incredibly ancient ideology but also that they have plans for the other Direnni holdings, notably, the Reach in Skyrim, and High Rock This seems like a major issue with trade as well through the Illiac bay, but while it's not a nice or supportive reason, it remains a potential reason for their terms.

    The third is a little different but would explain a number of things. The Dominion may have a claim to it for the same reason they had an obligation to secure Valenwood, protection clauses in ancient treaties. The First Aldmeri Dominion had a number of allies, amongst them were a number of leagues and people of Hammerfell, notably, around Stros M'kai (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition). This may account for the exceptionally strange lack of mention during the great War and the location for the peace summit that concluded the Hammerfell theater of the Great War (The Great War). If there were official treaties to Stros M'kai or with the monarch Thassad II or Crown Prince Ator, then that would entitle the Dominion to the old lands as well.

    Nevertheless, the demands of southern Hammerfell is a very peculiar and quite possibly the most absurd of the four known clauses of the White-Gold Concordat.


    4.Banning of Talos Worship:

    Now this is the big one, a stipulation put in place by the Thalmor that let people crucify them, and yet it's the one that they are most likely in the right to call for beyond a reasonable doubt. It's not a simple measure of infringing on some supposed right to religion, it's about dismantling a bloodthirsty racist cult. They said they would do it, this is the first step of 'purification for all' that was put forward by the Thalmor Creed.

    Talos, a righteous god, a grand and wonderful ascended Divine that opened up a glorious age of prosperity and peace... not from the Altmeri point of view. We know that Talos wasn't born a god, how did he become a god? Through being a bloodthirsty warlord? (Redguard) Through unleashing a weapon of mass destruction on a peaceful foreign population center? (On Morrowind) By turning the weapon on his political opponents at home? (Arcturian Heresy) Through viciously depopulating subjugated areas and causing wanton destruction? (Pocket Guide to the Empire 3rd edition) Through having his ethnocentric ideals around human supremacy used to abort a half-breed child from his lover so his legitimate heir wouldn't have any competition for the throne? (The Real Barenziah) Why was Tiber Septim's heritage, loyalty, and motivations questioned even after he had won one greatest and most decisive battle of his career at the battle of Hunding Bay? (Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition) Simply put, through what method, and for what reason did Tiber Septim become a god? There is one though, it was spelled out quite clearly in Cyrodiilic culture.

    Cyrodiilic and Nord cultures venerate heroes, that much is true, the Elves do it as well. However, while the Elven heroes are often from the first generations of their king, or through certain specific circumstances in the case of the tribunal, the Cyrodiils and Nords will simply set up a shrine and start praising their savior as a God (Reflections of Cult Worship). It's common, Tiber Septim did this to his own predecessor Emperor Cuhlecain by establishing the Cult of Zero-Emperor (Arcturian Heresy, Pocket Guide to the Empire 3rd edition). One of the most peculiar points of note is that the central Cyrodiilic people were not generally in favor of Talos as a Divine, his converts were from three groups of people: the military, the provincials, and those recently assimilated into Imperial culture (Reflections on Cult Worship) so while the altruism behind some of the dialogue of 'The Talos Mistake' might not be correct, the general principle that he was merely a great man and Emperor, is still viewed favorably.

    Often the question associated with the Thalmor/Human dichotomay is that it's phrased in the form of a Nord question. “Is Talos a god?” There's evidence back and forth for this. The Nords have phrased the debate on their own terms by making it an issue of religious freedoms. It bypasses the quintessential Altmeri counter-question which is never asked directly, “Why are you following him?” (As an aside, I feel into this trap many many times. It's a question always put forward with the unquestionable and unspoken answer that Talos should be worshiped and it's merely a matter of if they can worship him) What is the purpose of worshiping someone like Talos? As a point of note, Reman Cyrodiil had a cult and was worshiped as a hero god, Pelinal Whitestrake did too, so why did Talos become so popular for them?

    The reason for this has almost nothing to do with Talos, it has to do with someone far earlier, Lorkhan. Nords in particular have associated Talos worship with worship of Shor, the Nord name for Lorkhan. This has allowed them a chance to transpose Lorkhan worship onto Talos as a Divine all his own. The Nords in particular have ascribed Talos the position of Shor that was never mentioned in traditional worship “Talos has become Lord of the Divines” (Priest Heimskr, Nords Arise!). It makes sense, Shor and Septim have many similarities: being a warlord with an ethnocentric point of view (Redguard, Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition), they were notable for uniting human lands, they were both notable for being vicious, both were ascribed to being pure Atmoran Nords making them the quintessential role models for Nords. But when the Cyrodiilic 'apologist' religion of the 8 Divines were being created, the Alessians understood the value of not including Shor in their worship as it was offensive and vicious and couldn't win converts on its own message of bloodshed and violence (Shezzar and the Divines). They half-heartedly included him as a 'god' but not a recognized Divine in Shezzar. The Nords were unhappy with this but accepted it. When Talos worship became acceptable they simply used him as a method of transference between Shor to Talos and thus had their Divines not only included, but placed at the top of the pantheon.

    Ergo worship to Talos is worship to the ideologies of Shor, and thus Lorkhan which is why the Altmer are so displeased. Likewise, this same religion that had already compromised their own gods was forced on them in the form of the 8 Divines. Thus when Talos became the 9th Divine they were forced to worship him too. There are still very very likely Altmer alive that knew Tiber Septim first hand, it's only been about 700 years. Thus they still remember the time when Talos was their cruel, vicious conqueror and humans see it as something that always was and always had been. The Altmer wish to correct this, after all, they have no problem with the 8 Divines, in fact they support this, but the worship of Talos is simply worshiping the memory of a person who's quintessential personality was to demean the accomplishments of non humans and subjugate them under his rule.

    There is one group that would whole heartedly agree that Talos was a god, the Psijics. However, that doesn't make him a Divine, and it doesn't make him good, it makes him merely important. Simply following the path of religious connections in the Altmeri tradition, this would make Talos a paradox, a Sithian creation that was by their very definition, a Daedra, which gives him power, authority, and ruthlessness, everything that traditional Altmeri religion says they are to avoid or else they'll end up like Trinimac. The worship of Talos, is therefor, a corruption in and of itself no matter how an Altmer will look at it. That is the reason why Talos worship is banned.


    Obstacles and Methodology:

    One of the most often quoted arguments against the Thalmor is that they are simply acting like villains. We can dismiss the cultural connections simply associated with Altmer now that they have been covered, but it leaves specific individual questions too. The Thalmor were noted for having many spies, brutalizing opposition groups, bypassing recognized boundaries for sovereign realms, they want to destroy the world, and on the most basic level for wanting to kill the player just about every chance they get. Well, believe it or not, there's answers for all of them including the later. But there's also a reason for it that is missed because of the scope of the game itself.


    The Thalmor and You

    As for killing the player, we have to understand two things for this. First of all, the game pretty much assumes if we're advancing in the main story we're the Dragonborn, and if we're not advancing in the storyline we're likely causing problems for them and their operations (Thalmor execution order). What isn't spoken of much is two-fold. First of all, there is a prophecy in Thalmor records by Altmeri oracles that speak of the Dragonborn, it's actually the very first reference we've ever had in the Elder Scrolls with regards to a Dragonborn. It's likely a danger, and more over, it was the exact same question posed for Tiber Septim. Taking it word for word from the Pocket Guide to the Empire 1st edition's notations by the Thalmor military attache: “I now believe the oracles have been badly misinterpreted - Septim may indeed be the Dragonborn as foretold. The Mer must unite at last or be consumed one by one.” Whether this is the Dragonborn's destiny or the military attache was right that Septim was 'the Dragonborn' that they were speaking of still gives credence to Thalmor panic about the discovery of the player character.

    Otherwise, we must once again remember that the Altmeri mindset is to simply follow orders and plan for the long term. Short term interruptions are handled very poorly (Father of the Niben, Mannimarco King of Worms). The return of the dragons came out of nowhere and this was something they certainly didn't expect and couldn't plan for. Most of the rest of the events in Skyrim is focused around them basically throwing their hands up saying 'how is this happening?' They don't know how to react, we see in their missives this is one of the principle plot points, they're trying to make sense of the attacks which is made worse because of their culture. In the dossiers we see that the upper eschelon is still trying to come to grips with what this Dragon attack in Helgen means, and secondly they think that the Blades either know or are responsible for it showing up. As the game progresses we see the Thalmor trying to obtain any knowledge of older Dragon Mythology (Thalmor Dossiers, Vadmir's orders).

    It's made even worse by one simple aspect, if the Thalmor in Skyrim fail to contain both the Civil War and the new appearance of the Dragonborn then there is one person that is held personally responsible, First Emissary Elenwen. Her predecessor was removed because of similar situations in dealing with the Blades, she herself is in danger of being removed as well unless she deals with everything which makes many of the actions rash, hasty, and uninformed at best. It's the actions of a confused and baffled group of secluded Thalmor representatives, not the whole of the Aldmeri Dominion or the whole of the Thalmor themselves.


    Case of the Missing Hypocrite

    Now lets look at the question of spies. The Thalmor wanted the Blades disbanded yet they have both kill teams and many spies going around interrogating people and locking them up. Hypocritical no? Short answer, no. The Blades are a special case, they were non governmental in nature and more of a terrorist group than a spy group.

    The Penitus Oculatus is a much better example, and we never hear of the Thalmor wanting to prosecute them for it. The reasons for this are simple at its core, spies aren't wrong, but they must face the consequences of their actions. Looking over any of the execution orders or interrogation orders it's made abundantly clear that if Thalmor agents are caught by the guard or doing things illegally that they have to face the consequences, the Thalmor will not help them. It's simply a way of life, in the same manner, the Penitus Oculatus is able to do the exact same thing and are treated in an identical fashion. It's a matter of obtaining military intelligence which perfectly aligned with Altmeri doctrines for warfare and politics, learn as much as you can and formulate a plan rather than going off half cocked. It's a question of necessity and one they have no problem with, one that no realm has problem with employing (The Great War, Rise and Fall of the Blades).


    “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”

    Our third point is that of the brutalization of opposition groups. While they're often characterized as some fearfully oppressed people targeted by the Thalmor we have to look at their actions as well. For the most part, the people that are targeted cross that borderline for terrorism or subversion line quite frequently. The groups of the third era, like the Beautiful, people don't have a problem with seeing destroyed yet the Altmeri and Bosmeri Imperial loyalists fostered by their confusion and loyalty to Imperialism are seen in a sympathetic light.

    The cold hard truth is even their ideologically 'correct' people like Lathenil are still being fairly vicious in their methods against the Dominion. The Blades were involved with the fires, prison breaks, and many other activities wrought havoc across the Dominion where they had no call to be. Proxy wars were fought with foreigners coming inside Aldmeri territory during the time of Titus Mede I. People like Lathenil were not only creating cabals to spy and subvert the government of their own realm, but also going to spread misinformation of a very threatening nature during a time of panic when people were willing to believe anything (including the mages guild starting the Oblivion Crisis which was the reason they collapsed). This makes them an enemy of the state in every way possible, hiding in a foreign realm and spreading misinformation or causing subversion is something controversial no matter how its phrased.

    Earlier pogroms were during the same time of lunacy when there was no central government, there was no nothing in place, the people were merely reacting to whatever lurked in dark corners, it's a very normal, natural, and lamentable condition. But the Opposition groups that do exist are being persecuted because they are causing innumerable problems and crimes in the dominion (Thalmor Dossiers, Rise and Fall of the Blades, Rising Threat).


    Lines in the Sand

    The previous topic leads in to this one as they concern the same groups. These same dissident groups causing so much trouble are bypassing boundaries and basing their anti Thalmor operations out of neighboring neutral realms. The Thalmor are villinised by going in to mop them up, but they are targeted, it's not some mass destruction style. During the Night of Green Flames the Thalmor went into a camp in Sentinel and ended up in a very literal firefight with dissident groups (Skyrim Dialogue).

    This illustrates two things, they were against dangerous armed groups located within the relative safety of a refugee camp when the camp wasn't targeted, and that they were large enough to cause problems for an organized force. In Lord of Souls we're told that the Thalmor have been focusing on the same style of killings involving dissidents in these camps with many being Half-elves. There's no real surprise here for that, it's the exact style that many think is protection. So the question becomes, when people and groups are causing physical damage as terrorists (such as Falinesti), or causing drastic political damage that could lead to war, does the rightful government have the responsibility to act and neutralize these threats to their own national security? It's a real question, not one that I have an answer for; ask yourselves this question and look around, we deal with the exact same issue in modern times and different people have different legitimate answers. .


    Union with the Cats

    After the collapse of the Confederacy of Elseweyr in 4E 115 the Dominion absorbed the two constituent states of Anequina and Pellitine. This event has two primary aspects of discussion centered around them. On the one hand the absorbing of the former Confederacy of Elsweyr represents something in the Thalmor's Creed. It shows that purification and subjugation can be done with relative autonomy. The ideals are what is at stake, the cultural heart of Tamriel is the prize, not territory and not people but ideologies.

    Then there's the matter of geopolitics, Elsweyr provides the Aldmeri Dominion with a bargaining chip to help better balance Tamrielic politics. It reinforces Valenwood, and Valenwood keeps Alinor safe from invasion. Each supports the other. Because of its proximity and rich history of trade and mercantilism it also makes the Khajiit valuable allies in this respect rather than giving resources and wealth through trade to the Empire. However, the tactical point can't be over-stated too. The space between Elsweyr and the critical supply line to the Imperial city through the river Niben is incredibly small. It also threatens two of Cyrodiils major cities which has come into play during the events of the great war. Basically, just by being where they are, they provide an ideal stranglehold on the Empire's Cyrodiilic military and economic capabilities.


    Politicians or Super Villains?


    One of the most damning pieces of evidence oftten comes up when all else fails is the nearly indisputable seeming statement “The Thalmor are trying to destroy the world and kill all other races.”

    The answer to this is no, they aren't. Not officially, and not by any account in the game, or any written word at least. It was an older post from the developer Michael Kirkbride which never made it into any elder Scrolls game or publication. A lot of his stuff is interesting, but at best we have to consider it both non canonical and fringe-worthy material (Otherwise there is also time travelers from the 9th era in the same area, we know exactly what happened to the Dwarves, and the Tsaesci are more confusing than ever). At best we can take this as a minimal response and a fringe response of certain Altmeri rather than being widespread amongst Thalmor operatives. This was never in Skyrim, it's never been stated by any member of the Thalmor, it never appeared in any book, it merely appeared as one post on a website written by their brilliant but eclectic background metaphysics writer. Bethesda has no connection with it and Kirkbride had nothing to do with Skyrim either. As it is now, it's essentially a fan-fic.


    Adding Methods to Madness

    In the end all of this comes down to one question, why are they acting this way? We have to remember that the Dominion is having to reconstitute what it means to be Altmeri from an Altmeri point of view. They have to overcome the corruption and changes brought around by force under the rule of the Septim Dynasty, and they have to deal with the Oblivion crisis which hit them hard. In fact, the blow to the Altmer may have been the most severe in Tamriel because of the destruction of the Crystal Tower. This is the destruction of Altmeri history and their links with the Aldmer themselves. They no longer have proof of who they were, they lost a great deal of their information, and their heritage. Their rulers and a lot of their cultural institutions had collapsed in the wake of the Oblivion crisis, and there were many factions vieing for control of the Summerset Isles. The Thalmor have no template on how they are supposed to react. Under the first rulers of the Summerset Isle they agreed to become part of the Empire under Reman Cyrodiil, they negotiated to a settlement and suffered for that act. Then they chose to remain neutral and non-involved with Septim to which they greatly suffered for that. What's left? The Thalmor are essentially forced into a pro-active role because they are required to in order to establish sovereign control of the constituent territories of the Aldmeri Dominion.


    In Conclusion:

    I'm not here to simply sell the Aldmeri Dominion as the one great hope, what I'm trying to do is simply portray them in the same light that they see themselves in. Skyrim might be a fun game, but most of the positive stuff about the Thalmor, or at least their reasoning is hidden under a lot of layers. It was a good choice from a lot of perspectives but on the other hand it's done little to assuage a certain attitude built up that the only people who like the Thalmor are: crazy, against freedom, only agreeing to buck the trend, or favorite letters happen to be NSDA and P. There is another side to them, there is a reason why they're acting the way they do. Whether you support the Imperials, the Stormcloaks, the Thalmor, or none of them doesn't matter. All I'm trying to do here is show that the Thalmor is a valid choice for interest and allegiances and hopefully clearing up some misconceptions.

    Bethesda has done a wonderful job of including grey options to their game and making Nirn a far more divisive but engaging setting to enjoy. It wasn't a problem with storytelling, it's an opportunity to further emphasize interesting stories and points of notes that engage people and let them see things from different entirely valid perspectives. It doesn't matter as much what you support, only that you find some hook that gets you to support them or to go against them. None of the factions are perfect, we see that with Skyrim more than possibly any previous Elder Scrolls experience. The Thalmor just take a little more digging to fully comprehend. Perhaps this will be what Bethesda does to shake things up in the future and surprise the vast majority of players and people not reading this little set of articles.

    I'd like to take a second just to thank UESP for cataloging most of the books for the article, The Elder Scrolls Wiki for the pictures, and the Imperial Library for their excellent annotations for the First Edition Pocket Guide to the Empire. But most of all, I thank you for your time and your effort for reading these, and I'd like to thank you additionally for the discussions and comments here too. It means I know if I'm doing something right (or wrong for that matter) so it's much appreciated. Best wishes, and I hope you've enjoyed the look at the Altmer.


    ← Part 4: History of the High Elves


  • Member
    July 31, 2014

    A common reply in defense of the bogus "Destroy the world" theory:

    "But what about Ancano and his actions with the eye of magnus when he says he's going to destroy the world?"

    My response: ... Yeah, what about him?

    1st of all, I need to point out that Ancano does not actually say he's going to unmake the world. Only that he's CAPABLE of it. Also, consider the context of the whole dialogue:

     "You've come for me, have you?, You think I don't know what you're up to? You think I can't destroy you? The power to unmake the world at my fingertips, and you think you can do anything about it?"

    When taken in context, it becomes clear that what he is doing here is threatening the player, not announcing any intentions. He is declaring that he HAS THE POWER to do so, not that HE IS GOING TO DO SO, and is using that power to taunt the player and trying to make himself look magic-tough.

    Whether he actually is capable or not is an unrelated topic to this discussion.

    2. Okay let's say for the sake of argument, yes, Ancano is actually going to use that power to unmake the world. Then we must ask the question: What connects his intention with that of the thalmor? The answer is... nothing. There is no written order on behalf of Elenwen or anyone else telling him to use the eye for this purpose, or even to seize the eye itself. No orders from the higher ups, no written or spoken words from any thalmor anywhere to back up Ancano's goal of wanting to unmake mundus. In short: the only thing "connecting" him to any sort of goal of the thalmor is the fact that he parades around wearing a Thalmor robe, which is pretty flimsy "evidence". 

    It's like saying that because you can find an imperial/stormcloak in the redwater skooma den in dawnguard, the Imperial's goal is to get everyone hooked on skooma, which is just plain ridiculous.  

    Given this (lack of) evidence, it's not hard to conclude that Ancano was acting on behalf of Ancano, if that even. The most logical conclusion we can draw from ancano is Ancano saw an artifact of great power, tried to seize it for the thalmor (We see similiar actions by Ancarion in solsteim, and Valmir outside of Forelhost. Unlike Ancano though we do have evidence linking their actions back to orders on behalf of the Thalmor), but there was a not so little problem: That being, the eye is not something you can just stick in your pocket and sneak away with, he had no choice but to hunker down, try and use its power to eject everyone from the college until Thalmor reinforcements could arrive to haul it away. However in the process of doing so got high on magnus's magicka joy juice, and completely lost his mind, not helped by the player recovering the staff and breaking his barrier.

  • Member
    July 31, 2014

    There's also Esbern's dialogue in which he says:

    The Thalmor don't wish to see the world end any more than we do, at least not unless it's on their terms.

    Then there's Delphine's dialogue:

    When I was young, our leaders became obsessed with the Thalmor threat. They believed that if and when we found a Dragonborn, we would need to protect him/her against the Thalmor.

    To me, Ancano's destroy the world speech comes across as too cartoon-villainy without the Thalmor motive behind it, which itself is quite cartoony and is why I like it left unsaid.

  • Tom
    July 31, 2014

    Thalmor destroying the world is based upon the pseudo-lore of Towers, which isn't canon and the brainchild of Kirkbride. It can be dismissed easily if we're focused on Canon.

    Vix wrote some great Lore articles, but I don't particularly care for his pro-Mer, especially Altmer, bias which really comes through from reading his responses in related topics. But heck, I take the human viewpoint of cosmology.

  • Member
    July 31, 2014
    Well, the Wheel and the Towers are mentioned in game, though this coild be Akaviri allegory for the Aedra and Daedra.
  • Member
    July 31, 2014
    I can justify it by him going mad with power, since, if I was him, I'd rather rule the world. Since he basically has a fraction of Magnus's power, it coild be driving his puny mortal head bonkers, and he might be a bit crazy. Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely
  • Member
    July 31, 2014

    Phil, you bring those lines but why do you keep seeing in them confirmations of the Thalmor world-destroying intentions is beyond me. 

    The Thalmor don't wish to see the world end any more than we do, at least not unless it's on their terms.

    This just means that the Thalmor wants to rule over humans, not destroy the world the moment they can.

    Delphine's dialogue claims that the leaders of the Blades thought that the Thalmor wanted to assassinate the Dragonborn. By that time there were no dragons, and the Thalmor didn't know that they are going to come back as evidenced by journals in the embassy. They simply wanted to cripple Blades by eliminating their symbol - the Dragonborn who would also possess dangerous amount of power to them.

  • Member
    July 31, 2014

    There are loremasters among you, heads so heavy with learning that you cannot raise your eyes to the heavens to see the truth there written!

    And Talos said to the Arctus, "Let us join as one to fortify this throne, this land, these people, each one glorious under heaven!"

    Wait and see guys. Time and time again this out of game stuff gets validated - it's happening right now with ESO. So keep burying your heads in the sand and attempting to explain it all away.

  • Member
    July 31, 2014

    The moment I see several non-connected sources confirming that theory I'll be the first to accept it. But I'm not going to assume its true because of some quotes which can interpreted in two ways at the least and 1-2 books written as obscurely as it is possible.

    Not going to lie, I won't be happy if it happens, but I'll admit that I was wrong.

  • Member
    July 31, 2014
    So, you don't believe Arctus, and Wulfarth fused with Tuber after the Mantella deal?