Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

What are Dragons?

  • Mr. likes this
  • Member
    January 24, 2015

    I thought it'd be fun if we'd take a look at and discuss what these iconic creatures are in TES lore. In any such discussion it is always important to go back to the sources first.

    The book There be Dragons says:

    they just were, and are. Eternal, immortal, unchanging, and unyielding. They are not born or hatched. They do not mate or breed. There are no known examples of dragon eggs or dragonlings.

    An idea backed up by Shalidor's Insights which says:

    "Dragons have existed since the beginning of Time, as some kind of kindred spirits to (crossed out text) -- ???? & lesser relation to him or his children or part of him that split off when Time began or ---. In the beginning, dragons were wild and uncivilized, like everything else. Alduin was the creator of dragon civilization - the Firstborn and the...

    Another book which hints at the origins of dragons, The Dragon War, has this to say:

    Dragons, being dragons, embraced their role as god-kings over men. After all, were they not fashioned in Akatosh's own image? Were they not superior in every way to the hordes of small, soft creatures that worshipped them? For dragons, power equals truth. They had the power, so therefore it must be truth.

    I think that last line is going to become very significant as we progress. For now, let's take a look at their souls.

    The soul of a creature is very important in determining what it actually is. In the case of dragons, we know they cannot be killed permanently except by another dragon or Dragonborn.The first hint of this ability is in The Book of the Dragonborn:

    The Nords tell tales of Dragonborn heroes who were great dragonslayers, able to steal the power of the dragons they killed.

    In a sense, they are absorbing time.

    So, are dragons literally the children of Akatosh, or is this just allegory, meaning instead that dragons are the some of the other spirits which formed after him? This is an idea found in Varieties of Faith:

    (Akatosh) is generally considered to be the first of the Gods to form in the Beginning Place; after his establishment, other spirits found the process of being easier...

    Another alternative is that all dragon souls are actually pieces of Aka-Tusk. Now, I don't want to stray too far down this path as it is mostly out of game. Suffice it to say that in order to reconcile how all these different versions of The Dragon God of time exist (Akatosh, Auriel, Alkosh etc..) it became necessary to draw upon OOG sources and assume that all those aspects are shards of a greater oversoul, the original Time Dragon Aka-Tusk. 

    Regardless, we know dragons are especially attuned to the flow of time thanks to Paarthurnax's dialogue in game. 

    So, lets have a look at the Dragonborn. Are these beings literally dragons? The fact they can absorb souls as dragons do indicate they are. Also, the book Varieties of Faith has this to say on Ysmir:

     Later, many Nords could not look on him without seeing a dragon.

    This is not the first time legendary figures have been described as dragons. In the pseudo-lore book The Five Hundred Mighty Companions or Thereabouts of Ysgramor the Returned, the Companions are described as dragons once they reach Tamriel. Also, remember this shocker back in the day?

    Now, before you pelting the rocks of "notcanon" and the stones of "Kirkbridehate", I have referenced this book for the sake of raising a hypothetical question:

    Remember earlier the last line from that quote from The Dragon War, for dragons, power equals truth. They had the power, so therefore it must be truth? Couple that with Paarthurnaax's dialogue in which he talks about their innate will to dominate and it makes one wonder are all dragons embodiments of an idea? Gods in way?

    If so, we know that mythopoeic forces can shape gods. How does this concept fit into Talos and Ysgramor lore, taking into consideration Kuhlmann's own thoughts on Ysgramor as a dragon? Simply, given enough time and hyperbole is it possible for anyone to become a dragon?

    To wrap this up, I'm wondering what your thoughts are on the true nature of dragons. What are they? How were they made? In regards to legendary heroes being deified/dragonised, what does this mean for our Dovahkiin in future? The next TES god?

  • Member
    January 24, 2015

    well according to the welsh flag and all the legends dragons have 4 legs for a start lol

  • Member
    January 24, 2015

    <stroking my beard> I'll have to think on this . . . .

  • Member
    January 24, 2015

    ha imagine if they did have a four legs that would just be scary they are dangerous enough as they are

  • Member
    January 24, 2015

    You can find some interesting information about dragons and god worship in King Edward Part XI and XII. I think when stories refer to great heroes as dragons, the word is used to describe their great deeds. Deeds that require very large power, something only the dragons are capable of.

    I also think that dragons don't really die. Even when Dragonborn absorbs their soul, the soul simply changes its vessel. Notice that when we kill Miraak, we get dragon souls from him. 

  • Tom
    January 24, 2015

    Unfortunately, my ideas on the subject ultimately end up in the miasmic cloud of Maybe-Lore that it seems almost all of TES Lore culminates to.

    Fragments upon fragments upon altered fragments that run both ways in time that can be changed in either direction by the right form of singing.

    Now, Ysgramor and the descriptions of many mortals as being draconic in appearance I really think are metaphorical. Dragons are the top dogs throughout TES. Countless empires in Nirn's history use it as their symbol and describe their ruler's as dragons. Dragons are Power. If you have Power, you must be a Dragon.

  • January 24, 2015
    Tom, do you think that's for true Tosh-Raka as well? That his alleged transformation is metaphorical?
  • Member
    January 24, 2015

    If you took your last sentence Tom and turned it into a meme, does it make any difference? In terms of mythopoeia, wouldn't the metaphorical become the literal? It holds a few similarities to the walking way of mantling, walk like them until they must walk like you.

  • Member
    January 24, 2015

    What I got from this is that either a) ultimately no dragon is ever really dead, soul absorbed and skeleton bared or not or b) dragons must eventually go well and truly extinct or c) dragons do really die, excepting Alduin who is just going to keep resurrecting them until they actually can destroy the world.

    It seems like it'd be hard to answer without knowing what happens to a dragon soul "spent" to learn a new word of power. Is it still there, just sitting quietly know that it's knowledge has served a purpose? Or is it really consumed to learn that Shout?

    I'm more inclined to believe that dragons just don't die after reading this, based on Durnehviir. Valerica attributes his invincibility to his nature as dragon rather than any workings of the Ideal Masters, and he reconstitutes almost immediately. It suggests that he is extremely powerful (perhaps second only to Alduin?) and is a precedent for other dragons having this ability. Perhaps, given enough time, they could do likewise. Then again, they all remained entombed (or ignominiously headless in Dragonsreach) for thousands of years without regenerating so much as a scale. What does Durn have that they don't?

  • Member
    January 24, 2015

    Good catch Vaz. I was thinking of including that as an example of the point I was going to make but decided it was already getting too complex.

    What I'm saying is that maybe dragons are metaphors, that what defines a dragon is less about what one looks like but what qualities one possesses. Nords and dragons have always been wrapped up with one another, but how much of that is because they share a lot of the same ideas. Conquest, domination and war to name a few.

    Over time and with legends and stories growing about you long after your death you get dragonised, like a posthumous version of mantling.