Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

Examining the Time Dragon

  • January 11, 2016

    This discussion is designed to give readers (both new and old) a semi-detailed glance into the Aspects of the Time Dragon, and connected Deities. I'll mainly be talking about Akatosh and Auri-El, as arguably the most well-known aspects but later on I'll delve into Alkosh of the Khajiit, Alduin of the Nords and even diving into the Redguard's Deity of Ruptga. 

    Akatosh or Auri-El: A glance into the 'True God'

    Akatosh and Auri-El are the two most common aspects of the Time Gods, the first is the God of Men, the leader of the Nine (or Eight/ Eight and One) Divines and the second holds an even higher place within Altmeri culture as not only the chief of the Aldmeri Pantheon but also possibly connected to Anui-El and Anu.

    Auri-El is the soul of Anui-El, who, in turn, is the soul of Anu the Everything (Varieties of Faith).

    Although technically everything is connected to Anu, the connection with Auri-El is closer than nearly any other, with only Sithis, Anui-El and Padomay being closer.

    So, to answer the question I must first ask a question that is widely open to the reader to decide. Is whoever came first the True God? If so, then your answer is shortly Auri-El, if not then it gets a bit trickier. We’ll need to look at each of them in great detail.

    The earliest mentions of Auri-El are during early stages of Aldmeri Culture, which I can only guess to place at around 2000-1500 ME (Merethic Era) where they stopped simply worshipping their ancestors (Like the Dunmer) into worshipping Ancestors who they held to a higher standard, and thus became gods over time.

    The religion of the people also changed because of this change in society: no longer did the Aldmer worship their own ancestors, but the ancestors of their "betters." Auriel, Trinimac, Syrabane, and Phynaster are among the many ancestor spirits who became Gods (Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition)

    So, the Aldmer worshipped Auri-El as an ancestor, which while similar to worshipping him as a god it isn't quite the same as the modern worship of Auri-El, which really is where the Aldmer society started to change into the Altmer society. The Snow Elves of Skyrim began worshipping him in a different way, involving more pilgrimages and actually desiring to become one with him

    Many of the most dedicated snow elves once committed themselves to a tireless journey through the Chantry to the Inner Sanctum. They carried with them the paramount desire to become one with their god, Auri-El (Touching the Sky)

    The first mention of Akatosh is much later during the First Era somewhere during the third century when Alessia creates the original Eight Divines. However it is plausible that he was around for longer, considering the Eight was made by “...fusing the pantheons of the Nords and Cyrodiilic tribes, who followed Altmeri deities” (Shezzar and the Divines). Though it is unlikely these tribes could have been worshipping Akatosh from as early as 1000 ME when the first known settlements or men are found in Cyrodiil (Frontier, Conquest, and Accommodation: A Social History of Cyrodiil).

    This 1000-3000 year gap between the two would point us solidly in the direction of Auri-El being the original Deity and Akatosh being a mere copy if it wasn’t for a particular event during the 16th century of the 1st Era, namely the Dragon Break (or Middle Dawn).

    The Dragon Break was supposedly caused by the Marukhati Selective, a sect of the Alessian Order. Now, what you need to know of the Marukhati Selective, is that they were incredibly hateful of the Aldmer (and by extension all Elves). This hatred, while possibly justified (Due to the whole slavery thing) is what eventually led to them “attempting to exorcise elements of elven Auri-El from Imperial Akatosh.“ (Where Were You When the Dragon Broke?).

    So here is where it gets really tricky. The Dragon Break in my eyes could have because of these four events, each with a wildly different effect on the question.

    1. The Marukhati Selective succeeded in exorcising Auri-El and thus created Akatosh at the cost of the Elven God
    2. They only partially succeeded, forcing both Auri-El and Akatosh to live in a single body as different aspects
    3. They simply (pah) harmed Auri-El, leaving only the Elven God.
    4. They failed in their attempt to destroy the parts of Auri-El but split Akatosh off, creating two different and separate Deities.

    So, did they succeed, fail, or only partially succeed? The answer there is currently unknown, as is whether Akatosh was actually a god beforehand. This is something that you’ll need to decide yourself for there simply is no straight answer. Akatosh and Auri-El’s situation is entirely up to each individual to decide for themselves, so really are they not both true gods? Worshipped by their people to the point of fanaticism , magical temples and shrines are built to both and they’re both beloved of many cultures.

    The Alternate Aspects of the Time Dragon:
    Alkosh of the Khajiit

    Alkosh is an interesting but fairly short chapter in the tale of the Time Dragon. Alkosh is "A variation on the Altmeri Auri-El, and thus an Akatosh-as-culture-hero for the earliest Khajiiti" (Varieties of Faith) is known as the First Cat, or as The Great Cat God of Time and the Khajiit believe that Dragons were actually massive cats (This is what Skyrim should have been), an interesting belief. 

    Alkosh's origins are a little different from the Aldmer or Altmer beliefs in that he is actually the First-Born of Ahnurr (Anu) and Fadomi (Padomay). This is more similar to the Altmer belief that Auri-El is the Soul of Anui-El who is the soul of Anu, in that unlike Akatosh or the Aldmeri Auri-El it shows a direct link between Alkosh and Ahnurr.

    In the beginning there were two littermates, Ahnurr and Fadomai. After many phases, Fadomai said to Ahnurr, "Let us wed and make children to share our happiness."

    And they gave birth to Alkosh, the First Cat. And Ahnurr said, "Alkosh, we give you Time, for what is as fast or as slow as a cat?" (Words of Clan Mother Ahnissi)

    This to me is an interesting differentiation that isn't commonly mentioned in other worships of the Time Dragon. Being birthed from Ahrnurr isn't a directly mentioned thing in any of the previous origin stories of the Time Dragon but the Khajiit choose to believe this. Another thing worthy of mention is that depending on who came first (Imperial Akatosh or Khajiiti Alkosh) the Khajiit may have been the first to worship Akatosh as a Dragon though it is likely that it is a Nordic belief originally. The Altmer made connections to the Eagle primarily and the Aldmer believed Auri-El to simply be a Mer. 

    Another interesting Khajiit idea on the Time Dragon is the connection to the Dragon Breaks. They are the ones that believe that the Dragon Break is the result of the breaking of Alkosh, something that as far as I can tell no other Race believed. This in itself is an interesting thing, but on top of that the Khajiit are also the recorders of the Dragon Break, being the ones who declared it lasted 1008 years.

    "Do you mean, where were the Khajiit when the Dragon Broke? R'leyt tells you where: recording it. 'One thousand eight years,' you've heard it. You think the Cyro-Nordics came up with that all on their own. You humans are better thieves than even Rajhin! While you were fighting wars with phantoms and giving birth to your own fathers, it was the Mane that watched the ja-Kha'jay, because the moons were the only constant, and you didn't have the sugar to see it. We'll give you credit: you broke Alkosh something fierce, and that's not easy. Just don't think you solved what you accomplished by it, or can ever solve it. You did it again with Big Walker, not once, but twice! Once at Rimmen, which we'll never learn to live with. The second time it was in Daggerfall, or was it Sentinel, or was it Wayrest, or was it in all three places at once? Get me, Cyrodiil? When will you wake up and realize what really happened to the Dwarves?" (Where were you when the Dragon Break)

    Ruptga of the Redguards

    Our first loose connection. So far we've been dealing mostly with direct links to Akatosh or Auri-El but now we get to the fun of sorting through a Deity that is only loosely linked to the Time Dragon. Now before delving into the connections I'm going to give a breif introduction to who Ruptga is.

    Ruptga or Tall Papa is the chief deity among the Yokudan/Redguard Pantheon who is responsible for teaching the other gods the Walkabout which essentially allows them to become immortals 

    Following his lead, the other gods learned the 'Walkabout', or a process by which they can persist beyond one lifetime. Tall Papa set the stars in the sky to show lesser spirits how to do this, too. When there were too many spirits to keep track of, though, Ruptga created a helper out the dead skin of past worlds. This helper is Sep (see below), who later creates the world of mortals. (Varities of Faith)

    However, teaching the other deities the walkabout had a downfall. It meant there were too many spirits for him to keep up with (yes...he made too many gods) and so he created Sep, a Lorkhan/Shor-esque figure who tricks the other gods into creating the mortal realm. 

    Then, to punish Sep, Ruptga destroyed him with a big stick. 

    ... The spirits that were left pleaded with Tall Papa to take them back. But grim Ruptga would not, and he told the spirits that they must learn new ways to follow the stars to the Far Shores now. If they could not, then they must live on through their children, which was not the same as before. Sep, however, needed more punishment, and so Tall Papa squashed the Snake with a big stick."

    Essentially this is all we really have on Ruptga, he created a way for the Gods of the Redguards to actually become immortal and punished Sep. Now for the similarities.

    He has several similar qualities to Auri-El but a lot less to Akatosh. The first is that both Auri-El and Ruptga seemed to have started out as mortals, at least in their beliefs. Auri-El, as you recall, was considered an ancestor-god by the Aldmer while Ruptga is the first to discover the walkabout, though depending on the belief, Auri-El of the Altmer may have also taught his followers how to ascend to immortality (though they haven't seemed to manage it yet)

    He (Auri-El) then ascended to heaven in full observance of his followers so that they might learn the steps needed to escape the mortal plane. (Varities of Faith)

    A connection can also be made in regards to the vanquishing of Sep/Lorkhan. Auri-El, in the end, wasn't directly responsible for slaying Lorkhan (That honour goes to Trinimac) but he did lead the armies against him and also shot his heart into the ocean. Ruptga as just discussed killed Sep by squashing him. 

    So, with all things considered, there are similarities between the Time Dragon and Tall Papa, but they're shaky at best and built off of very limited sources and information. 

    Alduin of the Nords

    Surely Alduin, the first-born of Akatosh couldn't possibly be an alternate version of the Time Dragon? And I suppose you may be right, considering that all of our notable information is from a single book, there isn't all that to discuss that isn't speculation (as always with the Time Dragon). 

    Alduin, first-born of Akatosh, and possible aspect of the Time Dragon. If he is actually another form of Akatosh he is no doubt extremely different from Auri-El and Alkosh, for he would be a completely different type of split. Auri-El and Akatosh were either separate or split due to the power of mortals, Alkosh is ultimately unknowable, though likely an altered Khajiit deity that took on aspects of Auri-El/Akatosh, but Alduin may be a split purposely caused by Akatosh.

    The Aldmer refer to Akatosh as Auri-El. The Nords call him Alduin. These names come up repeatedly in certain ancient texts, and in each one, it is clear that the deity in question is none other than he whom we call Akatosh.
    Yet there are those who believe, even in this enlightened age, that this is not so. That the regional interpretations of Akatosh are not interpretations of Akatosh at all. Rather, they are references to altogether different deities, deities who may or may not share the same aspects or be the Great Dragon at all. (The Alduin/Akatosh Dichotomy)

    So, here we see an interesting idea. The idea of Alduin being worshipped by the Nords, note that this book has nothing on the slavery of the Nords by Alduin and the Dragons (which as Skyrim showed us isn't exactly news to most), instead we're told that the Nords actually worship Alduin, apparently to the point that others worshipped Akatosh.

    Now of course this could simply be the whole enslaving and killing thing, or even the Dragon Priests but I find if quite odd that only the worship is mentioned.

    The majority of Nord people seem to believe that their Alduin of legend is not Akatosh, but another deity entirely. A great dragon, yes, but not the Great Dragon.

    Determined to get to the heart of this matter, I consulted with several Nords, chief among them an old and respected clan chief by the name of Bjorn Much-Bloodied. And what surprised me most about those I talked to was not that they believed in Alduin instead of Akatosh, but that they recognized Alduin in addition to Akatosh. In fact, most children of Skyrim seem to view Akatosh in much the same way I do - he is, in fact, the Great Dragon. First among the Divines, perseverance personified and, more than anything, a force of supreme good in the world.

    Alduin, they claim, is something altogether different. (The Alduin/Akatosh Dichotomy)

    Here we get into the business. According to Alexandre Simon here, the majority of Nords believe that Akatosh is Akatosh, and that Alduin is in no way linked to him. So, his first recordings are of Nords worshipping Alduin exactly as the Imperials do Akatosh (but with more eating of worlds) and the later recordings show that they accept Akatosh as Akatosh and Alduin as something different altogether. 

    So what else do we have? Is there anything truly conclusive to say, well there isn't really anything as proof. He is firstborn, and the main theory is that Akatosh split apart of himself off which became Alduin (As mentioned in The Seven Fights of the Aldudagga) and as far as I know this is not only possible, but fairly likely (We've seen aspects of gods in Oblivion and Morrowind with Akatosh and Talos respectively) so Alduin could very well be part of Akatosh. 


    Alright, that's all I have time to cover this time. In the future I will be writing (hopefully) a discussion based on ancestor worship which will cover Auri-El with some detail.

    Anyway, I have my usually thanks to go out. First to Phil, both for helping we some of the content, explain ideas patiently to me and just generally discussing it with me. On top of all that he's also the one who suggested it to me in the first place.

    Lissette and Thorien are the other two that deserve a mention, they both got involved with discussions and really helped me gather my thoughts on this, not to mention the fact that they provided some interesting ideas and thoughts that helped me develop some sections more. 

  • Member
    January 11, 2016

    I wasn't aware there was a Dragon Break before Daggerfall, how many of those things are there?

    Also I think this line R'leyt tells you where: recording it. 'One thousand eight years means 1008 years not 1080 years.

  • January 11, 2016

    I think it wasn't an actual Dragon Break, because at that period the time seems to be non-linear by itself, so kinda there was nothing to break. But this is just my guess.

  • January 11, 2016

    The Middle Dawn

    A sect of the Alessian Order, the Maruhkati Selective, is also said to have caused the longest known Dragon Break, known as the "Middle Dawn", which is thought to have spanned one thousand and eight years from the 13th to the 23rd centuries in the First Era,[OOG 1] by attempting to exorcise elements of Elven Auriel from Imperial Akatosh. This is the only Dragon Break that is a universally-known event, though some civilizations claim to have been protected from it.[4] Mnemoli the Blue Star, a Magna Ge associated with un-time events, grew bright enough during this Dragon Break to be seen in the daytime sky.[5]

    Yet in later eras, the occurrence of this event became disputed, most notably by the scholar Fal Droon. He posited that no cosmic disruption took place at all, and that the "Dragon Break" story was concocted in the early Third Era to explain inconsistencies in the Encyclopedia Tamrielica. He cites "scholarly inertia", obsession with "eschatology" and fanatical "Numidiumism" in order to explain the perpetuation of the error.[6]

    Fal Droon's claim that the Dragon Break was a Third Era fabrication is apparently discredited by older sources, which are known to have described the Dragon Break as early as 2E 582.[7] In particular, Vindication for the Dragon Break seems to describe the Maruhkati Selective's justification for the Middle Dawn before the event itself. The Dunmer of the era were hostile towards the Empire,[8] yet they still acknowledge a Dragon Break occurred.[4] Furthermore, a member of the Elder Council claimed that the oversoul of emperors within the Amulet of Kings confirmed that a Dragon Break took place. The Council purportedly gathered information from every province, information which never coincided except by mentioning that all the folk of the continent tracked the fall of eight stars, which they used to count their days.[4]

  • January 11, 2016

    Also, UESP says that the first possible Dragon Break might have been the Time Wound when ancient Nords used the Elder Scroll to send Alduin into future.

  • January 11, 2016

    Also have you heard about Cyrodiil being a jungle? One of the possible explanations why it isn´t is that Tiber Septim caused a Dragon Break when he ascended. But as I say, one of the possible explanations, and when you look at those others, this one seems less viable than the others.

  • January 11, 2016

    Hmm, that makes sence, but raises a question: when Alduin appeared in the future, was it a Dragon Break too?

    Also, there's no data about any Dragon Breaks before that, so it's possible that at Auri-El's time it was just a constant Dragon Break...

  • January 11, 2016

    I've never heard of that, but anyway Tiber Septim was later, so any of Dragon Breaks he caused couldn't be the first.

  • January 11, 2016

    No one asked which was first and I really didn´t imply Tiber Septim actually did a Dragon Break and that it was the first. It wouldn´t make sense, considering there is actually quite lot of lore on Middle Dawn.

    As for before the Time Wound...well, I don´t dare to guess.

  • January 11, 2016

    Well, it's known that he caused at least two Dragon Breaks with the Numidium. As for the time he ascended... what moment counts as his ascention? When the Mantella was created, or when the Numidium was activated in the first time, or when he died??

    And before the Time Wound, Mannimarco kinda implies that in the book "Where Were You When the Dragon Broke":

    he Three Thieves of Morrowind could tell you where they were. So could the High King of Alinor, who was the one who broke it in the first place.

    Auri-El (whether he was a mortal or a god) had walked Nirn before the Time Wound story happened (unless I'm mistaken here that is), so who knows, maybe Mannimarco was right?