Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

A Kiss, Sweet Night Mother

  • March 9, 2016

    You might wonder who is the Night Mother and you certainly aren´t alone in that. In most sources, she is a Dunmer woman who was behind the creation of Dark Brotherhood, splitting from its parent guild of assassins - Morag Tong. But who is she really? I´ve done some reading recently and it´s very interesting there are actually few theories - or more precisely -  each source from the lore has its own theory.



    So what we know about the Night Mother? We know that she is real, that she is the de facto leader of Dark Brotherhood. We know that she speaks only with Listener and that she can hear “clients” if they perform the Black Sacrament ritual. But what else?

    In Oblivion, she is portrayed as a ghost of Dunmer woman. The Black Hand open her crypt under the Lucky Old Lady statue in Bravil, and the Night Mother shows herself to all members of the Black Hand.

    In Skyrim, she is a corpse that speaks only in the Listener´s head. There is no ghost or anything like that.

    But who is she really? Well, hard to say. As I said, there are multiple theories and I´ll present them here, so you can draw your own conclusions.

    1. The Night Mother´s Truth Theory, by Gaston Bellefort


    This theory depicts the Night Mother as a Dark Elf living in small village in Cyrodiil where the city of Bravil stands now. She was a respected member of the Morag Tong. A guild of assassins who served the Daedric Prince Mephala. She held the title of Night Mother, reserved for the highest ranking female member of the organization. Being a Night Mother meant that she was favoured by Mephala, to be both feared and respected.

    Following the Potentate´s assassination in 2E 324, the Morag Tong was mostly eradicated from Tamriel, except Morrowind - its birthplace. It was shortly after these events that the Night Mother claimed to hear the voice of Sithis, saying that he was displeased with the Morag Tong, that the Void was hungry for souls. This is interesting, because the author doesn´t indicate whether or not the Morag Tong worshipped Sithis, so why would he be displeased with them? But we´ll get to this later.

    So, according to the Brotherhood´s legend, Sithis visited the Night Mother and begat her five children. After two years, she sacrificed her own children, sending their souls to the Void, back to their father.

    The people of the village were horrified by the act and they killed her and burned down her house. Thirty years passed and an unnamed man heard a voice inside his head, calling him “Listener”. It was his duty to create an organization from the Morag Tong´s ashes. Thus the Dark Brotherhood was created. The bodies of the Night Mother and her children were recovered and crypt was built.

    So if in your travels you find yourself in the city of Bravil and make a wish at the statue of the Lucky Old Lady (as is the local custom), know that you stand on sacred, if evil, ground. For you stand above the Night Mother, the Unholy Matron herself, and your luck has just run out.


           2. Fire and Darkness Theory, by Ynir Gorming


    This theory is somewhat confusing because the author seems to not make much of a distinction between the Morag Tong and the Dark Brotherhood, which is quite interesting. His theory is this:

    The early form of the Morag Tong, in the time when Morrowind was known as Resdayn, worshipped Sithis, which is quite interesting. As the time passed, the Morag Tong absorbed the Daedric Prince of murder, sex and secrets, Mephala, into their worship.

    Again, the separation started after the assassination of Potentate in 2E 324. The Morag Tong was forced to retreat back to Morrowind,where they continued to operate with the blessing of the Great Houses, cutting off all contact with their Brothers in the west.

    The author aknowledges that the most probably reason for the schism between the Dark Brotherhood and the Morag Tong was religion, as do many other sources, though he uses a slighly different angle.

    In order to exist, the Morag Tong must have appealed to the highest power in Morrowind, which at that time, the Second Era, could only have been the Tribunal of Almalexia, Sotha Sil, and Vivec. Mephala, whom the Tong worshipped with Sithis, was said to have been the Anticipation of Vivec. Is it not logical to assume that in exchange for toleration of their continued existence, the Tong would have ceased their worship of Mephala in exchange for the worship of Vivec?

    So, what was the cause for the schism? This is where Night Mother comes in.

    The Night Mother, my dear friend, is Mephala. The Dark Brotherhood of the west, unfettered by the orders of the Tribunal, continued to worship Mephala. They may not call her by her name, but the daedra of murder, sex, and secrets is their leader still. And they did not, and still do not, to this day, forgive their brethren for casting her aside.

    So that´s the second theory. That the Morag Tong and Dark Brotherhood both worshipped Sithis, but Morrowind’s Morag Tong stopped revering Mephala and instead, acknowledged Vivec of the Tribunal, who is her anticipation. The Morag Tong of the West (the Dark Brotherhood) continued to worship Sithis, along with Mephala, who they call the Night Mother.

            3. Sacred Witness Theory, by Enric Milnes


    The third theory is written by Enric Milnes, who was friends with both previous authors. His piece isn´t exactly a theory or historical source, but more of a auto-biography where he claims to have met the Night Mother in Hammerfell.

    The Night Mother was a little old lady with fluffy white hair, cheeks like wrinkled apples that still carried the flush of youth, friendly eyes, blue as the Iliac Bay. She softly took my arm as we sat down amidst the graves and discussed murder.

    She was not always in Hammerfell, not always available for direct assignment, but it seemed she enjoyed actually talking to her clientele.

    He doesn´t describe her as Dunmer. Milnes actually doesn´t indicate what race she is, only that she is old, and has blue eyes. The Night Mother had a chat with this fellow and told him abour her past life.

    She said she was a member of the Thieves Guild - didn´t say in which province - and that she raised a question if the guild shouldn´t branch out into professional murder too. She was turned down, and so she went solo. After she strangled someone to death, she would put two stones in her victims eyes, one black and one white. Word spread and soon she had a successful business.

    'And that became the Morag Tong?' I asked.

    'Oh, dear me, no,' the Night Mother smiled. 'The Morag Tong was around long before my time. I know I'm old, but I'm not that old. I merely hired on some of their assassins when they began to fall apart after the murder of the last Potentate. They did not want to be members of the Tong anymore, and since I was the only other murder syndicate of any note, they just joined on.'

    She let the author live, he did few jobs for her and then he published this work, anonymously of course. Shortly after his body was found. He was strangled and two stones, one white and one black, were crushed into his eye sockets. Very brutaly.


          4. The Brothers of Darkness Theory, by Pellarne Assi


    This theory speaks more about the separation of the Morag Tong and the Dark Brotherhood, with only briefly mentioning Night Mother, but it is still a useful piece of information.

    The Dark Brotherhood sprang from a religious order, the Morag Tong, during the Second Era. The Morag Tong were worshippers of the Daedra spirit Mephala, who encouraged them to commit ritual murders. In their early years, they were as disorganized as only obscure cultists could be-there was no one to lead the band, and as a group they dared not murder anybody of any importance. This changed with the rise of the Night Mother.

    All leaders of the Morag Tong, and then afterward the Dark Brotherhood, have been called the Night Mother. Whether the same woman (if it is even a woman) has commanded the Dark Brotherhood since the Second Era is unknown. What is believed is that the original Night Mother developed an important doctrine of the Morag Tong-the belief that, while Mephala does grow stronger with every murder committed in her name, certain murders were better than others. Murders that came from hate pleased Mephala more than murders committed because of greed. Murders of great men and women pleased Mephala more than murders of relative unknowns.

    The things to note here are that all leaders of Morag Tong, even after Dark Brotherhood appeared, were called Night Mothers. Also that it is the Night Mother who establishes the doctrine that certain murders were better than others. Also, this source doesn´t say a word about Sithis, literally nothing about him, only Mephala.


    Here are some additional sources for those interested, mostly about Black Sacrament.

    Brothers of the Darkness, A Kiss, Sweet Mother, Night Mother Rituals!,


    So, these are the theories. You can see that they are mostly contradicting each other, so where lies the truth? Can it be all three of them? Or do all have some ounce of truth and together they make the story whole?


  • March 9, 2016

    I suspect most of the sources have a bit of truth, but none says all of it.

  • Member
    March 9, 2016

    A great addition to the ever-expanding lore library.

    I admit the Night Mother has a lot of theories. My personal head-canon was the "kill her children in the name of Sithis" one.

    Also about the last theory. Night Mother(s). Now that's something I missed completely.

  • March 9, 2016
    I always fancied the "killing babies" theory too, but what always bothered me was Sithis's involvement. I really don't believe that he is a god capable of speaking with mortals, so if you think about it...she killed her children because she was mad. Dark Brotherhood is founded by madwoman. Regarding the other theories. Yes, Night Mothers is interesting concept, but I quite like the possibility Night Mother might be Mephala. It's something to at least consider.
  • Member
    March 9, 2016

    Yeah, acting through an avatar. What if the "ghost" in Oblivion was her avatar. I mean, Talos did it at least once, so why mot ol' Mephy? I mean, we have no evidence Sithis IS even a sentient being. What we know is that Sithis seems to be an absence of something, like, imagine the vast blackness of space. 

  • March 9, 2016

    Well, it seems that madness is an essential part of the Brotherhood's history...

    I doubt it's Mephala, otherwise Morag Tong (who worship Mephala) wouldn't want to destroy the Brotherhood.

  • March 9, 2016
    Hold that thought and really think about it, Thorien. Morag Tong is reloc of the past, stranded in Morrowind. Dark Brotherhood is (well, was) worldwide. If Mephy sees the Brotherhood as successor of Morag, don't you think Tong would be pissed? @Chris It might be possible that Night Mother is an avatar of Mephala, but what about the talking corpse? So what if Night Mother is just an intermediary and Mephy is acting as Sithis? But it makes me ask. Why would Mephy do that?
  • March 9, 2016

    The Dark Brotherhood don't worship Mephala, they worship Sithis. And the corpse we see in Skyrim definitely isn't Mephala. If even Mephala could see them as successors of MT, they clearly don't give a damn about her.

  • Member
    March 9, 2016
    Night Mother is an avatar of Mephala

    You know, there was some article stating that the Night Mother is an avatar of Mephala. But that contradicts the fact that when the MT killed the (living) Night Mother, they're actually killing the Daedric Prince they're worshiping.

    Note that I can't remember the source but it was something that caught my eye during my brief review on DB.

  • March 9, 2016
    Thorien, you of all people should know that nothing is ever as easy. :) Because they worship Sithis, as god of death, how can you be so sure it's not an aspect of Mephala, Prince of murder? Because Sithis as we know him certainly isn't even god or a being.