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Lore Event: Nords: Soul, Breath and Focus

  • Member
    March 15, 2016

    In darkness, your light shines through,
    Warrior Goddess, for you we strike true.
    When hope is lost and war rages on,
    Warrior Goddess, hear our blessed song!
    With a Nord's death, fallen in battle,
    Warrior Goddess, guide us through shadow.
    Grant us courage to fight and sharpen our swords,
    Warrior Goddess, mother of Nords! Hymn to Kyne

    The relationship between Nords and the element of air is readily apparent in TES Skyrim: Kyne is very strongly revered by the Nords, being the de-facto head of their pantheon after the death of Shor; and her association to winds and air is obvious from her role as goddess of storms. The importance of wind in Nordic culture is a bit deeper than that, though, as we learn from Arngeir and the greybeards about the Thu'um.

    The purpose of this discussion is to peel back a few layers and uncover the depths with which the significance of wind plays in Nordic culture, religion and society.

    Valkyrie by PabloFernandezArtwrk

    Kyne is an important deity to the Nords who view her as their Mother Goddess. She breathed life into them and as such they see themselves as the literal sons and daughters of the sky, as seen in these two sources:

    The Nords believe men were formed on this mountain when the sky breathed onto the land. (PGE1ed)

    Nords consider themselves to be the children of the sky. They call Skyrim the Throat of the World, because it is where the sky exhaled on the land and formed them...(Children of the Sky)

    There is a definite hint here which indicates that there is more meaning to breath, air and wind than may at first meet the eye. Children of the Sky takes that association further when it says, "The further north you go into Skyrim, the more powerful and elemental the people become, and the less they require dwellings and shelters. Wind is fundamental to Skyrim and the Nords; those that live in the far wastes always carry a wind with them." 

    The fundamental importance of wind is further backed up in PGE 1Ed: "The Nords have long practiced a spiritual form of magic known as "The Way of the Voice", based largely on their veneration of the Wind as the personification of Kynareth. Nords consider themselves to be the children of the sky, and the breath and the voice of a Nord is his vital essence."

    Add to this that which we have learned from TESV Skyrim and Arngeir's veneration of the wind and sky and we can see a connection between wind, sky and the Nord's vital essence. It's not a huge leap then to connect this "vital essence" to the soul - Kyne breathed them into existence after all, the ancient Tongues relied on their Thu'um in battle which is their breath and voice channelling their essence to effect change.

    This is where it starts getting tricky and another layer needs to be peeled. Kyne is a goddess of war and also a psychopomp - a Valkyrie-like figure who guides the dead to Sovngarde.

    She is one of the Hearth Gods, watching over the present cycle of the world. Her titles are numerous, revealing much about the character of Kyne... Kyne is called the Kiss at the End, for most Nords agree that Kyne leads the dead to Sovngarde (Goddess of Storm, Mother of Nords).

    So now we have this cross over of spheres, Wind, Storm and Soul which seem unrelated at first glance but now we see that there is little distinction between the two: If Kyne breathed the Nords into existence, gifting them their essence at the beginning and acting as a soul-guide at the end, she is less a goddess of wind, more a goddess of souls which are a metaphor of wind.

    In the same way that to the Ayleids light is magic and magic are souls, to the Nords it is wind which is the sacred element. 

    To take this connection one step closer, there are two legendary figures who are called Breath-of-Kyne: Wulfharth and Morihaus. Both of these figures are associated with the Voice but I suggest there is a greater meaning: It could be argued that to be the breath of Kyne is to be her avatar: If breath is the divine essence then we can substitute breath for soul. Morihaus Soul-of-Kyne and Wulfharth Soul-of-Kyne are subgradients of the Goddess of the Storm.

    Valkyrie by OmeN2501

    Lastly, we will take a look at the symbolism in Aevar Stone Singer. It's a Skaal story, but we can see the Nordic influence in the tale:

    Aevar had one final Gift he had to recover, the Gift of the Winds, so he traveled to the Wind Stone, far on the western coast of the island. When he arrived, the All-Maker spoke to him, giving him his final task.

    "Find the Greedy Man and release the Wind from its captivity."

    So, Aevar wandered the land in search of the Greedy Man. He looked in the trees, but the Greedy Man did not hide there. Nor did he hide near the oceans, or the deep caves, and the beasts had not seen him in the dark forests. Finally, Aevar came to a crooked house, and he knew that here he would find the Greedy Man.

    "Who are you," shouted the Greedy Man, "that you would come to my house?"

    "I am Aevar of the Skaal," said Aevar. "I am not warrior, shaman, or elder. If I do not return, I will not be missed. But I have returned the Oceans and the Earth, the Trees, the Beasts, and the Sun, and I will return the Winds to my people, that we may feel the spirit of the All-Maker in our souls again."

    And with that, he grabbed up the Greedy Man's bag and tore it open. The Winds rushed out with gale force, sweeping the Greedy Man up and carrying him off, far from the island. Aevar breathed in the Winds and was glad. He walked back to the Wind Stone, where the All-Maker spoke to him a final time.

    The Gift of Winds is the final gift Aevar restores to his people, tearing open the greedy man's bag and allowing the gale to rush out. Thematically the story of Aevar Stone Singer is very similar to The Last Dragonborn's actions on Solstheim. The inhabitants of that isle are under Miraak's charm as he uses the power of the All-Maker Stones to empower his return from Apocrypha. It takes the thu'um, the vital essence, of The Dovahkiin to cleanse the corrupted stones and free the souls of the people. 

    As Dragonborn1721 said, the Wind Stone is the first All-Maker stone that you free from Miraak's power, and in some way this could be representative of Kyne breathing life/souls into the Nords. The LBD is breathing new life into all of Solthseim in a way (or at least starting it).

    In The Last Dragonborn's fight at the Summit of Apocrypha Miraak's body (bag) is torn and the winds (souls) rush out as you breath deeply (absorb them).

    Throat of the World by Jaffa0072

    This is the highest mountain in Skyrim, and the highest in Tamriel aside from Vvardenfell in Morrowind. The Nords believe men were formed on this mountain when the sky breathed onto the land. Hence the Song of Return refers not only to Ysgramor's return to Tamriel after the destruction of Saarthal, but to the Nords' return to what they believe was their original homeland.


    To wrap this up here is a brief summary of the suggestions above: To the Nords wind is their vital essence, breathed into them at the beginning by their warrior goddess, Kyne. This vital essence, this soul, can be channelled into a Shout. When a warrior dies it is Kyne who comes to collect the soul. Nord Tongues, the masters of the thu'um, would take the tongues of enemies and use them to enchant with, a fetishistic form of magic with real power. They'd "carry a wind with them always." So in a way, the word wind, or breath, is used as a metaphor for the soul. This wind can be used by Tongues to power enchantments and bend the world to their will.

    Thank you for reading, as always comments and criticism is welcome. Despite not seeing some of these aspects in game, do you think there is still room in TES V Skyrim to reinterpret some of the old ideas presented in PGE 1st Ed? Could Mor and Wulfharth actually be avatars of Kyne? Do you believe that the role of wind in Nordic culture is similar to the role of light in other cultures? If so, what does that mean for magic? If light is magic and magic is souls, is wind the exact same system in the dark northern province?

  • March 15, 2016
    Nooooooo! We are not first! xD I think I haven't commented on this in Workshop, so I will now. Kyne seems to be popular these days. That's all I can say right now. It looks great, Phil. I'll leave proper comment once I finish in work. :)
  • Member
    March 15, 2016

    I look forward to it Karves 

  • March 15, 2016

    I have a slight suspicion that Nords associate magic with wind and air because their traditional way of magic is Thu'um, to shout one needs air, right?)) While the Elves associate it with light because to them the more common way oof magic is the spells, which look like light.

    What is curious is why Wulfhart is called an avatar of Kyne when he's a Shezzarine, an incarnation of Shor?

    Uh, we're not first(((

  • Member
    March 15, 2016

    Nord science, Thuri

    A strong gale picks up, and blows his ashes back to Skyrim...Wulfharth adopts and is adopted by the Nords then. Ysmir the Grey Wind, the Storm of Kyne. The Arcturian Heresy

    So he gets associated with Kyne, naturally, but is he actually an avatar of the goddess?

    Kyne's Son

    The second song of King Wulfharth glorifies his deeds in the eyes of the Old Gods. He fights the eastern Orcs and shouts their chief into Hell. He rebuilds the 418th step of High Hrothgar, which had been damaged by a dragon. When he swallowed a thundercloud to keep his army from catching cold, the Nords called him the Breath of Kyne. The five Songs of King Wulfharth

    Or does myth become fact and make it so?

  • March 15, 2016

    Ah, I see) It's the tales Nords tell))) You see, Wulfhart is said to be connected to Kyne, and Morihaus, but not Pelinal... Maybe because to the Imperials Kyne/Kynareth is not so important?

  • Member
    March 15, 2016

    I think that is very astute  Although I wouldn't say Kynareth isn't as important exactly as she is one of their Nine but Wulfharth is definitely a figure of Nordic myth and very much tied to Skyrim's culture. He wasn't all that keen on the Alessian Doctrines:

    Wulfharth of Atmora was elected by the Pact of Chieftains. His thu'um was so powerful that he could not verbally swear into the office, and scribes were used to draw up his oaths. Immediately thereafter the scribes wrote down the first new law of his reign: a fiery reinstatement of the traditional Nordic pantheon. The Edicts were outlawed, their priests put to the stake, and their halls set ablaze. The shadow of King Borgas had ended for a span. For his zealotry, King Wulfharth was called Shor's Tongue, and Ysmir, Dragon of the North.

    As for Pelinal I think he very much is connected to him. As you said he is a Shezarrine:

    Also during the Late Merethic Era the legendary immortal hero, warrior, sorceror, and king variously known as Pelinal Whitestrake, Harrald Hairy Breeks, Ysmir, Hans the Fox, etc., wandered Tamriel, gathering armies, conquering lands, ruling, then abandoning his kingdoms to wander again.

    So what we are hearing in these tales is just a cultural variant of Tamriel's music. The sound, the notes and the theme of a Shezarrine in Skyrim are different to how it is heard in Cyrodiil but still recognisably the same piece of music.

  • March 15, 2016

    Nice to see this up, Phil. Looks great. I like some of the theories presented here a great deal, but you and I have pretty similar mindsets on these sorts of things. 

  • Member
    March 15, 2016

    That we do Lis  I couldn't think of a way to mention Windcaller and his Mora fandom  and still make it relevant to the point I was trying to make but if you can think of anything I will add it in.

  • March 15, 2016

    To be honest, I think of Wulfhart more as of a historical figure than mythical, he was a mortal after all. His dislike of Alessian Doctrines is quite logical - although she was a Shezzarine just like Pelinal, he was raised to the Nordic culture, thus his worldview was one of a Nord.

    Of course Pelinal is connected to Wulfhart, htey are the same soul, no?) But Pelinal isn't said to be connected to Kyne - I think it's because, although she is one of the Eight, she is not the most important deity to the Imperials and they don't tie every hero of theirs to her.