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The theme of the game is love

Hello all. I think that the overarching theme of the whole ESO is love. <3 (As well as being a super awesome sword-swinging, spell-slinging fantasy epic adventure.)

PSA: --- I have tried to not include any spoilers in this post, and so have not used names (most I can't remember in any case) or too many specifics. I also stand to be corrected on any and/or all points I raise; just show your work (as my maths teacher said). ---

First off, love in the game has no boundaries, even if you take a particularly notorious lore book (redacted in Skyrim) on Khajiit copulation physiology (penile spines) as lore. Thank goodness the ESO lore guys ignored this one, not only because it opened up the possibility of more interspecies love relations.

Also, homosexuality is a non-issue in Tamriel (proof: Skyrim Mara quest where your toon can marry any gender, race or species, as well as tons of examples in ESO of homosexuality, bisexuality, etc.). I think this is similar to many older cultures on earth, such as the Romans, Greeks and feudal Japanese - and probably a host of others - where homosexuality was not considered abnormal.

I only know a bit of Latin, which has two distinct forms of love: amor, the physical aspects of love (which is where we get the word "amorous" from, among others), and caritas, which is the platonic or non-physical aspects of love (from which we derive the words "care" and "charity", among others). ESO has examples of both forms of love, though neither is made to be lesser than the other.

Examples (not exhaustive):
In Stonefalls, there is an Argonian female and a dark elf female couple, in Hew's Bane, a dark elf female reunites with her long-lost female Khajiit love, also in Hew's Bane, you learn that a high elf male loved a female red guard; in Rivenspire, a female Breton and a female orc and a male Breton form a love triangle (which you have to settle, as usual), and depending on your advice and another quest, the male Bret finds love with a former bandit female orc who had been in a relationship with a male dark elf bandit.

In Bleak Falls, there are many examples of more conventional love, including fraternal and sororital love, love by a Nord female (encountered later in the story quests) for her children and family, and also a Nord wife looking for her Nord husband who is injured. Lassie... erm, I mean Rex their dog leads you to him.

In Bangkorai, there is a male couple (I can't recall their races) where one is a lycanthrope, and the other sends you on a quest to find his lost love. Even after learning of his cursed nature, the quest giver still wants to remain with him. There is a female wood orc who loves her father and her people (she was also one of my first in-game crushes), and she is killed by her uncle trying to protect her friend, who is a legendary female wood elf. (Most of my in-game female orc crushes are brutally murdered during the related quest, no wonder most male orcs are single.)

In Summerset, there is particularly moving quest involving a male Breton alchemist and his deceased male Altmer alchemist partner (the quest states everyone who knew them expected them to get married). There is also a married pair of powerful high elves mages who loved their daughter whom unfortunately died in her early years despite everything magic and alchemy could do, and, despite fighting with each other and even possibly hating each other after this event, they eventually realise that they both loved their daughter - and each other though the relationship cannot continue - dearly and profoundly.

In one of the Wood Elf lands, there is a side quest involving a female Nord and her addict Khajiit husband. The almost mystical love between the Green Lady and the Silvenar is also particularly potent, not only because they are destined to be together, but because they seem to truly love each other eventually, and have to combat the rage of her former lover.

There is also a quest where a male wood elf wants to find a particular species of flowers for his dying wood elf husband, and even though he does not make it, at least the flowers bloom at the site of his death.

In Wrothgar, there is a male Khajiit suthay-raht raised by orcs (he even sounds like one, until he tries to talk like a Khajiit, which is hilarious) and he eventually finds love in the form of a female Khajiit suthay-raht fighter. In southern Elsweyr one of my favourite male orc fighters ends up abducted along with a female Alfiq and a young suthay-raht Khajiit, and risks his life to save the suthay-raht and the Alfiq, although the young suthay-raht does not survive. The Alfiq seems fairly attracted to the orc, although he seems to not reciprocate beyond a deep friendship and kindness. She even tells him that he has a kind heart, which he seems a bit embarrased about.

A really tall and important female Nord soldier (whom most people will meet in-game) learns that her father loved her and her mother more than life itself, she realises her love for a seriously well-built red guard swordmaster (who also has an awesomely deep voice), and he in return realises this; both are also willing to sacrifice themselves to save the world.

An ancient vampire in Rivenspire (I initially thought he was a bosmer, but it seems he is an altmer) loves his people, and his wards, so much that he would literally go to hell itself to save them.

Immortal love:
Now we get to the immortal original spirits or et'Ada (there are also spirits descended from them called Ada). Here, again, there is significant evidence of their love for mortals and for Nirn.

I will start with Meridia. I always thought that she is a bit of a trickster (especially given that Ayleids - even those who worshipped her - were particularly cruel, although one specific heartland high elf king and general seems to offer some redemption potential), but I have reconsidered that she does not necessarily love mortals, per se, but that she loves creation itself. There is evidence (as with most Elder Scrolls lore, it is not definitive) that she is a Magna Ge - one of the architects of Nirn - but one who refused to abandon creation after her boss fled the Mundus to Aetherius.

Similarly, this love for creation seems to be the motivating force for her battling Molag Bal and his attempt to realise the Planemeld.

Further, while Akatosh/Auri-El/Ruptga/et cetera. is said to be an et'Ada and one of the ada who gave of themselves to create Nirn and lost some of their power, became susceptible to death and cannot leave creation, other myths (notably Altmer and Red Guard) have him ascending to Aetherius in full view of his followers (putting a big question mark on the whole story of aedra being limited and bound to creation).

Additionally, he does seem to retain a significant amount of power, enough to toss interloping daedric princes out of Nirn and permanently seal the liminal barriers, and this action seems to be in answer to the pleas of mortals - indicating an enduring care for them, perhaps even love.

(Mild spoiler follows: Avert Ye Eyes those who have not finished main quest)
Not only that, but he seems to retain sufficient power to provide it to a vessel in Molag Bal's realm of Coldharbour - where one would expect the daedric prince to be preeminent in all matters (though his dremora servants seem to have other ideas of their own) - and with the help of another daedric prince(ss) - to combat the daedric prince; again as a result of the pleas of his mortal followers.
(/end spoilers)

If we take some of the Vvardenfell quests as evidence, Azura (who, if dunmer and Khajiit are really her descendants, should be considered an aedra) is willing to help even Vivec for the sake and because of her love for her people.

The theme of love seems to be a constant thread throughout the stories and quests of ESO, whether through sacrifice or boundless love between people.

What do you guys (lore experts and lore non-experts alike) think?

RIP <3
and RIP the most well-spoken orc I have ever met
(image credits to
Edited by ArcaneScientius on October 20, 2020 10:35AM
Nothing leads to more death than the need for certainty. - Xukas
In balance with this life, this death - W.B. Yeats
  • ArcaneScientius
    Eh. I forgot to add that the Argonians seem to love nature itself, and are amazingly willing to sacrifice themselves to resuscitate the land. Ergo: Argonians are awesome.
    Nothing leads to more death than the need for certainty. - Xukas
    In balance with this life, this death - W.B. Yeats
  • Aigym_Hlervu
    I've read your post entirely, OP, thank you for finding all those examples! That's a great work, indeed! Though, I have to disagree with the conclusion you've made - I don't think that love is the overarching theme of the game. Sorry for the wall of text, but in order to understand my opinion, you'll have to take your time and read it entirely. Below I'll share with you the method of studying and forming your own opinion on everything in the Elder Scrolls universe. Though, of course, the particular opinion of your in-game characters you create will be based on their individual features such as the place of their origin, level of education, family background, physical condition, etc, but using the method that opinion will nonetheless be right, free of any delusions and objective. In spite of the wall of text below (sorry!), this might be the most brief description of this method you'll ever find - it's all one post here. Otherwise, you'll have either to read many books or to live a long life or specific circumstances in order to finally come to this way of thinking on your own, because this method has not been taught in the majority of the universities for a very long time. It might be hard to understand it - it's normal, it was not easy to me either. Ok, let's start.

    There are two types of understanding the lore, the Mundus - the materialistic and the idealistic ones. Using the first method a man, mer or a beastman relies only on experience, science, knowledge, on all the objects and phenomena that do have display in the Mundus, in reality. Using the latter type they rely on beliefs, someone's dominant opinion, propaganda, etc. A quick example: an appeal to the Daedric plots of Molag Bal is a materialistic thing in the Mundus, while explaining different processes referencing to, say, some weresharks' activities is an idealistic one. Because unlike the Daedra, the weresharks phenomenon has no display in reality even if we, as players playing a video game, would presume or even know that the reason to everything there were weresharks - weresharks have been still beyond the current abilities of cognition and experience in all TES games.

    Since the Aurbis is an objective reality to all those who live there, since all the races of Tamriel are social beings rather than the individualistic ones, each society's nature in Tamriel is based on social classes and their division in terms of their relation to the means of production and thus their objective social interests. Thus everything that happens around a character in Tamriel can be explained using the materialistic method - the interest of the local dominant class defines the image of a particular society, the image of the majority of a particular population that class is dominant over. An example: slavery in the House Dres lands (or House Telvanni ones - no matter) is an absolutely ok thing, slaves are not treated as conscious beings there, to the Dunmeri slavemasters they are just speaking organic property. And it is absolutely normal there and fully reconciles with the local ethics, laws and Dunmeri policy. On the other hand, there is no slavery in Argonia.

    An idealistic way to explain it would be to call the Dres (and all the Dunmer as many players often do) as naturally lazy evil bloodsuckers, while Argonians would simply be described as humane and highly spiritual and kind persons by default, and that would be used as the reason to explain the issue. The materialistic way to explain it would be to point at the last stage, the absolutist one, of the Dunmeri feudal society consisting of it's dominant class of land owning feudals (the nobility of the Great Houses), and the class of the majority of the population their nobility rules over - serfs, slaves and other estates personally depended on their masters. House Dres is a society of brutal serfdom and slavery. The reason of this social model is the type of production and distribution of wealth - i.e. the local type of economy (it's the subsistence one). In turn the type of economy is defined by the local environment (climate, landscape, etc.), physical environmental resources (deposits of minerals, water, land suitable for agriculture, seas, trade routes, etc.), the amount of labor force (the quantity of possible laborers) and external influence (natural disasters, pandemics such as the Thrassian Plague of the past and the current Knahaten Flu, wars, overall economical and political situation in Tamriel, etc.).

    House Dres rules over fertile lands bordering upon Argonia inhabited by cheap and effective labor force - this circumstance is the only objective reason of their status of a Great House, their power and their social structure. House Hlaalu, on the other hand, lacks the same features being located in the middle of the trade routes, therefore they built a society based on commerce and craftsmanship - a much more progressive nearly capitalist society of merchants, bankers, engineers, architects who built, say, Suran and Balmora, Castle Ebonheart, etc. This is why they do not acknowledge slavery at all, though, their more progressive socio-economic formation also gave room to such a thing as the Camonna Tong. Yes, it is always a dualism of everything - no good can exist without evil, no phenomenon can exist without it's internal contradiction. The same way the primitive tribal Argonian society living in the harsh environment of swamps, lacking good fertile land, mineral resources, advanced means of production and cheap labor force, generally lives by hunting and gathering - to own a slave there would mean to feed an extra mouth only, instead of making profit. This is the materialistic way to answer why slavery is not common in Argonia the way it is common in Morrowind.

    So, the type of environment, the amount of resources and external circumstances define the type of economy, the type of economy defines the socio-economic formation, the socio-economic formation defines the social policy, the social policy defines the social standards of laws, religious and other views, ethics, views on good and evil, criteria of honor and shame, level of tolerance, etc. - everything. Finally, the social standards along with the particular individual's place of origin and everyday life, educational level, social class, family background and personal experience define the individual views (supportive, rejective, indifferent, tolerant, intolerant, etc.) on everything happening in the Mundus. This is why your character being, say, a Breton merchant seeking ways to trade his goods to a wider circle of consumers, will never convince a Dres slaver to abandon slavery, to pay his laborers with gold and to look at his slaves as equals. This is also why a former Argonian slave finds nothing horrific in becoming a slavemaster herself, in killing people in order to achieve her selfish goals, in becoming a member of the society that previously treated her as cattle.

    To form such individual views on a particular object or phenomenon of study a character has to understand the nature of such an object or a phenomenon, and in order to do it they have to construct it's defintion. What is the definition, the "definition of definition" :)? Definition is a complex of features immanent to an object or a phenomenon throughout the process of it's establishment and development. Features can vary from time to time, but only those of them that are immanent to the object or a phenomenon throughout it's process from the beginning till the end, can be included into the definition of such an object.

    So, finally you say that "the overarching theme of the whole ESO is love". Well, I don't say you are wrong - I say it is an idealistic opinion. In order to see if your opinion corresponds to the reality we see on the screen, we have to define.. love. What is love (", don't hurt me.." ;))? I've read all of your examples up there - the same way I could give many more examples showing that violence, hate, greed, etc. are the actual overarching themes of the whole TES (not just ESO), but that would be the same idealistic approach as yours. So that case we would have been argueing till the end of times counting examples and discussing their value - i.e. discussing features instead of the phenomenon's nature. If you remember that bubble gum ;), "Love is.." a biochem.. nah, stop.. It's Aurbis, magicka defines every flow of life and every process there, right? Let's try it again: love is a magickal process reflected in it's subject's specific unconditional feeling and cognition of the priority of the object's necessities and desires over it's own ones. If a phenomenon does not correspond at least in one word of it's definition with the definition of love, or excludes such a possibility, then that phenomenon is not love, but something else. It might also be based on harmful idealism that hides true nature of things on Nirn and acts in contradiction to the objective interests of a character. This is why changing one object of love thus making harm to the other, is whatever, but not love; this is why eating too much is not love for food - it's gluttony; Khajiiti man and woman sleeping in one bed passionately is not love - it's passion; being an Argonian Canonic Tribunal priest in a society where the Canonic Tribunal Temple is the primary supporter of the Argonian slavery (well, bad example, not in 2E 582, of course, but it works in, say, in 3E 427. An example just to show such abnormal things like Argonian Tribunal priests do exist there) is not love for the Three - it's treason of the Argonian people's interests as a society because of such individual idealism; tolerating Molag Bal or necromancy not being a Daedra or a necromancer respectively is the treason of the interests of all the living in Tamriel, etc., etc. Idealism leads to philosophical pluralism, i.e. a situation showing several contradicting opinions as being considered right simultaneously (while Truth, the real state of things happening around, is considered to be unperceivable and somewhere out there).

    Idealism makes it impossible to distinguish good and evil, makes a common tamrielic denizen act in a way harmful to his or her own objective interests empowering those who make profit on it: Mannimarco, Molag Bal, slavers, Altmeri racial supremacists, the Covenant militaristic and revanchist policy, the Dark Brotherhood and the Thieves Guild, the Imperial East Empire Company, the Daedra, the nobility of Tamrielic kingdoms, etc. - all those who never act because of some subjective idealistic thoughts. I support the Tribunal Temple and the Dunmeri official policy not because of some idealism, personal feelings towards the Khajiit or Argonians, but because I have completed certain quests there and became a land owner in Morrowind, a feudal, a personal friend and Champion of Vivec, a Hand of Dres with literal slaves working for free, though called "Hirelings", I became an Ordinator there - so, it is my objective interest to support the Dunmeri policy all along. On the other hand, there is no option to join the Ashlanders - so it was not the question of choice, but guess my attitude towards the Great Houses and the Tribunal were I an Ashlander there. Idealism in Tamriel is a tool to preserve power, to pervert all the good features common to people like love, passion, compassion, etc,. to make all those slaves, peasants and "free" folk to act according to their beliefs instead of their objective interests, to quarrel and fight each other because of things like fur, scales, religion, rights, better or worse food, treatment, views on abstract things, etc., to make them work and fight for our cause and profit, and to make them think that beauty and love will some day save Tamriel from the dread Daedra, slavers, wars, injustice etc :).

    Unlike the real world, we know the source, the very reason of love in TES - it is the energy of Aetherius controlled by the will of Almalexia (or Mara if you stick to the Eight Divines cults) in a specific way that forms the sphere of influence on the mortal world that starts up that process (love) in the reality. Both divines are real in this universe (regarding Mara: see Ama Nin and Marilyn Wassermann) we see them both, their actions or the results of such actions in the game. The most well known example of love IRL is the story of the sacrifice of Jesus we all know. In the majority of other cases love is a relatively rare thing - some say that in 99.9% of cases among the two people only one truly loves the other while the object of that love sells himself or herself for care, food, money, status, in fear of staying alone in their old age - whatever. In order to make love an overarching theme an author of any product of art has to make it the very reason, the mean and the goal of the entire plot of his creation. Now let's see if love is indeed the overacrhing theme of the whole ESO - was it love that helped us to destroy Molag Bal, to save Sotha Sil, to defeat Veya, that made Veya end up like that killing her father and causing death to so many people, was it love that drove us to help that Argonian slave? Was it love that defined our choice of whom to save during the beginning of the EP solo campaign - those two cute Dunmeri female soldiers on one hand, or several citizens of Bleakrock on the other (if you prefered one group to the other, the other would be killed in action)?

    Love was not the reason of why Azura helped "even Vivec for the sake and because of her love for her people", as you say it - if you look attentively at what she says ("Vvardenfell must stand. Everything I do in this regard serves that single goal. Best that you remember that, Mortal") and how she acts, you'll see that she is around only until the Heart of Lorkhan is buried beneath Red Mountain, i.e. until 3E 427, the events of TES III. She does not save those whom you think she loved neither during the Oblivion Crisis of 3E 433, nor even during 4E 5, the Red Year, when Vvardenfell becomes destroyed. According to the pre-ri'Datta Khajiiti texts that was she who placed the Heart of Lorkhan there and somehow guarded it or had some other interest in it - as soon as it disappears from Nirn she has no concern neither over Vvardenfell, nor for the fall of Baar Dau and the death of so many of her people there. Just the way she had no concern for her Khajiiti "children" being enslaved by the other of her "Chosen Ones". This is a whatever thing, but not love. As you see it, love, hate, violence, compassion, greed and any other such feelings along with their numerous types are not the overarching theme in TES. TES is not a soap drama, it combines many features and parallels of real life, it is a very simplified small scale model of life based on a fictional setting, thus love (as one of so many features of life) can't be it's overarching theme just the same way it is not the one IRL. It's just one of it's many features - features that some people never experience in their entire lives. So, here is another perspective you are free to follow or to reject. Nevertheless, you did a great work of gathering all those examples, OP! Now you have another method of perceiving them. It was very interesting to read your post, thank you much, mate!
    Edited by Aigym_Hlervu on October 22, 2020 1:23AM
  • ArcaneScientius
    Hi Cygemai_Hlervu.

    Thank you for the epic post. I love philosophy (heh - I love "the love (philo) of wisdom (sophos)".

    I agree that the overarching theme for TES is not love. I meant in my post it is an overarching theme for the game ESO. I saw so many examples of love being a motivating factor in ESO that it struck me that it was a constant - or least consistent intermittent - theme.

    I both agree with your views, but also differ in my own opinions. For example, idealistic and materialistic methods of analysis would be helpful for analysing the motivations of an individual, but I am writing this as an out of universe perception and obviously irrevocably based on my perceptions.

    Comparative analysis aside, the characters and their statements and/or actions seemed to indicate an emotional basis as driving or motivating factor for these actions. It can be argued that love is not - or not exclusively - the motivating factor, but it is a handy definition in this case because of the altruistic and/or kind actions taken by these characters, sometimes at expense of their own benefit or even lives. It also bleeds in a little bit into the "hero" in the stories and why s/he would battle mad monstrosities and save lives; whether you require monetary compensation or are doing it from an altruistic urge is up to the player to define, but there is an element of helping others, which could be defined as a form of caritas.

    Similarly, I think that idealistic and materialistic analytical methods (or any analytical methods for that matter) are insufficient to define or ascribe themes for the TES universe.

    ESO vs TES:
    Let us take the monomyth and annotated Anuad as credible sources, and consider the birth of the aurbis from the interplay of Anu and Padomay, resulting in the creation of Nir.

    Creation myths, even in the TES universe, are allegorical and irrevocably coloured by the person telling the tale and the person reading the story.

    While I could argue that love played a part not in creation of Nir, but in the subsequent establishment of Nirn from the eight (twelve in some stories) attending spirit planes because she was said to love Anu, it is simultaneously a tale of jealousy on the part of Padomay causing him to fight his antithesis spirit and injuring Nir in the process, leading to her dying of her wounds but leading to the mortal plane's creation and/or the birth of ada and/or mortal spirits.

    We could argue whether jealousy is based on some form of love - I do not think jealousy can exist without some motivating emotion (you can't feel jealous if you don't feel anything or do not care), you can as easily argue that it is a tale of jealousy and death.

    However, this is the perceptions - coloured by the tale-teller and the tale-readers (us) - that we have of what may be cosmic forces without any recognisable or even objectively motivating factors such as love, or the limits Anu placed on himself to explore the universe, which, itself, may be a subsequent retrospective justification for the existence of limitations without necessarily being an accurate reflection of creation in this universe.

    It may be that in this universe dark and light make matter, and we are putting our own inevitably selfish and self-focused spin on what happened without being a necessarily accurate reflection of a) what happened, and b) why it happened.

    Therefore, I do not think that an idealistic or materialistic method of analysis would provide answers for the overarching emotional motivation for creation in TES lore. These definitions themselves only apply to mortals and may not depict accurately the genesis of creation.

    One of the things we do know (in TES universe) is that spirits exist. D'aedra do influence the mortal plane (some may say interfere, but again this may be mortal emotional perspectives on unknowable motivations especially if they existed prior to the creation of the mortal plane).

    Also, there is evidence of Aedra/gods influencing and affecting the mortal plane, not least as (again) a potentially retrospective and mortal justification for creation, rather than an accurate reflection of the reasons or driving factors.

    So, while there is some basis for theories about spirits creating the mortal plane, we just have no way of determining the truth of this.

    Juicy facts:
    If we consider the monomyth to be true, or at least partially reflect some of the events that occurred, then we can investigate the definition of limits by Anu (forging his soul Anui-El by creating the definition of limits or Sithis) to more effectively study himself as contributing to the creation of the et'Ada spirits beyond the original two antithetical spirits, but this is also not definitive or, again, a justification for the existence of limits rather than a definitive reflection of fact.

    Some stories, mostly those of the mainstream religions of Nirn, say that Nirn was created by the 8 or 12 attending planes, with some vanishing as part of the process of creation and others becoming bound to it as gods and ancestors of mortals.

    However, the annotated Anuad indicates that Anu wanted to save his children he created with Nir after her injury by Padomay (or as part of their fight; it does not state explicitly that Padomay harmed her, but she was injured in the violence), so, again, we have a similarly authoritative source that contradicts another perhaps more broadly accepted accepted authoritative source.

    But, if we focus briefly on the existence of limits (which is factually a part of the universe, perhaps even of all spirits, even and/or perhaps especially of the two creation spirits), then we get to interesting questions. As I showed, gods are believed to be irrevocably part of creation, but an Aedra was said to have ascended to Aetherius (Auri-El/Akatosh/Ruptga/et cetera), so this does not mean that aedra are defined by limits, nor are d'aedra limitless in power.

    If we then look even closer at some of the daedra, why would they reflect at least partially mortal forms existing on Nirn? Why does an imp have a belly button and why are dremora and many other daedra humanoids, why are many daedra based in part on physical creatures when they could literally be any form? This seems indicative that there is more to this story of creation and the mortal realms than even daedra would care to admit (if anything they say can even be trusted).

    If we then consider that Lorkhan was the soul of Sithis (himself the soul of Padomay as created by Anu to describe limitations), and is stated to have been more of a limitation than a nature and a barely defined urge, we can consider limitations to be necessary for creation of the mortal planes, not least as it was (according to mortal mythology) necessary for the creation of the original spirits (et'Ada) from the interplay of light and dark (Anu-Padomay).

    Here then we can reflect on the pleas of the ada (spirits) that came after the original et'Ada begged for more time (or stability, or basically continued existence of some form or another) as leading to the creation of the mortal realm based on limitations. But, if we now consider in contrast the forms the daedra take as directly based on mortal creatures, then even the daedra who did not partake in creation can be said to have derived a measure of stability and continuous existence as a result of creation of the mortal plane and this stability, then Lorkhan's speech in motivating the creation of the mortal realm was complicated and not merely lies as retold by mainly elven worshippers of the creator deities.

    Lorkhan's limits may have, similar to Akatosh's presence allowing a predictable perception of the flow of time, allowed the creation of stability, albeit at the cost of some of the unending but malleable and unpredictable nature of spirits and spirit realms prior to this.

    However, and yes once again, this is not definitive since some creation myths say that life flourished on the 12 planes of existence as formed by (or possibly a part of) the et'Ada. If this is true, there may be more truth to the myth that Anu created Nirn to save what was wrecked during his battle with Padomay and that Nir (possibly a encompassing definition for these spirits) was harmed, so maybe the gods had less agency in the creation of Nirn than what men or mer attribute to them. Again, we cannot accurately determine whether love was a motivating factor for the creation of Nir.

    Maybe tears, as the effeminate elves say, is the correct response to the sundering, but maybe the battle between light and dark made all this possible and crying over it is stupid. Maybe it was an unfeeling and completely non-sentient cataclysm that led to the destruction of the 12/8 planes, and we are again assigning mortal emotional motivations to a cosmic event. We just do not know.

    Tl;dr: we are viewing these creation myths from our own mortal lenses and perspectives of time, limitations and life and death, even as we may perceive them as in universe characters. They may be true, partly true, or even nothing like what we believe or is told as mythology. The motivations for creation and/or existence may separately be true, or partly true or completely false, again because we are ascribing these motivations to them rather than having an empirical way of studying them.

    While I cannot say that love is the theme for TES, in general, we have too little information to define any motivations, I can from my own perceptions of events in ESO say that I think love is a strong theme in the game.
    Nothing leads to more death than the need for certainty. - Xukas
    In balance with this life, this death - W.B. Yeats
  • PrayingSeraph
    This thread became so much deeper than I was expecting...

    I love it
  • Sinlar
    Very interesting analysis on both your parts.

    I would say that the overarching theme would be reflection.

    Reflection upon existence within the limits of the consciousness participating in it. Be they mortal or immortal.

    It is also worth noting that the Invocation of Azura states:

    "Azura wants all of that, and our love above all. Not our abject slavering, but our honest and genuine caring in all its forms. It is important to her that our emotions be engaged in her worship. And our love must also be directed inward. If we love her and hate ourselves, she feels our pain."
  • newtinmpls
    What a thought provoking thread.

    I am tired and fried from a long day...but wanted to add a 2 cents post so I could come back later.
    Tenesi Faryon of Telvanni - Dunmer Sorceress who deliberately sought sacrifice into Cold Harbor to rescue her beloved.
    Hisa Ni Caemaire - Altmer Sorceress, member of the Order Draconis and Adept of the House of Dibella.
    Broken Branch Toothmaul - goblin (for my goblin characters, I use either orsimer or bosmer templates) Templar, member of the Order Draconis and persistently unskilled pickpocket
    Mol gro Durga - Orsimer Socerer/Battlemage who died the first time when the Nibenay Valley chapterhouse of the Order Draconis was destroyed, then went back to Cold Harbor to rescue his second/partner who was still captive. He overestimated his resistance to the hopelessness of Oblivion, about to give up, and looked up to see the golden glow of atherius surrounding a beautiful young woman who extended her hand to him and said "I can help you". He carried Fianna Kingsley out of Cold Harbor on his shoulder. He carried Alvard Stower under one arm. He also irritated the Prophet who had intended the portal for only Mol and Lyris.
    Order Draconis - well c'mon there has to be some explanation for all those dragon tattoos.
    House of Dibella - If you have ever seen or read "Memoirs of a Geisha" that's just the beginning...
    Nibenay Valley Chapterhouse - Where now stands only desolate ground and a dolmen there once was a thriving community supporting one of the major chapterhouses of the Order Draconis
  • RaddlemanNumber7
    I see ESO as...

    The Circus of Cheerful Slaughter, where overcoming violence with greater violence is the objective of nearly every story quest.

    The Folly of Isolation, where not only the three Alliance leaders, but every individual in the Aurbis is driven towards violence by the Hunger of Satakal (any love they feel for others is merely the sublimation of their own needs, self love is about as good as they get).

    A tragic comedy, where the harbinger of all-conquering love is canonically Missing, and the most loving thing you can do for someone is stab them with the Blade of Woe.

    The central theme is violence prompted by irrational needs.

    That is ESO.

    The only possible exception is the Vestige.

    Beyond the fourth wall players are free to position their Vestiges how they wish (or not). I try to stick within the lore as much as I can, and to accept the game for what it is. My Vestiges are narrated as avatars of the Missing God, as harbingers of all-conquering love. Their mission is to keep the world turning and to subtly prompt mortals along the way in their individual journeys towards Lorkhan's test (although this mostly involves giving them some time out in Aetherius). Only in passing Lorkhan's test do individuals in the world of TES ever perform an act of selfless love.
    PC EU
  • StabbityDoom
    Elder scrolls is to our world essentially what the clockwork city is to Nirn. A reflection of the world above, in miniature, for you to study and understand better.

    I cannot possibly agree with you about the theme of Elder scrolls being love. The Telvanni and Dres still have slaves. People are full of deeply-seated racism. There's assassinations and treachery - even some condoned by law. Dark Brotherhood, Morag Tong - not love.

    It's a microcosm to apply your values and knowledge to and better understand yourself and the world around you. If you read that as love, well, great. But I think it's far more complication and grey than that, personally.
    Edited by StabbityDoom on October 26, 2020 5:09PM
    EHT zealot
  • Jacen_Veron
    I wouldn’t say the game has any one theme, but multiple themes depending on the quest or region. You’ll see love, feigning love, consequence of violence, cycle of revenge, morality of justice, redemption, and more prevalent at the end of most main quest lines: sacrifice. They all play their part, but even through prevalence, no one theme encompasses the whole of the game.

    It is all dependent on how your vestige interacts with the world, but you can certainly see what the writers want you to feel and take away from these interactions. It becomes a problem of narrative dissonance because the game treats the Vestige as a separate entity from the player, our Vestige may say or do something that we as the player may not agree with. This results in the inferred themes we take away interfering with the intended themes. This happens usually as a result of the character we have made for ourselves, they may have their own backstory and that story may happen to connect well with a particular quest, but the theme derived from your characters’ connection may interfere with the intended theme and become contradictory.

    If I had to pick one of these themes though, I would argue sacrifice is the most apparent. Most every main quest involves some form of sacrifice of self present: Glenumbra with Gloria Fausta, Rivenspire with Verandis, Greenshade with Aranias Reaper’s March with Raz and one of the Mane sisters, Stonefalls with Indoril, Shadowfen with most of the Mnemic Egg choices, Imperial City with the Drake of Blades, Coldharbour with Darien, The Main quest with one of the Five Companions, Clockwork City with Luciana Pullo, and the conclusion of Elsweyr with Abnur Tharn. And those are only the ones I can recall. Each of these sacrifices was done for the greater good,

    This sacrifice doesn’t always have to be of themselves, it can be of values or traditions, Naryu putting aside the rules of the Morag Tong she followed so strictly to spare Veya, for instance. Or it could be a technical sacrifice, like Aranias or the Drake of Blades, not technically dead, but definitely not themselves anymore, their histories and memories gone. These types of sacrifices are far more present in the side quests, as there are less stakes in those usually, and much less memorable.

    But as I said, there is no one theme that encapsulates the whole game. It’s far to open ended for that. Everyone’s experience will be different, as each person is playing as their own version of the Vestige. The overarching theme depends on how you view your character. For me, it is sacrifice. For others it may be love. I hate to say it, but it is almost subjective. Almost. Those themes are all still objectively present, it just depends on the person to determine which theme stands out to them most. You could say at the end of the day that the real theme is choice. We are the Prisoners after all, and the world cannot hope to proceed without a guiding hand.
  • Aigym_Hlervu
    Suddenly I recalled the Dostojevski's "Crime & Punishment" where the overarching theme, as many readers think of it, is the theme of casting away bad supremacy ideas, sticking to one's own business, theme of law, inevitable punishment, and finally in the book's conclusion - an overarching idea that love, piety, praying and living an honest life make everything ok. The whole book shows the way the problems of mind lead to the physical life problems, and the way to cure it is through love and payer.

    But if we look closer into the world and it's characters, into the materialistic reasons of the crime Dostojevski named in order to make his book that credible and great, we'll see the world of total poverty and a former student forced to abandon his education because of the lack of funds. Thus instead of studying, the student begins to think it over and over, he begins to invent philosophical reasons and plan the murder, and finally commits it after he receives a certain letter from home telling that his sister is going to marry an unloved old man in order to save him - that makes his ideas of self superiority turn into reality, so he takes an axe and performs the crime in order to change his life and save his sister from and undesired marriage. So here should have been the overarching theme of the whole book - fight poverty, build dormitories and pay scholarships to let students study instead of forcing them into thinking over their life that destructive way. Those who still disagree can make a thought experiment: imagine that student receiving a message of winning a great sum, a lottery prize or something, the moment before he goes out to murder the woman - would that stop him or would he nonetheless say "F those millions! Death to the old bat!" and execute his plan? So this is it. If the problem of mind is cured by money, then it's real source is located in the wallet - not in the mind. Because human minds are not equally strong - people are different and the limits of a hopeless man depend on a certain man. But the consequences of the majority of cases can be changed due to solving the very materialistic reason.

    I think the same way it works in any work of art. I suppose the thing that should be paid much more attention is exactly to how the players perceive it: as I've said it in my previous long reply, if they perceive it idealistically, they'll have numerous opinions and will never convince each other or won't be able to reconcile on the art work's ideas hopping from one idea to the other with all thd ideas equally true (and sometimes inexistent in the physical reality shown) to one of them and false to the other. But if they see it the materialist way they won't have "two truths" at all, because they will all see the same nature of things - the true one because it reflects the reality equally to everybody and, speaking of an interactive entertainment, allows to influence such a reality the right way according to the art work consumer's desires and necessities.
    Edited by Aigym_Hlervu on October 27, 2020 10:00PM
  • ArcaneScientius
    I see ESO as...
    The Circus of Cheerful Slaughter, where overcoming violence with greater violence is the objective of nearly every story quest.....
    "Now, now. Perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything." - Professor Farnsworth.

    Hello guys. Thank you very much for the responses. I love the divergent views and I encourage everyone to raise her or his own views on the topics of the themes of the ESO game and of TES lore more generally.

    Thank you, RaddlemanNumber7, for not advocating symmetrical violence and for your view on the vestige as an avatar of the missing god. That is very insightful, and provides for other recursive avatars, like Talos and the Underking, maybe Pelinel, and the PCs seen in other games, like the Nerevarine (not the avatar of the missing god) and Dovahkiin (not the avatar of the missing god... or maybe he is, and/or just has a dovah soul), etc..

    Thank you for your input, Sinlar, and thank you Jacen_Veron for your view on the theme being sacrifice. I agree that it a constant theme. It struck me when I was playing through Stonefalls again when the Argonians kept sacrificing themselves for the good of the land and the choral forest. Just more evidence that Argonians are awesome.

    Committing a deed for the greater good and at the expense of the self (sacrifice) is altruism, which also stumped evolutionary biologists for a while. Surely, that is a form of caring love.
    But I don't want to dilute your views with my own, so I will just say that I agree sacrifice is also a consistent theme and sacrifice may be the main theme of ESO. As well as your examples --> ESO main quest end spoiler
    The sacrifice of courage enables you to defeat Molag Bal in the final quest.

    Thanks Cygemai_Hlervu. I have not finished Dostoyevski's crime and punishment. Your view on mental problems causing physical problems is fascinating and I think I should reread it. I placed a reply to your part at the bottom under a spoiler, since it is not TES lore.

    That book contained one of the most poignant scenes I have ever read. Near the beginning, a man starts beating a horse that cannot pull an overloaded cart. He beats it to death because it cannot physically pull the weight on the cart.

    - Recognisable spirits -
    I wanted to touch on one aspect I did not delve into: Recognisable spirits.

    With all the talk of uncertainty with regards to the creation of spirits and creation myths in TES, it may seem that there is no way to evaluate even partly some of the aspects of creation. This is not true because there are spirits that exist outside of the material physical world that can and do affect it, sometimes only when called on and sometimes even when not called.

    Spirits, as said in an above post, do exist as a fact in TES universe. Some of them are recognisable and coherent, responding under a variety of circumstances in various but often related or similar ways (what I mean is that they have their so-called spheres of interests or focus areas or domains, not just in the mortal world but also as some of the conceptual elements in creation).

    Many of these recognisable spirits have been identified - sometimes across multiple domains - but most often each has been identified with consistent domains of various urges, emotions, events, motivations, physical phenomena (Akatosh and time, Kynareth as wind or the sky, etc.), and supernatural phenomena such as vampirism, lycanthropy and possession.

    While it seems difficult to ascertain specifically which spirits took part in creation (and even whether they were agents in its creation - apart from actions (in games and in lore) to ensure its preservation (Chim-el Adabal aka amulet of kings from at least the time of Alessia, and then the events of Oblivion end of main quest), this does not prevent us from using their spheres to identify them.

    Studies by a variety of nations and peoples in TES have independently and in many cases (not all) consistently identified different coherent spirits, and some are even given similar names (whether this is again retrospective identification with another name given for a coherent spirit, or direct information on their names from the coherent spirits themselves, we just don't know, although deadra use their own names often, but probably respond to a host of other names as well) for example Akatosh, Alkosh, Ruptga; Kenarthi, Kynareth, Kyne, Lorkhan, Lorkhaj, Shor; and so-called daedra as well, such as the princes Boethra, Boethia, Azura, Azurah, Sanguine, Sangiin, Mehrunes Dagon, Merrunz, etc.

    So, some spirits are recognisable and coherent and, based on what we can glean from their consistent interactions with mortals across vast spans of time (in mundane mortal terms), they provide some evidence for religions and beliefs, including the moderate coherency of religions throughout these long ages and, possibly, some basis to creation and the material world.

    According to mythology, even before the creation of the material world, there were cycles of existence that not all spirits could survive. This may be a different story or metaphor for the destruction of the eight planes to create the current material world, but specifically states that spirits proliferated, and their inability to transcend a specific period of existence, prior to the creation of the material world.

    If we use the Redguard and Khajiit creation myths as ways of viewing creation and spirits' continuity, then we can consider that some spirits could persist between cycles of existence, and taught other spirits how to do so.

    Then creation happened. In Redguard myth, Ruptga (identified as Akatosh by other religions) did not participate in creation - which would make him not a direct ancestor god - contradicting elven mythology. However, according to mythology he had many children (ada/spirits), some of whom almost certainly would have participated in creation or contributed to the creation of the mortal races, so he could be an aedra (ancestor) that did not participate in creation (conventionally grouped together as d'aedra). ... TES lore gets confusing if you are looking for certainty.

    This might also explain why he specifically found it so easy to transcend, not only because he had done it before the material world (and maybe was not bound to it by not creating it) and why his direct worldly children (dragons) can survive the cyclical destruction of the mortal realms according to Skyrim events, and/or the cycle of destruction of existences.

    Neither Redguard or Khajiit mythology provide many theological tools or concepts to determine any illuminating concepts about creation of the mortal world, except to contradict and make more complex the body of mortal mythologies.

    In Khajiit mythology, Fadomai had children with Ahnurr, and Ahnurr did not want to have more children after this. Fadomai then had more children with Khenarthi leading to Nirni and Azurah, and Ahnurr struck Fadomai, who is the victim of not a party to the violence in this story - in contradiction to some mythologies, and bleak circumstance (born in darkness) leading to Lorkhaj tricking his sibling spirits to create the world.

    - Cycles of existence and rebirth... possibly -
    So now we have ... no confirmation of anything concrete, but we do have multiple converging (only in certain respects) elements of the mythologies.

    Specifically, we have consistent stories of existence, and possibly cycles of existence, prior to the creation of the material world, then the creation of the material world (in most tales made from past existence cycles - old worldskins in Redguard myth, or through the destruction of planes of existence prior to the creation of the material world as told in mainstream religions in Tamriel, while Khajiit myth only says spirits were trapped after they helped Lorkhaj make the material world) by beings who are not the original two creation spirits (Anu and Padomay in all their mythological incarnations) and in all tales most spirits are trapped in the new world or find it difficult to transcend, notwithstanding that other parts of myth indicate an inability by some spirits to transcend non-material existences.

    Now, if we consider kalpas (worldskins or as I call them existence cycles) and the ability of spirits to survive the destruction of one kalpa and survive until the next kalpa - possibly through rebirth or some other means of reenterting the next worldskin -, we can ask more questions.

    Dragons can survive the destructive cycles of the material world (as said by Parthurnax, and Alduin's role in these cycles and Skyrim events). Yet, as far as we know, they have uniform physical shapes - at least in the material world, and they seem to explain they can survive the entire destruction of the material world intact - they are the immortal children of Akatosh, according to their own myths, although whether being present across multiple existences and/or realities makes it more a historical fact than myth cannot be determined.

    We do not know whether this means they continued in the exact same or even comparable physical forms, but that seems to be what they are implying.

    [I always imagine Parthurnax quoting the architect in the Matrix reloaded saying: "This will be the sixth kalpa Alduin has destroyed, and he has become exceedingly efficient at it!"] - [/droll]

    While we still know nothing for certain, we can determine a blanket mythology across all TES religions (as far as I can tell) of cycles of creation of some form or another.

    Whether this is the prior-existence cycles worldskins made into a material world, possibly which include the eight or twelve planes as told in most mainstream religious myths, or the material made from the remnants of previous worldskins as told by Redguard myth, or cycles of the immaterial eventually leading to the creation of the current material world, we again do not know.

    This, again, could be an interpretation based on mortal experiences of birth, life, children and death, so mortals could (or maybe would) conceivably attribute this architecture of creative and destructive cycles to supernatural beings and planes.

    - Why the fascination with mortals? -
    If we return to the concept of coherent and recognisable spirits (whether they have survived all the kalpas, are new-ish spirits from previous kalpas or anything in between), we may be able to ask some more questions.

    I quickly refer to a quest in the Alik'r desert (top most in my mind) of a spider daedra capturing people and placing them in dreams (I don't know if she is under Vaermina, Mephala, Mehrunes Dagon or Molag Bal, or an independent agent). This harvesting of mortals or souls or dreams would, one would assume, provide the daedra with some measure of power, or there would at least be some purpose or intention to motivate these actions. She whips out a comment about daedra not sacrificing power like the gods did, while she is busy enslaving mortal souls right in front of me.

    "Methinks you did not gain anything, daedra dear." I muse as I watch her spinning people in spiritual webs to feed to spiderlings. But it does get me thinking about why even daedric princes would need to or want to (the motivation is hazy) harvest/gather souls. Going by Molag Bal, it does seem to provide a resource of power for them to affect the mortal world and/or multiple planes in ways that would have been beyond them. Maybe their influence in the mortal worlds is limited unless they gain some source of power within the mortal realm.

    Ok, so here Cygemai_Hlervu's method of analysis proves handy - we may be viewing the whole process too rigidly from a physical place/events, linear time perspective. (TES lore is like talking to the augur of the obscure for too long... "Is your nose bleeding? Stop trying to imagine a world without linear time!") We can investigate the ideals or concepts that these coherent spirits embody... without needing bodies.

    If we can use Malacath's response to questions about his change from Trinimac to Malacath wherein he said the tale is taken "too literally minded" as a single reference (and therefore only speculative) to explore some of the concepts, then we can consider spirits that can survive existence cycles are similarly not limited by physical dimensions but adhere possibly rather to some form of metaphorical existence - that is: embodying certain concepts, urges, ideals, motivations, etc.

    The spirits that existed prior to mortals are said to have exhibited some variation of the central dark-light dichotomy - retold as having Anuic or Padomaic biases while all spirits are some mixture of light and darkness. The almost infinite variations, including from the recombination of various ideals, spheres or domains of spirits in their descendent spirits as told by most mythologies, could lead to the different and overlapping domains of spirits as well as of recognisable coherent spirits, such as the main aedra and daedra.

    If the spirits that can survive are the strongest, most able to survive existence cycles and/or embody the most important or coherent concepts, or are merely most recognisable to mortals, or even birthed as enduring concepts by beings of the prior existence cycles and therefore able to transcend the cycles, we do not know.

    All we do know is that these spirits gravitate to certain events and actions (their domains or spheres of interest/influence/effects/meddling). We have recognisable spirits that embody (among other things) time, death, love, ambition, destruction, madness, protection, commerce, murder, and etc. These are only the obvious gods and daedric princes.

    Similarly, the mythologies that all spirits are constituted from a mixture of light and dark (with some who are specifically believed to be the ancestors of mortals) can provide a reason - or have arisen as a retrospective projection of mortal perceptions onto mythologies - for mortals being a similar mixture of light and dark, selfish and altruistic, good and bad.

    This may, again, be how mortals identify them and the concepts they associate with these spirits and not in line with any facts. We may be defining how we view the beginning in terms of how we experience the now, and incorrectly saying that the then caused the now to be as it is.

    I agree with StabbityDoom. TES may be a reflection of real world mythologies and concepts.

    But I would modify his theme of reflection to the theme of recursion. TES defines itself in terms of itself. Kinda like Anu studying himself. [/recursion]

    Non-TES lore response to Cygemai
    But, breaking down the Crime and Punishment story to only physical needs goes against the main exploration of the book about what, if anything, can justify one to commit a crime, and then the culpability of the perpetrator in undertaking the crime. The perpetrator student in the book has a whole long philosophical discussion and journey to arrive at a decision to commit and plan and execute the crime.

    He did kill a very disgusting and possibly evil money-lender, but he gained from doing that. Maybe he would not have committed it if he had money. That could be like his justification for the deed but from a view of abundance rather than scarcity. However, he still decided to do it and did it meaning it was intentional and premeditated - which is how we test to convict someone on murder.

    I think the story about the horse is a comment by Dostoyevski on some of the pressures placed on people in his time, but I don't want to state that as a fact. Is the horse like the student? Did neither have agency?

    The horse was punished (beaten to death) for not achieving the impossible. The man was also fully within his rights to beat his horse to death for not pulling a load it could not physically pull.

    I think we must juxtapose this metaphor with human a) religion, b) laws, c) society and economy and d) acceptance of free will. Blaming circumstances and/or our limited ability or inability to react sufficiently effectively to overcome these circumstances may not be the same as inevitability or fate or somehow forcing us to undertake certain actions.

    While the student did not necessarily cause his circumstances, there are more options open than only the one he chose to carry out.

    If society accepts that people have free will, then we have to accept consequences for our actions and, similarly, the judgements of society are based on this understanding.

    I haven't finished the book, so I defer to you and cannot say that my views are complete or even valid.
    Edited by ArcaneScientius on October 28, 2020 12:46PM
    Nothing leads to more death than the need for certainty. - Xukas
    In balance with this life, this death - W.B. Yeats
  • RaddlemanNumber7
    I've nothing against a bit of symmetrical violence now and then, as long as it's fun. If we want to get involved in symmetrical violence in ESO the game provides us with many forms of PvP. The game's logo is a representation of the symmetrical violence in Cyrodiil. It's that central to game. The Three Banners War. SIx years and they're still trying to balance the symmetry.
    PC EU
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