On November 11th, 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles and Microsoft Windows, to the joy of millions of anticipating gamers. Of the 7 million units shipped, 3.4 million copies were sold within the first two days at retail outlets, mostly in North America and Europe. Online sales numbered a record-breaking 280,000 within the first 24 hours. These numbers are expected to increase steadily in the coming months.
Nearly every respected gaming website gave Skyrim a perfect score, with few falling below a 9/10. IGN.com stated that “playing Skyrim is a rare kind of intensely personal, deeply rewarding experience,” and described it as “one of the best role-playing games yet produced.” Even the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave it a smashing 40/40, which in all of its 25 years of circulation it has never given an American title. On December 10th, Spike.com’s Video Game Awards named Skyrim Game of the Year and Best Role-Playing Game.
Many readers may be asking “What does the success of something so adolescent matter to us?” The answer is that Skyrim continues in the Elder Scrolls tradition of being a video game that is saturated with racially healthy themes, heroic values, and references to Indo-European culture.
The Elder Scrolls Universe
The Elder Scrolls games offer players a role-playing experience with a first-person perspective; in other words, the player sees what his character sees. As mentioned in another article, the setting of the entire series is the continent of Tamriel, which is ruled over by a cosmopolitan Empire led by humans and comprised of nine provinces. Each province is home to an indigenous race, spanning everything from different kinds of humans and elves to beast peoples. Since it is cosmopolitan, however, one can find members of any race in every province. The player himself can choose to be a member of any of these races, with each offering a slightly different gaming experience. The Elder Scrolls game that we will examine is named after the province in which it takes place: Skyrim, land of the Nords.
Before delving deeply into the content of the game, it is necessary to explain the storyline preceding it.
In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the Empire was beset by an event known as the Oblivion Crisis, when a race of infernal beings called Daedra invaded Tamriel from their own chaotic dimension of Oblivion. The player’s ultimate goal was to rescue the last surviving member of the Imperial bloodline, Martin Septim, and escort him to the Temple of the One in the Imperial capital. Once there, he would perform a coronation ritual that would both invest him with imperial authority and “close shut the jaws of Oblivion” forever. Things go awry when one of the Daedric gods, Mehrunes Dagon, steps through a portal and into the city, causing untold devastation. Acting on years of esoteric magical study, Martin sacrifices himself to become the avatar of one of the Aedra, or creator gods. In the form of a flaming dragon, he banishes Dagon and his ilk back to Oblivion, thus closing all inter-dimensional gateways and saving Tamriel from destruction, but dying in the process.
With no heir to succeed Martin, few legionaries to maintain order, and much of Tamriel ravaged by the Daedra, the Empire falls on hard times. Provinces begin seceding unhindered, leaving the Empire a mere shell of its former self.
Skyrim, Land of the Nords
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim takes place in the northern province of Skyrim, some 200 years after the events of Oblivion. The land is home to the Nords, a human race that was clearly inspired by our own Nordic Scandinavians. They are tall, muscular, fair skinned, usually with light eyes (unless the player decides otherwise), and light hair that is often tied in braids.
Their culture is in every way Germanic. They bear names like Gerdur, Arngeir, Sigurd, and Wilhelm, among others; the name Skyrim itself is supposed to mean “Fatherland,” a truly German concept. Their buildings follow a longhouse design reminiscent of ancient and Medieval Germanic architecture. Mead halls can be found in nearly every town, and in one town in particular, one finds a giant tree at the center called the Gildergreen. The latter is clearly a reference to the Germanic custom of constructing important places around large trees, which themselves represented the Yggdrasil, or World Tree. By so doing, our ancestors designated that place as a center, be it of a town, a civilization, or both.
Skyrim is organized into nine regions, or holds. The holds are governed by nobles called Jarls, and the entire nation is ruled by a High King. The High King is chosen from among the Jarls during an election called the Moot, which is clearly taken from the same Old English word for “meeting.” Beneath the Jarls are warrior retainers called Housecarls who police and protect the hold from whatever threats may arise. In ancient Germanic societies a nearly identical caste system existed: at the top were the noble Jarls, followed by the warrior Karls, followed by the tradesman and slave castes.
Like their human cousins in Cyrodiil, Nord religion centers around the pantheon known as the Nine Divines, which the elves refer to as the Aedra (translated “our ancestors”). While the Cyrodiilic humans believe that the souls of the deceased depart to Aetherius, where the gods reside, and the evil are damned to Oblivion, the Nords believe that the souls of heroic warriors ascend to a separate place called Sovngarde. Once there, their martial prowess is tested by the god Tsun, who decides whether or not to grant them access across a gigantic whalebone bridge. At the other end lies the Hall of Shor, a massive mead hall where the world’s greatest heroes train for the battle that will take place during the “end times,” taking breaks to swill mead and eat lavish meals.
For those who have not boned up on their Norse mythology, Sovngarde is clearly inspired by Asgard, the abode of the gods; the whalebone bridge is the Bifrost Bridge, and Tsun is the god Heimdall, who guards it; the Hall of Shor is Valhalla; Shor is the god Odin, head of the Norse pantheon who resides in Valhalla to train the souls of fallen warriors; and the “end times” refers to Ragnarök, when the Aesir (gods) will lead the forces of light and order against the titanic forces of chaos to usher in a new Golden Age.
When players first enter Skyrim, they find it wrought by a civil war between an anti-Imperial and pro-Imperial faction.
As with previous Elder Scrolls titles, overt racialism among characters is an integral part of the story. From reading in-game lore, the player discovers that during the Oblivion Crisis, certain provinces came to be ruled by ultra-nationalist factions that rose to combat the Daedric menace. In Black Marsh the An-Xileel rallied the Argonian race and successfully repelled the Daedric onslaught, going so far as to follow them back into Oblivion itself by the swarm. Recognizing the inability of the Imperial Legion to protect them and the power of their own self-reliance, the Argonians seceded from the Empire after the war. Some years later, when a volcanic eruption devastated the neighboring province of Morrowind, home of the hated dark elves, the An-Xileel launched a surprise invasion that led to its annexation. Population replacement followed, as the elves were forced to evacuate into Skyrim lest they be wiped out by their angry, vengeful attackers.
In the Summerset Isles, land of the Altmer (high elves), a faction of elven supremacists known as the Thalmor rose to prominence to combat the Daedra. Like the An-Xileel, they observed the obsolescence of Imperial protection and broke away shortly after the crisis. They were not content with mere separatism, however. As the closest genetic descendants (as they would have it) to the original proto-elven race, the Aldmer, they bear a millennia-old grudge against humankind for toppling elven domination over Tamriel during the First Era.
Free from Imperial rule and invigorated by their success against the Daedra, the Thalmor embarked on a geopolitical campaign to return to the ways of old, when elves ruled the world and humans were slaves. They clandestinely propelled a pro-Thalmor regime to power in the nearby province of Valenwood, home of the wood elves. In their own version of the Anschluss, the Thalmor united the two nations and collectively renamed them the Aldmeri Dominion to emphasize the pro-elvenness of their cause.
At this point the only major obstacle to the Thalmor’s aims was the Empire. To usher in the war that would elevate them to global supremacy, the Thalmor provoked the Empire with a list of impossible demands. Chief among these was that the Empire ban all worship of the god Talos in its provinces.
Talos is a member of the pantheon known as the Nine Divines, which most races recognize under various names. Legend has it that Talos was once a human, probably a Nord, whose heroic leadership forged the Empire of Tamriel as it stood before the Oblivion Crisis. For his nigh-otherworldly accomplishments, he underwent apotheosis upon death and joined the original Eight Divines as a fellow deity.
To the human races, Talos is a source of immense pride and an example by which to live. To the Empire, he is the embodiment of the national ideal. After all, while living for centuries as elven slaves during the Merethic Era, man was constantly reminded that elves were the direct descendants of the gods themselves, and therefore had every right to lord over him.
To the Altmer, Talos worship represents a serious affront to their ancestry. If elves were the descendants of the gods, and if humans were of a lesser breed, how then could a human attain the same level of godhood that the elves lost thousands of years ago?
Needless to say, the Empire refused the Thalmor’s demands, sparking an event known as the Great War. Emperor Titus Mede managed to defeat the elven invasion, but not before losing two more provinces and having the Imperial capital occupied for a time. After counterattacking the city and destroying its elven usurpers, Mede decided that the safest course of action to avert further hostilities—which would undoubtedly end the Empire—was to sue for peace. The same Thalmor demands were again presented, and this time the Emperor acquiesced. The worship of Talos was henceforth outlawed and his shrines were removed. Thalmor agents were given free reign across the provinces to oversee disbandment of Talos’s cults, and to supervise Imperial rulers and ensure their compliance. Any objectors promptly disappeared in the night, taken to Thalmor dungeons in secret locations.
At different points in the game, players will encounter Thalmor soldiers who will throw epithets at them like “Can’t you see that elven supremacy is the only way?” and “You humans need to learn your place!”
In a nutshell, a race of empire-builders is forced by a foreign race that hates them to abandon their core religious beliefs (centered around a man who becomes a god) and national ideals. The latter roams about the former’s lands freely, with government support, to facilitate this process and remove dissidents who threaten it. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
The Nords had always been the backbone of the Empire. Were it not for the invading Nord armies of Ysgramor, the humans of Cyrodiil would never have ousted their elven slave masters during the Merethic Era. Talos himself, who united the provinces through his martial prowess, was a Nord. For many in Skyrim, however, the Empire’s humiliating acceptance of the Thalmor concordat was a sign that the Empire no longer represented the interests of its human core. As a crier in one town from the game sums it up: “And what does the Empire do? Nothing! The Imperial machine enforces the will of the Thalmor! Against its own people!”
Shortly before the events of the game, Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak launches a rebellion by challenging the current High King, an Imperial puppet named Torygg, to a duel in the traditional Nord fashion. He kills Torygg with ease and then initiates a hit-and-run campaign against the Imperial Legion within Skyrim. In addition, he works to forge alliances with the other Jarls to establish a front against the Empire. At the very beginning of the game, the player finds himself sitting next to Ulfric in a horse-drawn carriage being transported by Imperials to a chopping block. After a surprise dragon attack, Ulfric and the player are able to escape, and it is here that the player can embark on whatever journey he pleases. Ulfric chooses to return to his city of Windhelm to continue the rebellion, which the player may or may not opt to join.
The Stormcloaks, as the rebels are called, are a racialist and separatist organization. They formed in reaction to the Empire’s banning of Talos and the susbequent entry of Thalmor agents into Skyrim. They bear a deep hatred of elves, which the player gleans from dialogue within the game. If one chooses to journey to Windhelm to join the Stormcloaks, he overhears a conversation between Ulfric and his second-in-command, Galmar. When Ulfric asks him exactly what he fights for, Galmar replies “I’ll die before elves dictate the fates of men.” After a few lines of dialogue, Ulfric explains “I fight for we few who did come home [after the Great War], only to find our country full of strangers wearing familiar faces. I fight for my people impoverished to pay the debts of an Empire too weak to rule them yet brands them criminals for wanting to rule themselves!”
Players have the opportunity to ask Galmar what the aim of the rebellion really is. He replies: “First we’ll kick the Thalmor and their bloody Imperial puppets out of the country. Then we’ll rebuild Skyrim into the land she once was. When we are done with that, we will take our army to the Dominion, and show those pointy-eared bastards not every man is fit to be their slave.”
If one asks Galmar his reasons for joining the war, he responds: “Since when does a man need a reason to protect his family, to defend his homeland? It’s the damn outlanders and Empire that need the reasons . . . I’m a man, Skyrim is man’s homeland. That’s a fact. A fact I’m proud of. There’s no shame in that. Read your history.” I found his last sentence particularly cathartic.
In the city of Windhelm, the newly arrived dark elf refugees have been segregated into their own corner of the city. Once called the Snow Quarter, this area is now derisively labeled the Gray Quarter in reference to the complexion of its new inhabitants. Players will frequently hear Nord characters refer to the elves as “grayskins”; one even gets drunk at the inn and staggers about the Gray Quarter every night to shout slurs. Another Nord character, however, is of an annoyingly liberal disposition. If approached, he asks the player what his position is on the racial issues in Skyrim. The player can choose to say “All people should be welcome in Skyrim” or “Other races have no place in Skyrim.” If he chooses the latter, the character voices his disapproval and refuses to speak to the player again. If the player is a Nord, the character will say “I have no time to talk to Nords who think they’re better than everyone else.” Many reading this are probably used to hearing ridiculous platitudes like these. On the bright side, the game’s free-roam mechanics allow the player to punch him in the face, or worse. The only issue is dealing with the guards afterwards.
The Stormcloak faction is the shining centerpiece of this game for the White Nationalist gamer. The Stormcloaks are Nords, which look identical to Northern Europeans. They are contending with a foreign menace that seeks to ruin their way of life, which is easily relatable to our people’s struggle with the Jewish Lobby and other hostile forces that threaten us with extinction. The Thalmor have Imperial support, just as the Lobby has the protection of Western political establishments. The Thalmor kidnap Nords who voice their opposition to the ban on Talos, not at all dissimilar to the fate of our kinsmen in Europe who speak out against the powers that be, or the fate of our Russian brethren during the Soviet era.
To actually play the Stormcloak quests is where the real satisfaction is experienced. Players get to go Mel Gibson-style in epic battles to take cities and ambush Imperial caravans; they get to force cowardly, on-the-fence officials to pick sides, and sneak into prisons to liberate their comrades. The adventures are many, and all are fulfilled to the sound of nationalistic phrases and songs shouted by companions and sung by bards. To give a more balanced picture, however, it should be noted that players may instead choose to fight for the Empire, or even avoid joining the civil war altogether. Such is the nature of the free-roam role-playing game, but the fact that players can actually choose to join a racialist faction is quite significant.
In addition, those not necessarily of a racialist worldview are still being given a barrage of politically incorrect messages, and since the game has already sold nearly 4 million copies to a mostly White customer base (even Australian retailers have been forced to reorder the game due to its popularity), this can only be a good thing.
One final detail that makes the game’s racialist and separatist factions relatable to our Cause is that, according to the lore, it took national crises to bring them into power. The Thalmor and An-Xileel arose in their respective nations when the Daedra invaded, and broke away from the Empire when it appeared too weak to consolidate itself in the invasion’s aftermath. The Stormcloaks are only able to flourish due to the Empire’s weakened state after the Great War (their total success, of course, depends upon the player’s choices). If there’s anything one hears a lot in our own nationalist circles, it’s that a national crisis will be necessary before our Cause meets any real success.
References to Indo-European Myth and Culture
Another trait that Skyrim shares with its predecessors is references to various aspects of Indo-European religious beliefs. The main antagonist of the story is the dragon Alduin, first son of Akatosh, who is the god of time. Alduin returns after countless centuries to herald the end times, when he and his kind will destroy the world so that a new one may dawn. According to in-game lore this process has occurred once before, earning Alduin the title of “World-Eater.”
There lies within this plot several ideas borrowed from Hindu and Norse mythology. Firstly, we have the concept of time taking on a destructive aspect, for Alduin is the god of time’s son. In Hindu belief, Kala is the god of time who will “devour” the world so it can be remade again. A text on the subject reads:
At the dissolution of things, it is Kāla [Time] Who will devour all, and by reason of this He is called Mahākāla [an epithet of Lord Shiva] . . . Because Thou devourest Kāla, Thou art Kāli, the original form of all things, and because Thou art the Origin of and devourest all things Thou art called the Adya [the Primordial One]. Re-assuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable…Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress that Thou art.
With references to the world ending and then starting over, the game also borrows the understanding of history as a cyclical phenomenon. Cyclical history is a concept found across the board in Indo-European, pre-Christian eschatology, most pronouncedly in Hindu and Norse myth as well as ancient Greek literature as exemplified by Hesiod’s Works and Days. From all corners of the ancient world, our ancestors believed that the world would one day become so corrupt that its destruction would be necessary for a new Golden Age to eventually materialize.
That Alduin is given the form of a dragon is also significant. In the Norse view of the “end times,” which they called Ragnarök (Twilight of the Gods), the giant serpent Jormungandr plays a role in destroying the world by killing the god Thor. In the cataclysm’s aftermath, the world is reborn.
From a Traditionalist standpoint, an issue may be taken with the fact that players must stop Alduin from destroying the world. I would meet this criticism by highlighting other events in the game, i.e. the Stormcloak Rebellion, which could still usher in a Golden Age in the world of the Elder Scrolls without needing the cataclysmic destruction that Alduin would unleash. But debating in-game lore goes way beyond the purpose of this article.
An important aspect of the game is an ability the player may use called the “thu’um,” or shout. When the player uses a shout, he harnesses his spiritual essence into his throat, then yells words of power in the dragon language, which culminates in one of several possible results. Players can throw their enemies several feet backwards, fade into an ether, breathe fire or ice, run incredibly fast, or call down lightning storms, to name a few. Words of power are learned by reading ancient Nord walls which can be found in burial mounds and other ruins. According to in-game lore, the god Kynareth taught mortals how to use the thu’um in the distant past to help them combat the dragons of old.
The thu’um parallels the Tantric Buddhist idea of the siddhis, which are magical powers attained through various means including incantations. Among such powers are the ability to control another’s body, manipulate the laws of nature, fly, walk on water, and teleport, among others. Like the thu’ums, siddhis are an ability gifted to mankind by the divine.
Both the thu’ums and siddhis require ascetic practice and discipline to be used properly. According to the Akankheyya Sutta, one who wishes to perform siddhis must “fulfill all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstasy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone!”
For players in Skyrim to perfect their use of thu’ums, they must spend time with a monastic group called the Greybeards who reside in a Romanesque temple atop the highest mountain in Skyrim. When players journey to the temple they find it staffed with elderly, fair-complexioned Nords, which is fitting considering that the early developers of Buddhistic practices were themselves fair-skinned, Indo-European Nordics.
The culture war needs to be waged on any front and through any outlet that will send a message to large numbers of people. Like it or not, video games are an integral part of modern culture, and they are embraced by millions upon millions of people. As such, it behooves us as racialists to engage this aspect of modern life in our writings and our discussions, just as others have taken to writing movie and music reviews. Many of these millions use the internet to find information about their games, whether it’s for help completing them, to research prices, to look into their storylines, or a myriad other reasons. Giving Google.com and other search engines a reason to send browsing gamers to Counter-Currents instead of some meaningless forum or wiki is, therefore, a worthwhile goal.
With a game like Skyrim, much of our work is already cut out for us. Players are exposed to a world where racial differences not only exist, but impact the gaming experience. For example, one who chooses to be an Argonian will be able to breathe underwater, whereas one who chooses to be a Breton will be superior at withstanding magical attacks. They witness a rebellion taking place by White-looking separatists against a multiracial, cosmopolitan Empire that serves foreign interests, which they can even participate in. While we cannot expect every one of the millions who own the game to pick up on the allegory here, I would cautiously wager that at least thousands will. As I have said elsewhere, role-playing games appeal to more intelligent gamers, while the bulk of gamers prefer first-person shooters and sports games due to their more instantaneous and less mentally-taxing gratification.
Skyrim contains numerous themes from Indo-European myth, folklore, and culture, which can certainly spark a deeper interest in these subjects in more inquisitive players. From dragons and elves to esoteric topics from Aryan texts, it runs the gamut of all things mythical.
And at the end of the day, it’s a damn fun game to play. In my first play through, I was a two-handed axe-wielding Nord who joined the Stormcloak Rebellion and helped to extirpate the Imperial occupiers from the land of my ancestors. To give myself an extra edge in the struggle, I contracted lycanthropy; when the moment seemed right, I would morph into a monstrous, bipedal wolf and cut a swathe though Imperial lines with the sheer force of my claws.
In Elder Scrolls games the possibilities are endless, but the messages are overwhelmingly positive. Of course, caution needs to be taken with regard to the potential addictiveness of these kinds of games. One can get so immersed in the world of Tamriel that real-life matters can easily descend on the priority ladder. If one intends to purchase this game for oneself or one’s children, certain parameters must definitely be established in advance to prevent addiction and/or neglect of more important things.