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Alternative Character Interpretation / The Elder Scrolls

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The Elder Scrolls lore is generally not clear-cut. Reasons for this range from biased in-universe sources intentionally only giving you only one side of a story, to sources lacking critical information or working from false information, to the implication that All Myths Are True, despite the contradictions, or that at least all myths are Metaphorically True. Out-of-game developer supplemental texts (frequently referred to as "Obscure Texts" by the lore community) are more trustworthy, but are frequently left unofficial and sometimes later contradicted. Because of this, it is entirely possible for two contradictory statements in the below examples to both be true. (And due to frequent events in-universe that alter the timeline, both may literally be true in-universe.) Because of this, the series has Alternative Character Interpretations (including In-Universe examples) pouring out of it.

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Series Lore and Backstory Examples

  • In-Universe for Lorkhan, the et'Ada who either tricked or convinced (depending on the culture of the storyteller) the Aedra to create Mundus.
    • Is he, as most races of Mer teach, a malevolent, manipulative agent of chaos who tricked the spirits out of their pre-creation divinity? Or, as most races of Men teach, is he a benevolent savior who rescued the spirits from the static and unchanging prison of pre-creation?
      • Even within the races, there is further alternative interpretations. The Dunmer, going against the other races of Mer, have some manner of respect for Lorkhan, believing that he "exposed" the Aedra as false gods. Meanwhile, the Redguards, going against the other races of Men, see Lorkhan as a serpent with insatiable hunger who tries to prevent mortal spirits from reaching The Far Shores.
    • Is he an Aedric being for suggesting the creation of Mundus? Or is he a Daedric being, due to his lack of sacrifice, Padomaic basis, and indestructible "divine center"? Or does his nature as the demiurge that brought the Mundus into existence make him neither?
  • The Aedra (Nine Divines):
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    • Benevolent Gods or Sealed Evil in a Can? The Daedra play the opposite, Sealed evil or benevolent Gods?
    • Like Lorkhan, the Aedra also get this In-Universe: Every culture of Tamriel worships or acknowledges the Divines in some fashion, but each mythological tradition gives them different names, personalities, and motivations. The Imperial religion of the Nine Divines is a political creation which blends some of these different aspects in a Broad Strokes fashion. For example, the Altmer see the chief Aedric deity as Auri-El, the golden eagle "king of the gods". The races of Men instead see him as Akatosh, the draconic god of time. Making this even more complicated is how Cyrodiil and High Rock were Mer-controlled for a time, so their takes on Akatosh came to include some Altmeri influences.
    • Nine divines? Or eight? Did Tiber Septim really ascend from being human to become the god Talos, or are the Thalmor correct this is just a belief promoted by the Imperials to justify having themselves in charge of the Empire? In any case, would an ascended human actually count as one of the Aedra, or be something else entirely?
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  • The Daedra in-general, again in-universe. Complicating their characterization as mostly "evil" and their Blue and Orange Morality is that different cultures see specific Princes in different lights. For example, Boethiah is considered a "good" Daedra by the Dunmer. Meanwhile, Malacath is considered a "bad" Daedra by the Dunmer, but the Orsimer consider him their patron deity and divine ancestor.
  • Mehrunes Dagon, Daedric Prince of Destruction: The closest the series has to a Big Bad, or the Fake Final Boss before the Real Big Bad, who happens to be the chief god of the Imperial Pantheon? Cue Epileptic Trees a-shakin' when an in-Universe document about how the Nords view the creation of the world has Akatosh turning Dagon into what he is in Oblivion.
  • Azura, Daedric Prince of Dusk and Dawn: Just how much of a 'Good' Daedra is Azura, really? For that matter, did she curse the Chimer into becoming the Dunmer, or did she just point it out while warning the Tribunal that there was going to be consequences for what was done? (The official interpretation is that none of the Daedra are truly good or evil. They all have their own goals, it's just that Azura's tend to be aligned with traditionally "good" mortals more often.)
  • Another In-Universe case with Boethiah, Daedric Prince of Plots, whose sphere also includes Deceit, Conspiracy, Murder, Assassination, Treason, Unlawful Overthrow of Authority, and Betrayal. Given that list, it is unsurprising that he (sometimes she) is near-universally regarded as one of the "bad" Daedra throughout Tamriel. The Dunmer, however, see Boethiah as a brutal but positive force, driving them to be tougher and stronger, and to be guarded against treachery and betrayal. In effect, Boethiah's harsh trials and ruthless betrayals push the the Dunmer to become greater than they think they are.
  • Like Boethiah, Mephala (a Daedric Prince whose sphere is "obscured to mortals" but is associated with manipulation, lies, sex, and secrets) is another In-Universe case. She is generally regarded as one of the "bad" Daedra to most in Tamriel, with the Dunmer as a major exception. The Dunmer believe that Mephala taught them the skills they would need to evade their enemies or to kill them with secret murder. In their early days, as the Chimer, they were few in number and surrounded by enemies (primarily the Nords and Dwemer) on all sides. She is also credited with organizing the "clan" systems that would eventually become the Dunmeri Great Houses.
  • The Septim Dynasty: Benevolent Emperors or conniving Machiavellian rulers? (At for the non-Caligulan ones...) Berenziah's bio shows both benevolent and conniving sides of Tiber Septim.

Morrowind

  • Vivec: A just and kind god-king who had to do some bad things for the greater good, or a murdering traitor who may or may not have been redeemed over the four millennia since he became a god? Is he a genuine humanitarian as suggested be works x, y and z, or is he a petty- but Magnificent Bastard as suggested by works 1, 2 and 3? Is he, in fact, right when he says that all beings are the illusions of a gigantic dreaming god that he is aware of and therefore the only absolute God of the 'verse, or is that simply an excuse for Michael Kirkbride to continue using him as an Author Avatar after he lost his plot importance. There's even debates as to whether the constant use of him when Kirkbride writes in-Universe documents makes him simply a very heavily examined character or an outright Marty Stu. Or is he all at once? Or is THAT idea simply a way for people to believe one thing or another about him despite evidence to the contrary?
  • The Nerevarine: Is the hero of Morrowind Lord Nerevar reborn seeking to regain his power? A true reincarnation but lacking in any of the original's memories? A simple adventurer who'll fulfill whatever prophecy he has to if it stops the annoying storms? A master manipulator who's using the prophecies to gain unimaginable power over every faction - even ones that otherwise hate each other? It's a question only you can answer. In addition to this, the PC is The Ageless and immune to all diseases, so can hold this position forever.
  • King Hlaalu Helseth: Brilliant, fair minded Magnificent Bastard who skillfully manages to both act in the best interest of his people and province and keep a healthy diplomatic relationship with the rest of the Empire, or a tyrant who ruthlessly exploits and oppresses his people for personal gain?

Oblivion

  • Mannimarco and the Order of the Black Worm: Genocidal, batshit insane sadists that give Necromancy a bad name, or staunch freedom fighters boldly fighting against Archmage Traven's tyranny?
  • Hannibal Traven: On the other side of the coin, is he the Only Sane Man in the Mages Guild who recognized the threat and evil of necromancy and did right in washing the Guilds hands of it? Or is he a Knight Templar whose zealous actions only ended up weakening the Guild as a whole?
  • Necromancy: merely an icky branch of magic that tends to attract the wrong sorts, inherently wrong due to messing with the dead, or is there something about it that drives people towards being genocidal, batshit insane sadists? In Morrowind, where necromancers cannot be upstanding citizens - by longstanding and deeply held tradition and law, necromancy is punished by death in the region it takes place in - yet we meet more than one necromancer that, while not necessarily good, aren't evil, either. In Oblivion, where necromancy is perfectly legal and, up until shortly before the game began, openly done by the Mages' Guild, there are no non-evil necromancers to be found.
  • Is the Champion of Cyrodiil really just a wayfaring adventurer who gets a lucky break, or are they actually a magnificent chessmaster who take advantage of the political crisis brought on by Uriel Septim's assassination to pole-vault into a position whereby they are the head of every single major guild in Cyrodiil, all at once? Think about it - by the end of the various questlines, every mage, thief and assassin in the province now works for them directly, and headship of the Fighters' Guild gives them their own personal army as well. Meanwhile, the fact that they're the Grand Champion of the Arena (and Champion of Cyrodiil) means they're a popular hero as well, while possible membership of the Blades gives them an ear in the political backrooms of the Imperial Palace. The player character need never overthrow the paralysed Elder Council - they rule the province far more directly than the council ever could. Oh, and since they may also be a vampire, they could conceivably hold this power forever. And this without mentioning that the PC also becomes one of the Daedric Lords, the Mad God of the Shivering Isles.

Skyrim

  • Is the Last Dragonborn a selfless hero with a heart of gold that's out to free Skyrim from the ever-looming threat of the dragon invasion, or a power-hungry bastard that becomes a master with his voice, highly influential in the major cities of Skyrim, the head of each guild, a member of either the original government or the new upcoming one (depending on the player's choice), the person that brings the Dark Brotherhood back into prominence, a possible monster of lycanthropic or vampiric power, and ultimately the chessmaster that aims to replace Alduin as the most powerful threat to Skyrim hinted at even more by having a shout that's similar to the one most often used by Alduin. (As with all the other TES protagonists above, one has to note that, since the game generally uses a pretty "hands off" attitude when it comes to characterizing them, these interpretations could all be completely and one hundred percent true depending on the player.)
  • The Stormcloaks: Brave rebels fighting against religious and imperialist oppression, Stupid Good pawns of the Thalmor playing into their Divide and Conquer strategy, or racist bastards. The Empire, meanwhile, is either a tyrannical pawn of the Thalmor, a pitiful Vestigial Empire due to be wiped away, or the only hope Tamriel has against Thalmor oppression that's simply playing along with their decrees until it can defeat them.
  • Paarthurnax: An Atoner who feels genuine remorse for his actions during the Dragon War and wants to lead the remaining dragons into a peaceful coexistence with humanity, or a Starscream to Alduin who uses the Player Character to dispose of him so that he can take over?
  • The Blades: By the same token, are the Blades Esbern and Delphine justified in demanding Paarthurnax killed for the crimes he committed and right to believe that, since he betrayed Alduin once, he is likely to one day betray the people of Skyrim as well, or are they just unable to get past the fact that, due to the Thalmor, they've been hunted and driven underground and can't truly trust anyone, as well as loyalty to their cause as dragon-hunters?
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