The Elder Scrolls series are what you’d call a Bethesda’s pride and joy. Indeed, there’s the fantastic Fallout series, but honestly, the Elder Scrolls franchise precedes the Fallout series by about 15 years.
And yes. We’re talking about 1994 when the first Elder Scrolls game of the series came out. Elder Scrolls Arena. So, that’s 26 years, 5 main games, and several spin-offs. Oh, and massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The notorious Elder Scrolls Online which I’m told nobody likes. But I could be wrong about this. But my point is… Elder Scrolls is a beloved and acclaimed series. Not to mention, one of the bestselling series in the entire Bethesda catalog. Generations and generations grew up with the series, and that fan-base is not even stagnant now in 2021. It’s still growing, which is impressive I must admit.
Feel Free To Snoop Around Our Elder Scrolls Menu Of Offerings
However, the reason for this particular post is the Elder Scrolls games that we currently have here at IndieGala. And yes, some of them are on sale, so hurry up and get them while they’re hot. And I must admit, during my research, I found countless sources regarding my topic. The influences on the iconic series. It was an overwhelming and delicate research but hey. It’s my job and I love it. Besides, we’re living in a global pandemic. Google is my BFF right now. So, I’m happy to explore uncharted territories. Furthermore, I even found a B.A. thesis from a student in the Netherlands (at the University Of Utrecht) about the series. The dude did his thesis on the music in Elder Scrolls, which I think is awesome. Frankly, mine was about Oriana Fallaci, but I feel his thesis is way cooler. Don’t you agree?
Let’s Get A Glimpse At The Elder Scrolls History
And by doing that, we must go back to the early to mid-’90s and the world of Julian Le Fay. Also known as the „Father of the ES games“, Le Foy was with the company pretty much from its inception. He’s also responsible for other Bethesda intellectual properties, like the Terminator series for instance. But the Elder Scroll series remains his magnum opus. For instance, the open world, RPG game, Arena is notable for being one of the first games to feature a realistic day/night cycle in the gameplay. This soon became a staple feature of most open-world games, and a true trailblazer in the modern era of the gaming industry as well. So, there. You have Le Fay to thank for that.
But What About The Influences?
As I previously mentioned, I encountered dozens upon dozens of influences on the Elder Scrolls games. Influences that made an impact on the gameplay, the concept, characters, the lore and the themes. And believe me, the influences range from Dungeons and Dragons to Christianity, Plato and even alchemy. Yup. And let’s not forget the cultural influences on the races and provinces. For instance, the Nords are obviously based on the Scandinavian Vikings.
Next, the Bretons. They’re basically the Celtic ethnic group native to the historical region Brittany. However, the real-life Bretons had their own unique culture and language that was different from the French. Bethesda obviously based them off the real-life Bretons, and I love that.
Additionally, there are Imperials. They’re based on the Romans, I’m sure. However, in the games, the Imperials have conquered the whole continent of Tamreil, just like the Romans did in real life. Also, many of the Imperials guard uniforms arguably look very similar to the Romans soldier armor. Particularly the helmets with the “Mohawk” and the skirts underneath. Not to mention the architecture in the Imperial City is also similar to the Roman architecture.
So, yes. Not everything is fiction in the series. Some aspects are truly steeped in reality, and a big part of human history. And that’s awesome.
How About The Bigger Themes?
Well, as I also mentioned earlier in the post, there are a lot of influences and inspirations in the Elder Scrolls series. Heck, they’re 26 years old by now, and it’s pretty obvious that they’re vast and intricate. So, in order not to take much of your time and patience with this post, I’ve boiled them down to 5 main influences. Tell me if you agree, and of course, if you don’t. Oh, and I’d love to know your opinions on this subject, so make sure to hit that comment section. I’d love to know everything about this series.
White Bear and Red Moon And Dungeons And Dragons
I’m comprising these two games together, but only because of their similarity and their influence on the series. Let me explain. White Bear and Red Moon is a fantasy board war-game published in 1975. While D&D is a fantasy tabletop RPG published a year before. And let’s not forget White Bear and Red Moon is set in the fantasy world of Glorantha, which bears resemblance to the world of Tamriel. In fact, the default campaign setting for the Runequest RPG is directly inspired much of Tamriel’s cultural and religious relativism. And let’s not forget Bethesda’s use of the unreliable narrator is evident because of these games. Frankly, it’s fascinating that Ken Rolston wrote/designed lore for both Glorantha and Tamriel, and awesome at the same time too.
It’s pretty obvious, right? The setting in the Elder Scrolls games is fictional, but it’s set in a world that loosely resembles medieval Europe. However, the lore also draws inspiration from other eras and cultures, and of course, the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. Indeed, the gods are real, magic is real, elves exist, dwarfs exist, orcs exist too, and…. you can connect the dots here all by yourself.
And it’s true. Tolkien is the originator of modern western fantasy stories, and his works have massive depth and immersion. But then again, that doesn’t mean that all of it is a rip-off of his stuff. No, here the Tolkien based influences are obvious but subtle. For instance, the story of the Orcs in ES is a derivative from the origins of the Orcs in Middle Earth, and that’s fine. It works so well in the game series, and it’s subtle nod to the great Tolkien.
Here’ I’m referring to the visual storytelling of the Elder Scrolls Online game, not on the themes and the story itself. Plenty of ancient architectures are present in the game series, but some of them are really captivating. Case in point, the real-life Mesoamerican architecture in the fictional Argonian architecture. Indeed ancient argonians used to build great, stone, step-pyramids called xanmeers (similar to the ones of the Mayan and Aztec cultures of Central America). They also had ziggurats and Mayan like armors, and The Argonians also seemed to be the pioneers in the arts of alchemy. Another influence of humanity’s dark and rich history, besides the beautiful ancient Mesoamerican architecture.
Some might say that Morrowind is the most “Lovecraftian” game in The Elder Scrolls series. And yes, the growing consensus agrees with the premise, but other games of the series have a strong Lovecraftian influence too. The entire Dragonborn DLC Quest is Lovecraft-ian even.
An isolated island’s population’s will is being bent by an unseen, otherworldly being who seeks to escape the dimension he’s in. Next, Hackdirt from the A Shadow over Hackdirt quest is wonderfully Lovecraftian as well. And Hackdirt is scary. The town is disconnected from the rest of the world and the tunnels have scary monster noises. And let’s not forget, pretty much all the gods are Cthulhu like in influence.
But probably The biggest Cthulu mythos parallel, however, is how Anu is comparable to the Azathoth deity from the Cthulhu Mythos and Dream Cycle stories. They’re both horror beings that created the Multiverse/Aurbis and they’re scary indeed. I mean Azathoth is a sleeping god of which the universe was his dream, and if he were awake, the universe would simply cease to exist. If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is. Just like Lovecraft’s work.
Several religions I might add. Starting with Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism as well, are a strong influence here in The Elder Scrolls series. For some, the closest thing to Christianity is the Alessian Order. A once-popular monotheistic religion created by the prophet Marukh in the early First Era. Furthermore, the Dunmer are the most likely candidate for the Elder Scrolls equivalent of the Jewish people. Not to mention, there are plenty of areas and cities in Israel that have the prefix Tel like Tel Aviv. Ergo Israel is essentially the principal seat of House Telvanni. And let’s not forget, just like the Jews were driven from Israel, Dunmer were driven from Morrowind.
Now there’s a strong trace of Hinduism in the series as well. In fact, a lot of concepts in the series are from Hinduism. Most importantly, there’s the idea of Moksha. One of the ways of attaining Moksha is through all-encompassing Love. Love for God, creation, fellow man, etc. Supreme love for all that exists, existed, or has yet to exist. Sounds intriguing? I thought so too.
Which Elder Scrolls Game is Your Favorite And Why?
Don’t be shy. Tell us in the comment section. We’d love to know all about it.
An interesting article … There is much to be said about ES. My favorite thing in ES series is definitely THE MUSIC. Jeremy Soule wrote many beautiful soundtracks. I listen to it almost daily. Oblivion is my favorite ES game and one of the best games I’ve ever played. You can play it over and over again.