Jarl Balgruuf wears noble clothes, fur-lined boots, and a gold and ruby circlet for a crown. The Jarl's weapon is a unique war axe (which can only be acquired through Pickpocket) that carries his name—Balgruuf's War Axe. If the Dragonborn fights Balgruuf in "Battle for Whiterun," he will equip Steel Plate Armor, minus the helmet.
He has a brother named Hrongar, and three children, Frothar, Dagny and Nelkir. No one ever mentions the Jarl's spouse, but one can speculate that she died at least some time before the beginning of the Dragon Crisis. Nelkir mentions how he does not have the same mother as Dagny and Frothar, suggesting either that the Jarl has been married twice and both his spouses died, or that he was married once and either cheated on his spouse or, after her death, had Nelkir with another woman.
While eventually becoming loyal to the Empire, he puts his people's interests first, many times denying the Imperial Legion permission to garrison soldiers in his city so as not to portray martial law―if he is asked what side he is on in the war, he will say that he is "on the side of Whiterun," showing a great sense of loyalty towards Whiterun. He is shown to be against the Stormcloak Rebellion after the Dragonborn chooses a side in the Civil War, slandering them if they seize Whiterun with the Stormcloak army; according to Gerdur, Balgruuf and Ulfric had been at odds for years. He is generally more interested in dragons than the Civil War in which he is involved.
According to his son Nelkir, he still worships Talos and hates the Thalmor as much as Ulfric and the other Nords do, if not more. If encountered at the party at the Thalmor Embassy, he will make this view very clear and will also be more than happy to disrupt the proceedings on behalf of the Dragonborn.
Balgruuf has strong bonds with his friend and Housecarl, Irileth, whom he fought alongside with during his time in the Legion. As such, she rarely lets him out of her sight and berates him for a lack of concern for his personal safety.
In the Official Game Guide, Balgruuf is viewed by many as the embodiment of a true Nord and his allegiance with the Empire as having actually convinced many would-be Stormcloaks that the Empire may actually be the answer to Skyrim's problems.
After the Dragonborn appears before the Jarl to tell him of the dragon attack on Helgen, the Dragonborn learns that another dragon, Mirmulnir, is attacking the Western Watchtower. Together with Irileth and several Whiterun Guards, the Dragonborn defeats the dragon and returns to the Jarl. Jarl Balgruuf then dubs the Dragonborn Thane of Whiterun and advises that they visit the Greybeards at High Hrothgar for instruction on how to learn the Thu'um.
At first, Balgruuf will remain neutral in the Civil War. But once the Dragonborn chooses a side, Balgruuf will eventually decide to help the Imperial Legion, regardless of which side the Dragonborn chose. If the Dragonborn sided with the Legion, Balgruuf will give a speech at the end of the battle. Alternatively, siding with the Stormcloaks means the Dragonborn must fight Balgruuf, Irileth, and several of the Whiterun Guards during the assault. If Vignar Gray-Mane becomes Jarl of Whiterun, Balgruuf, along with Irileth and Proventus, travel to the Blue Palace in Solitude, seeking refuge with Imperial sympathizer Elisif the Fair.
He is seen at Kodlak Whitemane's funeral if he is the Jarl of Whiterun.
Once the Dragonborn is recognized as a Thane of Whiterun, they are given a housecarl named Lydia, who can serve as their follower. Additionally, he grants the Dragonborn permission to purchase Breezehome, a house in Whiterun, for 5000 . He also presents the leveled Axe of Whiterun to the Dragonborn, a status symbol of the Thanes of Whiterun. A sword, rather than an axe, may be received.
- Dragon Rising – Help defend Whiterun against a dragon.
- The Way of the Voice – Seek out the Greybeards at High Hrothgar to learn about being Dragonborn.
- Season Unending – Make a peace treaty between the Imperials and the Stormcloaks.
- The Fallen – Trap a dragon in Dragonsreach with the Jarl's help
- Message to Whiterun – Deliver Ulfric's axe to Jarl Balgruuf.
- Battle for Whiterun (Stormcloaks) – Take the city for the Stormcloak rebellion.
- Battle for Whiterun (Imperial) – Defend the city from the Stormcloak rebellion.
- The Whispering Door – Something is wrong with Balgruuf's son Nelkir.
- Diplomatic Immunity – Balgruuf is one of the guests at the party.
Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak asked me to deliver this axe to you. "Did he now? Ha. The man is persistent, I'll give him that. I suppose it's time I give him an answer..."
Immediately after finishing speaking to the Dragonborn, he will ask Proventus his opinion on the matter.
Balgruuf: "Proventus, what do you make of all this? If Ulfric were to attack Whiterun..."
Proventus: "As in all things, lord, caution... I urge us to wait and see."
Irileth: "Prey waits."
Balgruuf: "I'm of a mind with Irileth. It's time to act."
Proventus: "You plan to march on Windhelm?"
Balgruuf: "I'm not a fool, Proventus. I mean it's time to challenge Ulfric to face me as a man, or march his Stormcloaks up to the gates."
Proventus: "He'll do no such thing! A dagger in the back is all you could expect!"
Irileth: "He was rather straightforward with Torygg."
Proventus: "Torygg? He simply walked up to the boy and murdered him!"
Irileth: "That "boy" was High King of Skyrim."
Balgruuf: "I'm not the High King, but neither am I a boy. If Ulfric wants to challenge my rule in the Old Way, let him. Though, I suspect he'll prefer to send his "Stormcloaks" to do it for him."
Irileth: "True. He's already proven his personal strength. Now he seeks to prove his army's."
Proventus: "Then might I urge you to consider General Tullius' request? I mean, if you are bent on offending Jarl Ulfric..."
Irileth: "Ulfric is the one who has offended. But, Proventus has a point. Ulfric has made it clear; in his mind, to refuse his claim is to side with the Empire."
Proventus: "And what harm is there in letting a few Legionnaires die in place of your own men?"
Balgruuf: "It seems cowardly."
Irileth: "Was it cowardly then to accept the White-Gold Concordat?"
Balgruuf: "This again? That was different. Was I given a chance to object to the terms of the treaty? No. The Jarls weren't asked. We were told. And we had to like it."
Proventus: "The chests of gold didn't hurt."
Balgruuf: "Damnit! This isn't about gold!"
Irileth: "It's time to decide."
Proventus: "Lord, wait. Let us see if Ulfric is serious."
Balgruuf: "Oh, he's serious. But so am I."
When the conversation above meets its end, Balgruuf will say to the Dragonborn, "So, about this axe. You can return this axe to our friend; the esteemed Jarl of Windhelm has my answer. Make sure he gets it." If interrupted during the beginning of the above conversation, Balgruuf will say, "One moment. But don't go far. I expect I'll need you." If interrupted in the later part of it, he will instead make his decision prematurely, saying, "I've made up my mind, even if my advisers are still squabbling. I'm sending you to Windhelm. You can return this axe to our friend. The esteemed Jarl of Windhelm has my answer. Make sure he gets it."
Balgruuf will then cement his decision with a statement regarding making terms with General Tullius about the latter's Legionnaires:
Balgruuf: "Proventus. Bring me my pen. And the good parchment."
Proventus: "Are we writing a letter, Lord?"
Balgruuf: "Yes, to General Tullius. I need to make a few things clear before I accept these Legionnaires of his."
Balgruuf will be found at his throne in Dragonsreach during the battle. When the palace is entered, Irileth will initiate a short warning against the attackers, to which Balgruuf will reply that such efforts will have no effect. He then proceeds to take out his sword and attack:
Irileth: "Halt! In the name of the Jarl, Balgruuf the Greater."
Balgruuf: "It's a little late for that, don't you think?"
Irileth: "Stay back, lord!"
Balgruuf: "I'll be damned if I let this rabble take my city without raising my own sword."
Irileth: "Protect the Jarl with your lives!"
When he is defeated, Balgruuf will surrender, saying, "Enough! That's enough. I surrender... I surrender. Peace! Everyone stand down. That's an order. Stand down!" At this point, Vignar Gray-Mane will enter Dragonsreach and a final conversation will take place:
Balgruuf: "Vignar Gray-Mane! Your family was noticeably absent from the walls. Now I know why. Wouldn't a dagger in the back have sufficed?"
Vignar: "You think this is personal? The Empire has no place in Skyrim... not any more. And you? You have no place in Whiterun anymore."
Balgruuf: "A convenient position to hold now. But mark my words, old man, in the days to come, Ulfric will spread his rebellion thin. And what then? We need the Empire, as much as it needs us. We Nords are the Empire! Our blood built it. Our blood sustains it! You of all people should know that."
Vignar: "If this was my Empire, I'd be able to worship whoever I damned well pleased. You wish to see an Empire without Talos? Without its soul? We should be fighting those witch-elves, not bending knee to them. The Emperor is nothing more than a puppet of the Thalmor. Skyrim needs a High King who will fight for her, and Whiterun needs a Jarl who will do the same."
Balgruuf: "Tell me, Vignar. Was all this worth it? How many of those corpses lining our streets wear the faces of men who once called you friend? What about their families?"
Galmar: "Enough! Both of you! There is a burning city out there that needs a government."
Vignar: "He's right. Galmar, come, let us restore order."
Balgruuf: "This isn't over. You hear me you old fool! This isn't over! You'll all come to regret this day."
If spoken to after that in the palace, Balgruuf will defensively say, "I surrender! Give me a few hours to gather my household, and I'll depart. You have my word." If he is followed into his chambers, he will walk to a room in the Dragonsreach Jarl's Quarters with every single resident of the palace in it, who will mostly only plea, "Please! Have mercy... I beg you..."
After this, Balgruuf will only be encountered in the basement of Solitude's Blue Palace.
Whose side are you on? "If it's the war you're referring to, I'm on the side of Whiterun. No doubt General Tullius and his friends in the Empire will tell you that I owe them my loyalty, and perhaps I do. Ulfric Stormcloak would say that I owe my allegiance to the Nord people as they fight for Skyrim's independence. Perhaps this is also true. The day might come when I am forced to draw my sword for one side or the other. But that day has not come yet."
Why do you think Ulfric killed the High King? "No doubt he thought it was the only way to make his point. And also because he knew he could."
How can you protect Whiterun from the dragons? "With good planning and constant vigilance. Even now, my court wizard, Farengar, continues his research into ways we might drive back these... terrors. We must also have ample reserves of water to combat the fires that will surely spread after an attack. But our greatest weapon? Courage. For if we cannot kill the beast, we must at least have the tenacity to drive it back. Until brave heroes step forward to destroy these monsters, that is the best we can do."
Proventus: "My lord, our provisions are running dangerously low. Our stores of meat, wine, and grain are all but depleted."
Balgruuf: "Purchase more supplies, then. That's your job as Steward, isn't it? Why do you trouble me with these details?"
Proventus: "My lord, since Ulfric Stormcloak's uprising, the cost of goods has doubled. I'll need more coin if I'm to provision us properly."
Balgruuf: "Our coffers are nearly empty. I can scarcely afford to pay the guards, and we need every one of them in these troubled times. You'll have to make do with what we have, Proventus."
Proventus: "Yes, my lord."
Hrongar: "Have you reconsidered my idea?"
Balgruuf: "I haven't changed my mind, if that's what you're asking. I won't leave Whiterun defenseless, even for a day."
Hrongar: "If we send half our guards to aid the Legion, just for a few days, it could tip the scales in the Empire's favor. The Companions can help protect the city, and the Emperor will be in our debt."
Balgruuf: "Have you lost all sense? We are short on guards as it is! If we lose half our men, the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild will have the run of the city. The Stormcloaks will be the least of our worries! The answer is no, I tell you! Now stop pestering me with your war-mongering!"
The Bannered MareEdit
Irileth: "Balgruuf, did you slip out again last night for a drink at the Bannered Mare?"
Balgruuf: "Heard about that, did you? Yes, I went out for a pint or two. What of it?"
Irileth: "These secret visits to the tavern will make you an easy target for an enemy assassin. You should have told me first."
Balgruuf: "Damn it, woman, I'm the Jarl of Whiterun! I won't apologize for talking to my people. You can't protect me every moment of the day."
Irileth: "That might be so, but it will never stop me from trying."
Balgruuf: "I won't say it again, Vignar; Talos worship is forbidden. It's the Empire's law, and we're still a part of the Empire."
Vignar: "A law made at the tip of an Aldmeri sword, aye. A sword stained red with Nord blood. Is this what our people fought and died for? To forsake our most beloved ancestor and divine?"
Balgruuf: "I'm no happier about this than you are, but I don't want the see the Thalmor rounding up people in the streets and throwing them in prison."
Vignar: "Do your loyalties lie with the Thalmor, then?"
Balgruuf: "I warn you, Gray-Mane, you are treading on dangerous ground."
Vignar: ""Don't threaten me, boy. You're either a Nord who respects our traditions, or you're not. If not, it isn't me you'll have to answer to, but the people of this city and this Hold."
Note: the preceding conversation never actually occurs during the game, as Balgruuf and Vignar never have the chance to speak of it.
Post-Civil War dialogueEdit
After being exiled from Whiterun by the Stormcloaks, Balgruuf, along with Irileth and Proventus will relocate to the basement of the Blue Palace in Solitude.
- "You have my attention."
- "Speak your mind."
- "It pleases me to see you again."
- "Now, if you don't mind, I've got a city to keep."
- "What do you want, milk drinker?" —In the Blue Palace after being exiled
- "After Whiterun is retaken, Ulfric will pay in blood for his insolence." —After being exiled
- "Next time, deal with Avenicci." —After being exiled
- "We are honored to have you as Thane of our city, Dragonborn."
- It is possible to pickpocket gold from him and have it respawn with a larger amount.
- Jarl Balgruuf was initially meant to be killable during the The Whispering Door quest. When inspecting the quest through the Creation Kit, it is revealed that all of his children were meant to fall under the influence of Mephala, eventually committing patricide. Hrongar would have replaced Balgruuf as Jarl, having many unused lines of dialogue that parallel that of Balgruuf's during the Civil War Quest and Main Quest.
- During the Battle for Whiterun (if the Dragonborn has sided with the Stormcloaks), Balgruuf can be pickpocketed for a Necklace of Waterbreathing, which is odd since Balgruuf is never actually anywhere near water in normal gameplay.
- When asked about him by Gerdur, she will reply saying that he has been at odds with Ulfric for years.
- Balgruuf was voiced by Michael Gough, who also voices Vilkas, Calder, and a few other characters.
- If fighting for the Imperial Legion during the Battle for Whiterun, while he is standing around the Skyrim map with Legate Cipius, Balgruuf will call him a "milk drinker" to his face, to which Cipius calmly replies that he could just take his men and leave, where immediately afterwards Balgruuf stutters and backpedals and says "Uh...no. No, just...don't let me down."
- Balgruuf is one of the two Jarls that refer to the player character as "Dragonborn," the other being Ulfric Stormcloak.
This section contains bugs related to Balgruuf the Greater. Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:
- It is possible to gain a bounty in Eastmarch if, when on the Stormcloaks' side, the Dragonborn attacks him before he becomes hostile.
- Sometimes, after buying Breezehome, and the Miscellaneous quest "Talk to Jarl Balgruuf" is still active, if the player talks to him, Balgruuf will say he can buy Breezehome, even after actually buying it.