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Not to be confused with Canonization or Canons.

To understand canon and continuity, the overall The Elder Scrolls series should be looked at as a set of stories written by many different people which "document" historical "events." Although some stories are more reliable than others, they all are looked upon as part of the overall "history." It should also be remembered that all of these stories are simply that—stories. There are numerous errors that inevitably arise between the stories simply because different authors have their own ways of telling the story and may not have the time and resources to perfectly align the details.

The situation can be compared to Greek and Roman mythology, or the stories of King Arthur. The various Elder Scrolls tales are a group of separate but linked stories, and are told by many different authors over a period of time.

Canon and gamesEdit

Things are a bit more complicated with the matter of The Elder Scrolls games. The overall scenario and documentation (cutscenes, manuals, strategy guides etc.) are proper canon. This, however, doesn't apply to "game mechanics" and stats.

  • Game mechanics are the "artistic license" properties of the game that separate any computer game from reality and serve to make one more playable and enjoyable. For example, the Hero of Kvatch carrying 10 weapons simultaneously; fully and immediately recovering from wounds simply by waiting for an hour; or bodies of defeated enemies disappearing, etc. are not realistically possible. Health, Magic points, and fatigue are also game mechanics.
  • Background or lore information given in the strategy guides such as biographies, stories, descriptions, etc. is proper canon. Stats, on the contrary, are considered game mechanics and include details such as weapon damage, speed, and character stats (strength, intelligence, endurance, health points, etc.).
  • In mission and quest solving, canon is assumed to be the fullest and best outcome possible of each mission/quest available as given in the briefing or scenario. The Eternal Champion, the Nerevarine, the Hero of Kvatch, etc. never failed their quests. Although the player can avoid some optional quests, TESWiki assumes that those heroes managed to complete all the "available" feats.
  • Problems can arise with customizable options such as the race, gender, or alignment of the main character, until Bethesda releases a definite answer on this. If the race or gender of a character is considered canon, then in-game events and characters that are "triggered" when the non-canonical gender or alignment is selected are non-canon as well. Exceptions are made if a higher canon source, such as a book, state it as happening. In that case, the game is inconsistent to the canon and falls under the "game mechanic" logic.
  • TESWiki articles assume that the player picks the good choice for all scenarios; therefore, the secondary choices and events pertaining to the evil choice or triggered by relevant choices are considered non-canon.
  • On the other hand, ambiguity is maintained when it comes to alternative choices and solutions to puzzles with the same outcome. For example: in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which Daedric artifact is given to Martin in the main quest is up to the player, and none of them can be taken for sure to be the "true" one.

Developer comments on canonEdit

CartogriffiEdit

Is the Creation Club canon? (10/03/17)

"I am not an official arbiter of Bethesda lore, but I hope you don’t mind if I chime in. Creations are official releases, but it’s also understandable that a site like UESP or the Imperial Library would take CC with a grain of salt. We do consider lore implications when reviewing proposals, particularly something trying to heavily enmesh itself into the world. Connections to the world are great, but we also want to avoid anything being too impactful. That is, we want things to fit into the game world, but we’re also not looking to greatly expand the lore of the game. With historic items, like artifacts, simply existing can have implications for the lore. Although artifacts in Tamriel do have a habit of disappearing and re-materializing in other places. I believe this was even noted in the description of Chrysamere in Daggerfall."[OOG 1]

What's Bethesda's relationship to lore and canon? (10/26/17)

"​We try not to make proclamations about the lore. So much of its richness comes from the fact that it's almost entirely encountered first-hand, and through texts written by in-world authors with their own biases, opinions, experience, and misconceptions."[OOG 1]

What about items from other games? Are those canon, too? (10/26/17)

"Promotional items are sort of a category of their own."[OOG 1]

Douglas GoodallEdit

Talking about the Lessons of Vivec, why did you write Sermon Zero? Should it be interpreted as being official lore?

"I wrote it is as a kind of "me, too!" after reading the 36 Sermons. It was a tribute and a refutation. I don't have any say anymore about whether it is official lore. I probably didn't leave extensive enough notes for them to make it official... I figured that, regardless of whether the 36 Sermons were true or not (something that was not decided at Bethesda when I worked there), the author (whether it was really Vivec or not) would have competition. An opposing faction. An alternate take. Note that Sermon Zero isn't actually present in Morrowind, as far as I remember. Books that are actually published in one of the Elder Scrolls games have precedence over ramblings on the forums."[OOG 2]

Matt FirorEdit

"So I don't have to tell you guys this, but the lore – maybe some of your readers will know this – but the lore in Elder Scrolls is never definitive, it's always told through the eyes of people that live in the world, which gives developers – not just us, but everyone that works on Elder Scrolls – certain leeway to kind of find what that person meant when they were telling the story."[OOG 3]

Pete HinesEdit

How will the books and texts released after Morrowind (e.g. Vehk's Teachings) and the teasers and reports before Oblivion (e.g. Nu-Mantia Intercept, Love Letter from the Fifth Era, etc.) be folded into the official lore and will this lore appear in-game? Was the 'Trial of Vivec' RP (which culminated in the banishing of Azura from Mundus) a semi-official conclusion of the Morrowind storyline, or can we expect to learn more of its connection to recent events, along with the true fate of Vivec/Vehk?

"Remember that only things that have been published in Elder Scrolls games should be considered official lore."[OOG 4]

[In reference to a fan question about The Infernal City and Lord of Souls.]

"Yes, we consider the Elder Scrolls novels canon to TES lore."[OOG 5]

Does Bethesda consider Obscure Texts and developer comments as "actual lore" or "canon"?(24/11/11)

"It depends."[OOG 6]

Which is the canon ending to the Civil War in Skyrim? The Imperials or the Stormcloaks?

"As with other Elder Scrolls games(like the multiple endings to Daggerfall) the studio doesn’t really force one outcome as canon. That’d sort of diminish each player’s choice."[OOG 7]

Michael KirkbrideEdit

"Tamriel never belonged to Bethesda. It was the other way around. As for canon, it's really all interactive fiction, and that should mean something to everyone. That said, I appreciate and understand the stamp of "official", but I think it will hurt more that it will help in the long run. TES should be Open Source. It is for me."[OOG 8]

"official canon"

"This concept doesn't exist. … Yup. Contributions here have already (or will) make it into games already."[OOG 9]

Ted PetersonEdit

"I'm merely challenging your assumption that Pete's words can only mean that Oblivion's lore is fact and unambiguous. The only thing Pete said is that the postings in this forum should not be taken as official lore. The stuff in Arena, Daggerfall, Battlespire, Redguard, Morrowind, Tribunal, Bloodmoon, and Oblivion are official lore ... and not unambiguous."[OOG 10]
"I have never said [the Trial of Vivec is canon]. It might turn out to be, but I actually subscribe to the spirit of the much maligned phrase of Pete's that it's not canon unless it's in the games. The trial and the RP that sprung from it, which continues on in the "From The Ashes" thread, have definitely influenced some lore that subsequently appeared in Oblivion and in the PGE."[OOG 11]
"I would like to propose that instead of there being a black-and-white distinction between canon and non-canon, loreists refer to Primary and Secondary Sources. A Secondary Source, such as a comment from MK or a reference in the Trial or RP, may be 100% accurate and become a Primary Source when it is later published in a game; it may remain a useful reference, such as a scholar's commentary on Shakespeare, which is informed and likely true, though not actually part of a play or sonnet; or, it may be disproved on later Primary Source evidence."[OOG 11]

Lawrence SchickEdit

"Elder Scrolls is different from most fantasy campaign worlds, right? I mean, the typical paradigm, you know - George RR Martin with Westeros, Tolkien with Middle Earth, the familiar D&D worlds of The Forgotten Realms or the world of Greyhawk - those all have histories and backgrounds that are all laid out and they've all got some lore-daddy who decided everything and everything is 'this is how it is', so everything works within the envelope of things that are already decided.

"Elder Scrolls - Tamriel - does not follow that paradigm. In Elder Scrolls, all lore is delivered not from on high by revelation, but from people who live their lives in the game, in the world of the game, and based on their beliefs. So that does two things for us: It means the lore always carries not just information about what the person is talking about, but also information about the person and their culture. Because the way the lore is delivered tells you how they believe things actually work in the world.

"What this means, of course, is that people have different viewpoints - these viewpoints sometimes contradict each other, and so sometimes we have players saying "alright, this person believes that, and that person believes this other thing, but which one's the real thing?" Well… it's not a world like ours. In a world like ours, where you can sort of trust in science and say "well yes, people have different beliefs but I know there is an objective reality." This is a world of myth. This is a world where reality is actually changeable, where the Divines can change not only what happens going forward, but what has happened in the past. So, you know, the idea there is an objective reality behind all these different people's opinions is not necessarily the case in the world of Tamriel. So listen to what all these different people have to say, make up your own mind, make up your own beliefs about what happened and you're as liable - since you're playing in their world and you're playing a character in their world - what you think happened is as legitimate as what that NPC thinks."[OOG 12]
[?]

See alsoEdit

References

Notice: The following are out-of-game references. They are not found in any in-game books, but can still be considered part of The Elder Scrolls lore and are included for completeness.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cartogriffi's Posts
  2. General:Douglas Goodall Interview
  3. UESP's PAX Interview with Matt Firor
  4. Oblivion:Fan Interview III
  5. Pete Hines on Twitter (3 January 2011)
  6. Others: Matt Grandstaff, Pete Hines, Christiane Meister, Shane Liesegang, and unknown
  7. Pete Hines on Twitter (9 February 2018)
  8. Reddit: I am Michael Kirkbride. Ask Me Anything.
  9. Reddit: How to tell between the fanfic and actual lore posted here?
  10. The Imperial Library Forums: Amulet of Kings
  11. 11.0 11.1 Ted Peterson's Posts
  12. ESO Live - Episode 15