Elder Scrolls

Night of Tears

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For other uses, see Night of Tears (Book).

Atmoran expedition to Skyrim


The Return

Night of Tears

Saarthal in the Fourth Era.


Merethic Era




Saarthal destroyed and most of its people killed by the Snow Elves
Begins The Return


Snow Elves




All Atmorans at Saarthal except for Ysgramor and his two sons, Yngol and Ylgar

The Night of Tears was a massacre inflicted by the Snow Elves upon the Atmoran settlers of Skyrim in the late Merethic Era.

Order of BattleEdit


The Atmorans were among the first human settlers on Tamriel and had been emigrating from Atmora for many years prior.[1] They called the land Mereth, in recognition of the vast number of Mer that lived there, and befriended the local Elves.[2]

They built the great city of Saarthal which became one of the first major Nord settlements, one of the first cities of men in Skyrim and the earliest known capital of their civilization.[3]

Sack of SaarthalEdit

One night, an invading force of Elves descended upon Saarthal and slaughtered the inhabitants. The city itself was burned to the ground. These events became known as the Night of Tears.[3]


Originally, it was believed that the Elves' motive was to exterminate the Atmorans as they realized the rate at which the human settlers' population was growing. If left unchecked, these settlers would become a great threat to Elvish civilization on Tamriel. Another theory, proposed by Imperial scholars, is that the Snow Elves' motives for attacking Saarthal was that they feared that the Atmorans' culture would surpass their own, and thus sought to drive the men from their lands.[2]

It has been speculated however that when the city was originally built, the Atmorans found a source of great power located underneath Saarthal and attempted to keep it buried. The elves learned of this and coveted it for themselves.[3]

Some reports suggest that the initial attack on Saarthal was very focused, and did not appear to correlate to any locations that were established as points of defense or importance. Not only did the elves know the apparent layout of the city, but that their assault was based on a specific directive and perhaps a singular goal [4].

A Nordic-Breton myth known as, The Seven Fights of the Aldudagga, states that the Daedric Prince, Mehrunes Dagon, was responsible for the destruction of Saarthal. It is told that the Snow Elves had already hated the Atmorans, but Dagon gave the Elves grim dreams (most likely involving the Atmorans) that heightened their hatred of the Atmorans to the point in which they sacked Saarthal. Though the myth is rather eccentric and can't really be taken as entirely legitimate, there could be some truth to it.[OOG 1]

The ReturnEdit

Ysgramor and his two sons, Yngol and Ylgar, survived and fled back to Atmora[2][5] but would later return with an army known as the Five Hundred Companions to lead a reprisal campaign against the elvish population of Skyrim. The city was retaken and eventually rebuilt.[4]

Ysgramor and his army hunted the Snow Elves and other Mer alike, including women and children,[6] and made possible the rise of men, eventually establishing the First Empire.[7] Any remaining Snow Elves were brutally bound and burnt alive, or chained and enslaved.[8] These series of events gained the name of The Return and have since led to a strong hatred and prejudice between the races of Men and Mer due to the genocide of the Snow Elves.



Note: 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. The Seven Fights of the Aldudagga: Fight Two

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