The Snow Elves were a race of Mer who inhabited Skyrim long before the Nords or Atmorans. It is commonly believed that centuries of underground living and Dwemer slavery twisted the race into the blind, merciless Falmer.
Amongst the few remaining Snow Elf survivors, they prefer the name Snow Elf over their original name of Falmer, as that name tends to refer to their now degenerated brethren, which after the Dwemer betrayed the Snow Elves and enslaved them, they call "The Betrayed".
Though most of the race's history has been lost, a surviving Snow Elf by the name of Knight-Paladin Gelebor can reveal the origins and fate of his race. He claims that they were once a "proud & prosperous people", before their war with the Atmorans and enslavement by the Dwemer. According to Enthir, the Snow Elves had a society that almost rivaled that of the Altmer in the Summerset Isles.
The Snow Elves were originally a wealthy and prosperous society that made their home in portions of Skyrim. They were first race of mer in Skyrim and were present long before the first Atmoran colonies established by Ysgramor. Their origin was part of the initial exodus of dissident Mer groups from the Summerset Isles along with the Dwemer, Chimer and Ayleids, although the only Mer to settle in Skyrim were the Snow Elves and, later, the Dwemer.
Peace with the AtmoransEdit
When the Atmorans arrived from Atmora, the Snow Elves struck up a somewhat comfortable relationship with the humans. While at first peaceful, the Snow Elves soon discovered that the humans, though they lived shorter lives, grew in population rapidly.
Night of TearsEdit
- Main article: Night of Tears
As they regarded the humans as a lesser species, the elves had little qualms about the slaughter they intended to commit. This genocidal spree would be known as the Night of Tears. However, this decision would cost them greatly - almost their entire society - as Ysgramor would survive and return to the original Nord homeland of Atmora to raise an army. Ysgramor and his army, known as the Five Hundred Companions, would return to Skyrim to take revenge on the Snow Elves. The series of events that would soon follow would be known as the Return, and with this return, a new war would begin.
Initial coexistence between men and Falmer was largely peaceful. However, the peace was short-lived, as an attack by Snow Elves destroyed the rapidly growing settlement of Saarthal. It was known as the "Night of Tears". This raid on Saarthal destroyed the entire population of the city save for Ysgramor and his two sons. The death of his countrymen prompted Ysgramor to summon his Five Hundred Companions - the namesake and forbearers of the Companions in Whiterun - and vow to drive the Snow Elves from Skyrim forever.
Motivations for the Sack of SarthaalEdit
The Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Skyrim and Fall of the Snow Prince suggest the conflict may have been related to the rapidly increasing Nord population and a struggle for control over territory and resources which took the form of a war of extermination - with both sides apparently pursuing the utter destruction of the other. The Night of Tears as well as the Imperial Report on Saarthal suggests the conflict may rather have been more specifically related to or escalated by the Falmer's desire to control a powerful artifact uncovered by the Nord settlers and the Nords of Saarthal's desire to keep such power buried beneath the rocks and soil of their city. The Thalmor representative Ancano as well as the Psijic Order member Quaranir take actions and make statements giving credence to the theory that this object, dubbed the Eye of Magnus, may have played an important role in the conflict.The out-of-game supporting text KINMUNE supports the latter conclusion strongly as it identifies area under Saarthal as the site of a divine prison:
Conflict with the NordsEdit
- Main article: Nordic-Falmer War
As time passed, the Nords once again returned to Tamriel. The Atmorans that had immigrated to Skyrim from Atmora had returned under the leadership of Ysgramor and his sons. An army of 500 men and women, known as the Five Hundred Companions, marched across Skyrim under Ysgramor's leadership to avenge their fallen brethren. The elves would wage war with the humans for years, slowly losing to the very "creatures" they had culled in years prior.
The Snow Elves were broken and scattered, following numerous losses to Ysgramor and his Companions, and retreated to the island of Solstheim for safe harbor. Led by an elf only known as the Snow Prince, the Snow Elves took a final stand against the Nordic people, and, inspired by their leader, it seemed as though they'd come out victorious.
However, at the Battle of the Moesring, which was to be the last battle against the Nords, the Snow Prince was slain by a child by the name of Finna, who, in her grief after the death of her mother, had stabbed him.
Because of the death of the Snow Prince, the elves' hope was shattered and many attempted to flee the battle. It is not known what the exact date of this loss was but it was towards the end of the Merethic Era.
With the elves' military broken once and for all the Nords then mounted a genocidal campaign and killed Snow Elves by the thousands. The Snow Elves sought refuge with the Dwemer underground.
The Dwemer agreed to grant them refuge, but at a high price. The Snow Elves were forced to eat toxic plants in order to live underground. The toxins gradually destroyed their sight, and this loss was passed down to their offspring. The Dwemer then forced the blind Snow Elves into slavery.
Not all of the Snow Elves agreed to such a price. Splinter groups had formed to search for alternate solutions. These elves sought out other alliances, but, ultimately, most were slaughtered, vanished, or gave in and accepted the Dwemer's offers.
Over time, the Snow Elves began to devolve into twisted, blinded creatures, becoming the degenerate race now known as the Falmer. They were slaves of the Dwemer and over time, their history was lost as they became increasingly primal. Because of this, it is commonly believed that the Snow Elves were actually tricked into blindness and slavery, rather than having agreed to the situation to survive. This is debunked, however, upon speaking to Knight-Paladin Gelebor. He states that most Snow Elves agreed to the Dwemer's terms to avoid being eradicated by the Atmorans.
Some pockets of Snow Elf resistance remained but it appears all were eventually eliminated. Skorm Snow-Strider's Journal discusses a military campaign against Snow Elf refugee forces as late as 1E139 under the First King of Skyrim, Harald.
Despite this, Gelebor believes there may be other isolated Snow Elf survivors scattered across Tamriel.
Not all Snow Elves suffered the fate of slavery under the Dwemer, however. It appears that elves such as Knight-Paladin Gelebor and various other religious followers were able to evade death by the Nords or enslavement to the Dwarves. Living in seclusion, they appear to have kept mostly to their various shrines.
They show pity to their primal brethren, whom they refuse to call Falmer, instead referring to them as "the Betrayed." They reject the name of Falmer for themselves as well, preferring to be called "Snow Elves".
The largest gathering of these elves were at the Chantry of Auri-El. However, after a massive raid by the Betrayed, Knight-Paladin Gelebor and his brother, Arch-Curate Vyrthur, seem to be the only survivors. It is unknown how many other sanctuaries exist where Snow Elves can be found — assuming there are any left to begin with.
During the First Era, the elves erected monuments and shrines around their home dedicated to the elven gods. Some of these gods are common Aldmeri gods, such as Mara. The center of their worship however was dedicated to Auri-El, also known as Akatosh. The Chantry of Auri-El was known as the epicenter of the Falmer's religion, having several rituals for initiates who sought out enlightenment.
Following the de-evolution of their race, many of the holy priests, known as Prelates, of these shrines were killed by Falmer raids. However, according to Gelebor, Auri-El evoked their spirits, allowing them to continue their work in Tamriel as spectral Prelates at wayshrines. Initiates must visit each of these wayshrines on their paths to enlightenment.
Unfortunately, the Prelates are unaware of the disrepair of the chantry and will not respond to anyone unless that person is on the path of the initiate.
Misconception in historyEdit
According to The Falmer: A Study, it was thought that the Dwemer betrayed the Snow Elves by force-feeding them a toxic fungus that inflicted blindness after they sought safe harbor in their lands. The poisoning effects of the fungi caused the Snow Elves to devolve into the twisted beings they have become.
However, according to Gelebor, this is not the case. Faced with near extinction, the Snow Elves and Dwemer struck up a deal: in exchange for safe harbor, the elves would have to ingest a toxin (likely from the mushrooms), which would blind them. With little option left, the elves accepted and became the Dwemer's slaves. Gelebor states that the toxin was not enough to de-evolve the Snow Elves as they are now, and as such it must have happened gradually as time passed.
Two living Snow Elves are found in the add-on The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard: Knight-Paladin Gelebor and his brother, Arch-Curate Vyrthur. They appear very similar to High Elves, but they have white skin and hair. It is unknown how long Snow Elves live, as Gelebor states the Chantry was in disrepair long before he arrived (although it can be presumed that it is much longer than a human lifespan, if not analogous to the lifespan of other mer races). As the Chantry did not enter disrepair until after the fall of the Snow Elves, his age cannot be determined.
However, it would suffice to say that they have a rather extensive lifespan. An example of the reasoning behind this would be that Arch-Curate Vyrthur is alluded to having created the prophecy that Harkon has obsessed over. If this is true, that would mean that Gelebor and Vyrthur have been alive since before the rise of the Septim Dynasty (as Serana has been imprisoned since before Cyrodiil became the seat of an empire). In truth, they are probably far older as Snow Elf culture collapsed before the Second Era. Gelebor is likely one of the oldest "mortal" creatures on Nirn, certainly one of the oldest living ones, Alduin and the select few dragons who survived the Dragon War notwithstanding.
There is speculation that the Falmer will eventually become a surface-dwelling race once again, as there have been reports of more and more organized surface raids of Falmer attacking cattle and crops for food. Ursa Uthrax, the author of The Falmer: A Study, writes, "I fear a horror neither man nor gods could possibly stand against."
During the Dawnguard expansion, the Dragonborn will meet two living snow elves. Upon meeting Knight-Paladin Gelebor, he relinquishes Auriel's Bow when the Dragonborn kills his brother, who he believes has been corrupted by the Falmer.
It is also speculated that the toxin was merely a suppressant that degenerated the once-great race, and since surface-dwelling Falmer would no longer need to ingest the toxin, they might, over generations, re-evolve back into snow elves.
Notable Snow ElvesEdit
- Knight-Paladin Gelebor
- Arch-Curate Vyrthur
- Faire Agarwen
- Mirtil Angoth
- Snow Prince
- Prelates of the Chantry Paladin Order
- The Elder Scrolls Travels: Dawnstar
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Mentioned only)
- The Falmer: A Study
- Imperial Report on Saarthal
- Before the Ages of Man
- Dialogue with Knight-Paladin Gelebor
- Dialogue with Arch-Curate Vyrthur
- Ancient Falmer Tomes
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Skyrim
- ↑ Frontier, Conquest
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Night of Tears
- ↑ Fall of the Snow Prince
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Skyrim
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Fall of the Snow Prince
- ↑ Night of Tears
- ↑ Aevar Stone-Singer
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 8.9 Dialogue from Knight-Paladin Gelebor
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard
- ↑ Observations of Falmer activity around Chillwind Depths
- ↑ Observations around Adventurer's Campsite
- ↑ Torn Note
- ↑ Adventurer's Journal
- ↑ Merchant's Journal
|Humans||Akavir • Atmoran • Breton • Imperial • Keptu • Kothringi • Nede • Nord • Orma • Redguard|
|Mer||Aldmer • Altmer • Ayleid • Bosmer • Chimer • Dunmer • Dwemer • Falmer |
Lefthanded Elf • Maormer • Orsimer • Snow Elf
|Beast||Argonian • Imga • Khajiit • Lilmothiit • Sload • Giant|
|Akaviri||Ka Po' Tun • Kamal • Tang Mo • Tsaesci • Dragon|
|Et'Ada||Aedra • Daedra|