The Snow Elves were a race of Mer who inhabited Skyrim long before the Nords. 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 they call "The Betrayed". After the Dwemer betrayed the Snow Elves and enslaved them, which over time transformed them into the Falmer, the Snow Elf race is now mostly referred to as Ancient Falmer.
Though most of the race's history has been lost, A surviving Snow Elf by the name of Knight-Paladin Gelebor reveals the origins and fate of his race, prior to their degeneration and devolution.
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. Seeing that the humans were rapidly beginning to outnumber the Elves in the land, the Snow Elves began to cull down the population en masse.
Night of TearsEdit
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. 
Conflict with the NordsEdit
As time passed, the humans once again returned to Tamriel. The Nords of Atmoran lineage 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 the fallen. 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 the 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 peoples, 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. Due to the death of the Snow Prince, the elves' hope was shattered, and a great deal of them attempted to flee the battle. It's not known what the exact date was, but it was sometime towards the end of the Merethic Era. 
With the elves finally broken once and for all, the Nords then mounted a genocidal campaign and killed Snow Elves by the thousands. The Snow Elves retreated underground where they sought refuge with the Dwemer.
The Dwemer agreed to grant them refuge, but at a high price. The Snow Elves were forced to eat toxic plants in order to survive 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 know as the Falmer. They acted as slaves to the Dwemer, and over time their history was lost as the race became more and more 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 Falmer agreed to the Dwemer's terms to avoid being eradicated by the Atmorans. Some pockets of resistance existed, but were eventually eliminated. Despite this, he believes there may be other isolated Snow Elf survivors scattered about 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 seems to be the only survivor. It is unknown how many other sanctuaries exist where Snow elves can be found—assuming there are any left to begin with.
ReligionEditDuring 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 way shrines. 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 evil brother, Arch-Curate Vyrthur. They appear very similar to High Elves, but they are much shorter than them and have white skin and white 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 resoning 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 longer than the current empire, the Mede Dynasty (as Serana has been imprisoned since before Cyrodiil became the seat of an empire), which began after the Oblivion Crisis at the beginning of the Fourth Era.
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, you will meet two living snow elves. When you come across Knight-Paladin Gelebor, he gives you Auriel's Bow if you kill his brother, who he believes has been corrupted by the Falmer.
Gelebor mentions that the Falmer are becoming more intelligent, and if a line of communication could be established, relations could improve.
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 (First appearance)
- 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
|Humans||Atmoran • Breton • Imperial • Keptu • Kothringi • Nede • Nord • Orma • Redguard|
|Mer||Aldmer • Altmer • Ayleid • Bosmer • Chimer • Dunmer • Dwemer • Lefthanded Elf • Maormer • Orsimer • Snow Elf|
|Beast||Argonian • Imga • Khajiit • Lilmothiit • Sload|
|Akaviri||Ka Po' Tun • Kamal • Tang Mo • Tsaesci • Dragon|
|Et'Ada||Aedra • Daedra|
|Other||Atronach • Giant • Goblin|