Maximus the Great here! Some of you might know me from doing Daggerfall work, some of you might know me for other things. Anyway, I decided that I should put to use all of those skills I learned from my time at school on essay-writing, and write lore-based essays on The Elder Scrolls (it's more interesting that you might think). So, my first blog is on the Civil War. Now, this is one of the most controversial subjects of the entire TES series, and a lot of people still get divided by it, despite it being 3-and-a-half years since Skyrim came out.
This blog will (I hope) not just focus on why one faction is the best, and it won't linger too long on gameplay of the war (which was somewhat dull). It will instead look at the factions, leaders, ideologies, what will happen next, and also which one I believe is the best one to fight for.
The Empire is, by this time, a crumbling relic. It is no longer the single powerhouse on the face of Tamriel, it is just one of them. The Great War ended with the signing of the White-Gold Concordat, which outlawed the worship of Talos, among other things. This outlawing of Talos particularly offended the Nords of Skyrim, among whom Talos is the patron deity. Ulfric Stormcloak then goes back home, and decided that Skyrim should separate from the Empire. He kills the current High King, Torygg, and starts the Civil War. Good move Ulfric, good move. Except that it isn't.
The Legion still has a strong presence in Skyrim, and you find that it has the support of many races - not just Imperials. In fact, there are many Nords who believe that the Empire is in the right, including Jarl Balgruuf, who many consider a true Nord (Ulfric included).
Many accuse the Legion of being Thalmor supporters, or Thalmor puppets, and other such names. None of these are really true though, because the Empire signed the White-Gold Concordat because they knew that otherwise they would be crushed. They hoped to survive long enough to fight back again. Also, as shown by Tullius, they are planning on fighting back again. There isn't much to say about the Legion's ideology, as it is fairly obvious.
General Tullius leads the Empire's forces, and is, I'm sure most will agree, something of a bad general. He doesn't actually understand the Nords, as shown by how Legate Rikke constantly corrects him or reminds him of Nordic culture. Neither does he understand why the Sotrmcloaks are fighting. He is also often accused of being a Thalmor puppet, but we can easily see that this is not the case. He is fighting so that Skyrim will still be part of the Empire, resulting in both sides being stronger, and after killing Ulfric at the end of the Imperial questline he tells you that the Legion are in fact planning of fighting back against the Thalmor. Now that the rebellion is out of the way, they can focus on the greater threat. No, he's not a great leader, and he's flawed, but overall he's not that bad a chap.
The Stormcloaks are made up of rebels. Thay aren't a professional fighting force, and they aren't as organised or cohesive as the Legion. However, there are many supporters of the cause, and the Nords are capable warriors. The only problem is that this war needs soldiers, not warriors.
Nords are also accused of things. They are called fascists, racists, and nationalists. Fascists? No. The Thalmor are, as they believe in Elven supremacy, but the Nords don't believe in Nordic supremacy. Racists and nationalists? Yes, that's a fair thing to say. Nords are, in general, more bigoted than other races (excluding Thalmor). It has been proposed that actually the Nords are nice, kind people, because of how they opened the city of Windhelm to the Dunmer refugees, devoting a quarter to them, and how they gave the Dunmer Solstheim. We can, though, see that this is not a strong argument. The Grey Quarter is not a nice place, and is more of a slum or a ghetto than an actual city quarter. Solstheim has always belonged to both races (though not politically), and you can see a fairly equal population of both Nords and Dunmer there. Yes, it was a nice thing to do, but it wasn't all that special. As for other ways in which the Nords are racist, we have only to look at their cities. Khajiits are forbidden from entering any of the cities in Skyrim, on suspicion that they are thieves and murderers. A tad stereotypical, don't you think? In Riften very few Argonians can be found inside the city walls, with most of them having to work on the docks. Nords are definitely nationalistic, no question about it, and anyone who says otherwise is in denial. In battle, they shout out 'Skyrim belongs to the Nords!' which is the biggest clue, and the fact that they want to suceed from the Empire also shows nationalism.
Ulfric is a bit more of a complex character. He clearly believes that what he is doing is right, and that the Empire are evil, as shown by his (very good) speech when you quiz him on his reasons for fighting. However, is Ulfric actually an angel that wants the freedom of his people? We can take a closer look, and see something else at work. It wouldn't be too difficult to argue that Ulfric is actually selfish and power-hungry. Firstly, he was good friend with King Torygg, and if he had asked him it is likely that Torygg would have joined him to overthrow the Empire. But he didn't, he killed him. No, he didn't murder him, Torygg agreed to the fight, but the fight was still unnecessary. The only reason why Ulfric would have killed him was because he wanted sole control over Skyrim, and was effectively deposing the man who stood in his way. He also can easily be accused of Nordic nationalism, and cares little for anyone who isn't a staunch Stormcloak. In all, it's difficult to tell what Ulfric's real motives are, but either way he certainly isn't an evil megalomaniac, and he certainly isn't a saviour of purity.
Of course, the biggest question is: what will happen next?
The Empire was almost destroyed by the Thalmor, but they still have a large force left. Now, the Thalmor really don't want to fight another war, because they know that they will be in a really bad state afterwards, even if they win. Therefore, as long as the Empire controls Skyrim, the Thamor won't invade. However, as soon as Skyrim separates, they can go and invade with impunity. And there's no mistaking this: they can definitely beat the Nords, and take Skyrim. It might not be easy, but they still can.
People may say that the Nords are a martial culture, and they are born with weapons in their hands, but this won't make a difference. Young Nord warriors will have to grow up first, before they can fight, and by that time the Thalmor will have won. The Redguards managed to beat back both the Empire and the Thalmor by themselves, and the Nords can barely hold their own against a small portion of the Legion. It is clear that the Nords just aren't strong enough of a force yet to beat back the Thalmor, especially when many of their warriors will have been killed in the war. The Thalmor, though, are still a strong force, and can just move en masse into Skyrim to take it too fast for anyone to react. Ulfric might believe that he is saving Skyrim, but we can see that he may well be an unwilling Thalmor puppet himself. We could argue that upon becoming independent the Nords will ally themselves with the Redguards, but I doubt that this would work. The two separate people are too proud to work together, and two smaller forces are always going to be weaker than one larger unit, such as the Empire combines with Skyrim's strength.
To conclude, I personally prefer the Legion. Don't get me wrong, I believe that the Stormcloaks are perfectly justified for wanting to break away, but they are just doing it at the wrong time. Ulfric is a charismatic leader, and I like him, but I still think that he is delusional about his own strength. The Legion will reunite Skyrim, and with its unity it can tackle the Thalmor with a much better chance of success.
Okay, essay over. If you liked it, then leave a comment. If you didn't like it, then if it's because you're Stormcloak fanboiz then please make a valid and useful point. If you didn't like it because my lore was incorrect, or some other gaping horror in my reasoning, then please tell me where I stumbled - I'm not a lore expert!
If you would like to see more of these essays, then please say so, and maybe offer me suggestions.