The title of this post is rather tongue-in-cheek. However, it serves as a warning for the unwary who wish to read real academic material – the prose is dense and should be read slowly.
Given the gravity that tends to characterise a lot of our discussions, it seemed good to have something more frivolous today (though it may also prove instructive to some). For those who are unaware, The Elder Scrolls is the title of a series of computer/video games. They are set in a fictional world called Tamriel, which has a complicated mythology, modelled along pagan lines.
This world consists of (at least) three planes: Aetherius; Mundus; and Oblivion. Aetherius (Heaven) is the realm of the planets/gods and is the source of magic. Mundus is the earthly plane, inhabited by the elven and human races. Oblivion is world inhabited by demonic entities. Depending on their affiliations, the souls of departed elves and men pass into either Oblivion or Aetherius upon death.
One of the reasons the Elder Scrolls games are so popular is the amount of detail put into the “lore”, the background information that makes this fictional world so immersive for players. The creators of the games even went so far as to put short books into the games, which players can read. There is also a comforting familiarity about the lore and the cultures of the nations and races in the games, because they are inspired by parts of the real world’s history.
The Nords are derived in part from the history of the Scandinavian peoples. Nords believe that brave warriors go to the Hall of Shor in Sovngarde when they die – inspired by Valhalla. The Imperials, who are kin to the Nords, have Latin names and their Legions wear armour modelled on the famous lorica segmentata. The Bretons (which is the name for natives of Brittany in France) have French-style names and also have echoes of Celtic history and culture.
One of the interesting features of the lore is that the different nations agree that certain events happened, but have very different interpretations of the significance of and reasons for those events. The real world shares this feature. Consider, for example the conflicting interpretations of the Crucifixion found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
In the world of the Elder Scrolls we find both competing religions and heresies within religions. As in Roman history, where the Empire tried to promote the idea of different nations sharing gods but under different names, so the empires of men in Tamriel insist that the imperial pantheon applies to all the nations.
The most controversial figure in the religious world of the Elder Scrolls is Lorkhan (an elven name), also known as Shezarr to the Imperials and Shor to the Nords. The nations agree that he was behind the creation of Mundus, but they differ on whether he is a good figure or an evil one.
To the High Elves, Lorkhan is a trickster. He deceived the gods into creating the world, which limited them, binding them to it. The spirits who became the ancesters of the elves lost their immortality. For the elves, the punishment of Lorkhan was just. Auri-el and his champion, Trinimac, removed Lorkhan’s Heart, shooting it into the ocean, where it formed the Red Mountain. His body was split in two, forming the two moons, Masser and Secunda. His spirit still walks abroad, helping humans in their wars against the elves.
To men, Shezarr/Shor is a benevolent figure. He persuaded the gods to create the world so that it might be a home to the mortal races, a testing ground from which they might ascend to greater divinity. He was betrayed by the spirits who would found and lead the elven nations. His spirit watches over men and comes as avatars and sends servants to help men in their hour of need. The Shezarrine, Pelinal Whitestrake, overthrew the Heartland Elves, who had enslaved the human races living in Cyrodiil, the province at the centre of Tamriel.
More could be said, but this post is now lengthy (as posts go). It is, however, a reminder that people can see the same events in different ways. This is why we appeal to objective criteria: we need something non-negotiable, not subject to opinion, in order to settle disputes. Different criteria are used for different questions. Christ said that we were to use outcomes as part of our list of criteria (“judging a tree by its fruits”).
As people consider the clamouring voices of different religions today, they ought to ponder these criteria:
- Internal coherence (non-contradiction);
- Concordance with reality (propositional truth); and
- Ethical outcomes.