The Elder Scrolls

Kamal is Atmora – A Comprehensive Theory Explained

An orthodox understanding of Nirn’s geography is that relative to Tamriel, you have Akavir to the east, Yokuda to the west, Atmora to the north, and Aldmeris (disputably, assuming it actually existed which is a contentious subject) to the south. This is firmly established by books, in-game dialogue, maps and developer commentary. Here – without contradicting any of the facts I just mentioned – I propose and elaborate on a theory: Atmora and Kamal are the same place. Much of the evidence here is circumstantial, but what are fan theories but beautiful necklaces created by stringing together beads of facts that don't line up with a flimsy bit of string?

(NOTE: I am not the first to propose a theory like this: see https://www.reddit.com/r/teslore/comments/cnl3f2/kamal_decendents_of_atmora_theory/ and https://www.reddit.com/r/teslore/comments/4bdfzx/theory_on_the_location_and_fate_of_atmora/, as well as others I probably missed.)

First, according to my theory, Akavir is still east of Tamriel. If you sail east from Morrowind, you will probably end up in Tsaesci, much like how Europe is east of North America. But suppose Akavir – like Tamriel – is a continent that stretches up north, close if not beyond the arctic circle. In fact, imagine it stretches so far up north that the northern part of Akavir is situated around the North Pole. Since we see auroras and frozen oceans year-round in Skyrim’s northernmost regions, and since Atmora is implied to be a decent distance across the sea, it’s a fair assumption that Atmora is located close to, if not at, the North Pole as well.

Now that I’ve established how my theory envisions Nirn’s geography (which again, crucially, is not suggesting that Akavir is not east of Tamriel), without further ado, let’s do further:

PART 1: HISTORICAL COINCIDENCES

First, what do we know about the Kamal? Going off of Mysterious Akavir, we know they’re one of the four major races of Akavir, they’re described as demons (with Kamal translating to “Snow Hell”), and they’re led by a “king among demons”, Ada’Soom Dir Kamal. They thaw out once a year and attack the Tang Mo, the monkey folk of Akavir.

Now let’s start with the only verified instance of Kamali interaction with Tamriel. We know that the Kamal invaded Skyrim in the 2nd Era (which by itself is intriguing since Akavir is east of Tamriel, and conventional wisdom is that you sail east to reach Akavir). In the Dragonborn DLC (and Bloodmoon before that) we’re introduced to Karstaag, a frost giant who ruled over Karstaag castle and a tribe of Rieklings (ice goblins, essentially), a feat indicating intelligence beyond what you would expect from either a giant or a troll. Furthermore, take a look at Karstaag:

https://static.wikia.nocookie.net/elderscrolls/images/a/a5/Karstaag_Dragonborn.png/revision/latest?cb=20130222012312

What does that look like to you? A giant snow demon. Look at that face and those horns.

During the Kamal invasion of Tamriel, we also know that they were defeated by the Ebonheart pact at Vvardenfell. What lies a short distance across the water from Vvardenfell? Solstheim – where we find Karstaag. It is within the realm of possibility that Kamali survivors of that battle fled to nearby lands, especially considering that if the Kamali fleet made landfall in Northern Skyrim, Solstheim would be on the way from Vvardenfell back to their beachead – or perhaps a Kamali ship attempting to escape crashed there. The possibilities are too numerous to expound fully.

Here’s another clue to consider: Mysterious Akavir tells us that the Tsaesci (an Akaviri race) “enslave the goblins of the surrounding isles”. We also know that the Tsaesci brought goblins with them during their invasion of Tamriel and used them as cannon fodder. Acknowledging the fact this information doesn’t say anything about the Kamal, it tells us three things:

  1. That Akaviri races possess the ability to enslave goblins
  2. That Akaviri races can use enslaved goblins to wage war
  3. That there are goblins… on the surrounding isles. There are goblins on islands which surround Akavir. Admittedly, “surround” in this context could refer to the kingdom of Tsaesci alone and not the entire continent, but it’s still a possibility. And since Tang Mo is described as the place of a thousand isles, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to hypothesize that Kamal also has islands around it.

So are there goblins surrounding Atmora? Well, where do we find Rieklings (goblins)? On the island of Solsthiem, close to – wait for it – Atmora (Akavir). And remember what we find Karstaag, the (Kamal) frost giant, doing? Enslaving Rieklings. Perhaps this Kamali warrior brought his goblin slaves in tow during his escape.

We also have evidence of Atmorans being “frozen”, much like how the Kamal freeze every year; in Vivec’s 36 lessons, he mentions traveling north to Atmora (while being in Akavir, I should note – though admittedly the broader context of the passage implies that compass directions are relative to Tamriel, but the alternative interpretation that Vivec traveled north from Akavir to Atmora is nevertheless left open) where he discovers “frozen bearded kings”. An orthodox interpretation of this passage is that Vivec simply found the frozen corpses of human Atmoran kings, like a preserved wooly mammoth. But the observation that Atmora contained ancient and recognizable frozen people hints that Atmora and Kamal share the same phenomenon – they freeze people.

PART 2: SHARED KNOWLEDGE

Putting aside the geographic, historical, and aesthetic coincidences that lend credence to this theory – what other evidence exists to support the theory that Atmora is Kamal? Is there any evidence that the Kamal and the Nords share some kind of unique cultural knowledge?

Yes. …circumstantially, again.

I now introduce exhibit A: the Eye of Magnus. I won’t belabor this point too much because TheEpicNate315 (


) made an outstanding video expounding this theory, but long story short:

A popular theory about why the snow elves attacked Saarthal is to seize the Eye of Magnus (a historian on the subject writes that the Snow Elves attacked as if they were “looking for something” (per the Imperial Report on Saarthal) so we can safely assume it was the Eye, since the College of Winterhold quest demonstrates its immense power). The Nord survivors from Saarthal return to Atmora to spread word of the attack, and the rest is history.

Let’s go back to the Kamal. Why did they attack Skyrim? What was their objective? Well, a letter from a Nord during that time speculates that the Kamal were searching for something called “the Ordained Receptacle”. Again, see the video expounds this theory, but it’s a good bet that the Kamal were searching for the Eye of Magnus. But how did they know about it from a continent away? The Nords knew about it because they found it, the Snow Elves knew about it presumably because they either saw it themselves or heard about it from the Nords, and the Psijic Order knew about it because they’re practically omniscient; yet despite its immense power and potential, neither the power-hungry and ever-curious Dwemer nor the impressive intelligence apparatus of the magocratic Aldmeri Dominion seemed to know about it (at least, not until the latter found out when their own agent saw it being brought to the college). So, of all the potentially interested parties throughout all of Nirn, how did an army of Snow Demons an entire continent away know about this thing?

…is it because they were there in Atmora when Ysgramor returned with word of the slaughter and the Elves’ attempt to steal this powerful device?

(Note: for those of you with a different theory about what the Kamal were after, wait until the end – I have a surprise for you.)

PART 3: CULTURAL SIMILARITIES

So the Kamal may have been in Atmora to hear about the receptacle based on that coincidence. But is there any evidence of shared culture between the Nords and the Kamal?

Again… yes. This time the comparison is made explicitly.

Exhibit B: the book Crafting Motif 18: Akaviri Style:

“Kamal, the region of Akavir where the recent invaders hail from, is said to be icy and snow-covered, so it's no surprise that Kamali axes resemble those made by us Nords of Skyrim. The one-handed weapons, in particular, are clearly descended from the kind of ice-axes we use when crossing glaciers or scaling icy peaks.” Now, this comparison is obviously coincidental: “Nord and Kamal axes look the same because they’re both from icy places”. But the book goes on: “Shields from Kamal tend to be metal-edged wood from the northern forests, while shields from southern Tsaesci are more likely to be curved sheets of steel..”

Northern forests? There are forests in Kamal, forests plentiful enough that unlike the Tsaesci (who, being in a more temperate realm presumably have no shortage of lumber) are able to be used in shields?

Snowy and forested… does this describe Atmora? Considering Atmora is Ehlnofex (an old language) for “Elder Wood”… yes, yes it does.

Lastly, it is heavily implied the Dragon Cult has its origins in Atmora, and Akavir literally translates to “Dragon Land”. Consider these points:

(A) Dragons – of which Akavir is said to have many – were present in Atmora, and the Nords who lived in Atmora had a reverence and fascination with dragons.

(B) Two Akaviri races are shown to have reverence for dragons – the Tsaesci when they show fealty to Reman upon discovering his Dragonborn status and the Ka Po’Tun for serving their dragon king, Tosh Raka.

(C) The Tsaesci and Ka Po’Tun, like the Nords, fought a war to eradicate the dragons; and the Ka Po’Tun, like the Nords, are obsessed with the idea of “becoming a dragon”. For the Nords, this refers to becoming Dragonborn, someone with the blood and soul (but not the body) of a dragon. For the Ka Po’Tun, Mysterious Akavir simply says “dragon” which leaves open for interpretation what exactly the Ka Po’Tun sought to achieve – literal transfiguration or dragonborn status. That it calls Tosh Raka the “largest dragon” ever adds weight to the former, but since it explicitly describes his colors as being orange and black (just like a tiger, curiously…) it leaves open the possibility that Tosh Raka is simply the largest of the Ka Po’Tun tiger folk and also just happens to be a dragon by virtue of his soul and blood. In any case, since Michael Kirkbride has opined that Tosh Raka is simply the Akaviri incarnation of Akatosh, I won’t explore this idea further since the dragon connection is not crucial to my theory.

The point is this: the dragon connection demonstrates that in many ways the early history of humans more closely resembles the lore of Akavir than that of Mer. In fact, if we call humans Akaviri, then in many ways the arrival of Atmorans in Skyrim may in fact be the first of three Akaviri invasions that all made landfall in… wait for it… Northern Skyrim.

Merethic Era: Atmorans

First Era: Tsaesci

Second Era: Kamal

PART 4: ETYMOLOGY

Speaking of language… Exhibit C: Etymology.

According to Mysterious Akavir, Kamal means “Snow Hell” in the Akaviri tongue. But given the dubious authorship of the book and authority of its content, it is worth re-examining the name Kamal through the lens of Tamrielic etymology. Since Mysterious Akavir explicitly sources the name from Akavir itself (and not a misnomer from the residents of Tamriel) and since the King of Kamal bore himself the name “Kamal”, we can safely assume (for the sake of this thought exercise) that the Kamal have always called themselves that. Thus, this begs the question – given the hypothesized ancient link between Atmora and the Kamal, is there any trace evidence of this in Atmora etymology?

Low and behold… Yes. And this is where it gets particularly interesting. First, a review: It is known that the Aldmer, ancestors of contemporary elves heralding from their mythical homeland of Aldmeris) once ruled Atmora, per the book Varieties of Faith in the Empire. While a cross-referencing with ancient Nordic yielded no interesting discoveries, but what about Aldmeris? Or what about other ancient Merethic languages whose vocabularies may have been influenced by the Aldmeris language? Without further ado (link: https://www.imperial-library.info/content/about-languages-men):

From Aldmeris:

Kama – To scream

Ada – God

From Dwemeris:

Kemel – Bellowing, deep-voiced

From the Ayleid Language:

Ada – Deity, temple

Since we know that Ada’Soom Dir-Kamal was called “The King Among Demons”, substituting “Ada” for “God” and “Dir-“ for “of the” (not too much of a stretch), we can imagine a new translation of the title: “God-King of the Kamal”. Alternatively, “Soom” could mean something else, such as “evil” or “demon”. “God-Demon of the Kamal”, if you will. In any case, there’s two important connections here: First, a possible direct connection between the ancient Aldmeris language and the Kamali language. Second: a possible connection between the Kamali name and the Aldmeris/Dwemer words meaning “to scream”, “bellowing”, “deep-voiced”. Why is this important? Remember, our working hypothesis is that the Kamal come from Atmora, where the Nords come from. What else has its possible origins in Atmora? The usage of Thu’ums during the Dragon War, a conflict that “possibly” took place on Atmora. If the Kamal coexisted with ancient Nords in Atmora, then it is not unlikely they, too, dabbled in the usage of Thu’ums (that is, vocal projection of tonal manipulation).

Of course, it is also possible that “scream”, “bellowing”, and “deep-voiced” refer not to Thu’ums but are actually just accurate physical descriptions of giant monstrous snow demons. After all, it’s not hard to imagine the Aldmer colonists on Atmora referring to the demonic Kamal as “those horrible beasts that scream and bellow with their deep voices”.

Also, if during my point about the Kamali search for the Ordained Receptacle you were itching to remind me of the alternative theory that they were actually searching for a Dragonborn (a receptacle of dragon souls): that theory, if true, would certainly add more weight to the idea that the Kamal are very interested in Thu’ums and the Atmoran motif of dragons in general! In fact, this would bring up additional points in favor of this theory:

(A) If your enemies – the Tiger folk – were now being led by the "largest dragon in the world", wouldn't you want to find a Dragonborn to fight on your side?

(B) How would the Kamal know that they could find a Dragonborn in northern Skyrim? Unless word of Reman's Dragonborn status somehow made it back to Akavir after the Tsaesci invasion, it is curious that the Kamal came to Tamriel already knowing to find a Dragonborn there. The Tsaesci had no such objective – they encountered a Dragonborn by chance and swore fealty to him. How did the Kamal know? …is it because they witnessed a Dragonborn firsthand in Atmora and are aware of the Atmoran humans' migration to Tamriel?

COUNTERPOINTS AND PROBLEMS

In the spirit of full disclosure and academic honesty, I will admit: there are potentially some pieces of evidence weighing against this theory.

First, that Akaviri crafting motif says the following:

“The Akaviri use composite bows with recurved ends made of horn. Though painted with metallic lacquer, don't be fooled: their bows are not made of metal, nor do the Akaviri have the giant's-strength it would take to bend them if they were.”

The crafting motif discusses both Tsaesci and Kamal crafting motifs, and they use the ambiguous term “Akaviri” here. Hopefully – for the sake of this theory – they are referring to the Tsaesci, though there is a chance this passage indicates Kamali are not, in fact, giants.

Second, in Dawnguard we find frost giants (Kamal) in the Forgotten Veil, the last haven of the Snow Elves. Since the Snow Elves fled here in the Merethic Era and the Kamal arrived during the Second Era, there are two solutions to this: Either (A) those frost giants are Kamal who migrated to Skyrim in the Merethic Era (or the descendants thereof) or (B) those Frost Giants fled there when the Kamali invasion failed. I find this second option to be the most likely and the most intriguing; after all, the Forgotten Veil is an untouched sanctuary, and we know that the Kamal who arrived during the invasion where either wiped out during the war or fled to Rimmen and were wiped out later during their attempt to seize power. It would stand to reason that the only Kamali to survive would be those who sought refuge in a place like the Forgotten Veil.

Third, there is another intriguing candidate for the Kamali – the Ice Tribes, an obscure race we encounter in the The Elder Scrolls Travels. They are blue in color, humanoid and ally with demonic-looking (!) creatures known as the Gehenoth. And lastly, look at this in-game description of “Arctic Rime Skin” from the Elder Scrolls Online:

"I found the shipwreck locked in ice. The crew were all frozen and frostbitten, and I thought they were dead … until they rose, frost-crusted and icy, and picked up their weapons." —Aelfrydda of Dawnstar

(Link here: https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Online:Arctic_Rime_Skin)

Well, there you have it – thawing out. While we don’t have confirmation that this skin refers to the ice tribes, they’re the only plausible candidates for the crew in the description short of draugr or an as-of-yet undiscovered humanoid Kamali race.

Anyway, suffice to say – the Ice Tribes are a tempting candidate to suggest instead of frost giants, but I chose frost giants because of the deeper reasons listed above, not to mention the most basic fact about the Kamal: they’re demons, and Frost Giants look like demons. The Ice Tribe people do not.

Fourth, a potential plot hole: In Bloodmoon the Skaal mention living in peace with Karstaag meaning they are aware of his existence. Thus, it is a safe assumption that residents of Tamriel (or Skyrim, at least) are aware of Frost Giants, rare as they are., thus it is puzzling why they would not be described as such during their invasion in the second era. My explanation is this: The Kamal invade, the Kamal are wiped out, and by the Fourth Era their appearance has become lost to history. Gradually, Kamal frost giants like Karstaag (or perhaps he is the only one) are sighted by residents of Northern Tamriel, who – completely clueless what a Kamal demon looks like – calls it a Frost Giant, since it vaguely resembles a giant but is too sapient and intelligent to be considered an animalistic troll. They are passed off as rare creatures who, like the giants, keep to themselves – with no-one (except maybe for the odd Riekling goblin who through oral tradition is aware of their history as war slaves to the Kamali demons) aware of their true past.

Debate, Discuss, and Comment below!

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