The Elder Scrolls

Opinion of Inspirations

As a disclaimer, I know much of Elder Scrolls is meant to be alien and completely unique. I also know of the inspirations for each race / culture there are many. Lastly, I know this is a topic that has probably been beaten to death but I find it interesting anyway. I also understand that many influences are from other fantasy or completely unique. With that being said, here we go.

Nords – Overall the Germanic peoples, but I notice small Balto-Slavic, Hungarian, and Celtic (Pictish, Gaelic) influences too. I think the most obvious inspirations are the Norse and Anglo-Saxons. I would go further and argue that the Norse influence is strongest in the Old Holds, whereas West Germanic and the very small Celtic influence permeates more in the Western Holds and in the Nords of Bruma. I especially see many parallels between South Tyrol and Bruma, so I’d say Austro-Bavarians and Alemannic Germans have some influence in the Southern Nords of Bruma and Falkfreath, as do the Rhenish Germans. They were more influenced by Rome in the real world, and to this day have more Latin influence in their dialects and have a stronger wine culture than the rest of Germany. This applies to Western Skyrim too I think, alongside the Anglo-Saxons, Picts, and Gaels (perhaps the Dal Riada). Western Skyrim has the dynamic of Nords vs Reachmen in the Reach which I think is similar to the more Germanic Lowlands of Scotland vs the more Celtic Highlands or even the Ulster-Scots and Irish of Ulster. I also see the more Imperialized influence on the West could be compared to the more Romanized state of the Anglo-Saxons and other West Germanics compared to the Norse in the Middle Ages. Similarly to the Germanic expansion from Scandinavia (which would become Norse) we also have the Nords expand out of the Old Holds in Eastern Skyrim to the West. From the Norse (or would-be Norse) lands these Nords would go West as the Germanic went West / South to create the West Germanics in real life. Pay attention to Nordic names too. In Skyrim most are Norse or Anglo-Saxon (though these two languages were very very close anyway) and in Oblivion there are numerous German names. Place names are another thing to consider. Hrothgar is from Beowulf and the dragons, moot, and thanes were all moreso Anglo-Saxon things than Norse. Though the Norse had their own versions of course. I notice names like Bran and Cusith in Skyrim, of course both names belong to dogs but still. We also see a Celtic influence in the Nords of Morrowind. I would compare the Skaal to Icelanders, Shetlanders, and the Saami perhaps.

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Bretons – Overall I would say the Bretons represent the Anglo-Normans, French, Gauls, and Brythonic Celts. I say Anglo-Normans because I find many many Northern French influences but the Bretons also have many English influences, especially in earlier games. While I would say all of France is included here, I think Bretons are especially inspired from Bretons (no way), Normans, and Walloons. The mysticism and druidry of the Bretons mirrors the ways of the Gauls and the Britons, and their very name is the name of a real Brythonic people in France. Bretons would represent the “civilized” and Christianized Romano-British and Gallo-Roman cultures.

Reachmen – I would say the Reachmen are the pagan and “uncivilized” Gauls and Britons if the Bretons are the Romanized versions. Of course the Reachmen represent more of a caricature than fact though. The Reachmen of course have many Gaelic influences too, but I find that would be similar to the Gaels of Southern Ireland in that they often war with eachother and are split into various tribes and kingdoms. The Gauls / Belgae of Brennus and Vercingetorix come to mind while the kingdoms of Hen Ogledd and the resistant Cornish come to mind for the Britons.

Imperials – Imperials are a broad group. They are Colovians and Heartlanders / Nibeneans which are unique peoples. The Colovians have a more simplistic, martial, and pious culture. More hearty and Nord-influenced as is their blood. In the Colovians I see a Romanized Germanic / Slavic input. I see them as inspired by the Rhenish Germans I mentioned for the Nords of Bruma and Falkreath (and ironically many consider Falkreath Colovian) as well as the Goths, Lombards, Salian Franks, and South Slavs. I also see some Romanian influence, especially with the more folkloric aspects (Skingrad in Oblivion). We see the harsh names that have many -richs, -slavs, and -avs. You can see the Germanic and Slavic in these names. I think Anvil’s Mediterranean aesthetic can also be a compliment to Visigothic Spain. The Heartlanders would represent the Romans. The truly civilized Italic peoples of Central Italy. The Nibenese are far more diverse. I mainly see Renaissance Italy, Byzantine / Classical Greece, the Balkans, and a slight East Asian influence (vis Akavir). The independent and colorful trade cities of the Niben remind me of the city states of Medieval Italy. Venice, Milan, Genoa, and so forth. I also see the more tribalist and colorful themes, naming, and various traits of Southern Italy and the Balkans (especially Byzantine Greece and Albania in my opinion. I think the tribalism of the rural Niben can be compared to the Ghegs). The independence and philosophical / magical focus can be compared to the philosophy and science of the Ancient Greek cities as well.

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Dunmer – The Dunmer have a very Mesopotamian origin I’d say. Though a heavily Hindu influence in their spirituality and religious practices. Their architecture, many words, and aesthetics seem to come from Sumeria, Assyria, Akkad, and Elam however. I also see some East Asian influence in ESO when it comes to architecture. Perhaps Korean. I would say the Ashlander Tribes could be compared to the Bedouins.

Argonians – Meso-American cultures. I would say the Argonian language has taken its aesthetics from Nahuatl in the same way Reachman names were somewhat designed to look Gaelic-esque in Skyrim. Argonians seem to be inspired by the Aztec, Mayan, and Olmec cultures.

Elsweyr – The caravans, biases against them, history, and culture is very reminiscent of the Romani. However their architecture and many aesthetics seem to be southeast Asian, especially Indonesian. I would also say they are partly inspire by the Khmer Empire.

Valenwood – I would say they are a large amalgam of Native American tribes from North America. Especially Algonquian and Siouan peoples.

Altmer – In many ways I think they have an Imperial British inspiration, but I also see a Chinese inspiration as many others have. A high culture, strong navy, a martial and academic tradition, and a sense of supremacy which I think can date overall to the Ming Dynasty of China. I see this input in their architecture to an extent as well. Largely, they have the fantasy Elven aesthetic however.

Redguards – The Redguards are inspired by the Kingdom of Benin, the Empire of Mali, as well as the Moors and Islamic Golden Age overall. They have a mixture of West African and Middle Eastern aesthetics in their traditions and architecture, as well as names. The Sword Singers remind me of the warriors of Mali and Benin however.

Orcs – I would say the Orcs are very much like the Magyars and Mongolians. Isolated, tribal, yet very hearty. Their architecture also gives off this vibe as well as their armor (in Skyrim). They are fierce warriors and are often on the fringe of the larger empires and civilizations.

Tsaeci – Japanese. From the motifs to the martial tradition. Even the geographic situation between their land (East Asia) and Tamriel (Western Eurasia / Africa / Etc).

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Maormer – Polynesians. The Maormer’s aesthetic, seafaring culture, and martial tradition reminds me of the Maōri and Samoans especially.

Bonus ——

Ancient Nords – People have said Egyptians due to the barrows and such things. But Egyptians weren’t the only culture to have done this. As the Ancient Nords contribute at least in part to the culture and blood of almost all human races of Tamriel, I would say they are comparable to the Proto-Indo-Europeans in many ways. And perhaps even the ancient bronze age cultures of Scandinavia. When I think of the Ancient Nordic Barrows I think of the Kurgan Culture.

Nedes – Many diverse tribes, but from what I’ve seen I think they could represent the Italo-Celtic peoples. Especially the Hallstatt and Urnfield Cultures in that they would be notable with metallurgy and would end up diffusing throughout the continent, as the Nedes did. We also see the descendant cultures of the Nedes descend into a more Italic influenced Imperial culture and a more Celtic influenced Reachman culture.

Ayleids – With the architecture to inspire future empires for centuries, a very notable and large religion and dabbling in magic, and their reliance of slavery I would say the Ayleids are in many ways the Ancient Egyptians of The Elder Scrolls. Just a guess, though.

Dwemer – The Dwemer to me could be an allegory of Atlantis in our world, but with a lot nore evidence of course. Not a real culture, but oh well.

Snow Elves – For this one I have no idea.

Yokudans – Like the Redguards, but even heavier with the Malian, Beninese, and Moorish influence.


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