The Elder Scrolls

Periods exist in Tamriel

Earlier this week, a user here asked a question: do the humans and elves of Tamriel have the same menstrual cycle as those of Earth? She very quickly got buried in dismissive non-answers and deleted the thread. But not before I saw it, and had some thoughts.

Let's address the most common objection first: "There's no toilet-lore either."

But redditor, there is! Not a ton, maybe, but we do occasionally see buckets positioned in toilet-like fashion in the games, and ESO has a variety of fancy chamber pots in its list of contraband (ew). Not to mention the whole "Boethiah ate and excreted Trinimac to make Malacath," myth. Words related to going potty (piss, excrement, poo, pee, etc.) are common in lore. Even though there's not a "take a dump" button in Skyrim, there's plenty to show us that the people of Tamriel do, indeed, pee and poop.

By contrast, there is nothing to definitively say that they have human menstrual cycles. The closest we get is The Real Barenziah saying that Barenziah became prematurely fertile due to having too much sex, and two instances of the euphemism "flowered" (Hunger vs. Shambles from Shivering Isles and Countess Ilise Manteau's dialog from Elder Scrolls Online). Those sources tell us that the humanoids of Tamriel reach a threshold where they become fertile, but they do not tell us whether they excrete their endometrial lining if they fail to get pregnant (have a period) or absorb it, or if they become fertile only in response to sexual activity, or if Mother Mara just puts a baby up there when she feels like it. They don't tell us when fertility starts, when it ends, how frequently it occurs, and what symptoms accompany this cycle (if there IS a cycle).

Most importantly, they don't tell us how people deal with it.

That's the big difference between pee, poop, and periods: you can squat down and relieve yourself in the woods no problem, but managing a human menstrual cycle and all that comes with it (blood, cramps, diarrhea, mood swings, etc.) is a whole different matter, and a really big deal to roughly 25% of the population at any given time.

So, let's assume that the humans of Tamriel have the same sort of menstrual cycle as those of earth. How would they deal with it?

To start, Tamriel has a really big advantage over Earth in that systemic sexism and menstruation taboo don't seem to exist to the same degree. Tamriel is certainly not a perfectly equal society (Countess Manteau, mentioned above, is a good counterpoint: she was married before she reached sexual maturity, i.e. sometime before 13, i.e. far earlier than anyone can actually consent to marriage), but it's also not one where I can see something like the chhaupadi existing. If menstruation is not seen as a shameful thing, technology around managing it is more likely to arise.

We already know that Tamriel has tight fitting underwear (not something we can say about most of human history), so it's not a stretch to assume they've figured out how to stack and stitch cloth to form a rudimentary reusable pad. In fact, given that the modern pad was invented by nurses in WW2 (the first war to utilize large numbers of women), and women in Tamriel have been on the front lines for forever, it's possible that Tamriel has pads just as advanced as ours. While they certainly don't have the sterilizing technology to make safe tampons, they could still roll up cloth, sponge, plant fiber, or even paper like our ancestors did back in the day (DO NOT do this).

On the other hand, Earth has a foot up on Tamriel in that the average pre-modern Earthling had far more children than the average Tamrielian, and had much poorer nutrition, and thus had far fewer periods to deal with overall.

Tamriel also has another advantage: magic. While your average restore health potion is unlikely to make your cramps disappear, it's hard to imagine that some alchemical or spell-based solution wouldn't have been invented in a land where half the mages have to deal with periods. Tamriel also has gods who are proven to exist. Temples of Mara or Almalexia could provide conventional, magical, and religious solutions to managing both common period pains and more serious ailments like endometriosis or uterine fibroids. And then there is Azura, whose domain of cycles and transitions goes hand in hand with menses and could draw from examples of how menstruation was seen as magical or divine by various cultures of Earth.

Which brings me to: why talk about this stuff in the first place? Why not just say, "yep, everyone poops and bleeds," and move on to dissecting CHIM or arguing about the Dragonborn's afterlives? To quote Michael Kirkbride quoting Ken Rolston, to write an interesting fictional universe you need to consider the perspective of not just the kings, but also the commoners and the dog. A world cannot be real without the everyday human context, and to dismiss something that is at some point experienced by half the population as unimportant because it is not featured in game is a narrow-minded, boring mindset. And we don't want to be that, do we?


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