The Elder Scrolls

So what’s the deal with being a Prisoner?

In ESO, Sotha Sil gives us a basic description for the metaphysical concept of the Prisoner:

<...> The Prisoner wields great power, making reality of metaphor. We will need you before the end."

Why do you keep calling me the Prisoner?

"A fool's hope, perhaps. I should explain.

Look around you. All of this exists because it must exist. I stand here, in this place, in this moment, not because I wish to, but because I have to. A result of action and consequence."

So wouldn't that make you the prisoner?

"Clever… but incorrect.

The Prisoner must apprehend two critical insights. First, they must face the reality of their imprisonment. They must see the determinative walls – the chains of causality that bind them to their course."

You haven't done that?

"I have. But I fall short of the second insight.

The Prisoner must see the door to their cell. They must gaze through the bars and perceive that which exists beyond causality. Beyond time. Only then can they escape."

You don't see the door?

"I see only unsteady walls.

If the people of Tamriel must exist inside this cell. I will make sure that the walls are stable, the gaps are sealed, and all who remain stay safe within it."

So basically what he's saying is that:

  1. Everything in the world has to follow the deterministic, fatalist rules of causality: the chain of cause and effect is all-powerful and unbreakable. Free will is an illusion and a lie. Causality is a prison.

  2. Through some freak of reality, some logic-bending miracle of existence, some extremely rare individuals have the ability to see this indestructible chain of causality and act in defiance of it. Even though the world is inherently deterministic, these individuals are able to practice free will. Actual free will! It's completely illogical yet still reality.

This is probably why Sotha Sil can't be a Prisoner. He's the Clockwork God, focused almost completely on rules, laws and logic. He's the ultimate fatalist. That's why he simply cannot wrap his head around the absolutely logic-shattering concept of defying causality. These Prisoners are the ultimate force of Change, beings who don't have to follow the rules that bind even the gods.

It's probably safe to assume that all the playable characters of each game are Prisoners, quite literally. But I can't really figure out how they fit Sotha Sil's description of a Prisoner. He says that they must have the above-mentioned two insights, but we honestly don't get any indication that they've got these. The player characters don't seem to have a thorough metaphysical understanding of causality, and since they don't have that how could they see beyond it and escape? Even ESO's player character seems a bit baffled when Sotha Sil gives his explanation. A Prisoner must first be aware that they are imprisoned before they can escape. But the player characters just seem to be naturally able to break causality without any effort or insights or anything.

I don't really know what to make of this. Is Sotha Sil wrong about what it means to be a Prisoner? Is there something more to being a Prisoner? Or is he right and I'm just missing something?

EDIT: I actually found a really cool (if a bit long) essay by an old regular from this sub, IceFireWarden (who sadly seems to have deleted their account), from 2017:

I've got to say, I think it's a really cool interpretation and gives me a lot of food for thought, I really enjoyed it! If you have the time then I suggest you give it a go!


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