The Elder Scrolls

Why Jorunn The Skald-King Won’t Shut Up

You're undoubtedly familiar with the Ebonheart Pact Legend* Jorunn The Skald-King and if you're anything like me, you saw that he's got "Immune to Silence" and thought "Hm yeah that could make him stick I guess".

Well I'm here to tell you: there's more to it than that! There is in fact solid lore reasoning behind this card's design, but it took a look back to the 17th century witch trials to get there.

To understand why Jorunn should be immune to Silence, we must first understand Silence:

  • it's a Warrior 🔴🟣 trait, extended to Ebonheart Pact by Red Bramman 🟢🟣
  • it removes non-ambient stat bonuses, keywords, cover, and items from a creature

That's Silence in Legends, but we can go deeper just within the TES universe. A book of the same name exists in Morrowind, and it describes adventurer Oristian Silverthorn learning the spell because he's been hired to kill Battlemage 🔵🔴 Egroamaro:

Egroamaro bowed to his adversary sardonically, and then prepared to unleash a fireball to incinerate him. Before he had uttered the first word of the spell, he suddenly found that all the creaking and sighing of the ruins around him had been stilled. He opened his voice to speak, but there was no sound. Silverthorn took his time, strolling across the length of the hall, before dispatching the battlemage with one stroke of his blade.

This definition matches a pre-TES definition, specifically the Greyhawk supplement to the original Dungeons & Dragons, released in 1975:

Silence. 15' Radius: This spell allows the user to either cast Silence upon himself and his party so as to move with no sound or to cast the spell upon some object or thing to silence it. Duration: 12 turns. Range: 18".

But we can go back further. Much further.

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Back to this thing:

I guess it wouldn't fit Jorunn?

This is an instrument of punishment called various names, here described as The Branks. It is locked around the wearer's head to prevent them from speaking and was used during witch trials to prevent the accused from cursing the town. That's right. The origins of Silence goes at least as far back as medieval witch trials.

But, if there's a good lore reason behind Jorunn's immunity to silence, why would he need it if he's not a spellcaster? It's not that he needs it; it's his class that grants him immunity.

Let's divert real quick back to Immune To Silence as it appears in Legends. There are 5 collectible cards with the effect:

  • Keeper of Whispers (Redguard 🔵)
  • Yokudan Nightblade (Redguard 🔵)
  • Adoring Fan ⚪️
  • Star-Sung Bard ⚪️
  • Lute ⚪️
  • Jorunn the Skald-King 🔴🟢🟣

Redguards: Remember how Legends adds "remove items" to the original effects of Silence? Well, Redguards (like all playable races) are associated with a class: Battlemage 🔴🔵, and it's the exact same class as the villain who gets silenced in the Morrowind book Silence. So wow, it makes sense that Redguards should have a claim to the effect since they're all about item synergy and well, Battlemages.

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Adoring Fan's immunity to silence is a joke, I think, given that he won't shut up and is really annoying.

Star-Sung Bard… Bard, where have I heard that class before? Oh, it must be from page 93 of Song and Silence: A Guidebook to Bards and Rogues, an official Dungeons & Dragons guide:

joyful to the bard, I guess

So Bards have an historical reason to have immunity to silence. This is also a bit of a joke applied in Legends, I think, since Bards are known for being chatty and make a lot of noise with their Lutes.

That leaves Jorunn, the Skald-King.

The term skald actually shows up in the history of silence: Wikipedia will tell you it's a Norse term for poet, which has the same root word as the English word scold:

the word skald is thus probably cognate with English scold, reflecting the importance of mocking taunts in the poetry of the skalds

And scold happens to be another name for The Branks: The Scold's Bridle. The torture device's role in the witch trials is just one part of its history in the subjugation of women: it was used to deter women from speaking out either at home or in public e.g. when Quaker preachers were forced to wear it as punishment to stop them from preaching. So the origin of silence is complicated and… dark.

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How does this relate to Jorunn? It happens that in the TES universe, not only do Bards exist, but their Nord counterparts go by a different name, obviously inspired by the Norse term for poet: Skald.

So Jorunn the Skald-King is a Bard, and just like Star-Sung Bard (called a Bard though oddly she's a Nord), he's immune to silence!

*"Legend" is an in-game term for "Unique Legendary" which oddly doesn't see a lot of use, but is defined in the monthly reward card Heroic Rebirth.

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