Professor Rutskarn’s TES 101: Dragonborn in the Dragon USA
The conceit of a hero imbued with mystical dragon powers may seem, to the layman, like something Bethesda pulled out of their asses one week after people stopped buying horse armor DLC. Facts are, Dragonborn are deeply and inextricably interwoven with the mythos and history of the Elder Scrolls setting. The term was used as early as Morrowind, explored in greater significance throughout Oblivion, ultimately became the core narrative element and selling point of Skyrim, and we still have no idea what the hell they are.
Or do we? No. We don't. Not in any practical or satisfactory sense. Let's start from the beginning.
So there's Akatosh. Akatosh is the founder and head of the Super Afterschool Gods Club, and he is a dragon, because of course he is. Akatosh created dragons in his own image. One of these dragonsâ€"possibly the firstâ€"was a super powerful one who came to be called Alduin, who eats souls, tried to conquer the world, ended up killing thousands of people, and ultimately plans to destroy all of creation. So thanks for that one, Akatosh.
Some time later, Akatosh found a dude called Miraak who was worshipping dragons. He decided to give this Miraak a measure of his own divine power. How exactly he did this is unclear; it's said he gave the mortal some of his “blood,” but somehow a fluid transfusion seems an inadequate explanation. It's also unclear why he did it. The best theory is that he thought Miraak, now having the ability to permanently kill dragons by sucking out their souls, would save the realm from the present rampaging of the destroyer Alduin. Instead Miraak shacked up with a daedric prince and started enslaving and murdering other, nonthreatening dragons. The moral of this story is that for the king of all gods, Akatosh really sucks at creating shit.
Much later, Akatosh decided to try out that whole Dragonborn thing again, because hot damn if it wasn't a hoot last time. He gave the ruler of the Cyrodilic Empire–Saint Alessia–a transfusion of his god-blood that would make all of her line Dragonborn. This was part of a pact that kept the realm safe and the jaws of Oblivion shutâ€"a pact that sort of terminated with the death of Uriel Septim, although it's a lot more complicated than that and the specifics will by no means enrich your one and only life. Suffice it to say that there's three dynasties worth of questions as to how the pact worked and why it made any sense for anyone.
But I guess a Dragonborn is a Dragonborn. They’re created by Akatosh, except when they’re descended from one created from Akatosh, except when they’re born randomly. They’re really good at learning shouts when they absorb Dragon souls, except when they’re good at it before they kill dragons, or when they don’t shout, or or when they can’t shout. And the protagonist from Morrowind is one, unless he or she isn’t.
Somebody doesn't understand how or why this Dragonborn thing works. It might be Mehrunes Dagon, it could be Akatosh, I know it's me, and it's probably the writers. Class dismissed.
Next week: the Great War, the Civil War, and Which Side to Murder More Frequently.
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