[Book] Cultural Eras of the Nords

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[Book] Cultural Eras of the Nords

Post by Tristior » Sat Feb 10, 2018 10:52 am

Cultural Eras of the Nords
By Elonwe of Lillandril, University of Gwylim Press

Scholars of Tamrielic history, myself included, are generally fond of the Standard Era calendar, both out of a habit inculcated from our earliest years of education and from the convenience of a shared framework. Whilst understandable, this framework is somewhat limited for studies of individual cultures and peoples across Tamriel, as an epoch is not necessarily the same at the continental level as it is at the local. It is therefore my hope with this volume to provide an alternate, compatible framework for understanding Nordic history and culture, based on the evolution of both since the time of the Return.

CE - Cultural Era
Elf-demons - the Aedra and Daedra, collectively
Hirser - the Nordic pantheon
ME - Merethic Era

CE1 - Totemic Period (ME? - ME?)
The Totemic Period concerns the earliest history of the Nords, from the establishment of old Atmora to Ysgramor’s Return and beyond. No written records from this period are thought to have been kept, but a strong oral tradition survives in animal fables and fairy tales.

Culturally, this was a time of nature spirits and tribal totems that began to coalesce into a prototypical version of the contemporary Nordic pantheon. Thus, there is rarely “Shor” or “Alduin” in this time, but there are recurring tales of wily foxes deceiving mighty dragons and so on. Any book of traditional Nordic fables will give an illustration of these sorts of stories.

CE2 - Rippling Kingdoms Period (ME? - 1E139)
The Rippling Kingdoms Period is my private name for the age, beginning in the late Merethic Era, when the Nords began to establish themselves as a significant political force on Tamriel. Dubious sources and a lack of rigorous record-keeping mean that exact dates are difficult to pin down, although it encompasses the majority of the conflict between the Falmer and the Nords.

This era marks the beginning of the Nordic poetic cycle, celebrating the mythic kings and mighty heroes of this age. It is also when the Atmoran totem spirits begin to anthropomorphise into the current Nordic pantheon, and the testing gods of old Atmora are fully identified with the elf-demons of later myth - without doubt a product of the brutal wars fought between Nords and Falmer.

CE3 - Old Empire Period (1E139 - 1E369)
The Old Empire Period begins with the twin victories of High King Harald Hand-Free - also known as the mythic hero Harald Hairy-Breeks - over the last of the Falmer and the Dragon Cult, leading to the declaration of an independent Kingdom of Skyrim. High King Harald is the first truly historic Nordic ruler, and this is a period of great record-keeping and historical enquiry for the Nordic peoples. It also encompasses the duration of the First Empire of the Nords, which covered much of Morrowind, Cyrodiil and High Rock - a time which, though brief, remains fondly and proudly remembered by the Nords of today.

It is in this period that High King Harald’s great codification of Nordic mythology, the High King’s Vedda, took place. The death of Shor and the realm of Sovngarde were introduced into the mythic cycle at this time, and tales of conquest and victory feature prominently. Arguably, the Old Empire Period is the seminal age for Nordic mythology and the poetic cycle, which is doubly impressive given its short but energetic span.

CE4 - Broken Sky Period (1E369 - 1E2703)
Following the death of High King Borgas in 1E369, the First Empire disintegrated and there followed a long age of internecine conflict known as the Broken Sky. The Alessian Order began to push out traditional Nordic religion, especially in the south and east, and western Skyrim was largely overrun by the Direnni. Following the defeat and loss of Morrowind to the First Council, Jurgen Windcaller founded the Way of the Voice as a means of studying and perfecting the thu’um, which had previously been seen by the Nords as innate.

Poetry and mythology from this period is noticeably darker and more esoteric, focusing on both internal strife of the gods and the crimes of the elf-demons. Semi-historical tales of Wulfharth, avatar of Shor, are especially prevalent during the Broken Sky, concerning his exhortations to recover both the First Empire and the heart of Shor from Morrowind. Following his coronation as High King, Wulfharth was able to reverse territorial losses against the Direnni and purge the Alessians, but was unable to reclaim the First Empire and Skyrim ultimately faded from power.

CE5 - Imperial Protectorate Period (1E2703 - 2E855)
Skyrim was peacefully integrated into the Reman Empire in 1E2703, beginning the age of the Nords as vassals of a southern liege. Even beyond the collapse of the Second Cyrodiilic Empire, the Nords remained without a truly-recognised High King for much of this period.

The encroachment of Cyrodiilic sensibilities in this time took its toll on Nordic culture, and though the old stories were gleefully plundered and appropriated by pedigree-hungry Colovians, new works took on a decidedly less Nordic character. Stories placed less emphasis on individual heroism, the Hirser became more removed and less personable, and the aspiration to Sovngarde fell away from the cultural consciousness.

CE6 - Talos Period (2E855 - )
Our current age can, I believe, be safely considered the “Talos Period”. Although they initially resisted his expansion, the Nords became enthusiastic supporters of Cuhlecain and later Tiber Septim - especially as the renewed influence of Wulfharth spread and the “Nordic Talos” myth grew in popularity.

With many Nords seeing the Septim Empire as a restoration of the First Empire of the Nords - won by Nordic conquest and led by a supposed Nord - the Talos Period has seen a restoration of traditional Nordic religion and the poetic cycle. Scholars of this formidable culture can only hope that this trend continues, and that we are privileged to witness a new golden age of Nordic mythology and song-making.

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