Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series is among the most revered in the entire role playing genre, and Skyrim has thus far been its pinnacle. Released back in 2011, Skyrim is still heavily played almost six years after.
One may wonder: what keeps players engaged for so long? Without a doubt, Skyrim is a fantastic and fun game experience with excellent mechanics and design, but it also possesses some of the deepest and most expansive lore in any fiction.
Built upon a universe with more than 20 years of story-driven games behind it, Skyrim broadened the scope of both size and story to truly epic proportions. With so much mystery to delve into, it’s no surprise that fan theories sprouted up shortly after its release and have become more refined as the years have passed.
The theories range from the meaning of the protagonist, to the hidden agendas of the powerful factions. Some even include the most unassuming NPC characters you find in any town. There is no single character or piece of story that is safe from the scrutiny of tens of thousands of hardcore fans.
For fans who want to know a little more about the finer points of the story of The Elder Scrolls, here are the 15 Skyrim Fan Theories That Will Blow Your Mind.
15 Paarthurnax Is Actually Evil
Paarthurnax is an ancient dragon who sits atop the Throat of The World as ruler of the Greybeards. Long ago, he was a terrible monster that committed numerous atrocities against mankind, but decided to turn against his dragon kin and teach men the Thu’um, enabling them to fight back.
Since then, he has retreated to the solitude of the mountains to live as a pacifist, but perhaps he is just biding his time to carry out his true goal -- enslaving mankind.
Like all dragons, Paarthurnax is an inherently violent and dominating creature, and his pacifism must be kept in check lest he revert to his old ways. On top of that, his character is always in question because he is both a terror and a betrayer.
The main goal of the Dragonborn in Skyrim is to banish the Dragon Anduin forever, who just happens to be Paarthurnax’s main rival. It’s quite possible that Paarthurnax is playing a long con on all mankind and enlisting the help of the Dragonborn to eventually betray them. After all, Paarthurnax himself tells you that it’s always wise to mistrust a dragon.
14 The Dwemer Race Is Not Extinct
Thousands of years before the events of Skyrim, the race of the Dwemer, or Dwarves, disappeared from the face of Nirn forever during a war with the Dunmer. Once the two races were allies, but the Dwemer got too close to an artifact of incredible power.
When attempts to dissuade them from harnessing such power fell on deaf ears, the Dunmer went to war against the Dwemer. The exact details of what happened are not known, but the result was all but one Dwemer disappearing instantly, never to be seen again.
With such little concrete knowledge about the event, many theories have been put forth, but one prevailing theory is that they aren’t extinct at all, but on another plane of existence. It is fairly plausible that the Dwemer were attempting to induce the Psijic Endeavor, or to transcend the mortal state to become Godlike.
Described as “time itself bent inward and outward into a shape that is always new,” it could very well be that the Dwemer didn’t die, but exiled themselves to an alternate reality.
13 The Dragonborn Was Created By The Gods
Character creation has evolved with each Elder Scrolls game, and in Skyrim it is the first time that you do not select a constellation to be born under. That could be chalked up to a simple removal of unnecessary mechanics, but considering some other unique aspects of the Skyrim hero, perhaps not.
The Dragonborn is a prophesied figure whose coming was foretold, with his/her coming precluding the return of the Nordic God of Destruction, Alduin. We know very little of the character from the start, and the only chance the player has to add backstory comes when asked by a certain character, not in the beginning creation.
In fact, no one seems to know who the player is -- even his would be executioners in the opening sequence don't know. So a random person with no backstory and no family or friends happens to be the one foretold to be the harbinger of a great battle among Gods?
Players have suggested that the Dragonborn was never properly born at all, but created by either Akatosh or Talos to fulfil the prophecy and end the Thalmor threat to Skyrim.
12 Sheogorath Is The Hero Of Kvatch
The Fourth title in the series, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, took the player deep into the realms of the Daedric Princes. Sheogorath is the Daedric Prince of Madness, and a fan favorite who was the focus of the Shivering Isles expansion.
However, when the player meets Sheogorath in Skyrim, there are some very interesting pieces of dialogue exchanged. The Daedra tells the player, "You know, I was there for that whole sordid affair. Marvelous times! Butterflies, blood, a fox and severed head... Oh, and the cheese! To die for.”
Since Oblivion took place hundreds of years before Skyrim, how would the Daedra know of these specificities from the crisis?
Additionally, Sheogorath is actually one of two personalities of the Daedric Prince called Jyggalag. The Hero of Kvatch (the player in Oblivion) breaks the curse of duality in the expansion, and from then on the Prince called Sheogorath.
It seems as though the price of breaking the curse was to be assimilated or “mantled” into the new form of the now free Sheogorath, ending the hero’s arc in what can only be called a tragedy.
11 Lydia Had Her Mind Erased
Ask any Skyrim player about Lydia and you are likely to hear endless praises, as well as a bit of frustration due to her tendency to block doorways.
As the first follower you acquire in the game, Lydia is the NPC follower who the player will probably spend the most time with, accruing dozens of levels fighting against enemies together. She’s a strong melee fighter who can hold her own with most enemies you encounter.
Fans are very curious as to her origin, and have come up with a compelling scenario that isn’t too crazy upon examination. Lydia is the only follower gifted to you by a Jarl as a reward for taking out the first dragon in the main story.
It’s reasonable to assume that Lydia had a place somewhere in the Jarl’s court before this, but what about her welcome, but odd devotion to her position?
Her loyalty could be the result of the Dragonsreach court wizard, Farengar, using magic to erase her memories, essentially turning her into a single minded drone. Unethical, definitely, but not the craziest thing to happen in Skyrim by a longshot.
10 The Opening Sequence Was An Elaborate Setup
The opening sequence of Skyrim is a memorable one that has the player bound as a prisoner in a wagon, headed for the town of Helgen to face execution. It is unknown to the player how or why they are caught, so it’s no surprise that this is one of the most hotly debated topics in the fandom.
One very plausible theory is that the capture of you, Ulfric Stormcloak, and the others, was a setup by the enemies of the Nords -- the Thalmor. For starters, you are dressed in prisoner’s garb, so you were most likely at Fort Neugrad before the cart ride.
However, on the way to Cyrodiil, an avalanche forced the imperials to reroute to Helgen. The timing of this, as well as the dragon Alduin showing up before your execution, is very suspicious. When the player reads Ulfric’s dossier later on, you can gather that the Thalmor, despite being sworn enemies of Ulfric, did not benefit from his execution and, ironically, would prefer the war continue.
It’s reasonable to conclude that both the avalanche and subsequent attack on Helgen were the work of the Thalmor in order to continue the state of perpetual war.
9 Hogni Red-Arm Is A Murderer
Throughout Skyrim, the player will meet a massive number of NPC personalities with their own sense of agency, even though they might not be part of a major quest. One of the strangest NPCs is a merchant just inside the gates of Markarth named Hogni Red-Arm.
Hogni sells fresh meat out of a stand, is gruff and unpleasant, and has an odd obsession with blood. Some of his quotes include “fresh meat for your stomach” and “bloodiest meat in The Reach.”
There are two story quests that he is involved in, one of them is The Taste of Death, in which the player discovers that many citizens of Markarth are cannibalistic followers of the Daedric Prince Namira, the God of death and decay. Hogni is among these worshipers, but the sacrifices seem to be the work of Eola, not Hogni.
Being a cannibal is despicable for sure, but that’s not the same as a murderer. There are several dialogues between other NPCs, as well as his personality, which hint that Hogni might satisfy his obsession with killing in the cult, and perhaps some of his victims are sold at his stand.
8 The Silver Hand Used To Be Part Of The Companions
In one of the DLCs of Skyrim, the player is introduced to The Order of the Silver Hand, an order of warriors dedicated to eradicating werewolves and vampires from the world. They are zealots whose cause may be just, but are entrenched in fanaticism that borders on hysteria.
Their origins are not clear, but one plausible theory is that they are a breakaway faction of the famed Companions, who separated from their former unit over the drinking of beast blood.
Part of the ritual of becoming a Companion involves drinking werewolf blood and embracing the transformation under controlled conditions. This would clearly be a controversial practice anywhere, and it’s very much in the realm of possibility that the original members of the Silver Hand were a group of Companions who viewed this as an abomination and chose to leave.
It’s curious that, aside from werewolves and vampires, the Silver Hand harbors a deep resentment of the Companions, as the player can overhear some members saying “if he wears that armor, he dies," referring to the Companion armor.
Additionally, inside the Silver Hand hideout, players can find books on the history of the Companions.
7 The Bug Jars Are Secret Super-Weapons
Throughout the game, players can find five different bugs in jars with no obviously purpose to them. They are different species, all in different locations with no connection to each other.
The interesting part comes when the player rotates the jar and looks at the lid, where there are runes inscribed. Players who know the lore have been trying to decode the meaning of the runes when all put together and have come up with one theory that is particularly harrowing -- the bug jars are a means to bring forth the apocalypse.
Translating the runes is just the beginning. One observant player noticed that five of the cities -- Morthal, Whiterun, Winterhold, Dawnstar, and Windhelm -- form the shape of a pentagram.
Furthermore, the three dragon sanctuaries, Mzinchaleft, and the Tower Stone form a smaller pentagon within the larger one. Lastly, in the middle of the transmutation circle is a Shrine of Talos, God of the Nords.
Could it be that the bug jars are a map and conduits for a last ditch superweapon of Skyrim, the ultimate final weapon against the Thalmor?
6 Skyrim Takes Place In The Future
This theory is one that has been around since the beginning and has evolved over time. At first, fans thought that it was possible that Skyrim was in fact the world of Fallout after life had recovered.
Bethesda dismissed this as false, but that didn’t stop some fans from pursuing other avenues of Skyrim being in the future. A cornerstone of this is the technology left behind by the Dwemer after they disappeared.
Far exceeding that of current technology, the artifacts of the Dwemer are so advanced that they seem alien, with fully automatic machines made for combat. The circumstances of their disappearance is disputed, as previously mentioned, but the manner of it could have been more catastrophic than commonly thought.
The technology gap between the Dwemer and the rest of Skyrim suggests a near extinction level event that rendered the world back to the equivalent of the Stone Age. It would take ages for humanoids to get to where they are now, even with the magic in the series.
It may not be the Fallout world, but Skyrim could be set in a apocalyptic version of the Elder Scrolls universe.
5 Rorikstead Is Secretly Full Of Daedra Worshipers
Messing with the Daedra is not recommended under any circumstances. While they can grant power, it is always for a price, and would-be devotees quickly find themselves in a precarious situation that often leads to death and the loss of their souls.
That doesn’t stop some people, though, and Daedric cults are there if you know where to look, sometimes even in places where you wouldn’t expect.
Rorikstead is a small, unassuming farming town that holds several clues pointing to its inhabitants being part of a Daedric cult. First, many of the houses are rife with soul gems, which are totally unnecessary for farmers.
Secondly, dialogue between the old man town greeter and the Mayor revolve around magic. Also, the Mayor’s house has Daedra-related books in it. Rorikstead is rocky ground-- poor terrain for farming-- yet it is successful somehow.
Though there is no Daedric Prince of farming, it’s fair to think that the town invoked the power of one of the Daedra to provide prosperous agriculture in exchange for sacrifices. But which one? That might be the true mystery in the case of Rorikstead.
4 Hermaeus Mora Is Behind The ‘Letter From A Friend’ Mystery
Arguably the most contested and frustrating theory revolves around the person or persons behind the "Letter From a Friend" questline. The letters are delivered by a courier after the player uses one of his Thu’ums, telling them where they can go to find another Word Wall to develop their ability.
Credible suspects have included the Ebony Warrior and Delphine. However, they have both been reasonably debunked by the community, but one suspect remains the most likely of them all -- Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince of Forbidden Knowledge.
There are several clues which could point to this. Whoever sends the letters must be omniscient, able to see and know everything, which is exactly what Mora is. The greybeards are the only ones with extensive Thu’um knowledge, with Mora being the only other keeper of such knowledge.
Finally, we know Mora wants the Dragonborn as a servant, so he has a vested interest in the player becoming as powerful as possible. Hermaeus Mora fits into every hole in the mystery, and is most likely to be the long sought culprit behind the letters.
3 The Dwemer Blinded The Snow Elves To Hide The Secrets Of Their Work
In the ages when the Dwemer were still around, they held a race of elves native to Skyrim known as Snow Elves as slaves. Forced to excavate deep into the Earth in an endless quest for more treasure and knowledge, these elves were forced to consume plants that allowed them to delve ever deeper, destroying their sight. Over the millennia it twisted them into the wretched Falmer.
These are known facts in Skyrim, but what is less clear was their reasoning. It wasn’t necessary for the Dwemer to blind their slaves and, in fact, blind slaves would be counter-productive. One prominent theory suggests that the Dwemer blinded the Snow Elves to protect the secrets of their advanced technology.
The Dwemer first offered to help the Snow Elves escape their enemies and preserve their culture, but were betrayed. Dwemer, by many accounts, were not good people and had arrogance to match their aspirations.
They were meticulous but secretive, and their pride was their technology. It’s not crazy to think that such a people would take any means necessary to prevent any of their secrets from escaping.
2 Titus Meade II Hired An Assassin To Target Himself
Titus Meade II is the Emperor of Tamriel during the events of Skyrim, and his run as ruler has had some problems, to put it mildly. Within his reign, the Empire suffered one of its biggest defeats in history, and his policies directly led to the outbreak of the Skyrim Civil War.
By the time the player begins their quest, Meade’s name has a lot of dirt on it, and thus it’s no wonder that he would be targeted for assassination. However, what if the Emperor set up the hit himself as a way to save face?
It isn’t very hard to see it as possible. If the player follows the Dark Brotherhood storyline, the Emperor is met on an unsecure ship. Also, the Emperor doesn’t resist whatsoever, nor is he even surprised by his impending death, saying simply that no one can escape the Dark Brotherhood.
It’s also worth noting that, in Oblivion, it’s stated that the Brotherhood would never target the Emperor because the blowback would be too much. Titus Meade very well could have hired the assassin himself because he is elderly and cannot live to rectify his name, therefore martyrdom was his only way to die with honor.
1 The Dragonborn Is A Prisoner In Apocrypha
Hermaeus Mora makes his second appearance on the list with the entry that could have the most impact on the Elder Scrolls canon. The final DLC of the game is Dragonborn, which focuses on the player’s adventure into the endless library of the Daedric Prince of Forbidden Knowledge.
As previously mentioned, it’s nearly certain that Mora wants the Dragonborn as his servant, and the main goal of the mission is to take out Miraak, the first Dragonborn. Miraak made a deal with Mora, acquiring great powers in exchange for a life of servitude in apocrypha.
Now that he has grown too strong, Mora needs him replaced, and the player makes the same deal that Miraak did to stop him. Given that Bethesda has consistently revealed the fate of the hero of the previous Elder Scrolls game, and that fate is always tied to a mission played, it’s likely that the Dragonborn remains a prisoner of Hermaeus Mora after the game ends. It would even be worse -- a set up for the main antagonist for the next Elder Scrolls game far down the road.
What do you think? Do any of these theories sound plausible? Do you know of any other Skyrim fan theories? Sound off in the comment section!