"We always start with tone, what is the game world like, how does it feel to be in it, and we go from there", says Todd Howard in an interview. Some writers start with characters and see where their personal dynamics lead them, some writers just want to write a political landscape. It's obvious that TES is about something more – the narrative is top-down and governed by themes. In a deleted interview from one of Morrowind's writers he mentions how Ken Rolston started every story from the themes and then went from there. Let's do that for TES6, while looking at how the themes and narrative evolved over time.
I think it's fair to begin the history of TES themes from Morrowind since Arena and Daggerfall were very generic and didn't give the series an identity as Todd Howard said in 2019's interview.
"Morrowind is a novel about the protagonist you'll never meet" – says Michael Kirkbride. Everything in it is about Nerevar who just isn't here, but the world lives and breathes him. And through different accounts of what went down with Nerevar, Morrowind established the primary theme of TES – postmodernism, unreliable narration, and "truth is violence" in 36 lessons, a novel in it's own right. Vivec always compares truth to a blunt violent tool in his Sermons, and it's appropriate since changing up truth is one of the Walking Ways, ways to "reach heaven by violence".
"In Oblivion the story really isn't about you, it's about Martin" – mentions Ken Rolston in a recent interview he made on Oblivion (he left shortly after Oblivion). There is a common scheme that the hero traverses in a story, called Hero's journey. And that scheme applies to Martin, and not to the Hero of Kvatch. There is another esoterical book in Oblivion, a novel in its own right – Mankar Camoran's commentary on Mysterium Xarxes. In it, Mankar through long-winded logical leaps asserts that Tamriel is actually a plane of Oblivion and therefore must belong to Dagon. It mentions things like modifying your entire being using Mehrune's razor (like how Mankar cut out from himself the fact that he was a Bosmer and became an Altmer). So the themes of Oblivion are the continuation of Morrowind themes – changing up truth with a razor (Prolix) of words, instead of a hammer of power, is possible, and therefore changes up reality (see Jean Baudrillard "Simulacra and simulation").
Skyrim is, of course, about death. By which I mean, about dragons. But since the Dragon is time for all intents and purposes, it is about inevitability of death. And it intertwines the hidden reasons behind the themes. Why do we want to have power and change truth? Because we're mortals. Why do we wish to reshape reality? Because we die but reality remains. It's a conflict directly projected on the conflict of men and mer over death, and the Thalmor is introduced as an entity wishing to defy the concept of death (in Schopenhauer's sense by "return to tranquility") by reshaping narrative and deleting Talos (and Lorkhan, possibly) from discourse and therefore existence. Alduin is, of course, a power that represents death directly, but he doesn't eat the world when he arrives to Skyrim, oh no – he revels in his power (through the Dragon Cult) instead. And dragon language (thu'um) is a direct manifestation of the central TES narrative – power changes truth, changes reality through language because of fear of death.
There's also the issue of C0DA, which directly affirms that "my truth" is the way to go and that there's not really a canon (ultimate reality) to speak of. It doesn't develop anything, being a coda of course (a refrain of the core musical theme at the end of the piece)
How can this meta-narrative be developed going forwards in TES6? It should develop on the postmodern themes, but if TES is to go on, it should reproach and critique C0DA and refrain from the ultimate postmodern conclusion.
I believe that it could go by planting a seed of doubt against any sort of "my truth" becoming reality. And that can be done by introducing a brick wall that any sort of "my truth" will inevitably run into (see nazis), therefore a concept of ULTIMATE REALITY.
Now this shit breaks all sorts of rules in TES. Mainly that it's all a dream and anything could happen in a dream if you will it. But we can call upon Lorkhan to set the ULTIMATE REALITY (because Tamriel is Lorkhan's plane), and develop on the conflict of Lorkhan's plan (Tamriel is an ARENA where mortals struggle) and Thalmor's vision (fuck struggle, we boutta head out). I believe that a desire to struggle is essential to human nature and not culturally constructed. So we can look at Lorkhan as something that embodies the player's desire to struggle in a game and be limited and mortal. And if there's no player, there's no game*,* so Lorkhan constructs the ULTIMATE REALITY on the sole premise that struggle must exist. And any utopian attempt to change truth and reality and ascend to godhood will inevitably end in failure and the withering of the soul. Anu and Padomay won't be happy, so maybe Lorkhan can excise itself from them too. So TES6 could be about good intentions running amok and the failure and defeat of mortal-made gods (Vivec, Numidium, Talos, Thalmor), and maybe the severing of linkage between Mudnus and Aetherius and death of magicka.
Thank you for getting through this, I know it's a ramble. I just hope I got you thinking about TES in a new way.
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