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Concept Art Book Lore (a brief review)

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Fiore1300's picture
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I have been debating in my head for a while whether or not this was worth making a thread over, but I eventually came to the conclusion that the little information that we do receive from the art book should be collected and made available to those who don't have access to it.

 

For those who don't know, the Skyrim Collector's Edition was released with an concept art book. This book is mostly filled by the concept art itself. However, comments by the developers abide; and although they tend not to be incredibly insightful and tend to deal with game design rather than lore, they do reveal some interesting tidbits on the game's lore. I've collected below any comments relevant to the game's lore below.

 

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The early designs (of Whiterun) envisioned a crystalline throne left in its raw form after the ground was broken to build the Jarl's castle.

 

[Windhelm] is the oldest city in Skyrim, built over a span of centuries on top of an ancient Nord fortress from the earliest days of Skyrim.

 

The Nordic Ruins are deliberately primitive in their construction. Rough hewn stone, large wooden posts and archaic carvings suggest a primitive, but deeply spiritual culture.

 

The theme of the Foresworn is the corruption of nature. This can be seen through their primitive dwellings which suggest a nomadic and ritualized culture.

 

These two themes (eastern style and tribal qualities) come together in the final structure's large teepee-like appearance which shields the small encampment.1.

 

Many of the statues don't have a direct Nordic appearance in order to convey that some have been imported from other lands or even have Astral origin.

 

There are many sacrificial themes incorporated into the shrines around Skyrim. We tried to tell a story as much as possible along with inserting clues as to their origins.2.

 

We went with a wyvern-like design since that's how they appeared in Redguard.3.

 

The bears are rather straightforward, though initially they were given a little twist by combining some attributes of giant prehistoric ground sloths into their design.

 

The Dwemer Centurions are simple machines come to life with the power of steam and magic.4.

 

The Hagraven were designed to be the antithesis of the Spriggans; where Spriggans protect nature, the Hagravens corrupt it to gain power. The look of the Hagraven combines an old crone with a raven to create a grotesque body that has been kept alive through magic.5.

 

After several concepts [for the Troll] were explored, we went back to the design from Morrowind.

 

The Horkers in Skyrim more closely resemble a walrus than the seal-like bodies from Solstheim. The truth of it is that Nords call any sea mammal a Horker.6.

 

The Ice Wraith's design was inspired by a reference in the lore to Nords hunting Ice Wraiths as a coming-of-age trial.

 

"I thought immediately of frozen bear traps in flying serpent form that ethereally and physically freeze your torso with an elemental cold. Kind of like turning the corner in Manhattan during the dead of winter and getting hit with a blast of wind coming up Fifth Avenue at 50mph."

 

The goal was to incorporate symbolism and back-story into each [amulet].

 

The Eye of Magnus was felt to have a similar origin to the Elder Scroll itself - a distant and mysterious object that possibly crashed like a meteor into the earth eons ago. Nobody knows how it got here, but one thing is for sure: it holds immeasurable power inside.7.

 

In Skyirm we tied each set of weapons to a race in order to show a unique culture in how they were made. Most of the weapons in the game are made by Nords, so we wanted to make it obvious when you come across a set that isn't Nordic. For example, the ebony weapon set is made by Dark Elves, so we gave it a more sinister and curved style.8.

Elven - Keeping the avian winged theme of Oblivion was important, ...9.

 

Falmer - Made from Chaurus chitin, this weapon set shows the relationship they have with the Chaurus.

 

Glass - Hinting at an Elven design sense was on our minds in designing the glass weapon and armor sets. This time we really embraced the translucent glass being the main theme, instead of being a decoration on top of steel.10.

 

Orcish - Lots of arcs and curves to work around and pry open chinks in an opponent's armor are the main goals of these weapons.

 

In an iron age, things like nails would be a highly sought-after commodity. People with a bit of wealth throughout the ages have almost always striven to be ostentatious, so the idea of hammering lots of nails into a bench or chair seemed to fit a Nord theme of steel being prized over anything else. In a pinch, they could be removed and forged into a weapon as well.

 

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*Of added note: Psjiic cloaks are indeed dark gray in the concept art, but not significantly different otherwise.

 

1. The idea that the Orcish longhouse doubles as an encircling shield against enemy projectiles is an fitting one.

2. Any idea as to what these clues might be?

3. One of several examples of Bethesda taking inspiration from and staying true to past games and lore.

4. How the Dwemer powered their creations was in the past described to me as consisting of two methods - with the Dwemer of Morrowind using Lorkhan's Heart as a power source and the Rourken Clan of Hammerfell using exclusively steam. Whether or not this remains accurate in the eyes of the community, it is clear in Skyrim that the native Dwarves used a combination of soul gems and steam to power the Centurions of their halls.

5. While the corruption of nature idea is interesting, what I'm really pointing out here is that the Hagraven form is a way of extending one's life as a lich might. I wonder how this transformation occurs, and what, beyond a longer life, being a Hagraven confers?

6. All sea mammals are called horkers by Nords? I like it, but what about whales I-mean-horkers?

7. An admission that the Eye was just a plot device, and that not even the developers have decided what it is? Stop being such a cynic. They obviously just want to keep it a mystery for fans! *crosses fingers*

8. There was some debate in the official forums a while back of whether the ebony weapons were of mannish or elven design.

9. The developers consider it an important point to keep going with the avian design for elvish memorabilia. Amongst everything else, Bethesda has gone out of their way to impress upon players the importance of Auri-El. Is this in preparation for future games?

10. Except maybe Morrowind's design, I didn't feel Oblivion's was glass on top of steel.

 

 

Librarians, let me know if you would rather have me paraphrase than directly quote from the material.

 

 

 

Xarnac The Conqueror's picture
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6. Perhaps they see/saw whales as fish, like we did until 1758-1778. It was a Nor-... er, Swedish biologist that found that out as well.

Pilaf The Defiler's picture
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Or maybe they just called Whales horkers too, and also called them Whales sometime because they were bigger and therefore required more words.

Xarnac The Conqueror's picture
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They may see all Whales/Horker as fish. The Horkers in Solstheim were akin to ear less or true seals. Horkers in Skyrim are similar to the Walrus. Both are Pinniped (in real life, and closely related along with eared seals).

 

Not that real world etymology equates to Nirn, but if you take a look at "Whale" it derives from Germanic khwalaz, or Norse/Dutch wal/walvisc/walvis. Which is a cognate of the Latin squalus, meaning large fish. The name Walrus (which I believe is what the Skyrim Horker is based on) comes from the Norse/Dutch walvis, and the old Norse hrossvalr, meaning horse-whale.

 

The term Baleen, or French balaine was also used for whales around the 14th century, it comes from the Latin ballaena, and Greek phallaina (which was their word for whale), meaning swollen penis. Probably due to the whale's shape.

 

So maybe they are all fish" to Nords. Again, not that real world etymology has anything to do with it.

Fiore1300's picture
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Interesting stuff there, Xarnac.

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I think you're looking way too deep into this, Xarnac.

Xarnac The Conqueror's picture
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The_Noob wrote:

I think you're looking way too deep into this, Xarnac.

Not really, as I'm merely showing where the term whale comes from (I went out of my way to say it has no direct bearing on Nirn etymology, just something interesting. Perhaps even Beth's inspiration). It was obviously used by Beth on purpose. They could have called them anything, but they went with whale. Finding it plausible that they may think whales are fish isn't too deep, it's just a deduction.

 

Also, this is my interest(s). While the religious stuff (usually where the lore ends up leading and the most popular topics throughout lore discussions), I enjoy the natural, scientific, historic and biological more. While the religion is required learning, I prefer a discussion over recessive Khajiit genetics more than Vehk's Sermons reexamined, for example. This is why I may "Go deep," when it comes to something as mundane as whale lore.

 

I didnt really want to turn this into a whale thread as there's much more to Fiore's OP.

nox.fox's picture
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All this about the whales is very instructive but I would just propose a little erratum: whale in French is written baleine. If it used to be written "balaine" in the 14th century however, I'm not aware of it. I'm not saying it to annoy, rather to help perfecting all this science.

On a less biological topic I found it interesting that Beth made the Dwemer centurions loot soul gems and garnets. It is known that Morrowind/Resdayn Dwemers used the heart's energy to power their machines, and that they would stop functioning if getting too far from the heart. I can't help but think the Dwemers of Skyrim possibly created sorts of piles that could act like replacers for the heart. Quite like the Mantella for Numidium. So I wonder... What's the real use of soul gems? And are those looted stones actual garnets or do people mistake them for garnets? The red gem placed on Aicantar's spider control rod really caught my attention. Did the designers put so many red gem stones because it looked good? I tend to associate red with Lorkhan...

About the Hagraven I think becoming one has an obvious feature: feathers. More seriously I wonder if most of them aren't just witches gone bad into lichcraft and corporal alteration? In Highrock there are covens of good witches mastering the forces of nature and magic in gentle ways. But out of Highrock most witches are worth as much as stupid necromancers playing with human puzzles. I think the advantage of becoming a Hagraven is, for a Forsworn witch, to turn into a deity worshiped by the rest of the clan.

The Eye of Magnus is surely a nice plot hole indeed, like the disappearence of Dwemers. Maybe this hole will be filled in some expansion or in the next games, maybe not. Maybe someday we'll know what really happened to the Dwemers, the Maormers, etc. Maybe not. Would Beth be so cruel to put an end to scholars debates on the forums? ...Well, even with new truthes the debates will go on I guess.

I'm sure the next game will be Alinor and that we'll discover how the Thalmor helped Mankar Camoran by providing him an army of fanatic Altmers in exchange for opening more gates than needed in Summerset Isles for their political coup. When everything is ruined it's easy to become a savior. ...But in Skyrim I rather have the feeling that the Thalmor pays more importance in the takedown the Talos Cult than to Auri-El himself. They don't cary anything religious, it's really all about politics. Or did anyone noticed something?

dinmenel's picture
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nox.fox wrote:

On a less biological topic I found it interesting that Beth made the Dwemer centurions loot soul gems and garnets. It is known that Morrowind/Resdayn Dwemers used the heart's energy to power their machines, and that they would stop functioning if getting too far from the heart. I can't help but think the Dwemers of Skyrim possibly created sorts of piles that could act like replacers for the heart. Quite like the Mantella for Numidium. So I wonder... What's the real use of soul gems? And are those looted stones actual garnets or do people mistake them for garnets? The red gem placed on Aicantar's spider control rod really caught my attention. Did the designers put so many red gem stones because it looked good? I tend to associate red with Lorkhan...

Actually, we don't know that it's the Heart.

Senilius' Report

"I also heard a strange story about the centurion spider that we captured and sent back to Cyrodiil. The ship captain I hired wrote to me with an odd story. He said that the spider nearly broke through its cage several times while near Vvardenfell, but once he left he Sea of Ghosts, the centurion suddenly stopped working. What happened next shows that he had more wits than I gave him credit for. He ordered the ship turned about and as they approached Vvardenfell again, the centurion began moving just as suddenly. This is a curious phenomenon and certainly deserves more investigation."

I think it's more likely that they just need to be within a certain radius of a Dwemer ruin.

You might find this post (http://forums.bethsoft.com/topic/1402722-dwemer-speculation/page__view__...) interesting.

Xarnac The Conqueror's picture
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nox.fox wrote:
All this about the whales is very instructive but I would just propose a little erratum: whale in French is written baleine. If it used to be written "balaine" in the 14th century however, I'm not aware of it. I'm not saying it to annoy, rather to help perfecting all this science.

Balaine is Old French, used from the 12th to 14th century. Basically just the olde way of saying baleine.

Jeroic's picture
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Huh, good stuff I completely didn't know about. Of course, physical media always gets a little iffy as to whether it can *all* be put up here, but I like what I see. Thanks.

Pilaf The Defiler's picture
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It's not like someone posted scans or anything.

People don't exactly buy the art books for the text in them, although to a customer like me that's a nice bonus.

Lady N's picture
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I think the amount quoted shouldn't pose a problem. It's a useful resource to have.