Herma-Mora: The Woodland Man?

Author: Reginus Buca
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The Daedric Prince Hermaeus Mora has many appellations reflecting his dominion over fate and secret knowledge; for example, the Lord of Secrets, the Inevitable Knower, or the One Who Knows. Yet one title in particular seems out of place among the others: the Woodland Man. This name was given to him by the ancient people of Atmora, who knew Hermaeus Mora as “Herma-Mora.”

To the modern scholar, “Woodland Man” certainly sounds like a title for a forest deity such as Y’ffre. Yet the Atmorans (and the Nords of ancient Skyrim) knew Herma-Mora as a tempter, a being who offered knowledge or power to the unwary to ensnare them. He had nothing to do with hunting, weather, the life of the forest, or the challenges of survival.

This contradiction is, perhaps, not so insoluble as it might appear.

Simply put, we know next to nothing about the speech of ancient Atmora. It was not until the time of Ysgramor that writing began to appear among the peoples of the northern land. Letters were frequently confused, repurposed, or even omitted in the earliest decades of their use. As I examined this problem, I found myself wondering if our sources were accurate.

A careful study of the oldest texts surviving in Skyrim suggests that perhaps scholars have misunderstood this turn of phrase for centuries. The root word for “woodland” is better translated as “wilderness,” and carries implications of desolate or uninhabited places. Likewise, the Atmoran roots of “man” are tied up with the concept of speaking. Men are the animals that talk, in this interpretation.

Taken together, we might therefore better translate “Woodland Man” as “that which speaks in the wastes.”

Herma-Mora, a god of the wilderness? Or Herma-Mora, who shares terrible secrets in desolate places? That is an interpretation that makes more sense for a Daedric Prince known as the Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge.

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