Six Views of the Egg of Time, V. III


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The Myth of the Dwarf in the Primitive Mind
by Geor Elbert, Doctor of Melancholy and Mania, Wayrest Royal Asylum

The dwarves are, of course, a myth. They “disappeared” because they never existed. The so-called “dwarven” ruins were created by ordinary mer in the same manner as other cities. The “Dwemer” were just another House or Clan of elves who fled their cities after some great catastrophe and intermarried with the Chimer and later Dunmer and therefore “vanished” in the usual manner of a conquered race.

The continuity of pottery, tools, and other material culture between the Late Chimer, Dwemer, and Period I Dunmer cultures clearly indicate that the only mystery of the dwarves is why they fled their cities. The lack of so-called “dwarven metal” in later ruins is best explained by the source of the metal or forging techniques being lost. The lack of later carvings in the “Dwemer” alphabet is best explained by the refugees of the “dwarven” cities adopting the writing of the dominant Dunmer cultures that conquered them. Ancient “dwarven” ruins allegedly show an unusually advanced knowledge of engineering, architecture, magic, and metallurgy, but these achievements are not beyond what other cultures accomplished at the time (compare the Animunculi, advanced golems like gargoyles, with a Sunbird). Historical accounts of “dwarves” are best explained as the reactions of one race of men or elves to another, who labeled the Other as “dwarves.”

Most stories of dwarves and the very idea of a “lost race” is a relic of the primitive folktales of the Atmorans and the Nedes (see, for instance, stories of so-called snow-elves, giants, sygria, et cetera). Thus, the myth of the dwarves offers a unique glimpse into the primitive mind. The core myth, as it is usually told, is that Kagrenac, a “king” of the dwarves (probably a mere tribal chieftain), built a giant statue that contained the heart of a god. Kagrenac used special tools to strike the heart, which was supposed to bring the statue to life, but due to Kagrenac’s hubris, caused the dwarves to disappear. The fate of the dwarves varies in modern versions of the tale. They may be dead, turned to dust, ghosts, transferred to Oblivion, or even sent to the future. The events described in these tales are so fantastic that no serious scholar interprets them literally. Instead, they should be interpreted mythically: a mortal reaches for godhood and is struck down. The similarities to myths of every culture on Tamriel should be obvious. See, for instance, the fanciful tales of Arkay’s origin, god-like powers ascribed to the Tribunal of Morrowind, the myths of the Underking and the King of Worms, et cetera.

First let us deal with the dwarves themselves. The dwarves are depicted as very wise. Sometimes the word “dwemer” is mistranslated as “deep elves” indicating both their underground ruins and the deepness of their thoughts. And yet the dwarves of folklore are also depicted as lesser beings, even to the point of making them shorter than other races. Most tales show them as lacking a critical quality of man, such as emotion, logic, humor, mortality, or “common sense,” and this is how they are ultimately defeated. Their alleged technology works by contradiction, another indication of their plainly mythological nature. Compare, for instance, “cornered spheres” with old Nedic folktales where the hero must forge a weapon with “the breath of a fish and the fur of a frog.” Most importantly, the dwarves force nature to do their bidding. Primitive man was frightened of natural forces such as earthquakes, storms, drought, and magic. Dwarves represent primitive man’s desire for mastery over nature. Since this mastery was forever out of reach, trying to conquer nature is shown as immoral or folly. This fear and lack of mastery over nature is never shown accurately as ignorance as that would reflect poorly on the myth-makers.

Kagrenac himself is a concentrated archetype of the dwarven mastery over nature. Kagrenac as “tonal architect” mimics Magnus as Mundane Architect and usurps the power of the gods. The idea of a “tonal architect” was probably based on primitive and incorrect ideas about magic being based on “cosmic notes” or the “music of the stars.” Many mages still believe such foolish notions today. In the role of pseudo-Magnus, Kagrenac is a useful target for any negative feelings early man had toward the gods and nature. When they suffered, instead of blaming themselves, they could make up a story about Kagrenac’s folly. They could express anger towards the gods as the folly of Kagrenac without fear of retribution. Obvious remnants of this idea can be seen in the original folktalkes of the dwarves as well as more recent imitators such as Marobar Sul.

Next, we shall examine the Anumidium, a myth of recent origin. It is based on the fear caused by Tiber Septim and Zurin Arctus when they summoned the great Atronach known as the Numidium. Especially for the elves, such a terrible weapon and sign of technological mastery could not possibly be the work of mere men. And thus the elves created the myth that it was an avatar of Lorkhan, the usual divine scapegoat of elves. This was entangled with various tales of the dwarves and Numidium became, rather transparently, the Anumidium which is said to exist variously in the distant past, in the distant future, in some ruins in Elseweyr, and under Red Mountain. The Heart of Lorkhan, already present in other myths, was confused with the Mantella, a practical application of the Empire’s more advanced soul-trapping magic. Zurin Arctus was confused with the mythical Underking, the equally mythical King of Worms, King Wulfrich, and even Lorkhan (again!) by common people who are too ignorant to separate well documented historical events from folklore.

While on the topic of Lorkhan, it is worth examining whether such an entity exists. Lorkhan has a presence and unique status is almost every cosmology. In most regions he is not mortal, not Aedra, and not Daedra (to the extent that the false distinctions between these categories apply). He cannot be summoned and no sensible cults or covens worship him (unless you blindly equate Lorkhan with Talos). But the origins of the Emperor Cult and the clear inability of a mortal like Tiber Septim to somehow become one of the Aedra are well known. The closest any Lorkhan figure came to genuine worship is in the Nordic Shor, but whether these are truly the same entity is highly debatable. So what is Lorkhan and where did the concept of Lorkhan come from? We may never be certain, but it seems reasonable that the elves had a devil figure of sorts, a trickster and a scapegoat named Lorkhan, who was never worshiped but may have been placated. The Atmorans had a similar figure called Shor. When the two cultures met and engaged in a long conflict, the Atmoran descendants syncretized Shor and Lorkhan. Since the elves believed Lorkhan was evil and the cause of both the human invasion and their fall from a mythical state of grace, men began to see Shor-Lorkhan as a patron as well as a trickster. This was the basis for Lorkhan later becoming a mythic symbol of Tiber Septim and the divine justification for his conquests. Earlier or alternate justifications based on Akatosh favoring men over elves are still present in the Imperial Seal and early dragon symbolism of the Empire, but these were soon replaced with those of Lorkhan and ultimately those of the Emperor Cult. Alas, the syncretism, censorship, and iconoclasm of the Alessians and early Third Empire has obscured the origin of most of the gods as they were combined, split, recombined, renamed and are now a tangle that may never be unraveled.

Lorkhan’s Heart has often been described as a falling star or comet. This is another clear indication that the tale comes from the primitive mind and not from historical events. Tales such as the “starfall” that created the great volcano of Vvardenfell are caused by the obsession of primitive man with the mysteries of the heavens. Indeed, many myths begin or end the Mythic Era with the stars falling to the land. The moving Aedra, changes in brightness, comets, eclipses, and the unpredictable movement of Sithis were fascinating to the primitive mind. Today, of course, right-thinking scholars know that comets and falling stars are not fires being thrown by Sheogorath (a folktale apparently originating on the border of Skyrim and High Rock in the early days of the second era, and probably related to the general confusion of Shezarr, Shor, Sheor, Sithis and so on in that region). Nor are they the burning corpses of racial heroes like Baan-Dar (a myth that could only come from the frail dreams of an unreformed skooma addict). Nor are they giant rocks, like the Ministry of Truth (a story told by Vivec for his own purposes). Indeed, as Arcole Warwick (a greatly respected scholar here in Wayrest and one of my former patients) recently announced, comets and “falling stars” are a natural and necessary corrective transfer of Aetheric energies into Mundus. But to the primitive mind, a comet was a frightening mystery and a terrible omen. Any story with a comet or “falling star” is far more likely to be myth than historical fact.

The tools of Kagrenac are hardly worth discussing, mainly due to their obvious nature as phallic symbols. This plain fact has somehow been overlooked by other scholars, but their masculine power and use in “striking” the heart are unmistakable. The heart’s role here may seem obscure, but consider the role of women in primitive Atmoran and Nedic cultures. Women and the Heart of Lorkhan both represent a missing, cut-off piece; of men in one case, and of the so-called “god of man” in the other. The Heart is the archetypal “column/blade/law/spell the experts rejected” in many Breton (ultimately Direnni) folktales. The Heart represents the divine female, and the mystery of birth, which once ruled the primitive mind and was slowly replaced by modern Aedra worship. This is still symbolized by the clearly masculine imagery of The Tower which protects the world from chaotic, feminine, Padomaic influences. Lorkhan, of course, must have originally been female. Additionally, the phallic tools striking the forbidden Heart may be a remnant of some primitive morality, superstition, or rite of passage. Kagrenac’s use of a glove to handle the tools, present in many versions of this myth, is suggestive in connection with his role as an usurper of Magnus and in conjunction with primitive sexual taboos.

The disappearance of the dwaves was originally the least mysterious part of this tale, but it has been twisted into an unnecessary mystery by modern interpretations. The dwarves had to be punished in the myth for their dominance over nature and desire to rule alongside or above the proper gods. Also, of course, the existence of their ruins had to be explained to those who lived near them. “Of course our ancestors couldn’t have built that!” A similar phenomenon occurs in many areas, such as Skyrim and High Rock, where large structures built in previous Eras are seen as the work of “giants.” Indeed, it seems any large above-ground ruin is the work of “giants” and any underground ruin is the work of “dwarves.” The myth of the dwarves’ disappearance handles their divine punishment as well as explaining the underground ruins.

And so we finally come to the correct interpretation of The Egg of Time. Like all such writings, it was clearly not produced by “dwarves” as they did not exist. It is simply a poor copy of “dwarven” carvings put into a book by people living much later along with pictures showing the morality myth of Kagrenac. For those who still doubt this theory, consider how likely it is that the dwarves, left very few books, two of which conveniently show the most common myth of their disappearance!

The symbolism of the pictures in The Egg of Time should be now be obvious to the reader.

Similarly, note the incomplete, almost corpse-like appearance of the “dwarf” figure in Divine Metaphysics. This image is another indication of the inhuman and inferior nature of the mythical dwarves. The death and decay imagery of the figure represent punishment for their conquest of nature and usurpation of the gods.

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