Skip navigation
Library

Ted Peterson on High Rock and Summerset - Religion

Author: 
Anonymous
Librarian Comment: 

This interview with Ted Peterson (former writer for the Elder Scrolls) was conducted in 2021 by Atharaon on behalf of The Eltheriad, a fan project to write and illustrate a primer on Aldmeri/Western Tamrielic religious and cosmogonic beliefs from the Early Merethic Era onwards. He notes that, "The following answers aren’t meant to constrain present and future writers, but give a clearer understanding of the older lore and Ted’s thoughts on how it could be presented."

Atharaon:
TES1 introduced most of the gods we are familiar with today, albeit most, if not all of them were post-mortal spirits (Kynareth was buried in Skyrim, Magnus was an archmage, etc.). TES2 introduced new gods but these were not really elaborated upon in the game. Later games portrayed many of the same beings as “always divine” and substantially developed more metaphysical lore.

Did you have any influence on the new “pantheons” seen in Varieties of Faith and the concept of the Mundus? What did you think about the shift from ascended mortals to always divine Aedra?

Ted:
I wasn’t really involved with that. I think there should be good arguments both ways about the origins of the gods. Like with magic, I don’t think there should be a clear-cut answer. The moment there is one, it loses its power. We wanted to have the Aedra be uninterested in mortal affairs, off doing cosmic stuff while the Daedra are there tempting you to go do awful things. But we tried not to make the Daedra purely bad as it’s really more of a grey area.

Atharaon:
Did you write any of the Artifact descriptions in Arena?

Ted:
I might have been involved in that. I think I did.

Atharaon:
Were some of the more obscure gods, like Xarxes, Phynaster and Syrabane, or those I mentioned earlier, meant to be seen as divine in TES I or as great heroes of legend? Were any of the rumours about them meant to be true or simply old wive’s tales?

Ted:
At the time, they weren’t meant to be divine, but old heroes. That lore hadn’t been developed yet.

Atharaon:
Some of the rumours were hilarious - like the one about someone knowing someone else who swears he knows someone who knew the great, great granduncle of this maid who used to clean up for Xarses' sister-in-law. It doesn’t quite gel with the idea of Xarxes as a god.

Ted:
Yeah, I think in that case it’s clearly just rumours without basis.

Atharaon:
How would you square, for example, the artifact rumours about Phynaster (being a hero whose race matches the player, who made a ring for adventures and was killed for it by thieves), with the later lore about him being a god-ancestor of the Aldmer? This also doesn’t exactly scream “divine”, haha.

Ted:
They’re not the same person. Phynaster the ring-forging hero of TES I wasn’t Phynaster the god. It’s not uncommon to share names with the divine. Even in real life, plenty of people are called Jesus.

Atharaon:
One of the many shrines to heroes and gods found in TES2 is the Shelter of Phen. Any relation to Phynaster or was that just coincidence?

Ted:
Not sure, but it works well.

Atharaon:
Did you write The OId Ways as an in-game response to the development of gods from dead mortal heroes to Divines? Who were the original Acharyai the Psijics mentioned as the first spirits?

Ted:
It’s important to say that this is just their point of view but not necessarily the right one. It’s enough that it feels real, but I always say to my team, don’t write the truth. Write around it. Ancestor worship is this important aspect for the elves and so they would be inclined to see everyone as formerly an elven ancestor. Your good relatives are worth praise and your bad relatives you cut off. Elves have a high opinion of themselves so they’d claim the gods as ancestors even if they weren’t.

Atharaon:
So even gods like Phynaster or Xarxes might not be their literal ancestors but they’d just say that anyway?

Ted:
Yeah. Cause that’s what they do.

Atharaon:
So given the Psijic adherence to the Old Ways, why do they have a statue of Syrabane on Artaeum?

Ted:
In the sense that he was an earlier magician, they built that in his memory. I can’t remember exactly what he was famous for. But they built that to honour him. A bit like Vanus Galerion.

Atharaon:
I assume there must be a substantial difference since Vanus isn’t worshipped as a god.

Ted:
Yeah, definitely, but I don’t remember much about it, sorry.

Atharaon:
Did you ever have a list of the Eleven Forces? Can you tell us of any other than “change”?

Ted:
You might want to put this more flowery, but the honest answer is I just made that shit up, haha.

Atharaon:
Who did you envision building Ceporah Tower?

Ted:
I’d like that to remain a mystery. I’d like it to be there when they first arrived. Just a symbol that says “You are not the first.”

Atharaon:
You’ve said they learned the Elder Way from the original race that inhabited Tamriel, and that the Ceporah Tower predates the High Elves. Who did you envision the “original race” to be? Ehlnofey?

Ted:
Yeah, that makes sense.

Atharaon:
You also say in The Wild Elves that the Ayleids “descended philosophically if not directly from the original inhabitants of the land” - were these Aldmer?

Ted:
Yeah, that also makes sense.

Atharaon:
Can you tell us anything about the unique gods of TES2 (Raen, God of Agriculture; Notorgo, Messenger God; Shandar, God of War; Vigryl, God of the Sea; Q'Olwen; Ephen, God of the Wild) and why they didn’t become a larger part of the lore? Would you like to see us reference them in our project?

Ted:
We wanted to honour the beta testers in some way and we couldn’t afford to pay them, so we instead named the gods after them in recognition. We had some of those other gods but various constraints meant we had to cut some stuff. I’d love to see them used again. We had some stuff on Ebonarm but not really anything on the rest.

Atharaon:
Ebonarm is quite like Zenithar in his symbolism - anvils, etc.

Ted:
Yeah, as I said, we named them after beta testers and it works - both are trying to fix what’s wrong!

Atharaon:
Was Ephen/S’ephen always intended to be a Dunmer of the First Era, an actual Breton god or both? How did he relate to Jephre? Could the name have existed previous to the Dunmer as a name for a nature god?

Ted:
The King Edward series was never finished. They’re not still using that in the games, are they? Anyway, rising to godhood is standard for the series so in that sense, it’s proof of concept. Both Ephen and Jephre are nature gods. But yeah, I think a pre-existing nature god might have been the idea. The Dunmer was named after the god.

Atharaon:
Was there any background lore on those deities mentioned in the Breton Calendar, like Druagaa or Secunda?

Ted:
Nope.

Atharaon:
Ius (God of Animals) and Arius (Volcano God in TES1 class questionnaire) - are these actually worshipped deities or just in-universe jokes?

Ted:
Haha, they were jokes. Not meant to be worshipped.

Atharaon:
You mention the Earth Bones in Notes on Racial Phylogeny. The term has been used to describe multiple things, from the ancestors of mortals, to the Aedra, to Y’ffre, to sensory perception and the Laws of Nature. How do you understand that term?

Ted:
I’m surprised I said that. I thought that was an MK thing. I’m not sure, I’d need to look into it.

Atharaon:
It has been requested that I ask you the following, though I admit I’m not sure of the reasons behind the question, so please don’t ask: Was there ever any concept of water-as-memory back when this book was written?

Ted:
No.

Atharaon:
One of my favourite books, A Dance in Fire, has a main character known as Decumus Scotti. How do you pronounce that name?

Ted:
Dess-i-mus Scott-ee. He’s also one of my favourite characters. Such a loser.

Atharaon:
You outlined the concept of the Silvenar as the Voice of the People. What did you think of the idea of the Green Lady lore in TESO?

Ted:
I didn’t know they’d introduced a Green Lady. Interesting.

Atharaon:
Did you ever have any plans for further adventures of Decumus Scotti? Would you ever consider writing a new one? I’d love to include a new tale in our book. We’ll even illustrate it!

Ted:
That would be awesome. If you can speak to your team, I’d enjoy writing another one. I think I’d set this one in Elsweyr. He’s been to Valenwood and Black Marsh. Elsweyr is next.

Atharaon:
Any advice for us in terms of how we approach the lore?

Ted:
If you’re gonna establish something, back it up. For example, Michael established that Cyrodiil was a jungle. Then TES4 came out and it was European countryside. Why include lore saying it’s a jungle if you’re not going to do that? It’s important to be consistent.