On the Falmer Civilization
Written by Sirius Pullo of the Imperial Archeological Society.
Among the peoples that have long since vanished from the face of Nirn, the race known as the Falmer, or “Snow Elves”, as many call them, are perhaps one of the most intriguing, if not mysterious, civilizations I have ever had the chance to study. Unlike other notable lost races such as the Dwemer, Lilmothiit, or Ayleids, their civilization has left little behind for us modern scholars to study. Despite this, I have compiled all of the available evidence on these ancient elves so that others can learn about this fascinating race.
The exact origin of the Falmer peoples is still a matter of debate amongst Imperial scholars. Although popular consensus seems to favor that the Falmer were originally a splinter group from another Elven race, the matter of which race of elves this was remains a mystery. The belief that they were originally an offshoot of the Ayleid elves to the south holds the most sway in scholarly circles. Although the hypothesis that they came as far as the Summerset Isles to settle in Skyrim is also a plausible theory, considering the exploratory nature of the Aldmer. Even if the splinter theory is to be believed, the question of why a group would choose to settle in such a harsh environment is puzzling, though I believe this might be due to them spawning from some sort of outcast group from their original society.
Due to the Falmer’s sparse population and invading Nords of the Merethic Era wiping out most, if not all Falmer settlements and people, records from the Falmer themselves are near-nonexistent. Despite this, there is some information that can be gleaned from ancient Nordic records and stories, combined with the few surviving Falmer artifacts that have been recovered. First of all, the Falmer seems to have been primarily a nomadic culture, with few permanent settlements and cities throughout Skyrim. This has been confirmed by the overall lack of Falmer ruins throughout Skyrim, and the old Nordic stories suggesting the Falmer were a primarily mobile, herding culture. What they herded specifically is still a mystery, but the usual suspects of sheep, goats, and cattle are most likely applicable. It is also possible that Falmer society may have been focused on horsemanship, due to some potential finds of Falmer stirrups and bits, but this is only one out of many theories on their lifestyle
On the Falmer religion, there seems to be a somewhat clearer picture. During my travels through Skyrim, I was contacted by a Nord noblewoman from Haafingar who had an affinity for collecting rare and ancient artifacts and claimed she had a genuine Falmer stele in her possession. Upon further study, I was able to deduce that the artifact was indeed a legitimate one. The stele in question had no discernible text, but did depict either a Falmer king or priestly figure offering supplication to a figure of the Sun, most likely depicting the elven deity Auriel, or perhaps Magnus, if literal worship of the Sun itself is being suggested. This shows that Falmer religion seems to have had close correlations with the Aldmer faith, and figures such as Phynaster, Xarxes, Syrabane, etc were most likely worshiped as well. Some have even hypothesized that Daedra worship might have been present among the Falmer, considering their possible Ayleid roots, but this theory has so far been unfounded.
On the prevalence of Falmer settlements and their architecture, I’m afraid there is too much of a dearth of evidence to make a conclusive statement. The lack of this has prompted some scholars to claim that the Falmer simply had no permanent architecture at all, but I believe this conclusion to be too much of a step in the wrong direction. Stories of lost Falmer cities and holy sites hidden high up in the mountains of Skyrim are told all over the province. In one particular tale, a Falmer monastery located in the Jeralls managed to escape the wrath of the invading Nords by summoning a blizzard to obscure its location, though this came at the cost of burying the Falmer inside under a thick blanket of snow.
The question of whether any remaining Falmer has survived today is a hotly debated subject amongst scholarly circles. The primary consensus seems to be that any Falmer not directly killed by the invading Nordic force fled to other provinces and eventually intermingled with Ayleid, Direnni, and possibly even Dwemer societies. Despite this, many Nords adamantly claim that the Falmer still lurk in the wilds and caves of Skyrim, and are often blamed for any misfortune that befalls someone in their society. In my travels through Skyrim, I even encountered a Nord mercenary who claimed to have come into contact with a live Falmer. This encounter seemed somewhat questionable, however, as he claimed that something had “shot me in the rear end”, and attributed this unfortunate episode to a lurking Falmer in the woods. He was kind enough to let me see this arrowhead though, but I believe this was more likely due to some troublemaking youth than some remnant Falmer group.
If the stories of the Nords are to be believed, It was the Falmer’s decision to slaughter the men of Saarthal that doomed their race to extinction. Why the Falmer decided to attack the Nords seemingly unprovoked is still unknown, and some have even questioned the Nordic account entirely, saying the Nords were the ones who attacked first. Whatever the case, it is clear that a great and fascinating race was lost after this event, one that hopefully, we will have a deeper understanding of in the future.
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So I noticed there was a bit of a debate on both the forums and the server on what the role of the Falmer would be in SHOTN, so I figured I would do a piece on them to try and codify all of the ideas that have been floating around. What seems to be most agreed upon are that: 1. The Falmer were a primarily nomadic culture, but could gather together in mountain strongholds, monasteries, and even small cities. And 2. All of the Falmer are totally and unequivocally dead, though this still opens up the possibility of people pretending to be Falmer, or even Falmer ghosts that haunt the land. Anyway, I tried to be as non-partisan as possible when writing this, so it can still leave some wiggle room for how they’re represented in the game.