A Recurring Column Written by Ranger_STL
The Khajiit are one of the most popular races in the Elder Scrolls Universe, and one of the most frequently played races in Elder Scrolls games. Their curious speech syntax and grammar, their clever dry wit, and their alternating romantic swashbuckling and thieving laziness have one the heart of many a gamer.
But where did they come from?
The Khajiit are actually more of a supporting race; if the conflict that drives the Elder Scrolls universe is the conflict between men and elves, then the Khajiit are the beast race on the sidelines, picking everyone’s pockets. It is somewhat ironic then, that we have a comparatively large amount of in-game lore relating to them.
Fittingly, the origins of the Khajiit are shrouded in mystery. The first written evidence we have regarding the Khajiit is from that seminal work of early Tamrielic history, The Daughter of the Niben. Describing the journeys of Topal the Pilot, an Aldmer explorer ,the text talks of the exploration of Lake Rumare in the central section of Cyrodiil. A primitive race of cat people are described as living in pre-literate communities on the southern shores of Lake Rumare. That is significantly farther north than the present day Khajiiti homeland of Elsweyr (Which is pronounced “Elsewhere”). As the Lake Rumare area became colonized, the Khajiit were pushed further south into their present day location.
But that still doesn’t explain where the Khajiit originated from. For that, we turn to Khajiiti legends. Whereas most other races have creation mythologies that at least partially reference one another, the Khajiit and the Argonians are unique in the fact that while their creation mythologies may reference other races, no other races share such an affinity with the Beast Mer mythologies. While much of the Khajiiti legends have much to do with other races (especially the Bosmer), there are no known analogs to the Khajiiiti creation among the other races, even their close neighbors, the wood elves and Argonians.
According to the Khajiiti legends (which we will discuss more as we discuss the mythologies of the various races later), their creation really coincided with the creation of the Bosmer. The cat legends speak heavily of the Daedric Prince Azura, or as the Khajiit know her, Azurah. Before the Bosmer made the Green Pact with with Y’ffre, and were still capable of shape shifting into various forms, Azura took some of them from right under Y’ffre’s metaphorical nose and gave them a variety of feline shapes, “each one as they might need”, or so the legends state. Azura then deposits these newly created Khajiit in a desert area that sounds remarkably like the modern Elsweyr. In a rage, Y’ffre locked her people’s form into a humanoid form only, and separated the newly created Bosmer from the Khajiit by placing impassable deserts and forests between the two. As can be seen, the Bosmer and Khajiit have almost identical mythologies, barring a few changes of names and circumstances.
Referencing the pre-Green Pact shapeshifting of the Bosmer in their own creation myth goes along way to explaining the Khajiit’s multiplicity of forms: Khajiit can range in size from four legged house cat like creatures to nearly human cat people, to giant, desert roaming lions, tigers and panthers. Interestingly, the shifting appearances of the Khajiit in TES games has traditionally been explained by stating that each game displays a different sub-species of Khajiit (for example, the Khajiit in Morrowind were digitigrades (like the hind likes of a cat or dog), while subsequent depictions of the Khajiit in Obliviion and Skyrim were plantigrade (human like legs). The form of the Khajiit is not genetic in any way; it is determined entirely by the phases of the Moons Masser and Secunda when the Khajiit are born. This lunar biology is unique to the Khajiit and has no known analogs with any other race. Understandably, the Moons (known as Jove and Jode to the Khajiit) have an incredibly culturally significant role to the Khajiit. While the Khajiit have a multitude of forms, far more than any other race, they have perhaps one of the most egalitarian societies present in Tamriel. This is due primarily to the extremely strong clan structure that forms the basis of Khajiit society; dominated by all powerful and highly respected Clan Mothers, there is very little intra Clan conflict. Even before Elsweyr was consolidated and it was split into a dozen and a half kingdoms in the First Era, there were precious few khajiit-on-khajiit conflicts. That doesn’t mean Khajiit life is peaceful; while the Khajiit only rarely made direct, large scale war, they were frequent practitioners of guerrilla warfare against their most common opponents, the Bosmer and the Dunmer. With the Dunmer, the reasons are rather obvious: the historical Dunmer institution of chattel slavery often caught Khajiit in slaving raids; the Khajiit would raid the Dunmer right back. The Bosmer and Khajiit have been raiding each other for goods (and the fun of it) for as long as either of them can remember. The Khajiit, as members of the empire in the Third Era, also generally had more rebellions than any other race, rebellions which would disappear as fast as they had materialized. While the Khajiit enjoy a fight against the supposed unjust oppressor as much as the next mer, they really don’t see the need in dying for it. It’s more or less for the entertainment value, which in a lot of ways why the Khajiit really do anything. They’ve taken the best bits of the myths and cultural trappings of the other races and adopted them as their own, and are as committed to enjoying themselves as most other people are to their kin. Perhaps that’s really why the other races can’t stand them as much as they do; the Khajiit have made an art form out of being carefree.