A Recurring Column Written by Ranger_STL
So we are going to start taking the dive in into the deep end of the pool this week. We are going to be looking at the various different cultures and religions across Tamriel, what they believe, why they believe it, and how exactly these things relate to what goes on in the games.
The Elder Scrolls Series is a funny beast. It’s one of those games that’s as simple, or in depth, as you want to make it. Usually, the main story lines are good enough by themselves, so you can spend countless hours just playing those, and ignoring everything else, including the (literally) tens of thousands of pages of books manuscripts, etc. But you’d really be missing out.
The real heart of the matter is that all the various games tell a cohesive story about a couple of interlocking narratives : the war between Men and Mer, and the repeated re-creation and destruction of the world and reality. That’s the narrative we are going to be discussing in the nest set of installments.
So, to begin, let’s introduce our first bit of terminology: “Kalpa”.
A Kalpa, in the real world (specifically in the religions of Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other related beliefs), is an epoch, or period of time. Usually, it’s an exceptionally long epoch of time (as in millions or billions of years).
In the TES universe, a Kalpa is an epoch of time that has, as its beginning, the Creation of the Universe, and as its end, the Destruction of said universe. So, off the bat, it must be obvious that the Universe of the Elder Scrolls, the Aurbis, is cyclical. Epochs of time do not exist in isolation; they only exist in multiples. You cannot have a Second Era, without the First Era. In the same manner, we can’t have our current Kalpa without having a “previous” Kalpa.
So what’s with all the Kalpas? Things are born, they mature, and then they die. This is true of people, animals, cities, states, empires, etc. And time. In order to help illustrate this process, I have constructed a supremely crappy graphic using my extremely limited artistic talent in MS Paint:
So, as mentioned many weeks back during the first installment, creation as a result of the interplay between Anu and Padomay. As the Annotated Anuad in-game book states, Creation resulted in 12 original worlds. These world (or pieces of them) would eventually be combine into the creation of Nirn during Convention. If you will remember, Convention was the point where the Aedra met at Adamantine Tower on Balfiera Island in order to stabilize Nirn.
This is where the concept of Kalpas come in. So, Creation was a one-time event. It created all that is, and all that was and all that will be. However, before Convention, that Creation existed only as possibility. Convention was the point where reality became actual, in a similar manner as to how thought exists prior to word or deed. Imagine you are a carpenter, and you get an idea into your head to carve some building blocks. So you get several pieces of wood, make your measurements, and carve your blocks. You can build multiple different things with those blocks, but they will always be just blocks. That point, where wood material becomes wood block, is Convention: possibility is turned into actuality.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone likes that actuality. Many beings don’t like it, and as a result, reality would periodically be destroyed. This was most frequently done by Alduin, the World Eater. As mentioned, many were not fond of Lorkhan’s idea (and trick) to create a static reality. Alduin represented an aspect of Akatosh (who is, by the way, schizophrenic) that wanted to see Lorkhan’s idea overturned, Convention undone, and everything returned back to the point of Creation. So, Alduin would quite literally eat everything, at the end point of the Kalpa. However, it would only return reality back to the Dawn Point of Convention. Going back to the blocks example, you can’t unmake the blocks back into freshly cut wood. You can building something with them, then knock it down, but they will always be just blocks. Since Alduin could eat the world, but not destroy Convention, reality would never actually go back to the creation point. But we will talk about that more in the next installment when we talk about the Towers.
This cycle has happened numerous times already. Seeing that this was presenting an issue to his plans, Lorkhan began secretly hiding bits of Nirn before the end of every Kalpa. After Alduin would start regurgitating Nirn-bits and the new Kalpa would start, Lorkhan would tack on his little hidden bit of Nirn. Over successive Kalpas and with the help of none other than Mehrunes Dagon himself (who was known as the Leaper Demon King at this point), Lorkhan hoped to make Nirn simply too big for Alduin to eat.
And eventually, Lorkhan was successful. At the near end of the current Kalpa, Alduin discovered it was too big to ingest, and was furious. Lorkhan ran for the hills and hid under Red Mountain, leaving the poor Leaper Demon King the sole recipient of Alduin’s curse (and thus becoming Mehrunes Dagon) after the World Eater went on a profanity –laden tirade.
So, that brings us to our current Kalpa, which is unique; each of the preceding Kalpas did not make it past their equivalent of the Merethic Era before restarting. This present Kalpa has lasted longer than any previous Kalpa, and with Alduin the World Eater now defeated, it’s possible this Kalpa will also not end.