The Falmer are twisted, blind creatures that live deep beneath the surface of Skyrim. The hostile monsters inhabit underground areas, primarily Dwemer ruins, where they are known to stalk and attack intruders. Adventurers can often quickly tell when the Falmer inhabit a place thanks to their repulsive stench. They have been known to come up to the surface to attack the unwary. They are roughly man-sized, but hunched over and "ugly". For garments, they wear only rags and leathers. They have no noses, only long slits for nostrils. Their ears are distinctly pointed, their skin pallid, and their eyes lifeless and black. They have some form of civilization (building crude housing and traps, keeping livestock, clothing, weapons, tools, utilizing magic, etc.), but nothing compared to their once-great ancestors.
Much like how "High Elf" and "Wood Elf" are interchangeable terms for "Altmer" and "Bosmer" respectively, "Falmer" is really just another term for "Snow Elf", a proud and prosperous race of mer who had occupied a portion of modern-day Skyrim until they were displaced by the Nords. Many of the ancient Snow Elves were betrayed in a deal for asylum they struck with the Dwemer. The Dwemer forced their wards to subsist only on toxic fungi which twisted them into sightless slaves. It's the hideous descendants of these slaves who many of the people of Tamriel have come to know as Falmer. People often refer to the grand ancient race of Skyrim elves as Snow Elves, and to their barbaric remnants as Falmer.
Few know that an unknown number of civilized Snow Elves rejected the Dwemer's deal and went into hiding; even fewer know that some have survived, uncorrupted, into modern times. Knight-Paladin Gelebor of the Chantry of Auri-El, the only known and potentially last Snow Elf still alive today, embraced this distinction between "Falmer" and "Snow Elf" due to the negative connotations "Falmer" had taken on over the millennia. Of course, he didn't personally call his devolved brethren Falmer; he knew them as the Betrayed.
The Snow Elves and Nords fought for centuries, from the Late Merethic Era to the early First Era, but the Snow Elves were steadily pushed back by waves of Atmoran reinforcements. The devastating loss of the Snow Elf leader, the Snow Prince, ended the Snow Elves' last, best hope. They had long maintained an uneasy alliance with the Dwemer, whose underground cities remained safe from the Nordic incursion on the surface. And so, faced with extinction, they called upon their kin for help. The Dwemer agreed to provide them a haven, but only at the price of their sight. The Snow Elves who agreed, the Betrayed, were forced to consume only toxic fungi which rendered them blind. During the reign of the Nordic High King Harald (1E 143-221), the last of the Snow Elves (at least, to the Nord's knowledge) were driven from the province's traditional borders.
Over time, the servants of the Dwemer became their slaves. Ancient torture chambers found in Dwemer ruins are suspected to have been used to keep their elven brethren in line. The Betrayed inevitably rebelled, leading to the purported War of the Crag which raged underneath Skyrim for decades while the Nords above remained oblivious. This war presumably ended around 1E 700, when the Dwemer race vanished from the face of Nirn. While these Snow Elves are believed to have been rendered blind by the Dwemeri toxin, it's unknown whether this toxin is entirely responsible for twisting the Betrayed into the primitive creatures which have terrorized Skyrim for millennia. Some suspect that it took many generations for them to be so thoroughly corrupted.
With the Dwemer gone, it was just a matter of time before the Falmer, who had become bloodthirsty and brutal, rediscovered their old enemies on the surface. Falmer raids to the surface world became common legends, and the Nords grew to blame them for almost every instance of misfortune. Nordic stories speak of these goblin-like creatures rising up from the ground in the dead of night to slaughter cattle, poison crops, attack lonely travelers, and steal sleeping babes from their cribs. They utilize tamed Chaurus, a poisonous, chitin-covered insect found the deepest reaches of Skyrim, for many of their needs. They have a strong hatred for all but their own race and enslave the very few they do not kill.
By the Fourth Era, it had become difficult for people to dismiss the Falmer as a myth, as they had expanded their presence in Skyrim's underground, making sightings much more frequent. Their existence, once treated as superstition, became common knowledge. It is thought that their increasing activity is related to a planned invasion of the surface world.
Other elves are frequently repulsed by the idea that these Falmer were once mer like themselves, and many question whether these monsters are truly all that remain of the legendary Snow Elves. Knight-Paladin Gelebor, the only known answer to that question, held sympathy for the Betrayed, though they proved that they had none to spare. They mostly attacked their untainted cousins with the same ferocity that they displayed towards the other surface races. The hundred or so Snow Elves who had been hiding at the Chantry of Akatosh were wiped out by the Falmer, leaving Gelebor the only survivor. He doubted that Dwemeri toxin was enough to devolve his brethren into the sad and twisted beings they became, and thought that something else was at play. While he doubted that they could be truly "cured", he had noticed a rise in their intellect over the ages, and he hoped that they could once again return to the light and the worship of Auri-El. While their intellect may be on the rise, the Falmer have still proved incapable of picking many of the sturdier Dwemer locks.
A Riekling, possibly related to the Falmer
 See Also
- For game-specific information, see the Skyrim article.
- The Betrayed by Engwe Emeloth — Translated from Falmer Text by Calcelmo of Markarth
- The Falmer: A Study by Ursa Uthrax — A study on Falmer, recounting their war with the Dwemer
- Ghosts in the Storm by Adonato Leotelli — Author's tale of his encounter with the Falmer
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition/Skyrim by Imperial Geographical Society
- Staubin's Diary by Staubin — An account of an expedition into Nchuand-Zel.
- Stromm's Diary by Stromm — Research notes on an expedition into Nchuzand-Zel.
- ^ a b c d e f Events of Skyrim
- ^ a b Staubin's Diary — Staubin
- ^ a b Ghosts in the Storm — Adonato Leotelli
- ^ The Anuad Paraphrased
- ^ a b c d e f Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: Skyrim — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- ^ Ahzidal's Descent — Halund Greycloak
- ^ a b c d e f Gelebor's dialogue in Dawnguard.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i The Falmer: A Study — Ursa Uthrax
- ^ a b The Betrayed — Engwe Emeloth
- ^ a b Events of Dawnguard
- ^ Frontier, Conquest, and Accommodation: A Social History of Cyrodiil — University of Gwylim Press, 3E 344
- ^ Diary of Faire Agarwen — Faire Agarwen
- ^ Fall of the Snow Prince — Lokheim
- ^ Dwemer Inquiries Vol I Their Architecture and Civilization — Thelwe Ghelein, Scholar
- ^ Loading screen in Skyrim