Mer (/mɛɹ/), meaning elf, is used to refer to any of the Elder Races of Mundus, such as the Dunmer (formerly the Chimer), Altmer and Bosmer. Besides these three races, the Orcs and the Falmer are also said to be mer. While the Bretons are the result of interbreeding between Aldmer and Nedes, they are most commonly considered men, and not mer. A chief distinguishing characteristic of Mer is their lengthy lifespans, with average citizens living over two centuries before being considering old, two or three times the span of Men. Those extraordinarily gifted in magic or alchemy, or favored by the Gods, can endure for millenia with seemingly no ill effects. A few mer races have disappeared or otherwise died out, including the Dwemer and the Ayleids. All of these races are thought to be descended from the Aldmer. The Maormer either have a different origin entirely or diverged from their brethren before the Aldmer inhabited Summerset Isle.
The Aldmer (meaning "First Folk" or "Elder Folk") were the original Merethic Era proto-mer who settled Summerset Isle and most of mainland Tamriel. They are often said to have been the first technologically sophisticated inhabitants of Nirn, although some believe this distinction belongs to the Hist. The ancestors to the beast people, the Argonians and Khajiit, existed at the time in aboriginal, preliterate communities, and were easily displaced by the more advanced Aldmer. The Aldmer allegedly came from a lost city-continent called Aldmeris, but a number of sources - including the revered Elder Scrolls - claim that this is pure myth.
As the Aldmer spread throughout Tamriel, they evolved away from one another, physically and culturally, into the various types of mer known today. Some remained in Summerset Isle and became the Altmer. The first emigrants to the mainland settled in Valenwood and became the Bosmer. Morrowind was colonized by both the Dwemer and later the Chimer (forerunners of the Dunmer). There were also the Ayleids of Cyrodiil, the Snow Elves of Skyrim, the Maormer of Pyandonea, and the Orcs or Orsimer, a group of Altmer who worshipped Trinimac and were transformed when he became Malacath. They then migrated to the province of High Rock and founded Orsinium. High Rock is also home to the Bretons, mixed-blood descendants of the native Nedes and (non-Orc) Aldmeri settlers.
The modern Altmer are believed to resemble the original Aldmer. The Altmer today hold their ancestors in great reverence and constantly strive to emulate their ways; it has even been alleged that they selectively breed for Aldmer-like features.
The term Aldmeri is occasionally used as a catch-all term for all elves, and is also used when referring to members of the Aldmeri Dominion.
The Altmer, or self-titled "Cultured People", are a tall, golden-skinned race, hailing from Summerset Isle. They are also known as High Elves by the other denizens of Tamriel, and Salache by the Ayleids. In the Empire, "High" is often understood to mean proud or snobbish, and as the Altmer generally personify these characteristics, the "lesser races" generally resent them. Altmer consider themselves to be the most civilized culture of Tamriel; the common tongue of Tamriel is based on Altmer speech and writing, and most of the Empire's arts, crafts, laws, and sciences are derived from Altmer traditions. However, the Altmer's self-assurance of superiority has rarely translated to a position of dominance in the Empire. The Altmer are the most strongly gifted in the arcane arts of all the races, and they are very resistant to diseases. However, they are also somewhat vulnerable to magicka, fire, frost, and shock, which makes them very weak against their strongest point - magic. They are among the longest living and intelligent races of Tamriel, and they often become powerful magic users due to both their magical affinity and the many centuries they may devote to their studies.
For more information, see the main Lore article.
The Ayleids, also known as the Wild Elves or Heartland High Elves, were the first race to establish an empire in Tamriel, and had ruled modern-day Cyrodiil for countless years dating back to before recorded history. Ayleidoon, their language, is similar to Aldmeris, the ancient language of the Aldmer. The Ayleids were the original founders of the Imperial City, which they called the "Temple of the Ancestors". However, their empire collapsed in the early First Era. While it's believed that the Ayleids remain in the wilds of every province on Tamriel, sightings have been few. There have been no known sightings in the Third and Fourth Eras.
Much like how the ruins of the lost Dwemer dot Hammerfell, Skyrim, and Morrowind, numerous Ayleid ruins are scattered around Cyrodiil. These underground cities can prove deadly for adventurers, hiding such dangers as traps, monsters, undead, and criminals. Their cities were amazing feats of architecture ranging from small settlements to gigantic, labyrinth-like metropolises shaped out of whitish rock. They also seem to have had a firm grasp of the magical arts, as many of their ruins contain stones filled with magicka essences harvested from the sky. They also developed what came to be called the school of Alteration, as they were skilled in magics such as shapeshifting and levitation. As for their appearance, like all elves, they were most likely thin and lean with pointed ears and angular facial features. Complexion-wise, they were lighter than Dunmer though darker than Altmer, possibly similar to the Chimer. They preserved many of the ancient runes and Dawn Era magics of the Ehlnofey that other elves had forgotten.
The Bosmer are the Elven clan-folk of Valenwood, a forested province in southwestern Tamriel. In the Empire, they are often referred to as Wood Elves, but Bosmer, Boiche, or the Tree-Sap people is what they call themselves. Bosmer rejected the stiff, formal traditions of Aldmeri high culture, preferring a more romantic, simple existence in harmony with the land, its wild beauty and wild creatures. They are relatively nimble and quick in body and wit compared to their more "civilized" Elven cousins, making them well-suited for a variety of professions, including scouts, thieves, traders and scholars. The best archers in all of Tamriel, the Bosmer snatch and fire arrows in one continuous motion; they are even rumored to have invented the bow. They have many natural and unique abilities; notably, they can command simple-minded creatures and have a nearly chameleon-like ability to hide in forested areas. As part of their Green Pact they are religiously carnivorous and cannibalistic and do not harm vegetation of Valenwood (though they are not averse to using wooden or plant-derived products created by others).
For more information, see the main Lore article.
- "Boethiah showed them the lies of the et'Ada, the Aedra, and told them Trinimac was the biggest liar of all, saying all this with Trinimac's voice! Boethiah told the mass before him the Tri-Angled Truth. He showed them, with Mephala, the rules of Psijic Endeavor. He taught them how to build Houses, and what items they needed to bury in the Corners. He demonstrated the right way to wear their skin. He performed the way to walk to achieve an Exodus. Then Boethiah relieved himself of Trinimac right there on the ground before them to prove all the things he said were the truth. It was easy then for his new people to become the Changed Ones." — The Changed Ones
The Chimer (literally, the People of the North), also called the Changed Folk, Velothi, or Changed Ones, were the Aldmeri tribes of dissidents who abandoned the ways of Summerset Isle and embarked on a great exodus to Morrowind. They followed the prophet Veloth, who spoke to them on behalf of Boethiah, Prince of Plots, and two other "Good Daedra". The teachings of Veloth and the Daedra spawned a new culture on Tamriel and a new people, sparking the period of the High Velothi culture. They were dynamic, ambitious, long-lived Elven clans devoted to fundamentalist ancestor worship. They appeared like other elves, but their skin was a darker shade of pale gold than the Altmer. Almalexia of the Tribunal apparently maintained her appearance as a Chimer (as did Vivec, partially) despite the Curse which changed the Chimer into the Dunmer.
The Dunmer, also known as Dark Elves, or Moriche in the Ayleid Language, are the ash-skinned, red-eyed, Elven peoples of the Eastern Empire. "Dark" is commonly understood as meaning such characteristics as "dark-skinned", "gloomy", "ill-favored by fate" and so on. The Dunmer and their national identity, however, embrace these various connotations with enthusiasm. In the Empire, "Dark Elf" is the common usage, but among their Aldmeri brethren they are called "Dunmer". Their combination of powerful intellects with strong and agile physiques produce superior warriors and sorcerers. On the battlefield, Dunmer are noted for their skill with a balanced integration of the sword, the bow and destruction magic. In character, they are grim, aloof, and reserved, as well as distrusting and disdainful of other races.
Dunmer distrust and are treated distrustfully by other races. They are often proud, clannish, ruthless, and cruel, from an outsider's point of view, but greatly value loyalty and family. Young female Dunmer have a reputation for promiscuity in some circles. Despite their powerful skills and strengths, the Dunmer's vengeful nature, age-old conflicts, betrayals, and ill-reputation prevent them from gaining more influence. Those born in their homeland of Morrowind before its devastation were known to be considerably less friendly than those who grew up in the Imperial tradition.
For more information, see the main Lore article.
The Dwemer , the "people of the deep", are a fabled "Lost Race" of Mer from Dwemereth, which mostly consisted of modern-day Morrowind, where they are believed to have been the most prolific, though they also had a strong presence in Hammerfell, High Rock, and Skyrim. Meric races use the term "Dwemer", which translates to "Deep-Elves" or "Deep Folk". Men commonly refer to them as Dwarves. The early history of the Dwemer is still clouded in mystery. There is no known story of their dissociation from the Aldmer, which must have occurred very early in Tamrielic history, as their society bore few correlations with that of the Altmer besides some similar legal principles. The Dwemer built elaborate underground cities near and beneath mountain ranges, including the Velothi Mountains and Red Mountain, and in the mountains of the isle Stros M'Kai. Many misconceptions about them have abounded for centuries: scholars long thought that most Dwemer ruins which dotted Tamriel outside Morrowind were mere outposts and that there were few significant Dwemer settlements elsewhere until 1E 420. The presentation of the Dwemer in fictitious but popular novels like the Ancient Tales of the Dwemer has also lodged an inaccurate impression of them in the popular consciousness, painting them as familiar, comfortable characters very similar to humans. In reality, they are better described as having been fearsome, unfathomable, and even cruel, though also careful, intelligent, and industrious. Their society consisted of free-thinking yet reclusive clans devoted to the secrets of science, engineering, and the arcane until they mysteriously disappeared around 1E 700.
 Lefthanded Elves
The Lefthanded Elves were a race of elves from Yokuda, closely related to the Aldmer. They were the enemies of the Yokudans (ancient Redguards). During the Mythic Era, the Na-Totambu (Yokudan royalty) fought to a standstill among themselves to decide who would lead the charge against the Lefthanded Elves. Leki intervened and a victor emerged; war was then declared on the Elves. Diagna, an avatar of the HoonDing, brought orichalc weapons to the Yokudans, which were instrumental in defeating the Elves.
Their defeat by the Yokudans and the subsequent sinking of Yokuda imply that the race is extinct.
Orcs, also called Orsimer or "Pariah Folk" in ancient times, are sophisticated, beastlike people of the Wrothgarian Mountains, Dragontail Mountains, and Orsinium (literally translated as "Orc-Town"). They are noted for their unshakable courage in war and their unflinching endurance of hardships. In the past, Orcs have been widely feared and hated by the other nations and races of Tamriel, and were often considered to be goblin-ken. However, they have slowly won acceptance in the Empire, in particular for their distinguished service in the Emperor's Legions. Orc armorers are prized for their craftsmanship, and Orc warriors in heavy armor are among the finest front-line troops in the Empire, and are fearsome when using their berserker rage. Most Imperial citizens regard the Orc society as rough and cruel. The Orcs of the Iliac Bay region have developed their own language, known as Orcish, and have often had their own kingdom, Orsinium.
For more information, see the main Lore article.
 Snow Elves
The Snow Elves, also known as the Falmer or Ice Elves, are a proud race of mer with an unusually great aptitude for magic. They tend towards cold, remote regions, and inhabited a portion of Skyrim before being displaced by the Nords in the late Merethic Era and early First Era. Before that, they had a civilization which rivaled even the Altmer of the Summerset Isles. They resemble white-haired, pale Altmer, and have very long lifespans, as well as a strong resistance to frost. Legends say they favor spears and archery in combat.
Much like how "High Elf" and "Wood Elf" are interchangeable with "Altmer" and "Bosmer" respectively, "Falmer" is really just another term for "Snow Elf". However, most people, even the Snow Elves themselves, demonstrated a preference for "Snow Elf". In this case, time eventually provided distinct meanings for the two terms. 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 other Snow Elves called "the Betrayed", who have come to represent the Falmer to many of the people of Tamriel. 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. 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" because of the negative connotations "Falmer" had accumulated over the millennia.
- ^ The Monomyth
- ^ The True Nature of Orcs
- ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: High Rock — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- ^ a b Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: All the Eras of Man, A Comprehensive History of our History — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- ^ Interview with a Dark Elf — Dave Humphrey
- ^ The Real Barenziah, Part 2 — Anonymous
- ^ Alfe Fyr's dialogue in Morrowind
- ^ The Anuad Paraphrased
- ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: Skyrim — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: Other Lands — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
Note: the following references are not found in game. They are included to provide a rounder background to this article, but may not reflect established lore.