What are the Reachmen?

The Reachfolk’s Origins

On Tamriel

The Reachfolk are a culture of men that inhabit the area of Tamriel that sits on Skyrim’s western border and High Rock’s eastern border. They are called Bretons by pretty much everyone, but they have some unique history that separates them from the rest of High Rock. They’re as much Nord as they are anything else, because the Reach is claimed by Skyrim as its territory, but was retaken at various points by the Direnni elves, mixing their ancestry with that of mer as well as man, with some possible influence from orcish tribes in the area as well. The First Edition Pocket Guide to the Empire, in its ever merphobic fashion, puts it like this:

During the First Empire, it was incorporated as one of the Holds of Skyrim, and many Nords settled in its rolling hills and pleasant valleys. But they paid a terrible price during the Dissolution of Skyrim’s Empire; the Aldmeri retook the Western Reach with a vengeance, slaughtering the Nord colonists to a man; precious little Nord blood flows in the veins of today’s Reachmen. As a hedge against future incursions from Skyrim, the Aldmeri fashioned the Western Reach into an impregnable bastion. Thus, the Western Reach remained under Elven rule the longest of any part of High Rock, and the legacy of this dark sojourn can still be seen today.

This explains why the Reach was cut off from the rest of Skyrim to such a large degree, because they were under the heel of the Direnni for quite some time. This timeline puts it that the Direnni reasserted their rule during the War of Succession in the fourth century of the First Era, having been “descended originally from one of the earliest Atmoran tribes to settle Tamriel”, if the Pocket Guide is to be believed on that. I’m not 100% on that, because we know there are grumblings about the timeline of how men settled Tamriel; the Pocket Guide would assert that Skyrim was the first human kingdom from the biggest wave of settlement, which would put the Reachmen as a splinter group from some of Ysgramor’s people. However, if we follow the logic of Frontier, Conquest and Accommodation, it is possible that the Reachfolk were an earlier migration of Atmorans than Ysgramor and his Companions.

However, I think there’s a quite serious implication there; the Reachmen are universally considered Bretons, even by themselves, but if they were descended from the original Atmoran settlers, they are of a different type of stock to the Bretons, which are considered Nedic in origin. There is an argument to be made that the Atmorans are merely the biggest wave of Nedic migrants, but even if that’s true, the Reachfolk are distinct from the rest of the Bretons because they weren’t necessarily interbred with the Direnni at the same point as High Rock. We don’t know precisely when this happened, but if we take the First Edition Pocket Guide at its word, the manmeri were “beyond the Reach”, which suggests that the Reach was populated by purely mannish cultures at the point of the Reach’s incorporation into the First Nordic Empire. If that’s the case, then the Reachfolk only became “mixed blood” after the War of Succession, during the occupation, or re-occupation, by the Direnni. We have some sources that indicate that the Reach was occupied by men, others that it was part of the Direnni Hegemony. So it’s a little ambiguous as to what the “original state” of the Reachfolk was.

As a result, it feels a bit like the Reachfolk have never really progressed beyond the original Nedic state, if that’s actually what they started as. If I can put my foot in it for a while, it feels like the Reachfolk have never been able to rule themselves in anything but the most basic terms. They were first taken over as part of the Nordic Empire, then by the Direnni, and then by the Nords again. It almost feels like the narrative is portraying them as people who don’t want to be governed, but they’ve never really had the chance to do so.

In Game Design

This is something that’s moderately a problem in game design in general, I think, particularly from the archetypes that the Reachfolk are drawing from. I get the sense that, at least in their ESO incarnation, they’re based on Celtic archetypes. All the various “-ach” names, like “Durcorach”, “Maddanach”, “Caddach” in particular just shout out to me that this is the main inspiration for the Reachfolk, along with little nods here and there like the idea from The Reach Food Letters that “The knot shape resonates with the Reachfolk”, a callback to the celtic knot symbol.

The fractious nature of the Reachfolk (or the independent nature of the Reachfolk, pick your term) also means that they’re a useful device for the games, which we’ve seen play out a lot in The Elder Scrolls: Online. While some tribes can be used as allies, questgivers, whathaveyou for the player and their goals, others can be used as enemies. Just write about a reachfolk tribe that is *flips a coin* patriarchal, and *rolls dice* uses horker entrails as *rolls dice* wedding gifts and funeral rights, and you’ve got yourself a new Reachfolk tribe that can serve whatever narrative role is needed in the moment.

This has been taken to its logical conclusion in The Elder Scrolls: Online, because, as /u/TESBenefactor pointed out in an episode of the UESPodcast, most of the major events in The Elder Scrolls: Online, from Varen’s rebellion to Clivia Tharn’s taking over Elsweyr to the resurrection of the Grey Host have their roots in the Longhouse Emperors’ rule. Even those that don’t involve the Emperors, like the events of the Orsinium DLC, tend to use the Reachmen to some degree.

Their perennial “outsider” viewpoint makes them a useful tool for presenting an alternative view on particular matters, which I’m personally sure is a deliberate choice by the writers at Zenimax Online Studios. However, this does mean that the Reachfolk will almost always be involved with something else, and never really able to tell stories that are entirely “their own”, if I can put it that way. This is possibly an unfair characterisation for those at ZOS, but that’s the feeling that I get; the Reachfolk can only ever aspire to be deuteragonists, even if we’re not actively trying to kill or stop them.

Reachmen Society

To an extent the treatment of them by the games feels like how the Celts are treated in Roman sources: “barbaric” and outside the bounds of what more settled people call civilisation. Reachfolk are organised in tribes, scratching a living out of harsh ground.

Most of the written sources on the Reachfolk are at pains to point out that the Reachfolk are intentionally isolationist if not downright hostile to the notion of civilisation as most of Tamriel understands it. Even the figure of Caddach, who is presented as the “hope for the reach” in some ways, gets Markarth to be civilised by imposing a quasi-Imperial form of authority. To quote the Report on the Despot of Markarth:

To the Reachmen, he [Caddach] speaks of a free and independent Reach, holding true to Reach tradition and scorning the weak ways of outlanders. (His words, not mine.) But underneath that Reach-for-the-Reachfolk bluster, Caddach uses the trappings and systems of Imperial authority to transform Markarth into a functional state for the first time in the Reach’s long and bloody history.

So according to this, even the most “successful” models of Reachfolk society are based around other systems. Or maybe that’s an incharitable reading. For all that the Report highlights that Caddach uses imperial systems, I don’t think that would work unless the other Reachfolk clans bought into it. On the Clans of the Reach states that:

To this day, Reachmen view the Longhouse Emperors as war-leaders they follow of their own free will. Kneeling to a king, even a Reachman king in Cyrodiil, is a thing that weaker peoples do.

Given that, the use of Cyrodilic systems is probably more what Caddach knows from his education, rather than a system that is attempting to impose institutions on the Reachfolk. I wouldn’t imagine that the Reachfolk would buy into that, in any case, because it would mean that the clan-chiefs would give up their power and independence, and the geography of the Reach itself almost conspires against a unified rule for the whole region. The book Provinces of Tamriel states that:

The rugged highland strongholds and isolated valley settlements have encouraged the fierce independence of the various local Breton clans, and this contentious tribal nature has never been completely integrated into a provincial or Imperial identity.

That isolation is part of what makes the Reach clans so independent, as exercising authority over it is not something that is easily done. This has resulted in the several distinct clans, that are independent of each other even if they share a similar cultural heritage. The book Politics of the Reach says this:

The great difficulty in dealing with the Reach is the fact that each individual clan sees itself as its own polity: free to raid, trade, make war, or agree to peace with anyone it chooses. To forge a lasting peace with the Reach, one would have to negotiate with dozens of different clans, some of whom hate each other so much that they would never agree to honor a peace their enemies choose to accept.

This makes the clan the core structure of their identity, and the clans nurture a variety of relations, including feuds on occasion. However, even the state of clans is fluid. We have this description of the clans from On the Clans of the Reach:

Clans fall somewhere between extended family and home village; some people in a clan are related to each other, but others adopt the clan name to mark their allegiance. New clans appear all the time, as bands of like-minded Reachfolk come together to settle new land, follow herds of game, or (in more chaotic times) take up raiding to plunder neighboring lands. As a result, clans can be surprisingly fluid, breaking up and reforming over time.

The Forsworn, and the Dissolution of Reachmen Identity

By the time of the Fourth Era, things are a little more condensed, it feels like. We encounter the Reachmen as the Foresworn, and according to the book The “Madmen” of the Reach. In that, a Reachman claims that “Go back and tell your Empire that we will have our own kingdom again”. The word “kingdom” here, rather than a looser term, suggests that the events of the Fourth Era have pushed the Reachfolk into being a distinct and singular identity. I’m not sure entirely when this happened, as the first Pocket Guide, written in the late Second Era, doesn’t reference much in the way of different tribes of Reachfolk, but the Pocket Guide is decidedly biased in that regard. However, that may just be the attitude of scholars throughout any time, as On the Clans of the Reach says this:

Until Durcorach the Black Drake led the warriors of the Reach against Cyrodiil, few scholars ever described the peoples of the Reach as anything other than howling barbarians. The rest of Tamriel views the Reachfolk as one great unruly horde, existing in constant anarchy—a state of ignorance whose cost the Black Drake’s warriors made only too clear a generation ago.

It feels like this attitude prevails even among the Reachfolk themselves in the Fourth Era, as the Forsworn identify simply as Forsworn, while several residents of Markarth identify as Reachfolk, but without any real cultural markers that we can associate with them. Madmen of the Reach suggests that it is Tiber’s conquest that has slowly but surely eroded the Reach culture, to the point that the Forsworn are a small group that cling to whatever traditions they can. Without any real records, that’s difficult to confirm, and Arrianus Arius is sympathetic enough to the Reach’s cause that they may fudge their scholarship in that regard. However, it’s plausible, and without knowing what happens between the time of ESO and Tiber’s conquest, we can’t say for sure.

All that we can know is that by the time of the Fourth Era, the Forsworn held their own during a period of the Stormcrown Interregnum, in 4E 174-176. My guess is that they simply took Markarth and ran that as a city-state, but that’s just my own feeling.

There are also notes that Hagravens rose in prominence for the Forsworn, likely in a similar way to Red Eagle’s bargain. However, it’s not sure whether they really understand them. Herbane’s Bestiary on Hagravens notes that they leave “small, crude trinkets and alters [sic] to these witches”, suggesting some attempt to appease them. We don’t know whether these are left knowingly, or at the Hagravens’ request, but it feels like at least a possibility that the Forsworn aren’t entirely certain of what the end relationship between these factions are, now that the traditional Reachfolk social structure is defunct.

Reachfolk Leadership

Precisely how the tribes were governed at both an intra- and inter-tribe level can vary widely. Internally, we’ve got the standard “clan-chief” idea attested in several places, although there are some clans noted in Clans of the Reach: A Guide that are matriarchal. From the text above, chiefs are things that just happen, and other forms of leadership carry both more and less weight all at once.

I think this is more because the Reachfolk put stock in what someone can do, rather than what they call themselves. On the Clans of the Reach puts it like this:

Some call themselves chieftains, speakers, elders, or kings, although most Reachmen think calling oneself “”king”” is a sort of putting on airs. Decades go by in the Reach with no clan-chiefs bothering to make the claim. But, if enough Reachfolk agree that one is strong enough to claim the title, then any clan-chief can be a king. In fact, there have been periods of history when multiple clan-chiefs called themselves kings at the same time; as the Reachmen say, anyone can be a king in the Reach, but no one is King of the Reach. Not even Durcorach claimed that title. To this day, Reachmen view the Longhouse Emperors as war-leaders they follow of their own free will. Kneeling to a king, even a Reachman king in Cyrodiil, is a thing that weaker peoples do.

That any larger group of the Reachfolk has to be a coalition of equals is something that again harks back to the popular picture of the Celts that the Reachfolk draw from. With Scottish Celts in particular, there are lots of rowdy chiefs that go to war together for shared reasons, and then break apart because of particular personal and political differences, often with no real difference between those two categories. Everything is based on the various alliances that can be pulled together and maintained by personal relationships. Which is what Caddach is doing at the time of The Elder Scrolls: Online is so interesting, because he’s the first to try and apply institutional governance to any portion of the Reach, although it’s still quite tied up with familial and personal ties in the way that it’s done. It’s a glimmer of a proto-state for the Reach, in the sense of having institutions that go beyond individuals. Or maybe that’s just Markarth, rather than the Reach as a whole.

The Place of Markarth

Markarth holds a particular place in the structure of the Reachfolk, which is reflected in their leadership. Markarth is the closest thing to a Reachfolk city, for much of Tamriel’s history. History of Markarth: A Story in Stone has it that the Reachfolk intermittently occupied the Dwemer ruins that form most of the city’s structure “within a few years”, with permanent residents in a little over 200 years after the Dwemer disappearance. It also mentions “the strongest clan-chief residing in the place” claiming a particular title. That implies that there could be multiple clans occupying Markarth, allowing it to almost function as a Reach in miniature. Politics of the Reach claims that:

it is best to think of the Reach as not one land, but two: Markarth and the wilds. Traditionally, whoever rules in Markarth exercises little power over the wilds, while the strong clans of the wilderness lack the strength or the inclination to govern the city of the Reach.

In this, Markarth seems to function like Orsinium does for the orcs; as the most centralised location of power, but also with some large cultural differences between the city and the wilder outlying areas. One that makes my ears prick up is that of “ard”, the title that the most powerful chief in Markarth claims. It means “king of the fort”, where, as we’ve established, the title of “King” is one that holds only nominal significance elsewhere. That this is a common term of address for anyone in Markarth, rather than just something one Reach chief has taken for themselves and then been discarded. It points to the idea that Markarth is distinct from everywhere else, as the above quote says.

There’s also some obvious mistrust between Markarth and the Reach. When the Longhouse Emperors ruled in Cyrodiil, the Report on the Despot of Markarth notes that:

To reassure the clan-chiefs that he did not intend to impose Imperial law in its entirety on the free Reachfolk, Moricar limited Caddach’s writ to Markarth and the lands immediately surrounding the city. Thus the clan-chiefs were satisfied that Caddach was only to keep order in Markarth and otherwise leave the clans to rule themselves.

Thus, while Markarth is the most prominent place in the Reach, it can’t in any way be said to control it. Even though its place means its hard to take, successive rulers have been unable to project power from Markarth out into the rest of the Reach.

Markarth is also likely to be viewed with ambivalence by Reachmen with a more traditional view. According to History of Markarth: A Story in Stone, the place was captured by the Alessian Empress Hestra in 1E 1033, and remained an Alessian possession until the end of that empire:

Until the end of the Alessian Empire, Markarth remained under Imperial control (and, by all accounts, a dismal and dangerous posting for the Imperial soldiers assigned to its garrison). During this time, many of the Dwarven storerooms were converted into halls, houses, and workshops. The city took on the appearance we know today, although no human skill could improve upon the walls and watchtowers the Dwarves had constructed.

This would have resulted in a degree of transformation of Markarth, away from what the Reachfolk would have the place be. I can imagine that some would see that as a betrayal of their culture, to adopt things that one who conquered them put in place.

Hagravens

While clan matriarchs are definitely a thing, they seem distinct from the hagravens, but they may have some form of link. Clans of the Reach notes that, for the Stonetalon clan in particular:

women of the tribe seem to be rare. When they’re seen, their women seem to be covered in heavy cloaks made of bird feathers, as if they’ve all taken ill.

This is later associated with being powerful spellcasters, which makes me think that the tribe has a particular association with the Hagravens, which the author of this text is misidentifying. Indeed, On the Clans of the Reach seems to identify two clans that are led by Hagravens, who are generally considered to be Reachfolk witches who traded their humanity for power. There are however hints that the Hagravens also function as entities independent from the Reachfolk tribal structure, most obviously in Legend of Red Eagle:

One night, under a cloud-choked sky, the men of the Red Eagle warmed themselves over damp fires of smoldering moss. A huddled, shambling figure came to them, cloaked in rags, face cowled. Though his men mocked and cast stones at the stranger, Faolan sensed something, and beckoned. The cowl was thrown back in the dim light, and she revealed herself to be one the ancient and venerable Hagravens. She offered power, for a price, and a pact was made.

The way that this text talks about the hagraven coming into Red Eagle’s tribe from “the outside” in a sense, makes me think that the Hagravens have some form of organisation outside of the tribes, although it should also be noted that the tribes also seem to have their own hagravens attached. They’re noted as forming “covens” of their own, which is perhaps where Red Eagle’s particular hagraven came from. This would then form a distinct structure apart from the general tribes, but we don’t get anything consistent on that.

Red Eagle

Red Eagle himself was pretty much the only Reachman to unite the whole of the Reach against a foe, although that may be later mythmaking. He lived during the First Era, and was driven out by the Empress Hestra as she claimed the Reach in what would eventually result in her halting at Bangkorai and admitting High Rock into the Empire.

Red Eagle, or Faolan, became a figure of the Reach resistance, and galvanised the Reachfolk clans to fight against the Alessians, pretty much constantly from what we can tell from the History of Markarth. He either fled or was cast out after Hestra’s initial conquest, and then returned, uniting the Reachfolk clans against Imperial rule. Or, at least, most of the clans. If you believe Legend of Red Eagle, he unified all of them, and there were only ten of them then, but there are bits about that book that feel anachronistic. For one thing, it calls the heads of the clans “kings”, so I’m a little cautious about how we treat that text. And so began a long campaign by Red Eagle against the Alessians, which ultimately failed. However, not before pledging himself to the Hagravens in a bargain that would become a central part of Reachfolk culture and mysticism ever after. To quote the Legend, because it gives a decent summary of the events:

One night, under a cloud-choked sky, the men of the Red Eagle warmed themselves over damp fires of smoldering moss. A huddled, shambling figure came to them, cloaked in rags, face cowled. Though his men mocked and cast stones at the stranger, Faolan sensed something, and beckoned. The cowl was thrown back in the dim light, and she revealed herself to be one the ancient and venerable Hagravens. She offered power, for a price, and a pact was made.

Thus was brokered to the witch: his heart, his will, his humanity. From that day forth, his was a spirit of vengeance, pitiless and beyond remorse. The rebels grew in strength and numbers, and none could stand against them. Faolan’s eyes burned coldly in those days, black opals reflecting a mind not entirely his own. Two years passed, and the foreigners were all but driven from the Reach.

This wouldn’t last, however, because Hestra returned, killing Red Eagle and putting an end to his movement. Red Eagle being a unifier, and the fact that he ultimately failed, makes me think again to Celtic history, this time Vercingetorix of the Gauls. However, beyond those two features there isn’t really too much that links the two. Vercingetorix was taken prisoner by Julius Caesar, while Red Eagle had something of a different legacy for the Reachfolk.

We have an account that I do actually trust to be accurate in the particulars to a degree, the Translated Works of Tosmorn. While there is some in-universe controversy about how authentic these are, the end has some interesting implications, when the Hagraven returns following Red Eagle’s death:

The Hag comes now to claim her due

Her crow, in vanguard, laughs to see the witch-men

Their ash and resin useless

She takes the staff of yew and brings it down

Upon Faolan’s breast

The ichor within bursts forth, a black blood

And she takes the fruit of her desire

Seeded in Faolan’s chest

A hundred hands draw flint, nock arrows

All lose heart, the Hag’s laugh festers at the soul

As death surrounds her

A thousand crows take flight beneath her cowl

And she is gone

We also have this from Red Eagle’s Song, which says it explicitly:

At last he traded his Eagle’s heart

To the ravens who covet our power

In his breast they planted the briar seed

That grows from the corpse’s flower

From the reaction of the onlookers in the Tosmorn poem, this wasn’t an established part of Reachfolk practice at the time. So, as much as there are attempts during the Interregnum to bring him back using his actual descendants, I think the Briar-Hearts as his figurative legacy is also important.

His line, and the events in The Elder Scrolls: Online, are important because there are legends of Red Eagle’s return. Exactly what that might mean could take on a variety of different meanings, which is why the coven is trying to tap Bjora to lead them, being returned via his descendents, rather than his sword, which is what the Legend of Red Eagle promises. I guess it depends on whatever oral tradition a given Reachfolk tribe has passed down.Reachfolk Belief

Another area that the Reachfolk vary on quite a bit is faith. There’s a lot of talk about them referring the “old gods”, and that these are thinly-veiled references to the Daedra, and are outright called Daedra in other places. However, the Reachfolk’s take on the Daedra offer some interesting perspectives of the world, and they fit into a broader spiritual worldview. They are revered alongside the ancestors of the tribe, who are also there to protect the clans that they came from.

Great Spirits of the Reach puts it like this:

The Reachfolk worship many spirits, both great and small. In truth, there are as many faiths as there are clans in the Reach. Some clans might worship a sacred elk or the spirit of a mountain spring. Others might sacrifice goats to ghosts of ancient heroes. There are some spirits, however, that transcend clan boundaries—those we in the rest of Tamriel recognize as the Daedric Princes.

There are several distinct takes that Great Spirits of the Reach puts on these Daedra, which has some interesting implications for the Aedra/Daedra relationship, but I want to first consider how the Reachfolk see the rest of their interaction with spirits and the like.

Spirits

In common with most of Tamriel, Reachfolk revere their ancestors to some degree. However, they also see the spirits as something inherent in the land, and I’ve seen /u/Jonny_Anonymous call them “animist” in their beliefs. I think this is a reasonable summary for how they see the world, insofar as they see general spirits of place and time affecting their lives. A Reach Travel Guide, written by a Reachman, puts it like this:

First, you would do well to visit the spirit shrines and make offerings to those whose lands you now tread upon, for you will find no mercy from the Divines in the Reach. Before that, you will need to beg the forgiveness of its peoples you have tread upon, lest they cast you down like those who came before. If you appease the clans and spirits to gain fair passage, then you may yet survive this journey.

The clans and spirits are considered together here, because they both need to be reckoned with if you are to survive in the Reach. This isn’t necessarily worship, as we understand the term, but more a bargain between people and the world. That bargain then becomes the condition upon which civility between anything, whether person to person, or god to person, or person to god, rests. Violate that agreement, and then all bets are off. The book Werewolves: Long-Suffering Guardians puts it like this:

Many Alessians, Northmen, and Pigfolk have come to the Reach bearing gifts. You yourself bring worthless coin and writ books as tokens of friendship. But these are all lies and tricks. Sons and daughters of the Reach know that the ‘gifts’ of outsiders all carry demands. Demands for knowledge, or land, or help against one enemy or another. In the world of beasts and spirits—the true world—there are no gifts. Only trades.

This not only informs how Reachfolk think about outsiders, but that the spirits are expected to give something for something if treated right. The spirits are often considered mercurial, or at least hard to satisfy; A Year Among the Eagleseer Clan illustrates this really well when the death of a chief is blamed on him becoming too soft because he welcomed an outsider in. He therefore acted improperly towards the local gods. Living on the Karth River paints a similar picture of the Karth River; that respect of the river itself is required in order to have a life upon it:

But as with much of the Reach, the Karth River provides for its people. It can be cruel one moment, then as loving as a mother the next. Those who rely on it for their survival live to see another day—if the river allows it. Those who live to old age on its banks, like my father, know that respect is key. The river may bestow plenty of fish to one and drown another, with seemingly little to distinguish between them. But those that have grown up on the Karth know better. We know the river demands respect, or at the very least, consideration.

This also highlights how the Reachfolk consider themselves beholden to the spirits of the land, as unforgiving as they may be. Part of the reason they’re so wary of outsiders is because outsiders do not appreciate the land, and so may anger the spirits that dwell within.

Daedra

As well as the spirits of the land, the Reachfolk also revere the Daedra. Or, at least, some of the Daedra. Great Spirits of the Reach names Hircine, Namira, Peryite and Lorkhan as their primary spirits, although Malacath and the Reach considers that Malacath is also of some importance. All of these speak to the Reachfolk’s expectations of what they can get out of the land – that they will be greeted with wildness, decay, and mortality.

I think it’s kind of telling that the Reachfolk elevate those Daedra in ways that almost mirror the Aedra, or at least subsume different Daedra’s purviews into their own. We’re going to engage in a little bit of direct comparative theology here, if you’ll indulge me, because Reachfolk’s views are a grab-bag of things that are similar to those you’ll find in other cultures. Also bear in mind that interpretations likely vary from tribe to tribe, and so these will not be the be-all-and-end-all.

Hircine is a multi-faceted deity according to Aspects of Lord Hircine, with five different aspects, that of hunter, bear, manbeast, stag and fox. This is fitting for his role as a transformative deity, and vaguely hints at the idea of the limit of the world in the 36 Lessons, which is also the cycle of life and death as represented in the Hunt. However, the one that I find most intriguing is in Great Spirits of the Reach, which calls Hircine “the avatar of the fierce and terrifying ‘now.’”, which is a direct mirror to Y’ffre as “the spirit of the ‘now’” in Varieties of Faith. I don’t know that the Reachfolk have a similar sense of Hircine as a deity that orders everything, but the idea of the predator-prey rhythm feels similar to that, at least.

Namira is seen as “the avatar of all primal dualisms”, with conflict at the core. This speaks to decay as a process that produces life, but it also sounds to me like the Khajiiti view of Namiira as “the ancient darkness”. In positioning Namira as a primal deity of conflict, the Reachfolk position her as a deity that embodies the enantiomorph, a duality and conflict that shapes almost everything in the Aurbis. So it’s possible that the Reachfolk understand the idea of the enantiomorph more than most cultures on Tamriel. But if so, they certainly haven’t written or spoken about it in those terms.

We also have this tidbit on the passage about Lorkh:

According to Reach myths, Lorkh convinced the Spirit Queen, Namira, to grant him a place in the infinite void where he could create a realm for wayward spirits*. Rather than a vibrant paradise, Lorkh created a hard and painful place—a realm that taught through suffering. While some resent Lorkh’s cruelty, most praise his wisdom. According to the Reachfolk, those who suffer most know best. Hardship is a means to wisdom and glory, and Lorkh provided hardship in ample supply.*

(emphasis added)

We’ll get to Lorkh’s provision of suffering in a bit, but I want to draw attention to Namira’s role here. She makes the space for creation to happen, a role usually assigned to Kynareth in most Aedric myths. That the Mundus happens in the primal darkness in Khajiiti myths also highlights that Namira has a much greater role in the ordering of the cosmos than most faiths have given her credit for.

Peryite is the force of balance for the Reachfolk, as Great Spirits of the Reach tells it; instead of ordering Oblivion, Peryite orders Mundus as well for them. If this is true, then it has implications for how much the Daedra interfere with the mortal realm. Peryite being a dragon also feels like he’s mirroring the order of time provided by Akatosh, which is of less importance for the Reachmen. Instead of worrying too much about measurement, they’re more fussed about seasons, who is beating who and other order-related stuff, with the ultimate idea that they should return to balance, which is under Peryite’s purview, as well as “survival of the fittest” being important as decay and disease get rid of the weak and lame. This is subsuming bits of Akatosh, but also Zenithar as a cosmic order deity, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they also view Peryite as a seasonal deity as well, treading on Arkay’s toes, but I have no evidence for that.

Lorkh is, as the name suggests, Lorkhan’s iteration of the Reachfolk. I think they’re unique among mannish races for linking him to his merish incarnation. This is another indicator that they’re not just messed up Bretons, because they don’t associate Lorkh with Sheor’s attributes. If anything, because Lorkh creates the world as a “harsh and painful place”, they share more with the Chimeri/Dunmeri view of creation than anything else; a painful place of trial, that bestows lessons on people to make them better. Quite when the Reachfolk would have got hold of Dunmeri theology to get this perspective on Lorkh is unclear, but it maps really closely to that. It also links to the animistic side of Reachfolk belief; it’s only fitting that the one who created a landscape that is so harsh is himself harsh in turn. I’d honestly be inclined to say that the landscape’s hardships came first, and where then projected onto Lorkh, but I have nothing really to support that.

I know I’ve treated a few things with rather short-shrift in this (the Longhouse Emperors and some elements of Reachfolk myth didn’t quite get into this), but I’ll try to touch on them in a future cast. The Longhouse Emperors are probably worth a minisode of their own, which I’ll get to.

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