Who is Trinimac?

Trinimac in Brief

Trinimac is seen, according to Varieties of Faith, as the “strong god of the Aldmer”, and called Ald’s shield-thane in the Seven Fights of the Aldudagga. He’s essentially seen as a warrior god, but a follower rather than a leader. Although he does exercise leadership and decisions when he ripped out Lorkhan’s heart, which we’ll get to a bit later. As well as defeating Lorkhan, Trinimac is also best known for becoming Malacath when he attempted to stop Boethiah and the Chimer leaving Summerset, although quite what happened then is something that is very much up for debate.

Trinimiac’s Betrayal and Transformation

The story that has been in most Elder Scrolls texts about Trinimac’s transformation is that he was tricked by Boethiah and then eaten, becoming Malacath when he was expelled. We have this most bluntly from the books Changed Ones and The True Nature of Orcs. The first of these is very Dunmer-centric, calling Trinimac a liar and proposing that the actual changed ones of the book’s title were the Chimer. The actual passage says this:

Of all the et’Ada who wandered Nirn, Trinimac was the strongest. He, for a very long time, fooled the Aldmeri into thinking that tears were the best response to the Sundering… They even took the Missing God’s name in vain, calling His narratives into question. So one day Boethiah, Prince of Plots, precocious youth, tricked Trinimac to go into his mouth…

Then Boethiah relieved himself of Trinimac right there on the ground before them to prove all the things he said were the truth.

This is all about who is right out of Boethiah and Trinimac, not necessarily about what happened. We also have his passage from The Anticipations which strikes me as incredibly similar in its formulation:

Boethiah was the ancestor who illuminated the elves ages ago before the Mythic Era. He told them the truth of Lorkhan’s test, and defeated Auriel’s champion, Trinimac. Boethiah ate Trinimac and voided him. The followers of Boethiah and Trinimac rubbed the soil of Trinimac upon themselves and changed their skins.

As well as the conflict, note that both of these call out Lorkhan’s ideology as important in the conflict. I think that’s the important thing to these writers, and both highlight that the Chimer also change as a result of the conflict.

The True Nature of Orcs, on the other hand, seems to tie in most closely with Nordic myths, but still tells a similar narrative. This book also claims, simply, that:

When Trinimac was eaten by the Daedroth Prince Boethiah, and transformed in that foul god’s insides, the Orcs were transformed as well.

This much more matter-of-fact, just, “this is how it happened”. The Elder Scrolls: Online repositions these tales, with the Daggerfall Covenant banning The True Nature of Orcs throughout its domain. We have the alternative tale in Mauloch, Orc-Father, which tells us this:

Trinimac was about to strike a mighty blow when Mephala appeared and stabbed him in the back. As Trinimac kneeled, wounded by Mephala’s treachery, Boethiah gloated and cast a terrible ritual to scar and twist his appearance, then cast him to a place of choking air and ash.

Trinimac, enraged by his failure, was reborn in blood as he sliced open his own chest, tearing the shame from his spirit. Mauloch, the God of Curses, rose from the ash and cursed Boethiah for his malice.

According to this tale, Malacath is a prisoner or the Ash Pit, rather than its lord, and his changed nature was something he did to himself, rather than explicitly by Boethiah. His followers are those that joined him by choice to enact vengeance, whereas The True Nature of Orcs casts it as an involuntary transformation. I find it interesting though that The Anticipations also has it as a voluntary thing, that Trinimac’s followers rubbed his remains into their skin to become the orcs.
The novel Lord of Souls also suggest something different, with Malacath stating that “You people are always so literal-minded.” when he is told a variant of the traditional Boethiah-Trinimac story. There’s several variations on the myth, as to precisely who did what to who. Many of the more nuanced stories have come later in the series, so part of me can’t help but think of them as “later embellishments”, but they don’t exist that way in-universe. Just be warned that I may be predisposed to consider the Boethiah story a little too closely because it’s the “original”.

In terms of what may actually have happened, there’s Boethiah assuming Trinimac’s role, and essentially conducting a smear campaign using Trinimac’s identity. This is where the similarities end. There’s a defeat by Boethiah, and possibly others of the “Good Daedra” if you read Lord of Souls, and precisely how he transforms varies wildly. It’s possible, then, that the transformation is brought on not by Boethiah’s consumption of Trinimac, but by Trinimac’s dishonour. I think this is a possibility, particularly given the Tsaesci.

Why are the Tsaesci relevant? Bear with me.

The Tsaesci are said to have eaten the men of Akavir. We don’t know whether that’s literal either, but several people will think that the Tsaesci “ate” the men of Akavir by absorbing and assimilating their culture. I also think it’s a little notable that MK titled the Tsaesci Creation Myth “We Ate It To Become It”. Sermon 28 of the 36 Lessons of Vivec also says that “No word is true until it is eaten”. I take that particular passage to mean that a thing is understood. You know how we say we need to “take some time to digest” something we’ve heard? That’s what I think may be going on in that line of Sermon 28, what may have been going on with the Tsaesci, and what may have happened with Trinimac and Boethiah. Boethiah consumed Trinimac’s ideas, made them his or her own, and so deeply shamed him. A proud warrior like Trinimac couldn’t stand that shame, and therefore couldn’t be the same person afterward.

Trinimac and/or Malacath?

One thing that has remained relatively constant, however, is an idea that throws all of this stuff out the window; that Trinimac and Malacath are distinct beings. When Gortwog refounded Orsinium after the Warp in the West, he reinstated Trinimac worship, with the Third Edition Pocket Guide to the Empire stating that:

The Orc King’s belief that Trinimac still lives and that Malacath is a separate entity, a demon whose aim was to keep the Orsimer pariah folk forever, is the official position of the shaman priests of Orsinium.

There’s also the question of precisely who Mauloch is. Mauloch is identified firmly with Malacath in most places, but with a distinct spin on him. There’s not much in the way of different aspects, but the full version of Varieties of Faith notes that he is explicitly a Nordic version of Malacath, who is associated with the Nordic god Orkey. Orkey is pretty much a hybrid of Malacath and Arkay, something that’ll be important to remember later.

One thing that’s worth noting is that The True Nature of Orcs also matches up with the Nordic Five Songs of King Wulfharth. In particular, The True Nature of Orcs says that:

In Skyrim, Malacath is called Orkey, or Old Knocker, and his battles with Ysmir are legendary.

And then Varieties of Faith says this:

At one time, legends say, Nords only had a lifespan of six years due to Orkey’s foul magic. Shor showed up, though, and, through unknown means, removed the curse, throwing most of it onto the nearby Orcs.

The Five Songs of King Wulfharth talks about this in a bit more detail. The passage that’s of most interest here is this:

Orkey, an enemy god, had always tried to ruin the Nords, even in Atmora where he stole their years away. Seeing the strength of King Wulfharth, Orkey summoned the ghost of Alduin Time-Eater again. Nearly every Nord was eaten down to six years old. Boy Wulfharth pleaded to Shor, the dead Chieftain of the Gods, to help his people. Shor’s own ghost then fought the Time-Eater on the spirit plane, as he did at the beginning of time, and he won, and Orkey’s folk, the Orcs, were ruined.

There’s enough of both a similarity and difference to the other narratives here that it’s possible that the Nords are representing the cursing of Trinimac in yet another way. I think the previous three passages are re-telling the same event, and that they claim that it’s the Nords, rather than Boethiah, that bring a curse upon the orcs. But this is all Orkey, with Mauloch being quite different, and not mentioned at all. This could possibly lend some credence to the idea that Trinimac and Malacath are different. If Mauloch is Malacath, then could Trinimac, who would certainly fought against Lorkhan during the Ehlnofey Wars, be Orkey?

Trinimac and Zenithar

There is however another candidate for Trinimac, and that is Zenithar. How is that? Through his version from the Bosmer, Z’en, and from looking at Trinimac’s real-world inspiration, Mithras.
Malacath is the god of the sworn oath and the bloody curse. Z’en is, according to Varieties of Faith, the “Bosmeri god of payment in kind”. This feels, to me at least, like being “paid back”, revenge, could be part of Z’en’s sphere, and righting wrongs, through things like oaths and curses, is very much in Malacath’s wheelhouse. Varieties of Faith hints at something else going on with Z’en in his passage:

Ostensibly an agriculture deity, Z’en sometimes proves to be an entity of a much higher cosmic order.

Could that higher order be associated with the wrong done to Malacath? Possibly. There’s also the quest in ESO called Z’en and Mauloch. One of the suggestions from this is that, ass Mauloch gets more powerful, Z’en recedes. They are both gods of order, and a specific type of order that is implied in contracts. This possibly becomes a little clearer when we look at Mithras.

Trinimac and Mithras

MK pointed out during his Reddit AMA that:

Trinimac is probably one of the least understood underpinnings of the whole pantheon. I like him that way, but I would study Mithras if you really want to find out more.

Mithras slaying the bull and looking… a little ambivalent about the whole thing.

Mithras was a Roman god, imported and copied from Persia. He was a god associated with oaths, just as Malacath is, although they are more to do with friendship, diplomacy and trade. Most particularly, Mithras is most often depicted slaying a great bull, whose blood births the world.

That has to sound familiar, at this point. It gets even better when you look at Mitra, who is widely considered the origin for Mithras. Mitra was also present in some Indian myths, and in those he is compelled to slay Soma, a god who appears as a white bull, and was associated with the moon. This makes the bull-slaying even closer to Trinimac killing Lorkhan. Although there is one other little detail that stands out. In many of the Mithras images, and in the Mitra myth, the bull or the moon is killed reluctantly. That really doesn’t jive with what we know about Trinimac.

I should note that, before I go any further and away from Mithras, I’d recommend checking out Reddit user MalaktheOrc’s posts on this topic. They go into a lot more detail than I can, without just reiterating a bunch of their stuff. So go and check their threads out, particularly Trinimalarkay and Identifying Trinimac: A Theory. They’re a rich vein of connections and interpretations that I really enjoyed reading through.

But now, back to Trinimac and Lorkhan. The reluctance for killing the bull may not be something that links directly to Trinimac’s attitude, but they do both make a definite choice. This is the central role of the observer in the enantiomorph. Trinimac made a choice to stand with Auri-El and the Old Ehlnofey, and dethrone Lorkhan. Trinimac was the strongest of the Aldmer, and could potentially decide the war by himself. At that moment, Trinimac chose to allow Auri-El win against Lorkhan, make Auri-El the victorious Rebel and Lorkhan the dethroned King. If you want to hear more about what precisely that entails, check out my episode on the enantiomorph.

One of the key things that comes out of the enantimorph is that the observer gets maimed, typically blinded for their trouble. They are also, in a formulation presented by MK, “shield-thanes”. They aren’t the leaders. That fits Trinimac perfectly, and in Shor Son of Shor, Trinimac identified explicitly with Tsun, who is called the Shield-Thane of Shor. In fact, we get some mirrored language between the two here:

Ald’s shield thane Trinimac shook his head at this, for he was akin to Tsun and did not care much for logic-talk as much as he did only for his own standing. He told his chieftain that these words had been said before and Ald only sighed and said, “Yes, and always they will be ignored. As for the war you crave, bold Trinimac, and all of you assembled, do not worry. A spear will be thrown into this soon, from Shor’s own tribe, and the House of We will be allowed our vengeance.”

which is totally a reflection of this passage:

But Shor shook his head at this, for he was akin to Ald and did not care much for logic-talk as much as he did only for his own standing. He told his father that these words had been said before and Shor only sighed and said, “Yes, and always they will be ignored. As for the counsel you crave, bold son, and in spite of all your other fathers here with me, that you create every time you spit out your doom, do not worry. You have again beat the drum of war, and perhaps this time you will win.”

This is also reflected earlier in the text, where Tsun and Trinimac explicitly switch places. This also suggests that, as it is the rebel and the king that are interchangeable in an enantiomorph, that there is more going on with Trinimac than simply being the observer of one enantiomorph.

There have been several comments from people over the years, although mostly MalaktheOrc, that have made Trinimac out to be a conglomeration of things. We’ve already seen there’s some overlap with Zenithar, and the next most typical go-to is Arkay, who Trinimac takes aspects of through Orkey, if they are the same being. There is also an equivalence with Stuhn, an opposite, like we saw above. Malacath is also known to look down on mercy as weakness. The thematic ties to Stendarr are all there. So we have a potential threefold set of gods who Trinimac/Malacath draws from, imitates or overshadows. It’s a really neat little set, and I’d recommend checking out MalaktheOrc’s post on it for more information.

And, as with most big enantimorphs, it’s not just one. I want to quote Reddit user Garrett-Telvanni here:

If Arkay, Zenithar and Stendarr are Trinimac, just like Hjalti, Wulfhaarth and Zurin are Talos, then Malacath/Mauloch is their equivalent of the Underking.

That feels really neat, although I must point out that we have little evidence of the et’ada being able to overlap like that. There are a ton of thematic overlaps there, though. Along with another trinity that I want to talk about.

Trinimac and the Tools of Kagrenac

The tools of Kagrenac are the hammer Sunder, the blade Keening, and the gauntlet wraithguard. How does this connect to Trinimac? They were used to manipulate the Heart of Lorkhan, and Trinimac certainly did that. However, there is more. In particular, this line from Changed Ones:

[Trinimac], for a very long time, fooled the Aldmeri into thinking that tears were the best response to the Sundering

And here we get into a bit of wordplay. In normal English, “keening” is a sound of mourning, a wailing. So Trinimac is advocating keening in response to the sundering… that feels like a bit too much of a coincidence, to me. This could imply a manipulation of Lorkhan’s heart that would be imitated at a later time. Malak the Orc compares this to the Crusader’s Relics, particularly a mace, hammer and gauntlet, as yet another reflection of Trinimac’s relationship to Stendarr and Arkay, but I’m not totally convinced. Check out his post for yourself, see what you think.

The only thing that is missing in the main connection that can be made is Wraithguard, which can potentially come in other forms, if you believe a certain reading of The Five Songs of Wulfharth. I’m not sure we have all the pieces yet, but it’s certainly one of the more intriguing notions, that the original manipulator of Lorkhan’s Heart would foreshadow the tools that were later used to manipulate it quite so directly.

So who is Trinimac? He is many things, with multiple candidates for his actual identity. He doesn’t own it himself any more, clearly. He both is and is not the strong god he was, held up by the orcs of Orsinium as a paragon, and yet forever shamed or possibly transformed by the actions of Boethiah. I’ve also heard it said, in some of the wilder theories that we don’t have time for, that he became Boethiah. But we’ll have to look into that, as well as the Ashpit and some more bits and pieces about the orcs in general, another time.

Before we wrap up though, I wanted to make a quick mention of a delicious little theory that Felix Macias posted recently on the Dreamsleeve Facebook group. This claimed that Trinimac is Tall Papa. Tall Papa both refuses Sep’s ideology, and squashes him with a big stick, making the Hunger fall out of his mouth. Both of those line up very nicely with Trinimac’s actions, rather than Akatosh or Magnus, who Tall Papa usually gets compared to. It doesn’t map precisely, particularly as Tall Papa creates Sep, and Trinimac doesn’t create Lorkhan, but I think it’s an interesting idea.

And on that note, that’s where I think we need to end it. There’s lots more, including an idea that Trinimac is actually Boethiah, that I just haven’t had the time to organise coherently. thank you ever so much for taking the time to listen to this cast, I do hope you’ve enjoyed picking over Trinimac with me. I’m sure we’ll be back to re-examine him later.

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