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Elder Scrolls Lore Notes

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Since I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to this facet of TES lore, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge both an impressive piece of world building, on the part of the author of both pieces (Michael Kirkbride), and the real world philosophy that inspired it: Basilides of Alexandria’s teachings on the “breaking of the vessels.” 

While Basilides’ teachings were relatively mainstream, in the later half of the second century CE, only small fragments of his more than two dozen books, and the writings of his detractors, have survived into the modern era.  Which is what makes him, and his work, relatively obscure today, even though his philosophy was fairly influential at one point.  It is, therefor, not particularly surprising that the Tsaesci creation myth and the Anuad seem to draw their versions of the “breaking of the vessels”, not directly from Basilides’ himself, but from two different historical sources influenced by his teachings.  While the relevant parts of the Tsaesci myth resemble an Orphic creation myth most fully recounted – I believe – in one of the Pseudo-Clementine Writings (again written by their detractors) the chaotic flavor of the world that was created from the pieces of the twelve broken worlds, in the Anuad, suggest a version of the concept more closely related to the one found in Lurianic Kabbalism.  In this way we have two real world historical perspectives, on the same philosophical concept, represented in TES lore.  Pretty cool huh?

Why this is actually important to TES: the Thalmor (obviously).

The issue of the Anuad, as with all religious text, is one of interpretation.  While Basilides (c120 CE) may have believed that the spiritual essence, released from the broken – celestial – vessels, was the mortal soul and its inclusion in our world – the sub-lunar world of matter – created all living beings, and the 3rd century CE Orphics may have suggested that the divine substance of our souls was simply present (like oil soaked into a clay container) in the pieces of the broken celestial vessels that were used to create the earth, Lurianic Kabbalism (mid 16th century CE) contends that the broken pieces of the celestial vessels were not used to create the earth but the world of evil (Sitra Achra).

It is conceivable then that the Thalmor of the 4th era have come to interpret their own creation myth, as presented in the Anuad, as depicting Nirn as literal hell and the elves as celestial beings stranded on Nirn by mistake.  An interpretation that would, in turn, lead to the possible understanding of TES elves in terms of fallen angel myth and, the Thalmor lead Altmer specifically, in terms of those myths in which the fallen angels are willing to destroy all of creation to return to heaven.

Well done, Michael Kirkbride.  That is a truly epic piece of world building.