After yesterday’s absolutely worthless and blithering blog post, i’ve decided to do another lore-history study today. If you’re not a fan of Skyrim… WELL TOUGH SHIT. (No, seriously, I understand, but I really love exploring the lore behind this game, so please forgive my indulgence ;P)
If you’ve played Skyrim, you probably know the name Talos of Atmora, or Tiber Septim. He’s a pretty big point of contention in the civil war that’s happening throughout the game. The humans (especially the Nords) are firm in their belief that when Talos died he ascended to become the ninth divine of the Tamrielic religion (which doesn’t exactly have a name, as far as I can tell). However, the elves think this nothing more than base heresy. He was a strong general, and a good emperor, but he was still simply a man, nothing more. There are only eight divines, as far as they’re concerned. But the stories BEHIND Talos, before he became the 9th Divine, are far more interesting.
Now, as is usually the case when there’s two varying viewpoints as to exactly who Talos was before he united, and then became, Emperor of Tamriel. Both sides agree that he was a brilliant general under King Cuhlecain, who used the power of the thu’um (dragon shouts) to help him to many great victories. When Cuhlecain was murdered in the night, Talos ascended to power, taking the name Tiber Septim to rule the Third Empire for over 80 years.
In here, we find one of the key differences from the Church of Talos and the Elvish viewpoints. The “heretical” viewpoint, established by the elves, states that Talos himself helped orchestrate the murder of Cuhlecain, and blamed it on assassins from High Rock in order to cement his position as emperor. Apparently, according to the heretics, Talos had a sort of… problem solver named Ysmir Kingmaker, or The Underking, who was an immortal ancient hero and ancient king of Skyrim that could apparently regenerate himself when his body was destroyed. The Underking helped Talos ascend to power, and protected him in his battle to unite the empire under his banner. The Underking was later betrayed by Septim, who had ordered his essence captured in a soul gem to power an ancient dwarven artifact that would allow him to conquer the high elves’ homeland of the Summerset Isles.
The church of Talos has a different viewpoint on these matters. When King Cuhlecain was killed, another assassin was sent after Talos himself, and reportedly slit his throat, which didn’t kill him, but left him unable to use the thu’um anymore. Talosian doctrine has no mention of the Underking at all, and glosses over what could potentially be a very greedy, expansionist, and bloodthirsty early reign. There’s also the matter of his ascendance, after his death, which is really the largest point of contention between the church’s “official” story, and the “heretical” viewpoint. There are no actual documents (that I could find) that go into any detail about how or why he was deified, so one can only speculate how this transpired.
Centuries later, after the empire has become a shade of it’s former self, the Aldmeri Dominion declared Talos worship illegal across Tamriel, as a result of their peace treaty with the current emperor (as of the time the events in Skyrim take place). This event helped spark the Stormcloak Rebellion, which is featured so prominently throughout the main story of Skyrim. As it stands currently, there is no REAL way to determine which history behind Talos is the “correct” version, so it’s left up to the various players and historians to make up their own decisions.