Hi. I'm Rotten Deadite. Welcome to the New Whirling School.
The 36 Lessons of Vivec are a series of books that appear in a game called "The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind." Morrowind was released on May 2nd in 2002 for Microsoft Windows and then again later that year in June for Microsoft's Xbox console system.
While Morrowind was the third game in the Elder Scrolls series, it marked a dramatic departure from previous installments in both style and substance. While previous games were somewhat typical "sword & sorcery" fantasy fare, Morrowind took place in a remote volcanic island called Vvardenfell, a departure from typically verdant High Fantasy locales and a harsh environment of ash, heat, and dust. Visually, Morrowind distinguished itself from nearly every other fantasy RPG with its distinctive setting: an island formed by an active volcano surrounded by blasted wastelands and poisonous swamps. Familiar stone wall castles contrasted with towers built from titanic mushrooms and cities built from the hollowed husks of gigantic insects. And the island's native population, the Dunmer, are a race split between the traditional values of their tribal demon-worshiping "Ashlanders" and the new values encouraged by their self-made-Gods, Almalexia, Sotha Sil, and Vivec, who call themselves the Tribunal.
The player is soon told that his character is the reincarnation of Lord Indoril Nerevar, an ancient Dunmer hero who died mysteriously nearly 3,500 years before the game starts. A prisoner of the human-led Empire, the Player arrives in Vvardenfell as the game begins, now free for reasons not yet clear, and finds the island is under attack by a strange and powerful being named Dagoth Ur. As he plays, the Player finds copies of a 36 volume set of religious sermons called "The 36 Lessons of Vivec."
The "Lessons" read less like instruction and more like snippets of ancient Hindu epics like the Ramayana, and at first glance they appear to be possibly fictional stories about the relationship between the student, Nerevar, and his teacher, Vivec. The two seem very close. But when the Player starts to uncover the stories of how his previous incarnation was killed, some of them implicate Vivec himself as the murderer.
And this begins the first question that drags most players into the 36 Lessons of Vivec: "Who killed Indoril Nerevar?" But this murder mystery is perhaps the easiest question to solve, outnumbered by a thousand more puzzling questions about the origins of the Tribunal, the motivations of Dagoth Ur, the nature of life, and the true purpose of the Elder Scrolls universe itself.
Eventually, after enough examination, it becomes clear that the 36 Lessons also serve as an instructional story, similar to the Bhagavad Gita, intended to help bring the reader closer to enlightenment.
This website is intended to serve as a companion-piece to the 36 Lessons of Vivec. I intend to explain, in as much detail as possible, every book in the series. However, some concepts are very complicated and I just couldn't find a single place to fit them, so I wrote some essays instead.
Let's get one thing clear from the start: This is not the definitive guide to the 36 Lessons of Vivec. This is only my interpretation of the 36 Lessons of Vivec, speaking from a lore nerd with quite a bit of extensive research under his belt. The term "expert" has been thrown around, and about that I can only say that my credentials are as respectable as anyone's. But my perspective on the 36 Lessons changes as I also change, with the same inevitability, and I welcome the frequent re-examination of my theories and the evolution of opinion that follows.
Nothing has been "solved." Nor should there ever be. The 36 Lessons, like many elements of Elder Scrolls Lore, are intended to be experienced subjectively and will mean different things to different people. So please, read this guide, think about it, and then formulate your own opinions. Every perspective is valid. It's better this way, trust me. A magician should never give away all of his tricks. And anyway, the trick is never as impressive after it's explained to you.
I'd encourage everyone to read this thing consecutively. I'm going to explain things in one chapter and not in the next. At the same time, I'll put off discussing a point until much later in the Lessons, after more theories have been established and discussed. Skip around and you might get confused.
On a similar note, I plan to constantly update these commentaries as I discover new connections. I will hopefully mention somewhere when and what has been updated, but I suspect I'll manage to screw that up every so often.
This guide is not going to be much use to you unless you've finished Morrowind and at least the Tribunal expansion. Also there are lots of spoilers. So if you have never played Morrowind, you'll likely find much of these commentaries to be confusing, at worst. But fans of the other Elder Scrolls games, such as Oblivion and Skyrim and Elder Scrolls: Online will find the concepts explained in the 36 Lessons are woven deep into the fabric of the entire series. There are no coincidences. Everything is connected.
Here's a list of frequently used terms and concepts, defined as they pertain to the 36 Lessons. Believe it or not, these are actually among some of the easier concepts.
Yeah, he's a term. Michael Kirkbride is the author of the 36 Lessons of Vivec, as well as numerous other stories in Morrowind, and was responsible for concept art and additional quest design. Many industry experts consider Kirkbride to be a major factor to Morrowind's excellence, and he remains an active member of the TES Lore community, sharing stories and ideas with Elder Scrolls fans long after leaving Bethesda some years ago.
When asked, Kirkbride described the experience of writing the 36 Lessons of Vivec in this way: "It was one dev, naked in a room with a carton of cigarettes, a thermos full of coffee and bourbon, and all his summoned angels."
The original "creator Gods," primitive incarnations of the elemental forces of Stasis and Change, respectively. Their natural interplay resulted in the creation of the Aetherial realm and the et'Ada, their children.
The original Gods of the Elder Scrolls universe, et'Ada have very little to do with Nirn and mortal life in general. When the mortal realm of Mundus was created, the et'Ada fled in terror at its creation. Some stayed behind, calling themselves the Ehlnofey, and those that chose to surrender their essence to help its creation became the Aedra. Sometimes called the "Gift-Limbs" or the "Earth Bones," these Aedra became the laws of nature that allow the realm of Mundus to exist. Some say they are the progenitors of the earliest races, or perhaps just the Aldmer, the earliest Elves. It's possible the other Ehlnofey who stayed behind became the Daedra, or perhaps the other non-Merrish races.
The trickster-deity and "child" of Sithis (who is in turn the "child" of Padhome), Lorkhan is the et'Ada who "tricked" eight other et'Ada into becoming the Eight Aedric gift-limbs, the supports that allow the realm of Mundus to exist within the void of Oblivion.
The universe that the Elder Scrolls take place in is called the Aurbis. It consists of numerous layers, like an egg. The outer layer, known as Aetherius, is the home of the et'Ada and the source of all Magicka. Within that lies the realm of Oblivion, a void-realm in which the Daedra build their pocket-realms. Within the void of Oblivion lies Mundus, the Mortal Realm, which holds the plane-planets of the Aedra and Nirn, the planet on which all Elder Scrolls games take place.
The "Mortal Realm." Mundus is where we find Nirn, the planet on which all the Elder Scrolls games have taken place, as well as Masser and Secunda, the two moons that orbit Nirn. Mundus is bordered by Oblivion, the void-realm which mortals perceive as a black emptiness dotted with stars and the eight planets that represent the eight Aedra.
The Godhead is a great unknowable entity that sleeps eternally, dreaming the Aurbis, and so also the entire span of the Elder Scrolls universe. The Godhead's will is fractured, however, and nearly insane. There is no "purpose" that the Godhead assigns to the Aurbis, as the Godhead itself is not in control of its own dream, or perhaps not even aware that it is dreaming. Every inhabitant of the Aurbis, from Mortal to God, are figments of the Godhead's imagination, subjects to the unguided danger of an insane and incomprehensible mind.
In the most basic sense, CHIM is a word in Ehlnofex, the language of the et'Ada. When written, it appears to shift and twist, never still, threatening to disappear at any moment. Its pronunciation is, among lore nerds, a matter of debate and hilarity. Personally, I encourage everyone to pronounce it as badly as possible.
CHIM is also the name given to a state of consciousness. Those in the Godhead's dream who become aware of their true nature as minuscule non-existent fragments of imagination frequently Zero-Sum, or disappear from the Aurbis without a trace. But some individuals, through either knowledge, power, sheer force of ego or total insanity, are capable of maintaining their own existence, insisting that they are real despite the undeniable logic to the contrary. In this state, called "CHIM," they gain a perspective of the reality of the Aurbis, of its wheel-like structure and operation. Like becoming lucid in your own dream, these individuals can alter the very structure of reality with their will alone. But, like lucid dreaming and the sigil of CHIM itself, this state threatens to collapse at any moment, and is difficult (if not impossible) to maintain for any length of time.
To date, only two individual characters in the Elder Scrolls universe are known to have achieved CHIM at any given point: Vivec and the Imperial emperor Tiber Septim.
The Wheel, or as I sometimes refer to it, the Aurbic Wheel, is a metaphysical model of the Aurbis as described by Vivec. It explains the relationship between Mundus and the Aedra, as well as where or how the Tower at the center can be perceived. It appears to be, in-universe, a model shared by many races and religions, although it is not often referred to in the games.
As "explained" (HAH!) by a cryptic document provided to Morrowind players by Michael Kirkbride, the Amaranth is a powerful being who will appear at some point in the future of Tamriel to save mortal life from certain doom, a catastrophic event called "Landfall." If one becomes a lucid dreamer with CHIM, the Amaranth is a portion of the Godhead's dream that becomes lucid and begins a new dream of its own, outside of the Godhead's dream, with the promise of true freedom to all who join it.
A term used in some sciences, such as mathematics or chemistry. An Enantiomorph is a combination of two objects or concepts that mirror each other, like a left and right shoe. Combining these two chiral concepts results in an Enantiomorph. Elder Scrolls lore is absolutely thick with these so-called "Enantiomorphic events," where two chiral entities are combined to create a third entity.
Generally speaking, it's often considered by fans that a "true" Enantiomorphic event must feature the following elements:
I'd like to take a moment to thank the people and groups that made this website possible:
Michael Kirkbride. When I faced my darkest moment he gave me a light to lead me out. Or maybe he dangled a shiny thing in my face to distract me. Maybe both?
Albatross, shadow of the shadow, shit-bird, and wearer of tall voice-cloth. His comings and goings are marked by the dissolution of forerunning plans and the eternal echoing call of CA-CAW!
My fellow Amaranth Hunters. Without you, my knowledge of TES Lore would be infinitely less than it is. The Hunt threads were truly the greatest cooperative puzzling I've ever done.