Daedric Princes: The True Gods
There seems to be a little thread running through all the Elder Scrolls games, and no, I don’t mean the epic hero story. It concerns Daedra. It seems rather prominent in the current two games, but with doing some research, it seems that there are references to Daedric influences even in Arena, Daggerfall, and even Battlespire. Wherever they seem to be, there is trouble. It is for this reason and this reason only that they are popular to blame when shit goes down? Or could it be that an argument is being made over which gods are the “true gods” or at least the gods that “came first” and all the other religious sects and their affiliates are being made an example of for their heresy? Well, let’s see what kind of an argument I can make here…
For the record, my favorite Prince is Hircine. The runner-up would be Sheogorath.
Let’s follow the legacy of Jagar Tharn. We hear about him in The Real Barenziah in a limited sense, and generally he enjoys long walks along the Sea of Ghosts, Scrib Jerky, and killing people and destroying empires. We associate Tharn with Merhunes Dagon because he was solicited to help destroy the battlesmages of the Battlespire. Tharn went on to imprison the emperor in a hand made realm of Oblivion, much like Mankar Camoran of Oblivion retreating into his “savage garden” with the Amulet of Kings. We can take this at face value and say that Tharn is a douchebag that likes to summon Daedric Princes and make lives miserable, or we can look at it in a sense that we almost make Tharn the “victim.” Not really the victim, but instead of he calling on Merhunes for aid, perhaps Merhunes solicited him for these jobs, promising a rise to power and whatnot. Daedric Princes love promising riches and power. The kidnapping of the emperor can then be interpreted as a way of spitting in the eyes of the Nine (the official religion of Cyrodiil) and those who worship them– or rather, those who merely do not worship the Daedra. If Merhunes could have been successful through Tharn, a fine example would have been made of the blasphemous government and citizens, and worship may have then primarily shifted in favor of the Princes.
As we know, Merhunes attempts this sort of thing another time through Mankar Camoran by stealing the empire’s most prized and holy possession in attempt to overrun Tamriel with his beasts and exact revenge on all of Nirn who ignores the “one true gods.” After all, total destruction would eventually lead people to worship him, instead of just the Mythic Dawn, for fear of their lives and the general futility of it all. Again, unsuccessful, but that’s beside the point.
In Morrowind, Azura appears to be the benevolent mother goddess that wishes to protect the reincarnation of her champion, St. Nerevar. Interestingly enough, she does not aim to further punish her people, the Chimer turned Dunmer, for ignoring the prophecies, but instead turns her sights to the Tribunal Temple. Yes, it would the Tribunal– Vivec, Almalexia, and Sotha Sil– who gained from the murder of Nerevar. This is not to mention that the Tribunal shut down Daedra worship after their rise to power. By helping the Nerevarine (which the hero is inherently not, but is explicitly stated that they may become the Nerevarine), Azura is in turn destroying the Tribunal. They gained their god-like power and status due to the forbidden use of Kagrenac’s tools and the heart of Lorkhan. So, when the Nerevarine finally destroys the heart (which even the Aedra could not do) the power of the Tribunal is stolen from them. This also is a blow to the Imperial Cult, because a mortal sponsored by a Daedra Prince accomplished that which even an Aedra, one of the Nine Divines, could not do. When the Aedra attempted to destroy the heart of Lorkhan before tossing it into what became Red Mountain, the heart laughed at them, claiming: “This heart is the heart of the world, and they were made to satisfy one another.”
This is a rather minor point, but I think it’s worth mentioning. In Bloodmoon we encounter Hircine, prince of the hunt. In antiquity, his manbeasts hunt the indigenous Skaal of Solstheim, which do not participate in Daedra worship. His weres don’t prey on good, Daedra-fearing men. The only exception might be if the prized hunter chosen for the Bloodmoon hunt were Daedra worshiper…
Another jab at the Septim bloodline and the empire in general occurs in Oblivion with regard to Sanguine. The Septims are the face of the empire, an empire which is increasingly encouraged to worship the Nine Divines. However, Martin Septim, who we all know and love, was a Sanguine groupie in his younger days. If that doesn’t make a mockery of the Nine’s priesthood, I don’t know what does. Martin is also very disillusioned when it comes to his priesthood, as well and doesn’t take his prayer seriously. I think it is quite obvious that Sanguine can be said to have spoilt the Septim bloodline. It was probably also no small triumph for the Prince, when the Blades walked about calling him “Emperor” and the townspeople of Bruma shouted his name.
As far as information in-game goes, we may notice that all Daedra Princes have specific summoning days (when included) and designated shrines. The Nine have token chapels and wayshrines named for each and they’re built in large cities, but they are mostly generic and allow for worship of all Nine at any given chapel. The Nine are very impersonal, while the Princes get up in everyone’s face. Generally, the Nine Divines don’t manifest at all, or only at the last possible moment when the world is about to end. The Tribunal– let’s face it– they’re not even gods. They’re demi-gods living IN Mundus. They’re also incredibly withdrawn and unstable, especially Sotha Sil and Almalexia, respectively. What it comes down to is that the Princes are individual entities that function independent of one another and are very much involved in the mortal world (when it suits their fancy, that is).
Okay, so I was able to make a rather substantial argument, I suppose. It seems that the Daedra Princes are very prominent as far as game components and religious figures. The other religions seem more impersonal, less involved, less “available” and accessible to their faithful. There is also an ongoing struggle it seems for them to be acknowledged by Mundus, and they lash out when ignored. Are they simply pompous, self-absorbed entities that have been fighting with the Aedra for millenniums, or are they the ones who should be considered the true gods of mortals and are simply retaliating for being ignored? All evidence points to the latter.