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Fate of the Snow Elves
by Keviskar the Otter
Canst thou see?
There’s a Snow Elf behind thee!
Springing from the foxes den,
He hid himself behind the tree!
His feet tapping in the snow;
Where did he go? Do you know?
Giggling at you, little man;
Catch him! Catch him! Did he flee?
Find him quickly if you can!
Canst thou see?
There’s a Snow Elf behind thee!
That’s how my mother used to mock me, when I was a small child and we would venture into the forest to pick up sticks and logs for the fire.
And that is also one of the many various songs about Snow Elves that Nord mothers usually sing to their children.
As a youngling I was always eager to see these mysterious little beings which seemed to be everywhere save for where I cast my gaze and I was extremely furious that I always turned around too late and did not manage to see one.
Most Nord children stop believing in Snow Elves when they grow up and they lose all their childish interest in them in favor of much more practical things like hunting, wrestling and mead. However, my interest in them survived to my adult age and even now, in the autumn of my life, they do not cease to provoke my curiosity and spark my imagination.
FATE OF THE SNOW ELVES:
How does the history become a legend? How did these ancient mer, once engaged in lengthy and bloody conflict with our fathers, transform into the fairy-like bugaboo race of children’s songs? How can an entire civilization disappear without leaving any, even the smallest, evidence of its existence?
These were the questions which aroused my curiosity during my youth, when I was studying at the world-famous bard collage in Haafingar.
Many Nord children know the Snow Elves from their mothers’ songs and sayings, but how many of these children, when they reach adulthood, realize that there is a true story behind the folklore? That these stories and songs derive from actual history, and were not merely invented to frighten children?
We Nords are extremely selective in what we remember of our history. We are proud of our bold ancestors, who came from Atmora to colonize Tamriel; we remember deeds of ancient heroes who fought fierce monsters and met with gods face to face; we praise mighty warriors in our songs and recall the glorious battles they won. That is all well and good!
But what do we know about these who inhabited our lands long before us? How much are we interested in the history, culture and character of those we defeated and whom we overwhelmed in passing of time?
These are the questions Nords need to ask, but in fact want not to ask.
At least, that is what I have been told during my studies at the Bard college. And that is perhaps one of the reasons I decided to leave it and to choose my own path.
I dedicated my life to the research and rediscovery of those parts of our history I considered important and not just those which have been already preserved and interpreted and in some degree transformed by our adored bardic tradition.
That is why I became a pilgrim, instead of bard, and why I spent 20 years of my life on the journeys through the land of my fathers, seeking understanding more fully our customs and traditions.
However, in spite of the long years I spent on these journeys the multitude of locales I visited and people I interviewed could show me absolutely no trace of the Snow Elves. I did not see or explore any ruin, encounter any artifact or scroll, or discover any site which could suggest that it once belonged to Snow Elves.
This fact stole sleep from my yearning eyes many a night. How was it possible that if Snow Elves once inhabited -- dominated, truly -- our lands, they did not leave behind anything of their ways and culture that would survive to this modern age for those of the present era to discover?
I searched for explanations in libraries and familiarized myself with many scholarly theories explaining this mystery, only to refute them all at the end.
None dared to challenge the problem as it was and to conclude proper consequences from the true state of being. They just offered plain excuses for our ignorance instead.
For example, according to one, Snow Elves once lived at the peaks of high mountains because that was the mildest climate in their time, but now not even the heartiest of Nords can climb that mountain to see these remnants to bear witness of their existence and survive to share tales of what they have seen. What an insult to the brave highlanders who reached even the most remote places of our lands that these library worms in their cabinets do not even dare to think of!
More say that Snow Elves actually lived deep underground, far beneath the icy cave tunnels. In favor of this “underground” theory, its defenders argue that it is also the image of Snow Elves in the traditional songs and sayings, where Snow Elves lived in dens, caves and holes in the ground. I would not put too much credence in this fact and rather asked a question: How could any race survive in such hostile conditions like those in the ice caverns, where there was no sunlight and temperatures were so low that human breath freezes almost immediately?
The most absurd theory says that the Snow Elves actually did not build any architecture and lived in trees with symbiosis with the nature. I would not even comment on such a ridiculous theory.
Least but not last, there is also small and often overlooked group of scholars, who's influence is growing in recent times.
According to them, Snow Elves are not truly extinct, and we can still find their descendants in our lands; per example, on the wild island of Solstheim. Yes, Rieklings are the twisted image they intend to hold the legend and majesty of the Snow Elves.
For myself, I possess considerable doubt that these wild and primitive 'blue goblins' have any connection to the magnificent and noble race of Snow Elves.
Perhaps there might be some hereditary connection and Rieklings actually might be bewildered descendants of the Snow Elves, but even so they would necessarily be dark and distant relations.
It is more than obvious that these primitive savages do not bear any sign of possessing the rich cultural heritage of their hypothetical ancestors.
This theory again gives no explanation to the central question: What happened to the civilization of the Snow Elves, and where did all of their marvelous artifacts and architecture vanish?
My explanation, however, is far more simple and persuasive; it is just the one least pleasant to fellow archaeologists and to their hopes and expectations.
Time swallows everything, and so it swallows even the Snow Elves, however grandiose and spectacular their civilization might have been.
Unlike the Deep Elves of Morrowind, who disappeared suddenly at the peak of their civilization, and who left behind great fortresses and shrines for archaeologists to explore and rogues to loot, Snow Elves were supposedly extinguished by our ancestors, millennia ago.
Their cities were razed to the ground by our fathers; their settlements were covered by snow and ice; their bones were crushed into dust under the conquering boots of our armies; their finery and craft melted down to forge our weapons; and their shrines slowly brushed away by merciless wind.
There is nothing left for us to discover; nothing but these legends and fairy-tales.
It is surely no coincidence that nowadays we can still visit ancient ruins, which remain near our fathers’ citadels, but there is not even the slightest trace of the culture of their enemies, the Snow Elves. Perhaps what I have been taught at the college was right, and we Nords should not remember more of the past than is necessary for preserving the proud ideals we have of ourselves today.
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