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Developer Emeritus
06 Feb 2005

An Overview of Folk-Hero Cyrus the Restless

Cyrus the Restless is the Maverick Sword of the Crown, Hero of Hammerfell, and, some say, a saint or even god of his own right. Cyrus poses a bizarre though not unique difficulty for biographers: the issue in his case is not a lack of sources, but an abundance of them. The problem arises that these sources are almost always conflicting, and further, it is difficult to discount most texts, as almost all of them have been dated to the first century of the third era, and even to Cyrus' own lifetime. In short, nothing can be certain of this ubiquitous folk hero, and, despite his living rather recently, it seems fairly certain that we have exited the realm of biography and entered quite firmly into the adjacent domain of mythography. It is my humble opinion that the only comparable conundrum is the story of another man from the same period, whose path is said to cross our folk hero's in several instances; I am speaking, of course, of His Everliving Excellency the Emperor Tiber Septim.

The very existence of this character is often called into question by Eastern scholars. In keeping with the irony of the aforementioned difficulty, the evidence primarily rests on the impossibility of the character to be all things he is said to be at once. I think this misses the point. To the Redguard, the existence of Sura (as they call him in Yoku) is obvious and they are as perplexed with such refutation as these scholars are with Cyrus himself. To quote one elderly fisherman, "Do you see the sky? Do you doubt it exists because it is sometimes blue or red or black?"

It is generally agreed in jest that Cyrus was born in whatever city the storyteller identifies with most. A vendor in Gilane will swear that his second cousin lives in the same house that Cyrus was born in, while the annals of the Elinhir temples record that in his youth he was incredibly pious and attended prayer almost daily. The most plausible and attested version of his origin is that he was the son of Cambyses (known also by his Yoku name, Kambuja), a successful but forgotten playwright of Sentinel. It is clear that Cambyses had two children, a daughter named Isrea and a son named Cyrus, and there is much discussion by the diarists and letter writers of the day about the scandal between this Cyrus and his brother-in-law while he was in his late teens, which fits with the most cited reason for the hero Cyrus to leave his home at about the same age.

The adventures of Cyrus the Restless are uncountable and impossible to assemble into a single chronology. Ignoring the fact that several take place during events that occurred simultaneously, it would take nearly a century to complete every adventure Cyrus is said to have had. The only ubiquitous element is that he was a mercenary primarily in the service of S'Rathra, the "Fat Cat of Wayrest," a prominent crime boss whose place in High Rock politics was as significant as that of any local king. How he entered S'Rathra's service, however, is less clear. Perhaps he came on foot to Wayrest, crossing the river Bjoulsae without a boat, or perhaps he was brought into S'Rathra's fold by a pirate he had met in Sentinel, a Nord or a Dark Elf or an Argonian.

The most famous of Cyrus' exploits is indubitably his involvement in the Second Battle of Stros M'kai (also called the League Insurrection by Tiberian absolutists), in which he is said to have led the Redguard rebellion and personally killed Lord Admiral Richton. However, this story does not stand up to the scrutiny of modern scholarship. Though there is an Iszara (the Yoku analog of Isrea, the name of Cyrus' sister) who is known to have been on the island at the time, and possibly to have been associated with Basil and the Restless League, she cannot be connected to Isrea the daughter of Cambyses, who is noted as having died in a plague several years earlier. Further, there is no record of Cyrus himself outside the popular story, which itself can only be dated to about a decade after the fact. Regardless, Richton perished in a tragic accident that destroyed his airship, he was not killed by the blade. Despite the obvious falsehood of Cyrus' exploits at Stros M'kai, they remain a popular source of storytelling among Redguards.

After the battle of Stros M'kai, Cyrus' feats seem to grow progressively more bizarre and magnificent. He traveled to the ruined continent of Yokuda, defeating the mysterious Tribune, Vivec, in the process. His alleged appearance in Tiber's court had enormous though thoroughly fictional consequences, and his adventures in the former Aldmeri Dominion find him King of the Imga and almost spells disaster for the Altmer monument known as the Crystal Tower. This is not even mentioning the debacle with the Eye of Argonia, which was a disaster of unrivaled magnitude. Finally, though, Cyrus must die, as all folk heroes do. Not surprisingly, there are serious disagreements on how exactly Cyrus ended his life, but all twenty or so variations on his demise are glamorous and majestic, which seems to fit him well.

However, there is also the proposition that Cyrus was himself a god, or a manifestation of a god. This is patently absurd of course, and based most likely on the Yoku inability to distinguish between the concept of "god" and "saint." They have one word for both, usayei, which philologists have said means little more than "very great ancestor." Generally, Cyrus is incorporated into their story of the HoonDing, itself an amalgamation of the ancient hero Frandir and the Nordic stories of Shor. This, at least, can be chalked up to superstition and the rather simplistic theology of Redguard religion.

Whoever Cyrus was in reality, he has been immortalized as a modern symbol of Redguard spirit and ingenuity. He the sort of character with whom all the Redguard can identify, representing the best of their culture. He is an outsider to every event who achieves his personal goal through a combination of skill, intelligence, and quick thinking, while unwittingly leaving the lives of the other actors gravely changed. His appeal transcends political and social division: his father is a wealthy Crown whose plays were acclaimed by Forebears and Crowns alike, and he himself is a mercenary, unconcerned with politics, despite the importance he sometimes plays in the development of political events. It does not matter if Cyrus was real, or which of his stories are true (as one writer put it, none are true in their entirety), Cyrus acts as a surrogate for the Redguard reader, he represents their ambitions and their vision of themselves. To them, this is all that matters.

This is not my life
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Developer Emeritus
16 Feb 2006

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