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Type Settlement
Continent Tamriel
Province Skyrim
Hold Whiterun
Appears in Arena, Skyrim
Whiterun ca. 4E 201

Whiterun is one of the nine-major cities in the province of Skyrim,[1][2] serving as the capital of Whiterun Hold and its vast open tundra. It is found in the heart of Skyrim, and because of this, it is the center of trade across the province.[3] It has been described as the "Imperial City of Skyrim"[4] and its large palace have been compared to Cyrodilic castles.[5] But it has a rich and important history that dates back to the Five Hundred Companions and the mythical forge known as the Skyforge.[6] In the Dragon Language, the city is known as Ahrolsedovah, which means Hill-of-Dragon.[7]

Layout & Geography[edit]

Whiterun is found between the White River Gorge and the grassy tundra of Whiterun Hold, which is considered prime hunting grounds in the hold. Along the eastern road is the Ritual Stone, which overlooks the farmlands that are built around the city walls.[5] The city is built on a strategic location, anchoring the hold to the east, on a crossroad that runs along the White River and also goes west towards the Reach. Around these crossroads and outside the city walls are several farms and the Honningbrew Meadery. Small watchtowers surround Whiterun's outskirts, serving as the city's first stage of defense. Its second line of defense is its high stone walls, built with wooden spikes and towers.

The city is separated into three districts, based on the elevation towards its seat of power, Dragonsreach. The Plains District is Whiterun's main street, riddled with open-aired marketplaces and merchants. The Winds District is the city's residential district, as well as containing some of Whiterun's most notable landmarks. Not only do the clan halls of the Battle-Born and Gray-Mane families can be found here, but the well-known Temple of Kynareth, the sacred Gildergreen, the Companions mead hall, known as Jorrvaskr, and the city's statue of Talos. The Clouds District is Whiterun's highest point. Not many people get to the Clouds District very often, as it is exclusively the home of the Jarl of Whiterun and his castle, Dragonsreach.[8] Whiterun is neighbored by several settlements, including Black Moor to the west, Laintar Dale to the northeast, Nimalten City to the southeast, and Riverwood to the south.[1]


Early History[edit]

The Skyforge

Whiterun's founding dates back to the late Merethic Era, during the years of Ysgramor and his Five Hundred Companions. Since they landed on Mereth, the Atmorans traveled across their newfound land, to pave their destiny. The Circle of Captains took their crews and explored each corner of the land. The first to disembark Ysgramor's grand fleet was Jeek of the River and his companions of the Jorrvaskr. They moved south into the modern-day tundra in central Skyrim where the crew member, Jonder the Tiny discovered a mysterious monument with a bird figurehead lit by fire. With no elven settlement in sight, the Jorrvaskr descended from the mountains, coming to the conclusion that this monument was older than the elves, driving magic older than Nirn. The crew of Jorrvaskr settled next to the Skyforge and turned their old ship into a mead hall. The newly-founded settlement, built from exported Atmoran wood, earned its name because it circles the running of the White River.[6] Like many other Nordic mead halls, a thriving community was built around Jorrvaskr and it eventually became the modern-day city and Jarldom.[9] The ancient Nordic families, the Battle-Born and Gray-Mane clans date their ancestry to this point in time. In the settlement's earliest years, the Gildergreen was planted in what later became Whiterun's Wind District. It garnered the attention of pilgrims of Kynareth, who eventually built the temple that watches over the tree to this day.[10]

For an unspecified amount of time, sometime after the fall of the Dragon Cult but contemporary with the Reachmen, Whiterun was ruled by Jarl Gjalund. At this point, the settlement had become a city and the seat of power for an entire Nordic hold. The territory was much larger than it currently is, encompassing the fort-town of Korvanjund (currently in The Pale), the wooden hall of H'roldan, (currently in The Reach), and the former capital of the Dragon Cult, Bromjunaar (currently in Hjaalmarch).[7]

Kingdom of Whiterun & Western Skyrim[edit]

Dragonsreach Hall

With the death of High King Borgas in 1E 369, Skyrim had fallen into a conflict known as the War of Succession. The Jarls of the province fought each other for ultimate supremacy, resulting in the spiral decline of the First Empire of the Nords and its territories. All the while, the Dragon, Numinex wreaked havoc across the province, taking advantage of the battles and the mistrust between the Jarls. However, it took one Jarl, Olaf One-Eye of Whiterun to defeat the Dragon. The story regarding Olaf's victory is dubious and was doubted at the time, prominently by the bard, Svaknir. Regardless, the people of Whiterun were impressed by Jarl Olaf's victory and capture of the Dragon that they built a large palace known as Dragonsreach. His reputation across Skyrim made him into the High King of Skyrim, ending the war in 1E 420. The Pact of Chieftains was created afterward, where a Moot was only conducted when a King dies without heirs.[11][12] However, when Olaf One-Eye died without heirs, the Moot constructed the Crown of Verity, which would properly determine a new heir.[13]

Jarl Morryn

Many years later in 2E 431, High King Logrolf was assassinated. By right of heritage, Jarl Freydis of Windhelm was named the High Queen of Skyrim, and the Crown of Verity had chosen her for the role. However, Jarl Svartr of Solitude claimed that she was an illegitimate heir and that a Moot was needed to determine a proper heir. In the end, the Moot chose Jarl Svartr as the High King, thus causing a schism in Skyrim. The east followed High Queen Freydis while the west followed High King Svartr. This schism created two distinct kingdoms based on east and west. Whiterun and its territories were absorbed into the West Kingdom of Skyrim.[13][14]

In 2E 577, the city of Whiterun underwent a state of panic and hysteria when it was harassed by crazed outsiders and howling wolves in the night, which preceded several disappearances. The situation became worse when a Battle-Born clansmen was found naked, covered in blood, and surrounded by dead livestock at the Gray-Mane's estate grounds. A feud ensued and almost brought about accusations of lycanthropy, and even an execution, that was until an unknown figure came and resolved the situation. Not long afterward, the Jarl of Whiterun and his court alchemist vanished, leading some people to suspect that they co-conspired against the families. The newly-named Jarl, Morryn then named the court alchemist, Arkasis, an enemy of the highest regard. It is theorized by the "Chronicler-at-Large," Adandora, that the mysterious person that solved the case was the real-world Investigator Vale and that the story was reworked into the adventure novel subtitled, the Hounds of Black Moor.[15]

Whiterun in the Third Era[edit]

During the Imperial Simulacrum in the late Third Era, the city-state of Whiterun was an active settlement. It was ruled by King Asgis and it had a rivalry with Dawnstar and Falcrenth.[16] By the waning years of the Third Era, in 3E 432, Whiterun was ruled by Witch-Queen Jsashe, a self-proclaimed priestess of Lorkhan with vast control over the county. However, the city was greatly suffering during this time, along with its neighbor, Hrothgar. Ranging from dynastic feuds, bandit raids from the Hörme, and a brutal winter among other things. The Witch-Queen's magic did not bring prosperity to the County of Whiterun.[4]

Whiterun during the Skyrim Civil War[edit]

The Gildergreen ca. 4E 201

During the Skyrim Civil War in 4E 201, Whiterun was ruled by Jarl Balgruuf the Greater, who was the only Jarl to be neutral in the conflict. However, Whiterun played a much more significant role in the concurrent Dragon Crisis. After escaping the destruction of Helgen, the Last Dragonborn arrived in Whiterun and appeared before the Jarl and his court, to inform them of these events and that Riverwood was in need of protection. The Jarl sent a battalion of his guardsmen to protect the town[17] and later enlisted the Dragonborn for later endeavors related to the Dragons. After acquiring the Dragonstone,[18] the Last Dragonborn and the Jarl's Guard were sent to the Western Watchtower to fight a Dragon that had appeared from the mountains. The Last Dragonborn was able to defeat Mirmulnir and learn that they were indeed Dragonborn.[19]

Ever since, the Dragonborn had ventured across Skyrim, meeting both the Greybeards of High Hrothgar and the long-exiled Blades. It was revealed that Dragons were returning because the World-Eater, Alduin had returned, enacting the prophecy that called for the end of the world. After a dynamic battle at the summit of the Throat of the World, Alduin fled to the eastern mountains, to the ancient temple of Skuldafn, where he would devour the wandering souls of Sovngarde. But in order to gain access to Skuldafn, the Dragonborn needed to capture one of Alduin's soldiers, and by using the Dragonsreach of Whiterun. The Dragonborn confronted the Jarl of Whiterun to enact his plan. Details of this encounter are clouded. It is believed that because of the ever-present civil war, the Jarl agreed to do so when the civil war ended in a temporary truce, but it is unknown whether that was the case.[nb 1] Regardless, the Dragonborn trapped the Dragon Odahviing in Dragonsreach, and used his flight to infiltrate Skuldafn and defeat Alduin.[20]

For the first time in many years, contemporary with the Civil War, the Gildergreen was dying after being struck by lightning, disappointing the regular pilgrims that come to Whiterun and praise the tree. The priestess, Danica Pure-Spring tended to the Gildergreen but needed the essence of its parent tree, the Eldergleam to restore it. Danica enlisted the help of a wandering traveler to sample the tree. She sends the warrior to acquire the Nettlebane, an accursed dagger that can cut ancient flora. Returning with the dagger, the traveler was confronted by a pilgrim of Kynareth, who told them that instead of fixing the Gildergreen, they could plant a sapling. It is unknown which choice the traveler went with, but regardless, the Gildergreen was restored, fixing itself as time passed.[21]



  • ^  It is possible to have either Balgruuf the Greater or Vignar Gray-Mane in the summit for the Season Unending quest, or not have the quest at all and with either of the Jarls. So it is best to leave it unclear as it can go any of these ways.
  • Arena was originally conceived as a fighting game featuring a tournament that took the player to each of Tamriel's cities to challenge different gladiatorial teams. According to a file from that stage of development left behind in the final game, Whiterun's gladiatorial team would have been called "the Devastators".[UOL 1]

See Also[edit]

  • For game-specific information, see the Arena and Skyrim articles.



  1. ^ a b Map of Skyrim — The Elder Scrolls: Arena
  2. ^ Map of Skyrim — The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  3. ^ Whiterun Loading Screen in Skyrim
  4. ^ a b Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Throat of the World: SkyrimImperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
  5. ^ a b An Explorer's Guide to SkyrimMarcius Carvain, Viscount Bruma
  6. ^ a b Songs of the Return, Vol 7
  7. ^ a b Holdings of Jarl GjalundSlafknir the Scribe
  8. ^ A Gentleman's Guide to WhiterunMikael the Bard
  9. ^ Proventus Avenicci's dialogue in Skyrim
  10. ^ Danica Pure-Spring's dialogue in Skyrim
  11. ^ Olaf and the DragonAdonato Leotelli
  12. ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: SkyrimImperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
  13. ^ a b The Crown of FreydisTaleon Mythmaker
  14. ^ ESO-RP Interviews Phrastus of Elinhir — The Imperial Library
  15. ^ Meet the Character - ArkasisAdandora, Chronicler-at-Large
  16. ^ Whiterun location and rumors in Arena
  17. ^ Before the Storm quest in Skyrim
  18. ^ Bleak Falls Barrow quest in Skyrim
  19. ^ Dragon Rising quest in Skyrim
  20. ^ Season Unending quest in Skyrim
  21. ^ The Blessings of Nature quest in Skyrim

Note: the following references are not from official sources. They are included to provide a rounder background to this article, but may not reflect established lore.

  1. ^ Original TES: Arena texts at the Imperial Library