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The Greybeards, an ancient and honored order of monks, live in silence at the ancient monastery High Hrothgar near the summit of the Throat of the World. They are the most famous of the Tongues, or masters of the Voice. Jurgen Windcaller founded the order in response to the Nord army's defeat at the Battle of Red Mountain. After the battle, he meditated for approximately seven years, and arrived at the conclusion that the power of the Voice should be used primarily as a means of attaining enlightenment, rather than a tool of war. Jurgen called his new philosophy the Way of the Voice, and preached a lifestyle of meditative study of the Voice which the Greybeards carry on to this day. As part of the Main Quest, the player must learn the Way of the Voice from the Greybeards.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, the Greybeards are not, strictly speaking, pacifists; the Way of the Voice teaches only that violence is the least of the Voice's uses, and it should be used for that purpose only in times of "True Need". The coming of a Dragonborn is considered such a time, and so the violent use of the Voice by a Dragonborn can be "overlooked", though the other followers of the Way are expected to remain peaceful. While the Greybeards apparently accept almost all who show a talent for the Voice, few can handle the demands of their lifestyle; renowned figures such as Ulfric Stormcloak have either failed to develop their skills or failed to live by the Way. Paarthurnax, the Grand Master of the order, made his home alone above High Hrothgar, at the summit of the Throat of the World.
For more information, see the main lore article.
Greybeards in Skyrim
At High Hrothgar, you will find four Greybeard Elders living in the secluded mountain refuge: Arngeir, Borri, Wulfgar, and Einarth. Arngeir, the eldest and most powerful, is the only elder who speaks more than a few words to you, explaining that the others are so powerful that if they were to utter more than a whisper, the force of their thu'um would destroy you. Arngeir may only speak because of his extensive training and age. Thus, the Greybeards spend most of their time in silence, which is only broken to revere the gods with Unrelenting Force and Clear Skies shouts directed at the sky.
After a series of trials, Arngeir and the Greybeards proclaim you Dragonborn, and will begin to teach you to master your Voice. Once The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller is complete, the Greybeards will officially welcome you and open all of High Hrothgar's items to you. After the quest Alduin's Wall, they refer you to the grandmaster of their order, who lives atop the summit of the mountain. The grandmaster is, in fact, an ancient dragon named Paarthurnax, who is willing to aid you in defeating Alduin. The Greybeards stand in opposition to the Blades, whom they view as intolerant barbarians. If you side with the Blades following the Main Quest, the Greybeards will become borderline hostile towards you and refuse to help you find any more Words of Power.
- If you try to talk to another Greybeard besides Arngeir, their answer depends on your advancement in the main quest:
- If you manage to enter High Hrothgar before they call you during Dragon Rising (by scaling the mountain and entering through the back door), they will simply give a neutral Hrm sound for an answer.
- After starting The Way of the Voice, they will switch to a different, more welcoming Hrm sound. The first time they do this, Arngeir may explain that they do not speak.
- After finishing The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, the ground will shake and rumble as they whisper "Dovahkiin". This happens after the Greybeards have acknowledged you as Dovahkiin in a formal ceremony.
- If you kill Paarthurnax, they will switch back to the second Hrm sound.
- If attacked, all of the Greybeards use the Ice Form and Fire Breath shouts in retaliation.
- The Greybeards do not attack a Stage 4 Vampire.
- The Way of the Voice: Meet the Greybeards.
- The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller: Retrieve a Greybeard artifact from Ustengrav.
- The Throat of the World: Receive a lesson from Paarthurnax.
- Season Unending: Enforce a ceasefire to secure Dragonsreach.
- Paarthurnax: Deal with a potential threat.