Argonians (Saxhleel, or People of the Root in their native language of Jel) are the reptilian natives of Black Marsh, a vast swampland province in southeastern Tamriel. The other races often refer to them as "lizards" or the "Lizard Folk" instead, especially when meaning to be derogatory. They are known as the foremost experts in guerrilla warfare throughout Tamriel, a reputation brought upon them by defending their borders from enemies for countless centuries. Argonians have a lifespan similar to that of humans. According to the First Era Scholar Brendan the Persistent, "[t]he Argonian people have, throughout Tamrielic history, been perhaps the most misunderstood, vilified, and reviled of all the sentient races. Yet, those who have taken the time to experience Argonian culture have gained a greater appreciation for this noble and beautiful people." However, it should be noted that he himself went missing in his final expedition into the deeper swamps of their homeland.
- 1 History
- 2 Society
- 3 Tribes
- 4 Gallery
- 5 See Also
- 6 References
Long ago, Argonians lived in giant stone ziggurats that extended all across Black Marsh and, according to some, even southern Morrowind. These Argonians were capable of great feats, creating magical defenses that remained both functional and effective well into the Second Era. These Argonians both feared and worshiped Sithis, thinking of him only as a force of destruction that required sacrificial rituals to appease. Modern Argonians consider both the construction of the stone Xanmeers and this fearful devotion to Sithis as a result of a flawed belief system, as it only saw Sithis as a destroyer and not a creator as well.
Exactly when and how this ancient society collapsed is unknown, but they were already living in established preliterate tribal communities around the time the Aldmer first began exploring Tamriel. The ancient Argonians were swiftly displaced by the more technologically and magically advanced Elder Folk, and were driven back into the swamps of their homeland. Black Marsh in those times was inhabited by a multitude of races, from the diverse Kothringi tribes to the Cantemiric Velothi (and much later, the Barsaebic Ayleids) to the vulpine Lilmothiit, and they held the Lizard Folk in an almost myth-like sense. For some they were wandering curiosities, for others they were heroes that nobly saved non-reptilian inhabitants from horrors of the marsh, and for others still they were terrifying savages.
Argonians only occasionally left their homeland during the early years of the First Era, although there are accounts of certain individuals of the race being found in other parts of Tamriel during that time. According to a Saxhleel ghost encountered in Stonefalls in 2E 582, the ancient Chimer utilized the Lizard Folk as slaves centuries before their descendants the Dunmer would do the same. Exactly when and why the Chimeri practice ended is unknown, but the Dark Elves and even the Saxhleel themselves seemed to have forgotten it ever occurred.
The races' standard contempt for outside peoples originated in the latter years of the Alessian Empire, when pirates and other criminals often exploited Black Marsh's treacherous landscape to evade Imperial Law. The entirety of the eastern coastline of the Topal Bay was infamous for piracy, and in 1E 1033 Empress Hestra ordered for the head of "Red Bramman" (the most notorious of these criminals) to be brought to her in order to end the bandit activity. The Imperial Navy was forced to enter Argonia through the Bay and traveled deeper into the swamps than anyone else had before, and finally beheaded the redheaded pirate-king in his bandit kingdom near the modern city of Blackrose. The pillaging and slavery Bramman introduced into the Marsh made Argonians resentful towards the races of men, and their resistance to the continued use of the old pirate routes led to decreased exploration as the First Empire's influence waned.
Despite this bitterness, the Argonians still allied with and aided the Empire when the deadly Thrassian Plague ravaged Tamriel in 1E 2200. Argonian freebooters joined alongside Redguard corsairs, Colovian galleys, Breton warships, and even Aldmeri cutters in the All Flags Navy – the greatest allied naval force in Tamriel history – to enact revenge against the Sload, a species hated by all the races of Tamriel. The Tamrielics succeeded in their mission, sinking Thras to the bottom of the Sea of Pearls (although it would later rise again), but a great number of their ships were unfortunately pulled into Coldharbour by a magical whirlpool.
While the Saxhleel were never conquered by the Alessian Empire, the Reman Dynasty of Emperors on the other hand took great interest in incorporating it as a province during their reign. In 1E 2811 the last army of the Lizard Folk was defeated by the armies of Cyrodiil, but Black Marsh itself continued to lay largely outside of Imperial control. When Reman II ascended to the Ruby Throne, the unconquered territories of Morrowind and Black Marsh weighed heavily on his mind. He rashly decided to conquer Argonia in the year 2830, and nearly lost as many men from the swamps as he did from the Argonians that resisted him. He eventually managed to gain control of the northern and eastern sections of the territory, and declared those parts the Imperial Province of Black Marsh in 1E 2837. The Argonians' homeland would go on to become a sort of prison state (specifically the city of Blackrose), a place where criminals not trusted in conventional dungeons could be relocated.
After the assassination of Reman III and his only heir Juilek, the Akaviri Potentate declared the beginning of the Second Era. The Argonians saw their chance and forcibly left the crumbling Reman Dynasty, becoming a self-governed territory once again.
Unfortunately, after the Argonians left the Empire the Dunmer of Morrowind once again turned their gaze towards the south and saw a swampy land ripe with potential slaves. For thousands of years before 2E 582, the Dunmer had raided the land for slave labor, and in the process picked up and took with them anything else that was portable and might be valuable, including livestock. Entire tribes were dragged off in chains to Stonefalls, Vvardenfell, and the Deshaan. The Dunmeri Great House Dres had been cemented as a Great House in times long past when its progenitor Thalthil Dres conducted a slave-raid on the city of Thorn, becoming the primary providers for the slave trade in their homeland. While the Dark Elves saw the enslavement of the Argonians as a great uplifting and betterment for the race in general, the Lizard Folk themselves detested their so-called masters and fought with them constantly.
The Argonians are often considered to be the creators of the deadly Knahaten Flu in 2E 560, which originated in the city of Stormhold and then spread throughout Tamriel like wildfire. This claim has never been proven, but since the Argonians proved to be immune to the contagion the other races quickly came to believe that one of their shamans manipulated their Hist trees into creating it in retaliation for the constant oppression of their people by the other races (specifically the Dunmer). The Flu soured Tamrielic opinion on Argonians, who were thought to be carriers of the disease, and the Dunmer soon found their most numerous vassals being constantly turned down by others.
Perhaps the greatest – and most surprising – historical event the Argonians took part in during the Second Era was the Liberation War (better remembered as the Second Akaviri Invasion). In 2E 572, a strong Akaviri force led by Ada'Soom Dir-Kamal attacked Windhelm in Eastern Skyrim, killing Queen Mabjaarn Flame-Hair and Princess Nurnhilde. Leaving the ruined city behind, the eastern army continued on their way to Riften but found it heavily fortified by the Nords, who were led by Jorunn the Skald-King and Wulfharth the Ash-King (who was called back to Nirn from Sovngarde by the Greybeards). The invaders decided to bypass the Nordic city and entered Morrowind instead, where the Dunmeri army led by Almalexia fought against them but were forced to retreat into Stonefalls (although it is rumored that Mother Morrowind and the Skald-Prince collaborated with one another to set this up despite their races' ancient enmity). With their backs towards the Inner Sea, the Akaviri fought viciously against the combined Nord-Dunmer force, but with the rest of the Akaviri fleet on the horizon it seemed that the Tamrielics would be overrun and slaughtered.
Sometime prior to the initial invasion, an Argonian slave girl named Heita-Meen escaped from the Dres plantation she was being forced to work upon alongside several of her compatriots, but was captured by the Dunmer-aligned Archein tribe and taken back to their village. While being held there she received a vision from their Hist tree, one showing the Nords and Dunmer dying at the hands of the Akaviri. She saw an opportunity in this, and when taken back to Thorn she killed her Slavemaster and by way of duel took control of the Archein guards. She headed to Stormhold, where she was able to gain the support of the majority of the Shellbacks there, and then made haste to aid the Dunmer and Nords in Stonefalls. At first, the Dark Elves were alarmed to see a force of armed slaves heading towards them; some even attacked the Argonians out of fear. However, the three races were able to get over their mutual hatred and resoundingly drove the invaders into the Sea to drown. At that moment the Ebonheart Pact was born and would continue to exist all the way up to the Planemeld ten years later in 2E 582. Unlike the other three factions in the Alliance War, the Ebonheart Pact focused largely on wiping away the rashness of Imperial rule as well as ending mortal scheming with higher powers from beyond Nirn.
As a show of thanks for the timely intervention of the Argonians, the Dunmer formally ended the enslavement of Lizard Folk (but the practice of enslaving itself did not end). However, some Dunmer (notably House Telvanni) refused to accept these terms and therefore withdrew from the Pact. Likewise, many Argonians felt that the Dunmer deserved retribution for their crimes and only the regions of Shadowfen, Thornmarsh, and Murkmire in Black Marsh joined the Ebonheart Pact. Some Argonians left their homeland entirely and settled in other provinces. Eventually, the Great Moot that ruled over Morrowind, Black Marsh, and Skyrim consolidated their provinces into a single nation. During the Three Banners War, an anomaly known as the Mnemic Egg came to the attention of the Pact's leaders. The Mnemic Egg is a powerful artifact that is the physical manifestation of the Argonian-Hist link, and if severed can prove fatal to both. The Egg fell into the interests of the First Aldmeri Dominion, who attempted to use the Mnemic Egg to sever the link between the Argonians and the Hist, but were thwarted by the Vestige.
It is unknown what became of the Ebonheart Pact, but by the time of the Tiber Wars it was no longer existent and the Argonians were once again the sole authority in Black Marsh. Saxhleel slavery was also revitalized by the Dunmer at some point, and despite the fear of the Knahaten Flu House Dres continued sending slavers into the north of Black Marsh. It is said that even Tiber Septim himself thought twice before attacking Black Marsh in his conquests, and it is implied in A Short History of Morrowind that the Argonian homeland was acquired by treaty instead. Despite this, the borders of their province fell quite easily to his forces and he avoided much loss by neglecting to attack the almost impenetrable inner swamps. The Argonian homeland was assimilated into Tiber's growing Empire sometime after the First Treaty of Stros M'Kai.
During the Third Empire, the homeland of the Argonians continued to function mostly as a prison state, and the Emperors were content with holding onto the strategic regions on the coastline instead of annexing the heart of Black Marsh, which remained outside of Imperial governance.
In 3E 396, during the Imperial Simulacrum, a slave revolt escalated into the Arnesian War with Black Marsh being defeated by Morrowind, which took a significant amount of territory (and undoubtedly many new slaves) when the Argonians lost. Although the enslavement of any civilized race was illegal in the rest of the Empire, the Dark Elves were allowed to continue the practice due to the favorable conditions of the Armistice under which Morrowind joined the Septim Dynasty, which allowed the Dunmer to follow their ancient traditions and maintain great autonomy in their domestic affairs. King Helseth eventually abolished slavery in Morrowind for a wide variety of reasons. With the abolition of slavery, the Argonians' relationship with the Dunmer vastly improved, although violent attempts to reclaim the lands stolen from them during the Arnesian War continued.
While Imperial governors ruled over the coastal cities in the province, many of them had Argonian advisors from the Archein tribe. The Archeins, in turn, ruled over the rural areas that made up most of Black Marsh. Beyond the reach of the Emperor, there was little to no governance in the innermost swamps, and it was unknown if the inhabitants of those areas even recognized Imperial rule.
When Mehrunes Dagon attempted to invade Tamriel during the Oblivion Crisis in 3E 433, the Hist trees foresaw his coming and called the majority of Argonians back to defend their homeland. The Argonians were altered by the Hist in order to combat the Daedra, becoming faster, stronger, and able to endure harsher punishment. When the Oblivion Gates were opened in Black Marsh, the Lizard Folk charged into them so viciously that the Daedra themselves were forced to close them in order to avoid being overrun; because of this, the Argonians emerged from the Oblivion Crisis more united and stronger than ever before compared to the other Tamrielic races devastated by Dagon's plot.
The Argonians were among the first of the races to secede from the weakening Empire, alongside the Khajiit of Elsweyr. Shortly after the eruption of Red Mountain devastated Vvardenfell, the Thalmor encouraged the Argonians to attack their Dark Elven enemies to the north in what became known as the Argonian Invasion. They had early success in invading southern Morrowind, sacking many cities (including Mournhold) as they made it as far as Red Mountain. However, the Argonians were eventually repelled by the army of House Redoran, which successfully stopped them from invading the rest of Morrowind. The Thalmor's influence over the Argonians then ended with the invasion. The status of the lands invaded by the Argonians remain ambiguous.
Sometime in the early Fourth Era the Lizard Folk came to be governed by a political party known as the An-Xileel, whose views were completely nationalistic. In 4E 43, by invoking the rogue Hist tree of Lilmoth into contacting its 'cousins' the Um-Hist, the An-Xileel were able to summon the floating city of Umbriel from Clavicus Vile's realm in Oblivion in order to exterminate all foreign taint in Black Marsh. The city did this for them but soon began its own agenda after the An-Xileel lost control over it. Umbriel started on a northwestern path towards White-Gold Tower in the Imperial City, moving through Black Marsh and Morrowind in the process; those slain by the floating city were resurrected as an invincible undead horde to aid the city's dark goal. It was through the efforts of the Breton girl Annaïg Hoïnart, an Argonian named Mere-Glim, Prince Attrebus Mede and the Dunmer mage Sul (along with a few others) that Umbriel was finally destroyed and its threat to Tamriel eliminated.
Saxhleel history has remained largely quiet for the rest of the current era. In 4E 150, a small force of Argonian raiders landed on Solstheim to stir up trouble but were repelled by the Redoran of Raven Rock. By 4E 201, a document discussing the government of Skyrim mentioned an Argonian King, bringing up the question of the survival of the An-Xileel after the events of the Umbriel Crisis. A Thieves Guild member also complained about Argonian patrols in southern Morrowind, implying the Lizard Folk have indeed begun some form of governance of those conquered areas. However, it is also quite possible that the Guild member was exaggerating, referring to the border or simply mistaken, as it appears the Dunmer reclaimed at least part of the invaded regions during or after the initial invasion. The city of Mournhold was sacked during the Invasion, but was back under Dunmer control and renovation by 4E 201.
Most, if not all Argonian tribes revere and build their lives around a Hist tree. They ingest its sap during rituals, lay their eggs among its roots, and often live according to the Hist's will. Tribes that build their lives around a Hist often do so literally, as they construct their settlements around the Hist. The Hist guides them, and its people serve it in kind.
Argonian leaders known as tree-minders tend to the tribe's Hist and seek its wisdom through communication with the tree. On rare occasions, the Hist may speak directly with an individual, though most tree-minders can interpret signs sent by the Hist. Tree-minders can feel when something is wrong with their Tree. Occasionally, that something may be physically harming the Hist, such as sapthief beetles, but other times, it can be something deeper. If something is wrong with the eggs in the uxith or the Tree is sensing some other issue with members of the tribe, the tree-minder will feel it. The tree-minder interprets the Hist's will so the tribe may carry it out.
Some tribes possess a sap-speaker, who is a direct intermediary with the Hist. The sap-speaker will spend days or weeks at a time among the roots and canopy of the Hist; ingesting sap, eating the otherwise forbidden fruit of the tree, and using many hours of the day to indulge in solitary contemplation. The sap-speaker emerges from their solitude with the knowledge they've acquired from the Hist during their long bouts of study. Argonians hatched in places outside Black Marsh cannot hear the Hist. These individuals are referred to as "lukiul", or assimilated people. An Argonian born as a slave on Vvardenfell would be considered lukiul, and would have no connection to a Hist. Marsh-born Argonians are capable of wielding Hist-magic, which doesn't operate on the same rules as conventional spellcraft.
Many tribes have an individual known as a root-herald, who works to protect their tribe's interests. While some tribesmen hunt for wamasu, the root-herald hunts for information and fruitful relationships. They foster relationships that benefit their tribe, such as negotiating trade agreements. They also gather information from townsfolk and associates, such as stories and rumors from outside the tribe. Some outsiders may liken their behavior to that of a spy, but such a concept is foreign to the Saxhleel. A root-herald cannot serve their tribe without gathering stories and rumors. Their purpose lies not in subterfuge or espionage. Rather, the root-herald's purpose is closer to that of an ambassador, or someone who brings in news to the tribe from the outside world.
When an Argonian dies, their corpse is laid to rest in the marsh, sometimes at the roots of the Hist. A xul-vaat, or grave-stake, is used to pin the corpse into the ground so it doesn't rise as an undead bog blight. Grave-stakes don't just prevent the corpses from floating to the surface of the bog. The deceased's story is carved upon their stake. Tales of their victories and defeats, tales from childhood, names of friends, dreams, and nightmares—a grave-stake tells those who see it about the corpse it impales. Each stake planted into the mud tells a story, some as old as the marsh itself. When death arrives to a tribe, the tribe's grave-singer is called upon to tend the corpse and stake it. The grave-singer is tasked with reading their tribe's stakes, and when someone dies, they sing the fallen one's final song. Grave-Singers care for the bodies of the fallen and deal with death, however it may appear to the tribe. The grave-singer of the Naga-Kur has an additional task: harvesting scales, skin, bones and other parts from the bodies of the fallen as needed, so the tribe can make weapons and armor. Sometimes, grave-stakes come loose, usually by being pulled from the mud by an unsuspecting or malicious individual. When this happens, a formerly staked corpse can rise from the dead as a bog blight. They are described as "dead-and-not-dead things that eat Nagas whole". They are dangerous in large numbers. Bog blights can be kept at bay with the use of pahnjees (or "fumers"), racks of oily, spoiled meat that mask a living person's scent from bog blights.
Appearance and Physiology
The Argonian allegory known as the Parable of Becoming states that the Hist found the humanoid forms of Men and Mer useful, molding the form of the swamp’s lizards after them to create Argonians. Some scholars believe that the Helstrom Ancestor Lizard is what Argonians were uplifted from. Adding to this theory, the Argonian Mere-Glim had a vision while on Umbriel. Within this vision, Mere-Glim experienced the life of a lizard every day until the root and the taste of Hist sap came, transforming both his body and mind. Similarly, theories exist that state that the Hist also mimicked the forms of the mounts of both Men and Mer, creating Lizard-Steeds for the purpose of being used by Argonians to ride long distances.
Argonians believe that their souls were given to them by the Hist – according to the Lizard Folk, there was nothing before the Hist. Because of this the souls of the Saxhleel contain unique qualities that sets them apart from the souls of Men and mer. Most Argonians are able to feel the presence of the Hist in their minds at all times, but the further they travel from Black Marsh the weaker the connection gets. Some Argonians can even be born without this connection, and are viewed by others of their kind as disadvantaged because they can't understand the most simple of Argonian gestures.
Although Argonians appear reptilian in nature at first glance, they also exhibit qualities of fish, amphibians, and even birds: they are able to breathe underwater through small gills behind their ears, swim using the same method as that of a tadpole or eel by moving their tail side-to-side to propel through the water, and are capable of growing feathers. Female Argonians additionally have what appear to be mammalian breasts, but at the same time are able to lay eggs. Ancient cave paintings depict figures which appear to be more tree-like than Argonian. Argonians' genders are sometimes referred to as life-phases. It is said that upon exiting the juvenile stage of life, an Argonian will lick Hist sap in order to stimulate the hormonal glands, which will cause them to sprout sexual organs. However, this is unconfirmed, and Argonian hatchlings may apparently be of any gender.
Argonian life begins with a clutch of eggs conceived by a mated pair. The tribes of Black Marsh all have their own customs for choosing mates. Some pick each other out of love or attraction, and some, like the Bright-Throat tribe, bond with members of other tribes to improve tribal relations. In any case, eggs are laid and transferred to an uxith (or "nest"), where they are tended to by midwives until they hatch. While the Argonians take care of their eggs, the Hist guides their development and determines what shape the hatchlings will take. The Bright-Throat tribe of Murkmire has egg-tenders who perform this task. On top of attending the needs of the eggs and discerning which ones are fertile and which ones are not destined to hatch, the tenders also read nursery rhymes and play the flute for their eggs. Those who tend the eggs beneath the Hist at the Hatching Pools in Shadowfen are known as the Keepers of the Shell. The Keepers keep meticulous record of every egg that enters the uxith; the pairs they were born to, how many hatchlings emerge, when the eggs hatch and which star signs the hatchlings are born under are just some of the things recorded in their logs. They perform the usual tasks one expects from one who tends and protects eggs, including monitoring the eggs and crushing biting bugs that may harm them. There are signs to look for in an unhealthy egg, including dry shells, lack of luster, thin membrane, and an empty shadow. If an Argonian egg is not destined to hatch, it returns to the Hist, sinking into the roots and fading away.
Unlike the children of other races, who must be constantly cared for by their parents in order to survive, Argonian hatchlings are born with the ability to walk. Hatchlings are fed licorice worms, and those who are teething are given pacifiers made of hardened Hist sap to chew. Argonians tickled under the chin will reflexively open their jaws.
Argonian appearances range from reptilian to almost human; this is caused by the Hist sap they ingest as hatchlings which ceremonially takes place on their Naming Day. An Argonians' appearance and physiology is almost solely determined by their Hist. This leads to some Argonian tribes differing widely in appearance from their neighbors. For example, the Bright-Throats of Murkmire have brightly colored scales of many hues. Their neighbors, the Naga-Kur, have dark, sometimes iridescent scales and red eyes. Additionally, the Naga-Kur Tribe consists of Naga, a subspecies of Argonian with elongated heads and large mouths. Though an Argonian can have ancestry from a wildly different tribe, they will always display the characteristics of the tribe that they were born into. A good example of this is the Ghost People tribe, known in Jel as the Veeshkleel. All Veeshkleel are impotent and cannot have children of their own, but by stealing eggs and hatching them under their own Hist Tree, all Veeshkleel display the same traits. Certain traits may fade the further an Argonian is from their respective Hist, though they will also come back once the Argonian returns to their Hist. Strange and reclusive Argonians that live in places away from sunlight, such as subterranean caverns, will lose the color of their scales and become pale. An Argonian can also ask their Hist Tree to change their gender, which is typically followed by a celebratory ceremony.
Though the Saxhleel seem to generally be cold-blooded, they can apparently regulate their body temperatures just as effectively as their mammalian counterparts. Thanks to this, they can be found wandering the cold environments of Solstheim and Skyrim without any negative repercussions. Some scholars believe this is possible because of the powerful magicks that lie within Hist sap, which the reptilian race ingests throughout their lives.
Art and Architecture
Long ago, the Lizard Folk built and lived in grandiose pyramid structures they referred to as xanmeers and had wayshrines dedicated to the stars. However, these were consequently abandoned for some unknown reason and the Saxhleel themselves can't remember life in those times. During the Second Era the Argonians of Shadowfen lived in huts made from mud, while those in Murkmire constructed settlements out of wood. Because of this alarming change, some scholars doubt that the xanmeers were even built by the Argonians, who in their opinion merely claimed ownership of them. Feathers, bright colors, and lizard hides decorate the majority of their buildings and works of art.
Modern Argonian architecture is shaped by the concept of conquering Shunatei, 'the pain caused by holding on too tightly to that which has come to pass', also described as the 'Fear of Death and Forgetting'. Argonians feel that building stone structures in the belief that they will endure the centuries is foolish, and point to the countless other ruins that dot other provinces as proof of the inevitability of their destruction. Because of this, they instead build structures that are intended to be temporary.
Argonians are said to be masters at the crafting of jewelry, which is sought after in many provinces. The Argonians also seemed to be the pioneers in the arts of alchemy, as their alchemists in Black Marsh have long held that the moon phases dictate the precise positioning of calcinators.
Argonian arms and armor differ between tribes, and designs have changed with the passage of time. Ancient Argonians from pre-Duskfall times used volcanic glass, elaborately layered cloth, leather, bone and bronze to arm and protect themselves. Their weapons and armor were often adorned with feathers, dyed yarns, jewels, bronze emblems, and gold. The use of metal is almost unheard of in many post-Duskfall aspects of Argonian craftsmanship. The Naga-Kur of Murkmire craft weapons and armor from the bodies of their deceased. Scales, hide and bones from their dead are fashioned to protect the living. Frills and spines from the deceased may serve as decoration, while bones often make up the handles and business-ends of Dead-Water weapons. The Xit-Xaht of Mazzatun crafted lightweight armor that relied on sturdy leather and bone to protect the flesh of the wearer. Armor and weapons were designed to allow the Xit-Xaht to move swiftly in the marsh and hit their targets hard. Layers of bone are constructed to deflect blows, though Mazzatun craftwork often leaves the midriff exposed. Plumes, avian and reptilian skulls, and the spiraling path sigil of the city of Mazzatun often adorn the Xit-Xaht's arms and armor, making them easily identifiable from other tribes. Argonian armor from the Shadowfen region, dated to the Second Era, often utilized bones, tortoise shell, shells and snakeskin to protect the wearer. Feathers, jagged teeth, turquoise, and jade often made up the adornments on crafted pieces, with spiral and geometric designs featuring prominently in ornamentation.
Medicine and Grooming
In Murkmire, pickled frogs eyes are used to settle a sour stomach. Some tribes consider them to be a delicacy. Argonians also have many products used for moisturizing scales and frills. Balm made from palm oil is used to keep spines healthy and moist. Herbal moisturizers intended for Argonian scales are known to irritate the skin of every other race.
"Much of the nuance of Argonian conversation blooms from heavy metaphor and subtle body movements." – Lights-the-Way, Mystic of the Mages Guild
Jel is the language of the Argonian people, and is unique among the other Tamrielic races by being unrelated to ancient Ehlnofex. It came from the Hist, the creators of the Argonian people. It also has no past tense or future tense verbs, only present tense. Aside from the purely verbal communication, Argonians also utilize body movements to express their attitude to the subject they're speaking about.
Except for the more deeply assimilated, the Argonians do not formally recognize or worship any type of Tamrielic deity. Some believe that they worship their creators, the Hist, although Argonians themselves state that they only perform rituals in their honor instead of fully worshipping them. The Argonians also revere Sithis, a being that even the Hist acknowledges. The Clutch of Nisswo is a group of priests dedicated to Sithis who wander across Murkmire to collect the 'many truths' of each tribe and share each tribes beliefs with other tribes. Z'en, the Bosmeri God of Toil, is thought to have originated in Argonian and Akaviri mythologies before being introduced to Valenwood by Kothringi sailors.
A religious practice Argonians share across many tribes involves entering the dream-wallow, which is said to be between the lines of a vision and reality, and is capable of physically manifesting objects into the physical world. The methods involved to enter the dream-wallow and what it consists of differ. It typically involves a a period of isolation and exposure to potent mind-altering herbs so the participant may see beyond the physical realm. The Bright-Throat Tribe enter the dream-wallow by ingesting deep sap, hist sap collected from deep within the ground. One Bright-Throat reported seeing in his vision a clam challenging him to a game of riddles, where all the words turned to orange mud, and in the end the clam was feasted on. The Naga-Kur inhale burning Starblossoms. Inside the dream-wallow, they face a kaju, a dream-beast chosen by their chief that must be killed unassisted. Tree-minders and naheesh dream-talkers are consulted for questions regarding the dream-wallow.
The Adzi-Kostleel tribe of Argonians believe that the world was created in a struggle between two spirits. Originally, there was Atak, the Great Root. As Atak grew, it's roots "formed new roots, and those roots took names, and they wanted space of their own to grow." Soon, it discovered the serpent spirit, Kota, who had been born from the Nothing and hungered. Atak and Kota fought and ate at each other until they became something new and indistinguishable, Atakota. They shed their skin and Shadow and went to sleep. The Shadow ate the roots and was changed by them, keeping them safe and telling them the secrets before releasing them instead of devouring them, letting itself sleep as well. The secrets changed the roots, making them realize they were now temporary and could change. Many of the spirits learned to fear this change, calling it Death. The chaos that ensued awoke Atakota and split them once more, leading to Atak and Kota and their roots going to war over the existence of Death. Some of the roots drank of Atakota's blood and sap until they grew scales, fangs, and wings. Other roots were protected by a Forest Spirit, singing with her and becoming one with the forest. In the chaos of the war, the Shadow awoke and ate both Atak and Kota, shedding the skin of Atakota and covering all of the roots, promising to keep them safe.
The Shadowscales are a longstanding monastic order of Argonian assassins that worship Sithis, the Void, and consists of Saxhleel born underneath the sign of The Shadow. According to some sources, the downfall of the ancient Argonians was because their 'scales were darkened' by the touch of Sithis. Shadowscales also serve as a type of law enforcement in Black Marsh, bringing down 'swamp law' on unruly foreigners and natives alike. They are offered at birth to the Dark Brotherhood, a guild of assassins that also follows Sithis, to be trained in stealth and assassination. A lone Shadowscale located in Skyrim stated that their order was no longer a fully functioning group by 4E 201.
Thoughts and Personality
Argonians possess the most alien personalities in all of Tamriel from a human or meric perspective and it is often assumed that the Lizard Folk possess neither personality nor emotions. Of course, this is not true; Argonians simply do not facially express their emotions as much as man and mer do, though anger is easily detectable from their bared teeth and narrowed eyes. Slow to trust and hard to know, Argonians are fiercely loyal and will fight to the death for those they have named as friends. Their allies have long-since learned that there is always a reason for everything they do. Argonian cultural practices include: wearing socks with pockets containing hot stones on their tails to keep them warm, allowing birds to pick their teeth clean after a meal, and filling their pillows with live centipedes for the pleasant wriggling sensation.
Something remarkable about the Argonian people is that their culture seems to exhibit a forgetfulness regarding the actions between tribes. For the Argonians, hating each other is to hate themselves because they are all people of the root. Therefore, it is "better to forget and move on". Because of this, the Saxhleel, like the Bosmer, prefer to live in the Aurbical Now – not dwelling on the past or the future, but simply the present. The concepts of "past" and "future" are foreign to them. They pay little heed to the passing of days. Moreover, they do not care about the relics within the ancient xanmeers dotting the marsh unless they have to. Some xanmeers contain powerful relics or cursed antiquities, and the Argonians would prefer not to have objects such as those floating around. They also have no use for the more benign trinkets found within the ruins. They do not want or need the relics within their people's ancient ruins; they would rather have fresh slugs to feed themselves and sturdy tools to hunt hackwings and repair their reed houses.
While the concept of time is foreign to them, the passage of time is not meaningless. The months on the Argonian calendar do have significance to the people of Black Marsh. A book titled The Seasons of Argonia explains the months and their significance in detail. Argonians who pay heed to the passage of time are called Jekka-Wats. A jekka-wass is assigned to be the keeper of an ancient Argonian monument known as the Xinchei-Konu, a giant stone calendar located in Murkmire. The Xinchei-Konu is not just a calendar, it is a catalyst of change; it can be used to change the weather.
Argonians usually live in tribes, each having their own customs as well as differing appearances. In fact, the name Argonian itself seems to be more of a catch term that refers to all the different tribes of lizard folk that dwell within Black Marsh. There are a few known tribes:
- Adzi-Kostleel: The tribe of Murkmire that's claimed to be the bearer of an oral tradition of the Argonian creation myth, collected by researcher Solis Aduro.
- Agacephs: Most have needle-like faces and vary in color from bright green to orange. Found in inner Argonia near the Hist.
- Archeins: During the time when other races tried to put plantations in Black Marsh, Archeins were very powerful and made fortunes by selling other Argonians into slavery (at the expense of being branded as traitors). They also served as the advisors of Imperial governors in Black Marsh, and were in charge of the more rural districts as well. Since other races have realized that Argonia is unfit for plantations, they have gone bankrupt.
- Copper-Eyes: A tribe native to Murkmire, they fell victim to the depredations of Mazzatun.
- Gee-Rusleel or Miredancers: An introspective and pious tribe. They have a deep connection to the Hist, naming a "Sap-Speaker" who is said to work as a direct intermediary between the Hist and the Argonian people. They are also obsessed with games and inveterate gamblers.
- Hee-Tepsleel - A tribe that raises crops which the Black-Tongues use in their alchemical brews.
- Kota-Vimleel or Black-Tongues: A tribe native to Murkmire. They are accomplished alchemists and ardent Sithis worshippers, able to modify the hatching time of their eggs so that most hatch under the sign of the Shadow, providing a large amount of Shadowscales.
- Moss-Skins: A tribe native to Murkmire and long-time allies of the Bright-Throats. They have a tendency to follow the path of least resistance.
- Naga-Kur or Dead-Water: A tribe native to Murkmire. Described as having "huge mouths filled with dripping needle-like fangs". They are usually seven to eight feet tall. They are not friendly towards outsiders, and are known to use the bones of their fallen in weapons and armor. The majority of the native brigands and highwaymen are tribeless Naga.
- Paatru: Described as "toad-like", they live in the inner part of Argonia.
- Tum-Taleel or Root-House People: A tribe native to Murkmire. They do not create anything on their own, relying solely on other tribes to provide for their needs. This even applies to residence, leading them to often raze entire towns for themselves. They destroy what they no longer need to keep the other tribes creating things.
- Sarpa: Described as being "winged", though it's unclear if this is meant literally or not. They live in the interior of Black Marsh.
- Su-Zahleel: The peaceful tribe of Shadowfen that were abducted and pressed into slavery by the Xit-Xaht tribe.
- Veeskhleel-Tzel or Ghost People: A tribe native to Murkmire. They have pale white scales, and are known to steal the dead of other tribes and perform necromantic rituals on them. They are unable to lay eggs themselves, and are forced to steal them from other tribes, as well.
- Wasseek-haleel or Bright-Throats: A tribe native to Murkmire. Their tribe is composed of cheerful artisans who have enjoyed a fruitful relationship with both outsiders and deep-swamp Argonians. The Bright-Throats are famous for their rich music and dance tradition, as well as their preternatural talent as woodcarvers.
- Xit-Xaht: Tribe of warrior fanatics that have been driven mad by their psychotic Hist in Shadowfen.
- For Argonian names, see here.
- For more information regarding ancient Argonian society, see here.
- For game-specific information, see the Arena, Daggerfall, Redguard, Morrowind, Shadowkey, Oblivion, Skyrim, ESO, Legends, and Blades articles.
- The Sharper Tongue: A Jel Primer by Lights-the-Way, Mystic of the Mages Guild — A primer for common terms heard in the Argonian language
- The Argonian Account by Waughin Jarth — Decumus Scotti's continued adventures, now in Black Marsh
- Argonians Among Us by Sil Rothril — An overview of the Argonian race from a Dunmer's perspective
- The Argonian Maid—An Oral Tradition by Telenger the Artificer — An explanation for the reoccurring amorous Argonian
- The Argonian Mating Ritual by Valrendil of the Crystal Tower, Research-Appointee to the Thalmor — Research notes on Argonian mating habits
- Children of the Root Transcribed by Solis Aduro — An Argonian creation myth from the Adzi-Kostleel tribe
- Crafting Motif 9: Argonian Style by Doctor Alfidia Lupus — Being notes by Doctor Alfidia Lupus for a series of pamphlets on the major cultural styles of Tamriel
- Crafting Motif 45: Mazzatun Style by Armsman Omeeta, Stormhold Fighters Guildhall — A guide to crafting armor and weapons in the Mazzatun style
- Crafting Motif 69: Dead-Water Style by Bolu, Reel-Ka of the Dead-Water Tribe — A guide to crafting armor and weapons in the Dead-Water style
- Crafting Motif 70: Elder Argonian Style by Concordia Mercius — A guide to crafting armor and weapons in the Elder Argonian style
- Fair Argonian Maiden — A lewd Argonian poem
- A Free Argonian's Manifesto — A paper denouncing slavery
- From Wrothgar to Lilmoth: A Smith's Tale by Garnozag, Master Smith — An account of Argonian weaponmaking methods from an Orc smith's perspective
- Ku-Vastei: The Needed Change by Lights-the-Way, Mystic of the Mages Guild — A scholar's notes on the Argonian concept of Change
- On Playing the Frogs by Toralf — A Nord's thoughts on a strange Argonian musical instrument
- Rhymes and Chimes Compiled and translated by Chak-Shushu — A collection of Argonian childrens rhymes
- Teeba-Hatsei — A pamphlet on the popular Argonian sport
- The Lusty Argonian Maid by Crassius Curio — Short excerpts from Crassius Curio's bawdy play
- The Lusty Argonian Maid, A Song — A musical rendition of everyone's favorite story
- The Horror of Castle Xyr by Baloth-Kul — A One Act Play
- The Strangeness of Dryskins by Kaal Dreenjee of the Naga-Kur
Translated by Tyrrya Len, The Wayrest Wanderer — A Dead-Water Naga's thoughts on non-Argonians
- Tribes of Murkmire by Emmanubeth Hurrent, the Wayfarers' Society of Wayrest — Descriptions of the many tribes within the region of Murkmire
- On Argonians by Cirantille — A description of Argonians and the Hist
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: The Wild Regions — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The War with the Trees: Argonia and the Black Marsh — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- Varieties of Faith: The Argonians by Brother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College — A supplement to Varieties of Faith in the Empire regarding the Argonian belief system
- Ask Us Anything Variety Pack 4
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The War with the Trees: Argonia and the Black Marsh — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- The Improved Emperor's Guide to Tamriel: Black Marsh — Flaccus Terentius, 2E 581
- Dreams From the Hist quest in ESO
- Father of the Niben — Florin Jaliil
- Before the Ages of Man — Aicantar of
- Events of ESO
- Journal of Tsona-Ei — Tsona-Ei
- Reman II: The Limits of Ambition — High King Emeric
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: The Wild Regions — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- Argonians Among Us — Sil Rothril
- 2920, The Last Year of the First Era — Carlovac Townway
- Loremaster's Archive: Murkmire Q&A — Jee-Lar
- Description of Dres Grandmaster Memorial Medal in ESO
- Understanding House Dres — Solamar Dres, Grand Historian for the House
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: Morrowind — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- Stormhold, City of Shadowfen — Cirantille
- On the Knahaten Flu — Archivist Neleminduure
- Jorunn the Skald-King — Helgreir Lute-Voice, Bard of Windhelm
- The Second Akaviri Invasion — Yngmaer Raven-Quill, Historian Royal of the Bards' College, Solitude
- Against the Snakes — Denskar
- Unexpected Allies
- From Argonian to Saxhleel — Vicecanon Heita-Meen
- The Time of the Ebonheart Pact — Alla Llaleth
- Guide to the Ebonheart Pact
- A Free Argonian's Manifesto
- A Short History of Morrowind — Jeanette Sitte
- Dreekius' dialogue in Redguard
- Lives of the Saints — Tribunal Temple
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Temple: Morrowind — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- Rumors in Oblivion
- Lord of Souls — Gregory Keyes
- The Infernal City — Gregory Keyes
- Rising Threat, Vol. IV — Lathenil of Sunhold
- Adril Arano's dialogue in Dragonborn
- History of Raven Rock — Lyrin Telleno
- Skyrim's Rule — Abdul-Mujib Ababneh
- Dialogue in Skyrim
- To Milore from Nilara — Nilara
- Dominion Troops General Order 719a
- Appearance of the Bright-Throat, Root-Whisper and Dead-Water Hist trees in ESO: Murkmire, and the Hatching Pools and Forsaken Hamlet Hist in ESO
- Xukas's dialogue during Sunken Treasure in ESO: Murkmire
- Tree-Minder Pavu's dialogue during in Empty Nest in ESO: Murkmire
- From the records of Ah-Tee, Tree Minder — Ah-Tee
- Tseedasi's dialogue during in Empty Nest in ESO
- Tribes of Murkmire: Miredancers — Emmanubeth Hurrent, the Wayfarers' Society of Wayrest
- Eoki's dialogue during The Heart of a Telvanni in ESO: Morrowind
- Kassandra's dialogue during Whispers in the Wood in ESO: Murkmire
- The Sharper Tongue: A Jel Primer — Lights-the-Way, Mystic of the Mages Guild
- Sun-in-Shadow's dialogue during Rising to Retainer in ESO: Morrowind
- Meet the Character - Xukas — Leonian & Crassus
- Jaxsik-Orrn's dialogue during Whispers in the Wood ESO: Murkmire
- Grave-Singer Ki-At's dialogue during Whispers in the Wood ESO: Murkmire
- Loremaster's Archive: Murkmire Q&A Part 2 — Jee-Lar
- Helstrom Ancestor Lizard pet description in ESO
- Scaly Steeds of Black Marsh — Ukaspa, Lilmoth Stablemaster
- The Lost Communion
- Haj Uxith Corridors loading screen in ESO
- The Strange Case of Ja-Reet
- Mark of Egg-Births
- Myths and Legends of the Hist — Cirantille
- Travelling-New-Woman's dialogue in Morrowind
- Chal-Maht's dialogue in ESO
- Tseedasi and Tree-Minder Pavu's dialogue during ESO
- Mimme's dialogue during Empty Nest in ESO
- Egg-Tender Meena's dialogue and schedule in ESO
- Rhymes and Chimes — Chak-Shushu
- Keepers of the Shell quest name and the usage of the moniker "keeper" by tenders such as Keeper Uxith-Ei
- Keeper's Everfount Inkplume item description in ESO
- Mark of Egg-Births
- Book of Thoughts
- The Strangeness of Dryskins — Kaal Dreenjee of the Naga-Kur
Translated by Tyrrya Len, The Wayrest Wanderer
- Description of Keeper's Licorice Worm Dowsing Rod in ESO
- Amber Plasm Pacifier description in ESO
- The Infernal City — Gregory Keyes, page 56
- Appearance of the Bright-Throat and Dead-Water tribesmen in ESO: Murkmire
- Tribes of Murkmire — Emmanubeth Hurrent, the Wayfarers' Society of Wayrest
- Empty Nest quest in Murkmire.
- Marshmist Palescale skin description in ESO
- A Grand Transformation — Tree-Minder Hleelieek
- On Argonians — Cirantille
- Events of Skyrim
- Keystones of Loriasel
- Sacred Places — Goes-Here-and-There
- Talen-Jush's dialogue in ESO: Murkmire
- Madesi's dialogue in Skyrim
- Calcinator Treatise
- Crafting Motif 70: Elder Argonian Style — Concordia Mercius
- Crafting Motif 69: Dead-Water Style — Bolu, Reel-Ka of the Dead-Water Tribe
- Crafting Motif 45: Mazzatun Style — Armsman Omeeta, Stormhold Fighters Guildhall
- Crafting Motif 9: Argonian Style — Doctor Alfidia Lupus
- Jar of Pickled Frog Eyes item description in ESO
- Palm Oil Spine Balm item description in ESO
- Herbal Moisturizer item description in ESO
- Jaxsik-Orrn's dialogue and mannerisms in ESO
- Varieties of Faith — Brother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College
- Art of the Nisswo quest in Murkmire
- Sap-Speaker Kuzei's dialogue in ESO: Murkmire
- Dialogue in the quest Death and Dreaming in ESO
- Famia Mercius's dialogue in ESO: Murkmire
- Xukas's dialogue in ESO: Murkmire
- Jaxsik-Orrn's dialogue in ESO: Murkmire
- Children of the Root — Solis Aduro
- Description of Argonian Tail Stocking in ESO
- Description of Corimont Mouth-Plover Cage in ESO
- Description of Crawling Night Pillow in ESO
- Crafting Motif 11: Ancient Elf Style — Seif-ij Hidja
- Famia Mercius's dialogue during Sunken Treasure in ESO: Murkmire
- Captive's Journal
- The Seasons of Argonia — Jekka-Wass Paxalt, Keeper of the Xinchei-Konu
- Jekka-Wass Vozei's dialogue during Monument of Change in ESO: Murkmire
- The Argonian Account — Waughin Jarth
- Bond-Guru Topeth's dialogue
- Tribes of Murkmire: Tribal Connections — Emmanubeth Hurrent, the Wayfarers' Society of Wayrest
- Deed-Tei's dialogue
- Bolu's dialogue in ESO
- Events of ESO: Murkmire
- Sap and Stone quest in Shadowfen