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A Forsworn Briarheart (Skyrim)
"Briarhearts die to this life so that they may live again as protectors of the Reach."

Briarhearts (sometimes written as Briar Hearts), also called Briar Warriors[2] are Reachfolk men and women[3] whose hearts were ritualistically replaced with poisoned seeds of Briar Heart Trees. Traditionally, the ritual is performed on skilled warriors, who are further empowered by the gifted briar heart. Briarhearts are living weapons—warriors imbued with powerful magic that grants them enhanced hearing as well great endurance and strength with which they defend their kin.[4][5] They serve as the protectors of the clans of the Reach.[1]


Painting of Faolan (ESO)
"At last he traded his Eagle's heart
To the ravens who covet our power
In his breast they planted the briar seed
That grows from the corpse's flower."

Red Eagle's Song

The earliest known account of the Briarhearts date back to c.1E 1028. According to the legends of the Reachfolk, King Faolan, also known as, Red Eagle, was prophesized by the vashterans to unite the disparate clans of Reachmen under one banner. This prophecy came to fruition when the Alessians, led by Empress Hestra, invaded the Reach. Red Eagle refused to yield to the Empire even as the other kings surrendered or were slaughtered by the southern forces. Eventually, all his allies had defected or died, and Faolan was exiled by the elders of his clan.[6]

During this exile, Faolan came across a mysterious and powerful hagraven, also known as the Hag in early works,[7] who offered him the power to free his people in exchange for his heart. Red Eagle had to clear his mind before he could embrace his destiny and filled his heart with the thing he loved the most - his people.[8] He accepted the offer and became the first Briarheart,[9] bringing an onslaught of violence and death to the occupying Imperials.[6]

After two years, Faolan had freed the Reach from the occupation of the Empire, but at a great cost to himself. He was forever changed by his deal with the Hag. His eye had been turned pitch black and his humanity seemed lost, existing only as a remorseless spirit of vengeance.[6]

Soon, in 1E 1030 the southern armies would return and exact their vengeance on Faolan. It is said that it took over a hundred arrows to finally put Red Eagle down.[10] After his death, the Hag returned to claim his darkened briar heart. His followers attempted to stop her but she was far too powerful for even a hundred Reachmen, revealing herself as something "beyond the spear, the sword, the bow".[7] Still, his fellow warriors claimed that his eyes were once again clear in his final moments.[6]


Briarheart ritual
"Becoming a briarheart is considered a sacred, worthy tradition to the Reachfolk—if done appropriately. It's not inherently evil."[11]

The briarheart ritual involves communing with Hircine,[12] who may approve or decline the transplant of a briar heart into a skilled Reachfolk warrior.[13] The briar heart acts as a real, beating heart thanks to hagraven magic.[14][15] During the ceremony, the subject's chest is opened, their heart removed, and a briar heart, an engorged bud from a briar thicket[14] is set in its place.[3]

The ritual is reflective of the Reachfolk's need to improve themselves and overcome hardship. It also represents Lorkh's immortal sacrifice[16] in that a candidate sacrifices their own life to be resurrected as a living weapon.[1] Briarheart warriors possess great strength and endurance;[4] the briar heart is a powerful gift that makes these warriors nigh-invincible foes.[17][18]

The briarheart ritual can be performed on both alive and dead warriors. The ritual holds great importance to warriors of the Reach.[3] The rituals are performed by hagravens[19] and are deemed a sacred, worthy tradition to the Reachfolk—if done appropriately.[11]

Receiving a briar heart is considered a high honor, one that is especially grand if the ritual is performed on a live Reachman. In cases when the ritual is performed on live subjects, the chosen warrior meditates, undergoing a ritualistic period of solitude before their heart can be replaced.[20] According to some sources, the hopeful warrior is marked and scarred by infected tattoo and ritual markings prior to accepting the knot of poisoned briars for a heart, in order to master invincibility in battle.[21] Some candidates undergo a marking ceremony long before the ritual. Scars shape ornate feathers and claws into their skin as a sign the Reach Hagravens chose them. They often lead others into battle. Some of those markings were subject of study of artists.[22][23]

Briarheart Ritual performed by two Hagravens (Skyrim)

The ritual can be abused, however. It is considered tainted if the subject is transformed into a Briarheart against their will;[11][4][1] in that case, the free will of the Briarheart is stripped by the hagravens after the ritual is completed.[1] It is also frowned upon to use the ritual as a punishment.[24] While this ritual is traditionally performed on Reachfolk, it can also be used on other races. It was also used at least once on a Breton.[25]

A Briarheart's 'lifespark' is put in direct connection to the natural forces,[26] making them greatly attuned to nature.[27] The connecting soul thread is knotted three times, once for the heart, once for the spirit, and once for the body. The knot gives the seed's connection to the soul significant strength and stability.[26] Magical practices involving heart stones are similar in nature to the Briarheart ritual.[26]

The exact process used in the ritual may differ from clan to clan. The ritual is often accompanied by various chants performed by hagravens,[19][28] though they are not necessary for the ritual to be completed.[29]

The Thornroot Clan shamans utilize the blessed tools that allow them to desecrate the ritual without angering the spirits.[11] The Cinder-Heart Clan reveres Molag Bal,[30] and their practices reflect the extreme horrors his sphere represents. An example is their briarheart ritual, which is augmented with the intense pain of opening a subject's chest cavity and filling it with hot coals.[31]

Hagravens of the Winterborn clan can, to a limited degree, observe the actions of Briarhearts they brought back to life and sense certain objects they touch from a large distance.[32]

The White Phial was created with the usage of magic that was lost to history as of the 4th era, but the nearest modern incarnation of said lost art is the Briarheart Ritual. A briar heart seed can be used to repair the Phial and lock its magic into physical form.[2]


"I know their beliefs, the way they attune with nature. Those briarhearts? They're as natural as you and I."
—Alinon the Alchemist[27]
A lurcher (ESO)

The most defining characteristic of briarhearts is their visible lack of heart, which is ritualistically removed upon transition. The empty chest cavity contains a beating seed of the Briar Heart tree instead.[32][33] The new heart is occasionally referred to as their 'essence'.[34]

Their hearts are harder than steel[32], resistant to heat[31] and considerably heavier than they appear.[35] When exposed, the heart provides a distraction to their foes, who might consider it a weak point. Briarheart warriors occasionally have to deal with the inconvenience of beetles and other critters taking shelter in their open chests.[32]

They suffer from constant pain[32] in exchange for immense power, which they use to protect their clan.[4]

There have been instances among the Winterborn clan Briarhearts transforming themselves into briarheart tree lurchers through hagraven rituals involving fire, vines, and blood.[36][37]

Briarhearts are often high-ranking members of their respective clans, with some even being declared chief.[38][39] They are meant to be treated with respect and reverence for their sacrifice to the people of the Reach, and fringe attempts to weaponize them or remove their free will are considered sacrilegious.[40]

The briar heart seed itself possesses traits that fortify and regenerate magicka when used in alchemical solutions.[41] It strengthens the essence or energy used when spells are cast, so they do not wane as quickly. They can be used to increase one's stamina and accelerate physical regeneration, and also provide a muffling boon.[14]

Although Briarhearts are reanimated through ritualistic means, they are not considered undead and are not affected by spells and enchantments designed to harm or detect the undead.[42][5] They are also not vulnerable to silver.[5]


A Briarheart ghost passing to the afterlife (Skyrim Creation Club)
Hunting Grounds, the realm of Hircine
"His punishment for failure is to roam the Hunting Grounds as prey. His chest, a gaping hollow, a reminder of his weakness."[13]

It is believed that mortals themselves decide the destinations of their souls by the choices they make during life.[43]

It is known, however, that in certain circumstances, Hircine can punish the Briarhearts he deems unworthy and those who failed him with an eternity of being hunted within his realm. Such was the fate of the Brinarch of the Dark Witnesses. His claim over the souls of the Briarhearts is unknown, however.[13]

A Briarheart can also be prevented from moving on to the afterlife by defiling their original heart, damning their spirit to the mortal plane.[44][25] The original heart of the deceased Briarheart must be purified at a shrine of Mara and properly buried before the spirit can rest in peace and move on to the afterlife.[45]

Notable Briarhearts[edit]

  • Faolan — Ancient Reach king believed to be the first Briarheart who rallied his people and drove back the armies of Cyrodiil in the First Era.
  • Urfon Ice-Heart — Leader of the Winterborn clan who fought against Orcs over the control of Wrothgar in 2E 582.
  • Brinarch — Member of the Dark Witnesses who took over the Fallen Grotto in 2E 582.
  • Kyrtos — Member of the Winterborn who was responsible for preventing the Vengeful March in 2E 582 and author of the Malacath and the Reach.

See Also[edit]

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




  1. ^ a b c d e Faorin's dialogue in ESO
  2. ^ a b Quintus Navale's dialogue during Repairing the Phial in Skyrim
  3. ^ a b c The Care and Feeding of Briar Hearts
  4. ^ a b c d Medone's dialogue in ESO
  5. ^ a b c Forsworn Briarheart description
  6. ^ a b c d The Legend of Red EagleTredayn Dren
  7. ^ a b The Translated Works of Tosmorn, IVXandier Edette
    Edited by Vanesse Aurilie
  8. ^ Events of Red Eagle's Song in ESO
  9. ^ Red Eagle Cave Painting antiquity codex entry in ESO
  10. ^ Red Eagle's SongVarana Tappo, Imperial Scribe serving the Longhouse Emperors
  11. ^ a b c d Bralthahawn's dialogue in ESO
  12. ^ The Improved Emperor's Guide to Tamriel: Northern Bangkorai and the MountainsFlaccus Terentius, 2E 581
  13. ^ a b c Events of The Heart of the Beast in ESO
  14. ^ a b c Agents and Reagents: The Bounty of Mundus, Ingredient Classification 17: Intelligent Plant Cuttings
  15. ^ Chief Urgdosh's dialogue in ESO
  16. ^ Great Spirits of the Reach: Volume 5Vashu gra-Morga, Chief Daedrotheologist at the University of Gwylim
  17. ^ Wyress Linnae's dialogue during The Heart of the Beast in ESO
  18. ^ Ice-Heart's JournalUrfon Ice-Heart
  19. ^ a b Observation of the ritual in Lost Valley Redoubt in Skyrim
  20. ^ Vilum's dialogue in ESO
  21. ^ Gathering Force: Arms and Armor of Tamriel, The Feral Reachman Barbarian, Cagarach
  22. ^ Briarheart Body Scarification's description in ESO
  23. ^ Briarheart Face Scarification's description in ESO
  24. ^ Dialogue overheard from Thornroot Clansmen in ESO
  25. ^ a b Crypt of the Heart - Draft — Ariana Dumas
  26. ^ a b c Neloth's dialogue during Briarheart Necropsy in Skyrim
  27. ^ a b Alinon the Alchemist's dialogue in ESO
  28. ^ Matron Grygarsnit's dialogue in ESO
  29. ^ Winterborn Clan Hagraven's Briarheart Resurrection ability in ESO
  30. ^ Cinder-Heart Clan Camp's shrine to Molag Bal in ESO
  31. ^ a b On the Clans of the ReachTheopho Harvian, Imperial Scribe
  32. ^ a b c d e Kyrtos's dialogue in ESO
  33. ^ Skordo the Knife's dialogue in ESO
  34. ^ The Improved Emperor's Guide to Tamriel: The Summerset Isles: AuridonFlaccus Terentius, 2E 581
  35. ^ Briar Heart Seed quest item description in ESO
  36. ^ Fight and dialogue with Corintthac the Abomination in ESO
  37. ^ Ushang the Untamed's dialogue during Nature's Bounty in ESO
  38. ^ Urfon Ice-Heart's dialogue and appearance in ESO
  39. ^ Brinarch's dialogue and appearance in ESO
  40. ^ Events of Betrayal at Briar Rock in ESO
  41. ^ Briarheart alchemical properties
  42. ^ Briarhearts in ESO
  43. ^ The Abbot Crassius Viria Answers Your QuestionsAbbot Crassius Viria
  44. ^ Beldama Witch's Note
  45. ^ Events of Crypt of the Heart in Skyrim