Lore:Crafting Motifs 1: The High Elves
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This series will provide a survey-level overview of the symbolic and stylistic hallmarks that distinguish the major cultures of Tamriel in their arts and crafts. Our focus will be on the portable durable goods of the various races, that is, their clothing, ornamentation, arms, and armor, as these reliably reflect personal cultural expressions. When completed, this series will support the curricula of the introductory ethnographic courses at the Arcane University.
We begin with the High Elves, the reclusive Altmer of the Summerset Isles, because the argument can be made (and often is, by Elves) that civilization in Tamriel was brought here by the Aldmeri of Old Ehlnofey. Insofar as the Elves of Summerset consciously strive to maintain the heritage of their Merethic ancestors, their traditions are certainly closer to those of pre-First Era society than any other.
This is not to say that, in the thousands of years since the arrival of the first Aldmeri, the culture of the High Elves has not deviated and ramified in many ways, because it has. It is simply that, by viewing modern Altmeri culture with the eye of a historian, we can perceive the outlines of its origins.
In this initial effort I have benefited from the advice of the celebrated Morian Zenas, Professor of Transliminal Studies here at Arcane University. Professor Zenas is the only member of our faculty who has visited the Summerset Isles, specifically Artaeum, with a brief stop in transit at Dusk.
I was a bit intimidated when I first visited Professor Zenas in his house in the Cathedral District, but I found him a charming old gentleman, undeserving of his reputation for peevishness. Morian (for so he asked me to address him) bade me stay for dinner, which was served by his laconic Argonian apprentice, Seif-ij Hidja.
As Morian explained, the High Elves strive for a simple elegance in their designs, in which flowing lines reflect graceful forms from the natural world. More-or-less abstract birds, flowers, and sea shells are common motifs, rendered in rich but muted colors. Armor will be tooled or embossed to represent scales or feathers, and even heavy cuirasses and helmets may sport stylized wings or beaks.
Metallic items are often accented with a translucent greenish material called "glass." This is a sort of jade-like obsidian that Elven smiths have learned to work by secretive processes known only to the Altmer. Though rigid enough to take a superb edge when cool, glass can be made malleable enough to assume almost any form, and the High Elves use it extensively on ornamental arms and armor.
After dinner, over snifters of Cyrodilic Brandy, Morian asked me all sorts of questions about my motifs project, and about myself. It was really very flattering. I must find an excuse to talk with him again.