Elven alphabets are a family of related writing systems employed by several elven languages, such as Ayleidoon, Altmer language, Dwemeris, or Falmer language. The above chart lists all characters with known transliterations. The translations are taken from a combination of in-game data files (Falmer, Skyrim Dwemer), fan translations based on provided Latin alphabet equivalent (Ayleid, Wormgod Dwemer, Altmer), and a piece of Redguard-era concept art (Morrowind Dwemer)[UOL 1].
More characters exist in the Dwemer books Divine Metaphysics and The Egg of Time, but these have yet to be translated. (There is strong reason to believe that these books contain just random characters, and do not actually have any meaningful text.)
There are few examples of elven inscriptions for which there are confirmed translations at this time. The example on the left is an Ayleid inscription from a ruin in Oblivion. It reads:
or "Av latta magicka, av molag anyammis", which translates to: "From light, magic; from fire, life". This is a reversal (perhaps unintentional) of the phrase translated in the book: Ayleid Reference Text: "From fire, life; from light, magic." The double 'm' in "anyammis" has been truncated to a single 'm', and the 's' is too obscured to see on this inscription, but otherwise, it is clearly the same text.
Another confirmed example of elven text is to the right. This inscription appears on all of the pipes inside Dwemer ruins in Morrowind. It reads simply
or "Wormgod", which was the nickname of Gary Noonan, one of the developers at Bethesda. Interesting to note is that unlike the Daedric language, this one features (minimal) punctuation. The dot underneath the last letter is probably not part of the letter, but rather an indicator of the end of the word. (Since it is repeated over and over again on the pipes.)
The banner on the left can be found in Redguard. If you look closely, you'll see text written in blue color over the image. It's hard to read in places, but you can make out the following characters:
And lower down, you'll see:
The significance of these remains unknown at this time. Since each group of characters is in consecutive alphabetical order, it seems likely that it's simply an alphabet.
Another example can be found in the official Knights of the Nine Official Plug-in. At the beginning of the quest Pilgrimage the player finds an Ayleid text written on the floor of the Anvil chapel. This text reads which translates to As oiobala Umarile, Ehlnada racuvar. According to the prophet this means: By the eternal power of Umaril, the mortal gods shall be cast down.
This text can also be found on the side of the Knights of the Nine box.
In Skyrim, a stone which supposedly translates both Dwemeris as well as the Falmer language can be found in Calcelmo's Tower. This is the longest Dwemeris transcription yet found, although no translation is provided. It does share some words with other languages, such as "Mer", suggesting a commonality of some sort. The Dwemeris inscription transliterates into:
|Chun thuamer arkngd chend duathand, th ahvardn btham. Amz thuamer ahrkanch kemelmzulchond aka
Mora, th thuangz ahrk, th duum melz thuabtharng, th kanthaln duabcharn mzin thuastur, btharumz thua
mer zel. Abakch duumarkng tuathumz amakai, th abakch avatheled kagr tuamkingth mzan. Du chal fahl
ngark, che du fahl bthun ur. Du chal fahl ngalft, che du bthun ur. Du abak chal thu abazun nchur
duabthar, nchul duanchard. Th ur thuanchuth irknd, ur irkngth eftardn, thunch fahlz. Bthun abak dua
mzual th nchuan duarkng, chun fahlbthar thuanchardch anum ralz, th eftar thuachendraldch kagren thua
In ESO several Elven letters are carved into Khajiiti shrines found in Sathram Plantation and Do'Krin Monastery. It reads , which when transcribed becomes "MKAC OLBD NMIE CICY BBDV TGIU VEAO". This has no apparent meaning.
Dwemeri inscriptions are found in the Seht's Balcony stage of the Maelstrom Arena. The first inscription, which is written in a semicircle and then mirrored, reads xm pgt ohc msj ufw ywq av xpt. It becomes "XM PGT OHC MSJ UFW YWQ AV XPT" when transliterated. The second inscription, which is written to the sides of the first, reads va dgp mx va dqw xf. This in turn becomes "VA DGP MX VA DQW XF" upon transliteration.
An Altmer inscription can be seen on a wall of Tarnamir's manor during the quest Old Wounds in ESO. It reads "ELUVEIN", which is a name of a species of owl that abandons its eggs after laying them, and is also used by the Altmer to describe cold-hearted people.
Analysis of the books is inconclusive at this time. According to Douglas Goodall, one of the game's developers, they are just random characters. Additionally, certain passages are repeated verbatim, but in a different order, from one book to the next, or even on both pages of the same book. This smacks of copy/pasting by the artist who created the graphics for the pages. Also, substituting the known letters for their English counterparts does not reveal even a hint of readable text. If it's a cypher, it's not a simple one, because several different characters can be seen as single-letter words, whereas in a typical English-language cypher, you would only see two - 'A' and 'I'. A more complex cypher is still a possibility, but without knowing the key, or even the meanings of half of the letters, it would be quite a difficult task to decode it, assuming there is anything to decode.
The Egg of Time
- According to Douglas Goodall:
- "Egg of Time and Divine Metaphysics are, as far as I know, random Dwemer letters. The letters don't have any real pattern or meaning. Dwemer books probably appear meaningless to anyone but a Dwemer anyway. I have some ideas on how Dwemer books might be misinterpreted by modern scholars, but it has little to do with the actual contents of the book."
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.
- Dwemer Runes concept art, referenced at The Imperial Library
- Academy for Dwemer Studies - includes a font containing all Dwemer glyphs