Government in Skyrim

Before I left Windhelm and its racist rebellion, I had a few questions about its leadership and question that I needed answered. The city’s Jarl, or Chieftan, could be approached by anyone (although this was not often done, by the stare I received) so I took the opportunity to inquire after Ulfric Stormcloak’s history. Jarl Ulfric extraordinarily relaxed sitting posture and deep, effortlessly arrogant voice indirectly characterizes Jarls as proud masculine leaders. Proud masculine leaders are often found in today’s socities, take for example former Republican cowboy candidate Rick Perry.

Stormcloak was receptive to questions and told me that he was Jarl of the city and of a region called Eastmarch. Eastmarch is the region that Stormcloak governs and he inherited governence through his father. The leadership in Skyrim is nepotic, but there is also opportunity for one to rise above their station by challenging Jarls in a duel for leadership, and thereby establishing one’s own dynasty. This is reministic of American politics, because there are examples of American political dynasties succeeded by other American dynasties. For example, the Clinton dynasty composed of Bill and Hillary Clinton was replaced by the Bush dynasty, composed of both George Bushes and Jeb Bush (governor of Florida).

Still, while Ulfric Stormcloak might ooze deadliness, his openness about his war plans and the ease of approaching him indirectly characterizes him as one of the slower Cliff Racers on the slopes of Vvardenfell. This is arguably a second parallel we can find in American government: many of our leaders are not the smartest individuals in society.

After Ulfric Stormcloak stopped talking, I bowed and left. I had an ulterior motive for talking to him, other than learning about Skyrim’s governence. That is, I wanted to know the face of my enemy. From everything that I had heard in Windhelm, I realized that Ulfric and the rest of Stormcloak’s were tradionalists and racists, people who would thank Dark Elves like me for helping them and then kick every non-Nord out of their country. The racism in the Stormcloak government is also racism that can be found in American government. After all, if it were left up to the reactionary forces in the American government, they would thank all immigrants in America for their toil and labor, and then ship them back to wherever they came. I left Windhelm for Solitude, the base of the Cyrodillian Empire in Skyrim, to join the force of Skyrim’s salvation.

As I approached the gates of Solitude, a guard informed me that I could talk to Legate Rikke to join the Emperial Army. That was excellent. As I entered the gate, I saw another Imperial beheading. That was less excellent. I hurried along before anyone recognized me as having skipped my own Imperial exceution. Lead by intuition, I walked into the most fortified castle in the city and immediately came head to head with the regional commander, General Tullius.

General Tullius was evidently a crispier cookie than Ulfric Stormcloak because he instantly realized that I was out of place and demanded of me, “Are my men giving free reign to anyone that enters the castle?” He paused, and said “You were one of the prisoners at Helgen.” This is not good, I thought, because I had just realized this was the same man who ordered my execution there. So I blurted out the first thing that came to mind, the truth, “I came to fight for you.” That seemed to please Tullius, “Sure,” he said, “I’m sure you being all imprisoned was a terrible misunderstanding.” And he pointed me to Legate Rikke, a woman, for immediate recruitment.

Tullius’s dialogue shows that he represents the intelligent utilitarian element of modern government. He knew that I was a criminal, but he had a use for me anyways, and he was going to use me. Tullius’s strong leadership is correlated with the ultilitarianism of soverign governments, which use all means necessary to achieve their goals, even questionable ones, like letting deathrow inmates like me join there army and waterboarding terrorists. Furthermore, Tullius recognized merit and was blind to the differences between genders. His second in command, Legate Rikke, was a women and I have yet to see a woman Stormcloak commander. Tullius’s strong leadership is correlated with recognition and promotion of merit, another aspect of modern governments.

Legate Rikke was looking at a map on the other side of the room, and I immediately reported to her. She informed me that I seemed “special,” and that she had an alternative recruitment activity for me. Excellent, I thought, someone who recognized my power. Rikke explained what she had in mind: clearing an entire fortress of bandits. Not excellent. I gulped, said “yes, ma’am!” and then skipped town.

Edit: I conclude that there are high similarities between the governments in Skyrim and the governments that we find today, because the governing principles and follies such as utilitarianism and human stupidity are universal values.

Continued in: Technology in Skyrim

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4 comments
  1. prutting834 said:

    Like the original poster says, one of the most interesting aspects of Skyrim is the civil war raging between the Imperial Army and the Stormcloak Rebellion. The country is in turmoil, as its nine holds (major regions) are divided in their allegiances between the two opposing forces. What makes this civil war even more intriguing is that there is no clear “good guy.” The Stormcloaks appear negative because they are racist towards non-Nords, while the Imperials appear negative because they are arrogant and believe in oppression through conquering. The game does a good job of putting the decision entirely in the hands of the player, as you are left to judge for yourself which side is better and which deserves your help in conquering Skyrim.

    • The intent may have been to make each side seem neutral so that an obvious “good guy” wouldn’t be apparent, but I think Bethesda actually made both sides so unappealing it was hard for me to choose. I didn’t actually choose a side for about 20 hours of play. The only faction that seemed truly bad and made me feel motivated to take them down was the Aldmeri Dominion, but there was no way to directly fight them. Yet at the end of the Imperial questline, Tullius seemed to hint they were the Empire’s next target. DLC?

      • prutting834 said:

        I agree with everything you posted. They were definitely trying to give each side its own positive and negative qualities in an attempt to make them both seem neutral, which as I said before puts the power completely in the hands of the player. However, they did a poor job at highlighting the positive aspects of each faction and both came across in an unappealing light. They were both clearly motivated by power and came across as inhumane at times.

        In regards to the Aldmeri Dominion, didn’t the game sort of set it up that they were responsible for the Imperial’s presence in Skyrim. It seemed to me that they were calling the shots for the Imperials, but I could be totally wrong. What made me think this was during the mission where both sides meet at High Hrothgar for a debate, a female representative of the Aldemri accompanied the Imperial party. I specifically remember Ulfric freaking out in anger that she was present.

  2. I never thought about the parallels between Skyrim’s government and the US’s. I’m not sure if there’s quite enough evidence to think Bethesda designed those characters for that purpose. I also wanted to know more about the traits you bring up about politicians, such as specific examples. Bringing up the Bush and Clinton dynasties was good, but saying politicians aren’t the smartest individuals in society is broad, but not necessarily untrue.

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