Technology and the Dwemer in Skyrim

Joining the Imperial legion is just not for me yet. I need to become more powerful, somehow. As Sothas Sil, a former wizard God-King of the Dunmer (=Dark-elves) showed, there are two good ways to do this: technology and magic. I will try technology first. Sothas Sil has been dead for the last half-era, so I need to find how the Dwemer were doing this era in order to learn more about technology.

As Twice-Vehk, but in another existence, I once said that “our brethren, the Dwemer, scorned the Daedra, and mocked our foolish rituals, and preferred instead their gods of Reason and Logic.” The Dwemer built the most scientifically advanced civilization Tamriel (the land of the Elder Scrolls game) had ever seen. However, at the climax of the battle of the Red Mountain, the chief Dwemer engineer attempted to turn the tide of the battle by using scientific research to meld his entire race together into a brass giant to form a god. He failed and the entire Dwemer race vanished that instant. The disappearance of the Dwemer is a testament to the dangers of science and technology. Humans, despite numerous nuclear disarmament treaties, still have enough nuclear power to destroy the world several times over. A delusional human could destroy his entire race with engineered nuclear power exactly like how the delusional Dwemer engineer destroyed his entire race with divine engineering.

The power of human and Dwemer science combines with Dwemer faithlessness to highlight the importance of spiritualism and religion. As Martin Luther King said, “Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control” of that power. The Dwemer were a notoriously faithless race, which is not inherently a bad thing, but this was ultimately their undoing. As the 4th Era Dwemer scholar, Baladas Demnevanni (from the game Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind) said, “It was unfashionable among the Dwemer to view their spirits as synthetic constructs three, four, or forty creational gradients below the divine.” That is, the Dwemer believed that if they were not divine, then they were pretty close to it, and so they toyed with incredibly dangerous sciences of Divinity with out fear of the consequences of that knowledge. The story of the Dwemer is not an advocation of religion in the sciences, rather, it an advocation of the judicious application of scientific knowledge into human society grounded on the common morals all religions advocate. In other words, science’s sphere is solely the pursuit of knowledge, and the application of that knowledge must be done by those firmly grounded in the humanities, not those heedless of the effects of those impacts on individuals like the Dwemer. Surely, all humans are safer if there are more safe guards on atom based weaponry and virulent strains of bacteria that can act as bio-weapons.

After inquiring after the Dwemer in inns around Solitude, I learned that there was a human inhabited Dwemer city in Markarth. So I traveled there. Markarth on the outside was intriguing, but its true secrets could only be learned on the inside because Markarth was built on a Dwemer city. Next to the Jarl’s residence was an excavation site, so I stuck by pretending to be a pest-exterminator. Near the excavation site was the largest spider I had ever seen, but I hid in a crevice where it couldn’t reach me and I roasted it to death. Then I entered the Dwemer ruin.

The Dwemer ruin could be described as fantasy steam-punk. It seems there are no Dwemer left in this era either. The convoluted steam pipe windings within the dark and broody atmosphere of the ruin represent the horrors of the irresponsible use of science. The dark rooms and homicidal mechanical objects could just as easily be found in this ruin as in the medical facilities of the Nazi death doctor, Josef Mengele. The Dwemer tools out looking for blood are metaphorical for some of the weapons scientists have engineered, sitting in a dark room filled with the intent of bloodshed, just waiting to be abused. There was nothing to be seen here and no power in its technology. The only thing to be learned here is a lesson.

It goes to show that while science is powerful, science must be applied to society cautiously, or humanity may end as extinct as the Dwemer. So I turned around and made for the College of Winterhold.

continued next time in: Magic in Skyrim

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3 comments
  1. springsteen1 said:

    This is a cool idea. And I especially like the themes going on / continuation here (ie ‘next time in..”). Character development in Skyrim is another cool idea – many of the games we’ve played teach a moral, a lesson, a backdrop. Games like Skyrim often possess this element – though it is often overlooked: how the characters change throughout, even in minute ways. For example, when the game starts and a player selects one of several human, elven, or zoomorphic human races, each of which has different natural abilities, and customizes their character’s appearance, they are making a choice – a choice in development, in character, and in ideals. A recurring objective for the player is to improve their character’s skills, which are given in numerical representations of their ability in certain areas. There seem to be exactly 18 of these such skills divided evenly between the three divisions of combat, magic and stealth, unless I’m wrong – I’m just getting into these types of games. Don’t we all wish we could make such decisions in real life?

  2. ultrapoulet said:

    Many games today teach the importance of not letting science get out of control. What makes this interesting is that one wouldn’t expect a lesson like that in Skyrim. The game has a stereotypical “fantasy” setting, with characters using magic, bows, and melee weapons. One usually doesn’t think about the use of science and technology in these times. The way it demonstrates this lesson is also quite effective. The player first off sees the ruins of an abandoned Dwemer city. The player can choose whether or not to delve deeper into what happened to the Dwemer. This choice makes the message not seem forced, and the player is interested in what the Dwemer’s mistakes did to them.

  3. prutting834 said:

    This is a really interesting idea and one that I never really thought of while playing through Skyrim. Adventuring through the Dwemer ruins of Markarth, it becomes apparent that their technology and metal-work was vastly superior to that of Skyrim’s current inhabitants. The Dwemer of the past used steam engines and metal machinery, while the current citizens of Skyrim still rely on wood fires and horse-drawn carriages. I totally agree with the original poster how this is a message for the power of science and its dire impact when not used correctly.

    On a different technology-related note, one of the best parts of the game is how it allows the players to immerse themselves in the technology of Skyrim through the actions of their character. Players can create their own potions via an alchemy lab, cook meals by way of the stove-top pot, or make weapons and armor using a smithy. It is a very creative way to get players more connected with their character and helps bring a sense of realism to the game. And all the while this happening, players get to personally use the same technology as the citizens of Skyrim.

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