ESO Mythos In Review: The Yokudan
The following article was written for Tamrielfoundry.com, and published 07/24/2014; it can be seen here as published on Tamriel Foundry.
Note: 08/03/2014 – Jarrin Root, native to Stros M’Kai, is not available in ESO as an ingredient; it is however mentioned at least once in dialog during a quest.
In this article we will discuss the Peoples of the continent of Yokuda and their descendants, the Redguards of Hammerfell in Tamriel. We will do so both through an examination of Elder Scrolls (ES) games prior to the Elder Scrolls Online (ESO), as well as ESO itself. Pre-ESO games and accompanying in-game literature we will call lore; we will also refer to in-game literature in ESO as lore. The goal is to provide a breadth first review of the Yokudans and the Redguards with a juxtaposition of their representation in ESO and in lore.
Purportedly an island continent to the west of Tamriel, Yokuda was the home of the Yokudan peoples before it was destroyed. One of the Yokudan peoples, the Redguards, now reside in Hammerfell on the north west of the continent of Tamriel. There are differing accounts on the fate of Yokuda, including natural catastrophe such as a series of earthquakes; or a more deliberate act by one of the Yokudan peoples. What ever the case was, some escaped to Tamriel; the Redguards arrived in Hammerfell in year 808 of the First Era (E1, 808). The wording of works on the subject of the Yokudans suggests in fact that the Yokudans were not many peoples, but in fact one people, the forebearers of the Redguard. Information on the exact makeup of the peoples living on Yokuda is spartan; however references show that there were more peoples living on Yokuda than the progenitors of the Redguard. The work Varieties of Faith in the Empire (VFE) notes (regarding the diety Diagna) that the Yokudans fought against the Lefthanded Elves:
Diagna was an avatar of the HoonDing that achieved permanence. He was instrumental to the defeat of the Lefthanded Elves, as he brought orichalc weapons to the Yokudan people to win the fight – VFE
The Lefthanded Elves were one of the peoples of Yokuda; their fate is unknown. The VFE makes mention of other Yokudan peoples, although they appear to hail from the same stock that the Redguards would come from. This includes the Hiradirge a fringe group of renegade wizards of the Redguards; specificly the Redguard group the Ansei who were a band of warriors. The Na-Totambu were one of the Yokudan peoples who fought against the Lefthanded Elves; they were also the ruling class and would continue as such in Hammerfall as the class known as the Crowns as the Pocket Guide to the Empire and its Environs (PGEE), First Edition tells us. The PGEE First Edition also mentions the Ra Gada as a warrior class of the Yokudans who would go on to be known as the Forebears. Readings about the history of the Yokudans as well as their descendants emphasis the Na-Totambu (future Crowns) as a ruling class and the Ra Gada (future Forebears) as a warrior class. Despite this there are also consistent readings that show the strain between the two groups including this early reference in the VFE regarding the Yokudan conflict(s) with the Lefthanded Elves:
The Na-Totambu of Yokuda warred to a standstill during the mythic era to decide who would lead the charge against the Lefthanded Elves. Their swordmasters, though, were so skilled in the Best Known Cuts as to be matched evenly. – VFE
It isn’t clear who the Swordmasters referenced above are; we could presume safely though that they are the Ra Gada. Beyond the Lefthanded Elves, there may have been Goblins on Yokuda; the VFE mentions Goblin enemies the Yokudans fought against in the first era; however this may have been a reference to those the Redguards faced on their arrival in Tamriel.
The history of Yokuda is that of lands plagued by wars; including two notable civil wars in the 4th and 8th centuries of the first era. In fact, it is suggested in more than one account that of one of the Yokudan peoples, the Redguards, a fringe group of renegade wizards, the Hiradirge, may have brought on the downfall of Yokuda after a failed bid at conquest. In the Mysterious Akavir, this general statement is made regarding the Redguards (the Hiradirge being of the Redguards):
The Redguards destroyed Yokuda so they could make their journey. – Mysterious Akavir
And again in the PGEE, Third Edition:
[M]any argue that it was simply a natural catastrophic series of quakes at the foundation of the land. [Although] during the last civil war, a renegade band of Ansei called the Hiradirge were said to be masters of stone magic. When they were defeated in battle in 1E 792, the argument goes, they had their revenge on the entire land, destroying what they would never rule. – PGEE, Third Edition
What ever the fate of Yokuda, it is fair to say it no longer exists. It is however recorded that the geography and climate of Yokuda was comparable to what the Yokudans would encounter when they arrived in Volenfell; a region of the Alik’r Desert in Hammerfell. On this subject the PGEE, Third Edition again provides insight:
The continent of Yokuda is no more, but it was once a place where rocky, barren hills were matched by the fecund combination of sophisticated agriculture, politics, and warfare. It was a harsh environment, training the Yokudans well for their lives in Tamriel. The Yokuda civil wars of the 4th and 8th centuries prepared them for their future conflicts, and the unwelcoming desert of Volenfell only yielded fruit and grain because of the experience the Yokudans had in their even more arid homeland. – PGEE, Third Edition
Events that took place on Yokuda included:
- the Twenty Seven Snake Folk Slaughter.
- Yokudan civil war(s) of the 4th century.
- Yokudan civil war(s) of the 8th century; including the conflict with the Hiradirge.
- Yokudan conflicts with the Lefthanded Elves.
Although the VFE states that the Yokudans landed on the island of Herne when arriving in Tamriel; we can deduce that this island would have been near Hammerfell. Further, Herne will make more since as the location for the arrival of the Yokudans when we begin looking at the Yokudans in ESO. Arriving in the Yokudans bore memory stones recounting their heritage; a practice they continued in their lives in Tamriel. One aspect of their heritage that continued on in their lives in Tamriel was their religion; and as such it is well documented. The religion of the Yokudans (and the Redguards) includes ancestor worship along with a pantheon of 12 deities; some among the new inhabitants of Tamriel would reorganize their pantheon comparable to the divines of the 8 as assimilation took place. The work, VFE, provides an excellent synopsis on these deities. Quoting from the VFE: Varieties of Faith in the Empire:
Satakal – Yokudan god of everything. […] Satakal […] who destroys one world to begin the next. In Yokudan mythology, Satakal had done, and still does this many times over, a cycle which prompted the birth of spirits that could survive the transition. These spirits ultimately become the Yokudan pantheon. Popular god of the Alik’r nomads.
Ruptga – Chief deity of the Yokudan pantheon. Ruptga, more commonly ‘Tall Papa’, was the first god to figure out how to survive the Hunger of Satakal. Following his lead, the other gods learned the ‘Walkabout’, or a process by which they can persist beyond one lifetime. Tall Papa set the stars in the sky to show lesser spirits how to do this, too. When there were too many spirits to keep track of, though, Ruptga created a helper out of the dead skin of past worlds. This helper is Sep, who later creates the world of mortals.
Sep – Sep is born when Tall Papa creates someone to help him regulate the spirit trade. Sep, though, is driven crazy by the hunger of Satakal, and he convinces some of the gods to help him make an easier alternative to the Walkabout. This, of course, is the world as we know it, and the spirits who followed Sep become trapped here, to live out their lives as mortals. Sep is punished by Tall Papa for his transgressions, but his hunger lives on as a void in the stars, a ‘non-space’ that tries to upset mortal entry into the Far Shores.
Tu’whacca – Yokudan god of souls. Tu’whacca, before the creation of the world, was the god of the cosmos. When Tall Papa undertook the creation of the Walkabout, Tu’whacca found a purpose; he became the caretaker of the Far Shores, and continues to help Redguards find their way into the afterlife. His cult is sometimes associated with Arkay in the more cosmopolitan regions of Hammerfell.
Zeht – Yokudan god of agriculture. Renounced his father after the world was created, which is why Tall Papa makes it so hard to grow food.
Morwha – Yokudan fertility goddess. Fundamental deity in the Yokudan pantheon, and the favorite of Tall Papa’s wives. Still worshipped in various areas of Hammerfell, including Stros M’Kai. Morwha is always portrayed as four-armed, so that she can ‘grab more husbands’.
Tava – Yokudan spirit of the air. Tava is most famous for leading the Yokudans to the isle of Herne after the destruction of their homeland. She has since become assimilated into the mythology of Kynareth. She is still very popular in Hammerfell among sailors, and her shrines can be found in most port cities.
Malooc – An enemy god of the Ra Gada. Led the goblins against the Redguards during the first era. Fled east when the army of the HoonDing overtook his goblin hordes.
Diagna – Hoary thuggish cult of the Redguards. Originated in Yokuda during the Twenty Seven Snake Folk Slaughter. Diagna was an avatar of the HoonDing that achieved permanence. He was instrumental to the defeat of the Lefthanded Elves, as he brought orichalc weapons to the Yokudan people to win the fight. In Tamriel, he led a very tight knit group of followers against the Orcs of Orsinium during the height of their ancient power, but then faded into obscurity. He is now little more than a local power spirit of the Dragontail mountains.
Hoonding – Yokudan spirit of ‘perseverance over infidels’. The HoonDing has historically materialized whenever the Redguards need to ‘make way’ for their people. In Tamrielic history this has only happened three times-twice in the first era during the Ra Gada invasion, once during the Tiber War. In this last incarnation, the HoonDing was said to have been either a sword or a crown, or both.
Leki – Goddess daughter of Tall Papa, Leki is the goddess of aberrant swordsmanship. The Na-Totambu of Yokuda warred to a standstill during the mythic era to decide who would lead the charge against the Lefthanded Elves. Their sword masters, though, were so skilled in the Best Known Cuts as to be matched evenly. Leki introduced the Ephemeral Feint; afterwards, a victor emerged and the war with the Aldmer began.
Onsi – Notable warrior god of the Yokudan Ra Gada, Onsi taught Mankind how to pull their knives into swords.
The Yokudans arrived in Tamriel in an area that is a part of a broad swath of territory on the Western edge of Tamriel called Hammerfell. The PGEE First and Third Editions provide an excellent overview of the Yokudans early time in Tamriel. The Yokudans arrived in Tamriel landing on the island of Herne. From there it states the Ra Gada, or warrior class proceeded to invade the mainland of Hammerfell inslaving local inhabitants and conquering the lands before them. The Nedic inhabitants were largely displaced as they and a handlful of Breton settlements were conquered. The PGEE Third Edition refers to the Ra Gada in a very general sense; as the “invading fleet” with no mention of the Na-Totambu as a distinct class but rather a governing body or government. These two editions only seem to agree when read together as the Third Edition lacks much of the nuance of it’s predecessor. Continuing on the Yokudans adopted many aspects of Nedic custom including custom, religion, and language; which continued with contact with Bretons and the Colovians. The PGEE Third Edition suggests that the new settlers retained their culture from Yokuda; however the First Edition is more plausible as integration into the Empire would have necessitated adopting some aspects of neighboring cultures. The native Yoku language was supplanted in time by further assimilation. As time passed and the Yokudans and Hammerfell were integrated into the Empire; it was during this early period in the Second Empire, that the class disntctions between the Na-Totambu and the Ra Gada would become the Crowns and Forebearers respectively. We also learn how the term Redguard originated:
The fierce Ra Gada became, phonetically, the Redguards, a name that has since spread to designate the Tamrielic-Yokudan race in general. – PGEE First
The PGEE First Edition tells us that few Redguards are in the Imperial ranks; as their demeanor make them poor candidates for military discipline. This is in spite of the Redguards being widely acknowledged as the finest warriors in all of Tamriel. Further, Hammerfell lacks a standing military opting for paid militias. Among the Redguards there are several knightly orders. Those who would join the Knights of the Scarab of Crown Totambu are expected to sail to Stros M’Kai and endure its many dangers as a test. The Order of Diagna, another knightly order, recreates the Siege of Orsinium with initiates playing the part of the Orcs.
Redguard civilization includes the coastal cities which have adopted certain Breton and Imperial mannerisms of dress and architecture modified with the flair of the Redguards past; and their nomadic brethren. The nomadic among the Redguards maintain their Yokudan heritage; with some Nedic influences.
Among the ranks of the nomadic include devotees of Satakal; whose followers have been a source of continued strife and conflict in Hammerfell. The devotees of Satakal either depend entirely on charity or rove in troublesome bands; acting as bandits. They will mimic the actions of snakes including nipping as if biting as a snake, or displays as if shedding their skin. They have also been known to move on the ground as in a serpentine pattern; including long stretches for hundreds of miles from Balhar to as far as the Nohotogrha oasis. In many cases as in Rihad they go nude. They have no love for the Imperials and been given to harassing civil servants; and further have been forced from cities to ensure the safety of garrisoning troops and other Imperial citizenry.
Orcs had been a foe of the Redguard since their arrival in Hammerfell. Beginning with the war against the Orcish kingdom of Orsinium, the Redguard of Hammerfell for the first time formed alliances with their neighbors including High Rock and the Colovian West. These alliances would he also aid in the fight against the Sload of Thras; most notable due to an alliance with Bendu Olo, the King of Anvil (in Cyrodiil).
The Redguards have endured corruption in their government and they themselves are seen as being intolerant of foreigners. Despite this they have proven strong and capable; defending their home in Tamriel from the Elves as well as A’Tor’s legacy. Before being rules by the Forebears, Hammerfell was ruled by a series of High Kings ending with Thassad II in 2E 864 after he was defeated by the future Forebear rulers; his son Crown Prince A’tor lead a bloody campaign after his fathers fall. A’tor’s campaign, which started in Stros M’Kai, came to an end when Forebears call for help was answered by Tiber Septim and the legions of the Empire. The defeat of Thassad II, a Crown, by Forebears illustrates the long standing tensions between the two camps; as they have vied for control of Hammerfell. After the defeat of A’tor, Tiber Septim personally oversaw the restoration of the republic in Hammerfell; and it’s introduction into the Empire at large. Hammerfell would again see conflict with the War of Bend’r-Mahk which took place in or about 3E 433.
Yokuda and the Yokudans in ESO
There is much in the Elder Scrolls Online by way of story, characters, zones, and lore that relate to Yokuda and the Yokudans. The Redguards, the descendants of the Yokudans, are one of the playable races in ESO. There are multiple zones covering sections of Hammerfell, where the Yokudans immigrated to in Tamriel. While an exact correlation of zones in ESO and their direct relationship to the area we know as Hammerfell is not possible; we can make a good estimate. The most notable of these zones is the Alik’r Desert, inhabited by Redguards and containing a great deal representing their community and culture. Additionally the zone Bangkori, or at least it’s southern portion, we will include in our discussion. Both the Alik’r Desert and Bangkori are Daggerfall Covenant zones. Further we will include the Veteran Adventure Zone Craglorn. Lastly, the Daggerfall Covenant starter island of Stros M’Kai which is also inhabited by Redguards we will discuss.
As the starter island for the Daggerfall Covenant, it seems fitting we will start our review with Stros M’Kai. Stros M’Kai is located off the southern coast of continental Hammefell. The island is the main location of the 1998 title, The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard.
Although Stros M’Kai is accessible, only the core island and the assorted rock formations known as “the Spine” are available in ESO; with the Isle of N’Gasta, which is very close of the west cost off Stros M’Kai, being absent. The absence of N’Gasta is a disappointment given it’s size and proximity to Stros M’Kai. Stros M’Kai in ESO reflects the main city at Hunding Bay and the only other settlement of Saintsport; absent are the nomadic campsites mentioned in literature. The main city is where the Palace and statue of Frandar Hunding are located. Goblins are present on Stros M’Kai in ESO, as lore reflects. Jarrin Root, a plant seen in the game Skyrim is missing in ESO; it is documented to only be native to Stros M’Kai.
The zone Alik’r Desert for the Daggerfall Covenant is a level 35 to 40 zone. This zone includes a fair selection of cities, towns, and other areas of interest; included is the capital of Hammerfell, Sentinel. Other cities included Tava’s Blessing, Bergama, Kozanset, and Satakalaam. Amongst the vistas in the Alik’r Desert zone are places such as Tu’whacca’s Throne and the group dungeon Volenfell.
Two of the cites in the Alik’r Desert zone are ports including Sentinel. The VFE notes regarding the diety Tava, “She is still very popular in Hammerfell among sailors, and her shrines can be found in most port cities.”; this reveals the first omission regarding the Yokudans and ESO; that of the shrines to Tava. None are to be found in either port and even taking into account the date of publication of VFE with regards to ESO, the traditions of the Yokudans and their Redguard ancestors are recorded as being well maintained (even with other cultural adoptions).
Moving on, there are two accounts of where the Yokudan’s arrived when reaching the shores of Tamriel. One in the VFE and also in the PGEE First Edition stating that the Yokudans landed on the island of Herne; the extended story being that the Na-Totambu landed at Herne and the Ra Gada landed on the mainland as an invasion force. The second reference in the PGEE, Third Edition makes reference to Volenfell (Volenfel) as the place the Yokudans arrived at. Quoting from the PGEE Third Edition, “Hammerfell – as Volenfel had come to be called”, it is clear that Volenfel in this context is simply a reference to Hammerfell in a generic since. The name Vollenfell in fact is a reference to a Dwemer city that existed in Hammerfell at one time; in ESO in fact, a Group Dungeon with the name Vollenfell is postulated as being that former Dwemer city. There is an area of interest, Na Totambu’s Landing in the Alik’r Desert zone; the name of which itself makes reference to the arrival of the Na Totambu from Herne as the Ra Gada pressed inland.
Southern Bangkorai (Bankorai) has some subject matter of interest however it is not as rich as rich as the Alik’r Desert (even taking into account the size). There is one city of note, Hallin’s Stand. Bangkorai as a region includes the Bangkorai Pass, which the loading screen trivia tell us was used to strategically protect Northern Bangkorai from the Redguard of Hammerfell. Southern Bangkorai has the Bangkorai gate leading from Bangkorai into Craglorn. One curiosity in the Alik’r Desert is the city of Satakalaam; shown on the eastern side of the zone. In the 1996 game The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (Daggerfall), Satakalaam is shown as a zone on the map east of the Dragontail mountains; ostensibly this zone includes the city itself. However in ESO a review of the maps would place the Dragontail mountains to the east of Southern Bangkorai, in the region the Bangkorai gate rests in, which is in between this Bangkorai and Craglorn.
Craglorn, the first new zone post release is another area rich in the flavor of the Yokudans and their ancestors the Redguards. This veteran level Adventure zone features unique quests, enemies, and more; the zone has the feel of the Alik’r Desert. There are two communities in Craglorn: the town of Elinhir and the city of Belkarth. One interesting enemy in the Craglorn zone is the Air Atronach; referenced in lore, specifically in Daggerfall. In Daggerfall Soul Gems containing the souls of Air Atronachs can be found; their appearance in ESO is their first formal appearance as an enemy.
The culture of the Redguards is very well represented in ESO. One of the main characters in the story line is a Redguard named Sai Sahan. Sai’s back story include references to the Yokuda including learning martial skills from his mentor Kasura; being trained in the ways of the ancient Yokudan sword-saints in the Valley of the Blades in his youth. Further, we see glimpses of the religiosity of the Redguards through interactions with NPCs; that include dialog referring Tall Papa. The Ansei are also mentioned indirectly in the Daggerfall Covenant quests in the Alik’r Desert zone; specifically those surrounding the Ansei Wards. The quests related to the Ansei Wards make reference to members of the Ansei including Radan, Maja, and Halelah.
The culture and history of the Yokudans and Redguards is well represented in ESO. We have opportunities to see sections of Hammerfell, play as the Redguard race, and see representations of the past and present; including interpretations of history only represented in text or other limited contexts. Realistically, any oversights in the development of ESO are innocuous; barring questions surrounding Satakalaam’s location. In fact if anything ESO continues to provide an excellent continuation of the lore of the Elder Scrolls franchise.
- “Yokuda.” Elder Scrolls. Wikia, n.d. Web. 18 June 2014. <http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Yokuda>.
- “Varieties of Faith in the Empire.” Elder Scrolls. Wikia, n.d. Web. 24 June 2014. <http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Varieties_of_Faith_in_the_Empire>.
- “Redguard (Race).” Elder Scrolls. Wikia, n.d. Web. 19 June 2014. <http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Redguard_(Race)>.
- “Hiradirge.” Elder Scrolls. Wikia, n.d. Web. 19 June 2014. <http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Hiradirge>.
- “Mysterious Akavir.” Elder Scrolls. Wikia, n.d. Web. 19 June 2014. <http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Mysterious_Akavir>.
- “Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Other Lands.” Elder Scrolls. Wikia, n.d. Web. 19 June 2014. <http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Pocket_Guide_to_the_Empire,_Third_Edition:_Yokuda>.
- “Online:Volenfell.” . The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, n.d. Web. 23 June 2014. <http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Online:Volenfell>.
- “Lore:From The Memory Stone of Makela Leki.” – UESPWiki. The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, n.d. Web. 23 June 2014. <http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:From_The_Memory_Stone_of_Makela_Leki>.
- “Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Hammerfell.” Elder Scrolls. Wikia, n.d. Web. 23 June 2014. <http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Pocket_Guide_to_the_Empire,_Third_Edition:_Hammerfell>.
- “Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Hammerfell.” Elder Scrolls. Wikia, n.d. Web. 23 June 2014. <http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Pocket_Guide_to_the_Empire,_First_Edition:_Hammerfell>.
- “Lore:Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition/Hammerfell.” – UESPWiki. The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, n.d. Web. 24 June 2014. <http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Pocket_Guide_to_the_Empire,_1st_Edition/Hammerfell>.
- “Varieties of Faith in the Empire.” Elder Scrolls. Wikia, n.d. Web. 23 June 2014. <http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Varieties_of_Faith_in_the_Empire>.
- “Lore:Stros M’Kai.” – UESPWiki. The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, n.d. Web. 24 June 2014. <http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Stros_M’Kai>.
- “Lore:People N.” . The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, n.d. Web. 24 June 2014. <http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:N%27Gasta#N.27Gasta>.
- “Lore:Redguard.” – UESPWiki. The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, n.d. Web. 24 June 2014. <http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Redguard>.
- “Sai Sahan.” Elder Scrolls. Wikia, n.d. Web. 8 July 2014. <http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Sai_Sahan>.
- “Daggerfall:Bestiary.” – UESPWiki. The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 12 July 2014. <http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Daggerfall:Bestiary>.
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