Credit: The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr (2019)
Players got one of their first real experiences with Elsweyr, the home of the Khajiit in 2019 with with an expansion for ESO involving this desert world. Prior to the release of this expansion, most of the information regarding the province of Elsweyr would be found in books scattered around Skyrim, which players would usually find during dungeon runs. When Bethesda released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the first time on November 11, 2011- it was an immediate critical and commercial success. More specifically, this was also the first time players learned extensively about the Khajitt race, as well. Not surprisingly, racism is a common issue within games of this franchise. For instance, Skyrim's "Nords" more or less hate everyone who isn't a Nord-even if they aren't natives of Skyrim themselves (according to in-game historians). Although Khajiit appear frequently throughout Skyrim (they're also a playable race), these humanoid cats actually come from the desert land of Elsweyr. Unfortunately because of existing racism, Khajiit are not allowed within most city walls and are forced to sell their products (or wares) outside city limits. Players witness this for the first time when they arrive at Whiterun, the first major city within the game's main narrative.
These are some stickers I ordered from #RedBubble. One of them depicts the famous line from Skyrim, "Khajiit has wares if you have coin."
Khajiit and the Moon:
For players of the Elder Scrolls franchise (which includes myself), a common question might be whether Khajiit live part of their lives as kittens. Well, for the most part the answer is "no". I understand that might be disappointing, considering I was disappointed by it myself. However, as a folklorist the explanation for this is pretty fascinating. Interestingly, the appearance, behaviour, and physiology of a Khajiit depends on their lunar cycle during birth. With respect to the treatment of Khajiit, many of them are stigmatized because of folks like this:
Drawing attention to Khajiit culture, the aforementioned race and the Argonians inhabited Tamriel long before the Nords, and other races. However, the wood-elves (Bosmer) have also been inhabitants of Tamriel for as long as the Khajiit and Argonians. Not surprisingly, many of these folks left their native provinces due to inevitable civil war throughout Tamriel's existence. However, for players, we get a taste of other provinces of Tamriel through online games such as ESO. I actually bought Morrowind with a gift card my dad gave me for Christmas, but I haven't had the chance to play it yet.
Khajiit culture explained:
There are conflicting records about the relationship between the different tribes before and after their agreement to form a unified race and the foundation of Elsweyr in 2E 309 by two powerful factions. Older studies claim that there was constant warfare between the tribes before that date, and a rebellion against the union only ended when an alternate rule, depending on the states of the moons, between the different tribes was agreed on. The Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Elsweyr disagrees with this view and instead places the time of harmony through alternate rule before the union of 2E 309, claiming it stabilized the region for thousand years. The balance was only disrupted by the Thrassian Plague, which decimated the Khajiiti population and forced them into two opposed faction, which then were united in the year 2E 309. The Cyrodilic Empire began making diplomatic overtures with Elsweyr, leading up to Tiber Septim's unification of the entire continent. (https://elderscrolls.fandom.com/wiki/Khajiit)
Drawing from the statement above, it's clear the history of Elsweyr is painted with violence and political imbalance. As a folklorist, I believe it's possible a large amount of Khajiit myth and legend was established as means of counteracting what was taking place during Elsweyr civil wars. Something to keep in mind, however, the Elder Scrolls franchise is fantasy-based. Therefore, lore within these video games is often real and fictitious at the same time.
Credit: The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr (2019)
One of the most interesting things about Khajiit culture is the process of their birth. As previously mentioned, the appearance and behaviour of a Khajiit is based on their lunar cycle. More specifically, the process of a Khajiit’s birth depends on the position of Nirn’s two major moons; Masser and Secunda. Moreover, if a Khajiit is born during a lunar eclipse, this will also alter their physiology. Although one could easily believe Khajiit are kittens at birth, they are- to an extent. Instead, Khajiit appear the size of a large kitten for about twenty-four to thirty-six hours, and then take on the appearance of a teenager. So, what makes this so interesting? According to the lore, Nirn's two moons are a major aspect of Khajiit culture. With that in mind, many of their life decisions would likely revolve around the position of the two moons- in comparison to that of their birth:
These appearances can vary drastically from one breed to another, with some Khajiit resembling the common house cat, other Khajiit resembling huge bipedal jaguars, and others being almost indistinguishable from Men or Mer. (https://elderscrolls.fandom.com/wiki/Khajiit)
Nirn's two moons (above)
Shortly after a Khajiit enters their "teenage" form, they will begin training as warriors. Considering their home province has been in an almost-constant state of civil war, it's not surprising that fighting and chivalry is an important aspect of their culture. I first played Skyrim in 2019 (yes, I know I'm late), I found the Khajiit lore the most interesting. In the future, I hope to play ESO: Elsweyr, but I guess I should play Morrowind first!
(c) The Modernist Son, 2020-