The Elder Scrolls 6 needs to unlock the Thalmor's true potential. Their rise is one of the most significant events nestled between Oblivion and Skyrim. The faction took control of the Summerset Isles and began expanding the High Elven empire once again, with the Third Aldmeri Dominion posing a new threat to the fledgling Mede dynasty in Cyrodiil. From their clothing, persecuting policies, and their position as the "Third" incarnation of their empire, the parallels between the Thalmor and Nazi Germany are explicit, helping to quickly catch players up on the world's political landscape.
Without those parallels, however, the Thalmor are left underdeveloped in Skyrim. There's some fascinating details about the faction's goals that are never explored in-depth in The Elder Scrolls 5, and which have the potential to elevate the Thalmor from uncomplicated stock villains to a truly complex antagonistic force embedded deep in the lore. Here's why the Thalmor need to be explored in greater depth in The Elder Scrolls 6.
Skyrim focuses on a few details about the Thalmor. The opening sequence in Helgen makes it clear that they have some degree of control over the Empire. The rest of the main quest explains that in-between Oblivion and Skyrim the Empire fought a "Great War" against the High Elves, and were forced to sign the White-Gold Concordat to establish peace. This agreement allowed the Thalmor to send justiciars across the Imperial provinces, persecuting the worshippers of Talos, the name the human Emperor Tiber Septim took upon ascending to godhood.
The game makes it clear that life under Thalmor rule is brutal even for their fellow Elves. The Wood Elf Malborn who aids the Dragonborn in the quest "Diplomatic Immunity" helps the Blades because the Thalmor wiped out his family in Valenwood. The Thalmor also play an important role in Skyrim's Civil War, giving the Stormcloak rebellion a sympathetic edge despite its other prejudices.
The Thalmor play an important role in Skyrim's story, but that role mostly relies on them being the single least sympathetic faction in the game to the extent that the Empire's mere involuntary association with the Thalmor is a spot on their record. What their function does not require, however, is for Skyrim to go into very much depth regarding the origins or ultimate goals of the group. Those goals, however, are some of the most interesting and truly bizarre in all of The Elder Scrolls' lore.
The goals of the Thalmor and by extension the Third Aldmeri Dominion are neatly summed up by Ondolemar, the Thalmor justiciar in Markarth, who says that they "intend to prove the superiority of Mer over Man, one century at a time." Why Ondolemar doesn't mention, however, is that the Thalmor's plan to wipe mankind from Tamriel doesn't just apply to the future, but to the past as well.
While this source is not officially licensed by Bethesda, it was written by Michael Kirkbride who wrote much of the official Elder Scrolls lore before leaving the studio, and gives insight into the storyteller's idea of the Thalmor's ultimate goals. Kirkbride's Altmer commentary on Talos is as follows:
"To kill man is to reach Heaven, from where we came before the Doom Drum's iniquity. When we accomplish this, we can escape the mockery and long shame of the Material Prison.
To achieve this goal, we must:
1) Erase the Upstart Talos from the myth. His presence fortified the Wheel of Convention, and binds our souls to this plane.
2) Remove Man not just from the world, but from the Pattern of Possibility, so that the very idea of them can be forgotten and thereby never again repeated.
3) With Talos and the Sons of Talos removed, the Dragon will become ours to unbind. The world of mortals will be over. The Dragon will uncoil his hold on the stagnancy of linear time and move as Free Serpent again, moving through the Aether without measure or burden, spilling time along the innumerable roads we once travelled. And with that we will regain the mantle of the imperishable spirit."
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