Wait, What The Heck Are The Elder Scrolls?

With all the hullabaloo that's broken out over The Elder Scrolls creator Bethesda's legal threats against Minecraft creator Marcus Persson regarding the title of his upcoming game Scrolls, it's easy to overlook the fact that it's not entirely clear what The Elder Scrolls themselves really are.

I'm not talking about the fact that we don't generally use the words "The Elder Scrolls" when we talk about Morrowind or Skyrim; this is more of a lore question: In the world of The Elder Scrolls, what are The Elder Scrolls?

Surely they must be old, and we can assume that, being scrolls, they have some writing on them. But beyond those facts, I had to admit that I wasn't really sure. From whence did they come? By whom were they written? Do they grant magical powers? These seem like fairly fundamental questions.

After a little digging, I found that the Elder Scrolls aren't really in the games themselves so much — they act more as an abstract framing device, prophetic pieces of parchment that foretell the adventures contained within each of the Elder Scrolls Games.

I do have a vague memory of going on a sidequest to find an Elder Scroll in Oblivion. Even at the time, I remember thinking, "Really? An Elder Scroll?" As I recall it didn't amount to much, just one more fetch quest among dozens. I'm not even sure if I ever actually found the scroll. If I did, I'm fairly certain it didn't contain any Skyrim spoilers.

So. The Elder Scrolls are kind of like a fantasy version of the rolling yellow letters at the start of a Star Wars movie. Or, if you prefer, they're like the fictional book "The Princess Bride" that exists within The Princess Bride. Glad we got that cleared up.

You can contact Kirk Hamilton, the author of this post, at [email protected]. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.


    Bethesda should just harden the f**k up.

    To be fair, there is an actual novelisation of The Princess Bride, so they would /actually have a case/ if someone tried to write a book purporting to be The Princess Bride.

    Unlike Bethesda, who are just dicks with a big legal team.

      It's REALLY bad:(

        The movie is based on the novel folks, not the other way around.

        WRONG. It's actually great.
        PS The novel was written first, by the same writer who went on to write the scrrenplay for the film. The book does work the book-within-a-book theme that was skimmed by the film, but it does it BRILLIANTLY, claimingthat the novel you are reading is a translation/abridgement of an older text, along with heaps of author commentary on said original. The twist being that there is no original and William Goldman made the whole thing up. Which is one of many reasons his autobiography was called 'Which Lie Did I Tell?'

    Bethesda can go eat a fat one.

    Bethesda are being stupid. Next theyll be saying they own copyright of the word Elder.

      Oh no!. Looks like there are a lot of little villages led by groups of old people (usually sitting at crescent shaped tables wearing hooded robes) who are about to get sued.

    I care as much for Notch/Minecraft as I do for lawyers.. Move along, nothing to see here.

    Didn't harry potter have an "Elder" wand? OH SHIT.

    Makes sense, if someone made a game titled 'Warfare' or 'Empires', bet your ass they'd be sued in a heartbeat.

      I guess this means my plans for "Modern Age of Imperial Warfare 2: In Enemy Territory" are ruined.

      And no, there wasn't a first one. The 2 is just to see if I can get into another court flame-war with anyone with claims to a number.

    After the last Elder Scrolls game, I'm surprised people are still interested in it to warrant Skyrim being a blip on the radar.

      Despite the fact that Oblivion was a major success and a great game all round that many people still play due to a highly successful modding community? I can't imagine why anyone would be interested in a game that has a unique take on the RPG genre that hasn't been done well by any other franchise.

      On another note I have a feeling that this was done to avoid marketing issues, the same way the movie ,Avatar:The Last Airbender, had it's 'Avatar' dropped. Mojang isn't a small indy company anymore, they have a large following and their upcoming game ,Scrolls, is receiving a lot of attention. Bethesda probably just wants to avoid there being confusion over which game is which. Yes it comes across as somewhat petty, but as hummingbird said, in an industry where a franchise name can sell millions,(Call of Duty) even singular recognizable words can make a huge difference.

        Exactly, the popularity of the game comes from the modding community fixing everything wrong with it. About 2/3 of it's sales to date occurred AFTER the modding community got it's hands on it.

      The only one I played was Oblivion, and I thought it was decent, but nothing super special.

      Lots of people loved it though, but if Fallout 3 is anything else to go off, then Skyrim is gonna be a streamlined cakewalk.

      I suspect Skyrim will be the last Elder Scrolls game. That is, until Notch takes up the mantle.

        Exactly, it was okay and nothing more. Hell I've yet to speak to a person who has recommended Oblivion on it's own. Everyone I've asked (online and mates) have all said I should go nuts on getting as many community mods as possible to make it a truly worthwhile game.

        As for Fallout 3 *shudder* well that's a even worse...

          hmmm you do know that just because YOU don't like a game, doesn't mean other people don't.
          Obviously there are enough fans of the series to warrent Skyrim. Don't buy it if you don't like it.
          I never attached a single mod to Oblivion and I sank over 300 hours into the game on both PC and Xbox; I enjoyed every minute of it and I am really looking forward to doing it all over again in Skyrim.

            Amen to that! So many people spend their time just whinging about why they dont like a game or why they are not going to buy the limited edition! Dont like it dont buy it, just stop telling me about how much you hate it, you aint gona crash my Skyrim party - all 300+ hours of it - cant wait!


            I sank well over 200 hours into the GOTY edition on PS3 (i.e. no mods) and loved every bit of it. Will definitely pick up Skyrim GOTY and put in similar hours on that.

          Mods for Oblivion are 90% rubbish. They range from weird creepy sex mods to even weirder creepier clothes and quests that break your game. It isn't called the sexnexus for nothing. That aside any good mod that added something to game is usually then stolen by Bethesda and put into something else without being given credit. Hello opening chests in Fallout 3.

    I do hope, when they resume work on "The Crossing", that Nintendo sues them, since Crossing is generally associated with Animal Crossing (right after a road crossing, and crossing the line when inappropriate jokes are told, and 100s of other uses of the word).

      This is a perfect example actually.

    HOLD THE MOTHERF***ING PHONES. Looking at that map in the bottom right hand corner of the map you can actually see a settlement called stormhold. Stormhold is a city in Neil Gaimans novel Star Dust. Damn hypocritical Bethesda people! Can't even come up with your own names for places in your games but you think you can go stomping around suing people for using a word from the english dictionary. "Oh noes they'll stealz all our monies if their game has the same word in its title as one of our games! The horror!" Man the F**K up Bethesda!

      Neil Gaimans novel Star Dust written 1998.

      First Elder Scrolls game using the name "Stormhold" - The Elder Scrolls: Arena - released 1994

      Fail harder

        Thank you, sir.

    Obviously Kirk has no idea about this game. I've only played Morrowind and Oblivion (and about the first five minutes of Daggerfall), and I knew the Elder Scrolls were prophetic scrolls. It's like playing Halo and saying you don't know what a Spartan is - You obviously weren't paying attention.

      You've played two of the games where I assumed his only played Oblivion. I have only 'really' played Oblivion, while not experiencing Morrowind past level 8 and that instance that he is referring to is the only one i can think of that includes the Elder Scrolls.

      But on the legal issue, I was against what Bethesda are doing, but after seeing a few of the comments, I agree. It could very well lead to confusion for some people, not many, but enough.

        I doubt that. Unless people are referring to the series as a whole (which they rarely are), they tend to use the individual titles. No one's gonna confuse Skyrim with Scrolls.

          That's exactly how I felt about it at first as well. No one I know says "Elder scrolls" they all say "Oblivion" and "Skyrim".

          But as PuckoJP said, with the movies "Avatar" and "Avatar: The Last Airbender" when people were talking about a new movie called Avatar and how good it was, I wasn't sure which one they were talking about.

          This case with "Scrolls" isn't as extreme as Avatar, but I do see where they are coming from. If anything I think marketing both games well and displaying how different they are would suffice rather than a whole legal battle, but it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

    There's a town called Orcrest. There are Orcs in Warcraft. geif money plox

      Well if we want to be picky about this stuff, Skaven (just above the word Hammerfell) is a trademark owned by Games Workshop.

        Heh, well it seems that Bethesda does want to be picky about it. So yeah, sue away Games Workshop.

        Sure, I understand about the marketing mix up, but Bethesda owns the trademark to "The Elder Scrolls", not "Scrolls", "Elder", and (god forbid) "The".

          I think you will also find that GW own Eldar/Dark Eldar. Is that close enough to Elder to warrant legal action?

    If your referring to the final quest for the Thieves guild, in which you get to actually see and hold an Elder Scroll, that is definitely not just some miscellaneous side-quest. Quite a big deal is made of it, and it's one of my fondest memories of the series.

    Unless of course your referring to another quest, then I'd look a bit silly =D.

    Woops thought this was a post about scrolls the card game, my bad, similar name got me

    Zenimax Media, not Besthesda. People need to know who owns who. lol

    Is it actually impossible to not like Notch?

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