There's no denying that Skyrim is an iconic game. It's the birthplace of so many memes and memorable quotes that it's become an indelible part of popular culture. Now that Skyrim has been ported to almost every system known to humankind, just about everybody knows what taking an arrow to the knee means or how severe of a crime lollygagging is, whether they're an old hand or new to the game.
While these are all fun jokes, there are also tons of serious and touching moments in Skyrim's world that can make anyone stop and think. Bethesda truly wasn't kidding when hiring writers for the game; they're talented people who have created incredible lines that speak to us on a completely different level. Here are some of the wisest, most memorable quotes from Skyrim's fascinating roster of NPCs.
10 "My ancestors are smiling at me, Imperial. Can you say the same?"
If there's one big mistake that Bethesda made, it was not giving this man a name. Nothing more than a prisoner, this Stormcloak member bravely steps to the execution block at the beginning of the game. His acceptance of his own fate is truly impressive and inspirational.
This man has given his very soul to a cause, and it's apparent in the way he knows he'll be sent to Sovngarde, where his ancestors proudly wait for him. He doesn't fear death, because he's accepted his own mortality and embraced the dignity of dying for a cause.
9 "Sky above, Voice within."
The Greybeards are a mysterious bunch of people. They live in seclusion from the rest of Skyrim and the world, on top of the Throat of the World, in High Hrothgar. Arngeir, the man who teaches the Dragonborn everything he knows to prepare them for a confrontation with Alduin and his allies, has many crumbs of wisdom he speaks during the story.
With this line, he emphasizes the duality of what it means to speak Thu'um language. It's a language of those who inhabit the skies, but found deep within oneself. Even the Dragonborn must dig deep to find it and master it.
8 "Skyrim's harshness has a way of carving a man down to his true self."
General Tullius is the leader of the Imperial forces in Skyrim. A cold and callous man, he's preoccupied with the military code and doesn't give much praise to those around him. It's also very evident that Tullius is extremely unhappy about being stationed in Skyrim to deal with the Stormcloaks.
He probably misses Cyrodiil, preferring it over the harsh climate of the northern province. However, he considers his hardships in Skyrim as a test of his own resolve (and the resolve of those around him), something which will reveal his true self in the long run.
7 "Power. You have it, as do all dov. But power is inert without action and choice."
Paarthurnax is a real treasure chest of excellent quotes. He's one of the oldest creatures we meet as the Dragonborn, and therefore has seen much in his life. As the Dragonborn, we're fortunate to have so much power in ourselves. However, power alone won't bring about change or a conclusion. It's important that those holding power take a clear stand and make a decision they can steadfastly stand behind, without hesitation.
Having power is a luxury, but the best way to use it is a difficult choice everyone needs to make, even if they'd rather not. As the Dragonborn, we're forced to make a lot of tough choices, but it's that decision-making that makes us truly strong.
6 "May your roads lead to warm sands."
The Khajiit have a very peculiar way of speaking. Their culture is rich and different from most other cultures in Tamriel, and this is evident in the way they speak. Many Khajiit will often wish this very thing for you, a sort of wholesome farewell that is meant to wish you luck on your journey.
Perhaps the reference to warm sands relates to the southern parts of Elseweyr (the province most Khajiit inhabit), which consists of badlands and dry, arid stretches. It's a nice reference to their homelands, a wish that the traveler themselves will eventually find their way home as well.
5 "A Nord's last thought should be of home."
The opening scene of Skyrim has become a highly iconic moment. Not only is it the perfect beginning to a story that we get to define ourselves, it's also a moment defined by Ralof's wise words about preparing for the inevitable: death.
With everyone bound as prisoners in the carriage, there's little anyone can do to escape. While Lokir seems fidgety, Ralof has the calm attitude of a man who knows he's dying for a good cause and in great dignity. He tries to comfort us by urging us to think of what truly matters at a final moment like this: home, and where we came from. Luckily, this is only the beginning and not the end of the line for us.
4 "This life might not look like much to you, but I'm content, and isn't that all that matters?"
The world of Skyrim is a harsh one. From bandits to draugr to constant death and suffering due to a raging civil war, it's hard to look on the bright side. That is, until you meet Gwilin, who's literally the most optimistic man in all of Skyrim.
Found in Ivarstead, this happy-go-lucky Bosmer is determined to only see the silver lining in life, rather than sit around and mope. He's completely satisfied with his simple life, as it brings him all the joy he could wish for. Sometimes, while desperately vying for the things we want so badly, it's easy to forget everything we already have. Gwilin is a great reminder to appreciate the small, simple things and to do whatever makes you happy.
3 "The curse of much knowledge is often indecision."
If there's anyone who has seen eons of history unfold before his eyes, it's definitely Paarthurnax. His unparalleled knowledge makes him a fountain of great pieces of golden wisdom. As he explains here, knowledge itself, while inherently a good thing, can result in a helpless feeling that we don't quite know what to do with it all.
Not knowing all the details makes everything very simple, but when we know the full truth, we can feel as though we're responsible for that information and its consequences. Do we act on what we know? Is it our place to?
2 "Keep a song in your heart and a knife in your boot."
Jon Battle-Born seems to be a bit of a black sheep in his family. While the rest seem committed to fighting and the whole warrior lifestyle, he's your typical romantic poet who loves a great song. It's because of this that he urges us to never let go of our dreamy, idealistic side that enjoys a song or a story, but carry it everywhere we go.
That being said, Skyrim is a harsh environment, and you need to be prepared to fight for your life. Battles, however, should not make us less keen to hear songs and stories, nor turn us into jaded, emotionless people. With this simple, funny line, he does a great job aof summing up the duality of humankind.
1 "What is better - to be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?"
The concept of good and evil is one that's been discussed in many games and stories. In a lot of cases, the line between these two opposing sides isn't as clear cut as we'd like to think it is.
Paarthurnax gives us this life lesson too, when he points out that to be born with an 'evil nature' is not necessarily a crime. The changes we go through and our actions as we grow determine who we really are. Anyone can become good, through great effort, no matter where they come from. This is what gives our deeds and decisions so much weight and power. This is as true in the world of Skyrim as it is in our own.