It's been almost seven years since Bethesda first released Skyrim, the hugely popular fifth installment in the Elder Scrolls series of games. In those seven years, fans have had plenty of time not just to explore every single aspect of the base game and its various DLC packs, but come up with plenty of theories involving the lore of the Skyrim universe. Of course, the canon lore of Tamriel is pretty extensive: information about this land, its history, and its inhabitants is hidden not just in Skyrim, but in every Elder Scrolls game. However, that doesn't mean fans can't speculate about the gaps that do exist in the series' official canon!
As is the case with any committed fandom, hundreds of Skyrim fan theories have sprung up over the years, ranging in quality from the almost certainly true to the completely and utterly nonsensical. Characters have been given invented but compelling backstories. Intrigue and scandal have been invented, and character motivations thoroughly assessed. Links to other games (and even movies) have been pulled out of thin air, and credible easter eggs spotted. These ideas have been extensively discussed, revised, and sometimes totally torn apart. Not every theory is created equal!
While some Skyrim fan theories are so plausible that they might as well be considered canon at this point, others are frankly too good to be true. Some are "good" in the sense that they fit so well, they're probably just too obvious. Others are "good" in terms of their entertainment value, even if they're completely off-the-wall and indefensible. Here are just some of the Skyrim fan theories that might not necessarily be accurate, but are fun to consider all the same.
25 The Dwemer Extinction?
In Skyrim, the general consensus regarding the Dwemer people is that they're long extinct. The Dragonborn has the option of exploring numerous Dwemer ruins and discovering the technology and treasures that they left behind.
However, the Dwemer people themselves are nowhere to be seen.
While some fans accept the extinction theory, others believe that the Dwemer are actually still out there. One Redditor presented the hypothesis that the Dwemer actually are the machines you encounter in the ruins. Not many of their fellow Elder Scrolls fans agreed, but hey—it's still a theory.
24 The Greybeards' Names
Ever wondered how exactly the Greybeards got their names? Sure, they do all have grey beards, but many Skyrim fans think there must be something more to it than that. One Redditor has put forward the hypothesis that the name references the fact that unlike many of the men of Skyrim, the Greybeards have allowed themselves to grow old. For many Nords, perishing young in battle is a glorious and enviable endeavor. However, the Greybeards have prioritized safety and longevity. Hence, unlike many men of their generation, they've aged enough to actually have grey hair—and beards!
23 Cicero Loves The Night Mother...
Anyone who's played Skyrim's Dark Brotherhood quest line will know that not only is Cicero, one of your fellow assassins, incredibly annoying, he's also a big fan of the Night Mother, a corpse who happens to be the bride of Sithis and the spiritual head of the Brotherhood. For a long time, Cicero was the caretaker of the Night Mother: it's clear he reveres and feels very close to her. However, some fans have speculated that he got a bit TOO close to her at some point in the past, both emotionally and physically. It doesn't bear thinking about.
22 Ulfric Stormcloak The Dragonborn?
Ulfric Stormcloak is a pretty controversial character in Skyrim, both in-game and in terms of players' opinions of him. He's the leader of the Stormcloaks, a rebellious group with arguably racist views, and supposedly destroyed the former High King Torygg using a Shout. There are a number of fascinating theories surrounding Ulfric's intentions and actions, but one of the most interesting is the idea that he truly believed himself to be the Dragonborn. According to this theory, Ulfric himself incited the return of the dragons so that he could "prove himself" as the Dragonborn. Of course, Ulfric's hunch was incorrect!
21 Is M'aiq Immortal?
The mysterious M'aiq has appeared in numerous Elder Scrolls games. Thing is, is it the same M'aiq each time, despite the fact that each game is set in a vastly different time period? In Skyrim, M'aiq references the fact that many of his forefathers were also called M'aiq.
That would explain things quite neatly.
However, since M'aiq has the epithet "the Liar," we can't really blame fans for questioning if this is the truth. People have speculated that M'aiq is actually a time-traveler, or even immortal. Whether we ever learn the truth about this character lies in Bethesda's hands!
20 The Dragonborn's Secret Plan
Here's one Reddit-based Skyrim theory that'll blow your mind. What if every single event in the game, from the return of the dragons to the plot against the Emperor, has been orchestrated by the Dragonborn so that they can take over and rule Tamriel? To be fair, defeating the dragons would probably give a person enough popularity to become a national leader. All you have to do is trigger a civil war, end the current ruler, then sweep in and take power in the midst of all the chaos...
19 The Letters From A Friend
One of the biggest debates amongst Skyrim fans is who exactly sends the Dragonborn the "letters from a friend." It has to be someone who knows what a Dragonborn is, and what a Thu'um sounds like.
Is it one of the Greybeards, perhaps?
Or maybe Delphine is the mysterious author? One fan theory posted on Reddit argues that Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of knowledge and memory, actually sends the letters to encourage the Dragonborn to master their powers and eventually overthrow Miraak. It's not beyond the realms of possibility!
18 Tamriel's Technological Limitations
Has it ever seemed suspicious to you that the majority of Tamriel remains technologically exactly the same throughout each Elder Scrolls game, despite the fact that hundreds of centuries apparently pass? Shouldn't the land have had some kind of technological boom already? One fan theory suggests that some kind of industrial revolution should have happened—but that some force is holding Tamriel back. Maybe it's the Empire deliberately keeping its people "primitive" to prevent an uprising or revolution? Perhaps the Divines or the Daedra are simply messing with mankind? Who knows...
17 The Truth Behind Reyda's Disappearance
In Ivarstead, the Dragonborn is confronted with a pretty tragic mystery. A man called Narfi has been driven insane by worry due to the disappearance of his beloved sister, Reyda, a year previously. If the player looks hard enough, Reyda's body can be found in a nearby river.
Question is, what happened to her?
Some Skyrim fans believe Wilhelm, a local innkeeper, slew Reyda, using the fact that he seemingly knows where the body is as evidence. Others think that Narfi himself did it, and has blocked out the memory due to trauma. Will CSI: Skyrim ever crack this case?
16 Chicken-Worshippers Of Skyrim
To be honest, we only decided to throw this Skyrim fan theory into the mix because it's basically become a meme. It's well-known amongst the game's fanbase that the people of Skyrim are usually utterly horrified if they spot the player ending a chicken. It doesn't matter if it was an accident, or if the player was just really hungry: slaying a chicken is clearly an abhorrent crime. One tongue-in-cheek fan theory suggests that the people of Skyrim are clearly chicken-worshippers and revere these clucking creatures. Honestly, it makes sense.
15 Paarthurnax's True Intentions
Paarthurnax is one of the few dragons in the main quest of Skyrim who's actually chosen to assist the human race rather than destroy them on sight. He's the one who helped the Greybeards to master the art of Shouting—he must be a good guy, right? Well, not according to some Skyrim fans. Paarthurnax could secretly be an evil genius playing the long game, waiting for the Dragonborn to banish Alduin so that he can be the top dragon once more. He's not helping the human race out of the goodness of his heart...
14 Lydia's Blind Devotion
Pretty early on in the main quest of Skyrim, the Jarl of Whiterun assigns Lydia, a pretty formidable warrior, to be the Dragonborn's Housecarl. If you purchase a home in the city, Lydia will always be there waiting patiently for you, barking out one of the three phrases she's programmed to say.
What if that's more than just laziness on Bethesda's part, though?
What if Lydia is only capable of such basic speech because she's a mindless drone who's been enchanted into serving you by Whiterun's court wizard? Some Skyrim fans genuinely suspect this to be the case.
13 The Skyrim/Frozen Crossover
If you thought Avengers: Infinity War was the most ambitious crossover event in history, you clearly hadn't come across this Skyrim fan theory yet. It links this area of Tamriel with the setting of a popular Disney movie: Frozen's Arendelle. According to one Redditor, Arendelle is actually the town of Winterhold, before most of it got destroyed. They cite the architecture in the two places being similar, the presence of magic in both towns, and, of course, all of the snow in Winterhold. While this theory is highly unlikely to be true, it's at least pretty entertaining.
12 Hogni Red-Arm's Secret
All things considered, Markarth's butcher Hogni Red-Arm is a pretty creepy guy. While he is a butcher by profession, his obsession over meat and blood is just a bit too intense to be considered harmless. A lot of Skyrim fans believe that Hogni must be hiding some kind of dark secret—well, apart from the fact that he's a people-eater, as is revealed in one particularly grim side quest. Does he personally slay his victims before he eats them, making him a murderer too? Honestly, we wouldn't put it past him.
11 Alduin The Disappointing World-Eater
Okay, time for some real talk: considering he's supposed to be the "World-Eater", Alduin isn't actually all that impressive. Sure, he's a pretty tough opponent for the Dragonborn to defeat. However, when it comes to conquering and destroying all of Tamriel, Alduin kinda fails. Many fans have speculated the reason behind Alduin's apparent weakness. Did he get too arrogant, and fail to return to his true levels of power because of this? Did he choose not to destroy mankind in the hope that he could rule them, but underestimate the resistance he'd face? Both are possibilities.
10 The Emperor's True Enemy
If you make it to the end of the Dark Brotherhood quest, you'll find yourself carrying out a pretty substantial contract: ending the Emperor of Tamriel, Titus Mede II. Surprisingly, when the end finally comes for the emperor, he's pretty chill about the whole situation.
He doesn't try to stop you from carrying out your task.
Some Skyrim fans have suspected that Titus is so accepting of his own demise because he actually called the hit out on himself! He had been having a rough time, what with the Civil War and the after-effects of the White-Gold Concordat...
9 The Bugs In Jars
Ah, the infamous Skyrim "bugs in jars" conspiracy. As any theorist will tell you, these jars can be found throughout Skyrim. Each jar has a runic message on the inside of its lid, which fans have desperately tried to decode. Do they represent a sequence of prime numbers? Are they a sign that the apocalypse is nigh in Tamriel? So many weird and wonderful theories sprung up addressing the jars, but unfortunately, Skyrim's developers have confirmed that they're actually totally meaningless. So many hours of theorizing, wasted!
8 Post-Apocalyptic Tamriel
At this point, pretty much every single TV show, movie, or video game that appears to take place in a civilization slightly different to our own has fallen foul to the "it's a post-apocalyptic nightmare" theory. Skyrim is no exception! One Redditor has claimed that every single game in the Elder Scrolls series is another chapter in a tale of doom, gloom, and the end of the world. Numerous wars, destructive, dragon-based events, and natural disasters have apparently reduced Tamriel to a doomsday-esque mess. Or, it could just be a game set in an imagined fantasy world. Who knows.
7 Created, Not Born
Even though Skyrim fans have often spent dozens and dozens of hours playing as the Dragonborn, we know surprisingly little about this character's life prior to the events of the game. Do they have a family? When and where were they born? That's if they were "born" at all, of course. One fan theory suggests that the Dragonborn didn't come into the world in a conventional way, but was created by and placed in Tamriel by the Divines. Maybe they simply appeared on that prisoner's cart one day, and nobody knew quite how.
6 Skyrim's Link To Fallout 4
Considering both Skyrim and Fallout 4 were created by the same game studio, it's perhaps inevitable that fan theories have sprung up suggesting they take place in the same universe. Plenty of fans of both games have tried to prove this connection using a range of evidence. One notable theory uses the existence of the Nirnroot plant in both games as a reason why they must take place in a shared universe. Apparently, Nirnroot managed to survive some kind of nuclear apocalypse that turned Tamriel into the world of Fallout. That's one hardy plant!
5 Miraak's Epic Fail
Oh, Miraak. You had such power, yet totally blew it all by being a total moron. At least, that's what a lot of Skyrim fans believe! Before Miraak is vanquished, he makes some pretty amazing claims. For one, he suggests that he could have defeated Alduin if he'd wanted to, but chose not to.
Sure, Miraak, you tell yourself that...
As one fan theory notes, those are probably the words of someone who actually couldn't defeat Alduin and is incredibly salty about it. It's okay, Miraak. You can have a "you tried" star.
4 Winterhold's Glacial Collapse
Winterhold is probably one of the saddest holds in all of Skyrim. It's pretty much entirely destroyed, save for a couple of houses and its famous magic-teaching College. Most of the town fell into the ocean for reasons that are never fully explored in the game. There are, of course, many fan theories surrounding what happened, one of which claims that Winterhold was destroyed because it was built on an unstable glacier. When the ice fell into the sea, so did most of the town! Surely the people of Skyrim couldn't have planned this settlement THAT badly?
3 What Exactly Is The Night Mother?
Now, we've already discussed Cicero's, um, potentially passionate love for the Night Mother, but we haven't addressed exactly what she is. On the face of it, she is just an incredibly creepy shriveled corpse, but surely she can't always have been that way!
Who was she in her living days?
Was she the wife of Sithis, as is commonly suggested? Well, not according to one fan theory. One Redditor claims that the Night Mother is literally nothing more than a corpse and that her "voice" is actually Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of madness, speaking directly to the listener. Sinister, right?
2 The Skyrim Cure For Baldness
Of all of the aspects of Skyrim's gameplay that fans could have started to theorize about, one Redditor has apparently chosen to focus on the issue of baldness. Yes, really. It may not seem like an important aspect of gameplay, but someone clearly cares about it! One Redditor has claimed that centuries before the events of Skyrim, Restoration magic was able to cure baldness. However, all of the mages that could perform this spell were ended during the Oblivion crisis, and the art was lost. Such a shame...
1 Lord Harkon's Secret
If you've played the Dawnguard DLC, you'll know that this storyline's ultimate villain is Lord Harkon, a pretty evil vampire. Harkon wants to increase the vampire race's dominance in Tamriel by reducing their weakness to the sun. Of course, the Dragonborn doesn't let that happen! Many Skyrim fans have theorized about who exactly Harkon is and how powerful he actually is, with one Redditor coming to a stunning conclusion. Apparently, Harkon is a Dragonborn, the main evidence for this being that he's as power-hungry as a dragon. Alternatively, he could just be an awful person (and a pretty terrible father).