Name Meaning: Ambition Tyranny Cruelty
Titles: Grandmaster of the Greybeards, Old One, Alduin’s Lieutenant (Formerly)
Realm: Throat of the World, Skyrim
Featured In: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Voiced By: Charles Martinet
Though I’ve never played any of the games for The Elder Scrolls series, particularly the fifth one, I can say that it is a series meant for the truly dedicated of gamers who aim for a game that is distinct unto each player and especially for those who desire a world filled to the bursting with lore. For those who have never played the games, I can only suggest to either explore the wiki as I had done or to pick up the game themselves for I could not begin to touch on the basic summary without pushing aside the main point of this review. That being said let me tell you of the dragons of Skyrim and of the one named Paarthurnax.
First off, dragons of The Elder Scrolls are immortal in every sense of the word. The can be killed, of that there is no question, but they can never truly die. For all dragons possess the Thu’um, or “Dragon Shouts,” and those of incredible power, namely the game’s chief antagonist Alduin the World Eater, can demand the dead to rise and live again whole and complete as though they had never been slain at all.
Such was what occurs in the beginning of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with Alduin’s return and what spurs the emergence of the one true method of slaying a dragon. The Dovahkiin, one who is mortal in body but a dragon in soul and possessing the power to kill another dragon by devouring their souls and assimilating their Thu’um into their own.
As with most named dragons, the name Dovahkiin is made up of their own language that is oftentimes mistakenly translated as “Dragonborn,” a nod towards the Dovahkiin’s heritage as possessing a draconic soul, but such is not the case. Traditionally speaking, dragon names are made up of three parts and in the case of Dovahkiin, it is properly translated as “Dragon Hunter Born” or more specifically, “Born Hunter of Dragonkind.” Yet just because the Dovahkiin possesses the power of the Thu’um and thus the magical might that is a Dragon’s Shout, they do not know all of the dragon’s tongue and so must learn them across the vast reaches of the world.
Thus does Paarthurnax come into play… For Paarthurnax is the only dragon to have survived on Skyrim since Alduin’s supposed fall. Out of the many dragons fought and defeated throughout the game, Paarthurnax is the only one to appear elderly in his form. His wings are ragged and torn, his horns cracked and broken, and even pale white spikes along his chin. He is also quite easily the most humane of the dragons despite his name and his past.
For though he had served under Alduin as his “right-wing” and had committed numerous crimes and atrocities to mankind, it was Paarthurnax that eventually came to man’s aid by teaching the Thu’um to those capable of it. In point of fact, he even goes so far as to call his first disciples his “friends” rather than his students. Though Paarthurnax himself claimed it was because of Alduin’s false claims towards godhood that spurned this decision, there are some who believe that there was some deity intervention that inspired Paarthurnax’s betrayal of his former master.
However, what makes Paarthurnax the incredible dragon that he is, both in game and outside it, is what he had done with his life since Alduin’s banishment. Knowing full well of his own inherent lust for power, Paarthurnax chose a solitary life of meditation upon the Throat of the World. It was there atop the world’s tallest mountain that Paarthurnax would eventually grow to follow the Way of the Voice, a pacifistic creed of using the Thu’um for glory and worship of the gods rather than exploits of war. He even goes so far as to dedicate his life to teaching this dogma to his fellow dragons upon Alduin’s final defeat.
Paarthurnax even goes so far as to speak with the Dovahkiin as actually kin, even praising the fortune of being able to speak with one of his own kind after so long despite the Dovahkiin having a mortal body. It is from Paarthurnax that the Dovahkiin learns the Thu’um for Fire Breath and will help the Dovahkiin meditate and strengthen it and the words “Fus” or Force, and “Feim” or “Fade.”
Out of the many dragons I’ve seen and read, I can’t honestly say that there is a dragon wiser in words than Paarthurnax. I especially like his quirk of inserting dragon words into his speech, a habit that my own grandfather oftentimes did with his native tongue of German. Still I can’t help but find it rather hilarious that his voice actor is the same man responsible for the voices of Mario, Luigi, and Wario.