The Aldmer (meaning First Ones, First Folk, or Elder Folk) were the original race of Mer on Nirn, direct descendants of the Ehlnofey. Much of modern Tamrielic culture traces its roots back to the original Aldmeri civilizations.
As far as anyone can determine, the Aldmer vanished as a distinct race sometime during the middle Merethic Era. As such, clear and reliable descriptions of the race are difficult to come by. However, most scholars agree that the Aldmer likely resembled modern-day Altmer more than any other mer race. In particular, the Altmer consider themselves the most "pure" descendants of their progenitor race, and attempt to maintain that purity through careful breeding. In addition, all races of mer share a number of similar characteristics, which most likely derive from their ancestors.
It is surmised that the Aldmer were tall and lithe, probably of smaller build but more graceful than the humans of the same era. Their faces were likely thin, with pointed ears and almond-shaped eyes. The Aldmer skin tone was probably the same pale yellow as the Altmer, perhaps slightly more pronounced. One popular source of speculation on Aldmer appearance comes from the Tribunal, the three living gods of the Dunmer on Morrowind. These three mer were possibly alive during the Mythic Era, and certainly during the very early First Era, and are the last remnants of the Chimer to survive into the Third Era. Given the relatively short period of time between the appearance of the Chimer and the disappearance of the Aldmer from record, Vivec, as the last Chimer, is perhaps the closest in appearance of any living being to the Aldmer.
Altmer legend Edit
In modern lore, the history of the Aldmer is essentially the history of the Altmer. The Altmer consider themselves direct-line descendants of the Aldmer, and their histories sometimes blur the line between the two. According to Altmer legend, the Aldmer were one of the two direct descendants of the Ehlnofey, the other being the proto-race of man. Originally, the Aldmer were concentrated on the mythic continent of Aldmeris, with men populating all the remaining continents with the exception of Tamriel. The exact location of Aldmeris is not known, though if it exists, chances are it was somewhere off the southern or eastern coast of Tamriel. Legend claims that the Aldmer, for unknown reasons, left Aldmeris en masse, sailing to the nearest habitable region. They landed on the Summerset Isles of Tamriel, and established an elven kingdom there.
Initially, most of the Aldmer remained on the Summerset Isles, leaving the rest of Tamriel to the primitive beast tribes (what would become the modern Khajiit and Argonians, among others). Some, however, began to explore the continent and settle in other regions. A group of Aldmer traveled by boat up the Niben River, settled on the islands in the middle ofLake Rumare, and built the White-Gold Tower and the Ayleid Empire. Others travelled to the Valenwood and evolved into the Bosmer, while still others, including the Chimer, migrated as far from Summerset Isle as possible to settle on the island of Vvardenfell on Morrowind. According to Chimer history, the Dwemer were already settled in modern-day Morrowind when the new immigrants arrived; where the so-called Deep Elves came from is a source of speculation. The origin of the Falmer is also speculated.
Alternate views Edit
Not everyone agrees with the Altmeri view of their own history. Many scholars reject the idea that Aldmeris was a physical location at all; instead, it is often claimed that Aldmeris is merely an idea, a concept of a unified mer race from the early Merethic Era. Indeed, it's possible that the Summerset Isles themselves are Aldmeris, from a period before any mer had left to populate Tamriel.
Others believe that the mer likely inhabited all of the same continents as humans in the early Merethic, and arrived on Tamriel at multiple locations. These varied mer cultures had already begun to diverge, much like the human cultures were distinct before settling on Tamriel. The presence of the Dwemer on Tamriel, so far from Summerset, when the Chimer first crossed the continent lends strong credence to the idea of multiple migrations of the mer, likely from multiple source locations. The idea of Aldmeris and a unified Aldmer culture, these scholars argue, derives mostly from the Altmer's belief in their own divine destiny, and an attempt to return to the golden age of pre-human mer culture.
Humans and Mer Edit
Regardless of how the mer arrived on Tamriel, they were present when humans began to arrive. Humans melded with the Aldmer and their descendant cultures over the ensuing centuries. Some cross-breeding occurred (leading to theBreton race), but moreso was the blending of cultures. The language of the Aldmer, often called High Elvish in the Imperial Tongue, was integrated into human speech. Though few speak the Aldmeri language anymore, many common words and word fragments (such as the names of the mer races themselves) survive to modern day, and snippets of it are occasionally found in books (such as in Florin Jaliil's Father of the Niben: Udhendra Nibenu).
By the time of recorded human history, in the first Era, the Aldmer as a race were no longer present on Tamriel. The start of the First Era is marked by the rise of a true kingdom in Valenwood, considered a fully distinct Bosmer race by this time. The Chimer and Dwemer were established in Resdayn, and even the Orsimer had changed to the Orcs of modern eras.
Most information known about Aldmeri culture comes from excavated ruins on the Summerset Isles, and the artwork of private Altmeri collectors. The Aldmeri society was primarily agricultural, with a fully egalitarian government. Indeed, the idea of a centralized government was a key factor that separated the Chimer from the Aldmer; the first true kingdom on Tamriel did not appear until the reign of the Bosmeri King that heralded the start of the First Era.
Aldmeri architecture is a wide variety of styles and materials, most of it naturally occurring. The Aldmer were not above quarrying materials, however, as evidenced by vast coral structures sitting high atop Summerset Isle's tallest mountains. They were also capable of impressive feats of engineering, as seen by the giant Crystal Tower that houses the graves of many early Aldmer settlers. Early Aldmer did not build structures for worship of gods, in the way that humans did; rather, they worshipped their own people's spirits, living and dead, in practices which they apparently brought with them wholesale from Aldmeris.
On Tamriel, their culture began to evolve, with various mer specializing into social classes and careers, including teachers, workers, artists, and others. At the same time, their religion began to focus more specifically on the most powerful of their ancestors: the Aedra, especially Trinimac, Auriel, and Phynaster. This shift in religious focus was the trigger which ultimately led the prophet Veloth to take his people away from Summerset Isle, now calling themselves Chimer, and return to an ancestral religious society across the continent. Another group of Aldmeri elders broke away from the new religion, claiming to be the only true followers of the Aldmeri old ways, and named themselves the Psijics. This group would spread across Tamriel, teaching magic to the various races, and seeking always to bridge the gap between mortality and divinity. What was left of the Aldmeri society would evolve, over thousands of years, into modern day Altmeri culture.
Modern Aldmer Edit
While no known Aldmer remain, the concept of a single, unified elven race has persisted through the eras. The Altmer and Bosmer formed what is termed the Aldmeri Dominion during the second era, uniting the disparate races against a common enemy. Many Imperial historical sources use the term Aldmeri as a synonym for elven, a practice that is certainly not discouraged by the mer themselves. Current upheavals in the Summerset Isles and Morrowind, particularly against human rule of the continent, may lead to a revival of Aldmeri culture in the near future.