Mer (also called Elvenkind or just Elves, or rarely Elfs) as a collective term, encompasses beings of the elven race in Tamrielic culture.
Drastically different culturally and physiologically from men and beastfolk, Mer are genetically capable of interbreeding with the former, and while rumors of the latter exist, they are unproven. Mer are also far less fertile than men and beastfolk, with female mer usually becoming fertile around 18-19 years of age.
Mer come in an array of colors, from dark grey, to light green to pale yellow. Of the mer race, there are multiple subraces currently existing on the Tamrielic continent. These include, Altmer, Bosmer, Dunmer, Orsimer, Dwemer, Chimer, Snow Elf, and Ayleid. The Aldmer are an extinct mer race from which these mer sprang. There are a few other mer, such as the Maormer, that are believed to be related to these races of mer as well.
Etymology and usageEdit
The term "Mer" can have one of two meanings:
A group of related races of sentient beings which developed from the Ehlnofey.
A member of one of the aforementioned elven races (though exceptions do exist, such as the Ayleids and Bretons).
Mer is the word used in the ancient Aldmeri tongue to mean "person" or "us". The term is analogous to the way humans use the word man. Speakers of the Imperial tongue often substitute "elf" for "mer", especially in adjective form, as "elven" seems to sound better than the more correct term, "meri". Most mer seem to accept "elf" as a suitable synonym, though they still usually refer to each other as "mer".
When referring to individual members of the elven races, mer can be both singular (I've seen that mer in the Arena.) and plural (A dozen well-armed mer just went into that house!) When used in combination with other words from the Aldmeri tongue, it simply means "a type of people", and is translated into common as "elf", or sometimes as "ones" (e.g., "first ones").
The first mer came from the continent of Aldmeris. The Aldmer were the first of all the mer to arrive to Tamriel as they were the first of all mer to exist.
Generally speaking, the mer believe themselves to be direct descendants of the Aedra, having been tricked by Lorkhan into giving up their immortality to create the world. Their opinions on their mortality differs from race to race, but none consider it a "gift" in the way humans do. Rather, opinions range from lamenting the loss of their birthright, to enduring the suffering as a test of character.
Though all modern-day mer descend from a single proto-race, they have diversified significantly in the thousands of years since the Mythic Era, into various mer races.
Mer are capable of living for a thousand years, although few ever actually live that long due to disease and violence. Altmer are far more resistant to disease than the other races of Tamriel, due to their sublime physical natures and often being gifted in the arcane arts. The Altmer were also taught how to naturally live another hundred years by Phynaster, the Hero-god of the Summerset Isles. At the time of the publication of the Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition in 3E 432, many living Altmer still remembered Tiber Septim's conquest of Summerset, thus putting them at an age of over 400 years. According to Uupse Fyr, there may be some Altmer/Aldmer on Summerset Isles who are over 4000 years old. Nurelion, an Altmer alchemist, was known to have died from old age.
The earliest mention of the Aldmer Iachesis, Rite Master of the Psijics, is from 1E 20, and the latest exact date with mention of Iachesis is 1E 2920, when he met with Sotha Sil and Almalexia on Artaeum. This means that Iachesis was over 2900 years old before his disappearance.
According to Alfe Fyr, the Dunmer Divayth Fyr is a "4000-year-old wizard." Uupse Fyr claims that "he's probably the oldest and most powerful wizard alive. Not counting liches, or divine sorcerers like Fivec". Divayth Fyr has likely extended his life for over 4000 years using magic.
The Orsimer mage and librarian, Urag gro-Shub, states that if he didn't take his work seriously, most books in The Arcanaeum "would've been burned to ashes or dissolved to nothing before the Third Era." This puts him at an age of over 600 years.
The Dunmeri Councilor of Raven Rock, Lleril Morvayn, succeeded his mother as Councilor of the town in 4E 65, and his rule continues to the present. If the Dunmeri aging process is relatable to that of Men, his complexion suggests that he is approximately of late-middle-age. His ascension was over 130 years prior to the events of The Elder Scrolls V: Dragonborn, so a lower approximation of his age may be placed reasonably at 150-160 years old.
Queen Mother Barenziah in The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal is approximately 432 years old, having been born in 2E 893. In comparison to humans she looks to be in her late 60s, meaning she is in her elder years.
Knight-Paladin Gelebor is a Snow Elf who has lived over 4,000 years. Whether this is from the natural lifespan of his subspecies, a direct life extension from Auri-El or a life extension done by his own knowledge is unknown. All other known Snow Elves are deceased so how long they may live cannot be determined, although the snow elves known as Falmer are still alive when they were blinded by the Dwemer after the Atmorans attack, so it is safe to assume that their lifespan is long. Arch-Curate Vyrthur is also a Snow Elf known to have lived as long as Gelebor, but since he is a vampire it may be the cause of his long lifespan.
It is very easy to tell mer from men based on appearance, as mer are less muscular than most men, but have a greater variety of skin tones. Another easily noticeable feature of mer is that they have pointy ears that men do not have (apart from the odd Breton, whom only have very slightly pointed ears). Furthermore, most mer, even females, are taller than most men. There are exceptions to this as the Orsimer are around the same size as men and the Bosmer, who are shorter.
Another small difference worth mentioning is that mer rely heavily on magical warfare as they have a higher affinity for nature and magic, where Men tend to be less potent magically. The only exception to this of course are the Bretons as they are a mix of both the Altmer and the Nedes.