One of the most interesting dynamics in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the one shared between the Orcs and the Imperial Legion, with many Orsimer speaking fondly of the Legion and vice-versa. This may be surprising considering the differences between the two groups, but Skyrim makes clear that Orcs are skilled soldiers and master craftsmen, something the Legion is in extra need of during the civil war between the Empire and Stormcloaks. Orcs can be seen lining up with Imperial infantry, while those in Orcish strongholds speak of their desire to join the Legion once they’re skilled enough.
Orcs, also known as Orsimer, are one of the 10 playable races in Skyrim. Orcs are a type of elf, which explains the “mer“at the end of Orsimer. However, unlike other elves in Tamriel, Orcs have no native land. In Skyrim, most Orcs are found living in strongholds, but random Orc NPCs can be found wandering the wilds. There are a few who live in the interesting cities of Skyrim like Markarth and Morthal, while others can be found working in mines.
Throughout Tamriel, Orcs are known for being talented blacksmiths and skilled fighters. However, they also have a history of being outcasts and looked down upon by most of the races in Tamriel. And yet, they are a prized member of the Imperial Legion. Their skill in blacksmithing and fighting makes them valuable, and Orcs are typically honorable, which makes them fit well with the Legion’s strict rules and battle hardiness in Skyrim.
Skyrim – A Brief History Of The Orcs & The Imperial Legion
The relationship between Orcs and Imperials began during the Third Era when an event called Warp in the West occurred. This was a political event that changed the politics of the Iliac Bay region of High Rock and Hammerfell, a possible location for Elder Scrolls 6. For the orcs, though, two important events resulted from the Warp in the West.
The first was the establishment of the Orc city of Orsinium. Orcs have no ancestral land, but many have wished for a place to call their own. Orsinium was meant to be a city-state for Orcs. While Orsinium was built and the Orcs had their land, it is unknown if the city was granted autonomy by the Empire.
The second important event that occurred for the Orcs was the Emperor requesting Orcs to enlist in the Legion. Perhaps this is a surprise, but many Orcs did choose to join the Imperials, which is reflected in Skyrim. This request sets up the rest of the history between Orcs and the Legion.
The Empire Was There To Support The Orcs Long Before Skyrim
Orsinium has a history of being built, destroyed, and rebuilt, and in an attempt to stop this cycle, the Orcs asked for the city to be recognized as a province. The Emperor at the time, Uriel Septim VII, gave land to the orcs of Orsinium, but the autonomy of the city was never stated. The Oblivion Crisis also began during this time, so documentation may have been lost or never started.
During the early Fourth Era, Orsinium was attacked again by a Breton-Redguard force. The Empire sent two Imperial Legion forces to assist the Orcs. While it is unknown if the Legion fought the invading force, the Legion did rescue the surviving Orcs and brought them to Skyrim. Even as Skyrim’s civil war rages, The Elder Scrolls‘Orcs are still living and surviving there.
The Legion coming to the Orcs’ rescue shows they have some respect for the nomadic people – or, conversely, saw they had skills that could be exploited. The Orcs may not have a homeland, and Orsinium may continue to be sacked and rebuilt, but Orcs seem to have a permanent home in the Imperial Legion.
Skyrim Lore – Orcs Benefited From Joining The Imperial Legion
There are multiple benefits for Orcs when they join the Imperial Legion, and this is reflected in Skyrim. Since most Orcs value honor and strength, joining is a good way for them to show them live by that standard. As some Orcs attest in conversation with the Dragonborn as well, it also serves as a way for them to see the world.
Another benefit is Orcs have somewhere where their skills in smithing and fighting make them valued. Orc blacksmiths in Skyrim can master their craft through constant smithing, while Orc fighters’ skill with heavy armor makes them perfect on the frontlines, and their berserker rage makes them formidable opponents. Another bonus is their service in the Imperial Legion grants them Imperial citizenship, allowing them to settle anywhere in the Empire and be entitled to its protection.
Skyrim Features Many Orcs Who Served The Empire
After settling and building strongholds in Skyrim, the Orcs living there continue to support and enlist in the Legion. There are no active Orc Legion members. There are none walking around in Imperial Legion armor or giving quests to a Dragonborn who chose to side with the Imperials in Skyrim’s civil war. However, several Orcs mention they were in the Legion but have retired.
Ghorza gra-Bagol and Moth gro-Bagol are two such Orcs. Before the siblings settled in Markarth they were blacksmiths in the Imperial Legion for 10 years. Ghorza left her stronghold because she did not want to marry “Some lowly chieftain,” and her brother followed her. Ghorza did not want to be confined by her stronghold’s traditions, and the Legion allowed her to leave. This decision to leave and join the Legion gave her the chance to become Markarth’s primary blacksmith.
While Moth followed his sister, he is a good example of how well the Legion treats Orcs. He and Thongvor Silver-Blood served in the Legion together, and it is possible to hear them speaking of their past service. Both speak highly of each other. It is possible to hear Moth comment that the “Empire has always been good to Orcs.”
Another retired Legion Orc is Ghorbash the Iron Hand. A Skyrim follower that can be unlocked, Ghorbash can be found in the Orc stronghold Dushnikh Yal. He wanted a life of adventure, to see the world, so he joined the Legion. Even after retiring and returning home, he abides by what the Legion taught him. He refuses to challenge his brother to be Chieftain because the Legion taught him “To respect leadership.”
These three Orcs benefitted from joining the Imperial Legion, and it is safe to say the Legion benefitted by having them. Not only were they able to live the lives they wanted, but they were also able to retire and settle down. The strict leadership of the Legion did not affect them negatively.
It is possible to view the Orcs of Skyrim joining the Imperial Legion in a negative light, as it could be construed as them being exploited by the Empire. However, the Orcs live tough lives in their strongholds. Joining the Legion gives them more options and benefits than staying in their holds, and for those players looking to make an Orc build in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrimit may make sense to join the Empire too.
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