Lore Lapses, Part IV: Morian Zenas

Morian Zenas, renowned conjurer and author, doesn’t make sense.

ESO Disclaimer
This is the first ESO contradiction I’m addressing, so let me point out: the story of ESO isn’t finished yet. There are a lot of inconsistencies, a lot of loose ends, but it’s heavily suspected many of them are going to be reconciled in future content. Further, a lot of the info already available has not been disseminated yet to folks like me who refuse to pay Zenimax’s ransom – er, subscription. There are details of various quests, a lot of new material in updates, and Zenimax seems to be adding new lore content to their official site on a fairly regular basis. There are only so many hours in the day, you know?

This one, though, is basically an overt, as-yet unexplained retcon. Zenimax decided to take many texts from previous games and re-purpose them for ESO. Basically, they chopped out any explicit references to Third Era history and society. References to Tiber Septim and his Empire, for example. I think the example of what they did to The Amulet of Kings epitomizes the degree of care used:

Oblivion and Skyrim text:

ESO text:

I guess they figured that would be sufficient for various books to appear 800 years before they were generally intended to appear in Tamriel’s history. They presumably did this to make ESO “feel” like a TES game, and probably also as a matter of convenience. I feel like this was a big mistake, but I digress. Point is, Morian Zenas was one character which they had to substantially change in order to make him fit.

Morian Zenas goes back to the days of TES II: Daggerfall, when we were first introduced to On Oblivion. This quintessential beginner’s guide to Oblivion has been a mainstay ever since. This is probably why Zenimax wanted to include it in ESO.

Zenas was supposed to be writing in the late Third Era, during the reign of Uriel Septim VII (3E 368-3E 433). Zenimax retconned it so that Zenas lived and wrote circa 2E 418-2E 431, according to the dates given in Racial Motifs (a love story disguised as a scholarly work of comparative design).

On Oblivion, on its face, didn’t need any changing to fit. They made some changes anyway, to correct spelling and grammar (why they felt the need to do so, I have no idea). But you can’t throw books roughly 800 years out of their time and place and expect all the details to make sense.

The Doors of Oblivion
The Doors of Oblivion has several references which don’t fit in the context of ESO. First introduced in TES IV: Oblivion, the book mentions the Mantellan Crux, Celarus, and has a paragraph related to the events of the game An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire.

The Battlespire thing they took care of. And “by took care of”, I mean they just chopped the paragraph out of the book, and I guess we’re supposed to act like it never existed (not gonna happen, FYI). The Mantellan Crux, I think, is not necessarily a contradiction, as the Mantella is a subject surrounded by mystery (and might merit an entry of its own one day). But it’s certainly eyebrow-raising that Zenas knew of the Mantellan Crux roughly five centuries before Zurin Arctus would use the Mantella itself to power the Numidium. See generally here and here for background.

If we embrace the retcon, and give Zenimax the benefit of the doubt and presume that they purposefully decided to leave in the reference to the Mantellan Crux, it would indicate that the Crux, and thus the Mantella, have a much longer and storied history in Tamriel than we know about. There could be some pretty cool lore planned for it in the future.

Celarus and On Artaeum
As for Celarus, Loremaster of the Psijic Order, The Doors of Oblivion said he was the “leader of the Order”, and that Zenas consulted with him. But if Zenas lived in the 2E 400s, neither of those things match up well with established lore. Not only was Celarus not the leader of the Order at the time (as far as we know), but the Psijic Order had disappeared off the face of the planet centuries before, and wouldn’t return for centuries to come!

Fragment: On Artaeum, another Daggerfall alum, tells us the Psijic Order disappeared around the time the Mages Guild was founded. There’s little info on when exactly that occurred (barring new ESO stuff), but apparently The Daggerfall Chronicles states the first Mages Guild was formed in 2E 230. On Artaeum goes on to say they wouldn’t return for five centuries.

In other words, Zenas’ encounter with the Psijic Order has now taken place when the Psijic Order wasn’t around… so, yeah, bad retcons are bad. Further, it was established in lore that Celarus was not the “leader of the Order” at this time. Galerion the Mystic, another mainstay of the series since Daggerfall, says that as of the early Second Era, Iachesis was “Magister of the Isle”. On Artaeum elaborates that Iachesis did not return when the Order did in the Second Era, and no explanation was given for his whereabouts.

Celarus “has presided over the Council of Artaeum for the last two hundred and fifty years”, according to On Artaeum. Since the book was published during the reign of Emperor Uriel Septim VII, it suggests Celarus wasn’t the leader of the Psijic Order until circa 3E 118. So, to save you the math, Zenas’s description of Celarus in The Doors of Oblivion as the leader of the Order is about six centuries premature.

Of course, it seems like Celarus was retconned, as well. They haven’t come right and said so, to my knowledge (it’s not like they give us patch notes for each retcon), but I assume they’ve made it so that Celarus took over leadership of the Order directly after Iachesis. Anyway, you throw one person back in time, sometimes it entails throwing a whole network of people back in time. Next week, I guess I’ll take a look at another example.

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