It is a sea of endless green, a maze of foliage with half-hidden cities growing like blooms from a flower, the home of the Bosmer is Tamriel’s garden. Valenwood is the great forest in the south-west corner of Tamriel. Its crystal blue rivers, fertile soil, blooming gardens, and rolling hills are something you’d only dream of.
Valenwood’s beauty is simply unparalleled. While the other lands of Tamriel lie tainted by mortal hands, the forests of Valenwood have been religiously guarded for millennia, making it a Province unspoiled by Man and Mer.
Beautiful, wild, untamed, and unkempt Valenwood is the purest example of what Tamriel would look like without the interference of mortals. Its wildlife flourishes, and its trees reach out to kiss the heavens. One such tree is described as being 8 times the size of the White Gold Tower.
Here in the branches of this mighty tree the Wood Elves have made a home for themselves. The caretakers of the forests call themselves Bosmer, but to the rest of the empire, these tree dwellers are aptly named Wood Elves.
These elves are one with the land; as wild and untamed as the forests they inhabit. Their days are spent traveling to and fro moving through the trees like a fish through water. A traveler brave enough to traverse Valenwood’s endless forests will rarely catch a glimpse of any Wood Elves. They move through the trees with a speed and agility that could make a Khajiit blush. Although they are Elves, and thus descended from the Aldmer of the Summerset Isles, the Bosmer have evolved into something entirely different.
Like every civilization before them, the Wood Elves have been shaped by their homeland. Even for Elves the Bosmer have light frames. Their petit figure and keen eyes has fashioned their race into hunters of unmatched superiority.
A Wood Elf is born with a bow in her hand, and everyday afterward she must stalk and kill her prey if she wishes to survive. As a people the Bosmer are no strangers to the bow and arrow. The best archers in all of Tamriel, the Bosmer snatch and fire arrows in one continuous motion; some scholars say it was they who invested the device. Whether or not that’s true, it does not matter, marksmanship runs deep in the blood of every Wood Elf.
Due to their religion and culture the Wood Elves don’t rely on wood for their bows. Rather they fashion their weapons from the bones of dead animals. Their skills with a bow & special connection w/ the forests has tailored Valenwood’s people into the guardians of nature they are today.
Lying at the center of Bosmeri religion and culture is an ancient creed known as the Green Pact. Understanding the Green Pact, one can gather unique insight, and better understanding of why the Wood Elves choose to live the way that they do.
In the ancient spoken and written history of Bosmeri religion, Y’ffre- the forest god, made a pact with the early Aldmer of Valenwood. In exchange for her patronage, and protection, the Elves would hold themselves to a strict code. For as long as their people called the forests home, they would not partake of its fruit, nor harvest its wood to build their fires.
The Bosmer would be strict carnivores under the Meat Mandate. Without the ability to use wood to build their structures, or fruit to fill their stomachs, the Wood Elves have produced generations of hunters who waste no part of the animal. Any silk or cotton are imported from the other Provinces, otherwise the Wood Elves exclusively trade in furs.
Wooden structures and crafts do exist within Valenwood’s borders, but again, all is imported from the other corners of Tamriel. Seeing a Wood Elf in an Imperial marketplace can be a funny thing. A Bosmer who has lived in Valenwood all their life hasn’t been exposed to simple carpentry.
Some creations of carpentry delight them to no end. Most of it has never occurred to them. They bring their own trade items: like hides and bones, and with it they often buy woodcrafts that they have no use for or whose use they never bother to find out. Some of the bravest Wood Elven warriors use wagon wheels as shields, or wooden buckets as “impressive” headgear.
Although the other Provinces have gladly benefitted from the trade the Green Pact has driven their way, there is a darker side to the Pact that has the other races looking at the Wood Elves with disgust. As a part of the Meat Mandate, the Bosmer are not allowed to waste any source of meat. ANY source of meat.
An enemy that falls on the battlefield must be eaten by the Bosmer who slayed him. Within three days time, a warrior must consume his fallen foe, or risk breaking the Pact. Needless to say, the other races of Tamriel see this cannibalism as unseemly, and downright disgusting.
Even so, this code in the Green Pact has kept the Wood Elves more friendly than most races. The Bosmer don’t like to engage in large conflicts, for obvious reasons; however, if confrontation is inevitable a Wood Elf will forgo a long starvation period before the day of the battle.
We’d imagine that Bosmeri warriors must fight with a special vigor when they are starved for food.
Don’t let the savage tendencies of the Green Pact skew your outlook on the Wood Elves. Yes, their culture alienates them from just about every race here on Nirn, and yes most, would be willing to eat you if their code demanded it. And yet, the Wood Elves are some of the most friendly, light-hearted people you’ll ever meet. The elves of Valenwood have always stood ready to defend themselves against aggression, and have done so on many occasions. However, the Bosmer seem to be the most pacifistic of all races on Tamriel, as they have never instigated war with other nations. Their capacity for empathy, and humble lifestyles has made this race of Elves the most cooperative race throughout Tamriel’s history.
A Brief History
The history of Valenwood and its high spirited people stretches back to the very beginning of recorded time. The First Era was started in the great forests of Valenwood, but before that, the story begins in Aldmeris, in age lost in the mists of time.
Like all Elves now residing in Tamriel, the story of the Bosmer starts with the Aldmer leaving Aldmeris in the Mythic Era. After arriving in the Summerset Isles the Bosmer rejected the stiff, and formal traditions of High Elven culture. Their people wished to be free, to spend their life in harmony with the land far from “civilized society”. These free spirits soon departed from their Elven brethren and as the ages passed, Valenwood transformed them into agile hunters.
When the Bosmer arrived in Valenwood they were far from the nimble predators they are today. Before Man or Mer stepped foot in the towering forests of Valenwood, the Province was home to many strange civilizations, most of which are now the stuff of legend.
Centaurs, hippogriffs, minotaurs, giants, hydra, and sentient apes all flourished here long before the first Aldmer stepped onto its shores. Indeed, the first challenge for the early Bosmer was to climb through the food chain from prey to predator.
As the Aldmer began to change their ways to match their new environment, adapting to the forest both in body and in mind, they became known as the Bosmer, or “The Tree-Sap People”. In exchange for the gifts the forests gave them, the Bosmer swore never to kill, injure, or eat any of the vegetation of their new home. The Elves took refuge in the great migrating trees of Valenwood, and henceforth their fate would be made one with the woodlands.
These Elves lived life as wild as the land they inhabited, it seemed improbable that Valenwood would ever resemble anything close to a Kingdom, and yet history has a way of producing great men who endeavour to do the improbable.
King Eplear was an early ruler of the province of Valenwood. His ambition was made manifest when he united the wild Bosmer under his Dynasty. So great and lasting was his rule, the Wood Elves would usher in the First Era Tamriel had ever known.
During the Camoran Dynasty, the Bosmer welcomed escaped human slaves from the Ayleid Empire. The early Men of Cyrodiil had known nothing outside a life of slavery, and the Bosmer offered those who made it to Valenwood a life free from oppression. The grateful Men and Women who found a new life in the forests took to calling the locals, Wood Elves. Later when Men fought their rebellion against the Ayleid Empire and formed their own Alessian Empire, the Wood Elves were first to welcome Man as equals with the signing of a trade treaty.
This peace between Man and Elf was short-lived, however, and thanks to a group of Alessian radicals, hostility grew between the Dynasty and the Empire. The Alessian Order was spreading anti-elven sentiment within the newly formed Empire. They preached about the wickedness of their old Elven masters, while conveniently forgetting the support the Wood Elves had so kindly provided them in their hour of need.
As relations between the Dynasty and the Empire deteriorated, skirmishes broke out along Valenwood’s borders. At this time in history the Alessian conflict with Valenwood only helped quicken their fall from power, seeing as they were also fighting the Dirini Hegemony of High Rock. And so, their Empire crumbled, leaving the Camoran Dynasty still in tact.
Even after weathering the Alessian Empire’s fall from glory, the Men of Cyrodiil continued to make war with the Wood Elves of Valenwood. It seemed the war mongering race of Men would never leave the Bosmer alone. After millennia of unrelenting warfare, and a devastating plague, Valenwood was left wide open for an invasion. They were quickly conquered by the Men of the Second Empire.
Under the Second Empire, Reman Cyrodiil’s wish was to divide the people’s of Valenwood so that they could never again pose a threat to Man’s interests in Tamriel. Eager to make sure the Wood Elves would not unite against their new rulers, their Dynasty was dissolved, so that they would never again fight together as one.
Now a divided people for the first time since the Mythic Era, the Bosmer reluctantly served as subjects under the Cyrodilic Empire. Eventually when the Empire did fall in the 2nd Era, the old Camoran Dynasty attempted to restore Valenwood to its former glory, before Man had so ruthlessly divided them; however the damage had already been done. The Bosmer kingdoms were too culturally different from each other to be united, and soon they began to war against one another, and with the Khajiit in the east.
Reman Cyrodiil’s dream of a divided Valenwood was fulfilled. Valenwood was slowly eating away at itself, and just as it seemed their former glory had diminished, never to return again: circumstances changed. Valenwood would be reunited with their cousins in Summerset, and together they would ensure their ancient legacy in an alliance that would echo through the ages.
The Empire that Man had erected in Cyrodiil failed to protect Nirn from those who would see it destroyed. The childish Imperials had all but doomed Tamriel, and thanks to their inexperience, the White Gold Tower is now home to the undead. The Daedric Prince, Molag Bal, threatens the whole of Tamriel; and it falls to the elder race of Elves to restore balance in the mortal realm. Deep within the forests of Valenwood, Elder Root becomes the birthplace of a new alliance between old friends. Queen Ayrenn of the Summerset Isles forges a bond with the Bosmer of Valenwood and Khajiit of Elsweyr. The First Aldmeri Dominion is born.
Under the Aldmeri banner the Wood Elves were more unified and organized than they had been since the days of the Camoran Dynasty. The city of Elden Root was chosen as the capital of the Aldmeri Dominion because of its highly strategic location in the heart of Valenwood, and a good choice it was. With the Bosmer protecting the forests against invaders, Valenwood became the impretetrible shell of the Dominion. This defensive advantage left the Dominion free to enforce Elven interests in Cyrodiil throughout the faction wars.
The Aldmeri Dominion would see a second incarnation until the coming of Tiber Septim at the dawn of the 3rd Era. As the Imperial Legions encroached on Valenwood you could imagine the general sentiment. The Bosmer had fought Men for millennia in order to guard their sacred forests, and it seemed they would be forced to do so again; however, Tiber Septim had a different plan in mind.
General Talos knew Valenwood was much like Black Marsh, in that it was much too wild to tame; both its people and its land. In his wisdom, Tiber Septim allowed the Wood Elves to keep their independence in tact. Valenwood would continue to operate under its Camoran King, while swearing fealty to the Empire. The result was 250 years of peace. A Golden Age.
Surprisingly enough, the threat to peace that would end this age of prosperity came from within Valenwood when a pretender to the Camoran throne seized control of the Province through Daedric influence. Under his tyranny Valenwood was forced to marched to war against the other Provinces, including Hammerfell and High Rock.
At this moment in history we look back at where the Bosmer started, and what they became. The once peaceful race of Elves were exposed to conflict after conflict over the course of centuries, and now, for the first time ever they take the offensive approach by making war, instead of fighting against it.
It took two decades, but eventually the Wood Elves found the strength to break the chains of their old Camoran Dynasty. The Valenwood that was left behind was a broken land, very different from the ideological dream the early Bosmer had when they first arrived in the great forests.
No longer trusting the Empire or its own leaders, the Bosmer became more and more isolationist in temperament. For the first time in living memory, the Wood Elves began leaving their cities, in favor for life in the forests. A return to their earliest traditions.
The Bosmer might have decided they were done dealing with their neighbors in Tamriel, but their neighbors surely weren’t finished with them. As the Bosmer returned to a humble life of hunting and gathering, the Khajiit of Elsweyr smell opportunity. They might have fought as comrades in the Dominion, but the Dominion was now but a memory. The Khajiit are infamous for taking what does not belong to them, and Valenwood is too great a prize to pass by. But that- is a story for another day…