Trust and Betrayal in Skyrim


So I’ve been spending a lot of time in Skyrim lately. I’m the Harbinger for the Companions, the Listener for the Dark Brotherhood and a Nightingale and the Master Thief of the Thieves Guild. I’m also apparently the Dragonborn, whatever that means. I guess I should get around to completing the main plot at some point or another.

Still, I’ve started to notice a pattern in the major questlines, enough to make me think that it is actually the “theme” of the game.

Skyrim isn’t about the return of the dragons, the rise of the Dragonborn or even the civil war between the Empire and the Stormcloaks. It’s about trust and betrayal.

Consider the Dark Brotherhood questline. You are tasked to kill the Emperor, but when you do you find out that you have only killed a decoy. You were set up and betrayed by Astrid. Of course, Commander Maro immediately breaks his own agreement with Astrid and betrays her.

I wouldn’t have thought too much about that (you are dealing with a guild of assassins, after all) until a similar thing happens in the Thieves Guild questline. You are helping Mercer Frey track down Karliah, who he says is the killer of the former guildmaster, until it is revealed that he is the murderer. Right before he tries to kill you after getting you to do the work of locating Karliah for him.

Others are less obvious. During the Companions quest, Markus accuses you of betraying Kodlak when you are off killing the Glenmoril witches when Jorvaaskr is attacked. The Blades will ask you to kill Paarthurnax after he has done nothing but help you. The Stormcloaks believe that the Empire betrayed Skyrim by signing the White-Gold Concordiant which banned the worship of Talos while Sybille Stentor, court wizard in Solitude, will tell you that the Stormcloaks are betraying Talos themselves by destroying the Empire that Talos created. And so it goes.

We won’t even talk about the majority of the Daedric quests.

It certainly seems that, in the land of Skyrim at least, the only person you can trust is yourself.

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