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While the translation of mer is generally a non-issue, the translation of 'Dwe' remains a contentious part of linguistics within the games. The Bosmeri authored Morrowind game book The Annotated Annuad translates Dwemer to mean "Deep Ones," with supposed origin in the ancient tongue of the Aldmer, Aldmeris. The TES Translation Dictionary states that the term was corrupted sometime in before it became part of the Cyrodiilic lexicon, and thus Dwemer became "short folk."The Pocket Guide to the Empire, an Imperial pamphlet that shipped with Redguard, questions the reading of Dwe as "short", introducing the translation of Dwe as "smart." Outside the game, the Bosmer rendering of the term is almost universally accepted. In February 1999 , while Morrowind was still in its earliest stages of development, developer Michael Kirkbride made a post on TESA: Redguard Forums stating that the term meaning Deep Folk. The Translation Dictionary concurs, as does The Definitive Guide to the Dwemer, with varying degrees of equivocation.
Dwemer are thought to be a reclusive, independent group of Mer (Elves), dedicated to the principles of science, alchemy, and engineering. Although they are commonly referred to as dwarves, evidence from their dwellings and armor indicates that they were of average height, similar to that of other mer. In the first Morrowind expansion, Tribunal, the ghost of the Dwemer mystic Radac Stungnthumz bears the closest resemblance to a living Dwemer. The name Dwarves is due to an apocryphal tale in which the Dwemer came into contact with a species of giants, who gave the Dwemer that name. However, this may be a scholastic error, as their name Dwemer was given to them by the Ehlnofey, their giant creators, who loved their curious nature.
Records of Dwemer activity date back to before the First Era, most notably in the Vvardenfell region (Vvardenfell, in Dwemeris, means "City of the Strong Shield"), which has the highest concentration of Dwemer ruins of any land in Tamriel. Feuding between Chimer and Dwemer continued until the First Council, when the Dwemer and Chimer unite to expel the Nords from Morrowind. One clan of Dwemer, the Rourken, refused to make peace with the Chimer, and their patriarch threw his ceremonial warhammer, Volendrung, across Tamriel, proclaiming that his clan would settle where it landed. Eventually, they settled in modern-day Hammerfell (explaining that region's name), home of the Redguards.
Eventually, however, tensions developed between the Chimer and Dwemer once again. A great war erupted between them, eventually leading to the mysterious disappearance of the Dwemer during The Battle of Red Mountain. The difficulty was prompted by the discovery of a mythological artifact known as the Heart of Lorkhan by the Dwemer, deep in the mountains' bowels. The Chief Tonal Architect Kagrenac, their de facto religious leader, devised a set of tools (Sunder, Keening, and Wraithguard) to manipulate the Heart to instill divinity to his people, but the spell failed and caused all known Dwemer to vanish (Varying accounts state that their connection to the heart was severed, although this seems unlikely. Other accounts suggest that Kagrenac used his Tools to release the Dwemer from the Mortal Plane, but this is even more implausible). Since 1E 668, no word has been heard of the Dwemer, with the notable exception of Yagrum Bagarn, who resides in the Corprusarium of Tel Fyr. Apparently, he was absent from the Mortal Plane at the time of the disappearance, visiting an Outer Realm, an alternate dimension. His 3000 years of exploration and 500 years of investigation have yielded no leads on the presence of his people on Mundus or any other plane of existence currently known of. Yagrum's claims of Dwemer descent are dubious though; his mind possibly altered by contraction of Corprus.
There are many mysteries among the Dwemer creations left behind. Mages Guild investigators have discovered that if one of the centurion spiders is taken away from Vvardenfell, it gradually becomes more sluggish, eventually going into a state of torpor. Even more curious is that upon return, the spider re-activates back to normal aggressive levels, as if sensing the presence of the Dwemer ruins.
Dwemer ruins are scattered across Tamriel, and are characterized by two things; their beauty, generally consisting of great towers stretching into the sky, and their construction, made almost entirely of metal. Dwemer ruins, especially those in or around Red Mountain, are extremely hot, owing to their metal walls and, often, large vats of molten rock. Dwemer doors are usually circular, often with some sort of design or engraving on them. Dwemer buildings are generally filled with a larger concentration of great machines- most accessible areas of Dwemer cities have boilers in every other room. Many adventurers have created tunnels and/or found caves that lead to secret entrances deep into the Dwemer ruins.
Dwemer cities are designed around the principle of the Four Tests. The first test, the Test of Pattern, requires the person to observe the situation before acting, so as to understand that many patterns are subtle or hidden. The second, the Test of Disorder, requires the person to proceed systematically when they recognize the pattern. The third test, the Test of Evasion, requires the person to, if he is unable to get through the obstacle, find a way around it. The fourth, and final test, the Test of Confrontation, requires the person to finally take action.
Dwemer artifacts are highly prized throughout the Empire, although since they are technically the property of the Emperor under the charter of the Imperial Society of Architecture and Design as well as the Imperial Historical Society, the sale of them is illegal. This does not seem to stop artifacts from falling off the backs of wagons or otherwise disappearing into various collections. Dwemer weapons and armour are especially valued, renowned for their excellent craftsmanship and sturdy design. However, acquisition of these artifacts is extremely dangerous, because of the remote location of the ruins, and the multitude of aged and no-longer reliable Dwemeri machinery within, including the Steam Centurion and other automata, as well as sophisticated traps of which the Dwemer were particularly fond.