Open main menu

UESPWiki β

Lore:Return of the Dragons

< Lore: History: Wars
A dragon attacking Dawnstar

The Return of the Dragons, also known as the Dragon Crisis[1] was an invasion of Tamriel that occurred in 4E 201, orchestrated by Alduin, the Nordic god of time. Alduin, along with the plethora of dragons that he resurrected, caused destruction and chaos throughout Skyrim and Morrowind.[2] However, a mysterious hero revealed to be the Nordic hero of legend, the Last Dragonborn, rose up and was able to defeat Alduin, as foretold by the Prophecy of the Dragonborn. It was concurrent with the Stormcloak Rebellion, a civil war in Skyrim, fought between the Third Empire's Imperial Legion forces, mobilized in western Skyrim, and the Stormcloak rebels of eastern Skyrim.


Alduin's banishment

During the Merethic Era, Dragon Priests kept the population enthralled and obedient by means of a widespread Dragon-worshipping cult, and many people of this era became the undead draugr that still prowl the crypts of Skyrim, Solstheim, Atmora, and anywhere else the Dragon priests "kept peace between Dragons and men".[3][4] The center of power in Skyrim of this Dragon empire is thought to have been Bromjunaar, where Dragon priests decided matters of their law.[5]

Nordic legend holds that Alduin led his brethren and their once-benevolent minions to terrorize and subjugate the mortal races, triggering a rebellion.[3][6] The Dragons began indiscriminately slaughtering them under the orders of Alduin, who had chosen to forsake his proper duties and conquer the land.[7][8]

During this Dragon War, mortals found ways to kill the Dragons, who were previously thought undefeatable.[3][9] Some people, notably priests of the Nine Divines, claim that Akatosh intervened against the Dragons to help end the war, and that some Dragons fought against their own kind.[3][10] The Dragon Paarthurnax, originally the first lieutenant and brother of Alduin, took pity on the Nords (purportedly at the request of Kyne), and instructed several in the ways of the thu'um so that they could channel the power of their own voices using the tongue of the Dragons.[7].Three legendary Nord heroes of the age, Felldir the Old, Hakon One-Eye, and Gormlaith Golden-Hilt took the task of defeating Alduin upon themselves.[7] They initially attempted to recruit the Dragon Priest Miraak who thanks to his unique nature as the first Dragonborn in history had a tremendous edge against the foe, but Miraak refused to give aid.[11] Near the end of the war, these ancient heroes confronted Alduin at the summit of the Throat of the World.[12] With no conventional means to defeat the wyrm, Felldir the Old used an Elder Scroll to perform an incantation that ejected Alduin from their time, propelling him into the future and leaving behind a Time Wound.[12] The remaining Dragons were hunted and killed until they were nearly extinct, clearing the way for the many empires which have risen and fallen since.[3][10]

Major EventsEdit

Alduin destroying Helgen
  • Fall of Helgen: Alduin attacked Helgen without warning, heralding in the return of the dragons, while the Imperial legion, under the guidance of General Tullius, were in the middle of executing Stormcloak soldiers. Only a few individuals managed to escape, including Tullius, Ulfric Stormcloak, and an unknown prisoner.[13]
  • Attack at the Western Watchtower: The dragon Mirmulnir attacked a watchtower west of Whiterun, killing several guardsmen. The Jarl of Whiterun, Balgruuf the Greater, sent a group of soldiers to deal with the dragon. Among them was the unknown prisoner of Helgen, who was revealed to be the Last Dragonborn, whose Dragonblood was revealed when Mirmulnir was slain and his soul absorbed.[14]
  • Battle at Kynesgrove: The dragon Sahloknir was resurrected by Alduin.[15] His resurrection was witnessed by Delphine, an agent of the Blades and the Dragonborn. Alduin commanded Sahloknir to kill them, but the Dragonborn slew Sahloknir and absorbed his soul.[16]
  • Battle on the Throat of the World: With the aid of an Elder Scroll, the Dragonborn learned the forgotten thu'um known as Dragonrend that served as a great weapon against Dragon kind, forcing understanding of mortality into their immortal minds.[17] With this new magic, Paarthurnax, the leader of the Greybeards, and the hero confronted Alduin on the Throat of the World, where the two sides fought to a stalemate. Alduin would soon flee afterwards. Given his unique nature, it was seemingly impossible to slay Alduin on Mundus.[17]
  • Capture of Odahviing: The dragon Odahviing was targeted for interrogation. The Dragonborn called his name through the use of the thu'um, which dragons perceive as a challenge. By following the call, Odahviing was lured into Dragonsreach, the castle in Whiterun which was used by King Olaf One-Eye to imprison the dragon Numinex in the First Era. With the help of the Jarl of Whiterun, the Dragonborn used an ancient dragon trap to capture Odahviing. Ensnared and defeated, Odahviing spoke with the Dragonborn and revealed that Alduin had retreated to Sovngarde. In return for his freedom, he agreed to bring the Dragonborn to Skuldafn Temple, an ancient ruin located high in the Velothi Mountains reachable only by flight, where a portal to Sovngarde was located.[18]
  • Siege of Skuldafn: The Dragonborn flew on the back of Odahviing to Skuldafn. The Dragon Priest Nahkriin and his draugr followers alongside dragons aligned with Alduin tried to prevent the Dragonborn from entering Sovngarde but the Dragonborn broke through Alduin's remaining forces and successfully entered the portal.[19]
  • Battle in Sovngarde: In Sovngarde the Dragonborn was informed by the legendary hero, Ysgramor, that Shor gave council for the heroes of Sovngarde to stand down, allowing the Dragonborn to face Alduin as foretold with the help of Felldir the Old, Hakon One-Eye, and Gormlaith Golden-Hilt, the three ancient Nord heroes who banished Alduin in the first place.[20] With that, the quartet finally vanquished the World-Eater.[21]


Alduin's soul was not absorbed by the Dragonborn, and he may not have been completely destroyed.[21] It is possible that he will one day return to fulfill his role as the World-Eater.[22] The surviving dragons had varying reactions to Alduin's vanquishing. Paarthurnax lamented the death of his brother but intended to teach the surviving dragons the philosophy he had come to adopt, the Way of the Voice.[7] Some dragons viewed this attempt at new leadership by Paarthurnax as tyranny, instead bowing to the superiority of the Last Dragonborn, who, as the slayer of Alduin, they felt was the rightful heir to his lordship.[23] The Blades discovered Paarthurnax's whereabouts, and appealed to the Dragonborn to kill Paarthurnax as punishment for his ancient crimes against humanity. Paarthurnax's fate is currently unknown.[24]