Alduin is one of the most fearsome entities in The Elder Scrolls. While he may not be a Daedric Prince or Aedra, he is a mighty dragon that even the divine fear. He is intrinsically tied to the Nordic pantheon of gods and plays a pivotal role in reshaping the world of Nirn.
Alduin is also the main antagonist of Skyrim, so fans will want to know as much about his backstory and personality beforehand to get as much out of the game’s main questline as possible.
Key Info Up Front
Titles: Twilight God, First Dragon, World Eater
Game Appearances: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Domain: Time, Apocalypse
Alduin‘s ascension to godhood began in the Merethic Era when the Atmoran people inhabited the province of Skyrim. The Atmorans worshipped a pantheon of animal totems that acted as the avatars for gods.
The dragon was the most important in the pantheon, allowing it to instruct the Atmorans, and eventually, the Nords, to found and maintain the dragon cult and do its bidding. This allowed Alduin to rule the people that live in the province.
The relationship between the dragons and the humans brought peace to the province as the dragon cult carried out the will of the dragons over the humans that worshipped them. However, the dragon priests eventually became cruel and subjugated them to ridiculous rulings and brutal punishments. This pushed the Nords to rebel, sparking the Dragon War.
The Dragon War
When the Dragon War began, the Nords were hopelessly outmatched. The dragons had the power of Thu’um at their disposal, allowing them to call upon incredible powers to slow time, call down lightning, and move so fast that the Nords couldn’t follow them. That was until the Nordic goddess of Storm Kyne convinces a select few of the dragons to turn on Alduin and assist the forces of man.
Chief among the dragon dissenters was Paarthunax, the younger brother of Alduin and one of the most historically cruel against men of all the dragons. These dragons found the most powerful of the Nordic warriors and taught them how to use the Thu’um.
This allowed those heroes to lead the rest of the Nords against the dragons with the powerful dragon tongue to help them counteract the Thu’um of the dragons.
The Dragon War eventually led to Alduin’s defeat when he faced the heroes of Felldir the Old, Hakon One-Eye, and Gormlaith Golden-Hilt at the top of Skyrim’s tallest mountain, the Throat of the World. Before the encounter, the three heroes created a new Thu’um called Dragonrend that allowed them to bind a dragon for a limited amount of time.
Once Alduin was bound by the shout, the three used an Elder Scroll to send him spiraling forward in time since Alduin could not be killed. This saved the province from the onslaught of dragons, and worship of Alduin was essentially outlawed throughout the region. However, some Nords continued praying to Alduin, hoping that it would help keep him from returning.
The Returned of Alduin
The return of Alduin seemed inevitable since he was just sent into the future rather than genuinely being defeated. His return was foretold through a prophecy inscribed on a wall by the Akaviri at Sky Haven Temple. The prophecy claims that after a series of tumultuous events occurs in the realm of Nirn, Alduin will return to try and dominate all of humanity again.
However, it also says that Alduin’s return will trigger the reveal of the Last Dragonborn, who will lead man in fighting back against Alduin to decide the fate of the dimension.
The prophecy was proven correct with Alduin returning to Skyrim in the year 4E 201 after the province’s civil war satisfies the last big event for the prophecy. When he returned, Alduin’s first act was to raze the city of Helgen, destroying the town and freeing both the Last Dragonborn and the leader of the Stormcloaks, Ulfric Stormcloak. Afterward, he travels across the province to resurrect all of the faithful dragons driven to extinction by mankind at their burial sites.
This event became known as the Dragon Crisis. However, the Last Dragonborn was revealed to absorb the souls of dead dragons, fully killing them. The Last Dragonborn was then summoned by the Greybeards, reclusive masters of the Thu’um that lived on top of the Throat of the World. The Greybeards helped him master the power of the Thu’um while also revealing that they secretly housed Paarthunax, who was their primary teacher.
With Paarthunax’s help, the Last Dragonborn traveled back in time to learn how Alduin was defeated so many years ago. They were then able to defeat Alduin in a fight but failed to kill him entirely. After his defeat, Alduin fled to the Nordic afterlife of Sovngarde.
There, the Last Dragonborn was joined by the spirits of Felldir, Hakon, and Gormlaith to defeat him once and for all entirely. Alduin is ultimately defeated by them in their confrontation, causing him to be gone, at least until the end of time.
Alduin’s Place in Tamriel Culture
Alduin’s role in the Nordic pantheon is significant enough to appear in other religious groups across all of Tamriel. The Nords believe that Alduin destroyed a world that existed before Tamriel to shape the current one in his image, so he is known as both a destructive and creative force of nature across the cultures. In all of his various representations, it is acknowledged that Alduin was defeated, but they all also knew that he would return since he is immortal.
His pivotal role in the Nordic pantheon is frequently depicted as the wellspring that gave life to both that pantheon and the Nords overall. This has led many to believe that he existed at the beginning of time and played some role in the power interplay that gave birth to the et’Ada that eventually became the Aedra and Daedra.
If that is true, it would indicate Alduin holding an incredible amount of power that is intrinsic to the very fabric of the universe and supersedes even the more common deities that fans and inhabitants of Nirn know.
There is also some debate about Alduin’s identity. Imperial scholars believe that Alduin is the same as Akatosh, the Dragon God of Time and chief deity of the Imperial Pantheon. However, the Nords and other races disagree and claim that Alduin and Akatosh are two distinct beings.
The Nords reference that Alduin labeled himself as the Firstborn of Akatosh and the other dragons calling Alduin Akatosh’s favorite creation. Others believe that Alduin is just an aspect of Akatosh and represents the intrinsically destructive aspect of his domain, while Akatosh himself represents the creative aspect.
The Argonian and Yokudan pantheons believe something entirely different. They instead believe that Alduin was born from the powerful interplay between the forces of Anu and Padomay that birthed the entire universe.
If this were true, it would mean that Alduin is the metaphysical embodiment of Aurbis, the name given to the sphere that contains the realms of Oblivion, Mundus, Aetherius, and the Void. This metaphysical description of Alduin’s true nature is in line with the Daedric Princes that are each a metaphysical embodiment of their spheres and would have massive implications for the realm of Nirn itself and the apparent destruction of Alduin.
Alduin Appearances in Quests
Since Alduin is the primary antagonist of Skyrim, he has a lot of appearances in that game. However, it is the only title in the series that he appears in other than the trading-card game Elder Scrolls Legends.
Despite this, he is mentioned in lore books and conversations throughout the series, with his name appearing in Morrowind, Oblivion, and Elder Scrolls Online. Still, Skyrim managed to make Alduin live up to his name through just how prevalent he is throughout its main questline.
This is the first quest players take on in Skyrim and serves as an introduction to the game and Alduin. The player comes on a cart heading for the town of Helgen, where they are set to be executed for trying to sneak across the province’s border.
After the player makes their character, they are led to the chopping block, beheaded for their crime. However, observant players will notice a massive dragon circling the city in the distance. Then, just before the player is executed, that dragon lands on a tower nearby and begins razing the entire town.
That dragon is none other than Alduin announcing his return to re-conquer the province. This allows the player to escape captivity and flee, although Alduin successfully destroys the town.
A Blade in the Dark
This quest happens a short while later after the player discovers that they are the Last Dragonborn after they help defend the town of Whiterun from a dragon and absorb its soul after it is killed. The Last Dragonborn then teams up with the hidden remaining members of the Blades to try and stop Alduin.
This leads to the Last Dragonborn investigating a dragon burial site at Kynesgrove with the Blade Delphine. When they get there, they stumble on Alduin, raising the dragon from the grave, revealing the god’s power to raise the army of dragons that he once used to rule the province with an iron fist.
The Last Dragonborn and Delphine then witness Alduin speak to the resurrected dragon for a moment before Alduin taunts the Last Dragonborn’s lacking understanding of the Thu’um before leaving the newly risen dragon to deal with them.
One fascinating detail of this interaction is that when the dragon is raised, they are a skeleton until Alduin talks to them, and they regain their flesh and scales. This could indicate many things but denote Alduin returning the dragon’s soul to its body.
In this quest, the Last Dragonborn is sent back in time by Paarthunax through a Time Wound left at the top of the Throat of the World from when the Elder Scroll was used to defeat Alduin. This is done so that the Last Dragonborn can travel back in time to witness Alduin’s defeat and learn the Dragonrend shout so that they can try to defeat him again.
This allows the Last Dragonborn to witness the works of Felldir, Hakon, and Gormlaith for themself. Once the Last Dragonborn travels back to the present, Paarthunax tells them that Alduin has arrived to face them for good. Paarthunax and Alduin then have a fight above the Throat of the World where the Alduin calls down a meteor storm, and the two argue over Paarthunax’s betrayal of Alduin at the start of the Dragon War.
The Last Dragonborn then plays a key role in the battle by disabling Alduin using Dragonrend to deal damage to him. Alduin is ultimately defeated and flees from the Last Dragonborn and Paarthunax.
After Alduin’s defeat, he flees to the Nordic afterlife realm of Sovngarde. To try and finish him once and for all, the Last Dragonborn captures a dragon using Dragonsreach in Whiterun and convinces it to take them to a portal to Sovngarde defended by Dragon Priests.
Once the Last Dragonborn is in Sovngarde, they meet with the spirit of a Stormcloak soldier that tells the Last Dragonborn that the Hall of Valor, where warriors fight, eat, and drink for eternity, is blocked by a deadly mist where Alduin is eating souls of the dead. As the player navigates the realm of Sovngarde, they can see Alduin swooping down to the ground to eat souls and regain power.
This interaction not only gives the player insight into the power of Alduin and how he can heal and return to invading Skyrim. It also shows just how bad of a deity Alduin is. Sovngarde is a sacred place for Nords as they can only go there after death as long as they die an honorable death in battle.
This means that the warriors in Sovngarde are the most revered and faithful followers of Nordic culture and belief, which Alduin should appreciate as the head of the Nordic pantheon.
This quest sees the Last Dragonborn teaming up with Felldir, Hakon, and Formlaith to face and defeat Alduin once and for all. The four warriors can clear Alduin’s mist over the realm using Thu’um together, angering Alduin until he lands and faces them in battle.
The four heroes are then able to kill Alduin together. However, when Alduin is killed, his soul cannot be absorbed by the Last Dragonborn. Instead, he yells in the dragon tongue that he does not believe he can ever truly be slain. Then, he cries, and his soul is nowhere to be seen.
This leads to the belief that Alduin is not fully killed, as his soul could have gone anywhere for him to regenerate and return. This has led to many believing that Alduin will return at the end of time to fulfill his role as the World Eater.
“My belly is full with the souls of your fellow mortals, Dovahkiin. Die now and await your fate in Sovngarde!”
“You will die in terror, knowing your final fate… To feed my power when I come for you in Sovngarde!”
“Fools! Treacherous Slaves! Your hopes are all withered! I am your doom!”
Question: Is Alduin more or less powerful than the Daedric Princes?
Answer: The answer to this question depends on which beliefs surrounding Alduin are accurate. For most pantheons, Alduin was born by Akatosh, a powerful Aedra. This would mean that Alduin is less powerful than the Aedra, who are less powerful than the Daedric Princes. However, the Argonians believe that Alduin was born of Padomay and Anu at the beginning of time, giving birth to the et’Ada, which turned into the Daedric Princes and Aedra, which would mean Alduin is more powerful than the Daedra or Aedra.
Question: Is Paarthurnax stronger than Alduin?
Answer: Alduin has been widely said to be the most powerful of all dragons since he was first created. However, Paarthurnax, as his little brother, is considered to be stronger than Alduin because of his willingness to learn and think about things more.
Question: Is there a link between Alduin and Ulfric?
Answer: No link between the two characters has ever been officially revealed. So, it seems unlikely that Alduin attacked Helgen to release Ulfric specifically. Still, it seems plausible that Alduin heard Ulfric use a Thu’um and investigate because he thought he would find a dragon there. However, it could have just been pure chance as Alduin’s ransacking of Helgen has never been addressed.
Alduin Guide: Conclusion
Alduin’s appearances in The Elder Scrolls may be limited, but he still plays a massive role in the upper level of deities in the series world. It does seem as though Alduin will likely not return to the series for at least some time, but with the immense power at his disposal, it is more than plausible for him to return eventually in some way. Otherwise, fans have to wait until the end of the Elder Scrolls world to see Alduin return one last time.