Friday, March 8, 2013

Amulets of Talos and Akatosh

Now that my Stormcloak costume is finally done, I can start posting construction logs about how I made each piece. I'll start with the Amulets I made. These were kind of optional to the costume, but they were in the concept art for the Stormcloak armor, and I felt they played a lot into the storytelling.

This is the in game render for the Amulet of Talos. In order to explain this item's importance, I'm going to give a little history lesson. Please feel free to skip ahead if you just wanna get to the item's creation. 

In Elder Scrolls lore, Talos is the Nordic name for the revered emperor, Tiber Septim. He singlehandedly started the Third Era on Tamriel by forging a new empire and uniting the whole continent through well-planned strategic maneuvers. There are various stories about him through different names by different cultures. He is especially noted in Skyrim because he was of Nordic descent, and was also a Dragonborn who sought training from the Greybeards. In fact, all emperors descended from Talos were Dragonborn, the line ending with Martin Septim in TESIV Oblivion (also starting the Fourth Era). But I digress...

While prior to Talos's existence there were "Eight Divines" (Aedric gods worshipped largely by mankind), many believe Talos to have ascended to god-hood at death, becoming the "Ninth Divine". By the time of TESV Skyrim, the empire is in shambles. The death of the last Dragonborn emperor was enough to weaken the empire's hold on Tamriel, and countries began to "secede from the union". An old Aldmeri (High elves) sect from the Second Era known as the Aldmeri Dominion has been reforged by the Thalmor noble house with their own ambitions to rule over Tamriel as they once had long ago. Soon a Great War begins between elves and men, and Skyrim is instrumental in supplying strong warriors to aid the empire. Eventually there is a stalemate, and although humans have regained control of the Imperial Capital, they are in a much weaker position than the elves. As such, in order to preserve the peace, the empire signs the White Gold Concordat, a treaty that has some serious ramifications. The most notable to the Nords is a ban on the worship of Talos.

At first, for me, it was hard to fully understand the reasoning behind this. The Aldmeri Dominion largely believes that there are still only Eight Divines; that Talos did not ascend to god-hood. After all, the Divines lack the physical presence that Daedric gods have on Tamriel, in one form or another, so there isn't much evidence to his god-hood beyond just a belief system. But still, what's it to the elves whether men worship Talos or not? Then it occurred to me, the likely reason was that they wanted to weaken the empire further, from within its own self. While many Cyrodiilic humans worshipped Talos, none did so more than the Nords. Talos is the Nordic god-hero. The elves surely knew that not all Nords would agree to sacrificing their freedom of worship for peace, and infighting would occur. So this was a strategy for the Aldmeri Dominion to continue to weaken the empire without having to sacrifice their own soldiers. In a sense, it's a way of surpassing the concordat. It's part of a long-term plan to continue to weaken the empire, and once Skyrim is decimated from civil war and can either no longer aid with soldiers (or if the Stormcloaks win, becomes an independent nation), the Aldmeri can strike them at their weakest. And the civil war is exactly what happens. It's more than just the law against the worship of Talos; the rebelling Nords also feel that they've been betrayed by the empire. They supplied many soldiers in the Great War. Many were sent off to their death. They fought hard for their empire. And in return, one of their strongest cultural traditions is made illegal. 

Anyway, there's no direct evidence of this motive in the game, but it seems the most obvious. I'll be very interested to see what the outcome of this is when we get to TESVI. But again, I digress. The point of this whole history lesson was to convey just how important this little trinket is. An Amulet of Talos owned by any Stormcloak is their most prized possession. It's a symbol of all he/she is fighting for, as well as the strength needed to keep going.

Yep, I'm a geek.

Next we have the Amulet of Akatosh. I'll keep this one brief. This is drawn a little more ambiguously in the Stormcloak concept art, but has the same general shape and makes the most sense if you pair it with the importance of the Amulet of Talos. Akatosh is the Aedric god of time, and appears in the image of a dragon (the amulet also resembles an hourglass). He is the father of dragon-kind, as well as Dragonborns. It is believed that Talos himself was descended from Akatosh. This is why Martin Septim was able to assume the "Avatar of Akatosh" in TESIV Oblivion. Even your main character that you play as in Skyrim, the Dragonborn, is thought to have powers blessed by Akatosh. With dragons having had their largest presence in the country of Skyrim, as well as Akatosh being closely tied to Talos, it is easy to see why this is another valued amulet for any Stormcloak to own.

Now onto the creation stuff! (Yes, I realize not many people will read that whole essay above)

The amulets were both carved from paperclay. This took a good long while. I had to be careful because while paperclay is pretty strong and can survive a fall without breaking most of the time, areas of it can be delicate and brittle while you're carving. I used jewelry wax carving tools for this process.

Above you can see the base paint mixture I used for both amulets. It's a mix of gold fabric paint and brown acrylic. There wasn't a specific reason for using the fabric paint in particular, but it had a nice bronze shimmer that seems apparent in the renders for both amulets. You can also see some progress for winding the hemp cord into shape for the Talos Amulet.

Here's the finished paint job for both amulets. Admittedly, they look a bit better from farther away, but that works fine for me since they're meant as secondary details for my costume, which would normally be viewed from several feet away. I liked the old bronze look of the Talos one, slightly green and dark from years of weathering.

And the finished products! I think the Amulet of Talos came out looking particularly accurate. The wooden beads for Akatosh really work well I think. I used some black leather cord to string them together, and the amulet itself is hooked on my two pieces of chain mail that I spray painted gold. It's missing the carvings seen in the render; I decided to forgo them in the interest of time and actual paid work I have to do haha. Besides, the necklace part barely even shows on the costume as it's covered by the blue scarf. So that's it! I had a lot of fun making these and they were relatively simple to do. It's fun to own little trinkets like these that feel like they literally came from Skyrim. Makes playing the game that much more believable.

I'll be doing a few more making of posts and then I'll post the photoshoot!

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