One of the most unique aspects of Skyrim’s gameplay is its Dragon Shouts. As a Dragonborn, the protagonist can channel their power to shout in the dragon language, causing effects that range from a forceful push to a sudden thunderstorm. Within the game’s lore, this power is known as the Voice, or Thu’um.
A few in-game characters touch on the Thu’um’s history, but it remains somewhat mysterious. This eons-old tool of battle and worship is central to Skyrim’s main questline, but many players go through the game without learning its lore. Here are some aspects of the Thu’um that can easily escape even veteran players.
10 Connection To Kynareth
In the Ancient Nordic Pantheon, Kynareth is known as Kyne, the wife of Shor. During the Dragon War, she took pity on the beaten and broken Nords, and taught them to use the Thu’um. This brought an end to Alduin’s reign.
The Throat of the World is sacred to Kynareth, as a goddess of the sky and patron of the natural world. This is where the Greybeards chose to build their monastery, High Hrothgar, where they practice the Way of the Voice as a form of worship to her.
9 Jurgen Windcaller’s Conversion
Many fans know that the Way of the Voice was pioneered by Jurgen Windcaller, a Nordic hero who sought spiritual enlightenment. However, not all know what inspired his pacifistic creed.
Like many in the First Era, Windcaller used the Thu’um as a weapon in battle; however, following a disastrous defeat, he concluded that the gods were displeased with his people’s destructive use of their gifts. He avowed to use the Thu’um only for worship and glorification of the Divines, and his word prevailed due to his prowess with the Voice.
8 Opposing Philosophies
Up on High Hrothgar, the Greybeards follow Windcaller’s teachings, and believe that the Thu’um is an instrument of peace. However, the Blades believe that this is a cultist idea, and that the Thu’um is meant for battle.
The Blades’ idea harkens back to the Imperial College of the Voice, which Tiber Septim founded to teach the Thu’um as an honorable aspect of war. Considering the Blades’ historic connection to the Septim dynasty, it’s little wonder that they adhere to his philosophy regarding the Voice.
7 Rigorous Training
In Skyrim, the Dragonborn can learn new Words of Power at any time, so long as they have absorbed a dragon soul. However, for anyone else, learning a new Shout is a much more involved process.
According to the Greybeard Arngeir, it takes years for a normal person to master a single Shout. Furthermore, the training renders the Voice so intense that the other Greybeards cannot speak for fear of causing mass destruction. Only those who carry dragon blood within them can use the Voice without this specialized training.
6 Ulfric’s History
Ulfric Stormcloak slew High King Torygg with the power of the Thu’um, a widely known feat throughout Skyrim. However, the Jarl of Windhelm’s has a long history with the Voice. In his youth, Ulfric trained with the Greybeards in High Hrothgar—much like the protagonist.
However, Ulfric abandoned the Way of the Voice to pursue a martial path with his Thu’um. During the Great War, he left High Hrothgar to fight for Skyrim, working his way towards the reputation he holds by the time of the game.
5 The Markarth Incident
Years before the events of Skyrim, an uprising occurred in the westernmost region of the realm. In what was later known as the Markarth Incident, the native people of the Reach overthrew the Jarl and ruled the area for two years.
Ulfric Stormcloak later brought an end to the Reachemen’s rule, using his Voice to take back the city for the Nords. Using his Thu’um in violence, both in this instance and his killing of Torygg, has served to alienate him from his former Greybeard mentors.
4 Word Wall Inscriptions
Every player knows how Skyrim’s Word Walls function: the Dragonborn approaches the wall, and automatically learns the next Word of Power for the wall’s designated Shout. However, Word Walls’ lore extends beyond their gameplay mechanics.
All Word Walls bear inscriptions in the dragon language, constructed by humans in the age of dragon rule. Most of them eulogize a human or creature who died an honorable death. This suggests that they are burial sites for important figures, and that the walls serve as epitaphs to those entombed there.
3 Possible Daedric Association
Some consider the Word Wall at Meridia’s temple a strange detail. Either her statue was built on a Nordic tomb, or an ancient Nord hero wished to be buried at her temple. Both possibilities hint at a potential affiliation between Meridia and the Voice.
Additionally, Jurgen Windcaller’s name is written on his tomb in Daedric, a detail that is never explained. Perhaps he was connected to Meridia or another Daedric prince. However, his presence in Sovngarde suggests that if he did have Daedric associations, he renounced them before death.
2 Man-Made Shouts
Dragons created the Shouts as weapons; however, they were not the only ones who did. One of Skyrim’s main quest objectives is to learn Dragonrend, a shout that ancient Nord heroes created to knock dragons from the sky. In Dragonborn, the shout Dragon Aspect is also of mortal origin.
Some fans speculate that other shouts also originated with humans. Elemental Fury and Throw Voice, for example, have effects that seem odd or even useless for a dragon. Some characters—namely the Greybeards—consider man-made shouts unnatural and evil.
1 Miraak’s Unnatural Shouts
Among those who show mastery over the Thu’um, none is more menacing than Miraak. His Daedric patron Hermaeus Mora taught him the Bend Will shout, which he used to try to build his own army. Furthermore, all of the Dragon Aspect Word Wall inscriptions praise Miraak, suggesting that he created that shout.
Miraak’s power also led him to learn a four-word shout, considered unnatural and perverse as all other shouts have three. This shout allows him to rip the soul from a living dragon, consuming and killing it.