The Mundari (meaning "Mountain Beings" in Mundic) were a race of semi-pastoral giants that inhabited the mountainous regions of central Tamriel. Once known as people of renown from the mid to late Merethic Era, their descendants in Skyrim and High Rock are known by other races to be of a "primitive" stock.
Once believed to be chosen by the Avāra and the Eight Divines to be prophetic receptacles during Tamriel's prehistoric past, the Mundari were actually a race of Mer with gargantuan characteristics and considerable prestige. Reasons for their mysterious loss of prestige in Tamriel are largely unknown, though some scholarly mystics suspect that the giants were struck with a curse that diminished their skill for art, governance, language, and spiritual wisdom.
It was not until the early Fourth Era that fragments of Dwemer records about the Mundari were found by archaeologists in Dwarven ruins. These fragmented records pointed to a geographic location in southeastern Skyrim that held ancient Mundari remains. Other remains of these long gone giants have yet to be found in any other region of Skyrim, or of Tamriel. Archaeologists of Skyrim suspect that they met a fate similar to that of the Dwemer after them.
Though some of their distant relatives still have a presence in northern Tamriel, no traces of the original Mundari culture can be found outside of southeastern Skyrim. In his book The Avāra and the Elder Scrolls, the eccentric Sentinelese archaeologist and historian Melik (4E 130-224) recorded the very first account of the Mundari civilization since the Dwemer. While some detail about Mundari culture, language, and civilization is recorded in The Avāra and the Elder Scrolls, Melik focused primarily on old Mundari religion and its connections to the Elder Scrolls.
Mundari giants are reported to have been as tall as, if not taller than, their more recent descendants. Dwemer accounts give units that add up to at least 3.6 meters in standard units. They had gray leathery skin, long thick limbs, robust skulls, abundant facial and body hair (even among females), and large, tapered ears.
Sexual dimorphism was noticeably present among Mundari males and females, but females tended to let their body hair grow as much as the males. Hairy bodies may have helped the Mundari to cope with the harsh cold of their mountainous homes and caverns. The the relatively hairless bodies (facial hair being an exception) of the surviving giants of Skyrim and High Rock may be explainable by the fact that they are actually the descendants of the ancient lowland Mundari.
Culture and Society
The extinct Mundic language of the ancient Mundari was spoken during the middle and later halves of the Merethic, but disappeared by the start of the first era. It was purportedly written in the Dwemer alphabet, but was originally an unwritten language before borrowing or creating the alphabet. Melik believes that the early Dwemer had not created the alphabet themselves, but inherited it from the Mundari after assimilating their culture.
The mysterious disappearance of the prestigious Mundari leaves the language vacant of any recent speakers. However, their apparent decendants in Skyrim and High Rock can be heard using a guttural form of speech that seemingly resembles the phonology of the mother tongue. How Melik was able to determine the phonology of Mundic is unclear, but rumor has it that he had access to an Elder Scroll that gave him visions of Mundari social settings. These visions enabled him to hear the language being spoken.
Mundari language was an ergative–absolutive language with a polysynthetic morphological typology and an SOV syntax. Case markers in Mundari language usually come at the end of a subject and an object, as do singular and plural articles. There is also a lack of gender distinction in personal pronouns.
The religion of ancient Mundari society was one of the precursors for the development of the various faiths devoted to Aedra worship in more recent times, such as the Eight Divines. Melik states that Mundari beliefs about Anu (or Alnu) are similar to the views of the god Satakal in his native Yokudan religion. But unlike the Yokudan belief about Satakal (which is the view that he is the fusion of the two primordial forces), Anu is considered a "brother" of the co-eternal Padomay (the force of change; pronounced "Pōdamai" in Mundic). Unlike the Alnuavāra however, Padomay is believed to be consciously independent of Anu; the Avāra are believed to be the very avatars of Anu himself.
Mundari theology viewed Anu as the ineffable, unchanging light that always was, is and will be. Likewise, Padomay was viewed as chaotic darkness, and the co-eternal "sister" of Anu. Together, both beings were called the "Alnunoh." However, Melik discovered that Padomay may also have been believed to be a "younger outgrowth" of Anu, evidence that the Mundari had mixed views about the nature of the primordials.
The closest being in Mundari religion that can be associated with Sithis is Šīroz (meaning "Death" or "Destruction"), who "branched" out of Padomay as a lower dimensional destructive force in order to balance out the creative force of the Alnuavāra. Šīroz was revered by worshipers as the god that brought death to created beings (mortals) when the time of their existence had been exhausted. Special animal sacrifices were made to Šīroz in order to compensate for ones life in times of sickness or war. The Mundari believed that these sacrifices would obligate the deity to protect them.
Beliefs in, and veneration of, the deities that are revered in the Eight Divines actually predate that of the religion's development by Alessia during the First Era. The list of Aedra ('audrego' in Mundic) worshipped by the Mundari differs somewhat from Alessia's later account in that Arkay, the god of birth and death, was not included in the pantheon. Instead, Lorkhan was venerated as one of the Eight, which contrasts with much of the more recent pantheons of Mer who view him as "The Trickster," except for the Dunmer. To the Mundari, Lorkhan ("Lurrakin" or "Lurrakhinek" in Mundic, meaning "the earth" or "the plane") is the god that sacrificed his immortal body for the sake of creating Nirn. In fact, Melik states that the Mundari refered to Nirn as "Lurrakhiniin" ("-iin" is the possessive case), which literally translates to "Lorkhan's" or "Shor's Own".
Since the Mundari believed that Nirn is Lorkhan's body, their religion had several animistic tendancies. One was that they considered all things to contain some kind of life-force or spirit, though forms of this belief may have varied from community to community. Ancestor worship was also practiced, but more so among the lowland Mundari nomads than the mountain-dwelling elites. High-status Mundari usually worshiped only the Eight Divines or the Avāra, looking down on animism and ancestor worship as "lowly." In other words, Lorkhan's body (Nirn) was not to be worshipped, but cared for as it is the same substance of which all Ehlnofey are made. Lorkhan's spirit was to be worshipped, for it was believed to inhabit a higher plane.
Lowland dwellers' philosophy on nature, however, were that everything is ultimately spiritual, including Lorkhan's body. Differences in form were only superficial, and the Great Spirit inhabits all of Nirn. In this view, Lorkhan is not at all dead, but changed form during the time of creation. The goddess Mara was said to have fell in love with Lorkhan's new form and together they conceived life that would inhabit Nirn.
List of the eight venerated Aedra (with respective Mundic names and meanings):
- Akatosh (Urstavarsojek - The Rainbow Serpent)
- Dibella (Everdaxonek - The Beautiful)
- Julianos (Hariminek - The Intelligent)
- Kynareth (Khairrek - The Wind)
- Lorkhan (Lurrakhinek - The Earth)
- Mara (Metrekurrek - The Compassionate)
- Stendarr (Tzentarrek - The Righteous)
- Zenithar (Ranjirrek - The Worker)
Daedra (tz-audrego) worship was discouraged among most societies, but it has been reported in some accounts.
Most information about Mundari society hails from the excavation sites in the mountainous area of the southern Rift. Melik and his team of archaeologists found nearly detailed Dwemer accounts of the Mundari way of life, which was seemingly very complex. Melik suspects that the ancient Dwemer ruins of the Rift were originally Mundari habitations until they were overtaken and innovated by Dwemer colonists. It has also been suggested that the underground cavern of Blackreach was a Mundari settlement during a prehistoric migration from the Rift to northern Skyrim and High Rock. This suggests that the prehistoric giants were not only semi-pastoral, but semi-nomadic as well.
Mundari societies outside mountainous domains were neither authoritarian nor foraging societies; the people relied heavily upon their livestock for sustenance and their chiefs for protection. The livestock of Mundari pastoralists consisted mainly of avārpegoz (giant unicorns) and mammoths. Mundari societies in the mountains of southern Skyrim and Blackreach, however, would have been a lot more different than their surface-dwelling counterparts. According to Melik, a sort of city was built by the Mundari within the most southeastern mountain of the Rift (known as ‘Artmunda,’ or ‘High Mountain’), but was later overlain by Dwarven innovations during the early First Era. This city is said to have been the capital of all Mundari affairs, whether in the Rift or in Blackreach. Societies on the surface areas of Skyrim were largely autonomous, but not entirely independent of the capitalʻs absolute rule.
The Mundari chiefs (vōroh) of surface societies held a judicial position, and were sworn to protect their citizens from harm, be it from the outside or within the society. The chiefs also acted as representatives for the common people to the Mountain King (Mundrekk), who resided deep in the capital city of Artmunda. It is not yet known whether all Mundari surface societies were subject to the rule of the Mountain King, or if some were independent societies that were heavily self-reliant.