Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)
I have finally decided to embark on a series of posts dedicated to my favourite video game franchise – the Elder Scrolls. Designed by Bethesda Game Studios, the Elder Scrolls is a long-standing franchise that began with the Elder Scrolls: Arena in 1994, and it’s main series has expended to include the Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (1996), the Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002), the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006) and the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011). The most recent game made under the brand name was the Elder Scrolls Online (2014). The most unique aspect of this now-popular RPG series is the huge amount of autonomy it grants to its players. Unlike other equally acclaimed RPGs, like the Witcher series, the player has almost complete control over the identity over his character, from his/her appearance, personality and alignment. It is here that I had found solace during my depression, a sanctuary where I could live another life.
Oblivion was the 4th game of the series and was heavily criticised. Unlike its predecessor, Morrowind, it was nowhere as innovative or ground-breaking. Unlike its successor, Skyrim, its graphics were sub-par at best. However, Oblivion remains the most nostalgic for me, since it was the first Elder Scrolls game for me. In my opinion, it also has the most engaging faction quests, especially in terms of the Dark Brotherhood.
In this series of OST posts, I will be going over my favourite OSTs from the entire Elder Scrolls series. You will find really old 8-bit tunes from Arena, all the way from the remade Morrowind OSTs from the Dragonborn DLC for Skyrim. The music in the Elder Scrolls series, starting from Morrowind, was composed by Jeremy Soule, whose compositions are very much inspired by other fantasy gems, such as the Lord of the Rings. They embody the game well and serve to only immerse the player more deeply in the environment.
Wings of Kynareth
“Wings of Kynareth” is a tune that often plays in the wilderness while walking through Cyrodiil, the capital of Tamriel, homeland of the Imperial race and the setting of Oblivion. The Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Cyrodiil has this to say about the province’s geography:
“Indeed, if the history of the Nords is the history of humans on Tamriel, then Cyrodiil is the throne from which they will decide their destiny. It is the largest region of the continent, and most is endless jungle. Its center, the grassland of the Nibenay Valley, is enclosed by an equatorial rain forest and broken up by rivers. As one travels south along these rivers, the more subtropical it becomes, until finally the land gives way to the swamps of Argonia and the placid waters of the Topal Bay. The elevation rises gradually to the west and sharply to the north. Between its western coast and its central valley there are all manner of deciduous forest and mangroves, becoming sparser towards the ocean. The western coast is a wet-dry area, and from Rihad border to Anvil to the northernmost Valenwood villages forest fires are common in summer. There are a few major roads to the west, river paths to the north, and even a canopy tunnel to the Velothi Mountains, but most of Cyrodiil is a river-based society surrounded by jungle.”
The “Wings of Kynareth” is a name very well suited for the purpose of the OST – to espouse the grandeur and serene beauty of the grassy Cyrodiilic landscapes in the Nibenay Valley. Kynareth is a religious figure in the Elder Scrolls series. Known by the Nords as ‘Kyne’, she is a goddess of the Nine Divines and is the strongest of the Sky spirits, earning her position as the deity of the heavens, the winds, the elements, and the unseen spirits of the air. She is often regarded as the embodiment of nature itself.
The first 30 seconds of the music comprises of violins played in legato, i.e. musical notes are played or sung smoothly and connected. Note follows note with no transitioning silence as the violin begins the OST by embodying the pervasive tranquility of the Cyrodiil plains. It rouses memories of me spending hours upon hours walking through the grassy terrain, taking in the beautiful sights around me, as I travel towards a marked quest location. Yes, there is fast travel, but there is something so supremely beautiful about Elder Scrolls games, including Oblivion, in that sometimes you would rather walk, so that you can take in the beauty around you – a blessing of Kynareth herself.
This is then interrupted for about 20 seconds by the introduction of a single woodwind instrument, with a few chimes. While both string and woodwind are often utilised in RPGs of this sort, the woodwind family is more ept in bringing out a fantasy element in the OST due to it’s more sharp and high-pitched reverberating sound. The chimes highlight this. Unlike conventional magic, however, the continuing tranquility of the OST brings a sense of natural magic, one that would be created by the goddess of nature, Kynareth.
The violins come back until around 1:10, but is accompanied by soft drums, in a slow and steady rhythm, reflecting the tiring travels of an adventurer through the vast plains. The drums also bring a sense of grandeur, such as one would expect in the capital of Tamriel, seat of the Emperor.
Afterwards, the woodwind is back, along with what sounds similar to xylophones. From then on, it is clear that percussive instruments become part of the piece, setting a clear rhythm to the otherwise rather sleep-inducing OST. This matches not just the environment, but the actions of the player – you are not a mere traveler, out to enjoy the scenery, but heading somewhere for a more epic purpose. This pattern of instruments carry on for a while, until the last few minutes.
The sun is about to set on this beautiful land and across the grassy plains, the lush green is painted in orange. The Nibenay Valley is also known for its rivers, leading to the lake the surrounds the Imperial City centre. The last portion sees the introduction of plucked string instruments, which often is used to conjure the image of water – it sounds like what one would hear from a drop of water while you are in its depths. The last few seconds is a single down bow movement, like a day drawing to a close.
“Wings of Kynareth” is perhaps my favourite OST in Oblivion because of all these elements. Not only do the instruments accurately portray the environment, and thus allowing a player to remember the scenes of the game just by listening to the soundtrack, it is also named such that one would remember the lore of the game. One may never remember the full Pantheon of Gods of every race in Tamriel, but Kynareth is one that every player of any Elder Scrolls game will remember as the goddess of nature. To name an OST the “wings” of the goddess of nature herself is to highlight how beautiful and grand the environment of the capital province is.