The Isles, the Isles. A wonderful place! Except when it’s horrible. Then it’s horribly wonderful. Good for a visit. Or for an eternity.
―Sheogorath, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
This time, I’m going to tell you a story about someone you have already seen in your favourite card game, a story about his deeds and appearances in previous games. Behold Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness. Sometimes, he will grant you wonderful boons. Or, if he’s feeling like it, he will rip you apart and laugh about it. He’s a funny man.
Actually, the Daedric Princes do not have a gender. While they assume a form of a man or a woman (or a monster), they are not men nor women. If you want to track a Daedra that changed their gender, have a look at Boethiah’s depictions in TES III: Morrowind, TES IV: Oblivion and TES V: Skyrim.
To sum up facts about Daedric planes and domains quickly: The Daedric Princes each have a domain. Their domains or powers are associated with chaos and change, as opposed to the Aedra (Nine Divines you might know from TES games, and some other “gods”), who represent stasis and have the ability to create. The Daedric Princes can only change what has already been created. They have formed their own planes within themselves in Oblivion, so that they control their realms completely. In there, lesser Daedra live to serve their masters.
Sheogorath has got a very fun domain, madness. And an even more fun plane, the Shivering Isles, that divide into Mania and Dementia. Mania is colourful and cheerful, while Dementia is dark and ominous. Together, they represent two sides of madness and Sheogorath himself. That’s the place you will probably visit in the upcoming The Elder Scrolls: Legends expansion, Isle of Madness.
The master of madness often appears on Nirn as a well-dressed elderly gentleman, whom many mortals do not expect. The reasoning behind his appearance is to lead unsuspecting people down the path to insanity. In the Empire, he is a taboo, an evil being. There is only one day when he is openly talked about: Mad Pelagius Day, a holiday celebrating the life of emperor Pelagius III Septim, the insane ruler who outlawed dying on his deathbed. The punishment for not obeying that? Death.
The Khajiit name him Sheggorath, the Skooma Cat. Skooma is a drug made of the moon sugar, popular in Elsweyr. It is highly addictive, provides hallucinations and happiness, and has led to demise of many. A lot of lives were wasted because of skooma.
In the Dunmer pantheon Sheogorath is one of the Four Corners of the House of Troubles, along with Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon and Molag Bal. He is the one who tests psychological weaknesses of the Dark Elves. Once, he rebelled against the Tribunal (Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil). Sheogorath hurled a moon, Baar Dau, at Vivec City. Of course, Vivec stopped the moon by his will alone. You can see it suspended above the city in TES III: Morrrowind or TESO: Morrowind.
I highly recommend reading the Sixteen Accords of Madness. These are too good to be spoiled, so I will not write about their contents. There are only three short stories known, not full sixteen, unfortunately. They tell the legends about Sheogorath tricking other Daedric Princes – Hircine, Vaermina and Malacath – in utterly hilarous ways.
In TES V: Skyrim the player enters the mind of a dead, mad emperor, Pelagius III Septim himself, to get Sheogorath to work again. He has gone on a holiday and has abandoned his followers. Because he can and because minds of dead, mad emperors are such perfect holiday destinations. I mean, who doesn’t book last minute tickets to get there? The Mind of Madness is one of the most entertaining quests in the game, when you know a bit more about Sheo. You have to actually battle weaknesses of Pelagius and then you get Wabbajack itself as a reward.
Now, what is Wabbajack? It’s a staff that can do anything and you cannot control what will happen. Your opponent can turn into a sweetroll, a rabbit, a pile of cheese, face instant death and much, much more. Its effect in TES: Legends is only a taste of what it can do. Another artifact of Sheogorath is Gambolpuddy, a glove that fortifies half of the users attributes and drains the other half. There is also Spear of Bitter Mercy, which summons a Frost Atronach wherever the caster is pointing to, it’s actually something useful. Staff of Sheogorath is even more useful, because it freezes all enemies in place. Staff of Everscamp summons four Everscamps that cannot be banished nor killed. Another one is Fork of Horripilation. What could this thing be? A fork that drains the user’s magicka, of course! The last artifact of Sheogorath is Folium Discognitum, a book containing wisdom and insight of madmen, said to be capable of giving the reader immense knowledge.
I mention artifacts, so I cannot forget to mention Sheogorath’s servant, chamberlain and councilor – Haskill. When the Mad Prince is being too busy with eating fishsticks or making wisests minds crumble into deep, cold darkness of eternal insanity, Haskill keeps the Shivering Isles running. He gives quests in the games, too. What’s interesting, he shows no signs of madness and is probably the only sane person in Sheogorath’s domain. He is helpful and provides some useful information to the player in TES IV: Shivering Isles, DLC for TES IV: Oblivion. A kindred, sane soul in the kingdom of madmen, who aids the most mad of all.
It was not always so. Once, I ruled this Realm, a world of perfect Order. My dominion expanded across the seas of Oblivion with each passing era.
―Jyggalag, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
If you thought that this is not going to get more interesting, mad or complicated, you were wrong. Now, the weirdest story beings. Once upon a time, there was the Daedric Prince of Order, Jyggalag. In fact, he was so powerful, that other Princes feared him. So, they did the most cruel thing possible: they cursed him to bring chaos and insanity instead of order and logic. That’s how Sheogorath was born. At the end of each era, Jyggalag returns to his true form and the Greymarch begins. During the Greymarch, Jyggalag brings destruction to the jolly, mad Shivering Isles, together with his minions – Knights of Order. At the end, when everything is burned to the ground, Sheogorath returns to rebuild the Isles.
Both identities suffer deeply. Jyggalag, because he is not himself; most of the time, he brings the exact opposite of what he stood for. Instead of order, there is chaos. Sheogorath, because he thinks order is boring. He hates his different, strict identity. The two contrasting sides of one Daedra form a duality that hates itself.
During the events of TES IV: Oblivion the Hero of Cyrodiil meets Sheogorath and is asked to stop the cycle of Greymarch (which occurs after death of emperor Uriel VII Septim) forever. They succeed, and in return, the Hero can achieve immortality… by becoming Sheogorath. Yes, the new Sheogorath is the Hero of Cyrodiil and you meed them in The Mind of Madness quest in TES V: Skyrim. That’s the only confirmed time the player meets the player character from the previous TES game. However, one element is missing. Jyggalag is not truly gone, he has been simply released from the curse. Jyggalag is free, while the Hero of Cyrodiil is the new Sheogorath, so the two are not the same entity anymore. Sadly, there is no mention of Jyggalag in TES V: Skyrim and we did not see him in TES: Legends… so far. Who knows, perhaps Isle of Madness will feature him.
Now, I will quote The Elder Scrolls Wiki on the flora and fauna of the Shivering Isles:
The Flora and Fauna of the Shivering Isles are a testament to Sheogorath’s madness, as the north, known as Mania, reflects the Mad God’s pleasure with simple madness and calm obsession. Mania features tall mushroom-like plants and colorful trees, and its fauna reflects these traits as creatures native to Mania are known to have more colorful bodies. The south, known as Dementia, reflects the darker side of Sheogorath’s personality, featuring swamps, bogs and dark forests. All of the plant life of the Shivering Isles are connected to the root system, a series of natural caverns and rock formations that is, in fact, a large living organism that is connected to all of the trees and plants in the Isles.
What’s more, there is even inhabitants and religion on the Shivering Isles. The most of the Isles’ people worship Sheogorath. The Zealot cult believe Arden Sul, a prophet, was Sheogorath’s mortal aspect, while Sheogorath is a living god. The Heretic cult believes Sheogorath is a powerful mortal man pretending to be a Daedric Prince and he profanes the teachings of Arden Sul. The Apostle cult believes Sheogorath is unfit to rule the Isles, because he left them during the Greymarch (while, obviously, that’s false – he transformed into Jyggalag). Some even worship Arden Sul himself, an ancient prophet and ruler from old, old times, who lived on the Shivering Isles. Most of his story is forgotten.
After the read, consider having a look at those wonderful concept artworks for TES IV: Shivering Isles drawn by Adam Adamowicz, one of the best concept artists of our times, who passed away in 2012. Lung cancer was the killer, sadly. While many other good artists at Bethesda provided us with more final looks of the TES games, Adamowicz was the creator of the feel, soul and atmosphere.
Thank you for the read. It is impossible to contain all the stories and details on Sheogorath in this text, so I encourage you to go to The Imperial Library and put “Sheogorath” in the search box. There is much to discover and that’s a great way to honor the 20th birthday of The Imperial Library, one of the most important websites for The Elder Scrolls fans across the internet. Happy birthday!