Tamriel’s Racial Allegory (or Why It Sucks To Be a Khajiit in Skyrim)

Nothing to do with the subject, but doesn't my Khajiit character look like Shao Khan?

Nothing to do with the subject, but doesn’t my Khajiit character look like Shao Khan?

So, a few things have been happening lately that have started me to thinking about how we treat our fellow human beings.

Firstly, yet another act of violent intimidation from Muslim extremists has, once again, cast an unjustified negative light on the whole community. I won’t go into much opinion on that since most of you who know me can guess that I’m supporting Charlie Hebdo on this one.

The other factor in my recent thoughts has been finally getting to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the first time.

My first inclination coming into the Elder Scrolls series fresh was to play one of the so-called ‘beast races’ as they seemed the most interesting. They consist of the reptilian Argonians and the race I ultimately settled on; the feline Khajiit.

Little did I know how big a mistake that was.

From the very beginning, everyone in Skyrim seems to have a grudge against you if you’re a Khajiit. Hadvar, one of your Imperial captors in the beginning of the game, is quick to point out how, “your kind always seems to find trouble.”

Bandits have more unique hostile threats for Khajiit than any other race including, “You’ll make a fine rug, Cat,” and “You remind me of my cousin’s cat, killed that one too!”

Guards also have more unique dialogue options and tend to sound distrusting of you; i.e., “Stay out of trouble, Khajiit,” “Sheathe those claws, Khajiit,” and “What do you want… cat?”

One of the citizens of the city of Whiterun, the aspiring business woman Ysolda, talks about how she does trade with Khajiit caravans and praises their business skills even though, “… nobody wants them in the cities. Nobody trusts them,” because they have a reputation for, “… [turning] to smuggling and thievery to get by.”

Now, in fairness, most races other than the native Nords will encounter racial hostility from others. Elves and Bretons are distrusted for their magic skills, Imperials are often blamed for the political climate of Skyrim as often as The Stormcloak Rebellion, and Orcs and Redguards are feared as brutal warriors. But no one seems to get it as bad as the Khajiit. Why is that?

Well, I’m sure that the design choice to make the Khajiit a desert-dwelling people that speak in a thick, generic, Middle Eastern accent that makes them sound like the peddler from the beginning of Disney’s Aladdin in a game that was released in a time when we were (and still are) on edge about the political climate in the Middle East might have something to do with it.

Now, before you call racism on the dev team at Bethesda, let’s take a good look at the Khajiit. Yes, there are a few bandits and thieves among them in game, but just as often, you’ll find legitimate caravan businesses that are very friendly. I was also deeply entertained by the in-game commentary and harmless tall-tales (please note the effort to avoid a ‘tall-TAILS’ pun in this sentence) of M’aiq the Liar.

I put it to you that this was Bethesda’s way of saying that we can’t judge people as races. The actions of a few extremists don’t reflect the whole.

So, if you’re reading this, let your Muslim friends (any of your friends, for that matter) know that you will support and defend them from unjust anger. Also, play with your cat today and let them know you love them.

2 thoughts on “Tamriel’s Racial Allegory (or Why It Sucks To Be a Khajiit in Skyrim)

  1. They’re more like Gypsies than middle-easterners, imo. Universally distrusted, so sort of forced into the kinds of activity they’re accused of because people won’t let them into normal society.

    And sorry about the month’s old comment. :P

    • Not at all. I’m always happy to hear from people. :-)

      I can see how one can make a connection to the Romani, but given the time frame the game was made in and the similarities in their cultures, I can’t help but think the dev team was trying to say something. An astute observation, regardless.

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