Warning: Spoilers ahead!
So, some of you may have heard of a little computer game called ‘Skyrim‘.
In the game, you play the part of a ‘Dragonborn’ character, whose special ability is being able to learn ‘shouts*’ by consuming dragon souls.
The game starts (although the player doesn’t know if yet) with the ancient dragon king ‘Alduin**’ arrives after being thrown forward in time by thousands of years. Alduin then*** flies to where the player is about to be executed, and attacks the town, freeing the player.
You learn later that Alduin’s goal is to resurrect dragons (who were all or mostly all killed before recorded history), and conquer the world**** again.
So, why, as Alduin’s first act would he save the life of the one person who can thwart his dragon resurrection**** plans? There are two main theories:
1) Alduin reappears after being thrown forward in time, perhaps confused, and attacks the nearest human target, perhaps the nearest human military target.
The nearby towns:
– Ivarstead (small town) is 5+4 (6.4 units as the dragon flies) away SE
– Helgen (fortified town) is 8+9 units (12 units as the dragon flies) away SW
– Riverwood (medium town) is 8 units away W
– Whiterun (major city) is 7+9 units (11.4 units as the dragon flies) away NW, but is where a dragon was trapped before, and is heavily fortified.
From this it’s a stretch to see Helgen as the obvious target, as it’s the furthest of the nearby settlements. Perhaps Alduin enjoyed flying over mountains, or was flying in the opposite direction from High Hrothgar (where humans taught each other shouts, also heavily fortified). Perhaps the people who threw Alduin forward in time were from Helgen, many thousands of years ago, and he was following them back.
2) The other person saved by Alduin’s attack is ‘Ulfric Stormcloak’ (another human who can ‘shout’), whose capture was about to end a civil war. His escape after being saved by Alduin reignites the civil war, distracting humans, and not coincidentally providing Alduin with many more souls to eat in Sovngard. Sovngard being the afterlife for honoured warriors, where Alduin resides so as to be impossible to kill on the mortal plane.
This theory feels like it makes a lot more sense. Alduin having been defeated by humans once, and needing time for his dragon resurrection campaign needs something to distract the humans. How he would have figured out that freeing Ulfric would help this is unknown. He could also feel that Ulfric could ‘shout’, and seek him out as a source of power, to defeat him, or to release him to cause chaos. I feel Alduin’s arrogance would only let him respect (and only barely) a human who could ‘shout’.
3) Alduin senses the dragonborn (the player) (either because they feel like a dragon, or like a powerful human), and attacks to try to kill them*****. Ironically, this ends up saving them. Why Alduin didn’t finish the job is beyond me. Perhaps the player escaping into the keep and going underground caused Alduin to lose them, and he went off in search for other prey or dragons to resurrect. Perhaps because the player had not yet come into their power, or did not shout back at Alduin, they were nothing but prey, or beneath his notice.
4) The Elder Scroll****** or whomever empowered it to be used to throw Alduin forward in time brought him forward to the exact time and made sure he was in such a mental state that he would through his own actions save the very person (the player) who would cause his downfall. It was suggested that the time/dragon-god Akatosh was displeased with Alduin’s arrogance, so they could have been responsible.
5) Other ideas? Let me know what you think in the comments!
*’Shouts’ are an innate ability of dragons, for whom ‘shouting is as natural as talking’. ‘Shouts’ are special words of power which do the standard type of dragon things you would expect, like breathing fire or ice, or various other spell-like abilities. It is also mentioned in-game that a dragon argument involves them ‘shouting’ at each other, leading to very blurred lines between dragon arguments and combats.
**Alduin was the first dragon, created by the dragon-god of time Akatosh. Alduin’s original purpose was to be the ‘World-Eater’, to devour the world at the end of time, but Alduin decided to try to conquer the world and become a god. The humans rebelled (with some dragon help), and eventually used an ‘elder scroll’ to throw Alduin forward in time.
***It is unclear if anything else happens between these events.
****Dragons were originally the creation of the dragon god Akatosh. They are normally immortal, and can be resurrected by Alduin (and perhaps others). Consuming their souls prevents this resurrection.
*****Dragons ‘shout’ to argue with each other, so Alduin could have sensed someone like a dragon (dragonborn), and ‘shouted’ at them just to try to speak with them. This is not canon at all, but could make for a much more poignant story, if the whole story was all over an inability to communicate.
******’Elder Scrolls’ are fate-linked artifacts which have amazing and special powers, but these powers seem to be linked to the threads of some larger story woven by the gods or perhaps something even more powerful and ancient.