On our planet we humans are without a doubt the most dominant species, adapting to and, more often than not, changing the very landscape to fit our wants and needs. During that process how many species have we harmed or driven to extinction with our own demands coming before any others? What if those species could rise up and start a war or even have the ability to overthrow the oppressive humans. Would we sit back and let it happen or fight for our survival and status to remain at the top?
A scenario similar to the hypothetical one I just described occurs in Skyrim, though it’s not the humans that are being overthrown, but doing the overthrowing. In this world the Dragons ruled for centuries, stepping on the humans to advance their own species, even using the humans as slaves to do their bidding.
When the slaves revolt of course the Dragons do what they must to maintain order in their kingdom. However, the slaves are strong and clever which leads the Dragons to take more and more risks to fight back. The war becomes so desperate that the humans can’t kill Alduin so they send him to a different part of time where he and his army have already lost.
Let’s imagine how Alduin is feeling having lost everything. A leader of a species so used to being in charge of the world around them, shaping it to their will, even controlling the very elements that make it. He is portrayed as an evil antagonist to us because he suppressed the humans, and then started a war when they tried to kill him and his kind.
Let’s remember that the dragons wouldn’t have decided to start a war when they were already in charge. As a tactic that would just be suicidal, and bringing unnecessary threat to your hold on power. So, the humans would have instigated this war for good enough reasons from our general view at least, but Alduin and his people would not have seen it like that.
Alduin and co react the same way we would if another species threatened to forcefully remove our grip from this world, and that is with an all out war to wipe the threat out. Once a group has power any attempt to forcefully remove it is in kind met with force, that’s how our history has worked all the way up to the modern day.
Couple that with the fact that Alduin is thrown hundreds of years into the future in a world unrecognizable. A world which his enemy now rules and his kind are all but ruled out of existence. Alduin doesn’t see victors of a war, but a species that committed a genocide against his own. Of course he does everything in his power to bring the dragons back, they’re his family and friends.
As he does this the attacks on humanity begin in earnest, this no longer being about taking control but a tale of revenge too. As the Dragonborn we fight Alduin because he threatens the world that we inhabit, just like Alduin fought the humans because of the exact same reasons. Alduin isn’t a mindless monster, but someone who is so shaken by harrowing memories of war and loss.
However Alduin isn’t the only dragon to have survived through to the human age. Paarthurnax, Alduin’s brother also lives in this world, though hidden from view and observing the world below. He has had a dark past and was an ally of Alduin in the war against the humans, but eventually he stopped fighting and became a gentle observer, not really meddling and instead staying away from humanity.
Alduin arrives in this world and sees what has become of his brother. It isn’t a surprise Alduin lashes out against Paarthurnax as he seems him as a traitor, doing nothing to stop the systematic destruction of dragon-kind until the land was littered with their bones and graves. Alduin won’t listen to reasons such as Paarthurnax not agreeing with what the dragons did to the humans, he just sees someone who is as responsible for the extinction of dragons as the humans are.
And how do we know the world wasn’t possibly a more peaceful place under dragon rule? As players we enter a world that is in the midst of civil war with hundreds dying in battles and others succumbing to bandits and beats all over Skyrim. Dragons were overthrown for being dominating but maybe that’s what kept humanity’s violence under control, until it bubbled over and the dragons could no longer hold back the tide.
Maybe that’s what Alduin sees in those that inhabit Skyrim, races of people that are so violent they don’t deserve to live and destroy each other. Alduin is no doubt a violent creature, but he is only the bad guy because he never explains his motivations to us truly. Maybe he was trying to save us from ourselves.