For those unaware, I saw this little gem on my dashboard a while ago, and was incredibly miffed.
Not only does it try and boil complex fictional races into a single real-life counterpart, but it is so misinformed, and even bigoted.
Because of that, I decided to start a ten part mini-series about the races of Tamriel and their influences, both known and unknown. For the unknown, I will use informed speculation to the best of my abilities and what precious little information can be garnered from texts and in-game instances.
I know I haven’t made a post like this in a while. In fact, it will be two months to the day exactly. But I finally had the time to dedicate Part Five to one of the most misunderstood and maligned races of Tamriel: the Khajiit of Elsweyr.
I am going to ignore the incredibly racist and derogatory remarks about the Roma/Romani people for now, but I will address it later. For now, let’s just address the ignorance and inaccuracies with regards to the Khajiit themselves.
1) For starters, the Khajiit are not descended from desert tribes. There are deserts in the north, yes, but there are also jungles. It’s also suggested in the lore that the Khajiit predate Men and Mer, were one of the earliest civilizations, were known as “the great jungle cat men”, were some of the earliest to modernize, and had as many as sixteen states (emphasis on state and how that’s clearly not tribal).
2) Not all Khajiit are nomadic. In fact, the lore states that there are (or rather were) hundreds of cities in Elsweyr. That rather flies in the face of a nomadic lifestyle. Calling the Khajiit nomadic is like calling the Chinese nomadic because they like to travel and can be found living in other countries aside from China.
3) Similar architecture is impossible to verify as the Romani don’t exactly have their own unique architecture. On top of that, if we use ESO as an example, then the Khajiit have a rather clear Southeast Asian architectural style.
4) Family structure is impossible to verify but at least at a casual glance the Khajiit appear to be far less patriarchal than the Romani. The Mane can clearly be a man or a woman, one of the caravans in Skyrim is led by a female Khajiit, and there don’t exactly appear to be clear gender roles as some can be fighters and others can be merchants.
I mean come on, it’s not that hard to actually go to the UESP Wiki and just have a glance at the history, society, and culture of any of Tamriel’s races.
Addressing further inaccuracies and derogatory remarks, the caption of “seen as outsiders by civilized society” really bothers me. Not only does it smack of ignorance and a perceived sense of superiority, but it’s also hard to call a place like Skyrim civilized due to its many racist and xenophobic inhabitants, dreary and ramshackle thatched-roof cities (for the most part), and penchant for bloody violence and feuds.
The Khajiit, like the Roma/Romani, are seen as thieves because outside of their homeland they are denied opportunities and persecuted for obviously racial reasons. The Khajiit (like the Romani) are seen as thieves because a lack of support and lots of racism leaves them few opportunities in any new land they visit or move to, and thievery becomes either necessary or preferable.
The Khajiit aren’t allowed in the cities of Skyrim because of racism and stereotypes. They are there to try and sell good and make money since they saw an opportunity. Of course they’d have dealings with the Thieves Guild because TG members will have a need to get rid of stolen merchandise, and the Khajiit caravans are always looking for more and rarer goods, as well as being open to any kind of business since they’re kept out of the cities.
Now that I’ve got the inaccuracies, misconceptions, and racism (towards both Khajiit and Romani) out of the way, I can turn to what is seen and what I believe to be the chief influence towards Elsweyr and the Khajiit…
The Indian Subcontinent.
The Khajiit made one of the earliest civilizations (just like the Indian Subcontinent), are situated on a peninsula (like the Indian Subcontinent), and have deserts and arid lands in the northwest and jungles in the south and east (just like the Indian Subcontinent).
There are other similarities as well:
"A time when hundreds of cities and dozens of kingdoms dominated the land". Am I talking about India or Elsweyr?
"A society and culture where ones place in it is determined by the circumstances of one’s birth". Am I talking about the Khajiit Lunar Lattice or the caste system of India?
"A land full of different races and species of cats". Again, am I talking about Elsweyr or India?
From what I’ve learned about India, it’s generally divided between the north and south (like in Elsweyr) as northern India feels very different from southern India in terms of culture, architecture, climate, and cuisine. Apparently, the two regions aren’t exactly fond of each other either (like in Elsweyr).
Unfortunately, it seems this (rather obvious) inspiration was missed in ESO and they went with a more Southeast Asian architectural and cultural style from what can be seen so far.
Clothing is mentioned in the lore as being incredibly similar to the clothing types of India, and is brightly coloured like in India.
The Khajiit language itself is reminiscent of Indian Subcontinent languages like Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, and Tamil. This is reflected in Khajiit names and terms.
I could actually go on and on about the similarities between Elsweyr and the Indian Subcontinent, and the Khajiit and the peoples of the Indian Subcontinent. There is so much more to this fictional race than racist tropes and comparisons to the Romani people.