Some notes on the varying versions of Tamriel's monomyth and an attempt to unify the disparate mythologies. Probably not worth reading, if you're not an Elder Scrolls fan.
Information on the Monomyth can be found here: http://www.imperial-library.info/content/monomyth
When looking at the Elder Scrolls games and their application to it's own (fantastic) mythology things can become a little confusing. For instance, TES III establishes that Lorkhan's Heart was indeed thrown into Red Mountain (as established in certain Elven mythology), indicating that Lorkhan was indeed the trickster that the Elves insist. However, on the other hand, TES IV clearly establishes the divine right of the 'Dragonborn' and the Empire as the chosen platform for Akatosh' invocation. Add to this the confirmation of Alduin's existance in TES V (and the ramifications of this) and it seems that not everything is clear.
Complicating the matter furthur is the idea that the et'Ada (the Gods) are merely representatives of ideas or 'concepts' even within these mythologies. Even the titular Elder Scrolls themselves (supposedly passed down by Akatosh at the beginning of the First Era) seem to work on a bottom-up approach to metaphysics, indicating that the universe is merely nothing more than an extension of the limitations of the conscious minds within it, with the Scrolls being a sort of metaphysical infinite regress: A story that contains itself within it.
This is supported by the concept of 'Dragonbreaks', which, as the name would suggest, are points where time seems to break. These represent gaps in everyones memories, but written evidence seems to suggest paradoxical accounts of history that all end up at the same point anyway. The most famous (and second) of the Dragonbreaks occured during the 'Missing Millenium'. Based on the retrospective evidence, all civilisations claim that they achieved a level of superiority only to regress back into an identicle unified history as the Dragonbreak comes to an end. The other famous Dragonbreak is the 'Warp in the West' event where all four endings of TES II occured simultaniously, leading to a stalemate in the usually chaotic Illiac Bay region and the so-called 'Miracle of Peace'. The fact that the former Dragonbreak occured due to members of the Alessian Order trying to seperate 'aspects' (whatever that may mean) of the elven Aurial from human Akatosh is telling to me, and indicates that indeed, all myths may be simultaniously true, even where this should be impossible.
On the other hand, both the mythologies of the Nords and the Redguard purport a cyclical form of existance (which is also hinted at elsewhere, particularly in Psijic beliefs) that is relatively hard to reconcile with the myths of men and mer. The basic division of the elven and human perspective is that the Elves view the gods as their 'ancestors' (IE, that they are lesser forms of they who were trapped into mortality by Lorkhan), where the humans see themselves as distinct part of the et'Ada (and their 'concepts') and are greatful at their chance for existance: that the universe should consist of more than Gods. Even the Cyrodilic myths say that they were created from the Gods, but as a form of self-sacrificial mutilation: as the divine 'concepts' that the et'Ada consist of, are brought down into 'Mundus': the world of limitation to become Nirn. In this sense, both the Elves and Humans are right, but are divided by a matter of perspective: the humans view existance as a gift (and a means of testing, possible resulting in apotheosis, as with Talos), whilst the Elves view it as a punishment they must indure, and thus do so with overwrought pride. Nevertheless , despite beliefs (and even hints) to the contrary, it's obvious that the Elves 'Aedra' and the Humans 'et'Ada' are one and the same pantheon, and that Aurial is Akatosh.
Whilst the myths of the beastkin, differ in only superficial ways from those of the Cyrodilics (indeed in the 'Shezarr's Song' myth, beastkin are considered equal benificiaries of Shezarr alongside the Imperials), the Redguard mythology presents a rather more unique aspect to the monomyth that may explain the truth of the creation of Mundus. In this myth the world exists in the 'world-snake' Satak, which is originally coiled up, so that the thing living on it dont' really have the means of existance (unformed concepts). Thus the 'hunger' is created from inside Satak, known as Akel (the Redguard version of Sithis or Padomay). Satak begins eating himself, and everytime he devours his own heart, he is reborn, shedding his old skin, but the people living on him can only survive thanks to somebody named Ruptga or 'Tall Papa' (the Redguard equivelent of Akatosh), who shows them how to survive these 'cycles', by reaching up and placing the stars as a means of allowing them to find their way out to a waiting place they call the Far Shores. These Far Shores seem to be the Redguard equivelent of the Aetherius. It's also worth noting that Ruptga's use of the stars mirrors Akatosh's use of 'time' to allow spirits to better know themselves in Elven mythology. However, these souls build up until there is no more room on the Far Shores between cycles and Ruptga creates a 'Second Snake' (out of the shed skins of Satak) to help him called Sep (the Redguard Lorkhan) who decides to create a new world (out of the leftovers of those skins) where they can wait. Thus were mortals created.
In this version of the monomyth, whilst mortality is treated as a punishment by the Redguard (as with the Elves), Sep is treated as a fool, who created Mundus as an act of ignorance rather than malice. What's intresting about this version of the monomyth is the fact that Akel exists 'inside' (or as a part of) Satak, creating the infinite cycle. Similarly as Lorkhan (and Mundus) are treated as represeting of 'limitation', so too is Satak's shed skin. IE, the limitation created from Anu and Sithis' attempts to coexist (the consumption). This possibly allows one to unify the cyclical myths (including the Nords) with the non-cyclical. Indeed, all myths follow a similar pattern: the two fundamental opposite forces of unity and division (status and change, or order and chaos) are created as the unity attempts to know itself. These forces create spirits which are eventually enabled by a spirit that gives rise to self-awareness (Akatosh, Aurial or Ruptga) leading to the formation of new spirits. They then create Mundus and the mortals from parts of themselves, due to the agency of a spirit of limitation (Lorkhan, Shezarr, Sep, Shor), whether realising the concequences or not. This reconstructed monomyth is made up of the fundamental aspects of conscious beings (with the gods being the basic 'concepts'), definitely making them prone to metaphysical extrapolation.
With the waxing and waning of Anu and Sithis representing a possible 'cycle' this also accounts for the existance of cyclical myths and the Nordic Alduin, who is the opposite of Akatosh, representing the opposite concept to that of time: time's end (for which we have no word). This also gives an interesting explaination for the creation of Mundus (again, as defined in the Redguard myths): as a means to escape the cycle via mortals (as aspects of the Gods) and a 'final end' of the concepts. Indeed this is supported by the 'Mythic Aurbis' segment of the Monomyth, which details a breif (and purposely unspecific) version of the monomyth, where it is said that the creation of the mortal world was 'the ultimate story' of the spirits: that of "their own death" via the creation of Mundus: the ultimate form of Aurbis (existance). Yet all conscious beings fear death (hence those that refused and became the Daedra), so the death is both a good thing and a bad thing: something they try to escape (hence the creation of the sun and stars by their retreat and the punishment of Lorhkan), but felt compelled towards (as beings attempting to furthur define and refine themselves via self-examination), hence their adoption of the Imperials as their sons and the bestowing of the Dragonblood. This creation of the Mortal world, as an end to the cycle, would also explain both the Nordic prophecies and Alduin's betrayal (as a God made irrelevent) during the Dragon War. Since the Elves and Alessians both hold mutually exclusive interpretations of the monomyth, naturally they deny the cycle and Alduin only appears in the Nordic myths, ironically kept alive via (usually undependable) oral tales (and often falsily identified with Akatosh), whilst the Redguard acknowledge the cycle but make the devourer and the devoured the same entity.
One last oddity: The Serpent Constellation. This constellation moves around freely. In folk lore it is said that the Serpent is attempting to devour the other constellations. The Serpernt is also the only constellation that isn't under one of the three 'Guardian' constellations (the Warrior, the Mage or the Thief) and is the only one with no season accredited to it. This is despite the fact that (according to Elven mythology) the stars and suns were the holes made in the barrier between Oblivion and the Aetherius by the retreating Aedra. The only mythology that accounts for this (and may have been based on it) is the Redguards', who say that after the creation of Nirn, Sep was seperated from his divine aspect (an aspect of hunger, reflecting Sep's connection to Akel, and his origins as the skin of Satak) and his body became the constellation, seeking to forever devour the others. This has obvious parallels with the fate of Lorkhan and the fact that his 'Earth-Bones' became the basis for the moons (as the spirits were the basis of Nirn's) as his own essence; his heart, was cast down. Naturally, I think it's safe to say that both are probably true, as none of these mythologies are fully accurate, for one reason: which is that they all represent primal fundemental distinctions of consciousness that are simply given name. However, it is obvious that the Elven mythology is closest to the truth (and noticeably the Old Ways of the Psijic Order, which predate this and still maintain certain 'cyclical' aspects of the proto-myths) particularly in regards to the retreat of the surviving spirits (who became the Aedra) and the punishment of Lorkhan.
Other legends also exist. For instance only the Annotated Anuad (an early religious precursor to the religion of the Eight Divines) references the settlement of the 'Ehlnofey' the ancestors of men and mer and the Hist (the trees) following the chaos of Nirn's creation and a possible war between the Aedra and the Daedra. It's probable that the beastkin also shared an ancestor that probably settled Akavir, as the Ehlnofey settled Atmora and Aldmeris.
The Psijic Order also represent a different interpretation of Aldmeri religion known as the 'Old Way' which regard the ancestors-worship of the mer in the light of the cyclical model (and thus don't worship them). They are obsessed with 'change' (which they call the eleventh force, the other ten remain unknown but aren't regarded highly). They believe that in the first instance (when Akatosh was born) it was due to Sithis' influence on Anu and the impossibility of 'Static' becoming 'Change' represented in the impossible-to-pronounce word PSJJJJ (which gave the Order it's name). They also believe in the 'Psijic Endeavour' a means for a mer to become an Aedra by means of transcendence. They believe that when the cycle repeats those that practised the Psijic Endeavour would become the new world builders and hopefully wouldn't repeat the mistakes of Lorkhan's failure. Noticeably, the Daedric Prince Boethiah (considered one of the three 'good' Daedra) told the mer of the Endeaver, causing a sundering amongst the elves resulting the Chimer and their pilgrimage (led by the Psjic Order member Veloth) to Morrowind, and the eventual basis of their worship of the sixteen Daedra Princes. Since these three Daedra are indeed good (certainly more so than the always-neutral Aedra), it's possible that they can represent an alternative pantheon of sorts (along with the other Daedric princes, which are believed to be necessary) to the Aedra. In light of the conclusions raised above, it remains to be seen whether such a cycle could ever come to pass. Who knows, perhaps if TES V can be said to be the start of a new cycle, then TES VI could focus on the Psijics back in Alinor?.
Image credits go to:
LOOK WHO CAME: