The Story Corner » Discussions

Tails Tell Emotional Tales

Tags: #TSC  #Argonian  #Emotionals 
  • October 15, 2020

    Many races on Tamriel believe that beast races are incapable of showing emotions, this is not true however as the beast races, known to all Tamrielites (Tamrielians?) as the argonian and khajiit do, in fact, show emotion. Khajiit do show emotions with facial expression while they also use their taills to help convey their emotions better to others who are not well versed in the beastial emotion universe.


    While Khajiit can be easily read with enough practice, the argonians are actually harder to gauge on an emotional scale. As such, the scaly inhabitants of Black Marsh, much like domesticated dogs, must rely on their tails to convey what they are feeling. When writing stories involving these races, it is best to include their tails in concert with facial expressions, as is the case for the Khajiit.


    As with Khajiit, a story with an Argonian character, or characters, will not be as exciting if you don't incorporate tail actions. Like real lizards who use their tail to convey emotions because their face is only capable of one emotion which is anger. The facial muscles of the lizard are not delevoped enough for them to show a wide range of emotions. This can be said abou the reptilian denizens of Black Marsh as they too do not have the facial muscles to show anything other than when they are angry (narrowed eyes and bared teeth.) 


    Use this in your Argonian or Khajiit-centered stories as their tails can better get the message across of what their emotinal state is. This can also, in a way, make the story flow betteer and their tails can also tell other characters of their emotional state as well. For example, an argonian who has his tail limp is either admitting defeat or saddened about something. Likewise, if their tail thumps on the ground, he or she is angry aboout something either internal or external.


    An Argonian's can mean a great many other things:

     - a tail is stiff and upright means they are unsure of a certain situations outcome

    - a tail that snakes behind them means that they are confident in their actions

    - a tail that is hangs lip in a straigght line means that they are scared or nervous

    - if they slam their tail down hard, that means they are angry or furious


    Beast race tails tell an emotional story of their own. You, as the writer, have to choose whether or not to listen to the story they are telling and also, how they tell it based on the situation your character, or characters, is in. Like it said here, The use of tails in stories with characters that have them will help make you story flow better not only from chapter to chapter but also from paragraph to paragraph. It would be so dull if you have a character who has a tail and not use it. Think about having a khajiit who relies soley on facial expression to convey emotions to others. While that might work to not stop the story in its tracks and not cause the character to be a blob of unemotional forgetableness; with Argonians, it will just not fly as the Argonian NEED their tails to show emotions. If they don't have that 'emotional outlet' they, or you as the writer, will often fail to get the emotions that you or they are trying to get acroos and will have them stuck in the 'neutral position' for the entirety or the story.


    A Khajiit shows his emotions in more ways than solely by using the tail. They can use either their ears, facial expressions or tails to show their emotional state, sometimes they can use all three. For Argoniacentric tales it tends to be alot harder but, nonetheless, when the Argonian is correctly displayed emotionally in a story they can pull the reader into that scene rather that making the reader scratch his head in confusion because they became emotionaally disconnected during that scene. Haingan Argonian or Khajiit display emotion correctly, it can make the story all the more interesting.


  • Member
    October 15, 2020

    Makes sense. I've never written a tailed character, but it does seem fun to have to use the tail as a primary means of expression. Makes me think that a tailed character losing their tail would make for an interesting chracter arc. 

  • Member
    October 15, 2020

    I imagine he'd have trouble swimming or fighting properly with a broken tail too. Seems important for balance.

  • October 15, 2020

    It is important for balance and also used as a rudder for steering as the argonian or khajiit swims. If their limbs are lost, argonians can regenerate them like real life lizards. It would be an interesting topic to write about. 

  • Member
    October 17, 2020

    This is a fun and interesting post! I don't know much about the Argonians, so reading about their tails was good. I've got a few thoughts about Khajiiti tails, though, in that we often see them used in TES books the way Hasir talks about in order for the text to convey the emotion of the character or even just remind the reader they are reading about a cat.

    There are a few slightly odd things going on worth mentioning, one of which is seen in the Thalmor Handbill in which we learn that it's not good to touch a Khajiit's tail without permission. There's probably a bit of humour going there, something to blur the line between cat and Khajiit because domestic cats don't particularly appreciate having thier tails touched.

    Curiously, tails appear to be used metaphorically in a few books relating to Khajiiti spirituality and the moons. In The Moon Cats and Their Dance we get this little exchange:

    The hairless scholar adjusted his nose-windows and said, "All right. Fine. Tell me of the Two Moons Dance. Is it true you Khajiit dance at the midnight hour to the light of the moons?"

    And the Clan Mother said, "Indeed not. We dance the Two Moons Dance in every hour. It is our delight."

    The hairless scholar said, "You're not dancing. You're sitting by the fire. Tell me when you're going to dance, so I can join you."

    And the Clan Mother said, "My daughter and I dance to the moons at this moment, but you cannot join us, for you do not have a tail. It is a sadness."

    While there might be more layers there than just the moon and tail connection, that is something we see more of in Litter-Mates of Darkness and Moon Bishop Hunal's corresponding Loremaster's Questions article in very literal ways. In Litter-Mates, we're told:

    For a true cat to see a dro-m'Athra do the Bent Dance is to feel his tail twitch in time, and feel the pull of the Darks. As each twitch pulls the true cat further from the moons-light, the cat's shadow grows longer and more bent. And if the tide of the Darks grows greater than the tide of the Lights, the true cat is lost, and becomes a bent cat.

    When bent cats die, their souls are dragged down by Namiira into the Dark Behind the World, to serve the Heart of Lorkhaj until their tails are straight.

    In the Loremasters Questions article, we get this;

    This subject is dangerous even to speak about, especially on moons-less nights, when the pull of the Darks is strong, and one’s tail twitches to the Bent Dance.

    It's almost as though a Khajiit's tail is like a biological antenna that acts to detect the movement of the moons, including the dark moon, and influence the cats' behaviour. In a way, the Khajiitit tail is the race's moral compass.

    That stuff aside, there are a few things regarding tails as they relate to combat. The Khajiiti martial traditions, collectively known as Claw-Dances, are referred to in Interview With Three Booksellers as "the arts of claw and tail." I can't help but wonder how large a role the tail plays in these martial arts, and whether tailless races would have a much harder time learning the styles without having a tail for balance. Another interesting little (unreliable) rumour relating to combat can be found in Eagle Hunter: Against the Dominion, in which we read:

    Khajiit may look cuddly, but they are no laughing matter in a fight. Don't expect duels to end if you can disarm them. They possess razor-sharp claws that can puncture light and leather armors. And it's said that their tails can be used as crude third hands, wielding daggers and throwing knives with deadly accuracy.

  • October 17, 2020

    This is an interesting conversation and I use tails and other animal features to convey emotion in my stories for the Straag universe. But I also want to point out some often neglected emotional indicators in conveying emotion that I often employ for my animals and beast races. 

    Some argonians also have feathers and much like birds, I imagine they would have some control over how they use these feathers. Warning, signaling comes to mind. Very useful in the dense jungles of Mirkmire.

    Sound. Crocodile mating calls, things like that. Cats are also incredibly vocal animals, so I like to flavor my writing with these aspects of behavioral communication. 

    Scent and hormones. It's often overlooked when writers are conveying emotion or sensory input, because it's just not as easy to describe as visual cues. For example, my argonians in Path of the Aprax do not actually kiss, instead they rub necks and exchange scent through scent receptors. In addition, hatchlings communicate distress through a gland excretion at the base of the tail and adults communicate aggression with a different application of a similar gland. Khajiit mark territory with urine, males smell a certain way, that sort of thing. Implimenting some reliance on scent communication really helps fill out some of the written descriptors in my fan fiction, makes the emotional experience more than just visual. 

    These extra steps also emphasize something I really enjoy bringing out in my writings, the difference between races and how miscommunication can often happen between then. Even my Straag elves have different physiological and emotional traits from the races of Men or the beast races, though they can still interbreed.  


  • Member
    October 17, 2020

    Oooh, when this thread was brought to my attention I couldn't help but to drop by.

    I remember that Sotek, without a doubt the most prolific argonian related writer I remember seeing on the site, once mentioned the importance of an argonian's tail in their emotional state. I can't for the life of me rememlber where he said that but as someone who used to study biology and animal behaviour I couldn't help but agree with him. I also remember thinking he didn't go far enough; an opinion I discovered Liss, Karve and I shared when those two invited me to do some minor work on Straag.

    As Liss already mentioned odor and sounds are also very important. I personnally think she might have gone for something a tad too animalistic but to each their own. I think it's odd to try and go for as much of a one to one transposition of animal communication onto the beast races since despite the many obvious similitudes, I don't think many of us communicate in the exact same ways as Chimpanzees or Bonobos do; our closest animal equivalents. Some of the nuances would have been dampened and lost with the development of a mostly oral tongue.

    I won't speak about Khajit too much since I've always been more of a dog person myself, but as far as argonians go it's difficult to pinpoint exactly where you would have to take your influences anyway. They have a tail like a crocodile, the head of a lizard, snake or toad depending on the subspecies, feathers like birds and later dinosaurs (let's be honest those were proto-birds anyway), gills like a fish and to top all of that off they have breasts (and I assume mammaries) and lay eggs in pools. Whoever originally designed them at Bethesda doesn't know shit about animals or was fully aware of the monstrousity they had created. We have a proto-bird/reptilian/fish/amphibian hybrid that also somehow has boobs. It's like they were playing vertebrate bingo.

    When I wrote the character of Teineeva (still regret using my pseudonym for that guy's name) for the Straag universe (Ledger Codex, A Kiss Sweet Mother and Goodbye Skyrim) I made a few simple rules for myself.

    My argonians would be divided between those who grew up in the marshes and those who didn't (the Lukiul). The latter would rely on more human and mer-like communication and not have to think that much about doing so. Whereas for the black marsh natives, communicating with non-argonians was something they had to practice and think about; like learning another language you never quite get the hang off.

    I was going to use crocodiles as a base for tail communication since your standard lizard's tail has very little in common with that of an Argonian. Not to mention that crocodile tails are far less... let's call it elegant for lack of a better word and would open very different options. Beyond the tails, Argonians would still have body language, just a very different set than humans and mer. I make a point of Teineeva having a Human and Argonian laugh and smile on a handful of occasions. The first is fake and artificial but puts humans at ease while the latter scares the everloving shits out of them but is far more genuine.

    And most importantly of all; Argonians were going to be able to use pheromones for essentially the same purposes we use body language for. It would have to be something that would be difficult for the Lukiul to get a hang of and something the black marsh natives would have difficulties doing without. And most of all, something far more powerful and raw. Outside of a small section in Ledger Codex I don't think I've ever managed to use this rule a whole lot. At least not in anything I published.

    To Karve's, mine and probably Liss' (she has been the least vocal about that) long term frustrations, I have a lot of unpublished Ledger Codex scenes. In one of those scenes I have a Lukiul and a Black Marsh argonian interact and doing so allowed me to play around with the way that communication went quite a bit. So since I can't for the life of me present something coherent and to the point without spiralling into my usual vertebrate bingo speech may as well post that here to show how I worked that shit in. So, yeah, feast your eyes on some unpublished Teineeva texts and gruel at its quality ;)

    The Bee and Barb was almost empty this late at night. It wasn’t exactly unexpected, after a quick bowl of broth and a few mugs of mead, most patrons cleared out. Leaving the space to those ruffians incompetent enough not to be accepted by the flagon. The last few months however, the place was emptier than usual.

    Keerava sighed, at this rate they would never be able to leave this craphole of a city; between Maven’s gargantuan prices and her sudden move to start serving mead at the meadery itself for a pittance, it wasn’t going to take long for the Bee and Barb to become the Blackbriar inn. Early Saturalia spirit my scaly ass, bloody Maven had no goddamn reason to start giving out free mead, none but to decrease their customers by cutting them out of the equation. Keerava made a mental note she would have to make sure to give the bitch’s glass some extra “polish” next time she came in to discuss her affairs. Bitch probably had something to do with the Jarls decision to not let any of that new Whiterun mead into the hold as well.

    Luckily Talen’s drinks still brought in their fair share of customers. But with the oncoming winter, the herbs he needed to make them would become harder to come by. Even now supplies had started dwindling as the early onset of frost had taken away a good portion of the harvest already.

    “Fucking winter,” she cursed under her breath. She looked at her customers, eager for one of them to finish their drinks, to either order another one or return their tankard; she found there was something quite relaxing about dishwashing. What word had the priest used that time she had needed healing after the guild showed up? Teraputic? No, that wasn’t it, Therapeutic? Yes that was it, something therapeutic. By Oblivion, winter hadn’t even begun yet and they were already knee deep in shit. Or as they say in Riften; Life served them a tankard of canal “water”.

    Keerava let out a sigh of relief when she saw one of the doors to their inn swing open. She knew that smell. Talen-Jei had finally returned from that alchemy shop down in the waterway, getting supplies for his beverages. Talen had a real flair for cooking and brewing, too bad he didn’t share her talent for keeping his workspace clean. The basement still reeked of badly fermented snowberries. Who knew what he was brewing down there. She expected him to run straight downstairs, to his lair, eager to continue working on his new drinks. She didn’t need him here for the night, he knew that. However, Talen made his way to the bar instead. A grim look on his face.

    “Keerava, dear. I’m afraid we won’t be serving any more Velvet Lachances this winter.” Talen-jei declared. “Apparently Ingun fried the shop’s entire supply of Nightshade in one of her experiments,” he sighed and Keerava cursed the stupid girl under her breath, wondering if that was yet another plot from the girl’s mother.

    Keerava hated Maven with a passion. Whenever she would be angry at someone a quick jab or a simple stinging remark would solve the issue but against Maven nothing would help. Bitch may have lost most of her hold over the thieves guild but the dark brotherhood was still strong as ever. A strange thought came to her and she grinned.

    “Well at least if there’s no more Nightshade in town, Maven won’t be able to send the dark brotherhood after us,” she forced a  joke but her smile failed her and it only served as a grim reminder of what would eventually await them if they continued to refuse Maven’s wishes. Instead of awkwardly laughing like she had expected him to, Talen simply walked around the bar and hugged her. It wasn’t the first time they had hugged, far from it actually, but it still surprised her how fast an Innkeeper straight from Gideon had taken over the custom.

    Hugging wasn’t really the argonian way, but it was hers. She closed her eyes and relished in his smell. What could she compare it to? How does one describe pure emotion in a smell? She didn’t have the answer to that, but simply felt pity at the humans who would never be able to know, and the elves who would never understand as she took in his love for her.

    She heard him whisper something in her ear; it was Jel. She had no clue what he said exactly, but she understood. 

    “We will brave this storm together, my histblossom.”

    She nodded and he tightened his grip, her smell betraying the tears she would never cry.

    Their tender moment was violently interrupted when a noisy bastard kicked open the door to her Inn.

  • October 17, 2020

    Teineeva said:

    As Liss already mentioned odor and sounds are also very important. I personnally think she might have gone for something a tad too animalistic but to each their own. I think it's odd to try and go for as much of a one to one transposition of animal communication onto the beast races since despite the many obvious similitudes, I don't think many of us communicate in the exact same ways as Chimpanzees or Bonobos do; our closest animal equivalents. Some of the nuances would have been dampened and lost with the development of a mostly oral tongue.

    I would like to hope that my portrayal of the beast races is more complex than that, but I didn't give detailed examples, so I can understand you drawing that conclusion. 

  • October 17, 2020

    Teineeva, have you read The Infernal City yet? When you said lukiul (jel for assimilated) it made me think of that book.) I will have to include jel in my story as well. I have not decided whether Hasir will be a histborn, able to hear or telepathically communicate with the hist, or a lukiul yet. Also that book has the most brilliantly written and likable, both my opinions, argonian in any TES media, er, besides Big Head, Ocheeva, Wide-Eye, Derkeethus and Keerava. Mere-Glim Is an argonian who yoou just cannot help but care and feel bad for, again my opinion.