Elder Scrolls Lore Report - Claw Dances, Moon Dances, Rain Dances, and Cats Dancing


Before we dive into the finer machinations that makeup Khajiit Martial Arts, let us first tackle what the claw-dances really are in the first place.


Khajiiti Martial Arts, the Claw-Dances, the Rain of Sand, are an important part of Khajiit culture, history, and philosophy. They are studied all across Elsweyr and while each discipline can be taught at the Temple of Two-Moons Dance, most are taught in their own specific monastery, scattered across Elsweyr, known as adeptoriums.



Temple of Two-Moons Dance in Dune Kingdom 


Not dissimilar to Asian martial arts, while the Claw-Dances are seen as a form of combat skill, they are meant to be lyrical meditation, very different than the Khajiit’s other forms of meditation, which are quiet, lacking motion. The dances draw upon the nervous energy that emanates from the monks, finding expression in raw physicality. The Khajiit’s natural, predatorial instincts and range of motion of their claws has given rise to this distinct form of martial arts that incorporates lunging jumps, swift claw-strikes, and wide leaps.


The dances originate in the Merethic Era when the Temple of Two-Moons in Rawl’kha was razed and the hunt-lords seized the opportunity to attain total power across the sixteen kingdoms. Takanzin the Striped Death actually secretly hired outlaws to burn the Temple, and though the monks and clergymen took arms to fight back, they were ultimately defeated and Takanzin’s armies quickly drove them into exile. While the Hunt-Lords took command of the Sixteen Kingdoms, the monks went into self-isolation to achieve perfection, during which time they developed the claw-dances. What began as meditation eventually turned into a dance-like fighting style.


After centuries in isolation, the Khajiiti monks returned during the waning years of the Hunt-Lord aristocracy and taught their subjugated people how to fight back. War broke out eventually between Helkarn, a small village that was once one of the original sixteen kingdoms known for breeders, and Meirvale, a town in Anequina and one of the original sixteen kingdoms known for its breweries and distilleries. This imposed unbearable hardships upon the people, inevitably giving rise to a series of peasant uprisings exploding across the kingdoms, reaching Bruk’ra and Verkath, eventually ending the decades of oppression. The people would never forget the power they knew they could wield and would pass the claw-dances down, generation to generation.


The claw-dances became known as Rain-of-Sand by other races in Tamriel in the wake of the Third Empire, a bit of a misnomer as the Rawlith Khaj, Ta’agra for Rain of Sand, was actually one of the few known disciplines of the claw-dances. It would take several years for the empire to seriously accept it as part of Imperial culture, as the rigid disciplines and the mystical philosophies were considered alien. Despite this, other cultures embraced them. Races all across Tamriel soon began to study the ancient arts. The Dissident Priests of the Tribunal Temple took inspiration from the various claw-dances and incorporated them into their three societal forms, the Golden Reed, the Marshmerrow, and the Salt Rice. The Mages Guild and other, similar factions would adopt the Rain-of-Sand as a form of self-defense.


The Temples of Two-Moons Dance are places of rich martial training and diligent philosophical study located all across Elsweyr. Dating back to probably the early first era, back when Ne-Quin-Al – now called Anequina – once traded might graduates of the Temples to other Khajiiti kingdoms in return for various desires, the Temples were known to produce the greatest and most skilled warriors. For an unrecorded amount of time, the Temple in Torval was considered the finest training ground for unarmed combat in all of Tamriel. Masters of the Two-Moons Dance have designed a prescribed course of training over many years in accordance with Riddle’Thar. Many begin training as young children, which is as much a mental training as it is physical. Among the most important lessons is to reject vanity. Students of the highest level possess such a degree of power and skill that very few can ever hope to defeat them in unarmed combat, even with magic. At the completion of their studies, students partake in a festival consisting of competitions of physical strength by combat and mental fortitude by debate. Graduates either remain and become teachers themselves or they go into the world and offer their services – not entirely dissimilar to the Ansei of Yokuda.


There are many Temples of Two-Moons Dance. Known locations include one in the Anequina region of northern Elsweyr, one in Torval, one on Khenarthi’s Roost, one in Dune, and one in Rawl’kha. The temple in Rawl’kha is of particular importance as it was where Rid-Thar’ri’Datta, the first Mane, revealed the Riddle’Thar Epiphany in 2E 311. As such, it is considered the most spiritually significant Temple of Two-Moons in northern Elswery, if not all of Elsweyr.


Rawl’kha itself was in western Elsweyr, on the border with Valenwood. At some point in the Merethic Era, when it was still considered part of the kingdom of Dune, the Moon-Priests of the Temple held significant power over the feudal hunt-lords until Takanzin, one of the more ruthless hunt-lords, secretly hired mercenaries and outlaws to raze the temple. Takanzin used this incident to accuse the Moon-Priests of treason and exile them, using them as an example to quell other religions organizations in ancient Elsweyr. Rawl’kha would also play host to Green Lady Gwaering and Queen Ayrenn in the Second Era while witnessing the trials of a new Mane.


As for the claw-dances themselves, very few are actually known as specific styles, though a few more adeptoriums are recorded.



The Temple of Two-Moons Dance of Rawl'kha


Zhan Khaj, the Desert Wind is a fighting style that is practiced by the monks of the Desert Wind Adeptorium in Orcrest. They preserve their techniques in ancient scrolls that only the Grand Adept is allowed to keep. Very little is known about the style except that is uses dual-sword techniques with balanced blades. Zamarak is one of the few known practitioners of the Desert Wind style and was proficient enough to be the former Claw of the royal family of Rimmen under King Hemakar and Queen Numara.



Zamarak as seen in The Elder Scrolls Online


Vrin-Thak, the Goutfang is an arrhythmic style known for utilizing the flow of energy within the user. It is balanced and a fast-moving art with a versatility that requires the utmost coordination and strength, even incorporating aspects of other fighting styles like swordsmanship and grappling. It takes many hours learning the most basic of katas before a trainee is even allowed to wield a blade and there is no fixed sequence to turn a novice into a master. A huge part of Goutfang is that no two masters trained the same way, based on their own personal path to mastery. Those that have mastered their own flow of energy are said to be powerful enough to ignite the claws, providing augmented prowess in their kicks and punches. Razum Dar, the Eye of Queen Ayrenn, was one such master of Goutfang.



A Goutfang Adept as seen in The Elder Scrolls Legends


Rawlith-Khaj, the Desert Rain is a sword-form of the claw-dance practiced by the Desert Rain Monks. Though it mostly consists of using a sword, there are some forms that utilize rapid kicks with great agility. There are even other variations of the elements – Rain, Sand, Storm, Sun, Two-Moons, Wind. The most well-known practitioner is the warrior from Khenarthia, Pilazjo who had trained on the island since his early youth until he was traded to Ne Quin-al as a sign of friendship, leaving behind a vast collection of his blunt training swords that have since been regarded as important, historical artifacts and locked away in various adeptoriums around Elsweyr. Another known practitioner of Desert Wind was Razum Dar, the Eye of Queen Ayrenn.



Razum Dar, the most noble thief and most despicable warrior, Eyes of Queen Ayrenn, rumored to be a master of Goutfang, Rain of Sand, and Whispering Claw


Ziz Kurah, the Whispering Claw or Whispering Fang is a fast-moving and silent fighting style that is meant for assassination. Masters of this dance are known for quick reflexes, lightning strikes, and their ability to almost fly with their acrobatics. It is considered the antithesis to Goutfang. The Ziz Kurah adept, Ujirra, was the only surviving member of her adeptorium after it was razed by the Dro-m’Athra – angry and vengeful spirits of corrupted Khajiiti whose souls were claimed by Namira. She used the Chime of the Endless to keep her safe, and although the hymn she’d composed is lost to time, the Chime itself was recovered and is now protected by the Bard’s College in Skyrim. Razum Dar is supposedly also an adept of the Whispering Claw.



A Whispering Claw strike by a Whispering Claw Adept, as seen in The Elder Scrolls Legends 


Other known adeptoriums include Do’Krin, a monastery maintained by the Order of the Golden Claw, Jode’s Embrace, a majestic adeptorium east of Riverhold that contains a portal to the realm of Jode, S’rendarr’s Cradle, an adeptorium of healers, Star Haven, a prestigious adeptorium on the outskirts of Riverhold, and Starlight, a ruined adeptorium south of Star Haven.



Claw-Dance students meditate in the gardens of Adeptorium Star Haven


The Khajiiti respect those known to have mastered a claw-dance, using their honorific “Do-“ to address warriors, guards, and Claw-Dance Masters. There are even cases of quadrupedal furstocks like the Senche-raht learning claw-dances, at least Goutfang and Whispering Claw. Shasharr was one such, learning enough to become one of the Queen’s Claws, the personal army of Queen Khamira.



A Senche-raht (possibly Shasharr?) master of the Whispering Claw



There even exists a book written on the meditations of the Claw-Dances – the Soul of the Sword - authored by a Goutfang Master, as an attempt to mirror the Book of Circles by Frandar Hunding. The name itself is in admiration, or perhaps contest, to the Shehai wielded by the Ansei.


In all, the claw-dances of the Khajiit take up as much of their daily lives as Sword Singing did for Yokudans, and is still prominent enough to be recognized as both admirable and dangerous even into the Fourth Era – such as in the Dark Brotherhood questline of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, when the werewolf assassin Arnbjorn expresses his distress at having to fight a monk of the Whispering Fang style, though he did begrudgingly admit that it wasn’t particularly difficult to kill the Khajiit, boasting about his new loincloth afterward.


To conclude here, I hope future Elder Scrolls titles shed more light on the claw-dances and give us more to work with for Khajiit – and Elsweyr – as a whole.

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Fimvul is the current master of the Skyforge Library. Interested in the Elder Scrolls from a young age, he has been diving headfirst into the richer aspects of the lore of the series for over a decade. With years of experience and research under his belt, he hopes to enlighten his readers with the wondrous mystery that surrounds the Elder Scrolls universe.

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