Posted Tue, Jan 22, 2013 by gunky
There are two main classes of supernatural beings in the Elder Scrolls universe: Aedra and Daedra. Initially, they were all formless spirits that existed prior to the creation of the universe. The Aedra are the few spirits who took part in the creation of the universe under the leadership of Lorkhan the Trickster, and the Daedra are the ones who did not.
Most of the Aedra were trapped by the act of creation, becoming mortal in the process, and some of them actually died, or became physical parts of the universe - the planets, the moons, etc. A very few of them took humanoid form and went on to father the various races of men and mer (elf-kind). For the most part, the Aedra are kind, benevolent beings with fairly narrow spheres of influence in the daily lives of the inhabitants of Nirn. For example, the Aedra Mara is the god of love, the Aedra Stendarr is the god of mercy, and so on. Because they are bound to Nirn and their power was greatly reduced by the act of its creation, they cannot take physical form, and may only interact with the world and its inhabitants in a magical or spiritual manner, through shrines and altars.
The Eight Divines are eight Aedra who are embodied in the planets orbiting the same sun as Nirn. These are the ones that willingly gave themselves to the creation of Nirn even after they saw through Lorkhan's ruse. Shrines and altars to the Eight Divines are built all over the human provinces of Tamriel. The elves worship different "sets" of Aedra, typically favoring the Aedra who escaped Lorkhan's trap and retained most of their divinity and power.
Most Daedra are beast-like supernatural creatures, usually of low intelligence. Lesser Daedra are relatively common and come in many varied forms, from the elemental Atronachs to the beastial, fire-breathing Daedroth to the demonic Dremora. Lesser Daedra are believed to be created by the Daedric Princes as servants, and are often found in the company of powerful mages who summoned them for the same purpose. The humanoid Daedra tend to be more intelligent and tougher than the others, and are far more rare.
Daedric Princes are the most powerful Daedra, and are commonly worshiped as gods. Since they took no part in the creation of Nirn, they are much stronger than the Aedra and are able to manifest themselves physically in their own private planes of Oblivion. Daedric Princes are not all monstrous, cruel demons; some of them, like Azura, Meridia or Nocturnal, are benevolent and helpful.
Molag Bal, the Daedric Prince shaping the events of the Elder Scrolls Online, is neither benevolent nor helpful. He is seeking to pull Nirn into his own private plane of Oblivion, called Coldharbour, which is essentially a recreation of Nirn but corrupted and ruined. He is associated with domination, corruption, slavery, vampirism and rape. Definitely not a nice Daedra.