In Skyrim, many Draugr tombs have doors locked with a dragon claw key. For some reason the lock combination is written on the key.

What was the purpose of these locked rooms? Was it..

  • To keep people out?
  • To lock the Draugr in?
  • Some other reason?
  • 1
    Given how much undead you find in those tombs it seems reasonable it's to keep them in.
    – JAB
    May 1, 2017 at 14:36
  • I have half an answer in my mind, but I would need to find time to search some in-game books. It can't be to lock the draugr in though.
    – Molag Bal
    May 2, 2017 at 6:23
  • It's like putting say "friend" and enter over the entrance. Jun 19, 2018 at 23:32

2 Answers 2


According to a Reddit thread, the locks were intended to keep the higher Draugr Lords/Dragon Priests entombed, and requires at least enough intelligence to be able to read the key.

I know that there have been many people who criticized the Draugr claw puzzle locks, saying that it was dumb to put the solution of the lock on the key. If it is so easy to discover, why bother with a lock at all?

I always just assumed that the locks where made in such a way to keep the Draugr/Dragon Priests locked in and entombed. Well today I was playing Skyrim and found this book that says exactly that. It's a rare book, it is only found in 2 relatively untraveled locations in the game, which explains why I've never seen it before.

Another user clarifies the location of the book:

This is factually incorrect and misleading.

It's guaranteed to be found in these two locations only, and can also randomly be found anywhere that random books from leveled lists are found. In addition, it can be (also randomly) bought from Urag gro-Shub.

Thanks to @FuzzyBoots, I was able to find a couple more references.

The book is indeed called Death of a Wanderer. According to a "Skyrim book club website", it is

A tale of an Argonian’s unfortunate venture into a Draugr crypt Deerkaza is old now, and his days are surely numbered. Amongst his possessions is an ancient dragon claw, and he tells his young friend a most interesting tale about it.

That site also gives two locations it can be found:

  • Thalmor Headquarters, on a small round table beside the double bed in the upstairs bedroom
  • Volkihar Keep DG, on a bookshelf on the first floor of the laboratory/library

Another website has the actual text of the book, and the relevant passages are:

He was the one to break the silence. "You know what always bothered me?" he asked. "Why they even bothered with the symbols."

"The what?"

"The symbols, you fool, look at the claw."

I turned it over in my hand. Sure enough, etched into the face were three animals. A bear, an owl, and some kind of insect.

"What do the symbols mean, Deerkaza?"

"The sealing-doors. It's not enough to just have the claw. They're made of massive stone wheels that must align with the claw's symbols before they'll open. It's a sort of lock, I suppose. But I didn't know why they bothered with them. If you had the claw, you also had the symbols to open the door. So why..." He was broken up by a coughing fit. It was the most I had heard him speak in months, but I could tell how much of a struggle it was. I knew his mind, though, and helped the thought along.

"Why even have a combination if you're going to write it on the key?"

"Exactly. But as I lay bleeding on that floor, I figured it out. The Draugr are relentless, but far from clever. Once I was downed, they continued shuffling about. To no aim. No direction. Bumping against one another, the walls."


"So the symbols on the doors weren't meant to be another lock. Just a way of ensuring the person entering was actually alive and had a functioning mind."

"Then the doors..."

"Were never meant to keep people out. They were meant to keep the Draugr in."

  • Looks like it's "The Death of a Wanderer": imperial-library.info/content/death-wanderer
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jun 19, 2018 at 18:36
  • Found via a search for site:www.imperial-library.info draugr dragon priest claw key
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jun 19, 2018 at 18:44
  • I'm tempted to edit it into your answer, but the text of the page makes me uncertain whether it actually does show up in Skyrim, or if it's a user-submission.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jun 19, 2018 at 19:04
  • @FuzzyBoots - I found a couple websites with more information after you found the title. Thank you for the tip!
    – JohnP
    Jun 19, 2018 at 19:26
  • 3
    @FuzzyBoots: I have played Skyrim extensively. This text appears exactly as shown here in an in-game book that the player can find and read. However, all in-game books are presumed to be written by unreliable narrators in the Elder Scrolls universe, because the universe lacks an "objectively correct" canon.
    – Kevin
    Jun 19, 2018 at 21:04

The purpose of any locked door is to restrict access. IIRC, behind each locked door was the heart of a temple; the doors could have been put there to restrict access to the most holy sites to those who are worthy. For an analogy ,anyone can walk into a local catholic church and watch a mass, but not just anyone can walk into the Vatican and watch the Pope perform a mass.

If you're asking why the combination is written on the keys, I can't really help you, especially considering there is only something like 27 possible combinations. Bethesda probably just did it to pad the playtime estimates.

  • That analogy is iffy at best. Tons of people show up to papal masses.
    – Molag Bal
    May 1, 2017 at 4:44
  • True, I was trying to keep with a religious theme. Maybe something along the lines of anyone can get a personal blessing from a local pastor but not everyone can be personally blessed by the pope.
    – revenant
    May 1, 2017 at 4:57
  • 3
    Well, if you really want a Catholic analogy, I have one but most people won't be familiar with it. Anyone can walk into a mass, but not anyone gets unaccompanied access to the room where they store the Eucharist. In Skyrim, that would be like trusted priests holding the key to the inner sanctum, which makes some amount of sense probably.
    – Molag Bal
    May 1, 2017 at 5:00

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