I've been playing The Elder Scrolls series for quite some time, and something occured to me the other day. According to TES V: Skyrim, Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak killed the King of Skyrim with a Shout. According to Skyrim, the Thu'um is learned by years of practice, meditation, patience, and the understanding of the word. Now since there wasn't a Shout to immediately kill a person (but plenty that would kill a person), how was it that Ulfric was able to Shout a man to death? Somehow I don't think headstrong Ulfric is a Greybeard in disguise.

It got me thinking.

The Imperials, too, have something like a shout. The Voice of the Emperor skill is unique to the Imperials, and lets a character make another person more receptive, rasing their speech, barter, and persuasion skills for the NPC affected. Is this a Shout, a Spell, or just good old Imperial boon-doggling? It acts like a spell, but seriously, it's called 'Voice of the Emperor', not 'Really Useful Spell of the Emperor for those Difficult Times'. (Now that I mention it, that would be a nice spell to have)

So, are Shouts possible for others not living at High Hrothgar until their beard exceeds Thor's?

  • 4
    Been playing Skyrim recently, wanted to clarify, Ulfric's shout didn't kill the king. If you go to Windhelm and talk to Ulfric about him murdering the king with a shout, as is the popular rumor around Skyrim, he'll tell you it wasn't his shout that killed the king, but his blade shoved in the king's heart. So he most likely used his shout to stun the king long enough to kill him.
    – user16313
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 20:45
  • Remember though, when you asked Ulfric of the killing of the king, he denied the fact that he "shouted" the king to death, but weakening the king with the Thu'um before stabbing a sword through the king's chest.
    – Ming Zhang
    Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 4:02

6 Answers 6


Theoretically any trained mortal could use the power of the Thu'um or Dragon Shout. What was required was the dragon word and meditation/understanding about how the word interacted with the world at large. Years of meditation was required for most humans to learn to use even one Word of Dragon Speech.

  • Kynareth was the one who granted the power to use the Thu'um to the mortal races of men. Paarthurnax was then the first to teach mortals to use the Thu'um. --Skyrim Wikia

  • The Greybeards study shouts and are the primary institution for studying the Thu'um among mortals.

  • Since Skyrim is a place where violence is common and life can be brutal and short, such knowledge is not common to most men and only those willing to learn from the Greybeards or other hidden masters could possibly learn more than a single word in their lifetimes.

  • Not to mention most Dragon Shouts were lost knowledge or found in places with plenty of forces to keep them safe from prying eyes. The quests of the Dragonborn during the Skyrim game are lethal enough to keep such words off the common man's lips.

The difference is the Dragonborn is a human mortal with the power to absorb the souls of dragons which can then be used to power new Thu'ums without the years of study and meditation.

  • It was even possible for human to create new dragon words as the Dragonrend shout was created by several of the ancient heroes to fight against Alduin stranding him in time allowing humans to win the Dragon War.
  • The Nord heroes Felldir the Old, Gormlaith Golden-Hilt and Hakon One-Eye contrive the Dragonrend shout and use it and an Elder Scroll to partially defeat Alduin by casting him adrift in time, marking the turning point in mankind's favor during the Dragon War.

If you play the Stormcloak questline, you'll notice that in the final battle at Solitude, Ulfric uses the words of power, "fus ro dah". Ulfric used unrelenting force to weaken Torygg before finishing him off. It's also made clear that Ulfric studied for some time with the Greybeards. Any mortal can learn the words of power, but it takes years to master them.

The Dragonborn is special in the sense that they are a mortal with a dragon's soul and, thus, have a natural, innate affinity with dragonspeak. It is specified that dragons can take the souls of fallen comrades and use their souls to gain all of the fallen's knowledge and apply it to themselves. The Dovakhiin, having a dragon's soul, shares this ability, hence being able to learn a shout in a matter of minutes, rather than years, so long as a dragon soul is readily available.


Ulfric Stormcloak was in fact recruited to be a Greybeard but refused, he had the capabilities so be one , he trained for 10 years meditating and slowly mastering his thu'um but what I know is that he didn't agree with their way of life that the Thu'um was a way of finding enlightenment, he left and later became the Jarl of Windhelm.

If we are talking about shouting a man to death, it can happen as I you look carefully eveytime you use the unrelenting force shout it takes a bit of the health from the victim receiving the shout, obviously somehow Ulfric managed to shout multiple times as stated to kill him, this combined with the amulet of Talos (which grants the wearer 10% decrease of time of a recharge for another shout) it is possible to shout multiple times at any given moment.

But towards the end of the main quest even if you chose either side Ulfric actually reveals he didn't actually shout him to death but merely conventionally killed him with a blade, so really none of this matters.

But the idea that one could preform such a feat as shouting a man to pieces can be real, just your recharge time for shouts have to be signicantly quicker + the Thu'um of the person shouting should be at the match of Alduin, so in a way if Ulfeic did in fact kill the High king by shouting him to death would mean that Ulfrics Thu'um is stronger than the Dragonborns!

  • 1
    There are other dragon-shouts than Unrelenting Force which inflict damage, like the Fire Breath, Frost Breath and when you count the Dawnguard extension Drain Vitality and Soul Tear shouts. When I interprete the various statements in the game correctly, Ulfric didn't kill his opponent using a shout alone, but rather used a shout to gain an advantage in the duel which some might consider unfair.
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 12:37

I have an answer that should satisfy all possible questions, and some things that weren't necessarily asked, but should be cleared up.

Yes it is possible for all mortals to learn to use the Thu'um, however it requires years of study. Some other people such as the Ebony Warrior have demonstrated this skill, though it isn't entirely clear where he learned the ability to Shout. But yes it is possible for others, not studying with the Greybeards to learn the to Shout, though it isn't likely that the person in question would know where to start, or how to continue with their studies. So it would make the most sense to just ask for the Greybeard's assistance in the matter. And although it may seem like a Thu'um, the Voice of the Emperor power is not a shout, but merely a calming "wave" to signify the Imperial's innate ability to use their "honeyed words" (speech skill) so fluently, that they are capable of literally making an opponent useless.

A clarification that should be made is that Ulfric studied with the Greybeards for some time (about 10 years) but was only able to master "Unrelenting Force" in that time frame. Another note, Ulfric's Shout wasn't what ended up killing Torygg; however, a blade through the chest was what inevitably took his life, so it is assumed that Ulfric merely used the Shout to "stun" Torygg as to strike the final blow with ease. But even then Unrelenting Force is definitely able to kill a person, I mean, just look at the Dragonborn Force ability given to you by the Black Book which allows you to disintegrate an enemy entirely, though this does only work for you; hence the title Dragonborn Force.

So, in the end, it wasn't a lethal shout, though there are plenty, and Unrelenting Force is certainly among them, but a fatal stab to the heart after an Unrelenting wave stunned the unsuspecting Torygg.

And finally to sum it all up, yes it is possible for a person whom hasn't studied with the Greybeards to learn to Shout, though it is highly unlikely and impractical. And yes, even someone like Ulfric is capable of such a feat.


Ulfric is a great and powerful leader. While it is not clear exactly how long it took him to learn the Thu'um that killed the High King, it is made clear that Ulfric studied with the Greybeards. Being Dragonborn only makes it easier to learn the Thu'um.

As to why the Dark Brotherhood doesn't make use of them? Probably no one within its ranks is strong enough to reach the top of Throat of the World.

That's my take. I just work on ESO. I'm not a Loremaster.

  • Hmmm, I must have missed the part where Ulfric went to High Hrothgar and studied with the Greybeards. I know Bulgruff took the Pilgrimage, but I didn't remember Ulfric taking a journey. Was that before or after he overthrew the Forsworn in Markarth?
    – Jersey
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 21:32

The Greybeards are the only group that really uses shouts as part of their culture, but I did not get the impression that the only way to learn shouts was through them. So in answer, (with time, patience, and talent) someone not from High Hrothgar could learn a shout

Now since there wasn't a Shout to immediately kill a person (but plenty that would kill a person), how was it that Ulfric was able to Shout a man to death.

I'm not sure if I understand exactly what you're saying here, but the fire breath shout and the unrelenting force shout are definitely powerful enough to immediately kill someone (especially since the king is a king, not his Hold's strongest warrior).

  • What meant to say that the result of the Shout was lethal, but there wasn't a death-specific Shout (something like Life-Heart-End or something) that was exactly that; a lethal shout. The game never specifies what type of Shout that Ulfric used, where he learned it, or how he learned it. Wouldn't that be a feat that the Dark Brotherhood would be interested in, considering they had dragon runes in their lair in Skyrim. Wouldn't one of them possibly pick it up with such an obvious resource? If Ulfric learned it, wouldn't others?
    – Jersey
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 18:21

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