If you met Zora Fair-Child in her youth, you would not be as fond of her as you are now. That Zora was selfish. Vain. She was the Diamond of Riverwood, but inside, she was about as ugly as they come.
From the day she was born, they said Zora was the lucky one. Born with beauty and blessed with charm, she was a child destined to be loved. Her sister, on the other hand, was a quiet, homely, mage – a girl destined to be scorned.
When Zora first lost her beauty, she went through all the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, but it was the anger part that was the most consequential. She stormed into the caves that surrounded the White River with a sword twice her size strapped to her back. The wolves around Riverwood were known to hunt in packs, and had fangs that could cut through flesh like a warm sweetroll. Zora didn’t just know this, she was counting on it. She didn’t care anymore whether she lived or died. Yet somehow, the poor girl managed to live.
Of course she did. She was always the lucky one.
When Zora woke up from her hysteria, she found herself an unrecognizable mess of scars. And yet with every new wound, every discolored stripe that streaked across her flesh, the loss of her physical beauty became less and less important. When her destiny was out of reach, she found something else to define her. Not because she wanted to. She had no other choice.
Zora’s growth as a character is about being comfortable in her own skin. As such, it’s no coincidence the one spell in her repertoire is Oakflesh. Still, throughout her trials and tribulations with the Dragonborn, a part of her will never be at peace with what she’s lost. Nor will you, despite all your powers as the savior of Skyrim, be able to free her from this curse. That’s life. Not every problem can be solved. Not every affliction has a cure.
As human beings, when faced with such problems, we endeavor to accept them. That doesn’t mean you’re happy to, or that you’re satisfied with your current existence. It just means you learn to move on with the cards you’ve been dealt. Zora has those moments where she laughs at herself, or feels sorry for herself, but in the end she still has the resolve to move forward, when so many others would wallow in self-pity, constantly looking back. She eventually learns to accept the person she is, and yet in some ways, even that isn’t enough.
Which brings us to the final step in her evolution as a person. In both her dialogue about Joselyn and The Children Fair, she goes beyond simply accepting the past. She embraces it. After all, without her medley of scars, she would have never understood her sister’s pain. Moreover, she would have never understood herself. And it’s that resolve and understanding that is the very essence of her strength.
That, ultimately, is what makes her beautiful.