I realize that there are already a variety of questions that debate the usefulness of the Black Star versus Azura's Star, and it's pretty evident that the Black Star is more useful--black soul gems are pretty rare, and woefully expendable, but opportunities to harvest black souls (which are all Grand) are plentiful. However, these don't adequately address what I feel is probably the greatest benefit of the "Azura" side of the Black Star quest: the opportunity to get Aranea Ienith (the Azura priestess) as your follower. From what I gather from the UESP wiki, Aranea is the strongest mage follower you can possibly have. So, is Aranea + regular Azura's Star > Black Star?

As a shot in the dark, is it possible to get both Aranea and the Black Star?

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    I don't see any follower being better than the black star. – The Communist Duck Dec 11 '11 at 15:08
  • The blackstar is an item like any other, so if you have access to the console, it's a simple matter to add one to your inventory at any time (you could even add more than one if you were so inclined). – Raven Dreamer Dec 11 '11 at 17:54
  • @duck - any reasons? – voxanimus Dec 11 '11 at 19:44
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    @voxanimus because you can get other mage followers. The black star is the only possible reusable black soul gem. – Raven Dreamer Dec 12 '11 at 5:15
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    I think this choice is a moral issue and role-play, and not about benefits. – spyder Dec 21 '12 at 9:20

11 Answers 11


I'm only doing this because none of the answers reflect exactly what I feel is the proper rationale behind the best course of action for anyone at this juncture.

I ended up choosing the Black Star over Aranea, and I regret it. Not excessively, but if I could go back and redo the decision, I certainly would. My rationale:

Soul gems are definitely essential to playing effectively at higher levels. By and large, unenchanted weapons don't cut it unless you're exclusively a melee-type, and even then, they're almost always less effective than their enchanted counterparts. Obviously, then, one needs a supply of soul gems to replenish their depleted enchanted weapons. But I've found that after obtaining the "Soul Squeezer" perk, which gives you much more "recharge" per soul gem, higher level souls are almost always overkill. I can recharge the majority of the enchanted weapons I use regularly with only a Common Soul Gem; Greaters are only rarely required and Grands almost never. Thus, having a refillable Grand Soul Gem isn't really necessary at higher levels from a replenishing standpoint, because Common Soul Gems are easily found in loot and whatnot, and filling them (or even buying filled ones) is pretty easy. Actually, Soul Squeezer boosts up the recharge potential of Petty Soul Gems enough that you can just use about 5 or 6 of them to replace a Common, and finding and filling Petty Soul Gems is ridiculously easy.

Access to money also factors into the equation. After reaching a middling level, having sufficient money is rarely an issue. Buying filled soul gems is therefore a pretty viable strategy.

That being said, I can see how handy the Black Star would be if you're going to be doing a lot of enchanting. I use mostly enchanted weapons I find; unless you have insanely high Enchanting (I don't), what you find in the wild will almost always be better than what you can make. At the end of the day, though, when I want to create something, I'm going to want to use a Grand Soul to make it–it's going to be stronger that way. So if you're making things all the time, the Black Star is the way to go.

I don't dispute the fact that the Black Star, in terms of "fillability," and therefore use, is lightyears ahead of Azura's Star. Humans are far easier to come by and kill than mammoths. It's just that as a sort of battlemage (a mage that uses enchanted melee weapons, but not exclusively), I would far rather have the strongest magic support character in the game than a nonexpendable Black Soul Gem. All of the melee followers I've had get in the way of my area-of-effect spells, and are generally a giant hassle to go questing with.

So, for those considering these alternatives: I'd say that unless you want to be doing a lot of enchanting, go with Aranea. It's true that the Black Star is the only reusable Black Soul Gem in the game, but don't lend that fact excessive weight. There are ways to get around not having it, ways that come as a natural consequence of playing the game. There are decidedly fewer ways to compensate for Aranea: she fills a pretty unique niche.

Lastly, if you're at a low level, don't make this decision: until you've reached at least a middling level and clearly differentiated your playing style, pigeonholing yourself too early would be a bad idea. Mainly because, as someone pointed out, followers don't level. Plus, at low levels, having Grand Soul Gems isn't very useful--you don't have the Enchanting required to make use of them.

  • As of patch 1.6, followers now level with the player, so the point about Arenea often being underleveled is no longer relevant. With that in mind, she has a maximum level of 30, while Ilia has a maximum level of 40 and J'zargo has no maximum level (set to 30 with the Unofficial Patch), so some may consider her a subpar mage compared to them. – IllusiveBrian Mar 18 '17 at 14:44

I use Aranea. She's pretty good but not worth foregoing the Black Star. It's not that harvesting non-humanoid Grand Souls is difficult -- Mammoths are easy enough -- but it removes you from regular dungeon-crawling. By contrast, there are arguably better companions than Aranea, like Aela (she's marriageable, a merchant, a quest-giver, essential, etc.). Plus, if you're like me, you got Aranea early on, and followers don't level.

The question, by the way, isn't whether Aranea + Azura's Star > Black Star, it's whether Aranea + Azura's Star > [any follower] + Black Star.

I'd say no, although the choice is a little overhyped. It's only one soul, and I'll usually have several others to fill that do discriminate between humanoid and non-humanoid Grand Souls. Aranea's nice, but so are many other companions.


I also use Aranea. And I wouldn't trade a Black Star for her. She's a human being! Well, a dark elf, but still...

I play to make money and usually I sell to everyone in town and they still don't have enough money so I buy their filled Grand Soul gems, I get the money right back so they're effectively free. I don't have to risk my life (or freedom) making kills to get souls. And I get rid of stuff from my inventory. If ever I'm "in the wild" I can use Azura's Star to fill enchanted items.

Plus Aranea is the best follower I've had. She doesn't walk into me all the time, block doorways and set off traps. And she's sneaky and has awesome mage skills.



I'm a level 53 now and so far I've had about 5 followers: Lydia, Aela (then promptly back to Lydia; Aela was terrible), Aranea Ienith, Argis the Bullwark, and then J'zargo in that order.

So far my ABSOLUTE favorite has been Aranea. She never walked straight into traps, she didn't follow too closely behind, and I never had to worry about smacking her in battle because she stayed back. She was the ONLY one of my followers who could handle a group of enemies by herself without me needing to come finish them off for her. She has some pretty powerful lightning spells and she would even conjure atronachs to help out.

In Skyrim, money is SO easy to come by it's ridiculous. I know the black star is a unique item and really useful, but it's easy enough to just buy filled black or grand soul gems. (tip for anyone: enchanting ANY weapon with the Banish Daedra enchantment automatically makes it worth thousands, even with a crappy soul gem. Easiest way to make money I ever found, besides marriage.)

I would take Aranea over the Black Star anytime. She was fantastic. The only reason I decided to move on was because I wanted some kills, but now that Ancient dragons are appearing, I think I want her back. (J'zargo sucks so much, but that's a whole other topic...)

Conclusion: Forego the Black star and get Aranea.


As someone who took the Black Star over the follower, I have no regrets. There are lots of followers, and I just unlocked someone near Dawnstar that has magic with some competent melee in a pinch. I can't imagine she's even close to being good enough to trump him and the benefit of the Black Star over the vanilla Azura's Star.

On the point of the Black Star not being a big deal b/c it's only 1 soul: I use it for fully charging up all of my enchanted weapons and staves in a bandit cave. Just use your binding method of choice on the first bandit, immediately hop into the menu and charge an item to full with the star, then kill the next bandit. You get a lot more charging for the effort to kill a bandit vs. using the white star on wolves or spiders or Falmer (last I tried, they are Common level white souls).

And obviously, it just makes it that much easier to grab a Grand soul for enchants, since humanoids are so much more plentiful and easy to kill than things like Mammoths and Giants. If you are especially vile, you can break into NPC houses at night and murder someone for a Grand soul if you are in a pinch in town.

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    Giants are actually greater souls. ;) – brymck Dec 13 '11 at 2:12

Get the most followers as possible. Money? Little bit of alchemy and buy grand souls filled at the store. My money flow is so much better than the draining of weapons usings soul gems. The Azura or Black star is not necessary at all. So choose azura to get another follower and a extra daedra artifact :)


I agree with all who said Aranea is good and doesn't get in your way all the time. I got to level 55 in my previous character, used her a lot. She gets my thumbs up:) My current character is lvl 16 Redguard. I Married Lydia after losing her with my first character. So have once again took on Aranea, she looks after your arse well :)


I chose the black star one. I can easily get grand/souls by dark brotherhood quests and it can also capture white. On one of my other saves, however, I chose Aranea. She is a pretty good follower, but not the best. I currently have a college of winter hold guy, and I'm pretty sure he is the best. He levels up too! But you have to have a super high level destruction skill to get him.

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    I'm pretty sure the Black Star can't capture white souls, both because Nelacar says so specifically, and because I've had lots of white souls go uncaptured despite an empty Star. – SevenSidedDie Nov 3 '12 at 3:33
  • It can definitely hold white souls. For those using the unofficial patch, some version of it may have changed the Black Star to only accept white souls. I have patch 1.9 on PC without the unofficial patch and I can capture the white souls of lesser creatures in the Black Star just fine. – Jtenorj3 Mar 18 '17 at 11:28

I have found that Aranea is very good. She reacts quickly when it is needed. she rarely gets in your way. I now have her equipped with dawnguard armour and she equipped it very well:)

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    She managed to put her armor on? What a trooper! – kotekzot Nov 2 '12 at 23:44
  • Spellcasters don't always equip armour, had already tried her on other gear which she wouldn't or couldn't wear.... – Reinhold Nov 9 '12 at 9:58

I got the best from both worlds. Chose Aranea and then used the console to get The Black Star:player.additem 00063B29 1

To use The Black Star, simply sell Azura's Star or put in a chest. There, dilemma solved.


As some have said, there are many possible followers to chose from but only one Black Star. Since it can hold any soul(black or white), it can prove quite handy in raising one's enchanting skill without having to buy and/or fill a bunch of soul gems and enchant a bunch of items. You can raise enchanting(a potentially valuable skill to most any character build) by simply playing the game. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.

The way to raise enchanting which garners the most xp is to enchant many items(good flat xp per item), but simply using soul gems to refill enchanted weapons can raise the skill at about 3/4 speed depending on the strength of soul used. If you disenchant a soul trap weapon(the steel battleaxe of Fiery Souls in Ironbind Barrow for example. You can lets the NPCs there handle combat if you are low level), you can use a petty soul gem to put soul trap on your weapons. Then, just go out adventuring. Whenever you kill something, use the Black Star to refill your weapon.

So not as fast as enchanting lots of stuff( or perhaps faster, depending how you play), but if you have the mage stone active and sleep anywhere(bed rolls all over) an NPC soul(bandit, forsworn, necromage, etc) will get you 3/4 the xp of enchanting 1 item w/o mage stone or sleep. No wasting time and money buying lots of soul gems and enchanting lots of weapons or apparel. With max enchanting you can make whatever gear you want for your character(helps to have perks in enchanting, especially extra effect so you can put 2 enchants on 1 item).

A bit off topic, but enchanting can help raise other skills too, either directly or indirectly. Enchant for free spells to help those skills, make alchemy gear to double its xp gain brewing mixtures, raise smithing at lighting speed with smithing gear and potions(helps if you get to 30 making jewelry and get dwarven smithing), use high quality armor to help those skills and block, use high quality weapons to help with those skills, sell crafted items for speech skill, make lockpicking gear, pay for pickpocket training, whatever. If you enchant your gear with say fortify weapon skill and destuction, you can make it so you have powerful enchanted weapons that never need recharging ever again.

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