Killing Anders: The Fallen Hero Archetype


With Dragon Age: Inquisition coming out in October, I have to admit that I have been spending more time playing Dragon Age: Origins, DA O: Awakening  and DA 2 than I have spent doing things I should, like say, update my blog, which is about horror fiction. Today I decided I could kill two birds with one stone by writing about one of the most interesting and completely infuriating characters in Awakening and DA 2, Anders, who suffers from a sudden personality change after voluntarily hosting the Fade spirit Justice. You will recall, if you’ve played Awakenings, that Anders and Justice were two separate characters.

Between the end of Awakening and the start of Dragon Age II the two merged together, sort of like in Marvel’s New Mutants comic when the alien Warlock died, and was reanimated with the memories of the human mutant Doug Ramsey, becoming Douglock.

Only much Justice-Anders…. hey, let’s just call him “Janky” because he is… is considerably douchier.

Janky is sort of like a Bizzaro-world version of Ghost Rider. Instead of consorting with demons and taking in a spirit of vengeance, he consorts with a spirit of justice and somehow warps it into a spirit of vengeance with his human emotions – or, so he says. It’s hard to tell if he is being honest, as he has been known to be dishonest and manipulative, especially when it comes to fulfilling his manifesto. Unlike Ghost Rider, who knows he is possessed by a demon and therefore seeks to take measures to avoid going over completely to the dark side, Anders believes that the spirit he is possessed by is good, and he doesn’t question its motivations or his own. He believes he is right.

That makes him an excellent example of the Fallen Hero. We are all familiar with Fallen Heroes – good guys like Harvey Dent or Anakin Skywalker who are destined to become Two Face and Darth Vader. Anders is one of those, but he believes his own bullshit. He thinks he’s the Paul Muad’dib of the mages, come to save everyone.  Unfortunately, his methodology includes the mass murder of hundreds, possibly thousands of innocents, and that makes him a monster.

Anders as a Villian


It may be difficult to fathom interpreting Anders as a hero, in light of the events at the end of Dragon Age II and the description of the world left behind in Dragon Age: Inquisition, which will be released October 7, 2014. The latest installment in the Dragon Age franchise features a world where mages and Templars are at open war and a magical explosion has created a Breach into the fade, into which dragons and various other monstrosities are pouring in from the skies.

Based upon the accusations of the Seeker, Cassandra Pentaghast, and the cinematics at the end of DA2 and in the trailers for Inquisition, it is easy to conclude that this Breach may have been caused directly or indirectly by Anders actions in destroying Kirkwall’s Chantry with a magical explosion. The breach was caused by a magical explosion. If it was not caused by that specific one, then it was likely caused by one inspired by this very action since as of Inquistion, the war between the Mages and Templars he predicted has come to pass.

In many ways, he is a villain, just as corrupted by outside influence as Orsino, Meredith, and Bartrand. Like these three, he suffers from a bad case of the Dark Side trope, named after well-known Star Wars fallen hero Anakin Skywalker, who becomes Darth Vader after he goes to the Dark Side of the Force.


Hero Type: Tragic (Fallen)


What marks him tragic hero are his initially good intentions: he wants to free mages from the servitude of the Circle of Mages and the Templars.  He starts out as a kitten-loving, wisecracking smartass rebel in Awakening, but becomes hopelessly messy after (at some point between Awakening and DA2) possessed by the Fade spirit Justice.  From the point of this action, his course is set: he is doomed to fall from grace, and his fall is marked by increasing signs of insanity. In the end, Anders is paranoid, lying and keeping secrets from his closest associates, and justifying these lies with a megalomaniacal sense of himself as a hero who will live on in legend as soon as he is martyred. He actually wants to die so his imagined destiny will be fulfilled. He has no remorse for those who have died or will die in the name of his cause, although like Meredith, he gives some rather unconvincing lip service to his regrets.

A tragic hero is one on a downward trajectory necessitated by his fatal flaw. In Anders, his flaw seems to be pride. It was vain of him to think that he could contain Justice in the first place.   Although he was generally good-natured in Awakenings, in DA 2 he has also become critical. He is often blind to his own flaws while fault-finding with others. This is especially obvious in his interactions with Merrill, who has similar issues. In conversations with

Not all tragic heroes are fallen: the difference between a fallen hero and a standard tragic hero is that the fallen hero becomes a villain. Regular tragic heroes usually lose everything because of their tragic flaw (often, something of the seven deadly sins variety, like greed or pride), and often die. Examples of classic tragic heroes are King Lear, Midas, and Oedipus. They are otherwise good men for whom a single character flaw spells their doom.

Fallen heroes, by contrast, hit rock bottom and then rise up again as villains.  They are big in comic books. Otto Octavius aka Doc Ock is another infamous fallen hero. In Norse Mythology, Loki is a fallen hero. Perhaps the best known fallen hero of all is Satan himself, particularly as portrayed by Milton in Paradise Lost.

Jungian Archetype: The Rebel

Even before he becomes combined with Justice, Anders fits the Jungian archetype of the rebel.  It is his identification with the role of revolutionary leader or liberator that allows him to believe right until the very end that he is a hero.  That the mages need liberation is without question, but his methodologies are at best questionable. At worse a form of megalomaniacal delusion not dissimilar to the one suffered by Meredith.

Real life history is filled with revolutionaries who straddled the line between the heroic and the villainous, and several who crossed right over.  The victor writes the history and so, revolutionaries who were later portrayed as villains may be heroes to some. Napoleon Bonaparte for his greed, Vlad Tepish for his brutality, and Vladimir Lenin for his draconian crushing of any and all dissent are examples of revolutionaries who were considered heroes to some, villains to others.

Anders also fits the Jungian archetype for “magician” in being a manipulator who is willing to do just about anything as a means to his end.

Romance Trajectory: Outlaw Couple
Romantic Partner Type: Byronic

In flirtations, Hawke perceives and relates to Anders as a Byronic type, with that “sexy, tortured look.” Byronic heroes are brooding outcast with dark secrets and traumatic pasts. They are emotionally sensitive, although that sensitivity is often primarily t their own needs, and they tend to be self-centered as well as introspective.  Anders is less introspective because he doesn’t spend much time contemplating his own thoughts or feelings, but he in many ways fits the bad boy mold associated with the Byronic romantic lead. Good examples of Byronic romantic heroes are Rochester in Jane Eyre, Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and pretty much every sexy male vampire ever. Byronic heroes are almost always male.

Anders repeatedly warns Hawke that any romance will turn out badly, because he has a great deal of difficulty controlling Justice. Although Anders claims that Justice has become a part of him, Justice resents the relationship and views Hawke as a distraction. The presence of Justice and his interference with the relationship are also a device in Byronic romances: in this story’s unfolding, he plays the same role as Bertha Mason does in Jane Eyre, as a dangerous secret that is a part of the Byronic hero’s troubled past and serves as a continual foil to any attempts to forward the romance.

Another Byronic trait Anders possesses in love is that he is not redeemed by it:  Rochester is a rarity in being a Byronic hero who is eventually redeemed by love and tragedy. Most Byronic heroes remain essentially unchanged by love, although they are often sought out as romantic partners due to their mystery and bad boy appeal.  Typical examples are Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Lestat in Interview with the Vampire, and the desperately lonely (and continually unattached) creature in Frankenstein. Typically, Byronic heroes do not change, but force their loved ones to change to accommodate them. They are very self-reflecting, but essentially self-centered.

Anders may love Hawke, but he remains untransformed by that love. In order for the romance to work out in the end, Hawke will have to give up everything and become a rebel, in hiding with Anders after he blows up the Chantry.  Hawke will also have to accept wholesale the glorious manifesto and revolution Anders is selling, because Anders becomes very belligerent, pouty and guilt-trippy when questioned or doubted in any way. As Anders earlier expresses a bit of envy and competitiveness towards Hawke’s glorious role as champion, Hawke also has to accept the subservient role Anders demands. Frankly, I couldn’t take it – I just killed him. But it is entirely possible to play out a happily ever after scenario in the game romantically, provided that Hawke buckles under.

Anders does not compromise with his partner at all, but expects total compromise, total devotion, and blind devotion at that, since he lies to Hawke repeatedly about his intentions when gathering ingredients and otherwise plotting to blow up the Revered Mother.

This is the Outlaw Couple romance trajectory. Bonnie and Clyde seem to be the most famous outlaw couple. Outlaw couples aren’t always bad: Robin Hood and Maid Marian can be considered an outlaw couple as well.  In an outlaw couple, there is usually one dominant partner whose goals and agenda sublimate whatever desires the other previously had. This is the case in a completed romance between Anders and Hawke.

 Is Anders Really Dead?

Seeing as how he already died in Awakening, I’m not sure that killing off Anders will really get rid of him. I suspect he just keeps coming back from the dead, like Flemeth or something. I don’t know about you, but I had to play it through three times and kill him every single time, just to be sure, but I’m still expecting him to resurrect like Jason at the beginning of a Halloween movie.

~ by Sumiko Saulson on May 23, 2014.

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