Ah, Eric Northman, True Blood‘s big hunk of man-candy. While I’m partial to Alcide, I can admit that Eric is the more interesting character. He’s sexy, funny, dangerous, wounded… what’s not for a Mary Sue like Sookie to love?
Okay, that was mean. I’m not a huge fan of Sookie, but we’re not going to talk about her. In fact, we probably should’ve talked about her about four weeks ago when we were still talking about the ladies of urban fantasy, but I forgot her. She is, if you ask me, eminently forgettable.
But we’re talking about men now for Daddy Issues (Mommy Issues?) in Urban Fantasy, and Eric is a prime candidate.
First, a warning: this blog post is only about the Eric of the HBO series True Blood: I’ve read only a few of Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries, so I can’t talk in an educated way about the books.
So, what do we know about Eric’s background and upbringing? Eric was a viking in his youth, and we learn that Eric desperately wants revenge against vampire king Russell, who, 1000 years ago, killed Eric’s entire family and took his father’s crown to add to a collection of victim’s prized possessions.
We also know that Eric deeply loved his Maker, an ancient (and also cute—this show is sick with attractive men) vampire who is old enough to have grown weary of his hatred of humans and the resentment he feels toward the world. Godric ultimately “meets the sun,” and Eric offers to join him, saying he cannot live without his Maker. Godric’s death makes Eric weep tears of blood—literally, ew—and Sookie sees the softer side of the bad-boy.
We also know that occasionally Eric will sacrifice himself to do the right thing. He’s also loyal to and protective of his own progeny, Pam, up until the point where she isn’t willing to die for the woman Eric loves.
But what do these things tell us? We really don’t know too much about Eric’s background, so we have to look at his actions during the show to speculate why he does what he does. We learn that he loves Sookie, and he will do anything to protect her, whether she likes it or not.
We learn that (in his mind) he is more faithful than Bill (Sookie’s first choice lover), waiting for Sookie while she’s lost in Faerie and buying her house to keep it for her. It’s sweet, in a way, that he trusts she will return to him, and he tries to protect her even when she’s not around to benefit from it.
On the other hand, can you say stalker? He forces Sookie into intimate situations, and gives her no choice but to feel grudgingly grateful. He’s loyal, yes, but loyalty isn’t always about grand gestures (joint suicide, house buying, etc.)—sometimes it’s about giving your loved ones the support that they need, and Eric’s idea of support seems to be killing the people who upset you.
Eric is incapable of small gestures, though, which could be a reaction to his inability and perceived failure to save his family. Plus, Godric chose to die and leave Eric behind. Perhaps Eric takes Sookie’s free-will away because free-will would allow her to walk away from him.
Ironically, it’s when his will is taken from him that Sookie really falls for him. When he falls prey to a witch’s spell and forgets who he is, he becomes a good man, even an innocent, who relies on Sookie’s help and protection to keep him from destruction.
That may say more about Sookie than it does about Eric, but it also tells us that the boyish, mischievous, loyal Eric is his true nature—the callousness, the cruelty, and the rage all come from his conditioning. And 1000 years as a vampire is likely to give anyone a few issues.
So, what’s the bottom line for Eric? Combination hero/martyr/murderer complex? Rage issues? Will he spend his whole existence trying to make up for the losses he couldn’t control?
What do you think, readers? What are Eric’s motivations? What actions of his deserve analysis that I didn’t get to in this blog post? You want to hear me talk about Sookie, Bill, and the rest of the gang? Let me know!
And now, because you made it all the way to end of a long blog post, it’s time for a gratuitous shirtless picture of Alexander Skarsgård:
OMG Kristin you’re killin’ me. Love me some Eric. Unfortunately, while I’ve got the books damn near memorized, I’m not so much about the TV show. It’s not that I don’t like it, I’d just rather read the book. And really, with that picture right there, I can’t even talk intelligently about either version.
BTW, there’s a pretty hot pic of your Alcide making the rounds on FB this morning…
Must seek pic of Alcide… mmm….
I should’ve asked in the blog post about the differences between the series and the book! I suppose that’s really a different conversation, but I’d love to read the thoughts about the show of someone who has read the books.
And I knew I should have put that picture of Eric higher! I’ve inadvertently turned my commenters in to gabbling puddles of goo.
Oh, and I might steal your blog post idea comparing TV series to books – or maybe we could do a shared thing, since I know the books and you know the series. And now I’m going to bed b/c the babies at work were rowdy last night. Peace,
I feel that in a lot of ways Eric’s character runs parallel to Spike’s. While vampires in the Sookie-verse aren’t inherently evil, when we first meet him, he is set in a specific way of living until something outside of his control (a spell instead of a chip) force him to change or reveal a part of him that has been buried for centuries.
That’s probably why I like Eric more than Bill. Bill is the sort of “I know better than you” sort of character who I always despise as a love interest. He makes Sookie’s decisions for her and decides what is right for her and ultimately doesn’t trust her. Eric’s grand gestures — however misguided — at least bestow upon her a modicum of respect and trust, and from what I remember, he rarely tries to really go behind her back or eliminate her free will.
I hope that the next season continues to explore the complexities of this character — I’ve been severely disappointed by the last season or so of the show to the point that I’m not even that excited for the next one. They could have done something interesting last season and instead they just pissed me off.
If Tara comes back to life, I might blow my own head apart.
They killed TARA?!
Guess you can tell I gave up awhile ago.
They totally did, and it was AMAZING. I hated her with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. It may the only time I’ve cheered to see a so-called good main character killed.
Yeah…same here. It irritates me to no end that there are a: so few African-Americans on the show and b: 50% of them are annoying as frack (or just get killed off like Eggs…or both). I adore Lafayette, but Tara is quite possibly the most obnoxious character I’ve seen in a long while.
Lafayette is a show-stealer, for sure. LOVE him. Can’t believe they killed off his boyfriend. total bummer.
I think Bill will get his own blog post. In a lot of ways, his cruelty is worse than Eric’s because it’s a thoughtless cruelty. He disregards Sookie’s wishes and desires, lies to her, and the whole time puts on a good-guy facade. At least Eric is (mostly) honest.
You’re right about the parallels with Spike, and I think it’s a plot arc that makes Eric and Spike more interesting than Angel and Bill. They act according to their hearts, not a cold-calculated plan that the leading lady isn’t privy to.
I go back and forth about liking True Blood. It’s like they try SO hard to shock at least once an episode that they keep raising the bar and having to include greater and greater horrors… while at the same time, they’re numbing us to the shock value. in that way, at least, I’m partial to The Vampire Diaries television show, which is like True Blood-lite. I’ve never read any of those books, though, and I don’t think I would.
And yes, see below regarding my feelings about Tara. I hate her so hard.
Oh, you guys, in the books Bill has grown up SO MUCH. Eric has, too, sort of, but Bill’s done more for Sookie than Eric ever could – simply because as Sheriff (with the responsibility of many lives) Eric doesn’t have the freedom to say “I will die for you” and mean it. The books – especially up through numbers 8 – 9 – are well worth reading. After that you kinda have to be an addict…like me…
I’m an addict, too. I can’t wait for the next one.
I love Eric in both the books and the TV show. Probably more in the show though because, well, just look at him! Perfect combo of dangerous and sweet.
So, I like the occasional Mary Sue book, and I have to tell you that the Sookie in the books is NO Mary Sue. Sookie on the show…kinda. But Eric Northman? Well, he is dead-sexy in both.
I cannot wait for the next season to start…(or for the next Sookie Stackhouse novel to come out!)
OMG. This post made my day. 🙂 I am a HUGE Eric fan – both in the books and on the show. I have to wait for the episodes to come out on netflix, so I’ve been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the next season to appear. Sigh.
I agree with Laird and Liv – The books give a different feel to all of the characters. Sookie can and does hold her own in the books and Bill isn’t quite the jerk he’s made out to be on the show. Also in the books, Tara is so much more of a minor character that I was taken aback by how prominent of a roll she has on the show. I didn’t like her much, either.
I’m with you, Kristin – I don’t like how the show writers raising the bar on the violence stuff. Since I watch them on dvd, I usually fast forward through those gruesome scenes.
Alcide is pretty easy on the eyes, too. 🙂
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