Okay, so this one was one of the biggest concerns people had here that I haven’t covered yet. I keep getting distracted. Recently because I dubbed the new season of True Blood “The Season of the Too Many Ghost Daddies”. It’s Ghost Daddy fucking Bingo, with one token Ghost Granny (Adele). Behold:
Click to look at the full size pic. But onto the real topic – the cluviel dor. Most of the people here worried that it was a deus ex machina – the idea that it’s a God Machine, made to solve complicated plots in a second. Most of the rest of the fandom seem to think it’s a quick fix to getting Eric out of his marriage to Freyda….making it the ultimate deus ex machina used in all stories to get to a HEA by Chapter 5, and thence comes the boning and Sookie submitting to Eric’s will. So I’m going to set out when Sookie has gotten other giant favours, and frittered them away on things not Eric for all my regular readers here. 😀
For the record, I have no freaking clue how Sookie’s going to use the cluviel dor, but I bet it isn’t going to be used in the way it’ll be used in the great majority of fanfic for Eric’s benefit (ie. to make her immortal, make Eric fertile, make Eric human, make Eric King or get Eric out from under his marriage). Maybe I’ll have an idea at the end, and maybe not. All I can say is that I don’t think it’s going to be a deus ex machina.
If CH wanted a deus ex machina, then she’s had ample opportunity throughout the story to solve all of Sookie’s problems and make things easy. Magic has been ever available to her – first through Amelia and Octavia and then through the fairies. She’s also had vampire blood and the ability to vamp it up at all times. If CH wanted to do things easy and tie them up in a little bow, then she could have done it. And sell a bazillion books to people-not-me all about how Sookie, rich fairy princess bones her vampire King all night intermittently going on credit card fuelled shopping sprees with Pam. That’s not the way CH rolls. (Yay!)
The only big thing Sookie’s ever wanted is to take away either her telepathy or Hunter’s telepathy. It’s the only thing she’s asked for that’s big, and taking that away doesn’t give Sookie more powers to be supernatural and make supernaturals happy – it gives Sookie the power to be normal and make herself happy. It’s a big thing to take away, but it’s also really a really simple thing to ask for. The biggest thing it gives Sookie is the ability to have a normal life – and for her, that’s big. For most people, that’s a breeze.
But other than that, we haven’t seen Sookie asking for big things – it’s built into her personality not to aim for the stars. She doesn’t have a desperate wish for anything but less loneliness and someone to spend her life with and a small life with a select community that cares for her. For all the scorn that’s heaped on her for that, well, apart from him being over a thousand, I don’t see Eric aiming for the stars either – he wants control of his own life, freedom and a lucrative but small business empire in the corner of Northern Louisiana. Yet another commonality, which as I’ve mentioned before, they’re everywhere with Eric and Sookie.
One of the things that I think makes the supernatural world both kinder to her, and gives them the ability to use her is the fact that she keeps a lot of favour on her side. In fanfic, Sookie can be downright grasping, but I don’t think that would serve her very well in the supernatural world. So much is played on honour and favours and such that really, the more grasping you are, the worse off you are. The grasping fanfic Sookie would probably get run over in the supe world, where they’re harsh to others. One just has to look at what happened to Tara and Franklin Mott to see where being grasping and materialistic gets you in the supe world.
Monetary gain can get you into trouble in the human world as well.
Plus, you know, Sookie, I got you a real good payout on your kitchen.”
My kitchen had been burned down by an arsonist months before.
I’d just finished getting it all rebuilt.
“Greg, that’s your job,” I said. “I don’t see where the gratitude comes in.”
“Well, I have a certain amount of discretion in arson cases,” he said.
“I could have told the home office that I thought you did it yourself.”
Lucky, A Touch of Dead, p. 124
This is how easy it would be to get Sookie into debt in the supernatural world. That new car reported stolen, the clothing reported to the tax office. Details of such payment can be given to government agencies to show that you have ties to the wrong vampire group, or that you’re taking money from the weres for something shady. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not – you just have to make someone’s life a hassle, or infer that you could make it a hassle. Material gain isn’t a sure thing – particularly when supernatural beings have less of a moral sense than Greg Aubert, insurance agent.
The material gain could be used a myriad of different ways in which to get that monetary gain back. Material stuff can be ruined, or used against you, just as any tangible good can be. Not only that, but it can be taken back – if that new car is reported stolen and the old car is junked – what exactly is Sookie going to do then? Cause Bud Dearborn isn’t a friend of Sookie’s and Bud Dearborn is the Sheriff with more absolute power over Sookie than Eric has. Bud Dearborn was happy to leave Jason to his fate with the killings in the first book, so I don’t see him taking Sookie’s side.
So monetary gain from the supernatural world is just as shaky as any other form of payment. That’s if Sookie could get the supernatural world to pay her that much, and to actually pay up, as I’ve explored before. Furthermore, I would hazard that Sookie actually gets something that’s more valuable in the supernatural world – and that’s a lot of favour on her side. There’s a really great quote from CH about that:
No, it’s part of the supernatural culture, particularly fae and vampire. Since money,
though desirable, isn’t as hard to come by, favors are most admired currency. Source
Favours are hard to come by – and something that forms a lot of obligation (that Eric mentions often himself) to others in the supernatural world. Almost all of the supernatural creatures owe far more to Sookie than she owes to them. None of them can threaten to take away their favours – because she can far more easily threaten to stop doing favours for them. Much of her dealings with the supes are based on favours she does for them, rather than stuff they do for her. Which is good because all she’d need to do to exert some pressure on them is stop being so giving.
That gives a whole new complexion to the whole owing thing. I mean, Alcide owes Sookie a lot of favours – not the other way around. It means that unlike money, she can cripple Alcide by refusing to play along and he can’t whisk her brand new car out from under her, or cripple her financially. Therefore, it’s in his best interests not to be too much of a dick if he wants to keep the telepath doing him favours. He might have overstepped his bounds in Dead Reckoning, because obviously she’d had enough and told him what she thought of him. That’s when you know Sookie’s had just about enough – when she’s honest like Eric – blunt to the point of cruel.
It also means that the supes around Sookie don’t have a reason to play hard when using Sookie. There is little reason to tear bits off her house in order to cajole Sookie into working for them – she’ll do it, and she’ll wrack up the favours she’s owed, expending them with little of equal payback. I know that one of the ideas that floats around is that Sookie could get her money’s worth out of them, or equal favours back, but at the end of the day the most valuable thing they can do for her is not go hard and play by usual supernatural rules.
I mean, looking at how the supernatural world treats its own shows you how unforgiving it can be. Jackson Herveaux almost loses his business a few times – once to vamps, and once to other weres. Felipe doesn’t give Eric time off because Victor’s really stressing him out and he has to go on compensated leave. Bill doesn’t get a break from doing for the Queen after a week of torture. Sookie’s very loose nature of deals and the sheer deluge of favours she racks up without using show supes they don’t need to go hard to get her to co-operate.
The first favour she does is of course, for Eric. Now, that’s when he wants her to find $60,000 for him. In return for doing that for him, she only asks that he doesn’t kill whoever he finds. He didn’t abide by that of course, and killed Longshadow. But he also didn’t leap on her relationship with Bill and try to tear them apart too badly. After all, Eric could have ordered Sookie into Fangtasia one night a week. But because she used the favour she did him to just spare the lives of the guilty, then Eric is more in her debt than she is in his. The balance is more on her side than it is on his.
The second favour she does is going to Mississippi for Eric. I don’t include Dallas, cause she was paid for that. Now, all she asked in exchange for that is that if she dies in the attempt, she wanted him to kill Lorena. This isn’t a big ask of course, and as it turns out, Eric never had to do anything. It’s clear that when it comes to Sookie, and particularly the unbidden favours she does Eric, it bothers him to be indebted to her. Pam tells us:
Eric is frustrated that he can’t remember the time he was in hiding at your house,
and he doesn’t know what he owes you.
All Together Dead, p. 86
I know in fanfic, it’s often as simple as Eric wants Sookie to be happy – and that’s why he buys her a driveway and a coat. Eric doesn’t have just one motive for things though – he has more than one, and I doubt that he’s ever simply gone out and bought her a present just for no reason other than making Sookie happy – at least not before they were dating. Even the presents he’s bought her after they were dating had purposes – a dress to smooth over the meeting at Victor’s club, a toaster for the one he broke, a purse for Christmas to match the coat. He’s not a random present-buying guy. I don’t think he’s ever bought her something that wasn’t meant to serve a purpose. That doesn’t make him a bad guy – it just means he’s not the showerer of gifts often portrayed in fanfic. I personally prefer him that way, but I don’t have any romance in my soul.
In fact, I’d say that Eric is supremely aware of obligation that can be created by favours – notice how he has almost zero manners? Yes, it could be argued that he’s never heard of “Thank you” or “Sorry” except that he says those things when he has amnesia. So apparently he has heard of them, but he doesn’t use them. And for good reason:
“I don’t know if you know this, but if you say Thank You to one of them you’re obligated.”
Dead Reckoning, p. 131
So Eric doesn’t use his manners not because he’s a barbarian or the sort of Franken-Eric he is in fanfic (you know – the vampire completely bewildered to find out humans value monogamy or women like dates or something stupid like that) it’s because he’s cognisant of creating debt and obligation for himself – even to Sookie. I dare you – count up the times Eric says sorry when he’s got his memory, or thank you. It’s in single digits.
Indeed, Eric seems bothered a bit by how much he owes Sookie by way of favours. He tries to do something to make him not as owing to her – giving her a driveway, giving her a new coat, giving her extra money. I think Eric would probably hate not having Sookie needing him, because it’d be so much easier to have the telepath under your thumb if you could make it so that she couldn’t survive without you. I know, St. Eric the philanthropist does it for Sookie cause she’s poor – which is why he’s over there helping starving babies in Africa, right? He’s not? Oh, well, never mind. So Eric does those things for Sookie, in part, because he doesn’t want to owe the telepath too much. He tries to even out his own debts – not just by giving her monetary gifts, but by doing things that are favours to her. Giving her a driveway which would make her life much easier, rather than just giving her a chunk of change that she no doubt would have put in the bank as fall-back savings.
What about the times then that she does things without being asked? How does Sookie get her pound of flesh then?
The answer is that she just doesn’t. And she ends up much better than Shylock did.
Sookie keeps her debts low and her favours high – it’s built into her character not to ask for the sky. I’ll show you how Sookie doesn’t think big picture when she gets favours – she thinks small picture. She rarely asks for things she can’t get for herself, in terms of material goods, and there’s a philosophical underpinning to all of her requests some way to save herself hassle.
The first incident is Sophie Anne and the favours she does for her – helping her to understand how Hadley died. Now, Sookie could have been grasping, and taken whatever she wanted – asked for a house (you know she would in fanfic) and exorbitant fees. But she doesn’t. Sookie asks for some boxes, a trailer and a guy to help her pack up Hadley’s stuff. She tries to get out of the Rhodes summit, but Sophie Anne’s not having that, and instead offers to pay her instead to go to the summit.
Sophie Anne seems amused by the whole array of “favours” Sookie asks for – and knows that she’s undervaluing what she did. Of course, that seems like on the surface Sookie is being a chump. But the truth is that if Sookie showed herself to be grasping, she’d end up being in Sophie Anne’s debt and not the other way around. When it comes down to it, the Vampire Queen of Louisiana needs the telepath much more than the telepath needs her.
There are limits of course, because eventually Sophie would have turned Sookie as her eternal telepathic child bound forever to her mistress like Sigebert and Wybert, favours or no favours. This is where it’s shown clearly that vampires can claim you whenever they feel like it, without the standard fanfic reciprocation (of ‘I’m yours also’) and they don’t even have to ask:
“You permit?” Andre asked, and without waiting for an answer, he jabbed
my wounded arm with a fingernail, right above the bandage.
Definitely Dead, p. 244
Of course, the reason why Andre didn’t wait for an answer is because he’s not asking Sookie. He’s asking the Queen. Andre needs Sophie Anne’s permission to taste her human’s blood and she answers him telepathically with permission so Sookie doesn’t cotton on that there’s a scheme afoot. The Queen sees Sookie as hers – even Eric knows that, and tries to keep some ownership of her himself while carefully not challenging the Queen for sole Sookie ownership:
The king did his best to trap the queen in an indiscretion, but he didn’t, thanks to our Sookie.
All Together Dead, p. 14
But due to Sookie not being too grasping, and willing to guzzle down all the debt the Queen could put Sookie into, it meant that Sookie bought her freedom for a while (long enough for Sophie Anne to get killed). It’s difficult for the Queen to manoeuvre the non-grasping Sookie, because if the Queen doesn’t want to help her, Sookie asks for only things she could get for herself. It also means that the Queen underestimates Sookie, as they all do. They all think that they can buy her off with a few shiny beads.
It’s actually hard to buy Sookie off, because there’s nothing she wants so much she’s willing to prostitute herself or her telepathy for it. Her Christian spirit means that she freely gives to her fellow man, and so yes, she doesn’t get tangible stuff out of it, but something much more valuable. A lot of good fortune and fortitude comes Sookie’s way because she’s not trying to squeeze supernaturals for everything she can. Not only do various creatures owe her more, but they’re more inclined to be friendly.
During the summit at Rhodes, she warns the Britlingens that the soda can bomb is a bomb – and acknowledges that they’re leaving. Not only that, but she doesn’t spring them when they’re cloaking their presence after the murder of Jennifer Cater and crew. In return Clovache and Batanya give her information to get an idea that something bad is coming. I mean, no one really thinks that the fact that the King of Kentucky found an FotS spy is information that the Britlingens think is water cooler talk, right? They feel that she did them a great service in telling them about the bomb and not outing them, and that leaves them in her debt.
Then there’s Copley Carmichael – who has tried to hold information over Sookie’s head about Hunter – trying to get Sookie into his debt. Maybe he wants her to serve his daughter’s needs, or report on Amelia. Sookie doesn’t take that bait. Instead, she introduces Cope to the vampires, and he’s cognisant that he’s in her debt, and tries to be nice to her. All she asks is for what Marley has already done – splitting the ironbark that she has for the fire. Copley is now in Sookie’s debt – not the other way around. After all, Cope can’t take away anything from Sookie, so he has to be nicer to her so she won’t try to taint his association with vampires. Vampires themselves work no differently. It’s smart not to be in their debt, or to need them to survive.
Next is Felipe. Sookie saves his life – and in exchange doesn’t ask for a new car – just the one she has currently to be repaired. That leaves Felipe in her debt, and possibly buys her enough time to wait for Eric to surprise marry her. Without it, I’m sure that Felipe would have reviewed those Area Five records, and ordered Sookie to Las Vegas within days of the takeover. Felipe runs casinos – having a telepath on staff would make him a shitload of money, so I don’t think he’d be willing to give her much leeway to live her life.
Next is Niall. He’s almost frantic with wanting to do her a favour, as I’ve discussed before, in part to repay for all the stuff he hasn’t done – the obligation he sees to treating her like a proper descendant. Instead of asking him for millions of dollars, and apart from asking him to take away her telepathy, she asks him to track down Remy Savoy. A small favour for Niall, but a great boon for Sookie. In the end, Niall still feels in her debt, rather than feeling his obligation has been discharged.
I’d also like to point out that Sookie makes sure to take care of the invisible people – the ones often scorned in fanfic – the plebs no one pays attention to. In fact, they are the people who are most valuable for inside information. They often know more than their betters think and are willing to talk to a fellow server of betters. Sookie doesn’t see herself as above the small people no one notices, and I think it does her some good. It also happens to make Sookie more likeable, at least to this reader. It’s not sympathetic to read about a Sookie being a nasty arse bitch, so I like it when she’s not that way.
It is the no nothing underlings that often have valuable information, or are good resources – the small were in the halls of the Fellowship (Luna in LDID), the were on the gate who tells her about the crucifixion (Bubba’s in CD), the fellow waitress that’s a witch in with the coven you want to know about (Holly in DTTW), the hotel security boss who warns her of the plot behind the bomb (Todd Donati in ATD). All of these people have done Sookie good turns out of kindness – the ones who everyone else ignores. No one is obligated to help you in the supernatural world, but often one kindness is repaid with reciprocal kindness.
Most of the gain that she’s gotten for trading in favours in the supernatural world isn’t tangible. You couldn’t pay enough money to get Copley Carmichael off your back – same with Eric and Sophie Anne. But maybe they won’t go so hard if you’ve generally built up a reputation of not being grasping and easy to deal with. Maybe it means that instead of Felipe threatening to burn your house down or kill your brother in order to get to Las Vegas, he sends Victor as an escort and it’s not so bad. Most of the gain that Sookie has of getting supes in her debt is where they don’t force her. There’s no need to be violent and abduct a telepath if she’ll work for you nicely. No need to manhandle her if she’ll do it for something that’s easy to give.
If Sookie was as hard as fanfic makes her, and always looking for a buck, or her pound of flesh, she’d end up having to fend for herself a lot more. No supernatural would think of her kindly – they’d handle that the same way they handle Eric – you don’t fuck with Eric without being willing to go hard, because he will. Other supernaturals like Victor are always trying to get Eric over a barrel so that he doesn’t fuck them over, and so that they can fuck him over.
Not only that, but it throws them all off balance, because they’re all not quite sure how to deal with Sookie. Always good to confound powerful creatures, for your own safety. They always expect Sookie to ask for way more than she does:
“What did you think I wanted?”
“I thought maybe you wanted me to pay for rebuilding your house,
or you would ask me to help find out who’s shooting the Weres.”
Dead as a Doornail, pp. 218-219
So Sookie might not ask for much out of her deals, but where she deals with people with their own ideas about honour and obligation, that means that she comes out ahead. They end up owing her more favours than she owes them. It means that she gets favours where she doesn’t even look for help. It helps Sookie along to coming out ahead – not monetarily, but in regards to furthering her cause. This is what grasping fanfic Sookie would miss out – the amount of favours done for her in repayment for those things she does for others out of Christian charity.
So I don’t think Sookie will ask for the stars when she uses the cluviel dor – as you can see above, she just isn’t built that way. She isn’t the type to ask for big things – only small things. It’s what makes her character likeable to me – that she’s genuinely trying to be a good person, rather than someone who’s a user, caring only for herself. Indeed, the only thoughts Sookie has had are all small things that money can’t buy, that she can’t get for herself, and that are big benefits to those she loves. She considered taking away Hunter’s telepathy, her own telepathy away, and wishing Pam’s Miriam back to life again. She was tempted too to use it to save Pam from Victor.
I can’t see Sookie pre-planning a lot of it out – the fact that she took it into battle with Eric – she just wanted to be sure that those she loves survive their various battles. I also can’t see her going and planning out what she should change that might effect more than current circumstances too. I can see her changing a recent event that hasn’t had ramifications in her world, but not something that happened years ago – for fear of what she could change for the worse.
I know that the common suggestion is that Sookie should use it (surprise!) for Eric’s benefit – get him out of the marriage with Freyda, make the contract not exist. Oh, if only it was that simple. Yeah, sure, like Appius made that contract for nothing? What ramifications would that have if he didn’t make a contract. The most likely explanation for him making that contract is to bail out Alexei for going crazy with a knife in Oklahoma, so Sookie could wish away the contract and find out that alternative history Appius ordered Eric to start a war with Oklahoma to get back his crazy arse child, which lead to Victor, Felipe and Freyda taking out Eric for fucking their shit up (and Appius and Alexei). The repercussions on history don’t lead to that being a good outcome, and the cluviel dor has the ability to change history:
Any series of events you alter by magic can have unexpected repercussions in history.
Dead Reckoning, p. 273
Despite knowing about Eric’s problems with Freyda, she doesn’t even consider using it for his benefit. She’d be a fool to do that without taking into account what it is that Appius did to warrant selling his first child into marriage before he got to Louisiana. After all, he didn’t ask Eric if he could do it – he just signed him away like the property he considers Eric is. Eric is his – he can do what he chooses, but he chose to do something right now – which lends to the conclusion that he had reason to do something now. Considering Eric talked to his possible future wife/fiancée in his current wife’s house, he soooo doesn’t deserve that sort of treatment until he has the grace to say sorry or even act sorry, rather than biting his ‘valued’ wife and making her cry for not liking to roll around in the blood and guts of their enemies.
Now, I know that Sookie will be using the cluviel dor in fanfic to do things that serve to make Eric happy – as I said above, changing herself to make him as happy as a lark (cause we all know he apparently doesn’t like her now as she is), but I think that’s contradicted by canon. In that you can’t use the cluviel dor to get out of it. These quotes show how impossible it is – and an indication that the cluviel dor is not a deus ex machina:
“Can I use it to take away the telepathy?”
“No, my dear, it would be like wishing away your spleen or your kidneys. But an
interesting thought. So I couldn’t help Hunter with it. Or myself, either.
Can I kill someone with it?’
“Yes, of course, if that someone is threatening someone you love. Directly.
You couldn’t cause the death of your tax assessor…unless he was standing over
your brother with an ax, say”
Dead Reckoning, pp. 315-316
This one scuppers the idea that the cluviel dor can be used to make Sookie immortal (and Eric thus happy), to make Eric fertile (and Eric thus happy), to make Eric human (and Eric thus happy). All of those things are done. It also scuppers the idea that killing Freyda is possible with the cluviel dor. That’s because the likelihood of Freyda standing over the husband she’s trying to bribe to Oklahoma with an axe is almost nil. You can’t wish them to die unless they’re directly threatening – like the tax assessor.
I doubt it can be used to change Sookie by turning back time either and letting her redo everything (and make Eric ‘happy’ sooner by doing what she’s told right from the get-go like a telepathic fangbanger). Changing history doesn’t really amount to anything but a happy life of rainbows in fanfic, but I don’t think it’s good to change that sort of thing – because it could always be much worse.
If Sookie stopped her association with the Shreveport were pack, then she’d be at home the night Alexei came around to eat everyone. That’s one incident that I can point to and say there’s alternative badness, but in a re-written history, there’s alternative badness Sookie has no clue about. Like the fact that Eric seems to be blessed with information from this chick called Sookie, making her a big fat abduction target, so she can similarly bless your life. So Sookie could conceivably avoid being with Bill, and end up being Mickey’s Renfield, because Mickey found out nothing bad happens to the vampire Sookie dates. Not only that, but I think CH would rather stab herself in the eye than re-write the books and scrap all her hard work on Eric’s character, who is cold and manipulative from the get-go and shapes up over the course of the books, and has some work to do still.
So ultimately, I think the cluviel dor will be used on an event that hasn’t happened yet – one that will change no history. Something that will impact Sookie’s future or the future of her loved ones, not one that will affect her own history before the day she uses it. History can be changed in unconceivable ways that way, and as I said, not always for the good. Wishing Miriam alive the same day she died would have changed no significant history if she’d done it (and could have done it) when she wanted to. It would only really affect the future, where Pam would be happy with her lover. Just as using it to save Pam if Victor killed her would have not changed the past, but rather the future with a missing Pam.
It’ll be saving Pam instead of letting her die in history – it’ll be personal and not political. Sookie doesn’t want to mess around in vampire politics any more than she does already. I think it’d be kinda stupid to do it anyway – because the supernatural world is a precarious place – where a weather witch can lead to Victor. Too much of a chain reaction, and Sookie doesn’t really give much of a fig about it. It’s not as if stopping the weather witch would mean that vampire politics suddenly becomes a wonderful place to be – with Andre still walking round bonding humans to the appropriate slave master.
So I don’t really have an answer, but I think I have an answer – it’ll be personal and immediate. It can’t be any other way and still be viable and not affect Sookie’s life in unknown ways. It’s not going to be the ultimate deus ex machina – it’s not going to solve complicated plots. Sookie can do that all by herself with her brain. She’s worked it all out that way so far – her brains, her moxie and her surviving spirit. It’ll be taking away a future wrong and making it right.