Test of a Prince

Sorry this one is a little late – I’ve been fighting acute anaemia. That means tiredness and falling asleep, and steak three times this week and being severely behind in this reviewing and replying business. Plus, it’s bloody cold here at the moment for me, so that means more reasons to snuggle with Mr. Minty. Also, I got my hair cut this week, and have to stop and brush/fluff it. It went from waist length to the cute hairstyle Buffy got. It is so cute right now, I love it. My hairdresser is fucking wonderful – I love him – I say “layered” as my only requirement (PMR has natural Shirley Temple curls to her chagrin, and the delight of my mother), and I’ve never been unhappy with the result. But enough about my raving about what I think about my hair (gorgeous!) and onto more interesting stuff.

So to what inspired this post and got me thinking. It was actually a quote somewhere else on the net that I frequent (different username, don’t bother to look) that really piqued me on this subject – and such an interesting quote it is too:

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Abraham Lincoln

So naturally, it got me thinking about Niall’s test of Eric in the latest book, and about Sookie and her character. I’m going to get into that, but first I want to cover something that caused a lot of debate in previous books, and still does in some places.

That is this statement:

“The vampire is not a bad man, and he loves you,” Niall said.
<snip>
Then my great-grandfather was gone before
I could ask him which vampire he meant.

Dead and Gone, p. 312

I’m actually on Sookie’s side here – I’m not clear which vampire he’s referring to. Whether it’s Bill or Eric. Shocking, I know. I’m sure people expect me to have a verdict, but logic doesn’t lead me anywhere. After all, Niall had spent time with both vampires. And very little I bet was braiding their hair and asking them who they really loved and slumber parties, jammies and pillow fights. It’s not clear which vampire he was referring to without inserting your own bias towards your own favoured suitor.

And you know what? I really don’t care which one it is he’s referring to.

Mainly because Niall’s opinion is immaterial. Niall will not be marrying either of them. Whether he thinks that the vampire in question is not a bad man? Meh, depends on your definition of not bad. Niall thought it was appropriate to send Preston along as a fairy gift. Niall thought it was appropriate to send Sookie a letter written on the skin of his enemies and the fairies who killed her parents. His morality is not one I can personally understand to the point that “not a bad man” makes a damn lick of sense. If he were to hear about Bill sleeping with Sookie to gain her favour, I’m not sure that Niall would actually bat one single eyelash in response. His mindset is pretty far from Christian – and it’s the Christians, Romans and Greeks who made a big deal about sexual purity in women.

As for the love Niall thinks said vampire feels? Also immaterial. It’s about the love that Sookie feels, and if she can actually see evidence of that love. After all, if Eric loves Sookie, but continues to torture her with keeping Freyda around without a definitive no, rather than the wishy-washy business he’s doing right now that seems to drive his price up? I don’t know that the love makes one iota of difference. After all, we’ve heard Eric on the phone with Freyda – you read him screaming “No” or even being impolite to her:

“Yes?” he said curtly. Then his voice changed. “Your Majesty,” he
said, and he walked quickly into the living room so I couldn’t hear.

<snip>
“Excuse me,” he said into the phone.
“There is a crisis. I’ll return your call later.”

Dead Reckoning, pp. 250-251

Sounds perfectly polite to me – and I have no doubt that at some time he did in fact, return that call. Not just polite – he’s no longer being ‘curt’ with Freyda, so that means he’s not even giving the subtle message that she’s a nuisance. Being nice won’t get him out of the contract, you know. Sooner or later, Sookie’s loyalty to Eric through this time will fail, and she’ll leave him – love or no love. Eric either pulls his head out of his arse and changes this, or as Sookie points out, Freyda is winning, because Eric isn’t with Sookie.

That’s what I think of the Niall statement. I never really understood why it was such a big deal anyway. I mean, Sookie doesn’t look to a guy she met less than a year ago – she didn’t even take Gran’s subtle hints on considering Bill:

I had half-expected Gran to be on the porch swing waiting for us, but she wasn’t.
And only one dim bulb glowed in the living room. Really, Gran, I thought,
exasperated. This was just like being brought home from a first date by a new man.

Dead Until Dark, p. 57

If Sookie didn’t take the opinion of the woman she loved dearly, she’d hardly be checking up with Niall as to who to date, who to be with. It’s nice to have the input and opinions, but it’s minor musing of no actual import. I mean, Sookie hasn’t wondered which one would make Niall happy she date, right? So I don’t care to puzzle it out. Sookie isn’t a child who needs direction – she’s perfectly capable of choosing for herself without the reckoning of who it should be by Grandaddy-come-lately.

But the Lincoln quote – which is a nice quote – brought me around to thinking about what it reveals about the characters of Eric and Sookie with regards to the cluviel dor. Apart from Claude, they were the only two who knew about it – at least knew about it beforehand. Sure, Alcide and Sam know about it nowadays, but there’s no test in knowing that someone else had power and used it. I should also note that even though Eric didn’t physically have his hands on the cluviel dor, he could have made like Claude and searched her house, or at least ordered Sookie to produce it.

That doesn’t mean however, that Eric is the sainted helper of all telepaths. But it does actually shed light on his true character with that possibility of power – but nothing much we haven’t known before. Eric already has power – through his position as Sheriff. His character is revealed in the way he treats his underlings – from Bill to Clancy to Pam to Sookie – Eric’s character has been revealed through what he does as Sheriff. But in this case, I think that Niall did offer Sookie something valuable to find out. What he would do when she had power – not when it was power that he acquired for himself.

Eric is like many leaders all around the world, if one of their people has an advantage, then it will be used. There is no thought to actually using it to their advantage. When the nuclear bomb is built, it is of course used by the government of the time – it’s the natural thought. Yes, money might change hands, and funding be given, but really it’s because the whole idea is that of course you will give it to your leaders. Sometimes without any kind of arrangement set up. That’s just how leaders work – it’s not nice or pretty, but power generally isn’t. Eric is a leader – and he has made use of Sookie before to get himself some money from Stan, and to get Bill back from Mississippi. In this case, it was an additional piece of power that Sookie acquired that could be given to someone else.

I mean consider – Eric finds out Sookie can read vampire minds. What is the outcome in 99.9% of fanfics like that? Eric uses Sookie as a tool to get what he wants. This is the one exception I’ve found. He often doesn’t even ask – it’s as natural as breathing that he will use Sookie as a tool to get what he wants. It’s seemingly seen as so naturally what one would do, that Sookie never says “Hey, since when did I become your weapon of mass political destruction?” Rather than thinking of herself, or Eric thinking of her as a discrete person, she is now seen as his tool. Oh yes, he talks a good game about how they’ll both have power, but truly, Eric is bringing nothing extra to the table – Sookie is – so the power is actually hers, but it’s given to Eric. Meaning she is his tool to bring himself more power. I’ve never read where Sookie with her extra-telepathy powers becomes the political powerhouse of the vampire world, and Eric her backup, because essentially, she’s doing all the heavy lifting.

This too is what Eric expected out of Sookie when he found out about the cluviel dor. That the advantage would be used to his advantage. Never did he ask Sookie if there was something important that she was considering – in Eric’s mind he is the most important thing. That if she didn’t use it in his favour, it must be because someone else is more important than him. And that includes Sookie herself – because she could well have used the cluviel dor for herself. She might have been deciding on what it was that she needed, but Eric never bothers to ask – but rather acts as if it is ipso facto something that’s there for his benefit.

Truly, if nothing else, the idea of the selfless vampire boyfriend should be a long ago fandom myth – but instead Eric is rather deified for considering himself and his situation with Freyda as the most pressing situation in need of dire fairy wish. I don’t actually think that it’s a huge problem – Sookie’s known for a while where Eric’s focus was:

Eric might be political, and he might be focused on looking
out for number one (which was spelled E-R-I-C)…

All Together Dead, p. 198

I know, I know. It’s not mean if it’s true. Eric is how he is – and as selfish as he is – Sookie fell in love with him anyway. He’s allowed to have faults. And this is a big one. But finding out about the cluviel dor didn’t actually tell Sookie anything new about Eric in this instance. His selfishness has always been right there up front. It’s not something hidden she’s never known about.

What it did let her know of value was how he would deal with her regarding power. If Eric had suddenly decided that he wanted to be with Sookie based on the cluviel dor, then she would have confirmed what she has always feared with Eric – that she is just his tool. The tool with which he can get power – like every other vampire who has been kind to her. Why did Bill date her? To get her as the tool for someone else. To put her in Sophie Anne’s stable. Why was Felipe nice to her? To give her favours that would really send her along to Las Vegas under the watchful eye of the King. Did either of those acts seem particularly evil when you first read them? No? Good – cause they didn’t seem evil to Eric when he found out about them either. If you answered yes, they did seem particularly evil, despite the fact that they were good things – J’accuse! Porky pies!

In fact, Sookie would be deeply, deeply stupid to assume that because vampires are nice to you, they are not using you. Even if they say they love you, it could all be a scheme for the Queen they serve. In light of Eric’s selfishness, then really – leaping to the conclusion that it must be love motivating him – well, that’s a situation of fool me once. Both Bill and Felipe have done nice things for her that never would have clued her in to what they did – lest one forget that the second night they met, Bill saved Sookie from sure death at the hands of the Rattrays by giving her blood. All of those who exhort Sookie to look at their actions? They’re no clue to true feelings – whether it’s Eric, Bill, Sophie Anne or Felipe.

Sookie can’t get rid of her telepathy to find out if she’s still what Eric considers loveable – and if she did, she certainly wouldn’t get it back of her own free will. So Niall provided her with something that had the potential to make Eric the unparalleled King, to get himself anything he wanted. By telling Eric about the cluviel dor – it showed that contrary to what everyone is nattering on about with Eric and power – he isn’t actually swayed away from or towards Sookie because of power. As I’ve pointed before – it’s something far more fundamental – it’s what it means to be a good vampire as to why Eric keeps Freyda on the hook.

Now, just to pre-empt any argument that using it to get out of the contract would benefit Eric and Sookie – and thus is not selfish? Well apart from the fact that Eric didn’t even seem to think there was something that Sookie wanted more than him, and being with him? Selfish. He put her safety, her wealth, and her happiness way down low on the wishlist, and assumed he’d be top of the list. Secondly, Eric has all manner of avenues to pursue in order to get out of the Freyda contract – ie. he’s not there already, which means he has some power – yet expects Sookie to use a once-in-a-lifetime-only-one-known-in-two-worlds gift on him. Eric may find it difficult, sure, but this isn’t something that Sookie has agency and choice in – only Eric does.

In truth, it doesn’t make me angry that Eric is selfish – it makes me waaaaay more angry that he gets a pass to do as he likes because of peen. If I didn’t enter this fandom, I’d just think to myself “By God he’s a selfish bastard, but meh, she loves him”. But the fact that I can’t actually leave my own livejournal and interact in the rest of it without reading how everything Eric does for and around Sookie is a fucking huge favour? You bet your arse I’m going to press the point that he is selfish, in the hopes of making myself persona non grata so that that line doesn’t get pushed in my comments, and so I don’t have to hear it here as well.

Even though Eric wanted Sookie to use the cluviel dor to prove her love for him, and his selfish mindset, what he did show was more valuable. Sookie will never have to wonder if the reason Eric is with her is because she holds the key to making him a political powerhouse through her telepathy. He had the option to skip ahead with the cluviel dor and become King (as well as get Freyda off his back) so therefore, that he asked for a small thing (even if it is selfish) then that works out well for Sookie in the future. She won’t have to live with the doubt that he’s with her for political reasons alone. No longer will she have to wonder if as a telepath, her real value is that she can further his political career.

So I think it’s good that Eric found out about the cluviel dor – even though his wish was self-centred, it wasn’t all about how he could be as powerful as possible. I think Niall was right that Sookie needed to know what Eric would do if she had power – and this is one that can be given to someone else without having to have Sookie in there as the middle man. You can’t quite do the same thing with telepathy. I think that how he treats his underlings shows us how he acts when he has power, while the cluviel dor sheds light on how he acts when Sookie has power. I think the way it played out was the perfect way for it to play out.

What’s really interesting is the way that Sookie acted when she had power. I found it really shed light on her – and as I predicted, it would not be a deus ex machina, but something Sookie used exactly the way she did. Something small and immediate that wouldn’t change the past. Now, in fairness, we don’t have Eric’s thought processes like we do with Sookie – we can see what first occurred to her, and we can only see the conclusion Eric came to (that it should be for him). Who was the first person to spring to Sookie’s mind? Well it wasn’t Sookie, that’s for sure:

Since I loved Eric, presumably I could wish Victor would
die, which would definitely benefit my loved one.

Dead Reckoning, p. 276

Now, it can’t be doubted that Sookie would benefit from getting rid of Victor, but let’s face it, she could have easily wished higher up on the foodchain, so to speak. Like that she wishes she didn’t have to deal with any more vampire shit, and could choose to be with vampires in her social circle, and end it there. She could have wished to have her will on the vampire world – make them all be nice to each other. But she didn’t. She chose something immediate for someone else – something that would have an appreciable benefit to them. Even though she knows that the cluviel dor could change the world in a big way, and both of those wishes would benefit her – and she loves herself, so doable. But she soon rejects that idea because it feels wrong to use a love token to kill. Of course, her second thought isn’t about Sookie either:

I could take away Hunter’s telepathy! He could grow up normal!
Dead Reckoning, p. 276

It always amazes me that Sookie gets called selfish for thinking about her own needs – because she does. If she’s not thinking about how her every action could serve someone else, then that’s a bad thing. I read it all the time – that Sookie is damn selfish because she might not allow whoever to come first in her consideration. Never mind that when she thinks about an unfettered wish with the possibility of changing the world and the desire to do what she wants with it, she comes third:

I could change myself.
Dead Reckoning,
p. 276

What she wished for isn’t the idea that she could be rich and protected, but rather that she should get rid of her telepathy. And of course, she didn’t just keep the focus on herself when it came to the cluviel dor – she sat thinking on it, and in the meantime considered others again:

Could I wish Miriam back alive?
Dead Reckoning, p. 280

This is the woman often called impulsive and selfish. Mainly because she didn’t hop on the Eric train and do exactly what Eric would do – use it for himself. If we held her up to the Eric Northman standard of conduct, she would have thought first for herself, then herself, then never considered any of the above people, while finally pronouncing herself with some sort of superpower to kick the arses of the above collective. But she’s a woman, so natch, if she doesn’t consider a man and what he wants first and foremost – pure evil.

When Sookie did finally use the cluviel dor – after lengthy debating on whether it was in fact right to use it to serve Eric – she used it to save a life. In a lovely way too – because Sam risked his life for her with various involvements with werewolves – like at the Were War when Alcide became Packmaster, and even so far back as when Eric abandoned her in a graveyard full of werewolves in Dead to the World. Sookie finally discharged that debt that she might have felt she owed Sam – another guy who Niall trusted implicitly enough to appear in front of, if we want to get into debates over who fucking Niall thinks Sookie should trust – that there is a huge can of worms.

As an aside, that reminds me. It’s seen that Sam owes Sookie heaps and heaps, due to a loan, and then got dissed at large because he supposedly paid her back with a birthday present. Now, as I argued at the time, his gift to Sookie was worth way more than her loan to him – but also, in one of my many re-reads, I found this:

I’d loaned Sam some money to float the bar through the worst time. Instead
of repaying me bit by bit as I’d imagined he would, Sam now regarded me
as a part owner. After a long and cautious conversation, he’d upped my
paycheck and added to my responsibilities. I’d never had something that
was kind of my own before. There was no other word for it but “awesome”.

Deadlocked, p. 40

So next time you hear that Sam just dodged his loan repayment by giving Sookie a long term investment of greater value than the principle that would pay dividends forever (please people – get a grasp of basic finances before pronouncing this shitty) – he’s already started to pay her back, and just instead actually did gift Sookie something worth more. Beats Eric and his pocket full of nothing, hands down, that’s for sure – and you’ll know the poster can’t word or math good.

If Eric steadfastly stands by his panicked yelling – which Sookie didn’t hear and could have been anything – then this is one more thing to alienate them. Eric really needs to give up resentment that she used the cluviel dor for someone else that wasn’t him, if he hasn’t already. It already got on her nerves that he really didn’t give a shit that his day guy might die and that Sookie was hurt by the results of Jannalynn’s plan:

I looked up at Eric, who seemed interested, nothing more.
Suddenly, I felt like punching him.

<snip>
…but that didn’t make Jannalynn’s scheming any less pernicious,
or the pain I’d felt as a result any more bearable.

Deadlocked, pp. 322-323

This is the real problem with a schism between Sookie and Eric – and one where there could be irreconcilable differences. I don’t think there will be, because of all the posts I’ve posted before. But, if as the Sookie haters rub their hands together waiting with glee for it – Eric decides to take Sookie to task over this incident, it’ll break them permanently.

Eric’s selfishness and self-centred nature can be ignored to a point. However, if he were to push the point, in her face about how ungrateful she is to have used the cluviel dor not on herself, but rather on someone else, then there is no repairing that break. Eric’s character is revealed in what he wanted Sookie to use the power for – himself. Sookie’s character is revealed in using the power for someone else – and she didn’t really take a lot of time to consider the absolute myriad of ways in which the cluviel dor could make her own life much better.

If Eric chooses – after he’s cooled down – and in cold logic to say that Sookie’s very nature to help others is wrong, then he strikes at the very heart of her, and the very reason they’re together. Particularly since she made clear that he wasn’t wrong to ask for his own benefit – she debated the merits of it in fairness – but that it was wrong to use it for something Eric could use his intelligence and wit to get out of. If Eric makes it clear that Sookie’s inclusiveness, her selflessness is what’s totally wrong with her, then tolerant Sookie will disappear for Eric – there will be no more forgiveable errors.

But it’s my thoughts that Eric will not in fact, take Sookie to task over this. This is the test that Bill failed over and over – tolerance he wanted towards his own actions with the “But Sookie, I’m a vampire I have to rape/murder/bullshit and you as a human have to accept my right to do that, even to you” but wanted to cut everyone else out of the tolerance train with his hunting of FotS, and violence towards random humans. Eric hasn’t failed that test so far – he’s felt free to dislike Bill, but never actually given Sookie orders on not talking to him, or what he thinks Sookie should and shouldn’t tolerate.

This is a very fine line – but an important difference. Eric has questioned Sookie, but never got into an argument of Bill magnitude level. If he chose to act like Bill, then like Bill, Sookie would have no time for trying to meet him halfway. She’d walk away like she did with Bill. I believe that this is one of the keys to their success at bridging the gap. While the hard bite was a protest to Sookie, it didn’t protest her tolerant nature – and Eric showed yet again when he offered to bring in Alcide to question Jannalynn – not pushing her tolerance past bearing.

It is my thought that if you’re hoping for a good tongue lashing for Sookie by Eric – beware of what you wish for. If her character so revealed to Eric is seen to be lacking, and he wants to break up over it – then that’s exactly what they’ll do. And that will be the last instance you see of Eric on the page. If her innate character is something he hates, then he cannot really love her, and nor can she be with someone who uses her for power and as a tool for his benefit. If Eric does really love her (and I vote a resounding yes he does, no matter how much he hates how impractical it all is), then after he cools down he’ll think of the time she helped him throw Pam out of a high rise building with no escape plan for herself – and remember that this really is the Sookie he loves.

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