Mr High Handed and the Fairy Prince – II

December 5, 2011 in Character & Plot Analysis, Dead Reckoning - Book 11, Eric Northman, Niall, Sookie & Eric, Sookie Stackhouse

Welcome back to Part II of our post examining the relationship between Eric and Niall.  My apologies for taking a few days longer than I should have to get this up, real life and all that crap.

If you haven’t already, make sure you read Part I, which addresses some key questions relating to when and how Eric and Niall joined forces in relation to Sookie, and what information was shared between them. Part I established that Eric and Niall were conducting surveillance on Sookie (via Terry and then Claudine) since at least Book 3.  Continuing on from where we left off in the last post – if Eric and Niall were playing track the telepath at least as far back as Club Dead (3),  it raises some reasonable questions.

  • Did Eric know that Sookie was a fairy as far back as book 3?
  • Did he know that Niall was her great grandfather?
  • How could Eric know that Niall was a fairy prince, yet NOT suspect that Niall’s interest indicated some sort of connection?
  • What was Eric’s payoff for helping Niall?  (We all know there had to be something).
HOW LONG DID ERIC KNOW THAT SOOKIE WAS A FAIRY?

 

In Definitely Dead (6), Sookie discovers she has fairy blood thanks to Andre, who according to Sophie-Anne has a particular “nose” for identifying fairies through their blood. This implies that while all vampires can “smell” fairy scent, they don’t all have the ability to identify race based on sampling the blood. According to Sookie in Dead and Gone(9):

“The trace of fairy blood I carried made me more attractive to supes, at least to some vampires. Not all of them could detect the little trace of fairy in my genes, but they tended to at least be interested in me, though occasionally that had negative results.”

While there are a number of references from DUD (1) through CD (3) to Eric noting Sookie smells or tastes different to other humans, and multiple references in later books to him smelling fairies on her by association (after she’s been with Niall or Claudine), there is nothing that I can find to indicate that Eric was able to identify that Sookie was a fairy by the taste of her blood alone.

Not all of them could detect the little trace of fairy in my genes”.

Pam and Maxwell Lee’s conversation at the end of Dead and Gone (9) would seem to indicate that a vampire getting hold of a fairy is a rare event (at least when the vampire doesn’t have a part-fairy girlfriend giving them reason to be in direct contact with fairies – a situation that is far from the norm):

“It will be too bad if they leave this world,” Pam said. “I love them so much. They’re so hard to catch.”
Maxwell Lee said, “I never had a fairy.”
Dead and Gone (9)

We know that Eric was actually told for certain that Sookie was part fairy by Sookie herself in Definitely Dead (6):

“You have fairy blood,” Eric said, as if his own lightbulb had just lit up. “That explains a lot.”
Eric, Definitely Dead (6)

As is often her habit when it comes to Eric, Sookie launches into a full rant over his daring to say to her face that if it weren’t for her “special” blood he wouldn’t be interested in her. In fact, Eric isn’t looking for an explanation for his interest in Sookie at all, and it would seem that his “lightbulb” moment was actually the beginnings of his putting together an explanation for why this secretive fairy prince was keeping tabs on his Number One Crush. By the time Sookie confirms her fairy blood to Eric in Definitely Dead (6), Niall has been in contact with him for at least three or four books. So why didn’t the interest of a fairy prince cause Eric to at least suspect that Sookie may have been part fae before this?

Legitimate question is legit, right?

It stands to reason that he most probably did suspect it.  Eric is not stupid, and anyone of reasonable intelligence would be wondering what on earth a fairy prince could possibly want with this human girl living in the backwoods of the South.  There is simply no way that Eric could have NOT suspected, if his communication with Niall about Sookie goes back to the beginning of the series, and in fact, Eric’s curiosity about this is most likely one of the reasons he agreed to help Niall in the first place.  But Niall wasn’t ready or willing to tell Eric anything of importance just yet (“I had to know him better first”), so Eric’s suspicions about Sookie remained just that until Sookie confirmed them in Definitely Dead.

Yet that still doesn’t allow us to confirm Niall’s assertion that Eric only found out he and Sookie were related in Book 8.  Can we find proof of that in Book 8 that doesn’t require taking Niall’s word for it?

HOW LONG DID ERIC KNOW THAT SOOKIE WAS RELATED TO NIALL?

 

Sookie herself seemed concerned about what Eric knew and when he knew it in From Dead to Worse, when she asked Niall how long Eric had known of their family tie:

“Has he known I was your kin for very long?” I held my breath, waiting for the answer. Niall had turned to go. Now he turned back a little, so I saw his face in profile.
“No,” he said. “I had to know him better, first. I told him only before he brought you to meet me. He wouldn’t help me until I told him why I wanted you.
Niall to Sookie (and Sam) – From Dead to Worse (8)

So it would appear that all Eric knew for sure in Book 8 was that Sookie was a fairy who had a fairy prince tailing her.   You have to think that red lights have turned into screaming sirens for him at this point – but he’s still missing something to put the pieces of Sookie’s background together.   At least, he’s missing something until the time came that Niall needed assistance that only Eric could provide – an introduction to his great-granddaughter.

The fact that Eric had to drive a bargain with Niall in the first place – refusing to help until Niall spilled the beans – establishes that as of book 8, Eric did not have the full picture, as Niall has claimed. If Eric already knew Sookie and Niall’s connection, he would have no reason to use leverage against Niall at all. Niall needed an “in” with Sookie, and he identified Eric as the supe she would be most likely to trust, most likely due to their bond.  But Niall required Eric’s co operation, and this presented a golden opportunity for Eric to get to the bottom of the Sookie/fairy connection once and for all. Never one to miss an opportunity, he milked it for all it was worth.

While it would also be reasonable to question Niall’s version of events given his often “odd” behavior, we know from Claude that “fairies can’t lie”. This little quirk is common to fairy mythology even outside the world of the SVM, as is their penchant for being creative with the truth (as Sookie observes in Dead Reckoning).

Creative truth telling? That has a familiar ring! Which brings us to Mr “I might not tell you everything I know, but what I tell you, it’s true”.

SO WHAT’S THE PAYOFF FOR ERIC?

 

The million dollar question! Does his motivation even matter? After all motivation, coercion, or any other reason mattered not a dolt when we crucified Bill for lying by omission to Sookie under orders of the queen. Lies by omission are, after all, still lies. And this would hardly be the first time Eric’s been selective with the truth where Sookie was concerned. I love him as much as anyone but the fact remains that good reasons notwithstanding, he has more than once sat on information that Sookie probably would have preferred to know.  Eric is pragmatic, he can be self serving, and his motivation to act is most often multi-layered. Yet we also know that that he’s genuinely fallen in love against his better judgement and that according to Pam, his feelings over ride his self-interest with increasing frequency:

“He is male enough to want to look strong in front of you, Sookie. Truly, Eric’s a great vampire, and very practical. But he isn’t practical nowadays—not when it comes to you.”

Pam – Dead in the Family (10)

While it’s tempting to view Eric’s long association with Niall in terms of what we know of his character and his feelings for Sookie in later books – and to consequently believe that there’s a whole lot of rewriting going on – that would be to overlook a long established fact that Eric hasn’t always been able (or wanted to) to put Sookie’s interests or feelings before his own. That tendency is a very recent development for his character, and one that still isn’t an automatic response. He is learning – his willingness to stare down Victor over Sookie in DAG – a move that earned him a powerful enemy but one that he made regardless of the consequences – is evidence of this.  But there’s still a certain amount of truth in the adage about teaching an old dog new tricks. In examining Eric’s motivation for establishing an arrangement that was clearly in place from early in the series, we need to be mindful of the fact that his inclination to put anyone before himself has been a long road, and a concession he was only able to make once he was deeply involved and even then, only under certain circumstances and after much angst.

“One of the most wonderful, and the most appalling, things about Eric loving me was that he didn‘t give a shit about anyone else.”
Sookie, Dead Reckoning (11)

He never has, and he most likely never will. So I think it’s fair to say in books 1 and 2 at least, Sookie would have counted amongst the vast majority of people Eric really “didn’t give a shit about.” Sure, she was interesting to him but she was also valuable for other reasons – reasons he probably didn’t mind sharing with Niall if doing so greased the wheels of the existing “business relationship” they already shared. Eric’s interest in Sookie was clear in Dead Until Dark (1) and Living Dead in Dallas (2) and straight forward at first – a combination of her abilities, her fiesty nature and a sense of humor he intuitively recognised to be not unlike his own, and an intoxicating quality he couldn’t quite pin down is probably the best explanation for his initial pursuit of her.  While not quite in love yet, Eric was most certainly intrigued by Sookie in the early books.  It’s hardly surprising that a pragmatic vampire would view Niall’s proposal as a good opportunity to satiate his own curiosity, while possibly finding out more about Sookie than he could on his own. Having a fairy prince owing him a favor certainly couldn’t hurt, either.

As time went on and Eric’s initial curiosity about the telepath deepened into emotional investment, keeping the truth to himself obviously became a little less morally black and white. While I can think of a number reasons for his choice to do this – keeping Niall away until he knew he was trustworthy, keeping Sookie in the dark because she would have almost certainly forced the issue, and the likelihood of some sort of threat hanging over his head from Niall to name a few – it must also be acknowledged that there were perks for Eric too.  His knowledge of her day to day life via Terry was far more intimate than it would have been  from the fringes in Shreveport.   And of course, he was courting the favor of a very powerful supernatural figure who happened to be related to his girlfriend. The benefits for Eric to this end are pretty clear.

According to Dermot:

“I suppose he [Eric] thought that he would get Niall‘s goodwill as kind of a finder‘s fee.” Dermot shrugged. “That seems to have worked for Eric. Vampires are all venal and selfish.”

Dermot, on Eric bringing Sookie to meet Niall – Dead Reckoning (11)

Providing assistance in exchange for Niall’s goodwill certainly seems to have “worked” for Eric:

“The vampire is not a bad man, and he loves you.”
Niall to Sookie, Dead and Gone (9)

I’d say that’s about as close to a ringing endorsement from a fairy that any vampire is likely to get.

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

1. Eric found out for certain that Sookie had fairy blood in Definitely Dead (6) – nothing in Dead Reckoning contradicts this previously established plot point.

2. Eric did not get confirmation of Sookie’s relationship to Niall until Niall requested his help in From Dead to Worse (8).  Nothing in Dead Reckoning contradicts this already established plot point.

3. Eric knew that a fairy prince was interested in Sookie well before Book 8, and even though it should have given him reason to suspect that Sookie was in some way connected to the fae, he kept his suspicions to himself.

4. We don’t know for sure Eric’s reasons for not coming clean with Sookie, but we can reasonably assume from his motivations for similar actions in the past that they most likely involve a combination of self interest, protecting Sookie, and appeasing Niall.

The bottom line on Eric’s handling of this situation is not whether it’s better or worse than anything any other suitor has or has not done. They’ve all done some shitty things, Eric included. The bottom line for me is how Sookie feels about it, and how it impacted on her life.

And really, it didn’t.

Niall’s goal was to get closer to Sookie, and Eric’s was to keep her safe. The method they used to attain those goals isn’t exactly upstanding, but then, Sookie isn’t above choosing the “weakest tool” when it suits her purposes either.  Witness her use of an unwitting Bubba in her plan to finish off Victor in Dead Reckoning.  Bubba was her tool and it mattered squat to Sookie that he was upset and agitated by Victor and his crew. Not a single fuck was given that day by Sookie, yet Harris has taken great care to nuture a sense of trust between Sookie and Bubba since the earliest books.  In fact, it could certainly be argued that Sookie’s trust in Bubba to keep her ass out of trouble is second only to her trust in Eric or Bill. And Bubba certainly trusts Sookie more than Terry ever trusted Eric.  There are no sacred cows in the SVM.

Sookie’s own ruthlessness doesn’t give Eric a free pass – but I think it goes some way towards explaining why Sookie only gave Eric the obligatory, half assed lecture over Terry rather than completely tearing strips off him as some readers felt would be more in character.   That, and the fact that she’d known since forever that he was tailing her anyway. Sookie lived, loved, fought and killed as she would have always done. Nothing changed in her life, and no one toyed with her emotions as a result of this to achieve their own ends. Eric didn’t need to manipulate her to fall in love with him to execute this task – she continued to live her life, first with Bill and then with Quinn while Eric held her at a distance and then fell in love with her in spite of himself. Winning her heart was never a means to an end – which is why this isn’t the dealbreaker for Sookie that Bill’s betrayal was.

It would also seem that Sookie’s expectations of vampires have become more realistic as the series has progressed, and that she views surveillance, selective versions of the truth, and general high handed meddling with a less judgemental eye than she would have even five books ago.  Is this a good thing for Sookie?  I guess time will tell, but she certainly seems to have decided for now that taking a realistic view of vampire behaviour is far less frustrating than trying to impose a human moral framework on someone who is no longer human. Sookie struggled with the problem of finding a moral compass in Eric over and over in Dead Reckoning, but that’s another post.

I don’t think we’re anywhere near done with Niall, and given what we already know about Deadlocked, I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more of Eric and Niall’s background shake out in the next book.   And of course, just how much shit ends up sticking to Eric at the end of this depends almost entirely on the as yet unknown nature of Niall’s agenda (you know he has one).   If Niall’s motives turn out to be nefarious, Eric’s involvement in combination with the QOK situation, and the general dramas he and Sookie are having could easily combine to bring it all undone.

I don’t think it will – but you know already that I’m the eternal optimist.  Let us know what you think in the comments!

Image Credit

Related Posts with Thumbnails