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"Dragon Age" (2009): In Defense of Fiona


Ash has been playing "Dragon Age" since the first game's release. She enjoys exploring and explaining the characters and the lore.

Fiona as she appeared in "Dragon Age: Inquisition."

Fiona as she appeared in "Dragon Age: Inquisition."

Fiona is a elven mage and a Grey Warden from Orlais who first appears in the book The Calling as the lover of King Maric. She later appears in Dragon Age: Inquisition as the leader of the mage rebellion (or what's left of it), contributing to a game already heavily diluted with too many book characters.

Fiona is a very polarizing character in the Dragon Age fandom. One half of the fandom loves her and the other half utterly despises her. I used to hate Fiona but now I kind of like her. So I feel as if I could explain her character to fans who hate her but are curious enough to listen.

Welcome to my analysis of Fiona.

She Wasn't Supposed to be Likeable

Angry Fiona.

Angry Fiona.

Fans mostly hate Fiona because she was supposedly created to be so special and unique by her writer, David Gaider. To give a quick run down of the hate-list:

  • Fiona is the only Grey Warden to be cured of the taint. (So she should be hated for this?)
  • Fiona is a powerful mage, a Grey Warden, and later a First Enchanter. (So to fans who hate her, she's "overpowered.")
  • Fiona "messes up" Alistair's arc in Origins. (How is Goldanna her fault? That's on the writers.)
  • Fiona becomes the leader of the mage rebellion. (Some fans think she was wrong to fight back when Lambert and his men were coming to slaughter all the mages . . . Okey dokey.)

Somehow, all of that makes Fiona "overpowered" and a "Mary Sue." But I see her more as a tragic character pulled around by circumstance and yet, never in charge of her own destiny:

  • Fiona begins life being severely abused by her human master. She fights back with magic and is carted off to the Circle.
  • Fiona becomes a Grey Warden to escape the terrible Circle she was dumped in and is doomed instead to a short life fighting darkspawn. Imagine what it was like for her to think she was free, only to later learn what being a Grey Warden actually meant. Ouch.
  • Fiona then sleeps with a man who has dragon blood and is cured of the taint because of this. But even once freed of the Grey Wardens, she is sent back to the Circle she joined them to escape in the first place . . . . only to wind up on the run during a mage rebellion. The events at Kirkwall trigger the rebellion (not her) and the Seekers go crazy and start slaughtering mages left and right. Fiona and her mages do the only thing they can do: they fight back, then they flee.
  • Fiona's only love, Maric, disappears and isn't heard from for an entire decade. In the comics, he is rescued by Alistair, but Fiona never hears what happened to him. So she thinks her only love is dead.
  • Fiona's only friend, Duncan, is killed during the events of Ostagar. Now she's truly alone in the world.
  • Later at Redcliffe. Fiona gets forced to join the Venatori (I'll explain that bit further down). Then, depending on the player's choices, she either winds up getting screamed at and banished by her own son, or she dies pointlessly during the attack on Haven in a battle most fans don't even notice.

Yes. Fiona is such a Mary Sue. Constantly being treated like trash by the writing like that. The nerve! (This was sarcasm . . . just incase that didn't translate.)

All that being said, I read the book The Calling years ago and I'll be honest . . . I hated Fiona because of that book. So I used to be one of the fans who hated her. What changed my mind was watching her tragic arc and how it unfolded in the books and in Inquisition.

In The Calling, King Maric is depressed and has done nothing to Fiona but remain polite and friendly. But she treats him like complete crap, snapping at him and dismissing him every time he talks to her.

She was so harsh that at one point I said to myself, "Why is she such an asshole! I hate her!" But now I understand exactly why Maric slept with Fiona.

Fan art of Katriel.

Fan art of Katriel.

In the first book of the series, The Stolen Throne, Maric is in love with a blonde elf named Katriel. She's sweet. She's kind. She's weak and needs Maric's protection. And she's utterly beautiful.

Young Maric eventually comes to the realization that Katriel is a spy who was originally working to sabotage him (she has a change of heart and starts helping him later). And yet, though her need for his protection, her sweetness, and her kindness were lies to gain his trust, her love for him was real. Regardless, he is tricked by Loghain into executing her so that he can forget her and marry Rowan.

By the time The Calling takes place, Queen Rowan has passed away and Maric is believed by most to be mourning her. But we see during a Fade dream that Maric is actually mourning Katriel. A demon poses as her and tries to keep him in bed, locked in a happy dream where they make love endlessly. He is rescued by Duncan.

They then move on to rescue Fiona, who they discover in a nightmare, being whipped by her human master. It suddenly becomes clear why Fiona has been an asshole to Maric: he reminds her of her abusive human master. That wasn't an excuse for her to be a jerk to him, but it suddenly made her behavior make sense.

Fiona angrily talking in "Inquisition."

Fiona angrily talking in "Inquisition."

As the story continues, it becomes obvious why Maric is drawn to Fiona: she is nothing like Katriel.

In The Calling, Fiona has been nothing but brutally honest since she met Maric. She's rude, she cold, she's anything but sweet and nice and isn't remotely manipulative as a result. She doesn't pretend to need Maric's protection, either. In fact, she's a powerful mage who could turn him into a frog. And she also looks nothing like Katriel. She's dark-haired, boney (I recall Katriel being described with a nice rack), and isn't half as pretty.

The entire point of her character was that she wasn't sweet and fake. She was in-your-face bold, flawed, insecure. She wasn't pretty, so she couldn't manipulate Maric in that sense either. She was a mess. You weren't supposed to find that appealing. Unlike Katriel's carefully crafted false image.

In other words, Maric used Fiona to forget about Katriel. I don't believe he was ever really in love with Fiona, which (to me) makes her character arc all the more tragic.

Yes, Fiona is Alistair's Mom

Fan art of Alistair and Fiona.

Fan art of Alistair and Fiona.

At the end of The Calling, Fiona shows up to Denerim in a red cape, carrying a human child with blonde hair. Duncan is with her. She gives the baby to Maric and tells him it's his. Maric is baffled and doesn't know what to do, since he can't claim Alistair as his son due to the existence of Cailan.

A young Duncan then promises to always watch over Alistair (a foreshadowing of the events in Origins), and the book ends with the implication that Maric leaves Alistair with Eamon, who agrees to pretend as if Alistair is actually his son.

If you ask Alistair in Origins, he assumes the king didn't want him around Arlessa Isolde because it was so soon after the war with Orlais (Isolde is Orlesian). In reality, Maric hated Isolde because she was an asshole who he knew would treat Alistair like crap (and he was right).

According to David Gaider, Dragon Age was based on the book series A Song of Fire and Ice, in which Jon Snow, the bastard child of a king, is given to his uncle, Ned Stark, to be raised. Ned pretends that Jon is his child when in reality, he is protecting the secret of his sister and brother-in-law. As a result, Ned's wife, Catelyn, hates him for "cheating" and takes it out on Jon (like a freaking arsehole).

This is what Dragon Age was trying to copy here with Alistair.

Goldanna as she appeared in "Origins."

Goldanna as she appeared in "Origins."

I'm not sure why, but there were a couple years between Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition where fans argued heatedly about whether or not Fiona was Alistair's mother. I thought The Calling made it clear that she was, but fans insisted that it wasn't possible.

This was largely to do with the fact that Goldanna appears in Dragon Age: Origins, pretending to be Alistair's half-sister so she can worm money out of him. I think the developers meant for Goldanna to be a liar and a charlatan trying to rip Alistair off. She was never really his sister and he was mistaken.

And yet, fans hate Fiona for existing just because it conflicts with Goldanna's lies? Well, Goldanna was . . . lying. So it makes sense.

I also find it hilarious that Alistair is shocked his "sister" is such a shrew when his actual mother isn't really all that better.

Redcliffe Wasn't Her Fault

A mod to reflect Fiona's Venatori alliance.

A mod to reflect Fiona's Venatori alliance.

I remember after my first playthrough of Inquisition, I went online to the forums like I always did (in those days), and I was surprised by how many fans actually hated Fiona for the events in Redcliffe. Redcliffe actually wasn't her fault, but even with an explanation about why, fans still insisted on hating. Whatever.

I shall endeavor to explain why for you. Here are the events as they unfolded in Inquisition:

  • The Inquisitor makes an appearance in Val Royeaux and wins everyone over by proving they're a good person who cares about fixing the hole in the sky (as Mother Giselle had planned).
  • Fiona's people have been running and hiding since Lambert and his Seekers first started hunting them down (You actually meet Lambert's replacement in Val Royeaux). They are hiding in Redcliffe and are exhausted, terrified, and need protection. Having been won over by your speech like everyone else, Fiona approaches you for help and invites you to meet her in Redcliffe.
  • After the Inquisitor leaves Val Royeaux, Alexius uses time travel to go back in time and intercept Fiona. He spreads lies among her people that the templars are coming to kill them in mere seconds, and because her people are exhausted, frightened, and have been running for months, they believe it. They panic. Alexius offers protection, and at the moment, there is no other option.
  • Fiona now doesn't trust the Inquisition because she never heard the Inquisitor's speech in Val Royeaux (thanks to Alexius) and never saw that they were a good person. To her, the Inquisition is just another anti-mage organization backed by a mage-hating Seeker (Cassandra) and ready to put her people down. But she has met Alexius face to face. He's an actual mage and he's from Tevinter, where southerners believe that mages, all mages, even elven mages are respected. He wouldn't hurt mages, right? Fiona signs her people away believing they will be protected from the templars.
  • The Inquisitor arrives at Redcliffe. Fiona doesn't remember their meeting and seems muddled and confused on top of it, almost drugged. If Vivienne is in your party, she mocks Fiona for being old and confused. To me, it was a blatant hint that Fiona had been mind controlled with blood magic. Tevinters are not shy about using it to make people do what they want, even family members. Hell, Dorian has an entire personal quest about his father using blood magic on him. And Dorian will also reveal that Tevinters sometimes enslave other mages, clearing up the Southern Thedas notion that they "respect" all mages.

Further evidence of blood magic manipulation comes from the fact that Fiona attacks you like a crazy person at Haven if you don't side with the mages at Redcliffe. This means she effectively becomes Alexius' mindless drone.

So Fiona is manipulated and terrorized into action with time travel, rumors and lies, and blood magic. But fans, even if they're willing to believe this happened, still insist it isn't an excuse and still hate Fiona for not somehow being immune to time travel and blood magic.

And yet . . . if Fiona had managed to fight back against Alexius without the Inquisitor's help, she would have been deemed an overpowered Mary Sue. So she was damned if she did and damned if she didn't.

Fiona was supposed to be seen as a victim of the Ventatori. Instead, she was dismissed as a buffoon who signed her people away and "let" the Tranquil get killed. But when was she supposed to protect the Tranquil? While she was busy being mind r*ped by Alexius?*

Alexius is the villain here. Not Fiona.

*Yes, Fiona's mind was really messed with. No, I won't remove the "inappropriate" reference to the fact.

Fiona Wasn't Wrong to Rebel

Fiona in the tavern.

Fiona in the tavern.

In fact, the rebellion had already started. Did none of you people play Dragon Age 2? Fiona didn't "start" the rebellion, she reacted to it. The events that happened with Hawke triggered a response in the Seekers, who then decided that killing all the mages was the solution.

Fiona chose to fight rather than to lie down and be killed. And I think she was also tired of being forced to live in the Circle, a place she had spent her entire life trying to escape, only to wind up back there.

People seem to think that being First Enchanter comes with some kind of power (so Fiona is "over powered") but in reality . . . It's a meaningless title. This is part of the reason why Vivienne got sick of being First Enchanter and went to Orlais to be court mage: no real power for her power-hungry butt.

If you played the mage origin in Dragon Age: Origins, then you know that First Enchanter Irving had basically zero power. The entire point of his role was to look out for the best interests of the mages by being a negotiator between the templars and the mages. He sometimes won small freedoms for his people by playing underhanded politics, but that's about it. He was a figurehead and a scapegoat, someone to blame if things went wrong.

First Enchanter is basically like being an American president.

Fiona gets yelled at by Alistair, her son.

Fiona gets yelled at by Alistair, her son.

So in other words, Fiona's "freedom" in the Circle was a mere illusion, as was the "freedom" of all mages. When the Seekers started killing mages, the mages held a summit to vote about whether or not they should fight back or surrender and hope for the best. Fiona is a freaking Grey Warden and an elf who has spent her entire life fighting for her right to exist. Why wouldn't she push the vote toward rebellion?

And yet, fans hate her for saying in Inquisition that she would do it all again. Mind boggling. I think she would be a disgusting coward if she didn't fight. Maybe these fans are young. They see Fiona as someone who began a bunch of unnecessary bloodshed because they are young, naïve, and can't grasp the fact that freedom isn't free. Meanwhile, we are told pretty blatantly in Dragon Age 2 that the mage rebellion was not only necessary but inevitable.

It also doesn't help that, thanks to Hawke being scrapped as Inquisitor, the mage rebellion was downplayed into a foolish and pointless amount of bloodshed and all the Circles are set back to square one. Originally, the mage rebellion was going to be a huge plot, and Hawke was going to bring some kind of permanent resolution. Then they removed Hawke from the story and whittled the mage rebellion down to a side plot in the Inquisitor's story, making all the mages look like upstarts who killed a bunch of templars for nothing . . . . It's a shame.

Fiona is a freedom fighter, a hero, and a badass who has spent her entire life suffering but has never given up or given in. But fans hate her.

Sometimes I wonder if Fiona would receive half as much hate if she were a man. Alistair is also a "Mary Sue" by the fandom's definition. He has dragon blood, elf blood, is the last heir to the Fereldan throne, is a Grey Warden, can be king, and has templar powers on top of all that, so he is overpowered and so SPECIAL, etc, but he is still wildly popular regardless.

Go figure.

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