Anders

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Character
Name: Anders
Occupation: Healer, Revolutionary
Relationships: Varies
Fandom: Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, Dragon Age II
Other: Anders at the Dragon Age Wiki
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Anders is a character in Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening and Dragon Age II. In Awakening, he can be made a Grey Warden and become one of the Warden-Commander's companions. In Dragon Age II, Anders—having merged with a Fade spirit he met during Awakening—is a changed man. He is a passionate advocate for mage rights, and becomes a force of vengeance when confronted with the brutality and injustice his fellow mages face. Anders is one of four possible love interests for a male and female Hawke. Some people suggest that Anders, even if not courted by Hawke, still shows signs of being in love with him/her.

Fandom

Pairings

In Awakening based fanworks, Anders is frequently paired with Nathaniel Howe ("Nanders"). He is very popular on the Dragon Age Kink Meme, where he is frequently paired with Hawke (both male and female) and Fenris ("Fenders").

Terminology

  • Anderfeels: Feels related to or caused by Anders.
  • Bird Mage/Birb Mage/Feathermage: Fan nicknames for Anders based on the feathered mantle on his jacket in both his DA2 outfits.
  • Chantry Boom: Fan nickname for the climactic event orchestrated by Anders in the final act of DA2.
  • Justanders: Fan-coined portmanteau name used to collectively refer to Anders/Justice as a single entity.

Fannish Reception

Views on The Kirkwall Chantry

Ends vs. Means

Anders became a divisive character in Dragon Age fandom after the release of Dragon Age II. Although some fans dislike him solely on the basis of his characterization, much of the discourse over him centres on the ethics of his actions in the third act of the game, where he blows up the Chantry in Kirkwall, killing hundreds, in the hope of inciting a revolution that will topple the Circle of Magi system and bring freedom to mages. This has lead to many within the Dragon Age fandom falling into the sharply divided camps of viewing Anders either as a righteous revolutionary or as a murderous terrorist.[1]

Fans who view Anders' destruction of the Chantry as morally justified or at least necessary argue it was a desperate last resort in the face of systemic injustice and the dire situation in Kirkwall.

Anders had a problem with the entire institution, not just Meredith. And the Templars get their authority from the chantry. Anders wanted open war for the mages because he felt all attempts to negotiate or compromise had failed the mages and they'd fare better in open conflict. Plus it's symbolic. The templar order has power seen as divinely derived from the chantry and the maker. Show that the chantry consists of fallible mortals, and maybe the things it sanctioned can be openly questioned in a way they couldn’t otherwise.

I feel like people don't always pay attention to just how much time and how many ways Anders tried to change things without blowing up a chantry. He tried just running himself, but couldn't abide the others still locked up. He tried to secret them away. They got caught and punished. He tried interfering in corrupt Templar plots and exposing them, including to the grand cleric. They were shrugged off as individuals behaving badly instead of institutional issues. He wrote his manifesto. And Orsino tried to knock Meredith out of power in the "right" way by exposing her crimes to the nobles, and was ushered away by Elthina who will admit behind the scenes in Seb's DLC she will always side with the templars.

If Anders just killed Meredith nothing would have changed institutionally and the fate of the mages would have been decided by whoever happened to step in to power. Only by showing that the mages were powerful enough and willing to attack the heart of the institution that oppressed them and starting the war did he set the stage for possible lasting change. What he did wasn’t "good," but that's about morality and ideas of being willing to have casualties to the cause, not intelligence. Anders was not, in fact, an idiot.virtue_summer[2]
At the very beginning of Act 3 we are told that Meredith has requested the Right of Annulment by Karras, if he survives. And is she allowed to [do] this, to go above Elthina's head like this? Yes, she can. We already know from DA:O that the right can be granted through mere letters on the basis of the Knight-Commander's word alone. It's a system that has already been abused, too, using it to cover up a mass murder that already took place. Meredith could have also just as easily gone this route. Meredith was going to have every single mage in the Gallows killed. And because they were all locked up, they would have had no time or way to prepare for this or defend themselves. There is a picture for this, too:

Of tranquil told to stand still as the swords are run through them. Of mages locked in their cells hearing the cries of those down the hall before the doors of their own swing open and are cut apart. Of children as young as four crying over the dead bodies of their instructors before getting beheaded and gutted themselves. This is a picture that did not happen because in blowing up the Chantry, Anders changed the situation and gave the mages a way to flee and fight back. There are mage survivors because of what Anders did.

[...]

Innocent people were going to die no matter what. All Anders did was change the numbers. (Numbers of which we have gotten varying accounts of, too.)

Theoretically he might have been able to cave in the Chantry with blood magic and help, but Anders hates blood magic and didn't want anyone else involved. And if he did that, then we would be hearing about how people were sucked into the earth opening up beneath them. There is no way BioWare would ever write a situation where people weren't hurt in the Chantry's destruction. It is supposed to make you uncomfortable. It is supposed to make you realize there were no good options left. That's why it's [the chapter] called The Last Straw.

So do I, me, myself, think Anders was right to reduce the loss of life, destroy a building of an oppressive religious political militaristic regime, spark a rebellion against said regime, and do it all willingly submitting himself to whatever consequences he would face for it? And even believing that the consequences should be death, as foreshadowed in banter with Isabela?

Yes, I think Anders was right.
dalishious[3]
As we've seen in previous installments of this series, the mages had been oppressed, ripped away from their families, imprisoned, beaten, made illegally Tranquil, raped, and murdered. The worst was happening in Kirkwall, and it was continuously getting worse. Anders tried for over 6 years to peacefully protest in between running a free clinic for those not helped by the Chantry, helping the Mage Underground, and running around with Hawke. Meredith had asked to kill all the mages. Elthina stood idly by. And Anders knew he could either let every mage die or act.

Fighting back against a genocidal organization for the betterment of an oppressed people is admirable and justifiable.

When our own governments or selfless citizens step in against horrors existing in our world, we applaud them. As much as we wish casualties didn’t happen, logic dictates that it can and will happen. It is a horrible moral dilemma that no one wishes to be placed in. No one wants to decide "do I save these many people if it costs a few lives”. It’s unfathomable to even put yourself in a mental place to think about making that sort of decision.

But for the people who have to make those decisions, we don’t mark them as terrorists. We look back on them realize they were revolutionaries. They fought civil and world wars to free people who couldn't free themselves. They did what they did to help people, and not for their own personal gain.

Anders is a freedom fighter. He's an insurrectionist.

He makes this horribly difficult decision when he sees no viable alternative, and he knows he will be hated for it. He expects to be killed for it. But his motives, whether one agrees with the decision or not, are good and for the good of the mages.archer-and-anders[4]
What do you suggest he should have done?

Honestly, I'm sure if Anders could have saved the mages and seen them walk free without any violence at all he would have. Anders wrote a manifesto to peacefully protest and try to raise awareness. He’s a healer, healing people in need of him for nothing and the guy who worked with the mage underground to rescue mages out of the circle for years until Meredith destroyed it. Elthina couldn't have cared less about the injustices happening to the mages within the circle. She supported Meredith and didn’t believe in helping the mages when you try that route. Both Elthina and the Chantry were the real symbols of oppression against the mages in Kirkwall since she had power over Meredith.

I honestly don't even know what else Anders could have done when facing Meredith trying to murder the entire circle for no reason. Coming up with other plausible solutions for Anders is more difficult than trying to find non-mage characters that honestly cared about what was happening to mages in DA2.
arcanefeathers[5]

Those who see Anders' destruction of the Chantry as morally indefensible argue that targetting civilians is never justified or that it was a selfish and short-sighted move that only further endangered mages.

I agree violence was probably the only solution and agree about the role violent action plays with non-violent action.

But Anders is still wrong imo. He was one man taking unilateral action. It was a declaration of war, made on behalf of people who were not his allies but would have to live with his decision. The fact that it turned out to not be a terrible outcome for his goals seems mostly based on things outside of his control and which he likely could not have anticipated.

He is a very tragic, interesting and sometimes sympathetic character but ultimately he did something big and world-changing on the stated behalf of others instead of with others. There is a selfishness and an arrogance there. Resistance, revolution, change...that is a group effort, not one man's burden. I suppose he's not that different from Solas in a way, although we know much less of Solas's efforts...there are some definite parallels.

I suppose I would say blowing up the Chantry was the only way Anders at that point could make changes, but maybe he shouldn't have assumed that he (especially alone) was the one to do it.

Maybe he achieved the best outcome, I don't know. It's hard to argue a counterfactual! But either way I'm not utilitarian enough I guess to say he was right.ParagonDagna[6]
Short answer: no.

Longer answer: as a measure taken to attain a result, it was not just ineffective, but actively destructive to his goals. It was also an extremely selfish and arrogant act, which he undertook on behalf and in the name of a group of people who definitely did not want it.

Longest answer: Anders claims that he did what he did to force a change in how mages are treated by the Chantry and the Circles. I suppose 'murdered en masse' counts as a change.

The people in the Gallows weren't ready to defend themselves or fight for their lives. They didn't ask for Anders to do that in the name of their freedom - nor did mages in any of the other circles. Anders tipped the dominoes on all of them would any warning. He made the choice, but everyone else suffered for it.
Trilobyte141[7]
The problem here is the method used. Violence may lead to freedom, but its a temporary freedom and only leads to oppression and tighter control later on, example, just about every revolution in history which operated under the pretext of "freeing" people. It either failed and retaliation and retribution often leaves the situation worse off than it was before. To quote Gandhi: "I object to violence because when it appears to do good the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent", meaning that the violent means cannot be justified to change the world. It leaves a scar in the minds of everyone, and as we all know, scars don't heal, they might fade, but they don't heal. What Anders did is unforgivable and unforgettable. He murdered (and thats what he did, no matter how you try to spin it), one of, if not the most important person in Eastern Thedas in a highly visible manner. That act was no longer about showing the oppression of the Chantry, but the opening salvo in a war that is going to hurt the mages far more than its going to help and the revelation of a true abomination.Madasamadthing[1]
Insane terrorist: he deliberately murdered innocents to force an issue. If he'd held rallies, published some pamphlets, organized a legit mage underground, and maybe led some vandalism or saboteur raids against the templars (destroying weapons or lyrium caches), then he'd be a rebel. But once he blew up a chantry? Evil nutjob. And, in Anders's case, he went from whiny malcontent to terrorist. He just skipped right over the righteous indignation stage.
HELO[1]

Anders As An Anti-Hero

Some fans take less polarized stances on Anders, viewing him as an anti-hero whose character arc is marked both by his pathos and relatability and by his deep, complex flaws.

I've taken up far too many words at this point, so more in Part 2, in the future, but I just want to note that there is a reason Anders is the person he is in Dragon Age II. He was honed, sharpened, created, by the very system that mages ultimately rebel against as we begin Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Think of a cage, a prison. You are ripped from your family because a talent manifests. You are taken away in chains in childhood with only what you can grab as you are hauled off. You are allowed no further contact. No visits. No correspondence. You are watched every hour of every day by warriors in armor with power over you and all your compatriots, and for YEARS; by those who view you with antagonism, fear, suspicion, or lust. Sometimes they act upon those impulses when they think nobody's watching, and you witness this. Sometimes the worst of them then follow up by making sure the minds of their victims (or witnesses) are wiped via magical lobotomy, to keep their crimes safe, in the Rite of Tranquility, clearing them for future sexual crimes without possibility of refusal or punishment, or simply as punishment and loss of consciousness.

Or sometimes they simply send your lover away against his will, to serve someone else. Because your lives are not your own.

Again: Your life is not your own. As a mage, you are dragged from home, caged, watched, victimized, and then told what to do and where to do it.

It's grotesque.

So many people ask, "Why, Anders?" I understand this, as someone who would have fought his agenda in the end (and who in fact did not get the romance trophy because I refused to help him and even tried to warn Elphina). However, in spite of that, and in a fictional universe? I admit that, going through everything he and the other Circle Mages suffered... I've had moments where I asked, not "Why, Anders?" but, rather: "What took you so long?"

Is what he does right? No. Is it acceptable? No. Is it appropriate? Absolutely not.

But is it surprising? No. It's incredibly sad to admit. But... no.Angela D. Mitchell[8]
As for Anders, even if you personally don't regard him as a villain, he is still essentially an anti-hero. His actions were manipulative of Hawke, a person who is either a dear friend or lover, and were altogether selfish; not all Mages wished to lose their Circle, and Anders made that decision for them with no right to do so. He instigated not only the events that destroyed Kirkwall, yet also a War that cost thousands of lives. Was the war required? Possibly, yet there's also a chance events could have played out more peacefully, and thanks to Anders, we will never know. Also, though he technically destroyed a religious icon, the building obviously had more than just Grand Cleric Elthina inside; other Sisters, and even common citizens, were likely in those halls, and were all murdered heartlessly because they stood in Anders way.

The character Varric Tethras lays out the shift in Anders' portrayal quite beautifully. In DA2, Varric was Anders' friend, even gifting him the playful nickname 'Blondie', and the two spent quite a bit of time together swapping stories and jokes. However, as time passes and Anders becomes more and more aggressive (you'll notice his change in personality gradually over the Acts), Varric's banters with Anders turn to contentious, and even at one point Vengeance confronts Varric angrily. After the events of the Final Straw, and into DAI, we meet a Varric who is not only weary, yet also displays a sincere anger towards Anders. Here is a man, once his friend, who selfishly destroyed one of the few things Varric passionately loves: Kirkwall. Anders betrayed not only Hawke with his lies, yet many others, and Varric serves to display this, regardless of whether or not Hawke agreed with Anders.

I adore Anders, and slot him as my number one favorite fictional character. He is always two sides of one coin. He is Awakening and DA2, he is hero and villain, he is generous and selfish, he is kind and aggressive, he is reason and he is insanity, he is a man and he is a demon. He is wonderfully complex and tragic, and his entire tale is enthralling. Many people despise him, yet when a character can inspire emotions from you, does that not make them an excellent character?
FusRoDoodles[9]
Anders is... complicated. In Awakening, he is relatively carefree and doesn't really give a shit about the other mages until he meets Justice. Then in DA2, we slowly see him become more and more extreme in his hatred of templars and belief the mages should be free. I mean, the guy writes a fucking manifesto for crying out loud... Oh yeah, and blew up the Chantry. Anders is tragic. Yeah, he may be an asshole and a fucking idiot, but he always acts with the best intentions. Even the destruction of the Chantry was a good thing to his twisted abomination logic. He's a tragic figure. He wanted to help the mages and Justice, and that ends up being his downfall. In the end, I pity him. I hate the things he has done, but I can see why he did it. I support mages and I let him live, but we are no longer friends. I don't let him live because I like him, I let him live as a punishment. I want him to live knowing that he caused all those deaths. It's not mercy letting him live. He was my friend and he betrayed me, even making me help him make the bomb. You shouldn't like Anders in DA2, you should pity him. Play Awakening and see what he and Justice were like. Feel the pity.M1Maul[10]
And now, Anders. The companion that made me consider the story of the entire game in this light in the first place. I did say I saved the best for last, didn't I? This man has NOTHING happy in his life. When I say NOTHING, I mean truly fucking NOTHING. He loses his Warden friends back in Ferelden, he's forced to give up Ser Pounce-A-Lot, and when things are sort of beginning to look up for him, he merges with the spirit of Justice, essentially becoming an abomination, before slaughtering his Warden comrades and the templars who were after him. In Kirkwall, he tries his best to wrestle his personal want to help people, help the mages, and Justice's lust for vengeance. As the story progresses, he is becoming more and desperate, both an effect of Meredith and Justice, who is more and more morphing into Vengeance. In the end he does the unthinkable. He blows up either the entire Kirkwall Chantry, taking the Grand Cleric with it, showering Kirkwall in destruction. And his end isn't any better. He is either completely without remorse, ready to die for his cause, sure in his belief that he and Justice are one being. Or, he is a broken man, terrified of the thing he has become and the hold Vengeance has on him. He begs Hawke for death, because he can no longer trust himself.
Trilobyte141[11]

The Role of Hawke

Fans have expressed reservations about how DAII handles the events leading up to the destruction of the Chantry. Anders enlists player character Hawke to gather ingredients for his magical bomb without disclosing their intended use. The only way to get Anders to discuss his plan in advance is by confronting him in a rival relationship. Players who maintain a friendly relationship with Anders cannot confront him. Some fans wish that the game had given players the ability to actively work with or oppose Anders as Hawke before he acted on his plan. Other fans are troubled by Anders' deception of Hawke, and see problematic implications in the inability to communicate with him while on friendly terms, especially in the context of a romance.

But yeah, one of my major criticisms of him in DA2 is that emotional blackmail/manipulation thing he does to Hawke in his Act 3 "Justice" quest — not just because he kept his plan a secret, but because he roped Hawke into helping him with it in the early stages while refusing to tell them what was happening. His intention was to protect them from the consequences, but it was still manipulative and unfair to involve them without informing them of what they were actually doing. I know my Hawke had a long talk with him after the fact about how manipulative and wrong it was for him to do that.

Anyway, though — this is actually one of the things that frustrates me the most about how he was written in the game, too. I hate that you can't talk to him and urge him to communicate with you unless you're a rival. Because his rivalry route is blatantly abusive, and it just… always feels to me like it sends this message that you can't achieve honesty and communication in a healthy relationship/friendship — that you have to basically abuse him and dehumanize him and invalidate him to the point where he is literally dissociating by Act 3 in order to have a conversation with him about what's troubling him. It's plain on either route that he's about to do something big, that he's on the edge of suicidal, that he's in crisis and he's in turmoil and he's feeling incredibly unsafe and hopeless. I hate that there's no way on a friendship route to urge him to talk about it, to reaffirm that you support him and you want to know what's on his mind, that he’s not alone.

Because his Act 3 downward spiral is characterized by isolation and withdrawal, and I think that he and Justice are their own echo chamber at that point. Anders shuts everyone out, even Hawke to an extent, bc he wants to face the consequences alone (both in terms of how others punish him and how he punishes himself — I have a feeling he sees no point in weighing down anyone else's conscience if he can take it all on alone). But for a Hawke who cares as much about mage rights as he does (still frustrating the game doesn't let us be more radical about supporting mages), who's patient and validating and takes an active interest in his fight— maybe he would feel more able to trust and open up, and more than that, maybe he would be more willing to collaborate, to brainstorm alternatives, or to at least not take it all on alone. As it stands, in the game itself, he shuts down and turns inward. He's desperate, he's despairing, he literally has run out of options, but the worst part is, he thinks he's alone — or that he has to be alone.
bubonickitten[12]
Anders may love Hawke, but he remains untransformed by that love. In order for the romance to work out in the end, Hawke will have to give up everything and become a rebel, in hiding with Anders after he blows up the Chantry. Hawke will also have to accept wholesale the glorious manifesto and revolution Anders is selling, because Anders becomes very belligerent, pouty and guilt-trippy when questioned or doubted in any way. As Anders earlier expresses a bit of envy and competitiveness towards Hawke's glorious role as champion, Hawke also has to accept the subservient role Anders demands. Frankly, I couldn't take it – I just killed him. But it is entirely possible to play out a happily ever after scenario in the game romantically, provided that Hawke buckles under.

Anders does not compromise with his partner at all, but expects total compromise, total devotion, and blind devotion at that, since he lies to Hawke repeatedly about his intentions when gathering ingredients and otherwise plotting to blow up the Revered Mother.

This is the Outlaw Couple romance trajectory. Bonnie and Clyde seem to be the most famous outlaw couple. Outlaw couples aren't always bad: Robin Hood and Maid Marian can be considered an outlaw couple as well. In an outlaw couple, there is usually one dominant partner whose goals and agenda sublimate whatever desires the other previously had. This is the case in a completed romance between Anders and Hawke.Sumiko Saulson[13]
I think that the fan reaction is partly because Anders takes the situation out of your hands. He makes a decision that removes the option of pure diplomacy, and you spend the rest of the game trying to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. And I remember being initially terrified at what had happened, too— before recognizing that all he did was take the silent genocide and make it a public one.
mloreley[5]

Justice/Vengeance

Some fans have commented that assessments of Anders' actions are complicated by the difficulty of separating Anders' own feelings and agency from the influence of Justice/Vengeance.

You know who I loved, who I felt didn't get great character development in DA2? Justice. Like, I liked Anders fine in Awakening, but I loved Justice. I had the HUGEST soft spot for Justice. He was so alien, and so unique, and it was so interesting to perceive the world through his (rotting, heh, too soon) eyes. And while I feel (and think canon supports) that Anders' emotions eventually corrupted Justice, and that Vengeance-corrupted Anders acted more extremely than un-spiritified-Anders might have, I just... I am so sorry that Justice died, you know? That Justice became so mutated he was no longer what he was. And that there was no grieving for that because Hawke doesn't know what the player knows. Hawke never knew Justice, after all, not like the player did (back in the Warden years), so Hawke has no context for the change.

I think so much of what Justice/Anders is (and becomes) was a huge, huge narrative risk (like so much of poor, poor much-maligned DA2, which I really do love even with its rushed act 3), and I can appreciate it on that level: pushing the boundaries, living extremes, seeing stark black and white (because such is the way of spirits and demons, and Anders can't escape that). But I also think that, at its heart, I’m not sure Anders can have what might be called a traditional redemption arc because the presence of the Justice/Vengeance spirit has an effect that can’t be mitigated or scaled back or undone. Anders and the spirit within him fuel each other. There can be no compromise, right? And... life with no compromise is pretty tough.

To me, Anders is a character whose arc is rather destined for tragedy, even if that isn’t at Hawke's hand. I think I may disagree with you a little: I think Anders does have remarkable character development in DA2, but that his character develops toward a place that makes me uncomfortable, unhappy, and distressed, all without vast plot holes or huge narrative leaps, and also without Hawke being privy to all of it (narrative risk!). His anger, frustration, reclusiveness, paranoia... they're all growing from seeds that are pretty much present from the first conversation you have with him. The extreme action he takes at the end of the game actually is foreshadowed pretty carefully throughout. But Hawke--and the player--are helpless to influence it (HUGE NARRATIVE RISK).tarysande[14]
I'll start by saying I love Anders' character, both in Awakening and DA2, but it's important to understand that Anders is actually two characters in DA2, original Anders plus Justice/Vengeance. Based on what we saw in Awakening, most of Anders' Templar-hate in DA2 was actually Justice talking, not Anders: when Anders it taken to meet Wynne he's completely against the idea of the Circle separating from the Chantry, despite the fact the Templars had already threatened to kill him earlier in the expansion. That's why I find Anders to be such a good character in DA2 - his differences from Awakening highlght what possession can do.
Garahel[15]

Sexuality and Romance

In DA:O-A, some of Anders' dialog reveals his attraction to women; in DA2, he can be courted by both male and female Hawke. In an early quest Hawke meets one of Anders' male ex-lovers, although the nature of their relationship is only revealed to a male Hawke. A portion of the games' fans (ref?) saw his bisexuality as a divergence from his original character. Anders expresses an attraction to Hawke early on, and the option to reject his attention is aggressive and gains rivalry points. Because of this, some players complain that Anders is constantly hitting on their Hawke.

See also Dragon Age II: Straight Male Gamer Controversy.

Fanworks

Fanart

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Gallery

Fanart

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Resources and Links

References

  1. ^ a b c "Anders: Righteous Rebel or Insane Terrorist?" thread on the Dragon Age Wiki forum
  2. ^ "[DA2 Spoilers] Anders is a fucking idiot" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  3. ^ Meta by dalishious on Tumblr
  4. ^ "Revolution, Terrorism, & Anders" by archer-and-anders on Tumblr
  5. ^ a b Reblog chain on Tumblr
  6. ^ "[Spoilers: All] An unpopular take on Anders & his actions" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  7. ^ "[DA2 Spoilers] Lets opens this can of worms again: Do you think Anders was right?" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  8. ^ "Why Mages are Feared: The Creation of Anders" by Angela D. Mitchell
  9. ^ "[DA2 Spoilers] Where is Anders and why is there so much hate?" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  10. ^ "[DA2 Spoilers] Can someone explain to me Anders' appeal?" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  11. ^ "[Spoilers All] Why the Dragon Age II narrative is my favorite" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  12. ^ Meta by bubonickitten
  13. ^ "Killing Anders: The Fallen Hero Archetype" by Sumiko Saulson
  14. ^ Meta by tarysande on Tumblr
  15. ^ "Opinions on Anders?" post on r/dragonage on Reddit