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Pairing: Anders/Karl Thekla
Alternative name(s):
Gender category: Slash
Fandom: Dragon Age
Canonical?: yes
Prevalence: rare
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Anders/Karl, also known as Kanders, is the canonical slash pairing of Anders and Karl Thekla from Dragon Age II.


Anders and Karl were romantically involved during their time as Circle mages at Kinloch Hold. Eventually, Karl was moved to the Gallows in Kirkwall, leading Anders to unsuccessfully try to escape to follow him. After his final escape from the Gallows, Anders went to Kirkwall and lived in hiding, hoping to one day free Karl. There he meets Hawke, the player character, with whom he can enter a new relationship. With Hawke's help, Anders breaks into the Gallows to free Karl, only to discover that Karl has been made Tranquil (a kind of magical lobotomy). The power of the spirit Justice inside Anders briefly restores Karl to a lucid state. Karl asks Anders to mercy kill him. Anders reluctantly complies.

Fannish Reception

"Bury Your Gays" Criticism

While some have praised the Anders/Karl backstory in Dragon Age II, others have criticized it as an example of the bury your gays trope, given the tragic fate that Karl unavoidably meets in the game.[1]

Fans have commented on how the trope is made worse by how little mention the Anders/Karl receives in DA2:

Sometimes I'm hit with just how bitter I am at the way DA2 brushes Karl Thekla and his relationship with Anders under the rug.

Aveline and Anders have both recently lost their significant other, both with the same additional trauma of just how said significant other died, too. For starters, that's a clear parallel between two of your Hawke's companions, which gives insight into both their characters.


Hawke gets several opportunities throughout the game to check on Aveline recovering from her husband's death or to just talk about him with her, and Wesley keeps coming up in party banter, too, including with companions who never met him. Conversely, after the scene where Hawke may find out about Anders and Karl, the player never gets to broach the subject again, and by the time he gets mentioned one more time by Anders in Act 2 the player may very well have forgotten who Karl even was—with the exception of Fenris the other companions as good as seem to have.

While Wesley’s death when we hardly got to know him is kind of a progressive twist on a shitty trope—he gets fridged for a woman's character development instead of the other way around—Karl's death is still bury your gays played utterly straight (no pun intended) because the history of LGBT+ characters tending to be killed off is still there no matter who else dies, too. But I would have at least liked for deaths already so similar otherwise to be presented as equally tragic instead of the confirmed-nonstraight character’s as less so.

Omission from Female Hawke Script

In DA2, Anders will reveal the romantic nature of his relationship with Karl to a male Hawke, but simply presents Karl as a dear friend to a female Hawke.[3] David Gaider explained in a 2011 interview with GameSpy that writer Jennifer Hepler "didn't think [Anders] would" reveal his history with Karl to a female Hawke and wanted to enable "a player who prefers to think of Anders as straight" to do so.[4] He further confirmed that the Anders/Karl backstory is canonical rather than conditional, stating that "no matter who the player is, Karl was always someone [Anders] was romantically involved with."[4]

The omission of any mention of Karl for female Hawke players has drawn criticism.[3][5] Many fans see this as not only biphobic and heteronormative, but as undercutting an important, meaningful aspect of Anders' arc for female Hawke players, since his grief over Karl forms a part of his anger toward the Chantry.

3. Oh, hello bi erasure.

I don't think this should need much elaboration as to why it's a problem: if you romance Anders as a female Hawke, he doesn't tell you that he and Karl had been lovers.

He doesn’t ever tell you that the man he risked trying to save, the man who he saw become Tranquil, the man who begged him to kill him and who died by his hand - was more than a friend to him. Because you’re a woman who is pursuing him romantically.

As a bisexual, this genuinely upsets me. Because to me, the only rationale for Hepler to have Anders tell a male Hawke about Karl and yet not tell a female Hawke is out of some flawed idea that a female Hawke couldn't possibly want to be involved with Anders if she knew he'd loved a man before her. Or that somehow his previous relationship with a man is irrelevant because he's now interested in a woman.

The real kicker is that by making that writing decision, they made extra work for themselves in order to create different dialogue for both genders. It's not like they were cutting corners by having him give two separate responses. Those differences had to be put into the code. Separate lines had to be recorded. Different animations had to be made. It was a very deliberate writing decision.
again, i'm going to have to place this as hepler's fault because she actually believed something as biphobic as anders not telling a f!hawke about his sexuality so the typical straight girl gamer would "think he was straight if they chose to do so" which shows her inability to not only write a bisexual character, but also her aptitude into falling into extremely offensive and downright creepy heteronormative dynamics. here's the full quote on that:

[quote snipped]

she tried so hard to pidgeonhole an f!hawke with anders with the whole revolutionary bad boy trope, even going so far as to erase his sexuality, that it's really fucking uncomfortable to watch, and there are several examples if you play as an f!hawke trying to romance anders where hawke comes on incredibly strongly with anders after he warns you to stop, so it goes both ways, but i can understand how it would make someone uncomfortable.
The first time I played (as F!Hawke), I knew Anders could be attracted to both Hawkes. When we met Karl and Anders had to kill him, they seemed really close to me, and even though I didn't know about Karl and Anders' past, I decided that I would have a headcanon where they'd be lovers. And it was a nice surprise when I discovered it was actually canon. Even after Awakening, I have no problem with Anders being bisexual; even if he had slept with only one man and several women, if his sexuality had evolved over time, if he was more into women than men, that's still valid in my mind, being bi myself.

I think that at the beginning of DA2, he believes he's too dangerous to be with anyone and is so relieved to find a friend in Hawke, he basically fells for him/her because he just needs someone to trust and support him. In that, he's probably more Hawkesexual than anything else, but still, I hate bi erasure.

I think there are many reasons a player wouldn't want to romance a potential LI, like if you don't like their design, their voice, their actions, whatever. If a player doesn't want to romance Anders because he mentions his past relationship with Karl, well, that's just another reason. I don't think he should have to hide it to F!Hawke.

I'm sad I didn't get that line in my first playthrough, because it adds more depth to the character and gives another explanation about why he hates the templars and the chantry so much on a personal level, it's not just because the "I'm inhabited with Justice and I'm the cause of mages" reason.
Anders is an example of a downside to playersexuality as he'll leave out the romantic aspect of his relationship with Karl if the dialogue is with a female Hawke. He will not do this in dialogue with a male Hawke and there, he'll also state that he sees nothing wrong with finding love with someone who is similar to himself in response to Hawke being taken back by the idea of him being with Karl. Basically, a part of Anders' history and arguably characterization is removed to maintain playersexuality.




Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Archives & Fannish Links


  1. ^ Heather Alexandra, "Let Queer Characters Be Happy", Kotaku Australia, June 27, 2018
  2. ^ Meta by kosmonauttihai on Tumblr
  3. ^ a b Jessica Hylton, "LGBTQIA Inclusion in Dragon Age: Inquisition: Burning Down Stereotypes and Modding for Representation", in Women and Video Game Modding: Essays on Gender and the Digital Community
  4. ^ a b Lara Crigger, "Putting the Gay in Games: The Industry's Evolving Attitudes Toward Sexuality", GameSpy, July 8, 2011
  5. ^ "From Embracing Eternity to Riding the Bull: Representations of Homosexuality and Gender in the Video Game Series Mass Effect and Dragon Age" by Kim Johansen Østby
  6. ^ Meta by geeky-jez on Tumblr
  7. ^ Meta by actualhawke on Tumblr (reblog by hipsterhanzo-blog)
  8. ^ "[DA2 Spoilers] About Karl and Anders and F!Hawke?" post on r/dragonage on Reddit
  9. ^ "DO YOU PREFER PLAYERSEXUALITY OR SET ORIENTATIONS?" the BioWare Social Network Unofficial Forums