Dawn Summers

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Name: Dawn Summers
Occupation: Schoolgirl
Relationships: Family: Buffy (sister), Joyce (mother), Hank (father);
Scoobies: Giles, Willow, Xander;
Friends: Tara Maclay, Spike
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
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Dawn Summers, played by Michelle Trachtenberg, is the younger sister of Buffy Summers. She is also a mystical "Key" converted into teenage human form and retconned into the lives and memories of everyone else in the show at the start of Buffy season 5. She has appeared in some comics set prior to Season 5; it isn't clear if these are supposed to show a timeline in which she always existed, or false memories implanted when she was created. She has a knack for foreign languages, and some innate magical power from her status as the Key.

Character Overview

Dawn was introduced without explanation and in an episode in which it had previously been said that Buffy was an only child. Subsequent episodes showed her as an apparently normal girl, then revealed that she was, in fact, "The Key," a mystical artifact of immense power converted into human form to keep it out of the hands of Glorificus, the Big Bad of Buffy S5, and sent to Buffy as the person most likely to protect it/her. Dawn had trouble dealing with this and acted out in various ways; by self-harm to prove that she was alive, later by shoplifting and other theft. After Joyce Summers' death she made an abortive attempt to reanimate her, but cancelled the spell before it was too late. At the end of S5 Buffy sacrificed her life to save Dawn, incidentally proving that Dawn really had "Summers blood" and was a real person.

In S6-S7 Dawn is shown growing up and gradually coming to terms with life as the Slayer's sister, but her role could still be summed up by a line in the episode Once More, With Feeling:

"Dawn's in Trouble? Must be Tuesday."

However, she gradually takes a more pro-active role. In S7 episodes she refuses to leave Sunnydale and participates in the final battle that ends the series.

In the season 8 comics Dawn is shown as a young adult temporarily converted into a giant, later a centaur, and finally a doll, before being restored to her natural form. In later seasons she begins to fade from the memory of the other characters as the spell that created her starts to fade, but is eventually brought back; however, the spells reset her to a younger version of her personality, which affects her relationships.

Fannish Engagement

Dawn was initially hated by many fans, who regarded her as a whiny brat and plot device whose only role was to be repeatedly kidnapped or endangered. Her subsequent development in S6-7 was received more favourably, though many fans still disliked her. The comics arc was seen as a reversion to her role as a victim, although her relationship with Xander was generally received favourably. She is a relatively unpopular fanfic character; AO3 shows her appearing in approximately an eighth of the Buffy stories on the site. Trachtenberg's other roles (e.g., as rock-star Celeste in Six Feet Under) are occasionally referenced in crossovers, but this is uncommon. She is occasionally reimagined as Buffy's daughter rather than her sister, usually as a way to give her a real father the author likes. Another common trope in crossovers is sending her to other families, often seen in works at Twisting the Hellmouth.


In the TV series she has a date with a boy named Justin, but kisses then stakes him when he turns out to be a vampire, and has a brief magically-induced crush on classmate RJ Brooks, but has no lasting relationships due to her age. Canon ships in the comics are a college relationship with Kenny (a "thricewise demon" whose curse is responsible for her giganticism after she cheats on him) and Dawn/Xander.

In fanfic she is most often shipped with Xander Harris, occasionally with Angel's son Connor (although they never met in either show's canon), and rarely with Spike and Andrew Wells. Slash pairings are very rare, but have included Dawn/Tara Maclay, Dawn/Faith and Dawn/Kennedy.

In crossovers she is often shipped with suitably-aged characters such as Harry Potter, Clark Kent, Stargate SG-1's Cassie Frasier and the de-aged clone of Jack O'Neill, etc.

Notable Fanworks



Essays and Resources