The character of Eric Northman came to life on the pages of the Sookie Stackhouse novels (also called the Southern Vampire series) written by Charlaine Harris. A few years later Eric made the leap to our television screens when HBO bought the rights to the series and produced True Blood. So is there any difference between Eric in the TV series versus Eric in the books? So far, there are many differences as there are with many of the characters.
When the rights were sold it was in HBO’s contract to take liberties with the story and change it around as they saw fit. Most fans are pleased with how HBO has handled this freedom thus far. For the most part they have stayed true to the basic premise of the books and the parts they have added or changed have enhanced the story and fleshed out underwhelming characters. For instance, Lafayette Reynolds in the books was not nearly as dynamic as he is in the TV series. Fans loved him so much that the writers decided to keep him around beyond season one… which is a significant change since he dies in the first book! Another example would be the character of Tara. She is not a very big part of the story in any of the books but in the TV series she takes a more central role and is one of the major players.
But back to Eric…
I have been VERY pleased with how Eric is portrayed in the series but not always. The producers got it right when they made Eric sexy, aloof, confident, arrogant, powerful, and conflicted about his own bizarre interest in the human girl, Sookie Stackhouse.
Where they have gotten it wrong though is quite disturbing to me as a true fan of the character. In their efforts to position Bill as a noble, conflicted vampire worthy of Sookie’s attentions they often make Eric a heartless villain. They attempt to give Bill someone to “compete” against, which is fine, but Eric is no villain. If the books show us anything it is that there is FAR more to Eric than you can see on the surface. In fact it takes ten books to really flesh him out and you still don’t know him completely.
Often times I am not so much unhappy with how they are developing Eric’s character as I am about how they are developing Bill Compton’s. Sookie and Bill must ultimately break up to allow for a romance between Eric and Sookie but the writers are clearly favoring Bill in the early seasons (1-3). In the series he walks into the sun and nearly dies trying to save her… he was not nearly so heroic in the books. In the books Bill left Sookie for another woman and runs into trouble requiring Sookie and Eric team up to find him. In the TV series Bill is kidnapped by the other woman AFTER he proposes to Sookie. In the books Bill NEVER proposed to Sookie or even hinted at marriage and this really bothered her. See where I am going here? The writers for the True Blood series keep making Bill look angelic (when he is anything but) and don’t seem to be leading up to a solid breakup… which which royally pisses off Sookie and Eric fans.
Add to this the fact that Eric is made to look like the villain and you can see why I was concerned with the first three seasons of True Blood. In the series Eric kidnaps Sookie’s good friend Lafayette. Lafayette is imprisoned for weeks, shot in the leg, and fed off of. Sookie is less than thrilled with Eric (as you can imagine) when she discovers this. None of it happened in the books. Eric chains Sookie up in the basement of his bar so he can use her in a plan to thwart King Russell. It works out well in the end and protects Sookie but not with out some pain for her I am afraid. There was also playful banter and the beginnings of a playful friendship in the books that has been largely ignored in the television series. Rather Sookie ends up telling Eric she finds having cancer preferable to spending time with him or that he is a creepy, cold, dead piece of shit. Ugh…
BUT… there are some wonderful Eric and Sookie moments in seasons three and four. We get to see a softer side of Eric when he is near his maker, Godric (his maker is actually named Appius according to books 9,10). Sookie sees that the cold, calculating Eric is capable of love.
He rescues Sookie from the Fellowship of the Sun church and abides by Sookie’s request not to kill anyone even though the potential victims are certainly worthy of such a fate. He is rewarded when Sookie leaves the safety of Bill’s arms to return the favor by releasing Eric from the silver chains that are burning into his skin and holding him immobile on an alter. Later Eric tricks Sookie into a blood bond by pretending a flesh wound is mortal. Sookie begins to have erotic dreams of Eric… which is a real treat for fans!! Sookie also has a touching moment with Eric on a hotel roof as she holds Eric’s hand and promises to stay by Godric’s side as Godric meets the Sun. Eric saves her from werewolves sent by the King of Mississippi, he hires a werwolf bodyguard to protect her while she searches for Bill, and is even willing to burn in the sun with Russell to ensure the safety of Sookie and his progeny Pam. They even have a REAL kiss in season three!
In season four Eric loses his memory and has to hide out in Sookie’s house. The softer, safer version of Eric gets to Sookie and they finally make love… outside, in the shower, on the floor, on the sofa, in the bed.. everywhere. Sookie also willingly drinks his blood and their bond deepens. So while I am concerned on many levels I am also happy at the same time.
Perhaps my discontent is fueled by comments such as those made by producer Alan Ball who said he didn’t understand why the women fans loved Eric so much since he only cares about himself. That statement shows that Alan Ball CLEARLY has no idea who the character of Eric is supposed to be. Having Eric’s on screen future in the hands of someone who does not understand him is troubling. I can only hope that this opinion will evolve.
Of course Bill fans and strict TV viewers who just want people to shut up already about Eric… LOL… love to make the point that Alan Ball and all the other producers/writers can change the story any way they want… even making it so Eric and Sookie never become a couple. I don’t think they can do this without rightfully incurring the wrath of true fans. It would be like seeing a remake of Gone With the Wind where Scarlett ends up with Ashley or a remake of Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth Bennett ends up with Mr. Collins. It just can’t be allowed to happen!!
Presence in the Story – In season one Eric is given very little screen time but fans spoke out and he appeared in all episodes of season two… even if a couple of them only amounted to a couple minutes of screen time. In season three Eric’s story line was dominant and by FAR the most interesting of the season. Season four concentrates on Eric greatly as well. We Eric fans have seemingly influenced the show with our demands for MORE Eric!! The producers of True Blood have realized that Eric has a HUGE following and future seasons are sure to have lots of our favorite viking vampire.