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"Dragon Age 2" (2011): Leandra Hawke, An Analysis


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

The default Leandra Hawke during the prologue.

The default Leandra Hawke during the prologue.

Leandra Hawke was the mother of Hawke, the protagonist of Dragon Age 2. She was voiced by Deborah Moore, who also voiced the mother of the human noble Warden in Dragon Age: Origins.

I was pretty young when Dragon Age 2 was released (early twenties) and I had played the human noble Warden in Origins, so like most fans, I already loved Deborah Moore's voice and was young and naïve enough to overlook Leandra's flaws and sort of . . . idealize her specifically because she was a mother.

Ironically, I grew up with an abusive narcissistic mother, so this framed the way I viewed fictional mothers (I viewed them unrealistically). Especially since we live in a society that idolizes motherhood, to the point that mothers can do no wrong and (sadly) children who are abused by their mothers often go ignored.

Now that I'm older, wiser, and have come to terms with my own abusive mother, it's a lot easier to see Leandra as a flawed human being who happens to be a mother . . . which . . . is all mothers are.

As a society, we tend to forget that mothers are just people who can make mistakes, abuse, neglect, etc. For this reason, if you observe the Dragon Age fandom, you will see that a lot of fans are divided about Leandra. Some of them see her as horrible and abusive toward Hawke, while others see her as a saint.

Very rarely will you see fans who acknowledge the reality that Leandra is just a flawed person. She's not evil. She's not abusive (Believe me. I know what emotional abuse from a mother looks like). But she's not perfect, either. She's just a person caught up in the storm of life, trying to live true to her heart.

Welcome to my analysis of Leandra Hawke.

Leandra the Favorite

Sad Leandra at Gamlen's house.

Sad Leandra at Gamlen's house.

Leandra was the epitome of the spoiled little rich girl. To hear Gamlen tell it, she was beautiful and intelligent and talented. Her parents doted on her while ignoring Gamlen and put all their hope and pride in her.

This is a lot of pressure to put on someone (ironic considering what she later does to Hawke). And to make matters worse, Leandra's parents disowned her for falling in love with a mage and becoming pregnant with his child.

As much as he resented his sister, Gamlen (much like Carver) is the only one to stand by her in the situation. He helped her see Malcolm Hawke in secret and even helped her run away. Though in hindsight, it could be that Gamlen actually maneuvered Leandra out of the way thinking he would get her inheritance.

Gamlen whining about something.

Gamlen whining about something.

An amazing number of fans want to defend Gamlen without realizing that Gamlen, like Leandra, is responsible for his own pitfalls. His life (again like Leandra) is the direct result of his choices.

Leandra and Gamlen were not people who were born with disadvantages, so I am not using Just World Fallacy to condemn them. Leandra and Gamlen were actually born with all the advantages possible in a fantasy world and still effed up. That makes them tragic (which I'm sure was deliberate).

Gamlen rants about how Leandra ran off while he was "forced" to stay behind and take care of their dying parents. But if their parents hated him so much, there was nothing forcing him to stay. Hell, I'm writing this as someone who ended contact after I was tired of being regularly abused by my mother.

Nothing made Gamlen stay around and listen to his sick parents crying about Leandra while putting him down. If they were that bad, he could have left. He chose to stay to get his hands on their money. Which he did, only to gamble it away.

All of that is on him.

People defend Gamlen, but he isn't just a flawed person like Leandra. Leandra had flaws but was still a good person at heart. No, Gamlen is a selfish jerk and an opportunist. While he may have actually loved Leandra, he still saw her love affair as an opportunity to get rich and then took full advantage. This is an undeniably scummy thing to do, stealing money from your own sister. He could have at the very least left her something. But he gambled it all away.

Then Gamlen does the same exact thing twenty-five years later when Leandra returns to Kirkwall. He sees that his sister and her children are homeless and desperate, and his solution is to sell Hawke and their sibling into indentured servitude (a nice word for slavery) so they can pay off his debts.

Again, this is pretty scummy, especially given that he's doing it to his own family. It's something an opportunist would do. And we all know "opportunist" is just a nice word for "predator."

If Gamlen had any smarts or self-control, he probably would have been a loan shark.

Two Spoiled Lazy Children

Leandra and Gamlen.

Leandra and Gamlen.

For some reason, many fans can't seem to see how predatory Gamlen's behavior is in every sense of the word (he also rifles through Bethany's underclothes, sexually harasses Isabela, and makes crude remarks about Hawke being a lesbian . . . totally not a predator). So they always seem to take Gamlen's side when Leandra blows up at him for asking for rent money.

I think what fans are failing is to realize is that both of them are wrong. Gamlen is a jerk for a) renting his sister's kids out to pay off his debts and b) having the gall to turn around and ask for more when they're already destitute trying to pay off his debts.

But like I said, Gamlen isn't the only one who's wrong here. Leandra could just go get a job, but the thought never crosses her mind. Twenty-five years living as a peasant woman, and in her mind, she's still a spoiled little rich girl who relies on everyone else to take care of her.

If you think about Leandra's background, it makes perfect sense.

A beautiful custom Leandra Hawke.

A beautiful custom Leandra Hawke.

Aside from the fact that Fereldans are largely discriminated against in Kirkwall (so none of the refugees can just "go get jobs"), Leandra can't get a job because she doesn't have any of the vital skills that a commoner would.

When Leandra was a spoiled little rich girl living with her parents, she never had to do anything for herself, and thus, she never had to develop the skills she might need later to survive, let alone perform menial tasks (cooking, sewing, laundry, cleaning). So when she fell in love with Malcom Hawke and ran away with him, she depended on him entirely and was essentially completely at his mercy.

The fact that Leandra doesn't know how to cook, clean, sew, or hell, even weave baskets after twenty-five years as a peasant woman is appalling. In all that time, she must've just been spending Malcolm's money buying everything rather than making it herself.

Cassandra tells the mage to "Deal. With. It."

Cassandra tells the mage to "Deal. With. It."

And Malcolm was a Circle mage. Dragon Age 2 has a couple mage quests that make it clear Circle mages are infantilized and don't know how to do anything for themselves either. And in Dragon Age: Inquisition, there's a funny scene where a mage is complaining to Cassandra about how hard it is to take care of himself outside of the Circle, and Cassandra answers with a very firm, "Deal. With. It."

Ha ha ha.

Gamlen meets Leandra at the gate.

Gamlen meets Leandra at the gate.

In essence, Malcolm would have been as helpless as Leandra. Then these two run off and raise a baby together (Hawke). It must have been a nightmare. Leandra probably had help from other women in the village, who she probably lorded it over like a little princess, while Malcolm got a job and busted his butt, carrying twice the load simply because Leandra was so lazy and spoiled.

And I say Leandra would have "lorded it' over the other women in Lothering because Sarcastic Purple Hawke can tease her about putting on airs, as if it's something she has done in the past. Leandra takes the teasing good naturedly and promises to be humble. It all comes off as an inside joke. I can only imagine a very young Hawke witnessing her arrogant mother's struggles to adjust to peasant life with tears and a superiority complex.

So basically, Gamlen and Leandra are two spoiled, lazy children, arguing about their money. Both refuse to actually, you know, get a job and try to work for a living. Gamlen would rather steal and gamble while squatting in his hole, waiting for someone to drop money in his lap and chasing dreams of wealth, while Leandra would rather sit on her butt and let other people take care of her.

This is actually pretty amusing considering the fact that Carver is written to be so much like Gamlen, that at one point in the game, Hawke can get angry and call him a spoiled lazy brat with a chip on his shoulder.

Gamlen to a T.

Leandra Hates Being Helpless

Leandra at the end of Legacy.

Leandra at the end of Legacy.

What's more, I think Leandra is painfully aware of her own helplessness and flaws, but she doesn't know how to change.

If the player does the DLC Legacy while Leandra is still alive, there will be a scene where Leandra laments the fact that Malcolm secretly carried so many burdens on his own, just to give her a happy life. She mentions the dead twin (whichever one didn't survive the ogre during the prologue) and how angry she was that she could do nothing to protect them.

This explains why Leandra (and also Carver) resents Hawke for not protecting their sibling and snaps at them during the prologue. Like Carver, Leandra overestimates Hawke's abilities. Much in the way she idealized Malcolm, she sees her eldest child as being someone all-powerful who can do anything. When that reality is shattered, it terrifies her and she lashes out.

Carver does something similar if he is the sibling who survives. He blames Hawke for Bethany's death. And later, if he's a templar, he blames Hawke for Leandra's death. In his mind, Hawke is an all-powerful being who can do anything and allows bad things to happen due to neglect on their part . . . and not because they're just a person like everyone else.

It's a little funny how the people closest to Hawke fail to recognize her humanity, a little bit like Shepard in Mass Effect.

And to be clear, I'm not saying that Leandra is absolved for the way she treats Hawke. There's a difference between explaining and condoning, something nutty fans on Tumblr don't seem to grasp.

The way Leandra treats Hawke is awful, and the story holds her accountable by giving Hawke the option to call Leandra out for blaming her. Granted, it was two years later chronologically, but at least the acknowledgement was there.

Likewise, Carver can apologize for blaming Hawke for Bethany's death and even compares himself to their mother, saying that he's just afraid. Both characters are very childlike and naïve and see Hawke as a protecting, all-powerful figure much as they did Malcolm.

It's actually dehumanizing and really unfair to Hawke, and both of them are aware enough to eventually apologize for such behavior. It's still crappy of them, but there it is.

These characters are realistic and flawed. Leandra and Carver aren't perfect, are barely likeable, but they aren't evil or bad for that. (While Gamlen will always be pretty bad to me.)

Leandra stares sadly into the fire.

Leandra stares sadly into the fire.

And instead of working to become stronger or more self-sufficient, I don't think Leandra has any clue how to change. Instead, it's easier to just hide behind someone else and let them take care of her. As I said, she is very childlike in that regard.

And it's a little ironic, because the name Leandra actually means "lioness," while Gamlen's name both refers to old age and gambling. BioWare likes choosing names that have meaning for their characters (Cailan in Dragon Age: Origins had a name that meant "child") so I could see Leandra's name being a bit of purposeful irony.

How? A lioness is a breadwinner. She doesn't cower behind the lion. She goes out and hunts and literally brings home the bacon. She runs the pride, and the lion is basically just there to babysit. Leandra is exactly the opposite so her name is hilarious.

Or maybe someone at BioWare just liked the name Leandra.

The Pregnancy That "Ruined" Everything

Leandra misses her husband and child.

Leandra misses her husband and child.

But it's not just the fact that Leandra idolizes Hawke (and as a result, lashes out at them for not being perfect all the time). Of course, this alone is unhealthy, given that Leandra also idolized Malcolm and repeatedly expresses that she sees so much of Malcom in her eldest child.

There's also the fact that Leandra's pregnancy with Hawke was the catalyst for her life falling apart. Leandra was responsible for her own choices, but given that most humans are irrational and illogical, it isn't surprising that she might resent Hawke for "ruining" her life, even though there's no way it was remotely Hawke's fault.

Plenty of parents resent their own children just for existing because it changed some aspect of their life for the worst, even though there isn't a child on the planet who has ever asked to be born. (Bojack from the show Bojack Horseman comes to mind.)

I could easily see Leandra being bitter and subconsciously blaming Hawke, which would make it easier to put so much pressure on them to "fix" everything they "ruined" by being born.

As a result of these subconscious feelings, Leandra appears to have less concern for Hawke's safety while doting over Carver and Bethany. The twins are clearly her favorites, as these are babies she likely planned for, while Hawke is the accident that ruined her life.

One instance that stands out is when Hawke is going off on the Deep Roads expedition. Leandra shows up and begs Hawke not to take her precious Bethany/Carver while showing zero concern for Hawke.

I don't feel as if Leandra had no concern for Hawke, though. As I said above, she idolizes Hawke and probably thinks they're nearly invincible. But she already watched one of her younger children die two years previous. She's terrified of it happening again.

Also, it's easy to forget the ages of the characters. Carver/Bethany is 18 years old when the game begins. That's practically a baby. And even two years later when going on the expedition, they're still barely out of their teens.

Meanwhile, Hawke is what? About twenty-seven when going on the Deep Roads expedition? They are more than half-way to thirty. How would Leandra look trying to make them stay home and finish their homework?

Also, if Hawke returns from the Deep Roads without their sibling, Leandra runs toward them and says in relief, "My baby!" Then after being relieved to see Hawke alive, she asks about Carver/Bethany.

Leandra clearly cares about Hawke but recognizes that they're an adult and she can't dictate their lives. Carver/Bethany, meanwhile, are still very, very young and are coddled by her more.

Also, as I said up higher, if Leandra really does resent Hawke for "ruining" her life, it would make sense that she would care more about the twins and less about Hawke.

I don't feel as if Leandra actually resents Hawke for existing, though. It's just a theory I have. There are a few times when Leandra shows affection for Hawke, it's just all very subtle and distant because Hawke is an adult and Leandra is trying not to smother them.

A good example would be after you arrive at Kirkwall during the prologue. Leandra looks at Hawke as she talks about the twin who was killed, as if silently grateful that at least she still has her other children.

Her Death was Ridiculous

Leandra dies in Hawke's arms.

Leandra dies in Hawke's arms.

When I was younger I didn't care much (maybe I had more of a life), but now that I'm older, I feel as if Leandra's death was really . . . over the top and ridiculous. For such a well-written character, she deserved a better send off.

I mean, come on. She's kidnapped by a lunatic blood mage who then turns her into Frankenstein's Bride. One part disturbing, one part cheesy.

After the writers went to such lengths to make Leandra a realistic, flawed mother, it's disappointing that they fell back on a one note Halloween trope. And all so Hawke could have some motivation for hating mages in the game? As if the mages weren't already being depicted as completely insane!

I guess they wanted to give Hawke a personal reason to side against the mages at the end of the game, but the problem with the game's ending is that there's a right side and a wrong side. Siding with the templars is wrong. There is no good reason to help the templars slaughter a bunch of mages who had nothing to do with Anders.

Maybe the writers wanted to give players the opportunity to role play a Hawke who goes nuts like Meredith. The reason Meredith hates mages and wants to Tranquil them left and right is because her sister was a mage who became an abomination. But her hatred of mages is still completely insane and irrational since 1) you don't have to be a mage to become an abomination and 2) most of the mages we encounter in Thedas are really weak, stupid, and no where near on the level of Hawke, the Warden, the Tevinter magisters, various followers, etc.

In other words, most mages (like most people in general) are pretty average, easily controlled, and (ironically) powerless. If this weren't so, mages wouldn't have been so easily imprisoned in Circles to begin with.

And if they were going to do a "Hawke goes evil" route, they could have done better.

Just sayin'.

Leandra again.

Leandra again.

So Leandra was basically fridged. In other words, she was killed to further develop Gamlen, Hawke, and everyone else in the story. The other characters are defined depending on how they reacted to her death, which furthered each of their personal arcs.

It's fine that Leandra was a plot device. She was never meant to be important and was always just there as an NPC in Hawke's story. It's just a shame that such a well written character was reduced to little more than a horror film rip off by the second act.

There are a lot of reasons I love the quest "All That Remains," but Leandra's death isn't one of them. Could have been done so much better.

And that's it. That's my character analysis of Leandra Hawke. She's a flawed, spoiled child who never grew up. The end. Kind of brief compared to my other articles, but then, Leandra is a pretty minor character, all things considered.

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