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"Dragon Age" (2009): Flemeth, A Character Analysis

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

Flemeth official art.

Flemeth official art.

Flemeth (voiced by the phenomenal Kate Mulgrew) is an evil swamp witch who first appears in the book The Stolen Throne to aid the protagonists, Maric and Loghain, in their quest to boot out the Orlesians. She does this (what she refers to as "nudging history") in exchange for a secret deal with Maric (likely his dragon blood).

She is known to the Dalish as Asha'bellanar, the woman of many years. To the Chasind, she is the Mother of Vengeance. But most commonly, she is simply known as Flemeth.

Interestingly enough, she doesn't seem to confirm "Flemeth" as her actual name. When the Warden first meets her in Origins, she laughs and says that "Flemeth" is just what the Chasind call her. And later in Dragon Age 2, she dismisses the name again and quotes Alistair when she calls herself an old hag who talks too much.

Flemeth is easily one of my favorite characters in the entire Dragon Age franchise, so her heavily implied death is just another reason for me to hate and despise Solas. Sadly, I never experienced a rivalry with Solas because he kept agreeing with everything I did, so I didn't even get the satisfaction of punching him. . . .

Oh well. Let's talk about Flemeth.

The Legend of Flemeth

Flemeth's hidden tarot cards from "Inquisition."

Flemeth's hidden tarot cards from "Inquisition."

You can learn the legend of Flemeth from two sources in Dragon Age: Origins. There's Morrigan, who will tell you the story her mother told her. And there's Leliana, who is reciting a legend fabricated by the people.

In Leliana's version, Flemeth of Highever was married to Bann Conobar, but fell in love with the bard Osen and ran away with him. Conobar punished Flemeth by killing Osen. Flemeth called on a spirit for justice (Mythal) and killed Conobar before fleeing into the wilds, where she lived as an abomination.

In Morrigan's version, Flemeth was with Osen first. Then Conobar came along. Osen wanted to get rich, so he said to Flemeth, "Hey, mind if I wh*re you out?" Flemeth agreed. But Conobar went back on his word and killed Osen out of jealousy. A furious Flemeth called upon a spirit of vengeance to aid her (Mythal) and killed Conobar and his men before fleeing into the Wilds to live as an abomination.

And you know what? I think both stories are wrong. Since writing my big, fat Dragon Age theory, I've been giving this some thought, and I don't believe Flemeth and Osen and Conobar ever existed. I believe they are a Chasind retelling of the betrayal of Andraste and that "Flemeth" is little more than one of Andraste's many daughters and yet another host of Mythal.

Yes, Morrigan got this story directly from her mother (I think. I need to replay Origins) but she also constantly points out how Flemeth often twisted the truth and kept secrets from her. I could see Flemeth telling Morrigan this story as a way of telling her the history of their tradition (hosting Mythal) in preparation for the day when she would pass Mythal on.

After coming to this conclusion, I was surprised to discover that there's an actual in-game codex by Brother Genitivi that suggests the same thing. So . . . I'm just more convinced now.

Was Flemeth Retconned?

Flemeth asks the Warden to spare her.

Flemeth asks the Warden to spare her.

I don't believe Flemeth was retconned. Here's why.

The Stolen Throne and Dragon Age: Origins both set Flemeth up to be pretty evil.

When Maric and Loghain meet Flemeth in The Stolen Throne, there are shredded corpses hanging from the trees outside her hut. Loghain tries (rather foolishly) to attack Flemeth, only to have the tree reach down and snatch him into the air. She then proceeds to chat with Maric as if Loghain isn't even there (kicking and thrashing) in the background. Eventually, she lets the two of them go, but only in exchange for Maric's dragon blood. (The implication here being that she would have coldly killed them otherwise.)

This is reinterated later in Dragon Age 2 when Merrill tells Hawke she's very lucky to be alive after meeting Flemeth, since most people who do wind up in little pieces in the trees.

In Origins, you discover Flemeth's grimoire in the Circle tower. Morrigan deciphers it and is disturbed to discover that her mother is planning to one day possess her body, this being her method of extending her long lifespan.

Morrigan, the evil witch who applauds when you kill children, is scared.

Once you've killed Flemeth, you can find Morrigan's "Robes of Possession" in the witch's hut. These horrifically named robes lower mental defenses when worn.

The game was clearly setting Flemeth up as an evil old woman who was out to possess her daughter's body in order to extend her life.

Flemeth in "Dragon Age 2"

Flemeth appearing to save Hawke in "Dragon Age 2."

Flemeth appearing to save Hawke in "Dragon Age 2."

Flemeth's cruelty and callous indifference continues in Dragon Age 2. She swoops out of nowhere and saves Hawke (sometimes swooping is good . . .) but reveals within six seconds that she did so out of mild curiosity. Hawke's sibling will ask in bafflement, "Wait! You're just going to leave us here?" and Flemeth replies indifferently that she is. It isn't until she can get something from Hawke that she really decides to help.

Flemeth knows that Morrigan, having been released into the world, is likely going to discover the truth about her mother's "immortality" and will return to her kill her. Flemeth wants to survive the encounter, so she uses Hawke to achieve this.

I think Carver sums up the situation when he says, "Should we really help her? We don't even know what she is!"

Flemeth is an evil witch dead-set on possessing her daughter's body, and by helping her be reborn, Hawke has enabled her to one day do that. This was actually setting things up nicely for Morrigan to hate Hawke later in Inquisition, as Hawke was supposed to be Inquisitor.

And it would fit Hawke's character perfectly to release something dangerous into the world since she is later responsible for both the red lyrium and Corypheus.

Aveline's first appearance in "Dragon Age 2."

Aveline's first appearance in "Dragon Age 2."

That said, I don't believe Flemeth was telling the truth about her motivations (shocking!). It's my belief that she was flying by and noticed Aveline was in trouble. She swept down to save Aveline, not Hawke.

Aveline's personal quest in Mark of the Assassin heavily, heavily implies that she is a descendant of Andraste and that her family was chased from Orlais to Ferelden and hunted down because of this.

Characters in the game who don't know Aveline's story even comment on how odd it is that Aveline has an Orlesian name but is Fereldan.

Andraste's stained glass depiction from "Inquisition."

Andraste's stained glass depiction from "Inquisition."

Andraste was believed to have red hair and only gave birth to daughters, so all her direct descendants were female. (I wonder if her children were Maferath's or Shartan's?) If you were to compare Aveline to images of Andraste, the likeness is striking.

Varric's unreleased edition of his book.

Varric's unreleased edition of his book.

Varric writes a book series called Hard in Hightown that is based on Aveline and her husband, Donnic. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, we get to actually see a physical copy of one of the books. Aveline is on the cover, but if you weren't paying attention, you would think that was Andraste.

I highly doubt the developers did this on accident.

So Aveline being one of the descendants of a former host of Mythal would interest Flemeth, who is currently hosting Mythal. Because of Mythal, she might even have enough affection for Andraste and her line that she would protect it.

So she swoops down, saves Aveline, notices that Aveline will likely survive with Hawke to protect her and is about to leave when Hawke asks for help.

Also, notice how kind Flemeth is to Aveline. She is very soft-spoken and motherly toward her. She treats no one else like that in the entire franchise, not even Morrigan. The only other person who has that soft voice directed at them is Solas.

After Aveline kills her dying husband, Flemeth says gently to her, "Without an end, there can be no peace."

Everything Flemeth says in that scene is so . . . poignant in hindsight. Now that we know Flemeth is hosting Mythal, we know that line was likely coming from Mythal. After all, who would understand the misery of an endless existence better than a murdered goddess?

Another favorite Flemeth line of mine,

"There is always a catch. Life is a catch! I suggest you catch it while you can!"

Sundermount.

Sundermount.

In Dragon Age 2, Hawke helps Flemeth be reborn at Mythal's altar on Sundermount. In my earliest playthroughs of Dragon Age: Origins, I hated Morrigan, (and I loved Alistair. Oh, how times have changed) so I used to pretend that I had killed Flemeth in order to trick her. On later playthroughs, however, I came to see Morrigan as my friend, so I killed Flemeth for her.

Of course, if you don't kill Flemeth, that means there are two Flemeths wandering the world. The developers had a chance to do something interesting with that and they didn't . . . pity.

Flemeth as she appeared in "Dragon Age: Origins."

Flemeth as she appeared in "Dragon Age: Origins."

My complaints about double Flemeths aside, Flemeth's outfit change was probably the only thing I didn't like about her in Dragon Age 2. She went from a deceptively frail old lady act (which I found very amusing), to a MILF in a busty leotard . . . why?

Dragon Age 2 did a pretty good job of actually not sexualizing its female characters. Isabela was sexualized on purpose as a gag, but all the women were pretty covered up. I thought it was annoying that Bethany needed to have her cleavage out but at least it wasn't gratuitous.

Then along comes Flemeth with swaying hips and big breasts. Again . . . why? What were they thinking??? I guess they wanted to make her look badass after she shape-shifted from a dragon, but they could have done that without sexualizing her.

It would have been great if Flemeth had shape-shifted into a long and elegant gown, some kind of sorceress deal . . . But her armor aesthetic has something to do with Andraste, I think, since they wear the same headpiece.

Flemeth, Andraste, and the mysterious lyrium idol.

Flemeth, Andraste, and the mysterious lyrium idol.

One of the biggest complaints lodged against Dragon Age 2 is the gross recycling of resources, but I don't think the developers would use the same headpiece on multiple characters without there being some meaning behind it (Meredith also wears the headpiece and I theorize as to why in my big, fat Dragon Age theory).

Flemeth is wearing Andraste's headpiece (or maybe the other way around). Both of them are legendary figures. Both of them have only given birth to daughters. Both of them were betrayed by their husbands. And both of them likely hosted Mythal.

That aside, I still resent the fact that Flemeth needed to be sexed up. It's like if Alistair appeared in Kirkwall wearing a leather thong with a bare chest and this was referred to as "armor." I'm pretty sure every gamer would scream "Why???!!!!" while bleaching their eyes but everyone is so used to female characters being sexed up that no one seems to care about Flemeth looking like this.

Whatever.

Merrill bows fearfully to Flemeth.

Merrill bows fearfully to Flemeth.

As for Flemeth's writing, she is still played up as pretty evil in Dragon Age 2. Merrill will talk about both Flemeth and Mythal like some ancient and terrible monsters to be feared but never really makes a connection between the two.

As I mentioned above, Merrill tells Hawke when she first meets her on Sundermount that she's lucky to have walked away from an encounter with Asha'bellanar (Flemeth) alive, since people who meet her usually wind up in tiny pieces in the trees.

And later, during Merrill's quest in Act 3, she stops to pray at Mythal's altar. When Hawke asks about the prayer, Merrill explains that it's very dangerous to ignore Mythal's altar when passing it, since she's a very angry goddess and one to be feared.

Merrill talks as if the elven gods still have an impact on the world, even from their prisons. She and the Dalish seem to believe this to be true, that even if the gods are locked away, they can still do harm.

This is expanded upon in Inquisition, where the Inquisitor can respect the altars of the Dread Wolf that are found in Orlais. I think Solas even gains approval if you do so (been years, I can't remember).

So Mythal/Flemeth are still played up as evil and scary forces to be feared in Dragon Age 2.

Flemeth in "Inquisition."

Flemeth in the Fade in "Inquisition."

Flemeth in the Fade in "Inquisition."

I did a playthrough where Morrigan had an Old God baby with Alistair and my Dalish Inqusitior drank from the Well. So instead of meeting Flemeth at Mythal's altar and watching Morrigan become a dragon, I got the scene where Flemeth lures Kieran into the Fade and takes the dragon soul from him.

Morrigan begs and pleads for the life of her son, who she believes Flemeth wishes to possess. Flemeth reveals that Morrigan was never in danger from her, that she simply intended to pass on the spirit of Mythal.

This is further referenced by the Silent Grove comics, which were released after Dragon Age 2. In the comics, Alistair meets Morrigan's sister, Yavana, who reveals that she and Flemeth only want the return of the dragons and also, being possessed by Mythal is "a gift."

So on the surface, it would seem this retcon has been coming for a long time. When originally Flemeth was an evil hag who wanted to possess her daughter, she now meant her no harm and just wanted to give her the gift of godhood . . .

But I've been thinking about that scene, and it's my belief that Flemeth was lying the whole time. She was putting on an act, pretending as if she meant Morrigan no harm. Because at the end of the scene she walks away, and she has a very sinister smile.

Yavana is just a puppet. Like Morrigan, she does everything her mother taught her and bringing back the dragons is a part of that. Morrigan likewise values only power, is driven to preserving the past, wants to preserve the dragons (or at least their souls), and all of this to the point of drinking from the Well.

For all her hatred of her mother, Morrigan does everything Flemeth taught her. Flemeth even points this out.

The entire scene in the Fade in Inquisition is Flemeth being as manipulative, abusive, and controling of Morrigan as she always has been. That's what her little smile is about when she walks away.

Flemeth becomes a dragon in "Origins."

Flemeth becomes a dragon in "Origins."

Also, when you go to kill Flemeth in Origins as the Warden, Flemeth will try to convince you that Morrigan is lying about the ritual. If the Warden says "We know how you extend your life" or something of that effect, Flemeth will say, "That [Morrigan] does. But do you?" ("That she does. But do you?")

Flemeth attempts to make you think Morrigan is lying. In reality, Flemeth is the one who is lying. If you install the Morrigan Restoration Patch, a mod which restores Morrigan's cut content, you will get a scene after Flemeth's "death" showing a relieved Morrigan running to the Warden and hugging them. This implies that Morrigan believed very much that she was in danger.

Morrigan could have simply misunderstood what she read, but instead of trying to convince you that Morrigan misinterpreted her grimoire, Flemeth instead tries to convince you that Morrigan is the one who is lying. She very much underestimates how much time the Warden might have spent getting to know Morrigan and coming to trust her.

There is also a hidden scene that triggers if you bring Morrigan back to the hut after agreeing to kill Flemeth. This scene is also restored with the Restoration Patch, and it shows Morrigan complaining that you would bring her there when she asked you not to. It also shows a raven (Flemeth?) lurking nearby and watching the scene.

In other words, Flemeth will refuse to show herself if you try to bring Morrigan to the hut after the grimoire quest has been activated. She will only talk to the Warden without Morrigan, and this is so that she can lie and manipulate events for the benefit of her own survival.

If the Warden insists on killing Flemeth, she laments that Morrigan's is a "song" she herself has sung before. This implies that the current Flemeth's body used to belong to one of her daughters, who likely also rebelled and was eventually possessed. She is referenced in the third person by Flemeth, as if she isn't even speaking of herself.

This chilling revelation would imply that once the daughter before Morrigan was possessed, she lost all control and become a skin suit for Mythal. It seems as if Mythal is the one doing all the talking, not "Flemeth" the human. Mythal is in control and the human host has taken a backseat. Perhaps they aren't even "there" anymore.

Anders possessed by Justice in "Dragon Age 2."

Anders possessed by Justice in "Dragon Age 2."

It kind of leaves you wondering if spirits will always eventually take over their hosts.

I think one thing people don't understand about Anders is that by Act 3 of Dragon Age 2, he has completely lost control. He isn't Anders anymore. He looks and sounds like Anders, but he is Justice, even when he's not glowing. He's gone. And this only took six years.

Early in Act 2, Hawke can talk to Anders about how he's losing control. And later during his personal quest, he will kill an innocent girl unless Hawke stops him. This quest serves to show that Anders is quickly disappearing as Justice takes control. Anders is horrified by this and becomes more and more depressed as the act carries on. This is evident in party banters where Varric tries to get him to joke and laugh but he refuses. He also becomes more desperate in his attempts to talk Merrill down from the mirror.

By Act 3, Anders has blank spaces in his memory. This happens when Justice takes full control. By the end of the act, Anders is gone. It's Justice who blows up the Chantry. It's Justice who continues to interact with you, while using Anders' voice and mannerism. The real Anders is gone.

Justice is also in love with Hawke, which is why Hawke could easily be fooled.

Anders touches Hawke's face.

Anders touches Hawke's face.

During one of Hawke's romance scenes with Anders, Anders will touch her face and will begin to glow, showing that it is in fact Justice doing this.

Back in Awakening, the expansion for Origins, Justice told the Warden how he carried the memories of his host's love for his wife and how he couldn't resist longing for her as a result. Because of this, he wants to know what it's like to be in love and to love a mortal.

So when Hawke romances Anders, she is also romancing Justice. Hawke seems very much aware of this. Purple/Sarcastic Hawke can joke and call it a "threesome," which angers and annoys Anders. But it's true.

At the same time, Hawke seems confused about the exact nature of Anders' possession and doesn't seem to realize that "Anders" is gone and that by Act 3, they are dealing with Justice. He looks like Anders. He sounds like Anders. But he is not Anders. He only puts on the glowy eyes to frighten Hawke when she tries to talk him down from his plans. It is always Justice after a certain point, but he uses Anders' voice to manipulate Hawke.

So in other words, Mythal would have eventually taken over Morrigan's body, as she took over the last daughter, as Justice took over Anders. "Flemeth" is just a name given to the walking horror that she is. Morrigan understood this and had every right to be terrified and rebel.

Morrigan did not misinterpret what she found in the grimoire at all.

Flemeth takes the dragon soul from Kieran.

Flemeth takes the dragon soul from Kieran.

Flemeth likewise shows how self-centered and twisted she is when a Dalish Inquisitor asks why Mythal never answered their prayers. She answers as nicely as possible that it's because she doesn't care. Apparently, humans are better, since she's been possessing them for centuries and not elves. She then goes into the "I'm just an old woman" routine from Origins, explaining that she's powerless and that you must now take her place as the world's champion.

Maybe Mythal was a hero, but Flemeth is an insane abomination who only cares about vengeance. If the Inquisitor pushes for answers, she screams that she was betrayed as the world was betrayed. Mythal was a spirit of justice. If justice was murdered/removed from the world, then the world has been corrupted. Now justice doesn't exist and is little more than an ideal.

That aside, I like that Flemeth tells Lavellan that she does the People proud. Barring Josephine, it was probably the only time in the entire game when someone wasn't an ass toward my character for being Dalish.

One nice thing about Flemeth/Mythal is that she holds great affection for the Dalish. She was always kind to my Dalish Warden and Inquisitor and is very kind to Merrill. So even if she has abandoned the Dalish, Flemeth/Mythal still holds great pity and affection for them without projecting her mistakes onto them. Amazing how a centuries-old evil witch is still a better person than Solas.

Can You Kill a God?

Solas killing Flemeth is compared to the lyrium idol.

Solas killing Flemeth is compared to the lyrium idol.

At the end of Inquisition, Solas waltzses up to Flemeth looking very sad. Flemeth has just sent a wisp of light through a mirror. She turns to Solas and calls him Dread Wolf. They embrace, and then Solas appears to suck the life from Flemeth, leaving her for dead.

Their embrace resembles the red lyrium idol from Dragon Age 2, which depicts one person dying in the other's arms. It's my belief that the idol depicts the death of Mythal and her killer. This makes sense given that the Deep Roads expedition is likely beneath Sundermount, near Mythal's altar. The idol depicts what the ancient elves would have viewed as a crime.

Abelas says during What Pride Had Wrought in Inquisition that the Dread Wolf did not kill Mythal but the ones who defiled her temple. Maybe Abelas is right and Solas didn't kill her . . . or maybe Abelas is just talking semantics.

Mythal is immortal. So the word "kill" here does not necessarily mean that Mythal died. Abelas could mean that the Dread Wolf merely took her power, leaving her the dis-empowered wisps that possess mortals. Because can you truly kill a god? Morrigan even says in Origins that the Warden can't truly kill Flemeth, just delay her for a time.

And what if by "killing" Mythal, Abelas meant the "defilers" of the temple killed her legend by defiling her temple, rather than actually killing her? It's a stretch but at least it's an interesting stretch.

So it's my belief that Solas didn't literally kill Mythal, as that would have been impossible. It is very likely that he simply took her power, reducing her to fragments. He does it at the end of Inquisition. I don't have a hard time imagining that he would have done it before.

Mythal's spirit (the "Maker's" blessing) is depicted in Andraste's stained glass images as a red flame. In one image, Andraste is given the flame while Mythal's vallaslin, the withered tree, is floating above it. In other words, Andraste was granted power when she took the spirit of Mythal into herself.

And why are we listening to Abelas? He's a character existing in the world. He doesn't know everything. His perspective on events could be completely skewed.

It could be that Solas "killed" Mythal by taking her power for himself, likely in the belief it was necessary to defeat the elven gods, the Blight, and everything he was up against at the time. The fact that there is immediate suspicion against him for having done the deed is interesting. And again, Mythal's power is depicted as a flame in Andraste's imagery and Solas is holding a flame on his tarot card.

Fast forward two thousand years, and he does it again.

Solas kills Flemeth.

Solas kills Flemeth.

So in the end, I don't believe Flemeth was retconned. She began as an evil witch corrupted by a vengeance demon and by Inquisition, she is still very much that. Given the way she smiles at the end of the Fade scene with Morrigan, she likely had every intention of one day still possessing her daughter. It was not a retcon.

I also don't believe Flemeth is actually dead. It's a bit much that they would have Solas kill what was probably the most important character in the series. I think she sent a piece of herself through the mirror, knowing what Solas would do. He'd done it to her before and she can see into the future, after all.

If Flemeth pops up in Dragon Age 4, I won't be surprised.