After being in the Dragon Age fandom for a considerable amount of time, there are common misconceptions about Fenris that I see being shared frequently. Fenris is a very popular character in the fandom and he no doubt is treated more favorably than Anders, but he is still mischaracterized by the fandom. The main fallacy that I am addressing today is “Fenris hates all mages!” which is just… why. The fandom frequently reduces Fenris to a few traits which do not accurately represent his character as there is so much more to him than that.
First and foremost, Fenris does not hate mages. Yes, he disapproves when you side with mages, but you have to keep his background in mind. Fenris was a slave in the Tevinter Imperium for a large portion of his life, and anyone who has played any of the Dragon Age games - especially Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition - know full well about mistreatment of slaves by most mages and magisters in Tevinter. Slaves are are treated horribly–they are forced to endure every kind of abuse and are sometimes sacrificed in blood rituals for the mages’ benefit. From Fenris you find out that he was physically and verbally abused, denied meals and denied sleep. According to his sister Varania, he entered a grueling competition to win freedom for his mother and sister, and had lyrium etched into his skin through a ritual as a result of his victory–an extremely painful ritual which caused him to lose all of his memories as well. The markings themselves are very sensitive and painful, thus causing Fenris to show reluctance to being touched.
As a result of the lyrium in his skin, Fenris was kept around by Danarius - the magister who was his master - paraded him around as some sort of awful attraction. Danarius also referred to Fenris as his “Little Wolf”, which is why it would be inappropriate for the fandom to refer to Fenris using that nickname since it is extremely possessive and dehumanizing. So when Fenris is being wary of any mages that Hawke meets during their travels, it is not because Fenris blames all mages that he meets for what happened to him, but because what he had experienced in the Imperium because of selfish mages is all he knows. Fenris isn’t barely restrained or just flat-out attacking any mages that they meet - he is on guard around mages he doesn’t trust or know personally, which brings me to another point: his relationship with Bethany.
When Hawke brings Bethany along to assist Fenris in quest ‘Bait and Switch’, Fenris tells Hawke to be careful of Bethany:
You harbor a viper in your midst. It will turn on you and strike when you least expect… that is in its nature.
Again, this points to Fenris experience during his time in Tevinter. He even speaks of how magic is a “plague” that has been burned into his skin (i.e. his lyrium markings) and soul. However, Fenris goes on to say that he is fully aware that magic itself is not bad and that there are mages who use magic responsibly. Of course, Fenris is still weary of even friendly mages as mages are at risk given their unique circumstances:
I’m not blind; I know magic has its uses, and there are undoubtedly mages with good intentions. But even the best-intentioned mage can fall prey to temptation. And then, their power is a curse to inflict upon others.
Where the fandom tends to go wrong with this is whenever they portray Fenris as being unreasonable in his distrust towards mages. They believe that Fenris hates all mages simply because they’re a mage and that there’s nothing more to it than that. To anyone who has paid attention to Fenris’ in-game dialogue, it’s apparent Fenris sees that Bethany fully understands the risks that come with being a mage:
Anders: Not all mages are weak. Fenris: True. Bethany, for instance, was not weak.
This applies to a mage Hawke as well. Fenris is not unreasonable. He did not trust Bethany/mage Hawke at first, but after getting to know them, he realized that they were responsible individuals that he could trust. Incidentally, this mischaracterization of Fenris leads some in the fandom to believe that it would be impossible to romance/gain maximum affinity with Fenris if they are a (pro-) mage Hawke. Let me assure you right now that this is completely untrue–you can keep Fenris in your party without having to sacrifice your morals. As long as you are friendly to Fenris and don’t side with slavers, you can max out his friendship very quickly while still being very pro-mage.
Despite what happened to Fenris, he is still capable of moving on. Over the course of Act 2 you can clearly see Fenris coming to terms with his abuse in his personal quest ‘A Bitter Pill’. He is finally able to directly confront Hadriana, a magister working under Danarius who constantly tormented Fenris while he was a slave. This is also where he begins to realize that there are people who truly care for him–namely Hawke, regardless of whether Hawke is a mage or not. Like I mentioned before, Fenris is capable of seeing past the fact that someone is a mage. In the end, Hawke being a mage has no impact on how Fenris views them, which is apparent when he enters into a romantic relationship with Hawke or befriends them.
Keep in mind that I am not saying that this excuses all of Fenris’ behavior towards mages, though.
Fenris is still distrustful of mages. He still believes that Meredith is the only one keeping Kirkwall from going to hell, which we all know is… false, since Meredith and the rest of the templars actively antagonize mages and punish those who resist. I am merely reminding everyone not to forget Fenris’ personal experience with magic.
Please do not downplay the severity of what was done to him. Please do not make light of his circumstances as he has every right to be weary of mages. Just do not portray Fenris as being someone who would just attack mages on sight who are not threatening him just because they are mages because Fenris has NEVER done that. So, to all of you who said that Fenris would attack Dorian if they were to ever meet - no. Stop perpetuating that Fenris is a hateful individual who can barely restrain himself.