Eric Northman is a fictional character in The Southern Vampire Mysteries, a series of thirteen books written by New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris. He is a vampire, slightly over one thousand years old, and is first introduced in the first novel, Dead Until Dark and appears in all subsequent novels. Since the book series is told from the first person perspective of Sookie Stackhouse, what readers perceive of his character is influenced by what Sookie comprehends. HBO‘s television series True Blood is based on this book series and the character of Eric Northman is portrayed somewhat differently. A list of True Blood characters has a detailed description of Eric’s character from the TV show.
In the early books, little was revealed about his past. In the ninth book, Dead and Gone Eric revealed details about his human life as a Viking. He was deemed a man at the age of twelve. At sixteen he married Aude, his brother’s widow. The couple had six children, but only three were living at the time of his turning, two boys and a girl. Aude and their sixth child died of a fever shortly after the birth when Eric was in his early twenties. It is revealed in the television series that the vampire king of Mississippi murdered his entire family before stealing his father’s Viking crown. In the books, he was ambushed one night by a Roman vampire named Appius Livius Ocella and subsequently turned. In the television series, he was made a vampire by Godric. In the television show, it is also shown that Eric was a Viking prince, in the novels Eric says that his father was a chief. The name “Eric” or “Erik” comes from Old Norse and means “One ruler” or “eternal ruler”. The name “Norseman” was the name given to people who could speak the Old Norse Language, especially in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. The name “Norseman” means “man from the north”, hence Eric’s last name being Northman.
In the first novel, Dead Until Dark, Sookie Stackhouse thinks Eric Northman is a “hunk.” Sookie describes him as “handsome, in fact, radiant; blond and blue-eyed, tall and broad shouldered. He was wearing boots, jeans, and a vest. Period. Kind of like the guys on the cover of romance books”. He’s approximately six-foot-four. When Sookie sees him naked for the first time in Dead to the World, she thinks, “if there were an international butt competition, Eric would win, hands down – or cheeks up.” In the TV series ‘True Blood’ he is tall with long blonde hair. By the end of the first season, and a little bit into the second, Pam (his progeny) cuts his hair shorter than expected because he gets blood in it. Eric is always shown in dark blue jeans with a black singlet and a black leather jacket. When his hair is cut shorter, he parts it and combs it diagonally backwards. His personality in the series is mostly the same, Eric Northman is ruthless and does not care much for human life. His relationship with his progeny, Pam, is where you see this softer side of him come through. When they face difficult challenges and situations, Eric would put her needs above his own. By the middle of season 2 Eric begins to pursue Sookie Stackhouse because of his interest in her abilities, and by the end of season 2 Eric Northman has cunningly tricked her into drinking his blood. Near the beginning of the third season, it is implied that he is beginning to develop feelings for her, even helping her when it is disadvantageous for him to do so.
Eric is portrayed in the books as being somewhat arrogant, but having a true joie de vivre. He is confident almost to a fault, once reprimanding a thug in the third book, Club Dead, for threatening Sookie and referring to her as his “future lover” although no potentially romantic relationship between Eric and Sookie yet existed. He can be manipulative to suit his needs. He is not above using deceit though it seems to be a last resort when it comes to Sookie. However, he is typically upfront regarding any action he takes and if he is manipulative he is very frank and open regarding his wishes. Due to his frank nature, Sookie comments to herself how she can always know where she stands with Eric. Indeed, Sookie frequently remarks how conversations with Eric are seldom single layered and how he never says something without reason. He is not sentimental in the least but shows a great deal of concern over Sookie and her happiness and well-being, perhaps making the relationship between Eric and Sookie all the more impressive. Sookie believes that, although Eric has created a modest, but thriving business empire and carved out a position of authority in the delicate vampire hierarchy, at heart he remains a born-Viking warrior, ready to leap into battle at any instant.