I think first and foremost we should look back at what Mikael’s childhood might have been like. Though we have yet to see any flashbacks to this period of time, we do know one thing about Mikael’s childhood for sure: Mikael had an admiration for his father and his father was a tough man. Mikael mentions that his father trained him from when he was a little child and had he shown any weakness his father would have corrected him, adding that “mothers love their children, fathers make them strong.” We also have another hint at this sort of behaviour from Klaus when he says about Mikael that “perhaps his father made him the way he was.” In short my image of Mikael’s childhood is that his father was very rough on him and engrained in him a very warrior-like and practical mentality, drilling into his mind the importance of strength and of the idea that “fathers make their children strong.”
We also know however that later when Mikael had his first children, Finn and Freya, he was kind to them. Loving both of them greatly, though especially Freya. I suspect that while he admired his father all his life, he disagreed in part with his father’s philosophy about what it meant to be a parent. He would still make his children strong, but after looking into little Freya’s eyes for the first time he could not bring himself to not shower them with affection as well. I think this backfired the moment Freya died (or at least when Mikael thought she’d died) of plague. I think at this point Mikael blamed himself. Freya had been too weak to resist the plague that had claimed her and this was his fault for not making her strong, for spoiling her with affection. He now knew his father had been right all along and he hadn’t fulfilled his duty towards his children (making them strong like his father made him strong). He then slipped into a depression because of his grief and guilt about this, taking distance from those he loved in fear of failing them again and being himself hurt in the process (namely losing another loved one).
Klaus is Born
We also know from Esther that when Klaus was born, Mikael’s spirits were renewed. Mikael himself said that he thought Klaus had “the eyes of the warrior.” Based on this I suspect that upon Klaus’ birth he saw something in Klaus. A strength that the others had lacked. He figured that this new child would become strong and he took it upon himself to raise him right this time. To do as his father had taught him. This time he would not fail. As such Klaus became the target of all of Mikael’s expectations and came to play an important part in Mikael’s self-esteem.
However, as we know Klaus wasn’t particularly strong or good at hunting or anything like that. Instead, Klaus was artistic and sensitive. Instead of being good at fighting for survival, he occupied himself with worthless things (in Mikael’s eyes) such as art. The potential Mikael saw in Klaus seemed to remain unrealised and at first Mikael once again blamed himself. He feared losing Klaus as he did Freya, and failing as a father once again. So he decided to push the boy even harder. He would make him strong, no matter what. However, as we know Klaus continuously failed to live up to Mikael’s expectations of him. I think this had the dual effect of making Mikael distance himself further emotionally from Klaus, whom he thought was doomed to die, and at the same time making Mikael hate himself (and thereby Klaus as the source of that hatred). The feeling that he had failed as a father once again fanning the flames of this hatred. In other words, over time Mikael’s efforts to make Klaus strong turned to frustration and then to hatred of first himself and then the boy. Especially since his other children seemed to turn out just fine, so how could it be his fault, he might’ve reasoned? So in an attempt to rescue his self-esteem and to cope with his percieved failure he attributed it to Klaus (instead of placing the blame with himself).
Henrik Dies & The Truth is Revealed
When Henrik died not only did Mikael’s feelings towards Klaus grow even darker, though not dark enough not to turn Klaus along with the rest of his children, but he had also had enough of it. This second child to die pushed him over the edge and to make sure it would never happen again he had Esther turn all his children into vampires. Henrik’s death is also possibly what instilled in Mikael a hatred for the wolves. Though it is worth noting he may have had some hatred for them already considering how prideful he is. After all he and his people had to hide from the wolves every full moon. Something which I think would’ve felt embarassing to Mikael, who had been trained by his father to be a fearless warrior. It’s not very brave, after all, to run and hide from these wolves simply because they could not control themselves (in his view).
As a result when Klaus’ true heritage was revealed Mikael felt vindicated in his hatred of the boy. Relieved that all his self-doubt had turned out to be unnecessary. Mikael now knew it wasn’t his fault at all that Klaus had turned out the way he did. He hadn’t failed as a father, instead it was Klaus’ beast-like nature which was to blame. Things like Klaus’ impulsive behaviour, it wasn’t due to Mikael’s parenting. No, it was because he was a werewolf and just like the other werewolves Klaus could not control himself. As such he believed there was nothing he could’ve done that could’ve changed how Klaus turned out. Or to put it in his words: “You do not talk to abominations or try to change them, you erase them.” Most importantly he could now attribute all of Klaus’ bad attributes to the boy himself without internal conflict and release the doubts along with his feelings of guilt and shame about not being able to live up to his father’s philosophy. Him having Esther put the hybrid curse on Klaus then, was a way of justifying these thoughts further. Reinforcing the idea that the werewolfism was Klaus’ problem all along. Perhaps expecting that Klaus’ behaviour would change afterwards. Note also that Mikael still didn’t kill Klaus, despite all this. So while he might’ve resented the boy to some degree, this indicates that he might still have had lingering paternal feelings towards him. Maybe even sympathising with the boy for having been afflicted with this beast-like nature. Offering (in his mind) a kindness to the boy by cleansing him of this beast-like nature, this weakness and impulsiveness.
These last paternal feelings were crushed however when Klaus, in Mikael’s mind, betrayed him by killing his wife and then turning his own children against him. The children he’d just given up everything to protect and who were the last things he felt he had in the world. Despite the fact that he’d been a father to Klaus all his life, despite the fact that he’d attempted to make Klaus strong even with Klaus’ many failures, despite the fact that he’d given Klaus eternal life and that he’d helped Klaus be cleansed of his beast-like nature, Klaus had taken away everything from him now. Klaus had just fulfilled what had been Mikael’s worst fear ever since Freya’s death: losing the rest of his family. His mind was now made up. Nothing could cleanse this evil from this boy, he’d always remain at the mercy of his beast-like nature (even with the curse). With nothing left in this world Mikael gave himself a single goal: to kill the person who had caused all of this. And so his hatred consumed him as he wandered the world alone for centuries seeking Klaus. The more he invested in this goal, the harder it was to let it go. The more bad things happened between the two of them (since they went around fighting each other) the more hatred he developed until it became the legendary hatred we saw when we first met him.
I think Mikael was being truthful in saying he didn’t know why he hated Klaus even when he was a child, but this is why I personally think he did. No matter how correct or incorrect this analysis is though, I hope to see more of his psychology uncovered in the future (through flashbacks and the like).
- Life Among Giants – A Psychological Examination of Marcel’s Childhood
- More than a Destroyer – A Reimagining of Mikael’s Big Scene in Alive and Kicking
- He’s Back – Psychological Analysis on What Fifty Years of Suffering Can Do to the Protagonist
Copyright: The images used in this article are screenshots taken from the episodes of the show. We are allowed to use them under section 107 of the US Copyright Act of 1976. The Originals belongs to the CW and Alloy Entertainment.