My recollection of the revelation about Dawn's origin is that the Order of Dagon monks transformed the Key into human form and altered everyone's memories (and mundane records) so that they thought that she had always been Buffy's sister.

However, in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Classic comics, which are set before Season 5 (some before Season 1), Dawn exists.

Are the comics reflecting altered memory? So in reality Dawn should be subtracted from everything that happens? (And a Dawn-centric comic like Dawn and Hoopy the Bear is fairly pointless?) Or did the monks actually change history, and Dawn really did (in this new timeline) exist at that point?


4 Answers 4


In No Place Like Home we see the monks desperately trying to keep ahead of The Beast for long enough to perform the ritual that will transform The Key into its later form. Here is the caption seen in that episode just as they are closing a large door that might slow The Beast for a moment (it doesn't).

Caption: Two Months Ago

I suspected on seeing it that Two Months Ago was intended as a joke given the very medieval appearance of the monks and monastery (note the candle based chandeliers in the background). The film makers could've used the same set & costumes as seen in the ritual that confined Moloch to a book - which occurred some centuries ago.

OTOH it is a strong indication that whatever they did was purely memories. If the ritual changed reality, they would not have the key 'two months ago' and the entire attack would've been pointless. The moment the ritual succeeded, The Beast would have been transported to the place and circumstance that it was in, if it had not suspected the monks were holding it, which would be the case in the altered reality.

The Beast presumably kills two of the 3 monks and the 3rd escapes to America to warn The Slayer. But The Beast pursues him relentlessly, still thinking he may be of value in locating The Key.

In America, The Beast catches him & is torturing him for information. Buffy arrives and after an unsuccessful fight, cuts her losses and escapes with the monk. The Monk collapses awkwardly against a wall & they have this conversation:

M: "My journey is done, I think"
B: "Don't get metaphory on me, we're going.."
M: "..you have to.. the key, you must protect the key.."
B: "Fine, we can protect the key together OK? Just (glances over her shoulder) ..far, far from here"
M: "..many will die if you don't keep it safe"
B: "How? What is it?"
M: "The key is energy, it's a portal, it opens the door"
B: "The ..the Dagon Sphere?"
M: "No, for centuries it had no form at all, my brethren its only keepers. Then The Abomination found us. We had to hide the key. Gave it form, molded it flesh, made it human and sent it to ..you."
B: (stunned) "..Dawn?"
M: "She is the key"
B: (getting angry) "You put that in my house?"
M: "We knew the Slayer would protect.."
B: "My memories, my mum's..?"
M: "We built them"
B: "Then unbuild them! This is my life you're.."
M: (choking and coughing) "You cannot abandon.."
B: "I didn't ask for this. I don't even know ..what is she?"
M: "Human, now human. ..And helpless. Please, she is an innocent in this. She needs you."
B: "She's not my sister.."
M: "She doesn't ..know that." (dies)

Willow alludes to this again in a conversation with Tara as they are laying a protection spell around the Magic Box. Dawn passes by and wants to help, but they fob her off and she goes into the shop. Tara says something like "It's hard to think of her not being real", Willow responds "She's real, just ..new".

  • +1 for the correct piece of dialogue (between the Monk and the Slayer).
    – bitmask
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 12:17
  • @bitmask Thanks! I was tempted to trim it to just the relevant part, but didn't because. 1) It was hard to provide a meaningful context if the convo. was cut down (especially given the partly interwoven nature of it). 2) I'd gone to all the effort to transcribe it from when he falls to the ground, ..and wanted to show that effort. ;) Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 12:25

I don't have any canonical sources, but it seems to me that it must be just a question of memories. If the timeline was altered so that she had always been there, then surely she would have been born normally and not be the Key at all.

As an additional data point, there's the scene where she tells Spike about her first birthday in Sunnydale, where they rented the carousel but she had no friends to go on it. She adds something like: "But none of that really happened."

Although, in opposition to my first point, there's the fact that Buffy was compatible enough with the Key to be able to stand in for her at the end. So, maybe being born normally wouldn't have meant Dawn wasn't the Key. Er, I seem to have just contradicted myself.

  • Buffy and Willow were born and they have special powers, so I'm not sure that would apply to Dawn
    – Izkata
    Commented Sep 21, 2013 at 6:35

Dawn exists prior to the insertion into Buffy's life. Not as a person, but the key exists.

The fact that Buffy is able to come to realize that Dawn isn't human is evidence that its not a change in the nature of the universe, but a wide-field change in memories and records. In other words, a localized effect.

That the substance of the key is manipulated from Joyce and/or Buffy is conjecture, but couple that to the classical magical theory of the "law of contagion" (an item becomes supernaturally like what it's kept with), and this serves to establish why Buffy is able to substitute herself for Dawn in the season 5 closer.


People with brain problems - brain cancer in the case of Joyce, and mental health problems in the case of others - see Dawn as non-human. This suggests that it's a memory issue, that brain cancer or mental illness disrupts - and not an altered reality.

In the same sequence of episodes about Dawn's nature, there is the memory-disrupting "forget Glory is Ben" spell, and there's no question that that is just a memory issue, so changing the memories of a large number of people seems to be on the table.

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