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Prior to living in Sunnydale, Buffy lived in Los Angeles. After being expelled and the divorce of her parents, she moved to Sunnydale with Joyce, where Joyce now owns an art gallery.

Buffy arrives seemingly unaware that she has a watcher waiting for her (it could be theorized that she is just in denial).

From Welcome to the Hellmouth:

GILES: Can I help you?

He is British, of middle age, with a quiet intensity.

BUFFY: I was looking for some, well, books. I’m new.

GILES: Miss Summers.

BUFFY: Good call. I guess I’m the only new kid.

GILES: I’m Mr. Giles, the librarian.

BUFFY: Great. So you have, uh, --

GILES: I know what you’re after.

He leads her to the check-out desk by the door. His office can be seen behind it.

He pulls a book out and slides it toward Buffy. Huge leather bound, with a single word set in gild in the cover.

“VAMPYR"

Real concern floods Buffy’s face, along with the understanding. She steps back from the desk, eyes on the librarian.

BUFFY: That’s not what I’m looking for.

GILES: Are you sure?

BUFFY: I’m way sure.

GILES: My mistake.

Buffy's Wikia page states that Buffy was predestined to move to Sunnydale, but is unsourced.

Little did they know that the town was located on a Hellmouth, and that Buffy's presence there was predestined.

The pilot episode also tells us that Giles was only recently transferred to Sunnydale

WILLOW: It has that effect on most kids. I love it, though. It’s a great collection, and the new librarian’s really cool.

The closest thing we hear to a reason for the move (aside from being expelled from school) is that Joyce "wanted to."

CORDELIA: Oh! I would kill to live in L.A. Being that close to that many shoes… Why’d you come here?

BUFFY: Because my Mom moved, is the reason. I mean we both moved. But my Mom wanted to.

So, with Giles having been only recently sent to Sunnydale in anticipation of Buffy's arrival, we can assume that the Watcher's Council either knew, or had reliable information that Buffy and Joyce would be moving to Sunnydale.

Even if their move was "predestined" as the wikia states, there is no particular guarantee of when they might move to Sunnydale. (Or is there?)

Was this move to Sunndydale influenced by some sort of machinations of the Council or any other force?

  • 4
    Well, there IS that alternate universe Anya made where Buffy never moved to Sunnydale - it's entirely possible that Slayer families are just compelled to move towards hellmouths...which would explain why Heavy Metal is so popular in Sunnydale... – Zibbobz Jul 22 '14 at 13:41
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    I vaguely remember a dialog, Sunnydale High being the one school to accept Buffy despite her record. If that's true, the council is likely to have staged it, as conveniently the school just happened to need a new librarian. The council does have the resources to make things like that happen. – Einer Jul 22 '14 at 14:33
  • @Einer: then again, Sunnydale High probably just needed all the warm student bodies it could get, what with its famously high mortality rate. – Paul D. Waite Jul 22 '14 at 16:59
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    @PaulD.Waite True that! The fact that they are able to maintain that those things just don't happen (even if their mayor turns into a giant snake and stuff) is what really qualifies this series to be "mystery"! Compared with that daemons and vampires sound reasonably plausible. – Einer Jul 22 '14 at 17:10
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    @Einer Given that it was the Master running the Wishverse, I actually believe the sheer number of vampires was keeping the other nasties in check just enough prior to Buffy's arrival that Buffy upset the balance and made the non-vampire threats worse than they would have been. And vampires being night-only, it was easier for humans to keep a lid on them... – Izkata Jul 23 '14 at 0:07
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I think that the same episode, Welcome to the Hellmouth, addresses your question just a few minutes later.

GILES You have no idea what’s going on, do you? Do you think it’s coincidence, your coming here? That boy was just the beginning.

BUFFY (turning) Oh, why can’t you leave me alone?

GILES Because you are the Slayer.

and shortly thereafter

GILES What do you know about this town?

BUFFY It’s two hours on the freeway from Neiman Marcus.

GILES Dig a bit in the history of this place and you’ll find there’ve been a steady stream of fairly odd occurrences. I believe this area is a center of mystical energy. Things gravitate toward it that you might not find elsewhere.

We know that the Slayer has powers due to the influence of the magic of a demon's heart. It seems likely that Buffy herself is one of those "Things...that you might not find elsewhere." She was drawn to the hellmouth by the same mystical forces that draw demons to it; she and Joyce just view it as chance. Even in the Wishverse Buffy winds up at the hellmouth in Cleveland instead of the one in Sunnydale. Perhaps The Council sent Giles to Sunnydale because it was geographically closest to the location of The Slayer; it made sense that she would wind up there instead of at a more remote hellmouth elsewhere.

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    Then again, it wouldn't be too much of a shock to think that the Council might have someone stationed at each Hellmouth. – RDFozz Nov 26 '18 at 23:01
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In the alternate universe where Buffy never came to Sunnydale (i.e. the "Wishverse"), Giles seemed disappointed that Buffy had never arrived. This indicates an expectation that she WOULD arrive, so we know at least that the Council knew ahead of time where Buffy would be enrolled after Los Angeles, and positioned Giles there intentionally.

Now, the attitude that the show takes toward the Hellmouth changed over the course of its run: by the end it was a well-known phenomenon, with frequent jokes to there being another in Cleveland, but in the pilot Giles is deeply shaken to discover that there is one in Sunnydale. He even has to translate the term, not recognizing the Spanish phrase "Bocca del Infierno" immediately, and talks of it as if it is a singular, previously unknown mystical hotspot.

So basically, we're left with two options, depending on whether you go with the pilot or the later show's lore:

Option 1 - The Hellmouth was previously unknown by the Council

In this version, based on Giles' reaction in the pilot, the Council had no idea that there was a Hellmouth in Sunnydale and simply sent Giles to meet Buffy at the school where she'd enrolled. In this case, the Slayer's location was probably unimportant before the discovery of the Hellmouth (as implied by the globe-hopping nature of the Slayer line, and the fact that until Kendra and Faith, most Slayers seemed to stay and operate wherever they were born).

If this is the case, Buffy's move was likely influenced by the mystical draw of the Hellmouth itself, which could have drawn Buffy's and Joyce's attention subconsciously, like Bilbo casting about in the dark and finding the One Ring, until they decided to settle in Sunnydale.

Option 2 - The Hellmouth was known to be in Sunnydale

On the other hand, if the Council knew exactly what was in Sunnydale all along (as implied by later episodes of the show), that makes it unlikely that it was a coincidence that she would move there. In that instance, the Council likely used their influence to make other schools reject Buffy in an attempt to "herd" her toward Sunnydale, where Giles and her sacred duty were waiting.

Conclusion

It's impossible to say with certainty which is the "true" story, it largely depends on how much weight you put on Giles's surprise about the Hellmouth in the pilot. Was it genuinely unknown to the Council before that? Was he just not in the loop? Was it unique, or had he just never encountered one before?

Certainly Giles was very well-read on topics like this, but then every episode saw him encountering demonic knowledge with which he was unfamiliar and which required further reading. But on the other hand, if he had been sent to Sunnydale because the Council knew there was a Hellmouth there, surely he would have been briefed on its existence?

It's largely up to the audience to decide, but it likely falls into one of those two options.

  • 1
    In that same episode (the Wishverse episode) there's mention of Buffy actually being in Chicago (was it Cincinnati?) where another Watcher is stationed. It seems from his phonecall to that city that there are watchers stationed over various hotspots in the world. – Zibbobz Oct 2 '14 at 19:56
  • @Zibbobz Very true. And come to think of it, in that episode Giles mentions to the other Watcher that "Sunnydale sits on a Hellmouth," and then insists, "that is so!" That would seem to support the idea that the Hellmouth was unknown before Giles and Buffy discovered it during the pilot. – Nerrolken Oct 2 '14 at 20:10

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