Twilight: The Denali Coven’s Backstory Explained

The Denali Coven play a major role in setting up the climax of the Twilight saga, but the movie adaptations don't expand on their dark backstory.

The Twilight movies barely explained the Denali coven’s complex backstory, but the origins of the saga’s semi-villainous vampires explain their motives better than the adaptations did. Author Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels were a hit upon release, but the publishing success did not become a full-blown pop culture phenomenon until they were adapted to the screen. The Twilight movie adaptations were massive successes that propelled their lead actors to superstardom, despite never faring too well with critics.

While many future stars auditioned for the Twilight movies, the blockbuster saga was limited by its screen time when it came to adapting the bestselling series. The Twilight movie adaptations had to cut a lot of the series lore and many complicated backstories to keep their runtimes reasonable, resulting in a lot of fan-favorite characters getting the short shrift from the editor’s scissors before the movies arrived in cinemas. While the Denali Coven was perhaps not the most popular of Twilight’s under-served supporting stars, their complex motivations were unfortunately dumbed down by the franchise’s movies trimming their backstory.

Other than the Cullens, the Denali Coven is the Twilight saga’s only other “vegetarian” vampire family (meaning they feed off animals rather than human blood). This meant that they allied with Twilight’s central stars, the Cullen family, but a disagreement in New Moon eventually led the Denali’s group to turn their back on the Forks heroes. So, what was their missing backstory, how do they figure into the movie adaptations, and what was it about the Denali coven’s tragic past that would have ultimately made their decisions more reasonable if their past was illustrated in the Twilight movies?

The Denali Coven’s Backstory Explained

Turned into vampires in Slovakia around 1000 AD, the Denali coven lived peacefully for centuries. However, when one of their members, Sasha, had an immortal child, the Volturi discovered this and killed her offspring. After the Volturi ousted the Romanian Coven, Twilight’s oldest villainous vampires, the group knew they could not risk any immortal children being born as such a being could threaten their stronghold on power in the vampire world. This loss left the sisters of the Denali Coven devastated and the tragic killing turned them into vindictive man-eaters. Their legendary prowess at seducing and killing men gave rise to the succubus myth, with the Denali Coven feeding off human men and leaving them aside to die after getting their fill without remorse thanks to the loss of their child leaving them amoral and hopeless.

However, after a few unsatisfactory centuries, the sisters tried feeding on animals for fulfillment. Sick of villainy, one of the sisters tried the same trick as Twilight’s Carlisle Cullen (whose dark backstory saw him also align with the Volturi before deciding on his path). Finding success with an animal blood diet, the Denali Coven soon forged a bond with the equally peace-focused Cullens. They moved to Alaska and lived in isolation for centuries, content to feed on animals and avoid conflict with both humans and other vampires. However, this peace did not last long after the action of the Twilight saga began, and soon the tragic past of the Denali coven came to inform their role in the story of Edward and Bella.

The Denali’s Role In The Twilight Movies

While Tanya was attracted to Edward, he never reciprocated her attentions, meaning the coven didn’t play a major role in the Twilight series until New Moon. One of them fell for the original Twilight villain Laurent, leading them to start an all-out war against the werewolves of Forks when Laurent’s life was threatened by the shape-shifters. The Denali coven choose to ignore that Laurent was threatening the lives of the shape-shifters when they defended the villainous vampire, and as such, they were furious when the Cullens sided with the werewolves rather than a fellow vampire coven. The ensuing battle soon resulted in Laurent’s death and the Denali coven resenting the Cullens, who made their allegiances clear by siding with the werewolves. Infuriated by the fact that the Cullens faced no repercussions for their decision, the Denali coven avoided them until Breaking Dawn, when one of the group makes a fatal mistake

How The Denali Set Up Breaking Dawn’s Finale

Denali coven member Irina’s incorrect assumption that Edward and Bella’s daughter Renesmee is an immortal child leads her to report Bella and Edward to the Volturi, resulting in Breaking Dawn’s finale showdown. The Volturi arrive in Forks expecting to surprise the couple and force them to hand over their immortal child to be destroyed. However, Irina ends up being the only character killed in the confrontation, since she incorrectly reported the child as an illegal immortal and not a human-vampire hybrid. In the movie adaptation of Breaking Dawn, Irina’s choice is clearly driven by anger over Laurent’s death which she still blames on the Cullens. However, the overstuffed story of Breaking Dawn failed to find time to explain why the existence of Renesmee would be so hurtful to the Denali Coven at large.

Like many of Twilight’s vampires including Rosalie Cullen and Jasper, the Denali coven’s backstory informs their attitude throughout the series. The fact that the group’s immortal child, and the happiness and hope that it brought them, was snatched away by the Volturi following vampire law made the group feel it was unfair for Edward and Bella to get away with raising Renesmee. While Irina may have known their child was not an illegal immortal, she was likely so blinded by irrational anger that she chose to believe the Volturi would side with her anyway. After all, seeing them murder her child centuries earlier left her believing they were far from fair or reasonable moral arbiters, and therefore the least Irina could hope for is for Breaking Dawn’s Marcus, Aro, and Caius to mete out the same brutality on her enemies. It is a reasonable, believable, and tragic villain motivation and one that the Twilight series could have done with keeping intact, meaning the movie adaptation’s loss of this explanation left its characters a little less fleshed out and believable.

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