WARNING: SPOILERS. This node goes all the way up to season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Anya is a character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, played by Emma Caulfield. She has many different names, as I will explain in depth below, but the name she chooses to go by presently, which is mostly made up to make her seem more human, is Anya Christina Emmanuela Jenkins. Her character is one of the more interesting characters on the show, because she is a thousand year-old ex-demon who is adjusting to being human again. While this may sound a little trite, Emma Caulfield pulls it off well, creating an original performance that really speaks to what it means to be human. I have updated this node because her character recently received a lot of attention, and a lot of information about her past has been developed, making her another of Joss Whedon's brilliant creations.
Anya grew up in Sjornjost (presumably an imaginary Swedish village), around the year 880 AD. She was a normal human woman, and she went by the name of Aud. She was married to a large man named Olaf, and like any woman of that time, she lived only to serve her husband. She cared for him desperately, and clung to him because he gave her life a purpose. She also happened to like bunnies, which she raised, and which breeded quickly. She talked to Olaf about being generous and giving away for free their surplus of rabbits, but he told her that her logic was, to paraphrase, insane troll logic. She was a normal woman, if a little inclined to speak her mind too much.
Then came the day that she found out that Olaf had cheated on her with the bar matron. This was a bad day for Olaf, and a bad day for humanity too, in some regards. Anya became so angry at Olaf, since he was all that she knew, that she cast a spell to turn him into a Troll. How she learned to do this is left up to speculation, but in the Buffyverse, it's not so strange. Presumably, this incident, and Olaf's equation of rabbits to breeding, led Anya to despise men and fear bunnies.
That day, as Olaf terrorized the town, Anya was visited by D'Hoffryn, a demon whose attention she had drawn. She was given an offer by D'Hoffryn to become a vengeance demon, in particular, so that she could punish men who scorned women. D'Hoffryn gave her the name Anyanka, and she accepted both the name and the position. She said goodbye to her human life and was made into a demon, who would go on to incite chaos and torment in the world for the next eleven hundred years.
Anya grew into a particularly nasty vengeance demon. The power of a vengeance demon lies in wishes, which they could horribly twist to exact pain in men or whoever they desired. Anya's powers were almost singlehandedly responsible for the 1905-07 revolution attempts in St. Petersburg. She amassed a thorough knowledge of some of the worst beasties that existed, and whenever she felt that a wish left enough wiggle room for one, she would conjure it up to wreak some havoc. One girl, wishing her boyfriend to be a worm, turned her boyfriend into an enormous worm demon that could tunnel its way up through sidewalks. One girl wished for some frat boys to feel what it's like for their hearts to be ripped out, so Anya summoned a spider demon that fed on their hearts. She took great pride in her work. It was more than just a job, it was her life.
Then came the one wish that changed everything. Anya stumbled in to Sunnydale, where she found Cordelia, one of the members of Buffy's group of demon hunters. This was Anya's first appearance in the TV show, and it wasn't until later episodes that her past was elaborated on. Cordelia had just been seriously hurt by Xander, and wanted revenge. Anya was there to help her get it. But when it came time for Cordelia to make her wish, she was blaming her relationship on Buffy, and so she wished that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale.
This changed everything. Obviously Buffy was a vampire slayer and therefore had made a huge difference in Sunnydale's history. Anya was extremely pleased with this wish, because it had created a very dark alternate reality where most of Buffy's friends were vampires. Giles managed to try to keep things from getting too bad, and through Cordelia he found out what happened. He did a spell to summon Anya to him after researching her, and then he destroyed her necklace, which was the center of her power.
The world was set right again, but Anya had lost her powers. She had become a human again. She went to D'Hoffryn and tried to get him to make her a demon again, but D'Hoffryn has always cared more about pain, and being human again was a very big pain for Anya. She decided to cast a spell to regain her necklace from the alternate reality, but she and Willow accidentally conjured vampire Willow, which was pretty bad, but ended well. Meanwhile, Anya was stuck being a thousand year-old ex-demon who was too young to order beer.
Having nowhere else to go, Anya stayed in Sunnydale High, which was where she had been when she lost her powers. Then finally as the prom approaches, she reveals that her human feelings have been getting the best of her when she asks Xander to go to the prom. He goes with her because he doesn't have a date, and all she does is talk about the horrible things that she's done to men over the years. By the end of the season though, big trouble is coming and Anya tells Xander to run away with her, but he doesn't, and she is instead let in on the Scooby meetings because, being a thousand years old, she knows a lot about the thing that is coming.
Everything works out as OK as possible, and Anya is left still with her crush on Xander. They begin to date somewhat seriously, and she lends her vast knowledge of all things demon to the group whenever she can. The group finds that she is very literal, does not understand any pop culture references, and likes to speak her mind even when no one wants to hear it. In particular, she often talks about having sex with Xander.
Anya: *sigh* Look at him.
Willow: Very... diggy.
Anya: Soon he'll be sweating... I'm imagining having sex with him again.
Buffy: Imaginary Xander is quite the machine.
It is interesting the way her personality is used by Joss Whedon. He often uses her as a way to vocalize the thoughts that everyone is thinking. She grows to understand her humanity, but still she is always very straightforward, and while this is usually comical, it has a strange dramatic effect when used in the right situations, such as when she describes her feelings about Joyce
's death in The Body
Anya: Are they going to cut the body open?
Willow: Oh my god. Would you just stop talking?... Just... shut your mouth... please!
Anya: What am I doing?
Willow: How can you act like that?
Anya: Am I supposed to be changing my clothes a lot? Is that the helpful thing to do?
Willow: The way you behave...
Anya: Well, nobody will tell me!
Willow: Because it's not okay for you to be asking these things!
Anya: But I don't understand! I don't understand how this all happens... How we go through this. I mean I knew her, and then she's.. there's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore. It's stupid, it's mortal and stupid! And Xander's crying and not talking, and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, "Well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever and she'll never have eggs, or yawn, or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why!"
Beyond just being a tool of the writers, Anya has been developing an interesting personality that can best be explained by the game of Life
. Anya lived for a thousand years, and suddenly she has become mortal again, and this scares her a lot. She knows she only has about 50 years left of her life, and this makes her feel like she's in a big hurry. She was very eager to marry Xander, and very eager to begin having babies, and exceptionally eager to begin making money.
While playing Life with Dawn and Xander, Anya discovered her true lust in life. She was feeling bad during the game, which she obviously expressed, because she was burdened with a husband and three children and had more money than she could possibly manage. When Xander and Dawn told her that this meant that she was winning, she suddenly became very excited, and her whole perspective on life changed. From here on out, money became very important to Anya.
Buffybot: Anya! How is your money?
Anya: Fine! *laughs* Thank you for asking!
Because of her care and skill with money, Anya became Giles' employee at the Magic Box
. Besides that, her knowledge of magical artifacts was also extensive, so she made the perfect employee, except for her horrible people skills. Everything worked out okay, though, and Anya was beginning to find her place in society, in America
. She considered herself very patriotic because of her role in the dominant ideology of America - capitalism
Everything was great for Anya until Xander proposed to her. She was upset for a while because they couldn't tell their friends they were engaged at the time. They finally became able to tell them, and she thought everything was going to turn out great, especially after Xander conjured a musical episode to make sure that he and Anya would have a happy ending. But then came the wedding, and Xander realized that he wasn't ready to get married, and that he didn't trust himself marrying Anya because of his father's history of being an abusive husband. So Xander left Anya at the altar, taking away everything she knew again. She didn't hesitate to return to D'Hoffryn, who took her back and made her a demon again.
So for a while Anya tried to be a demon again, even after realizing she couldn't use her powers to exact vengeance on Xander. Her heart was never really in it, though, and she seemed to care more about her friends than vengeance. Before long, she finally tried to grant a wish that was particularly bloody, the wish I mentioned above with a spider demon ripping out the hearts of some frat boys.
After this wish, though, Anya's conscience got the best of her, and she asked D'Hoffryn to take her life to undo the wish (since apparently this was somehow different than the wish done with Buffy not coming to Sunnydale, though this is never explained). D'Hoffryn instead kills her friend, Hallfreck, a fellow vengeance demon, and strips Anya of her powers. Once again, he tells her that he wouldn't kill her because he wants her to feel the pain. And feel the pain she does.
Xander tries to comfort her, not quite wanting to get back with her yet but wanting to offer his help, and Anya finally changes her ways. She declines his help, because she realizes that her entire life she's been clinging to whatever came along. She clung to Olaf, she clung to her job as a vengeance demon, she clung to Xander, and she clung to her job at the Magic Box (which had, at this point, been destroyed). She decided that she was done clinging to whatever came along, and has decided to try to experience the world by herself for a change.
She still helps the group, since a big evil is in Sunnydale right now, but Anya has become much more independent than ever before. She has grown as a human being, and like all of Joss's characters, that growth is very much evident. She is no longer callous, sex-crazed, and emotional. It's as if she had gone from being a child into being an adult. And above all things, she is still absolutely terrified of bunnies.
Xander: That's your scary costume?
Anya: Bunnies frighten me.
Demon: Well I'd better back off or you might, what, pull a rabbit out of a hat?
Anya: Don't do that! Why would she do that!?
Anya: Bunnies aren't just cute like everybody supposes! They've got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses. And what's with all the carrots, what do they need such good eyesight for anyway? Bunnies, bunnies, it must be bunnies! ... or maybe midgets.
Anya: GOD! Who would put something like that there? Is this supposed to be some sort of sick joke? I mean, things aren't bad enough!? This is an omen.
Xander: Hey, hey, shhh...
Anya: No no no, it's an omen. It's a higher power trying to tell me through bunnies that we're all going to die!