The Vampire Diaries has provided a lot of mythology and details on the family histories of the Founding Families of Mystic Falls. But there is one important character we have not been introduced to and we don’t know anything about her.
Who was Mrs. Giuseppe Salvatore – mother of Damon and Stefan? And what was her influence on her sons? I believe her relationship with Damon is the key to whom he actually is, and that is why she is so important.
When we are first introduced to Damon, he is bitter, vengeful and driven. As the series unfolds, we get glimpses of who Damon used to be – before he was turned, before he learns of Katherine’s betrayal, before the conflicts in his relationship with Elena.
Damon is the older of the Salvatore brothers, and although we don’t know how much older, he appears to be at least 4 years older than Stefan – after all, he’s not in high school any more. He was also invited into the Council, making it likely he is 5 or 6 years older than Stefan.
This means that when Damon was a child, he spent much more time with his mother than Stefan did. In fact, it is possible that Stefan doesn’t remember his mother at all. We don’t know how old the boys were when she died. All we know is that Damon spent more time with her than Stefan did – and he likely remembers her well.
We also know that Damon was the first-born. This is significant, because although parents usually love their children equally, they also love them differently. This is as much because of the temperament of the parent as it is of the child.
The first-born often occupies a special place in the heart of a mother – her first experience of birth, her first experience of unconditional love, her first experience of powerful maternal instincts. These are all significant. In fact, at this time in history, infant mortality was high. Damon’s survival would be reason enough for his mother to dote on him – at least until his brother came along.
Damon is a beautiful man, and he doubtless was a beautiful child as well. I can just imagine his chubby face with those blue eyes and the dark hair and rosy cheeks (before he acquired the pallor of a vamp). In his innocence, he must have appeared angelic. Who could not love such a child? I’m betting Damon was not just doted on by his mother – he was probably the kind of child that evoked comments from strangers.
The effect of having a first child often causes a rift between husband and wife – and there are times when the husband can actually be jealous. After all, he used to be the focus of his wife’s attention. Now she barely has time for him, with feeding and caring for a new baby, to say nothing of the exhaustion from being on call for the first few weeks, possibly months, of an infant’s life – it’s a 24/7 job. She still loves her husband but she can barely muster the energy to show it with more than a smile or a gentle word.
And not only is Damon the apple of his mother’s eye – he is doted on by virtually everyone within the Salvatore Family sphere of influence – perhaps by most of the members of the Founding Families. Damon may have even been the “first among equals” in his generation of Founding Family member children – the natural leader.
How might Giuseppe Salvatore have responded to this? From what we have seen of him, he appears to be a hard man, especially towards Damon, but also towards Stefan. (He did kill them both, after all!) Was Giuseppe Salvatore just a hard man, or might his attitude have originated with Damon’s appearance in his life? Or is he simply responding to Damon’s inborn temperament?
Opposites attract, and I imagine Giuseppe Salvatore was attracted to the woman who would be his wife precisely because she is different from him. He is a serious man, and she is carefree. She delights him. It is hard for him to show his feelings, but she is emotionally open. She enchants him. He allows himself, perhaps for the first time in his life, to be emotionally vulnerable with someone. He marries her. They share some portion of time together in an intimacy he has never enjoyed before in his life.
And then along comes Damon!
I imagine Damon as a child adored by a loving and openly affectionate mother. I see Mrs. Salvatore as a beauty from which Damon gets his coloring and his temperament – a dark-haired, blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked young woman with natural warmth and an easy humor. She clearly adores her son and lavishes praise and affection on him all his young life. She tells him how wonderful each of his accomplishments is – his first step, his first word, his first mastery of a puzzle or a toy, the first time he reads.
As a result of all this unconditional love from his mother, Damon develops into the same kind of person that his mother is – open, warm, loving, with an ability to see the humor in a situation. (We see the dark side of these characteristics later.)
I believe Mrs. Salvatore gave Damon one more important attribute – a strong moral compass. This may sound absurd – after all, we have seen that Damon is a cold-blooded killer as a vampire. But I believe this is part of a survival instinct and is not his basic nature.
Again, we need to go back in time and imagine the history surrounding the life of the young Salvatore brothers. They were – presumably – born in the south in the 1800’s – and from all appearances, they lived on a plantation. Doubtless, that plantation included slaves. How were those slaves treated? I’m guessing they were treated one way by Mr. Salvatore, and quite another by his lovely wife.
It is my feeling that Mrs. Salvatore impressed upon her young son that slavery is wrong – that we are all human beings and no one has the right to “own” another human being. Damon’s bargain with Emily was based more on these feelings than his passion for Katherine – Damon agreed to protect not just Emily but her entire family line because of his feelings about slavery – and to honor the mother who taught him that it was wrong.
Remember, the action that Giuseppe Salvatore openly condemns in his older son is his refusal to fight on the side of the Confederacy! Why did Damon take this position? I cannot imagine anything more unpopular at the time than a refusal to defend “the glory of the south”. But Damon took his stand and he stuck by it. I have no doubt this came from his relationship with his mother and her influence on him.
Mr. Salvatore appears no less “hard” towards Stefan, but he voices his disappointment in Damon in no uncertain terms. I believe that temperamentally, father and son were at odds with each other on a basic level. I also think that Damon – due to his temperament and his physical appearance – was a constant reminder to Giuseppe of what he lost when his wife died – his beautiful confidante.
Stefan is his father’s favorite, as Damon was his mother’s favorite – but how long did Mrs. Salvatore live after Stefan was born? We don’t know, but I’m guessing it wasn’t long enough to develop a relationship with Stefan the way she did with Damon. I don’t think Stefan even remembers her.
Stefan proves to be his father’s son. It is Stefan who is overcome with blood lust and kills first in order to complete his transformation – and he has to talk his brother into feeding. Damon has lost the love of his life and would be quite content to die – he has no interest in killing. Damon is his mother’s son.
Damon adored his mother and has never gotten over her death, and it is possible that – possibly without realizing it – he holds Stefan responsible in some way. Perhaps Mrs. Salvatore died in childbirth, or shortly after Stefan’s birth. This introduces the possibility that Damon has transferred those feelings (the death of his mother with Stefan being the cause) to the situation with Katherine (Katherine was captured and Stefan is the cause).
I also believe that Damon’s love for his mother is the reason for the depth of his passion towards Katherine, and then Elena – he misses the love of a good woman and probably feels unfulfilled without it, perhaps without knowing exactly why.
And when he tells Elena that he loves her but he doesn’t deserve her, I believe it is because he is seeing himself – now, as the monster he believes he has become – through the eyes of his mother, and he feels completely unworthy. He is sure his mother would be completely disappointed in him and the choices he has made.
Men can be inspired to do great things when they have the love of a strong woman behind them. This is what the young Damon Salvatore started his life with, and he’s been looking for it ever since he lost it when his mother died.
I am hoping he eventually finds it again.