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Dutch van der Linde's Complete Origin Story

VO: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
One of the main characters in the Red Dead Redemption series, Dutch van der Linde, has been through quite a bit since his first appearance in the series, so what is Dutch van der Linde's history? Join us for everything we know about Dutch van der Linde's background.
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Dutch van der Linde Origin

When we first met Dutch back in 2010, he was a shadow of his former self, ageing and delusional, and it was admittedly hard to imagine him at the helm of one of the Wild West’s most notorious gangs. His complex downfall was fully explored in 2018’s prequel with players, as Arthur Morgan, witnessing his descent into madness and desperation; but how did he rise to that position in the first place? After all, everybody has to start somewhere. Welcome to MojoPlays and today we’re exploring the origins of Dutch Van Der Linde of the Red Dead Redemption series. Be warned, there are many spoilers ahead.

Dutch is one of the most complex characters in “Red Dead Redemption,” who initially has motivations other than a desire for money or a loyalty to his brothers in arms. Of course, he certainly does want money and at the beginning of “Red Dead Redemption 2” is loyal to his comrades, but Dutch is driven by an even more elusive goal: ultimate freedom. A philosopher at heart, Dutch has a deep-seated dislike of government and believes in ultimate freedom for every man. While the United States is already the world’s leading proponent of freedom, Dutch’s idealism is much more extreme, and is what leads him to a life of crime outside of the law. He has a vision of a “savage utopia”, a world he wishes to carve for himself and the other members of the gang where they can truly live as free men, which is the dream they always find themselves chasing. Dutch is the ultimate embodiment of the idealized Old West, fearing modernisation of its lawless landscape above all else, which in turn leads him to hate the industrialists bringing technology like factories and railways across the US. He’s also seen to have some socialist ideations, firmly believing that a portion of every take be contributed to the camp funds so that the gang at large will benefit. In essence, Dutch is the epitome of everything the federal government want to stamp out, which is why they pursue him so relentlessly, though he would even rather commit suicide than find himself incarcerated. He views himself as the last line of defense between the modernization of East coast tycoons while simultaneously as a Robin Hood-esque hero of the people, of robbing from the rich to give to the poor – in theory only. In reality: Not everybody the Van der Linde Gang rob is rich, nor do they give regularly to impoverished persons outside of the gang.

But Dutch is more of a man out of time than he’d like to admit; while he strives to return to days gone by, he also preaches tolerance and acceptance that we’re more familiar with today, like having many women, like Abigail and Miss Grimshaw and racial minorities, like Lenny and Charles, in his gang. Dutch and his gang stand against many forms of discrimination we know as wrong today – like aiding the early suffrage movement, helping Native American tribes, and fighting against Guarma’s slave masters. Though as we’ll later learn, that principle doesn’t last.

This is because of the role of his father in the American Civil War, fighting for the Union for the abolition of slavery. We don’t know his name, but we know that when he died at the Battle of Gettysburg, he died a hero in Dutch’s eyes, inspiring his humanitarian philosophies and beliefs in equality and freedom. But unfortunately, Dutch’s relationship with his mother, Greta, was fraught to say the least. He was just 15 when he left home for good, in 1870, and immediately found himself on the wrong side of the law. Not a lot is known about this period, but it did see the beginning of his long-running feud with Colm O’Driscoll. The two had a brief partnership in their youth, but it eventually all went sour after Dutch murdered Colm’s brother and Colm, in retaliation, murdered Dutch’s lover, Annabelle. Little is known about Annabelle or her relationship with Dutch, but he cared about her enough to eradicate the entire O’Driscoll brood.

At some point, (though it’s unclear whether this was before or after the rivalry with the O’Driscolls was sparked) Dutch met Hosea Matthews, a con man. Supposedly both trying to rob each other at the same time, they unsurprisingly found themselves becoming friends – and Hosea became the first member, or even co-founder, of the Van der Linde Gang, in 1877. Arthur Morgan was another early member, picked up by Dutch and Hosea when he was 15, only a year after Hosea and Dutch’s alliance. Arthur was taught everything he knew by Dutch, and together the three of them recruited more and more and more. The most heavily-featured and long-running members are the same ones who return in “Red Dead Redemption” – John Marston, Abigail Roberts, Uncle, Bill Williamson and Javier Esceulla among them. John and Arthur especially became like Dutch’s children, all of them valuing their chosen family of each other much more than their long-deceased blood relatives.

But as players know, it wasn’t to last. Twenty years down the line and the Van der Linde Gang’s luck turned completely, after 1899’s disastrous Blackwater ferry heist and massacre. Players are still being kept mostly in the dark about the details of this job, but what we do know is that things went horribly wrong after Dutch shot a young woman, Heidi McCourt, in the head. This sets in motion their downfall and Dutch’s loss of sanity, as the gang are endlessly pursued by law enforcement and they become increasingly desperate. Eventually, everybody either abandons Dutch or is killed fighting by his side. And the death of Hosea allows for the dangerous Micah Bell to start manipulating his decisions, leading him to becomes the reckless radical that would be hunted down by John we’re familiar with from the first game.

When the law starts to crack down on him late in the 2nd game, he abandons his social principles mentioned earlier by manipulating the Native American population, fueling the fires of their anger against the settlers and colonists who continue to move further and further onto their land, to the point where his actions results in an all out war. He becomes bitter, selfish and while actively seeking revenge on the government; he fails to realise that “Micah” has been secretly working for the government. When Arthur discovers that revelation and brings it to Dutch; he ends up taking Micah’s word over Arthur’s, and he wouldn’t see the truth for another 8 years when John and Sadie finally track Dutch and Micah down. (Show Dutch shooting Micah and walking away, ignoring John) What ends up going through his mind after he shoot’s Micah and walk’s away is left up for the player interpretation. Though we’d be interested to know what you think.

In his final moments, he tells John that the world is changing, and he can’t stop it, but that the paradox of it all is that he can’t change, either, before plunging to his death from a mountain in West Elizabeth.
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