Fractured Fairy Tales: Cassie-la Talks “Fables” by Bill Willingham

Fables by Bill Willingham
Genre
: Fiction, fantasy, fractured fairy tales, comic book, talking animals make me smile
Rating: 4.589 out of 5 stars

Summary: After being driven from the Homelands by a villain known as the Adversary, fairy tale characters seek safety in New York City. Hidden in their new home, Fabletown, they strive to keep their existence hidden from Mundys and fight to reclaim their old lives.

Featuring Snow White, Rose Red, Boy Blue, Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella, and every other fictional character in the public domain that you can dream up, Fables is a comic book collection 14 volumes strong and growing.

This series piqued my interest for three reasons: the gorgeous cover art by James Jean, my love of non superhero themed comic books, and the fact that it’s centered around fractured fairy tales.

Simply put, fractured fairy tales are fairy tales altered from their original form and given new plot elements, new settings, and occasionally different resolutions. They are recognizable and yet wholly different. For example, a story in which the Wicked Witch puts Sleeping Beauty under a spell to quell the cannibalistic tendencies within her and is simultaneously set on the moon and features everyone as over sized Heterodontosaurs would be a prime example of a fractured fairy tale.

Fables, while enjoyable, but not nearly as ridiculous as my example is set mainly in Fabletown, a street in Manhattan hidden by various spells in order to protect the Fables that live within. It is run by three major players: the Mayor (Old King Cole and later Prince Charming), the Deputy Mayor (Snow White/Beauty), and the Sheriff (Bigby Wolf/Beast). They run the town from the business office, keeping track of and using the gold they were able to smuggle out of the Homelands to do business with Mundys (AKA us normal non-fictional humans), and protect various artifacts such as the Vorpal Sword, the magic mirror, the Witching Cloak, Frankenstein’s monster’s head which was fabricated by Nazis, etc. Much less helpful is the adorable Bufkin, a flying monkey who hails from Oz and is the worst librarian of all time.

Any Fables who are not able to blend into the normal human population (generally because they wear clothes, walk on two legs, and can talk) or those who break any laws are sent to live on the Farm in upstate New York. Headed by Snow White’s scandalous sister Rose Red, the Farm is populated by memorable characters such as the Three Bears, the Three (and later Two) Pigs, Thumbelina, Peter Cottontail, the Cheshire Cat, the dish and the spoon, Poe’s Raven, and about a bazillion other characters whose appearance will bring a smile to your face. The Farm is also briefly inhabited by Goldilocks, who strikes up a rebellion with her lover Baby Bear, inadvertently referencing Lord of the Flies by impaling Colin the pig’s head on a spike. Despite his lack of a body, Colin continues to be a recurring character in the series.

The main goal of a large majority of the series is the reoccupation of the Homelands. With the invention of fairy tales and fables came the creation of the Homelands, its occupants being breathed into creation by the collective imagination of man. The more popular the Fable, the harder it is for that Fable to die. The lands in the Homelands include Oz, Wonderland, The Kingdom of the Great Lion (most likely Narnia), Thrumbly Warrens (inspired by Watership Down), the Cloud Kingdom (think Jack and the Beanstalk), Lilliput, Nottingham, Atlantis, and the Arabian Homeworld (where Aladdin and Sinbad- the fictional character not the washed up comedian- live). Despite the popularity of these places and characters, the unnamed Adversary (who I will have to keep a secret) is able to kill a large majority of the population and run the Fables into the Mundy world, where they really on their literary popularity to keep them timeless.

Originally, Bill Willingham wanted the Adversary to be Peter Pan, who would steal children to keep them young forever. This would also enable him to portray Captain Hook as the unsung hero. However, the Peter Pan stories are not in the public domain in every country, and cannot be tackled until they enter it.

As with most fairy tales, the characters take center stage. The two main characters of Fables are without a doubt, Snow White and Bigby Wolf (AKA the Big Bad Wolf), who end up in an intimate relationship despite the fact that they have no knowledge of ever doing the horizontal surra de bunda. These two are unrequited love at its best.

Bigby has the ability to turn from human to wolf at will, and after retiring from the position of Fabletown Sheriff, moves to the edge of the Farm referred to as Wolf Manor and plans the reacquisition of the Homelands. As with a lot of the characters, he has a dual role in Fables, as both the wolf who blew down the Three Little Pigs homes and the wolf who ate Little Red Riding Hood. Snow White led a tragic beginning, from being sexually abused by the seven dwarfs to having her sister Rose Red sleep with her husband Prince Charming, to being imprisoned by the Adversary. Thankfully her life takes a decided upswing from here on out.

As with Bigby, who serves several roles in fairy tales, Prince Charming is representative of every nameless Prince mentioned in various fables. He’s dashing, handsome, and a bit of womanizer after the downfall of his first marriage. Charming has been married to and divorced from Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. The only Prince who he is not directly linked to is the Frog Prince, AKA Flycatcher and is the janitor for the Fabletown business offices, and comically wears a giant toad shaped hat. Due to his inability to control the curse put upon him (i.e. turning into a frog), he witnesses the rape and murder of his wife and daughter at the hands of the Adversary’s troops.

Another big player, now with her own comic book series Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love, is the glass slippered princess who was also married to Prince Charming. She owns the shoe shop in Fabletown, the Glass Slipper, but has a double life as a secret agent for Bigby. Viewed as a vapid blonde by everyone around her, Cindy is actually a kick-ass, sexy spy helped along by other major players such as one of the most prevalent villains in the series, Frau Totenkinder. Along with Ozma, Frau is a powerful witch who uses her powers to help Fabletown, and has since been forgiven for putting curses on Flycatcher, the Beast, Rapunzel, and for trying to eat Hansel and Gretel.

There is also Jack Horner, the only other Fables character to have a spin-off series: Jack of Fables. He is not representative of Jack Ketch or Jack Sprat, but is rather an amalgamation of Jack Horner, Jack and Jill, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack Frost, etc. Jack is an attractive villain whose ideal date is long walks on the beach and taking advantage of women.

THE GOOD:
-Fractured fairy tales make fairy tales even more lovable
-Recognizable characters bring the smiles
Fables bring out the darkness (my inner goth = all smiles… Evil smiles)

THE BAD:
-After the Adversary is “destroyed” the series loses a little luster

In traditional fairy tales and fables, the characters appear to be decidedly good or evil, but Fables chooses to make their alignment ambiguous. It takes the dark side of fairy tales and makes them darker. Fractured or not, Fables serves up heaps of fairy tales with a side of morbidity. And just like Hansel and Gretel they are delicious!

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4 thoughts on “Fractured Fairy Tales: Cassie-la Talks “Fables” by Bill Willingham

  1. GAH I LOVE THIS SERIES. I seriously need to catch up (can I borrow??).

    Charming is one of my favorite characters. He is so awful but awesome, lol. I love Jack too.

    When I was in middle school one time they hired a professional storyteller (I have no idea where they found her, that is clearly a dying art) to come in and entertain us, and she told us a Jack story. I don’t really remember it, except that at one point he woke up a skeleton that put itself together piece by piece, and the lady made the most amazing sound as she acted out the bones coming together. When I read the story in Fables where Jack bags Death, it reminded me of that storyteller. I really love how Fables plays on all different kinds of traditions.

    Do we know if they’re still planning to make this a TV series? Do you think it’s a good idea, or do you think it would suck?

    • Definitely! I think you left off on Volume 8, so you’re about 6 volumes behind.

      I love “Fables” more than a lot of things, but it definitely lost a lot after they took down the Adversary. But oh the reveal, you’ll be shocked. I know I was.

      The last I heard, another very similar series was pitched but was not “Fables”, that the pilot was in the writing process but according to Bill Willingham was probably dead and would never happen. I thought when “The Walking Dead” proved so popular that it might revive it, but so far I haven’t heard anything. Although I highly doubt the series would translate well to screen. It probably would have been depressingly awful.

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