Fairy Tales 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I think the most intriguing perspective of critically analyzing Fables: Legends in Exile comes from the way that the characters are translated. In a sense, what we have here is one type being exchanged for another. The Big Bad Wolf becomes the hard-boiled detective Bigby. Snow White takes the role of strong-willed female bureaucrat Mrs. Snow who helps him solve the case, instead of Prince Charming we get a misogynist cocksman. It's only appropriate that fairy tale characters, transported to a modern setting, would take on the role of types. They know nothing else. Their entire existence is based on playing a role, that of their fairy tale archetype. Although they've been shifted temporally, they have no choice but slip back into predetermined roles. The are incapable of creating their own original identities. Even the plot calls attention to its own recognizeability. It's the classic noir narrative. A grizzled, experienced detective tries to solve the case of a missing girl, searching through clues which point every direction, before one last clue finally solves the case. The entire story is so typical, in a sense, that during the "parlor scene", the creator admits its own lack of originality. But just as with the fairy tale characters which populate this story, whose identities have been adjusted, the "parlor scene" has been adjusted as well. Instead of inside a parlor, the scene takes place on the roof of a building beside a pool. These are characters whom have been ripped from their typical settings, so it would be appropriate that a classic scene of hard-boiled stories would too take place in an unusual setting. As


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  2. I love the connection with how fairy tale archetypes must become modern archetypes to "survive" in our world, though I sort of wonder how much of that is a conscious decision of the author and how much is just artistic laziness (not that I didn't enjoy the story!). I also thought the by-the-numbers hard-boiled detective story was an interesting counterpoint to the fairy tale for a number of reasons. The fairy tale values spectacle and persistent action, while film noir tends to develop a story deliberately and with a great deal of reserve (especially regarding action scenes, which Fables often omits). Now, a short glance at Wikipedia makes it seem like Willingham opens up the plot fairly quickly in subsequent volumes (Prince Charming in particularl appears to shed his stereotype), but to introduce this world through a contradictory (though equally conventional) storytelling tradition was a fascinating choice.

    I also liked how the short story that covers the Big Bad Wolf in his "natural" fairy tale environment reads nothing like a fairy tale. Subversive!