Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham
Art: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Inaki Miranda, Andrew Pepoy, Dan Green, Chrissie Zullo, Dave Johnson, Kate McElroy, J.H. Williams III, Joao Ruas, and Adam Hughes
The Story of Frau Totenkinder
I’ve been reading Fables now for a very long time. Fables is not without it’s problems (see the Arabian Fables, see Willingham’s often too transparent politics, see the time I told Willingham how Snow White’s my favorite and he was genuinely shocked). But Fables is a world that has sucked me in. It’s created characters that I love; women characters who’d I’d toss up on that “strong women” characters list from Snow White, Rose Red, and Cinderella to Ozma, Baba Yaga, and the Snow Queen. I cheered the Blue Fairy on in her vendetta against Geppetto as much as I loved to hate Goldilocks. And a character I loved almost as much as Snow White has been Frau Totenkinder, aka Bellflower.
One of the best things about Frau Totenkinder in the entire Fables series has been that she’s an old witch whom everyone is a little frightened of. Even if she’s on their side. Totenkinder is always hiding some knowledge up her sleeve and leading the magical Fables to pull out tricks just when they need them. In the last trade paperback volume, Frau Totenkinder went from being a crone witch to a young witch again, going by her original name Bellflower. There was a smallish outcry against her reverting from crone to mother/maiden in years. In media in general, there’s a distinct lack of older female characters, and with all her power, Totenkinder was powerhouse against both sexism and ageism. Of course, Totenkinder’s story as told in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall points out that Totenkinder chose to let herself age.
Totenkinder’s de-aging back into Bellflower didn’t bother me until this volume, until Ozma said:
“She’s Totenkinder, but young again and back to using her very first name. Dangerous gambit. Opens her up to all sorts of mischief. But it might attract and focus long-dormant powers as well.”
That’s right, as an old woman Totenkinder just couldn’t kick as much ass. I guess you have to have a pretty face and a youthful body to fully be a superpowered woman. Must have been why Baba Yaga lost to the stupid flying monkey. (Yeah, I *know* she’s a villain, but I still think that was stupid.)
Willingham, I think the Go Granny says it perfectly:
So we get Bellflower going head to head with the Dark Man. I really enjoyed Osma’s observation that Bellflower isn’t scared of anything and that’s why the Dark Man’s power of fear has no effect over her. And I adored the callbacks to who she was, including feeding a bunch of sugar to the Dark Man. I thought that encasing him in gold was pretty clever.
Okay, it’s not that I hate that Bellflower got a love interest. It’s that Willingham is telling me that Dunster Happ is worthy of Bellflower, that Dunster is awesome. However, Willingham doesn’t bother to show me that. Sure, Dunster and Bellflower go on some nice picnics together and he tells her about how gold is the Dark Man’s weakness. But I don’t understand or see why Bellflower falls in love with him or wants to keep him around her. I mean, sleeping with him for information is one thing, but now Dunster and Bellflower are suddenly life partners? Willingham, why is Dunster so awesome?
My issue with Dunster becomes even larger when the Dark Man breaks out of his golden encasement and goes back after Bellflower. He seemingly kills her, and all the Fables retreat back to the Farm where they then realize that the Dark Man will know where the Farm is located and they need to flee to Flycatcher’s kingdom.
Of course, Osma, Maddy, and Dunster realize that Bellflower wouldn’t allow herself to be killed, especially since she’s been killed before and came back to life. They smartly meet her in the woods. To which Bellflower informs them that she’s given her best shot at killing the Dark Man and he won, so now she’s going to go live merry with Dunster away from all the other Fables. You know, because she deserves a happy ending worthy of a fairy tale.
Make me barf. If Bellflower was a man, she either would’ve won (Bigby) or died and then be worshiped and most likely brought back in the future (Boy Blue). I don’t believe for a second that Bellflower would let someone beat her. I can understand if she wants to pull back and gather her resources. If she’s going to wait for a while before she goes to take out the Dark Man. But no, she’s leaving with Dunster. Dunster who Willingham tells us is awesome, but I guess we’ll never know since Bellflower just was written out of the book.
I might’ve thrown this book across the room in disgust. The only thing I am glad about is that Rose Red finally freaking got out of bed. (That and we got more backstory about Rose Red and Snow White’s falling out, including meeting their mother, who unfortunately I don’t think Willingham bothered to give a name.)
I will miss you and your awesomeness, Frau Totenkinder/Bellflower. You were one of my all-time favorite awesome Fables’ women and one of my main reasons to keep reading this book.