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Out in the middle of New York City, characters from the old stories and fairy tales live among us in exile. Bill Willingham has taken characters we've grown up with, including Snow White, Bigby (aka the Big Bad) Wolf, Jack Horner, Cinderella, Pinocchio, Boy Blue, the Frog Prince and many more, and spins them into a realistic, modern day setting.
The characters we, the people of the Mundane World, thought were fictional have come to the real world to escape The Adversary, a despotic conqueror of tremendous power. Eventually, a number of these characters, heroes and villains alike, decide to put aside their differences and stick together in their own community. Old crimes are forgiven by signing a compact which makes them a citizen of this community, and also forbids them from revealing their true nature to the "mundies". Non-human characters who can't afford a spell to make them look human are consigned to a secluded "farm" in Upstate New York. However, those old crimes are rarely, if ever, forgotten; a major early plot point is that Bigby Wolf is banned from said "farm" for all the atrocities he committed before he reformed.
The series has encompassed mysteries, adventure, romance, conspiracies, magic, culture clashes and fly eating, and has to date won 11 Eisner Awards. As of 2008, it's the most popular Vertigo Comics title, spawning a Spin-Off, Jack of Fables, three mini-series, The Literals, Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love, and Cinderella: Fables are Forever, and one novel, Peter & Max. As of 2010 Fables is now the second longest running Vertigo title after Hellblazer.
Apparently a video game is in the works, being produced by Telltale Games.
At San Diego Comic-Con in 2011, a new spinoff called Fairest was announced. It will apparently focus on the female Fables, with the first two arcs showcasing Briar Rose and Rapunzel.
Not to be confused with Fable
Contains examples of the following tropes:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Boy Blue wields the vorpal blade.
- So does Bufkin the Monkey
- Action Girl: Cinderella
- Affably Evil: Gepetto
- All Women Love Shoes: Cinderella's cover identity.
- Almighty Janitor: Flycatcher is a literal one. Even after becoming King of Haven he still occasionally returns to mop the floors.
- A Million Is a Statistic: Utterly averted with Kay seeing Gepetto's crimes. He is completely shocked, then quickly and silently rushes back to his house to stab his eyes out again. "So many..." In that same issue Gepetto gleefully admits the number of people who died without a care.
Mrs. Cornhusk: God will judge you! Mark my words!
- An Ice Person: The Snow Queen. Snow constantly falls in an area around her and she'll only make it stop at her master Gepetto's request.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: The "Literals" embody literary concepts: Revise embodies stories changing to be more acceptable over the years, the Pathetic Fallacy is almost an anthropomorphic personification of anthropomorphic personifications, Eliza Wall is the youngest of four siblings, Dex Machina(Deus Ex Machina) who can do anything, but doesn't until it's completely impossible for a situation to be resolved otherwise, and Kevin Thorn is the Writer: he brought all the Fables into existence in the first place.
- A number of entities are considered "Great Powers" - embodiments of one concept or another. The North Wind is one, and he has four siblings. Mr. Dark is another. Based on one of the more recent issues, there is a Hope Incarnate, as well.
- All Myths Are True: But only the Public Domain ones that have come to Earth.
- All There in the Manual: The book 1001 Nights of Snowfall gives a lot of information on the back stories of the main cast before they joined Fabletown.
- Author Filibuster: Bigby supports Israel's survival tactics, telling a pajama clad Gepetto why he is blowing up his enchanted forest; Fabletown is mimicking them. For or against, you have to admit the tactics work. Which is the point Bigby's making. There have also been a few not entirely historically accurate potshots agains France, but really, Bill generally tries to avoid this.
- Babies Make Everything Better: A major undercurrent in the general story. As revealed in Peter and Max, Fables are unable to have children because Max Piper used his eldritch powers to modify an influenza strain to sterilize the population as part of his revenge on his brother back in the 1920's. Snow White and Bigby's children are considered a miracle, the first born in years. In recent issues, speculation about Beauty and Beast's newborn (the child can transform between cute infant to six-limbed furry beast) has been a background element.
- Back From the Dead: Snow White; later, half the deceased characters, in "The Good Prince".
- Explained in-universe in that a Fable's Contractual Immortality is dependent on the mundies' knowledge of their particular story. Which basically makes the much LESSER-known Fables into Red Shirts just WAITING to get Killed Off for Real.
- Sort of all the Fables thrown down the Witching Well, once Fly comes for them.
- Badass Bookworm: The Page sisters from Jack of Fables.
- Badass Family: Bigby, Snow White, the North Wind, Rose Red, and the kids.
- Badass Israeli: Bigby sympathizes with Israelis because whenever anyone attacks them, they strike back a lot worse.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Bufkin. The Magic Mirror said it best.
His wrath is slow to waken but terrible to behold.
- Big Bad: Several:
- Big Badass Wolf: Bigby Wolf
- The Big Bad Wolf: Take a wild guess.
- It's hilarious when you realize that's what his name is. Big B. Wolf
- Big Good: Snow White until Mr. Dark shows up; Red Rose then takes the roll but only after an epic Refusal of the Call.
- BLAM Episode: The Great Fables Crossover.
- Blasting Time: How magic users lob destructive spells.
- Blue and Orange Morality - The D'jinn have no concept of good and evil.
- The Bluebeard: Trope Namer present and accounted for. Swears he doesn't kill wives anymore.
- Brick Joke: Jack Of Fables has the infamous Tortoise and Hare starting a race to freedom from the Golden Boughs Retirement Village during a breakout attempt in issue 4. 28 issues later after the entire community has been destroyed by a prolonged battle and eventual volcanic eruption the Tortoise is just crossing the outer treeline, confident his tyrannical warden will not keep him imprisoned any longer. 18 issues after that, as part of the Kill'Em All finale, the Tortoise is run over by a truck.
- Brother-Sister Incest: The Page sisters turn out to be Jack's sisters, though none of them knew that at the time.
- Notably they're all disgusted by this revelation, Robin, however, is apparently turned on by it as well.
- Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Totenkinder vs. Mister Dark, who ultimately had to throw the match when she realized how outclassed she was.
- Time will tell if the same happens to Ozma.
- Cain and Abel: Peter and Max Piper.
- Came Back Wrong: Not as extreme as other examples, but a couple characters have issues since their resurrection. Snow White, at least until recently, has needed a cane to walk since she got shot. All of the guys Flycatcher brought back exist in his presence and with his permission.
- Can't Grow Up: Pinocchio.
- Casanova: Jack
- Chekhov's Gun: The egg in Snow White's office, Frau Totenkinder's knitting.
- You know that story somewhere in the third volume about the Barleycorn girls? How it really doesn't seem to advance the plot or characterization, but just throw in another element of the world? Bufkin uses his knowledge of the girls existence to fight Baba Yaga.
- Chekhov MIA: Gepetto.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Ozma
- The Chessmaster: The Adversary (Gepetto) on one side, Frau Totenkinder on the other.
- Continuity Drift: Happens often. Legends in Exile, the first arc, has many differences compared to the later stories. Such as Snow White and Prince Charming. In Lo E she pushes all the blame for their marriage falling apart on him cheating on her with Rose Red and it's revealed he can never stay true to a woman. In 1001 Nights of Snowfall however, he's a good man who rejects the advances of several woman while married to Snow, who admits when the story is done that the marriage started falling apart when Snow killed the seven dwarves out of revenge, which nearly lead to a war between two kingdoms, but she wasn't willing to admit what she had done to prevent said war. Charming had to fake a confession from a prisoner to keep the peace. (Then again, Snow herself has admitted that she's given to omitting or selecting various truths while examining her complicated personal relationships.)
- Cool Airship: The Glory of Baghdad. It's an airship powered by flying carpets.
- Cool Hat: Although there's a shortage of hats in the stories, Flycatcher's frog-cap most certainly counts as one.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Bufkin. So very much.
- Culture Justifies Anything: When the Arabian Fables join Fabletown, they are told they will have to free their slaves. The Arabian Fables object, claiming that slave ownership is part of their culture. King Cole then says that Fabletown will honour their custom of owning slaves, if they agree to honour Fabletown's custom of executing slaveholders wherever they find them. The Arabian Fables agree to free their slaves.
- Curb Stomp Battle: The entirety of War and Pieces. The forces of Fabletown use the technology and tactics of the Mundy world to strategically incapacitate the Empire's capital. By the time the Empire can mount a successful counterattack, Fabletown is already mostly victorious, and Prince Charming's Heroic Sacrifice is all it takes to seal the deal. It helps that Gepetto is practically catatonic with grief over the loss of his "children" in the previous arc, but if this were the actual end of the series, instead of the midway point, it'd be a bit anticlimactic, no?
- Foreshadowed first in Animal Farm, and again in March of the Wooden Soldiers (when the first thing the wooden soldiers, the elite warriors of the Empire, do upon arriving in Fabletown is acquire guns, because without them they would have had no chance), and again in Homelands (where a single man, albeit with some impressive magic gear, infiltrates the entire Empire all the way to the capital, assassinates the emperor, and discovers Gepetto's secret. The way the Empire handles the situation, killing off the low-level official who was clever enough to piece together the truth because he knew too much tells us all we need to know about the ability of the Empire's political system to respond to external threats), and again in Wolves (where again a single enemy, using a syngergy of magic and technology infiltrates and destroys the Empire's most powerful strategic resource.) Finally Lampshaded by the Snow Queen herself in War and Pieces. The Empire was an overextended paper tiger with a glass chin. Oppressive to its own, and dangerous as an aggressor, but not very resilient at all when it is itself attacked. This may have been planned from the beginning as a subversion of the usual Evil Empire/Unstoppable Horde trope.
- Also much of The Good Prince. While Flycatcher doesn't defeat the empire entirely, he beats army after army and eventually the elite forces of the Empire, the wooden soldiers.
- The events of the stories leading up to War and Pieces didn't help the Empire's case - the death of Bluebeard left the town flush with cash, the attacks of the wooden soldiers took out the most powerful contingent of the Empire's forces, and Lumi's plan, known thanks to Frau Totenkinder's spy games, left the Empire sorcery-free when the attack did come. That, and the Fables had guns
- On a one-on-one level, the first fight between Totenkinder and Mr. Dark really looked like this; Totenkinder a.k.a. Bellflower took minimal damage because she didn't have any fear, and she was willing to show the full range of her power in battle. Of course, it didn't take.
- Cute Bruiser: Bigby during the Great Fables Crossover after the Big Bad turns him into a little girl in a pink dress. Lampshaded by Horror (who herself looks like a cute little girl), who says "The sweeter they look, the more dangerous they are! Believe me, I know!"
- Death Is Cheap: Parodied by Superhero, who is the Anthropomorphic Personification of the superhero genre and is known to be constantly dying and resurrected.
Science Fiction: Our kid brother Superhero has died so many times that the readers barely even notice anymore. A few years later--BOOM, there he is again.
- Deconstruction Crossover: For fairy-tales and nursery rhymes.
- Kevin Thorn is not amused
- Destructive Romance: the relationship between Jack and Rose Red has more then a hint of this even from the start, with Rose Red eventually realizing that they only brought out the worst in each other. When she later reconnects with him, it's out of pure self-hatred. Their new relationship drags her down even further.
- Deus Ex Machina: Aside from being an actual character in the Great Fables Crossover, lampshaded by Science Fiction, who holds the firm belief that a surprise legion of Nebularian attack cruisers will show up at the last moment, because otherwise, how would they win at the end?
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Fables = Jews, Empire = Arabs, Haven = Israel. "Next year, in the homelands."
- More like Empire = Roman Empire. It was, after all, the Romans who invaded Israel, burned the Temple, and forced the Jews into exile in order to make Israel part of the Roman Empire - much like how the Adversary chased the Fables into exile when he made their Homelands part of HIS empire. When Jews say "Next year in Jerusalem", or refer to the Diaspora (exile), that's what they're referring to - not anything to do with the Arabs. It's a much neater parallel, except for the fact that the Roman Empire isn't still around. Still, I would say that it fits better.
- Eagle Land: North America has its own fable version consisting of The Colonies, Antebellum, Lone Star, Steamboat, Gangland, The Frontier, Idyll, The West, and The Great White North.
- Peter and Max revealed that these lands were planets/physical planes of their own, so you could call it Planet Eagleland. The Homelands consist of enlarged versions of every continent/region on the globe.
- Ensemble Darkhorse: Jack is an in-universe example, as he is the "star of every story [he's] in."
- Evil Chancellor: In the Arabian Nights story arc, Sinbad, well-meaning but culture-shocked ruler of the Arabian Fables, has an evil vizier, Yusuf.
- Eldritch Abomination: What's inside a bagman. Mr. Revise has his moments too.
- Totenkinder has moments of this...
Frau Totenkinder: Remember what you saw on that rooftop that you wish you hadn't.
- Excuse Me While I Multitask: Frau Totenkinder defeating Baba Yaga without stopping her knitting.
- Exposition of Immortality: Tommy Sharp plans to do this to the Fables living in Fabletown. He's been gathering evidence of their inhuman nature; following Bigby and photographing him shapeshifting, but also checking back on the title deeds of the land and buildings in Fabletown - all owned by members of the Fable community since old New York was New Amsterdam and early photos of them dating back into the 19th Century which show that none of them have aged.
- Eye Scream: Kay, because he can't bear the sins of others and is cursed to view every single one of them every time he looks at anyone. When he looked upon a certain "kindly" old toymaker, he fell to his knees in horror at what he saw.
Kay (with a knife to his eye): So many....
- Fake Defector: Rose Red in Animal Farm. We are not told in advance, and her sister believes it. She does it not in order to reach the bad guy, but in order to keep her sister and her alive.
- Faking the Dead: Rose Red and Jack stage her death
- Fantastic Nature Reserve: The Farm.
- Fantastic Racism: Gepetto's wooden soldiers are disgusted by creatures of flesh, particularly Fable and Mundy humans, who they derogatorily call 'meat'; they can't understand why any of their number would want to turn into a thing that excretes, gurgles, requires food etc. Actually offering them food is, to them, the gravest of insults, as at least two people have found out to their cost.
- The Fettered: Beast
- Foe Yay: Cinderella and a gender bent Dorothy Gale.
- Frankenstein's Monster
- Game Face: Bigby, Beast, Grimble and a few other fables with glamours.
- Gender Bender: In Cinderella: Fables Are Forever, Ivan Durak turns out to be Dorothy Gale in disguise. In a Shout-Out to Willinghams old, and much nastier, The Elementals book.
- Good Is Not Dumb:
- Good Thing You Can Heal: Jack. Theorized to apply literally.
- Happily Married: Beauty and Beast and Snow White and Bigby
- Heel Face Turn: Gepetto was forced to do this.
- Also Revise, just as reluctantly.
- Bigby too, as part of the backstory.
- Heroic BSOD: Rose Red after Boy Blue dies.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Prince Charming at the end of War and Pieces. And Humpty Dumpty in Turning Pages.
- And now the North Wind
- Hidden Villain: The Adversary does have a true identity, but it's kept under wraps for quite awhile.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: In Peter and Max Max's desire to possess the ancestral Frost makes the flute the only thing in the world that can pass through his magical defenses. Peter realizes this and stabs Max in the heart with the flute.
- I Have Many Names: Jack has the name of almost every "Jack" in fable history under his belt, plus a number of other aliases that have the name Jack in them. For example, he went by the name Jack Candle when he was an outlaw in the late 19th century.
- Resulting in the deaths of a number of people who foolishly called his name last-name-first (accidentally saying "Candle, Jack") when reading off a list of
- Immortality: The Fables seem to usually fall under the Immortality Only type, though they always can't age and their immunity to injury seems to be based off their Popularity Power, and so, their immortality varies between them. Note that none seems to find their inability to die outside of being killed to be a Blessed with Suck case, despite what the Immortality Only phrase will link to on the Immortality article. Geppetto's wooden soldiers also seem to fall under the Immortality Only type. However, as they all, well, made of wood, their immortality extends into Undying, the only thing that stops them from being effectively Perfect Immortal is their wood can break. Not that it stops them from trying to kill you. They also burn ... just not quickly enough for it to count as a weakness in combat time.
- Intellectual Animal: The Fables living on the Farm.
- In Which a Trope Is Described: Every single issue.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Flycatcher, Jack Frost
- Insufferable Genius: Count the number of appearances Doctor Swineheart makes without bragging about how he's the greatest surgeon to ever live. It will not be a large number.
- The Jersey Devil: He's in the Golden Boughs Retirement Community.
- Kangaroo Court: Buffkin's trial in Oz.
- Kill'Em All: the rather unsatisfactory end of Jack of Fables
- Killed to Uphold the Masquerade
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Freddy and Mouse as Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser
- Let's Get Dangerous: Boy Blue shows he's still got the chops when he singlehandedly invades the Empire, throws the entire territory into distraught when he kills several high ranking officials including the emperor himself, rescues Red Riding Hood, meets the Adversary in person, and still manages to return home alive.
- Bufkin of all, ahem, people. Complete with declaration of war.
- Lilliputians: All of Littletown (well, some of them aren't actual Lilliputians}
- Lilliputian Warriors: The Mouse Guard
- Loads And Loads And Loads Of Characters: Well, duh.
- Loophole Abuse: Briar Rose. AKA Sleeping Beauty. You know the story. One prick from a pin and Briar and everyone around her fall into an irreversable sleep. Only the kiss of a prince who "truly loves" her can break the spell. In the modern world, when Briar Rose is out buying jewelry she accidentally sticks herself. With no Prince Charming immediately available, it is fortuitous that the police responding to the incident happened to bring a detection dog named "Prince".
- Lost in Imitation: Bill Willingham has stated that he only wants to use public domain characters in Fables, but he did one tiny mistake in the "Animal Farm" storyline: King Louie of The Jungle Book appears briefly - Even though he's not in Rudyard Kipling's book, only in the Disney movie, which is not public domain. But by the time Mowgli himself appears, in a later storyline, Willingham clearly has done the research, as Bagheera refers to Mowgli as "little brother" and Baloo refers to him as "little frog". Those were nicknames used in the book.
- Loveable Rogue: Jack, though his lovability comes and goes.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Prince Charming is Jack's father.
- Made of Evil: Mr. Dark
- Magical Native American: Parodied with Raven in Jack of Fables.
- The Man Behind the Man: Gepetto.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover
- Masquerade: The Fables have to buy glamour to hide their supernatural identity, and those who cannot afford it are sent to the Farm.
- Monsters Anonymous: Their Masquerade has elements of this, since fables who can't get over their specific tics or natures are forced to live on the farm.
- Mr. Exposition: Happens a few times over the series, in which characters will inform others of a specific character's best traits. Most noticeable in The Good Prince in which Blue tells Fly that he is the purest and most noble Fable in existence and was the only one who signed the compact that didn't have sins to forgive.
- #100 tops it. Nurse Sprat was always a background character who never got any screen time unless someone was in the hospital. But in this issue we get her whole character motivation from Snow, who informs Sprat that she has always been a nasty woman and it's just because she's ugly and is surrounded by beautiful people. Before then, she was always presented as an overworked nurse dealing with ungrateful patients and limited resources.
- Masquerade Maintenance: Rapunzel has to go to the barber a lot in order to pass.
- Multiple Choice Past: Jack has at least three backstories, two of which are clearly in conflict (he was both created wholecloth from a spelling error, or was the result of a union between a Fable and a Literal). The departure of the Literals has also created some degree of this.
- The Mole: Ichabod Crane, sort of. In himself he was simply a very lonely, awkward, and unstable clerk, alone for centuries, who was seduced by Cinderella to see if he would crack if approached. Also the first and second Red Riding Hoods. The Tortoise and the Hare, as well as the Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker, all of whom were spies for Mr. Revise.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Turns out the Empire was holding back some pretty scary forces
- No Bisexuals: Averted in volume 2, when Rose Red says she is over the time she slept with girls, with the exception of once a year as a birthday present for Jack, meaning she is not a lesbian. Goldilocks is blessed with even more Squick on several occasions.
- Possibly averted with Dorothy Gale who, in the guise of Ivan Durak, sleeps with Cinderella. The only problems are that a) we aren't given conclusive evidence about Dorothy's sexual orientation and regardless, b) she may have only slept with Cindy for the sake of her mission and not out of any sexual desire for her (latent or otherwise).
- No Fourth Wall: Several of the literals in Jack of Fables address or refer to the audience.
- Actually, it wouldn't necessarily be fair to say that there is no forth wall in Jack of Fables... there definitely is. In fact, she narrates a few of the issues.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: In The Dark Ages, the magic sustaining Fabletown fails, forcing everyone to flee New York for The Farm.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The witch duel at the end of March Of The Wooden Soldiers. We never get to see it.
- Once an Episode: Every issue of Jack features a page devoted to the rich and often hilarious fantasy life of Babe the Blue Ox.
- Babe is caught off guard, to say the least, when he gets a second page.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Beauty and the Beast. It's possible that their names really are Beauty and Beast, but since they always use pet names for each other, it's hard to tell.
- Older Than They Look: Pretty much everyone, but lampshaded with Pinocchio.
- One Steve Limit: All the Jacks of all the stories with the exceptions of Jack Spratt, Jack Ketch and Jack Frost (in The Great Fables Crossover) are the same guy, though "the" Jack was the original Jack Frost and is the father of his namesake/successor.
- Orcus on His Throne: Pretty much justified in the case of the Emperor who, while powerful, was not so godlike that he could have single-handedly won a war. His time was clearly better occupied running the Empire ( as instructed by Gepetto). Played straight with Mr. Dark.
- Orgy of Evidence
- Our Zombies Are Different: It turns out Idyll is filled with polite, sort of sentient, non-brain eating zombies who may have used to be Pleasantville style Eagle Land Americans.
- Overdrawn At the Blood Bank
- Papa Wolf: Bigby, quite literally.
- The Paragon: Flycatcher.
- Perma Stubble: Bigby Wolf. No matter how much he shaves, it always comes back.
- Pimped-Out Dress: The Snow Queen's dress.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The Mouse Police.
- Popularity Power: One speculated source of the eponymous Fables' powers. The more popular the story about a Fable is, the more powerful they are. For example, Snow White recovered from a sniper's bullet to the skull — her sister, Rose Red, might not have survived since most people have forgotten her part of the fairytale — Frau Totenkinder is one of the most powerful Fables in existance because she is every anonymous witch in folklore, and Goldilocks raises this to a level bordering on Blessed With Suck when she discovers she can't heal any faster than the fish are eating her.
- Jack Horner, who is every Jack in fairy tales (except Jack Sprat), exploited this by going to Hollywood and making a trilogy of movies about him. He's now effectively immortal, but not invincible.
- It also has the effect that Fables' powers are different in different areas. Baba Yaga is powerful in Russia, but in America, Frau Totenkinder is far more powerful, because more people know, say, Hansel and Gretel, than know Baba Yaga's stories. (Logically speaking, therefore, the most powerful of the Arabian Fables once they arrive in American Fabletown ought to be Aladdin, but that wasn't really gone into.)
- It's actually brought up more than a few times within the series, but Frau Totenkinder has expressed doubt that it actually works that way.
- Pretty in Mink: The Snow Queen has a fur wrap.
- Prince Charmless: Prince Charming is this to his ex-wives.
- Punch Clock Villain: The majority of Gobs are just working stiffs.
- Punny Name: Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf. He was given his name sarcastically by his brothers when they were all babies and Bigby was the runt of the litter.
- Purple Prose: Mocked by the Genre Fantasy. When she's introduced along with the other Genres, each one of them is given a short little snippet to describe them. Fantasy's starts by talking about how her beauty is matched only by her magical ability, and then abruptly gives up with an "...Oh, screw it." Additionally, most of her speech is of this variety.
- Puss in Boots: Frau Totenkinder. Yes, you read that right. She owes her life to the sisters Snow White and Rose Red. That's why she's on the side of Fabletown.
- Really Gets Around: Prince Charming. He claims to have had over a thousand romantic conquests by the time he was 15. Also part of the reason none of his marriages lasted.
- Really Seven Hundred Years Old: All the Fables, but most notably Pinocchio, who is eternally a real boy, just as he wished for.
- Retired Monster: Mainly Gepetto. As demonstrated in his war planning session, he would gladly have slaughtered all the people of Earth through High Octane Nightmare Fuel biological warfare, and is in no manner repentant... he isn't the least bit better than all the worst tyrants in human history. Frau Totenkinder started by sacrificing her own baby to demons to slaughter her own people, and continued to murder thousands of children in blood-rituals to keep her power afterwards, which she strictly abused to inflict inventively cruel and very disproportionate "punishments" on anybody she pleased, sometimes when showing up as the unseen evil force in assorted stories.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Considering that quite a few of the main characters are from fairy tales, where royalty is fairly common, this trope gets used a lot  To take just a few examples: King Cole as former Mayor and then ambassador to the Arabian Fables; Snow White as Deputy Mayor, to be succeeded by Beauty; Beast replacing Bigby as Sheriff; Cinderella is a spy; Sinbad is a relatively good king in his own right despite his treacherous vizier. Even played fairly and straight with Prince Charming; he initially went for the post of mayor to reap the material benefits but when conflict with the Empire loomed and then broke out he proved himself to be surprisingly competent when it came to plotting warfare and espionage. Even before he got elected he had his moments, when he uncovered the plots of and subsequently killed Bluebeard.
- Santa Claus: He's a Fable himself...and possibly one of the most powerful of all of them.
- Scam Religion: in The Great Fables Crossover, the belief in Blue Boy temporarily turns into this as Jack takes over as its shepherd.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Mister Dark, literally.
- Shout-Out: Freddy and the Mouse are clearly analogues of Friz Lieber's sword and sorcery characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.
- The Liliputian settlement at the Farm is called Smalltown. They originally wanted to call it Smallville but the name was rejected because everyone thought it was dumb.
- During the Fables Crossover, at one point Babe the Blue Ox, who normally engages in non-sequitur flights of fancy, imagines himself to be an Expy of Snoopy.
- Sibling Rivalry: Snow White and Rose Red. Most of the time played straight, for Rose cheated on Snow with her husband. And in Animal Farm we are led to believe this is also part of the reason for Rose to side with the revolution, but later it is discovered she did it to save her sister's life.
- The Sociopath: While most villains in the series skirt this (the Adversary, Mr. Dark, Bluebeard), the clearest example is Max Piper in Peter and Max. On the other side, under Heroic Sociopath, Jack, Frau Totenkinder and the North Wind all have their moments.
- Stealth Pun: Animal Fables live on "The Farm" — where do parents tell their kids their dead pets go when they die? Not to mention, a certain book by George Orwell...
- Taken literally by reporter Tommy Sharp as he gathers information on Fabletown (see Exposition of Immortality above); Sharp believes "sent to the Farm" to be a euphemism used by the Fables for killing dissident members of their society.
- Story-Boarding the Apocalypse: The Sons of Empire arc is basically this. First played straight, then subverted. Check the trope's entry for all the gory details.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Frankenstein's Monster was animated by the Nazis during World War II, only to be stopped by Bigby and a band of allied soldiers.
- Sudden Humility: Prince Charming (who has the ability to do Exactly What It Says on the Tin) manages to win an election against Mayor Cole (Old King Cole), who had held the position for centuries by that point. After a while, Prince Charming's reign begins to fall apart, and he realizes just how difficult it is to actually be in charge. King Cole remarks that it's not easy being the guy in charge--because that's the guy everyone will blame when something goes wrong.
- Tactful Translation: When the Arabian Fables come to Fanbletown, Sinbad can't speak English and Charming can't speak Arabic so King Cole has to be the mediator. Charming acts very direct and commanding, but King Cole's translations are much more gentle. He also does the opposite, translating Sinbad's politeness as direct commands to Charming.
- Take a Third Option: The North Wind swore an oath that no wild zephyrs would be allowed to live. When he discovers that Bigby and Snow sired one, he must either kill his grandson or have Bigby defeat him in a deathmatch. The first would irreparably damage his relationship with Snow and the grandkids (not to mention destroying what little relationship he has with his son), and the second is impossible as Bigby's not strong enough to beat his dad. Instead, the North Wind commits suicide and takes Mister Dark with him. This ends Mister Dark's war against Fabletown and releases the North Wind from his oath.
- Ted Baxter: Jack, reaching epic heights when he narrates Jack of Fables.
- Theory of Narrative Causality: Played straight, inverted and subverted every which way. And then made a lot worse in Jack of Fables.
- The Atoner: In his origin story it was revealed that Bigby used to eat thousands of innocent people alive For the Evulz, including children going by Red Riding Hood.
- Subverted in that he wasn't born or raised with any human morals, being a wolf, and so doesn't really feel guilty. His priorities just changed after reconnecting with Snow, which is intensified when she bears his cubs. He's still technically a monster, now he's just a husband, leader and dad too, which his canine nature takes far more seriously.
- And 1,001 nights of snowfall reveals that Red Riding Hood, and subsequently the painful encounter with that one lumberjack, was Bigby's first actual experience with humans. Considering his accelerated growth, he could easily have been even younger than her at the time.
- Thirteen Is Unlucky: All the witches live on the thirteenth floor of the Bullfinch building.
- This Loser Is You: " Nothing you do will ever be as cool as Jack of Fables"
- Took a Level In Badass: Flycatcher, full stop. Also Boy Blue, so much so that, even though he's dead, he's basically now revered as a god by the Farm Fables. Similarly, the leader of this new religion, the badger Brock Blueheart(formerly Stinky) is able to do a One-Winged Angel thing because of the power of the belief in Boy Blue.
- Trapped in Another World: Subverted. They trapped themselves willingly and can go back whenever they want, it is just that the Big Bad conquered and destroyed their home world, making it a Doomed Hometown.
- Undefeatable Little Village: In the album "The Good Prince", The Empire is severely shaken by such a village, having sent more troops against it then it could afford to lose.
- Unwanted False Faith: Boy Blue only wanted to be a regular guy. He became a war hero out of necessity, but hated the cruelty and slaughter that war entails and really preferred to simply be an office clerk. One of the main reason he participated in the war effort was his hatred for tyranny. After his death, a cult springs up around him. His worshipers long for him to come back as a bloodsoaked tyrant slaughtering all who stand in his way and indulge in the most blatant and unfair forms of nepotism. Of course they consider this a good thing, using rhetoric very similar to how the Adversary justified his own reign of terror.
- The above refers to how this religion comes across in it's early story arcs. Later story arcs might show how the whole thing turns out.
- Urban Fantasy
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Bigby Wolf can do this, making this what would appear to be a case of Our Werewolves Are Different--different in that he never had the ability to turn into a human being, until the opportunity came to him to get it. Or, more accurately, he renounced the ability to shape change that he could have inherited from his father, and had to have it given back to him through a voluntary cut from a blade "cursed" with lycanthropy. It has been theorized that, though he consciously refused to use his inherited ability, his desire to become the largest, most fearsome creature around subconsciously tapped into that power, enabling the runt of a litter of normal-sized wolves to become a monstrous canine larger than a Clydesdale.
- Beast was granted this upon taking over the office of Sheriff from Bigby, when Frau Totenkinder (who, unbeknownst to Beast, was the witch who cursed him in the first place) and the other Fabletown spellcasters altered his curse to a transformation at will, in order to give him muscle on par with Bigby's when needed to enforce Fabletown law.
- Wham! Episode: Issue 100.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist Geppeto may have killed millions in the expansion of his empire, but, as he stated, that empire created security for the millions of those who abided his laws for hundreds of years... well, until the protagonists brought it down.
- Cinderella's Fairy Godmother also embodies this trope.
- Wicked Cultured: Bluebeard
- Will They or Won't They?: Snow White and Bigby Wolf.
- Comprehensively resolved in due course.
- Then replaced with Boy Blue and Rose Red and eventually resolved there as well.
- Then replaced with Flycatcher and Red Riding Hood. Not resolved yet, but clearly heading for a happy ending. This one is more due to Flycatcher being a bit obtuse around women.
- What Could Have Been: Originally, Geppeto wasn't going to be the Adversary, it was going to be Peter Pan, that's right, according to That Other Wiki, anyway, basically, Peter Pan came to our world to steal children so they would become more corrupt, and Captain Hook was the hero, trying to save the children, but the creator didn't use this because Peter Pan wasn't public domain in Great Britain, so he went with Geppeto, a wise decision according to him. There are still some hints in earliest issues about this being the case. For example, the first depiction of the Adversary is as the Greek God Pan, who no doubt would have been linked to Peter Pan directly if the original vision wen through and the story's earliest rumors were of him being a corrupt woodland sprite or demigod (which would fit Peter Pan perfectly).
- Winter Royal Lady: Lumi, the Snow Queen.
- The Wizard of Oz: Homeland to Bufkin, Ozma, and the Nome King. Starting in issue 114, Bufkin returned to Oz, kickstarting a revolution against the king.
- Writer on Board: Bill Willingham has a markedly conservative bent and sometimes expounds on his beliefs.
- Your Taboo Is Our Normal: Owning slaves in Arabian Nights Days. Leading to the rejoinder "As long as you'll accept our venerable custom of hanging slavers wherever we see them."
- although, technically speaking, because of certain factors such as divorce or having to escape to another world, the titles are kind of defunct.