Magical beings of legend... hiding in plain sight.
You're lying now, because you always lie. Jack:
Not this time! Snow White:
Jack, did you ever hear about the boy who cried wolf? Jack:
Sure, he lives up on the seventh floor. So what? Snow White:
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 14 Eisner Awards. As of 2008, it's the most popular Vertigo Comics
title, spawning the Spin-Off
titles Jack of Fables
, three mini-series called 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
, but the series will come to an end with it's 150th issue, due for release in 2015.
video game titled The Wolf Among Us
was developed by Telltale Games
. It is confirmed to be
canon and a Prequel
to the comic.
Not to be confused with Fable
Contains examples of the following tropes:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Boy Blue wields the Vorpal Blade.
- Later on, so does Bufkin the winged monkey.
- Action Girl: Cinderella, who's an undercover spy while running a (naturally) shoe store on the surface.
- Adaptational Heroism: The Big Bad Wolf was an antagonistic, man-eating wolf in the past, but developed into an Anti-Hero after falling in love with Snow White and becoming Sheriff for the Fable community.
- Adaptational Villainy: Geppetto and Goldilocks. In their respective stories, Geppetto is a benevolent, fatherly figure while Goldilocks is nothing more than a harmless, if annoying, intruder. In the comics, on the other hand:
- Gepetto is "the Adversary", the vicious tyrant who has crushed thousands of fantasy worlds and murdered billions, all in the name of peace.
- Goldilocks is a vicious rabble-rousing anarchist who stirs up revolution just for the fun of seeing people fighting.
- Hansel, one of the protagonists of his fairy tale, grows up to become a sadistic witch-hunter and Fantastic Racist who, among other heinous acts, murders his own sister.
- The Three Little Pigs have grown into ruthless leaders of the Farm's revolution, something they exemplify by killing their youngest brother when he fails to retrieve information for them.
- Prince Charming is a promiscuous Jerkass, though he sometimes slips into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory.
- Affably Evil: Geppetto.
- The Ageless: The Fables 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. Geppetto's wooden soldiers also seem to fall under this. The only thing that stops them from having effective Complete Immortality is that 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.
- 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.
- 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 Geppetto gleefully admits the number of people who died without a care.
Mrs. Cornhusk: God will judge you! Mark my words!
Geppetto: If he does, he'll think he's looking into a mirror.
- An Ice Person: The Snow Queen. Snow constantly falls in an area around her and she'll only make it stop at her master Geppetto's request.
- And That's Terrible: Everybody in the story keep underlining just how detestable Prince Brandish supposedly is, and mind you, he is a smug wife beater, so he definitely is bad as such (not to mentioned he also murdered one of their own). However, this comes as an massive departure from sweepingly overlooking or justifying enormously greater atrocities and malevolence from other characters, including some of the protagonists, so in the end it just comes across as extremely odd or even slanted.
- 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 three siblings (the other Cardinal Winds). Mr. Dark is another. On one of the more recent issues, an incarnation of Hope makes an appearance as well.
- Anti-Climax: Bigby and his children meet again after four years and their reunion gets no focus at all?
- The sheer speed by which the Fables disable the Adversary's Empire was off putting to many, considering for how long the Empire was held as this vast all powerful menace. While this may be a brilliant subversion of the unbeatable Empire and the Sauron-esque Evil Overlord tropes by showing how politically fragile it would be (it has many of the weaknesses that real world dictatorships have), and how Muggles Do It Better when it comes to heavy weaponry, it can still seem disappointing.
- The actual Deader Than Dead end of Mister Dark might seem this way given the Deus ex Machina way he is finally destroyed. However, given that there was a suitably epic battle between him and Frau Totenkinder earlier in the arc, most readers will forgive the way the unstoppable threat he represented got ended so quickly by Bigby's father, the North Wind, especially given the Tear Jerker way it happens.
- Jack of Fables introduces characters who are essentially gods of writing tropes and the creators of the fables, which would cause a huge existential crisis to the community. This factor is not explored in the slightest when Bigby and Snow meet Mr. Revise and at the end of the crossover their memories are erased.
- Anti-Villain: Mr Revise is a Type III/IV. He kidnaps Fables and Literals to strip them of their memory and revise their stories, essentially rewriting history to make them less dark. Yet it is necessary to bring order and stability to the often dangerous magics and personalities of the Fables and Literals (especially from Kevin Thorn, who can rewrite reality without caring who he hurts). He stabilized the laws of physics, letting science advance and refused to resort to the murder his brother Bookburner espoused.
- Ascended Extra: A trait in Fables is that characters who appeared as bit extras when the series first began, over time, gradually grow into supporting characters, and even become the main characters or villains of certain arcs in some cases.
- Anyone Can Die: Played oh so very, very straight.
- Army of the Dead: In The Good Prince, Ambrose takes advantage of the fact that all of his subjects from beyond the well are technically ghosts, and summons their forms as such to take out the Adversary's army through pure fear, by having the ghosts enter their innermost psyches.
- The Atoner: Therese in Cubs in Toyland. After Dare sacrifices himself for her benefit, Therese spends years in a state of depression due to her grief. When she snaps out of it, she's become an adult (time passes differently in Discardia), and explains to her subjects, the toys of the land that they are going to redeem themselves for the deaths they caused by going out into the Mundy world and making an effort to prevent other children from dying the same way their owners did. For the most part it's worked. Thanks to Therese's efforts, Toyland is now a bright and living world.
- 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 1001 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.
- Author Filibuster: Bigby supports Israel's controversial military tactics, telling a pajama clad Geppetto why he is blowing up his enchanted forest; Fabletown is mimicking them. There have also been a few not entirely historically accurate potshots against France.
- Author Tract: The praise of Israel's most militant policies, the not entirely historically accurate sweeping extreme dislike of France as a nation that takes pride in ingratitude, the lambasting of sign-style protesters as savages, calling the American Civil War "The War Of Northern Aggression", the portrayal of tax collectors as goblins to be killed, the possibly somewhat Unfortunate Implications about assorted Middle Eastern Fables. Along with a condemnation rating scale that isn't remotely relatively proportionate to the crimes. Some characters are offhandedly killed off or condemned for enormously lesser offenses than ones who are forgiven for an essentially unforgivable scale. Also the time when Snow White vehemently rejected the idea of having an abortion, as well as the implication that because Frau Totenkinder no longer kills children to sustain her powers, she now gains power from abortion clinics...
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Bigby and Snow. In the early issues, she shoots him down whenever he tries to flirt with her, but eventually reveals that it was more her being put off by his half-assed attempts, and implies she wouldn't turn down a direct request for a date. When she gets pregnant after their enchantment-caused liason, she is initially angry at him (he knew about it from her scent as soon as he woke up from the enchantment, but didn't tell her) and is at first intensely worried about the damage to her image, then spends several weeks avoiding Bigby. But when the Adversary's army of wooden soldiers attack Fabletown, Bigby saves the day. Finally realizing the depth of his love for her, she dashes downstairs(heavily pregnant, and in the pouring rain) and gives him a gigantic hug in front of pretty much everyone of importance.
- 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 decades. In recent issues, speculation about Beauty and Beast's newborn (who can transform between cute infant to six-limbed furry beast) has been a background element.
- Back from the Dead: Snow White in the Animal Farm arc.
- 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 during the The Good Prince arc.
- Thus far averted in the case of Boy Blue, who tells Bigby in the afterlife that he wouldn't be coming back. In the same issue, it seems that the same is true for Darien.
- Morgan le Fay, Rose Red, Snow White, the Lady of the Lake, the Snow Queen, Bellflower/Totenkinder, Beauty, Briar Rose and Bo Peep in Fairest in All the Land.
- Badass Bookworm: The Page sisters from Jack of Fables.
Baba Yaga: I've never heard of such a creature. What are his powers?
Magic Mirror: He reads. He reads everything.
- Badass Family: Bigby, Snow White, the North Wind, Rose Red, and the kids.
- Badass in Distress: In Storybook Love, Bigby attempts to ambush Goldilocks but ends up bested by her filling him with bullets, which, while it doesn't kill him, temporarily wounds and slows him down. If it hadn't been for Snow White driving an axe through Goldilock's skull while she was too busy building a fire surrounding Bigby, things would likely have looked bad for him.
- Badass Boast: Frau Totenkinder gets one toward the end of March of The Wooden Soldiers.
Frau Totenkinder: I was always stronger than you thought. Killed a dozen times, but it never took. Even burned to ashes in my own oven, I came back, after a good while. How's that for a frail old biddy, eh? Now you hush and let me finish my knitting. Time to stop struggling and let the deep darkness take you. Your stories are all done, Baba Yaga.
- Badass Israeli: Bigby sympathizes with Israelis because whenever anyone attacks them, they strike back a lot worse.
- Ballistic Discount: Three of the Adversary's wooden soldiers come to a gun shop to stock up for their impending assault on Fabletown. While it's a fair bet they weren't going to pay, it doesn't even get that far—they're so outraged by the shopkeeper refusing to hand over the guns until after the waiting period that they leave his dead body pinned to the wall with multiple sharp objects, along with a note telling the "meat" to be more polite to their superiors.
- Battleaxe Nurse: Mrs. Sprat. In issue #100, after Snow White calls her out on her nasty personality, Sprat reveals she became a nurse for the chance to have any of the so-called "pretty" Fables on their backs and completely at her mercy.
- Beautiful All Along: Flycatcher aka the Frog Prince, revealed in The Good Prince.
- Becoming the Mask: After killing the original Beauty, a lamia took her place. But she stayed so long in that guise that she eventually became Beauty... Except for those times every few decades when she snaps out of it and goes on a murderous rampage.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Bufkin. The Magic Mirror said it best:
His wrath is slow to waken but terrible to behold.
- Big Bad: The Adversary aka Geppetto, Mr. Dark, Max Piper aka the Pied Piper of Hamelin and the Crooked Man (from The Wolf Among Us) all serve as major antagonists, with various minor ones including Goldilocks, Dorothy Gale aka "Silverslippers", the Fairy Godmother, Prince Brandish, Bloody Mary and Carl Harp. Surviving Imperials such as Baba Yaga, Hansel and the Nome King also pose minor threats.
- And, more recently, then there's the prophecy concerning Snow White and her sister Rose Red.
- Bigger Bad: Hadeon the Destroyer and Kevin Thorn.
- The Big Bad Wolf: Bigby, naturally. 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 role but only after an epic Refusal of the Call.
- Flycatcher becomes this as well after creating his own kingdom of Haven.
- Big Damn Heroes: Usually done by Bigby.
- Big Lipped Alligator Moment: Invoked by Snow and Bigby, who decide to treat The Great Fables Crossover as this since the matter appears to have been closed, and they have plenty of other things to worry about without the bizarre meta-concepts complicating things further.
- Bi the Way: Rapunzel has relationships with both male Fables and the female Kitsune Tomoko. Nobody treats this as a big deal. Frau Totenkinder calls her a "slut", but that seems to be due to her having any kind of sexual relationship at all; the gender of the partner is not remarked upon.
- Prince Charming also touches upon this trope as well in The Return of the Maharaja, where he mentions that he too has loved men, and does not find anything wrong with another man being in love with him.
- Blasting Time: How magic users lob destructive spells.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Prince Charming's three (ex-)wives, Cinderella, Snow White, and Briar Rose respectively.
- Also applies to Snow and Bigby's daughters (Therese, Winter and Blossom respectively).
- Blue and Orange Morality: The D'jinn have no concept of good and evil. Bigby was raised with wolf morals, but has adopted a degree of human morals. Mr. North is a living embodiment of the north wind, far older than any of the Fables, and a king so his sense of priorities and morals can be very different.
- The Bluebeard: Trope Namer present and accounted for. Swears he doesn't kill wives anymore.
- Book Burning: The stock-in-trade of Bookburner, one of the Big Bads from Jack of Fables.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Fairest reveals that the Snow Queen's Face-Heel Turn (contrast her appearances in flashbacks from Jack of Fables to her current state in Fables), was due to Geppetto keeping her drugged with ten thousand years' worth of patented "blue loyalty cocktails". Her time asleep thanks to Briar Rose finally got the crap out of her system, but we've yet to see if she'll remain the person she became or change back.
- 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 half-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. She ultimately had to throw the match when she realized how outclassed she was.
- Cain and Abel: Max and Peter Piper respectively. More recently, we learn this will be the fate of Rose Red and Snow White.
- Came Back Wrong: Not as extreme as other examples, but a couple characters have had issues since their resurrection. Snow White needed to use a cane to walk for years after she got shot. All of the dead Fables Flycatcher brought back in The Good Prince exist in his presence and with his permission.
- Revealed to be the fate of Bigby at the end of issue #141.
- Can't Grow Up: Pinocchio.
- The Casanova: Jack and Prince Charming (Like Father, Like Son, after all).
- 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 during the Mr. Dark arc.
- Chekhov M.I.A.: Geppetto.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Ozma.
- The Chessmaster: The Adversary (Geppetto) on one side, Frau Totenkinder on the other.
- Babe the Blue Ox, judging by his fantasies.
- Mr. Dark can come across as this as well. He's often seen carrying on a conversation with his two Mooks, but since he's the only one we actually see talking, it seems like he's just imagining them talk (or maybe he really is...)
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Winter is chosen to be the North Wind. She's eight years old at the time.
- Continuity Drift: Happens often. Legends in Exile, the first arc, has many differences compared to the later stories. Such as those in the characters and backstories of Snow White and Prince Charming. In the aforementioned arc, 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.)
- In Cinderella: In From Fabletown with Love, one panel during the Big Bad's monologue strongly implies that Frau Totenkinder is the evil fairy from Sleeping Beauty's tale. But in the first Fairest arc, such fairy is introduced as being Hadeon the Destroyer instead.
- 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.
- Cunning Like a Fox: Reynard Fox, with a capital C.
- 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 Geppetto 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 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). It happens 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 Geppetto'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 and everyone who might have witnessed the emperor's "assassination" tells us all we need to know about the ability of the Empire's political system to respond to external threats. Also present in the Wolves arc, where yet another single enemy, using a synergy 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 aka 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.
- Cursed with Awesome: The Beast from Beauty and the Beast still has the ability to become, ahem, a beast whenever Beauty is mad at him, although that sometimes proves bothersome. Played more straight later when Totenkinder gives him the ability to change into the beast whenever he chooses to himself (if it wasn't clear, his beast form is really useful in battles).
- 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!".
- A Day in the Limelight: The story of two of Geppetto's wooden soldiers, Rodney and June, who end up falling for each other and subsequently request to become human. Later they become a Chekhov's Gunman when they're the ones ordered to assassinate Cinderella before she reaches Fabletown with Pinocchio.
- Their child, Junebug, also falls under this trope in issue #130.
- Death Is Cheap: As mentioned below, the more famous a fable is with the "mundies", the bigger the chances are that they will just come back to life sooner or later no matter how many times they're killed.
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 and depression. Their new relationship drags her down even further.
- Deus ex Machina: Aside from being an actual character, this is lampshaded by Science Fiction in The Great Fables Crossover. He 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 = Roman Empire, Haven = Israel. "Next year, in the homelands." It was 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.
- Depending on the Artist: Big time.
- Perhaps most visibly with Flycatcher. Flycatcher was drawn with visible eyes and being fairly unattractive earlier on, while later he was drawn with bangs constantly covering his eyes. He eventually was "revealed" to have beautiful green eyes under said bangs when going through his makeover in The Good Prince, next to being surprisingly handsome.
- Most artists draw Pinocchio as a cute little boy, but Mark Buckingham usually draws him with a squat face, scowl and usually closed eyes, which makes him look older.
- Did You Just Scam Cthulhu??: Jack Horner's schemes work out in the short term, but fail miserably in the long term. Jack has managed to trick a whole legion of Devils (including Lucifer, Chernabog, and Old Nick) each one granting him another hundred years of life. But even he realized it was a mistake in the long term, since sooner or later he is going to run out of devils to con and things to offer, and what he's eventually going to suffer in the afterlife increases with each deal.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: When the deceased Bigby reunites with Boy Blue in the afterlife, the latter at one point makes it clear how unhappy he is with Stinky's founding of a religion in his name, expecting him to come back from the dead one day as a dashing hero saving the day, when all Boy Blue really wanted was to be freed of heroic responsibility and just live a normal life.
- Eagleland: North America has its own fable version (Americana), 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.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Pinocchio looks much different in his first appearance.
- Easily Forgiven: Any Fable who signs the Fabletown Compact is immediately absolved of all crimes committed while in the Homelands.
- Eldritch Abomination: From Jack of Fables, what's inside a bagman. Mr. Revise has his moments too.
- In the main series, Totenkinder has moments of this...
Frau Totenkinder: Remember what you saw on that rooftop that you wish you hadn't.
- Enemy Mine: When Bufkin finds himself trapped in the woodland office with a resurrected Baba Yaga, the remaining heads from the surviving wooden soldiers assists him in taking her down.
- Ensemble Darkhorse: Jack is an in-universe example, as he is the "star of every story [he's] in."
- Establishing Character Moment: Prince Charming's first appearance shows him eating at a restaurant and cunningly making the waitress pay for him. He then takes her home to have sex with her.
- Evil Chancellor: In the Arabian Nights (and Days) story arc, Sinbad, the well-meaning but culture-shocked ruler of the Arabian Fables, has an evil vizier, Yusuf.
- Evil Twin: Rose Red starts out as this, but she improves. Though she will likely come to play this trope absolutely straght as revealed in the Happily Ever After arc.
- Exact Words: At the end of the "Jack in Hollywood" story, the narration informs us that Jack was never seen in Fabletown again. It says nothing, however, about the Farm, where Jack turns up during The Great Fables Crossover.
- Pinocchio reveals how his wish to become a real boy resulted in him staying a boy forever.
"That stupid wench fulfilled my wish way too literally. I'm three hundred years old and still haven't hit puberty. I want my balls to drop and I want to get laid!"
- Excuse Boomerang: When the Arabian fables are being integrated into Fabletown society, they insist on being allowed to maintain their ancient tradition of keeping slaves. Old King Cole agrees, but says that the Western fables will maintain its ancient tradition of putting all slave-owners to death wherever they find them.
- 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.
- Expy: Bigby shares more than a little resemblance with Wolverine, though it might just be a coincidence.
- Extreme Omnisexual: Played literally by Goldilocks. She admits to Bluebeard that she's no speciesist, and that she's open in having sex with any living being, which included sleeping with Baby Boo Bear and a goblin butler.
- 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....
- Face-Heel Turn: Geppetto in his backstory.
- Nurse Sprat, now calling herself Leigh Duglas.
- 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 herself alive.
- Faking the Dead: Rose Red and Jack stage her death in the very first story arc.
- Fantastic Nature Reserve: The Farm.
- Fantastic Racism: Geppetto'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 misfortune.
- Fat Girl: Mrs. Sprat, as Snow White has pointed out, has the unfortunate displeasure of being an ugly, overweight woman in a community of excessively beautiful and slender women. Thanks to Mr. Dark, she's not this anymore.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Brandish narrowly avoids this in the Camelot arc.
- The Fettered: Beast.
- Frankenstein's Monster
- Fourth Date Marriage: After the war against the Adversary, Rose Red immediately falls for Sinbad, who is returning as one of the war heroes, and marries him after supposedly just a few days of knowing him. This is what prompts Boy Blue's realization of her tendency to always chase after the more interesting men of the moment, and then losing interest the minute their glamour fades. This is proven by how she divorces Sinbad again in a heartbeat as soon as Blue returns a dying war hero.
- 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. This is a Shout-Out to Willingham's older, and much nastier, comic Elementals.
- Genie in a Bottle: Appears in the Arabian Nights (and Days) arc. The Djinn are near pure magical beings with powers bordering on Reality Warper. They grant three wishes, but only return to their enchanted bottle if the third wish requires them to, otherwise they remain free and quite Axe Crazy.
- God Is Evil: Kevin Thorn, the creator of the Fables, can rewrite reality with his pen, does so without regard to either Fable or Mundy no matter what harm he does, is prone to Disproportionate Retribution to perceived slights, and wants to destroy the universe because he is unhappy with the Fables growing beyond the roles he assigned them.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: When Dr. Swineheart gently points out that Snow White doesn't have to give birth to the illegitimate children that were begotten on her by Bigby after Bluebeard hexed them to leave for the country and sleep with each other, she indignantly retorts that no Fable would ever abort a baby, and threatens to exile the doctor if he brings it up again. It's later revealed that the Fables have basically been sterile for the last few decades, so even if her babies aren't, strictly speaking, wanted, they're still too precious to just "discard" like that.
- Then again, given that Ma Bear gives birth to a new Baby Bear after the first one is killed during the March of the Wooden Soldiers and without needing any "special potion" to do so, some view this as an Author's Saving Throw after the Unfortunate Implications were pointed out.
- The Bears' new cub is probably an example of the Fables' immortality due to Popularity Power. The baby bear can die, due to not being as well-known as the main character, but the overall "Goldilocks" story is so famous that the Baby Bear has to be replaced, so Ma Bear immediately become pregnant in order to keep the numbers of the story correct.
- Good Is Not Dumb
- Good Thing You Can Heal: Jack. Theorized to apply literally.
- Happily Married: Beauty and Beast and later Snow White and Bigby.
- From The Last Story of Flycatcher at the end of issue #141, we learn this is how Flycatcher and Red Riding Hood end up.
- Heel-Face Turn: Geppetto was forced to do this.
- The same happened to Revise, who was just as reluctant.
- Bigby too, as part of his backstory.
- Heroic BSOD: Rose Red after Boy Blue dies. And Darien, as he realizes he needs to sacrifice himself in the Cubs in Toyland arc.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Prince Charming at the end of War and Pieces (though this is eventually subverted in Fairest with the reveal he survived). And Humpty Dumpty in Turning Pages.
- Also, the North Wind, as of the end of the Super Team arc.
- Followed by Dare in Cubs in Toyland.
- Hidden Villain: The Adversary does have a true identity, but it's kept under wraps for quite a while.
- Hide Your Otherness: Rapunzel has to get her hair cut several times a day in order to pass as a mundy.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: In Peter and Max, Max's desire to possess 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.
- Hope Bringer: The Anthropomorphic Personification of Hope and her three (four after Rose Red joins the club) paladins, who represent different types of hope. Santa Claus, who represents the hope for justice and the hope of reward, as well as the hope that everything will turn out all right in the end, The Little Match Girl, who represents "hope deferred" (hope for the futures of others) and the false bride, who represents the hope for revenge. And Rose Red, representing the hope for a second chance.
- Hopeless Suitor: Reynard Fox for Snow White, though it's more Played for Laughs than anything.
- Hourglass Plot: Morgana le Fay seems to be heading this way in the New Camelot. Rose Red asked her to be a court adviser on magical matters. Basically the new Merlin, who was her opposite number in the old Camelot.
- 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.
- Infant Immortality: Averted and played straight at different points in the series.
- Averted in the Cubs in Toyland story, where Therese learns that the residents of Discardia all arrived there because they were indirectly responsible for the deaths of the children they belonged to. And again during the same arc with 9-year-old Darien sacrificing himself.
- 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. People start calling him out when he maintains this attitude during and after his utter failure to save Boy Blue. While this death was by no means Swineheart's fault, (neither the magical knowledge of Frau Totenkinder and her witches, nor the Messianic Archetype powers of King Ambrose could do anything more than slow that cursed injury), his arrogance comes across as a lot less justified afterwards, and people let him know it.
- Interspecies Romance: Goldilocks and Boo Bear, apparently as a political statement.
- Snow White and Bigby are technically this. Per Bigby's words, it took him a few centuries to "get into human girls".
- Ironic Echo: In one of the stories when Snow and Bigby's children are playing, Darien comments on how "girls can't be kings!" Later, when Winter is chosen as the North Wind's successor, she gets the title of "King" as "Queen" isn't equivalent to the magical language's word, which is closer to gender neutral.
- Irony: Snow White has seven children.
- Believe it or not, Bigby was actually the runt of his litter, and was constantly picked on by his brothers for his puny size. It was this, along with a desire to get even with his father for having abandoned their mother to die, that prompted him to everyday "eat something bigger than what I ate yesterday", ultimately resulting in his wolf form becoming the size of an elephant (more than three times the size of his brothers).
- The Three Little Pigs from the fairytale became villains. The Big Bad Wolf became a (relatively) good guy.
- [[spoilers: In the New Camelot Morgan le Fay is being cast in the Merlin role to Rose Red's King Arthur. Also Sir Lancelot du Lac seems destined to be the new Guinevere. The Lady of the Lake remarks on the irony to Morgana.]]
- Jerkass: Oh God, there are so many that it's almost not worth it trying to point any out; Gepetto, Bluebeard, Jack, and Goldilocks are notable, but Prince Brandish stands out as perhaps the single most entitled, self-centered asshole in the entire series. And that's really saying something.
- The Jersey Devil: He's in the Golden Boughs Retirement Community.
- Kangaroo Court: Bufkin's trial in Oz.
- Karma Houdini: Mainly Geppetto, but even protagonists such as Bigby and Totenkinder qualify.
- Kill 'em All: The rather unsatisfactory end of Jack of Fables
- Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Tommy Sharp.
- Kneel Before Frodo: Snow and Bigby's eight-year-old daughter, Winter, is chosen as the North Wind's successor, to which everyone (her parents and siblings, Bellflower/Totenkinder, Dunster Happ, the former North Wind's servants and the other Cardinal Winds) proceeds to bow to her.
- 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 disarray 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.
- Line-of-Sight Name: In Fairest #22, one of Cinderella's mouse footmen sneaks into the ball. When asked his name, his eye falls on a tray being carried by one of the servants and he introduces himself as "Champagne. Marcel Champagne".
- 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 pricks her finger. 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 made 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. By the time Mowgli himself appears, in a later storyline, though, Willingham clearly has done the research, as Bagheera refers to Mowgli as "little brother" and Baloo refers to him as "little frog" (those being 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: Geppetto.
- Masquerade: The Fables have to buy glamour to hide their supernatural identity, and nonhuman Fables who cannot afford it are sent to the Farm.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover
- Meaningful Name: Frau Totenkinder is German for "Mrs. Dead Children". Meaningful in that she derives power from sacrificing children. Made dreadfully explicit in the Alternate Reality Episode Crossover with The Unwritten, where out of sheer desperaton, she sacrifices every living child on Earth to gain the power to hold Mr. Dark and prevent him from escaping to conquer other realities.
- Winter becomes the new North Wind in the Inherit the Wind arc.
- Mighty Whitey: Snow White takes the central place of Scheherazade's tale in one storyline, and is the one to suggest that Scheherezade distract the king with stories.
- Mile-High Club: Jack has sex with three different stewardesses on a flight to Japan in Fairest #8.
- The Mole: Ichabod Crane, sort of. At first he was shown as simply being a very lonely, awkward, and unstable clerk, alone for centuries, who was seduced by Cinderella to see if he would crack if approached.
- Of course, Ichabod is eventually revealed to have been Fabletown's Deputy Mayor for a good few centuries, meaning he had access to information that would have greatly benefited the Adversary. That's not even getting into his apparent obsession with Snow White that comes up in The Wolf Among Us. It's no wonder Cinderella and Bigby were concerned he might (and would) betray them.
- Also, the first and second Red Riding Hoods (an unnamed sorceress working for the Empire and Baba Yaga using her form, respectively).
- From Jack of Fables, the Tortoise, the Hare, and the Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker, all of whom were spies for Mr. Revise.
- 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 (said to be due to the fact of her being homely and overweight while being surrounded by beautiful people). Before then, she was always presented as an overworked nurse dealing with ungrateful patients and limited resources.
- 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.
- Murder, Inc.: Peter Piper's wife, Bo Peep was a member of one of these back in the Homelands, before she got married.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: Geppetto, Hansel, Goldilocks, and two of the Three Little Pigs are about as far from their sweet and innocent fairytale-selves as you could get.
- 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 b) regardless, 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 Conservation of Energy: Subverted. The magicians have to store up magic for centuries, and have to start over if they spend it, as for Totenkinder after fighting Mister Dark.
- 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 fourth wall in Jack of Fables...there definitely is. In fact, she narrates a few of the issues.
- Nominal Hero: Jack. All of the Literals represent some form of storytelling trope, and as a Literal/Fable hybrid, this was Jack's niche. He is abusive to his friends, incredibly vain, selfish, ruthless, a womanizer, and will betray any ally or supposed friend in an instant. Jack has: worked as a mass-murdering robber in the Old West; assassinated quite a few giants, been willing to let his allies be killed for his own glory; sold the soul of his firstborn son to a devil; seduced, broken the hearts of, and immediately left hundreds of maidens to raise his bastard children; likely done a lot more of the same during his long life; and, finally, ended up as a ravenous cannibalistic dragon. So, on closer inspection, he is considerably worse than the Con Man he initially appeared to be. In a sense, he went the exact opposite path to Bigby.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: In The Dark Ages arc, the magic sustaining Fabletown fails, forcing everyone to flee New York for The Farm.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Cinderella in Cinderella Libertine, where she plays a Dumb Blonde in order to seduce and lure information out of Ichabod Crane.
- Opposites Attract: Played straight with Boy Blue, who once fell in love with Red Riding Hood (although she had later turned out to be an impostor). He later falls for Rose Red, to which the latter even asks him if he has a thing for girls with the word "Red" in their name.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The witch duel at the end of March of the Wooden Soldiers. We never get to see it.
- We do see a single image of the duel, reflected in King Cole's glasses. It's a pair of Eldrich Abominations.
- Older Than They Look: Pretty much everyone, but lampshaded with Pinocchio.
- Once per 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 during The Great Fables Crossover.
- One Steve Limit: All the Jacks of all the stories (with the exceptions of Jack Sprat, Jack Ketch and the second Jack Frost) are the same guy, though the Jack was the original Jack Frost and the father of his namesake/successor.
- In the Brazilian Portuguese translation, both Jack Horner and Hansel are named Joćo. Justified for two reasons: 1 - That's how the original characters (from the fairy tales they're based on) have been traditionally known in Brazil for centuries; 2 - Both translations are accurate, as Jack and Hansel are local short forms for variations of the same name (English: Jack>John; German: Hansel>Hans>Johannes) and Joćo is the Portuguese variation of the name.
- 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.
- 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 Geppetto). Played straight with Mr. Dark.
- Later explained by the back story of Mr. Kadabra. He was a powerful sorcerer who cast a spell to protect his homeland which made people ignore it as being unimportant. Unfortunately, he found that his original home had already been destroyed, becoming a wanderer. He eventually traveled to Earth with the other exiled Fables and, as a result, his still-working spell protected Earth. An ironic side-effect of the spell was it affected Kadabra himself, making him forget his past and making him seem like an unimportant minor magician everyone could ignore.
- Orgy of Evidence: In the first arc, this is what makes Bigby suspect that Rose Red's "murder" had been staged by her and Jack.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Bigby Wolf. He isn't a man turning into a wolf, he's a wolf turning into a man!
- Werewolves of the Heartland also features werewolves that are different - they are descended from a Nazi and an American soldier, and examples of what happens when Bigby's blood is injected into a human's system.
- 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.
- Parody Sue: Max Piper, of the Villain Sue variety. Jack probably also counts. Prince Brandish may be a more subtle version, given his misogynism and twisted popping up (almost) out of nowhere to "claim one of the main ladies" plot.
- Perma Stubble: Bigby Wolf. No matter how much he shaves, it always comes back.
- Pimped-Out Dress: The Snow Queen's dress.
- Pintsized Powerhouse: The Mouse Police.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Therese is now an adult due to her time in Discardia (time there passes at a different pace). When she returns home to inform her family of Dare's death, her siblings are still children.
- Polar Opposite Twins: Snow White and Rose Red, if their names are any indication.
- 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 existence because she is every anonymous witch in folklore, and Goldilocks raises this to a level bordering on Blessed with Suck, as revealed in Jack of Fables, 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 and a couple of others), 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.
- Totenkinder is something of a subversion (so this is a discussed subversion of the trope!) in that she is present in many, many stories, but anonymous in all of them, meaning she actually isn't popular - she is well known but no one knows that they know. In her battle with Baba Yaga she implies that one of the reasons she wins and Baba Yaga loses is that Baba Yaga misunderstood precisely how this worked, and came into the fight overconfident because of it.
- Pregnant Badass: While she doesn't take part in the fighting, Snow White still organizes the defense of Fabletown and is in command during the conflict with the wooden soldiers while heavily pregnant.
- Prehensile Hair: Rapunzel gains this power in The Hidden Kingdom.
- Pretty in Mink: The Snow Queen has a fur wrap.
- Prince Charmless: Prince Charming is this to his ex-wives.
- Proper Lady: Snow White is generally polite, classy, and efficient, being all about following the rules.
- Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: Ozma's prophecy about the wolf cubs.
The first child will be a king,
The second child a pauper.
The third will do an evil thing,
The fourth will die to stop her.
The fifth will be a hero bold,
The sixth will judge the rest.
The seventh lives to ages old,
And is by Heaven blessed.
- Four of those have been conclusively revealed at this point. Winter is the king (becomes the North Wind, one of whose titles is "King of the North", in Inherit the Wind), Therese does an evil thing (orders the murder of Lord Mountbatten to eat his flesh in Cubs in Toyland), Dare dies to stop her (his sacrifice in the same arc) and Ambrose judges the rest (through the books he eventually writes about them; some issues are also narrated by a future version of him).
- Also, the Magic Mirror likes people to rhyme their requests, and he rhymes the answer in return. It's revealed later that this isn't actually necessary for him to work his magic; he simply allows people to think this to cut down on his workload.
- Punch Clock Villain: The majority of goblins are just working stiffs.
- Rodney and June, two of Geppetto's wooden puppets who fell in love with each other, and ultimately were allowed to become human and live together in the mundy world, for the price of carrying out assassinations whenever the Empire requested them to.
- Punny Name: Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf. He was given this 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.
- 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. However, he eventually falls in love with Nalayani in the The Return of the Maharaja arc from Fairest, and it's implied it might last this time.
- Really 700 Years Old: All the Fables, but most notably Pinocchio, who is eternally a real boy, just as he wished for.
- Retired Monster: Mainly Geppetto. As demonstrated in his war planning session, he would gladly have slaughtered all the people of Earth through 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 wiping out the tribe she was born into, and continued to murder thousands of children in blood rituals to keep her power during the following centuries, 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.
- Bigby definitely counts, having killed and eaten hundreds upon thousands of humans over the course of his rogue Big Bad Wolf days.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: As the quote at the top of the page indicates, Snow's implied reasoning for not trusting Jack falls short because she apparently forgot the question could be taken literally.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Considering that quite a few of the main characters originate from fairy tales, where royalty is fairly common, this trope gets used a lot. note To give just a few examples: King Cole as former Mayor and then ambassador to the Arabian Fables; Snow White as Deputy Mayor, later 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). This is 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 uncovering the plots of and subsequently killing Bluebeard.
- Rule of Seven: Pops up several times in Snow and Bigby's storylines: there are, of course, the seven dwarves in Snow's backstory, Bigby was born the youngest of seven brothers, and they end up having seven children together. In The Destiny Game arc, it is also revealed that Bigby's ultimate fate will have him outlive all of his seven children after having died himself a total of seven times.
- Santa Claus: He's a Fable himself...and possibly one of the most powerful of all of them. It's revealed later that he is an aspect and subject of the North Wind (Winter), and thus must obey her commands.
- Scam Religion: In The Great Fables Crossover, the belief in Blue Boy temporarily turns into this as Jack takes over as its shepherd.
- Scarecrow Solution: A psychological version in the story of Tommy Sharp, a reporter who discovers the Fables' society in the belief that they're vampires (because of their longevity). Bigby and the rest manage to capture him and trick him into believing that they are indeed vampires who've tasted his blood while they knocked him out, and while he won't turn into one of them, they've gained complete control of him and can make him commit suicide if he ever publishes his discovery, along with releasing fake photos of him molesting a little boy (actually a 300-year-old Pinocchio). Sharp is scared senseless and complies, only to a few days later be killed by Bluebeard acting on his own.
- Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: In issue #51, Cinderella is turned into a mouse, her clothes falling empty to the meadow floor, so she can enter the village of the smalls.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Mister Dark, literally. Twice. Although it isn't entirely clear whether he's sealed or dead the second time, since the North Wind, who got him into said "can" along with himself, is widely spoken of as "dead".
- She Is the King: Winter, Snow and Bigby's daughter, as the new North Wind, has the title of King of the North, and not Queen, because the actual title is apparently gender neutral, or something close to it.
- Shout-Out: Freddy and the Mouse are clearly analogues of Fritz Leiber'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.
- The genre literal Noir in The Great Fables Crossover gets a panel◊ where he looks pretty much exactly like a picture of Humphrey Bogart, the picture of which is used by this wiki on his own article.
- Sibling Rivalry: Snow White and Rose Red. Most of the time played straight, for Snow's ex-husband cheated on her with Rose (who seduced him in the first place). 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.
- More recently, the rivalry between the two has been reignited by Rose's decision to spare Prince Brandish's life. Things only get worse from there.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Jack, reaching epic heights when he narrates Jack of Fables.
- The Sociopath: While most villains in the series skirt this (the Adversary, Mr. Dark, Blue Beard), the clearest example is Max Piper in Peter and Max. On the other side, under Sociopathic Hero, 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.
- Storyboarding 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 Fabletown, 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.
- Also a bit of real life cultural awareness. Many Arabic cultures value elaborate courtesy, while Americans value directness. Cole's translation gets the meanings of both Sinbad and Charming across to each other in the way each would expect and respect.
- 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 follow through with the oath and kill his grandson or have Bigby defeat him in a deathmatch. The first option would irreparably damage his relationship with Snow and his grandkids (not to mention completely destroying what little relationship with his son he has left), and the second is impossible as Bigby's not strong enough to beat him. Instead, he chooses to commit suicide (via the only method available to him, entering the Casket of Primordial Winds), taking Mister Dark with him. This ends Mister Dark's war against Fabletown and releases the North Wind from his oath.
- Take That, Audience!: From Jack in The Great Fables Crossover.
Rose Red: It's the other thing! I can't stand the pig head!
Jack: You're not talking about the readers are you? I can't help their being here. They follow me everywhere. Shameless hero worship. Ignore them. They're scum.
- Theory of Narrative Causality: Played with every way, and then made a lot worse in Jack of Fables.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Bigby gives one to his father almost everytime they meet for the way he left Bigby's mother to die.
- Thirteen Is Unlucky: All the witches live on the thirteenth floor of the Bullfinch building.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Snow White while giving birth, realizes that with Bigby being the father, she's not only having one, two or even three. No, she's about to have a litter of children.
- This Loser Is You: "Nothing you do will ever be as cool as Jack of Fables."
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Rose Red (the "original wild child") and Snow White (the "ice queen" who dresses much more femininely than Rose in dresses, skirts, and modest attire).
- Too Dumb to Live: The Spezialeinheit in Werewolves of the Heartland thought it was a good idea to try and kill Bigby. He disabused them of this notion very quickly.
- 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 known as Stinky) is able to do a One-Winged Angel thing because of the power of the belief in Boy Blue.
- Boy Blue may be considered a partial subversion, as it is implied he actually took his level a long time ago thanks to his experiences fighting centuries of losing battles, retired, and then unretired (with the primary difference the second time around being that he was using substantially more potent equipment).
- 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.
- Trenchcoat Brigade: Bigby Wolf, his trenchcoat, and a magnificent set of attitude.
- Beast becomes one when he plays dress-up as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe as he tracks down his demonic wife.
- Undefeatable Little Village: In the album The Good Prince, The Empire is severely shaken by such a village, having sent more troops against it than it could afford to lose.
- Unrequited Love Switcheroo: A version with Rose Red and Boy Blue. The latter had been in love with her for quite some time and, with the encouragement from Stinky, confesses to her with the belief that his love is returned. To his great disappointment, however, Rose explains that she did have feelings for him once, when he had just returned a war hero, but she doesn't feel that way anymore. Later, when Blue is at his death bed because of a war injury, Rose tries to convince him that she loves him after all and she'll marry him right then and there, but by then Blue has realized that she only wants men when they offer immediate excitement, and because of that, he "deserves better than her". She promptly plummets into a Heroic BSOD afterwards, and swears that if he ever returns, she'll work hard to make herself worthy of him.
- 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 reasons 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 its early story arcs. Later story arcs might show how the whole thing turns out.
- As of issue #134, Boy Blue has been revealed to show no interest in returning, and has apparently "moved on" to the next life/world/something.
- Urban Fantasy
- The Vamp: Mrs. Sprat, now that she's lost weight and gained exceptional skill with a sword, has set herself up to be one, through use of the Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
- Villain Decay: When the Empire is introduced, it's presented as this vast world-spanning juggernaut that conquered entire dimensions, and the only reason they never bothered with Fabletown was that it was too small for them to care. In fact, their first encroachments were simply to recover Pinocchio and several artifacts. It took almost all the Fables in the city to repel a single squad of wooden soldiers. However, when the Fable war starts, they are able to taken down the Empire's entire army in a single campaign.
- Villain Forgot to Level Grind: The Adversary was able to conquer hundreds of worlds via dividing and conquering, and then Zerg Rushing the others. However, these tactics only worked against scattered villages and individual forts. Owing to a staunch Science Is Bad belief, they never updated their tactics or technology. Magic was still the preferred system; the only time they are ever shown using technology, it is strictly to accomplish a singular goal (giving the wooden soldiers guns in order to blend into the human world). Secondly, his army worked akin to a Roman Legion, where the officer had strict and total authority over his subordinates, enforced by total discipline. This left a glaring weakness, that if the officer was removed, the soldiers he commanded would be directionless. Finally, the Adversary was deeply drunk on his Empire's own superiority, and even though he knew of the flaws in the system, he did nothing to correct them. As a result, when the Fables forced his military leaders into comas, his army completely fell apart. In addition, the Fables were able to hold their own against the numerically superior Empire...by machine gunning their troops en masse.
- It should also be noted Fabletown was able to isolate the capital world of the Empire from the rest, preventing it from calling in reinforcements which would have overwhelmed Fabletown by sheer numbers. Any combat-related magic was strictly controlled, preventing it from being used effectively to counter the Fable's technological advantage. All of the Empire's sorcerers were in the capital city when it was put to sleep and later burned. The Empire was so used to being the one attacking and so vast, it never occurred to them that they might be attacked or to focus on defense. Finally, many of the flaws in the Empire are implied not to come from the Emperor, but from Gepetto, who secretly ran things and was incredibly arrogant.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Dorothy Gale could shift into different human forms with the help of magic slippers. Cinderella presumably gained the ability after obtaining them. Bigby's brothers could shift forms freely into pretty much any type of creature.
- Bigby Wolf can shift back and forth between wolf and human form, 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.
- Bigby and Snow's children all possess this power as well (well, except for Ghost, who doesn't really have a physical body), having been trained by their grandfather, the North Wind from an early age.
- Beast was granted the ability to shift back and forth into monster form 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). After Beast's and Beauty's child, Bliss, is born, it is eventually discovered that the curse, including the alteration, was passed on to the infant girl—though at first, all Beast knew was that the curse had left him. After a few incidents, including Bliss' living space being "mysteriously" torn to shreds, the truth was discovered, and as of issue #143, the toddler is now able to consciously change into a "Beep" (as she oh-so-adorably mispronounces it), with a tendency to do so whenever she hears the word "Beast" (apparently assuming that the speaker is asking for her to transform, and eager to please the grown-ups).
- Weapon Tombstone: In #140, Puss in Boots is thought dead. Briar Rose marks his cairn by placing his rapier in the pile of stones and hanging his musketeer hat on it.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Geppetto may have killed millions in the expansion of his empire, but, as he stated, that empire created security for the billions of those who abided his laws for hundreds of years...until the protagonists brought it down.
- Cinderella's Fairy Godmother also embodies this trope.
- Wham Episode: Issue #100.
- What Beautiful Eyes: Flycatcher has really lovely green eyes.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In March of the Wooden Soldiers, Baba Yaga briefly hints that the Red Riding Hood imposter Boy Blue fell for is still alive, but she's never brought up again.
- 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 for a long time due to Flycatcher being a bit obtuse around women (and likely still mourning his long-dead wife), but eventually revealed to have been resolved by the Last Story of Flycatcher in issue #141.
- Winter Royal Lady: Lumi, the Snow Queen.
- A Wizard Did It: The In-Universe explanation for why Red Riding Hood and her grandmother survived being eaten by Bigby is that "there was magic in them".
- 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.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: After Mr. Dark's defeat, Leigh Duglas (aka Nurse Sprat) and her fencing instructor Werian Holt (aka Prince Brandish) have set themselves up to appear as though Dark was keeping them as prisoners when the other Fables return to reclaim Fabletown.
- Writer on Board: Bill Willingham has a markedly conservative bent and sometimes expounds on his beliefs.
- Youkai: "The Hidden Kingdom" in the Fairest arc of the same name.
- Your Normal Is Our Taboo: In Arabian Nights (and Days), the Arabian Fables joining Fabletown brought up the issue of ownership of slaves being acceptable in their culture. King Cole neatly outmaneuvered them by agreeing to honour their custom of owning slaves "as long as you'll accept our venerable custom of hanging slavers wherever we see them".