Comic Book / Fables

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Magical beings of legend... hiding in plain sight.

Bigby Wolf: You're lying now, because you always lie.
Jack Horner: Not this time!
Snow White: Jack, did you ever hear about the boy who cried wolf?
Jack Horner: Sure, he lives up on the seventh floor. So what?
Snow White: Never mind.

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 (a.k.a 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 and Fairest, 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 was the second longest running Vertigo title after Hellblazer. The series came to an end with its 150th issue in 2015.

A Fables video game titled The Wolf Among Us was developed by Telltale Games. It is confirmed to be canon and a Prequel to the comic.

Has a character sheet that needs some Wiki Magic.

Not to be confused with Fable.


Fables provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade:
    • Boy Blue wields the Vorpal Blade, which can cut off the heads of solid, giant wooden people & multiple targets with one blow. The blade features in several of the story arcs, including Blue's single-handed invasion of the homelands & Bufkin's defense of the business office against Baba Yaga.
  • Action Girl: Cinderella, whose fashionable shoe store is only her cover, as she's the best assassin and covert operations agent in the world, by her own admission. Being immortal gives her massive advantages in perfecting her craft, after all.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Since his unsuccessful exploits in Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf has truly grown into his name, devouring hundreds, if not thousands of victims in his past turning him into an elephant-sized wolf capable of leveling forests with his Super Breath (his inheritance from being the son of the North Wind). As he explains himself, the only reason he lost to the third pig that built his house with brick was because he was just a puppy at the time.
    • Snow White Takes A Level In Badass whenever the situation requires her to, while Cinderella is a through and through Action Girl, working for Fabletown as a covert agent & assassin whose skills would put James Bond to shame.
    • Boy Blue was simply a kid from a famous poem blowing on his horn. While he starts out seemingly harmless in the comic as well, he's eventually revealed to be a cunning, sword-wielding badass.
    • Frau Totenkinder, the old child-eating witch from Hansel and Gretel is one of the most powerful fables and can take on the greatest supernatural forces their world has to offer.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The Big Bad Wolf was an antagonistic, man-eating wolf in the past, but he developed into an Anti-Hero after falling in love with Snow White and becoming Sheriff for the Fable community.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • In fairy tales, Gepetto is a benevolent, kindly father to Pinocchio. Here, though, 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 normally a harmless, though annoying, intruder in the original Three Bears tale. In the story arc "Animal Farm", Goldie becomes a vicious rabble-rousing anarchist who stirs up revolution just for the fun of seeing people fighting, and who comes close to killing Snow White.
    • 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.
    • Two of 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 who takes financial advantage of naive women, though he sometimes slips into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory. Zig-zagged at the end of the Adversary arc, when he gives his life to trigger the final bomb to destroy the Adversary's last gate to the Mundy world.
    • The Seven Dwarfs from Snow White are shown through flashbacks to have been evil and abusive, treating her like a slave in their home and taking their turns molesting/raping her. Snow White eventually ends up murdering them.
  • Affably Evil: The Adversary, Geppetto, is depicted as an absent-minded old man who truly cares for his created children & mourns their deaths.
  • The Ageless:
    • The Fables and their immunity to injury seems to be related to 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.
    • The wooden soldiers of the Golden Horde also fall under this. They never age, never get sick, never die. The only thing that stops them from having Complete Immortality is that their wood can break & their joints can loosen & drop off. 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: Every single fairy tale, nursery rhyme, folk story, myth, & legend character is alive & living either in Fabletown, the Farm, or in one of the many Homelands. But only the Public Domain ones have come to Earth.
  • All There in the Manual: The book 1001 Nights of Snowfall tells many of the back stories of the main cast before they joined Fabletown.
  • All Women Love Shoes: Cinderella's cover identity. She owns the Glass Slipper Shoe Store, which caters to high-fashion footwear among female Fables.
  • Almighty Janitor: Flycatcher is a literal one. Even after becoming King of Haven and has power that dwarfs everyone on the Thirteenth Floor, he still occasionally returns to mop the floors.
  • 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.
  • 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) can do anything, but doesn't until it's completely impossible for a situation to be resolved otherwise; and Kevin Thorn is the Writer that brought all the Fables into existence in the first place.
    • The "Great Fables Crossover" arc also introduces us to personifications of various story genres: Western looks like a cowboy, Science Fiction is an astronaut, High Fantasy is an elf, Romance dresses up like a bodice-ripper...
    • A number of entities, called "Great Powers", are embodiments of one concept or another. The North Wind is one, and he has three siblings (the other Cardinal Winds). Mr. Dark is another. In the final story arc, the incarnation of Hope takes a direct hand in Rose Red's destiny.
  • Anti-Climax:
    • Bigby and his children meet again after four years & a long story arc of Bigby regaining his status in the Fable community, yet their reunion barely gets a couple panels.
    • The sheer speed by which the Fables disable the Adversary's Empire is also off-putting, considering all the build-up of The Empire being 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, with many of the weaknesses that real world dictatorships have, and how Muggles Do It Better when it comes to heavy weaponry, it is still disappointing.
    • 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. At the end of the crossover, everyone's memories are erased & the incident is never mentioned again.
    • The speed at which the final arc of Rose vs. Snow got ended, with Rose suddenly realizing the curse was broken and "we don't need to do this after all". Considering that the whole Empire vs Fabletown thing took up 11 full booksnote , the whole ending story arc of Rose and Snow gearing up to fight is rushed and haphazard, taking less than 3 books to build and resolve.
  • 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: Many characters who appeared as extras or bit-players when the series first began gradually grow into supporting characters, and even become the main characters or villains of later arcs.
  • Anyone Can Die: Played oh so very, very straight. No character is safe from being killed off, including Bigby & Snow's child Dare, Bigby himself, and Boy Blue. The second story arc alone has a number of beloved fairy tale characters executed for treason.
  • Arabian Nights/Days: The free European fables are portrayed as being stuck in the modern world after the adversary took over. When they ally with the Arabian Fables, the European Fables expect them to be in hiding in the Middle East. Instead, the Arabian Fables are still living in their traditional lands, the glorious fairy-tale versions of Persia & Arabia, complete with flying carpets, genies, & harem girls. The Adversary had only recently started targeting them and they are actually a cohesive force that can hold him off effectively.
  • Army of the Ages: In #150, Rose Red summons the Knights of the Endless Table, soldiers from every world, and every time and battle. They have one thing in common—they all died while holding out hope.
  • The Atoner:
    • Therese in Cubs in Toyland & all of the discarded toys. After she executes the Ticky-Tocky Tiger Lord Mountbatten and Dare sacrifices himself to reactivate the cauldron of plenty to feed her, Therese spends years in a fugue-state of depression due to her grief. When she finally becomes aware again, she's become an adult. She explains to her subjects that they are going to redeem themselves for the deaths they caused by going out into the Mundy world and prevent other children from dying the same way their owners did: 100 children saved for each toy restores that particular toy. Despite thousands of lives saved, Therese never recovers from her guilt, with all food from the Cauldron tasting "like ashes in her mouth".
    • Subverted with Bigby. In his origin story it was revealed that Bigby used to eat thousands of innocents alive For the Evulz, including children, & is still considered a monster by the Fables of the Farm. Yet since he's a wolf, he wasn't born or raised with human morals and so doesn't feel any guilt over his actions. Since joining the community, he doesn't so much atone as his priorities change after connecting with Snow and becoming a father. He's still technically a monster, but now he's a husband, leader, and dad too, which his canine nature takes far more seriously.
  • Author Filibuster: Bigby supports Israel's controversial military tactics, telling a pajama-clad Geppetto why Bigby is blowing up the Golden Wood: Fabletown is mimicking Israel. There have also been a few not-entirely-historically-accurate potshots against France.
  • Author Tract: The praise of Israel's policies, the extreme dislike of France, 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 Unfortunate Implications about assorted Middle Eastern Fables. Also the time when Snow White vehemently rejected the idea of having an abortion, as well as Kay's implication that many Fables would be up in-arms because Frau Totenkinder now gains power from abortion clinics, rather than killing children herself.
  • 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. This is explained in-universe in that a Fable's Contractual Immortality is dependent on the mundies' knowledge of their particular story. This not only makes Snow & certain other characters nigh unkillable, it also means the much lesser-known Fables are Red Shirts just waiting to get Killed Off for Real.
    • All the Fables thrown down the Witching Well, once Fly comes for them during the "The Good Prince" arc.
    • Averted in the cases of Boy Blue, who tells Bigby in the afterlife that he wouldn't be coming back, and Darien, who states the same thing.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • The Page sisters from Jack of Fables.
    • Bufkin is the Business Office's bookkeeper and clean-up flunky, and yet he not only tricks a rogue genie back into its bottle, but also totally destroys Baba Yaga, then goes onto save Oz from the Nome King.
    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 cubs.
  • Badass in Distress: In Storybook Love, Bigby attempts to ambush Goldilocks but instead, she fills him with bullets. While it doesn't kill him, it temporarily wounds and slows him down. If it hadn't been for Snow White driving an axe through Goldilock's skull while Goldie was too busy building a fire to permanently kill Bigby, Bigby would definitely have died.
  • 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.
  • Batter Up!: In The Wolf Among Us, Bigby uses a cricket bat (labelled "Crowd Control") to smash up the Pudding 'n Pie Club.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: Mrs. Sprat. Cruel, check. Ugly, check. Sadistic, check. The way she treats the ailing Boy Blue is just plain nasty. 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 that Fable, though every few decades she snaps out of it and goes on a murderous rampage. Now a moot point after the events of Fairest in All the Land, in which Goldilocks kills both lamia and Beauty with the Sword of Regret; when the Sword of Regret's power of recall is used, the lamia is left dead while Beauty is resurrected.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Bufkin. Throughout the first story arc, Bufkin's a timid flying monkey who quails from the anger of the other Fables and is content to spend his time reading all the books in the Business Office. But then the unthinkable happens: the Business Office is cut off from Fabletown, trapping Bufkin inside with Baba Yaga & a freed genie, and all hell breaks loose. The Magic Mirror said it best:
    His wrath is slow to waken but terrible to behold.
  • Big Bad: At first, it appears as if the monstrous, immortal Emperor is responsible for the invasion of the Homelands, keeping the conniving Nome King, the plotting Snow Queen, and legions of wizards & monsters under his control & terrorizing the conquered lands, but then we find out who is the true mover & shaker behind it all: Gepetto, Pinocchio's father, as the Emperor is merely a wooden puppet created by the wood-carver.
  • The Big Bad Wolf: Bigby, naturally. Born the runt of his litter, he swears to kill and eat something bigger each day until he's not only the size of an elephant, but he's killed thousands. It's even in his name: Big B. Wolf.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Usually done by Bigby charging in at the last minute to huff, puff, and blow away whatever is threatening Snow, Fabletown, or his kids.
  • Big Damn Reunion: Snow and Bigby happily reunite after the latter disappeared for four years, and they're finally able to marry and raise their children together.
  • Big Good: Snow White. Despite being Mayor King Cole's second, Snow's the one who really runs things, dealing with all the day-to-day issues of Fabletown, giving orders to crash Fabletown during the Adversary's first assault, and planning and coordinating the Fables' assault on the Empire despite technically no longer being in command. King Cole is shown to be fairly helpless without Snow backing him up.
    • Flycatcher becomes this as well after creating his own kingdom of Haven. Despite all the massive powers and might of those in his kingdom, he's the one who pulls all the strings, including keeping most of them alive.
  • 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, in The Return of the Maharaja. He states off-hand 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 (blonde), Snow White (brunette), and Briar Rose (redhead).
    • Snow and Bigby's daughters: Therese (blonde), Winter (brunette) and Blossom (redhead). Two full sets in the same comic!
    • The Page sisters from Jack of Fables.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The D'jinn have no concept of good and evil beyond following whatever wishes their masters give them. Bigby was raised with wolf morals, though he 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, though he wears 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 in that tale was due to the Adversary 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, and now she's free to be herself again.
  • 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, 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.
    • In the very first story arc, Pinocchio mentions in a side-scene that he wants to hurt the Blue Fairy because she made him into a real boy, which means that he's eternally a boy. When he finally does meet up with the Blue Fairy many issues later, he proceeds to beat the living crap out of her until she's forced to use magic to stop him.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: The Page sisters turn out to be Jack's half-sisters, though none of them knew that when they'd slept with him. Notably, they're all disgusted by this revelation. Robin, however, is apparently turned on by it.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Totenkinder vs. Mister Dark. After exhausting all her spells, 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:
    • All the people killed by Mr. Dark. He kills them, takes their teeth, then resurrects them into horrific skeletal zombie-slaves of their former selves.
    • The fate of Bigby, who's turned into glass & shattered by Mr. Dark. When the Thirteenth Floor folks manage to put him together, a part has been stolen by Leigh Douglass, the former Nurse Pratt, who uses it to corrupt him into a monstrous killing machine.
  • Can't Grow Up: Pinocchio, who was turned into a real boy by the Blue Fairy. Unfortunately, her magic has him stuck permanently as a boy.
  • The Casanova: Jack and Prince Charming (Like Father, Like Son, after all). Both seduce almost every woman they meet and show no regrets about leaving them shortly after. Prince Charming not only has had three wives far, but even cheated on Snow White with her own sister, Rose Red.
  • Cavalry of the Dead: In The Good Prince, Ambrose takes advantage of the fact that all of his subjects from the well are technically ghosts, and summons their forms to take out the Adversary's army by having the ghosts terrify the army into fleeing.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The story is full of them:
    • The egg in Snow White's office turns out to be an unhatched universe that they use to trap Kevin Thorn.
    • Frau Totenkinder's constant knitting a multi-armed onesie for Beauty & Beast's coming child, who turns out to take over Beast's curse and can turn into a monster at will.
    • The throwaway story of the Barleycorn girls, early in the first arc. At the time, it doesn't advance the plot or characterization; it seems to be a random bit of world-building. However, after the Business Office traps Bufkin with some very fearsome enemies, Bufkin uses his knowledge of the girls' existence to grow them as additional helpers to destroy Baba Yaga.
  • The Chessmaster: The Adversary aka Geppetto on one side, Frau Totenkinder on the other. Everything Totenkinder does is part of her master plan to take out the Adversary, though the Adversary doesn't even know he's playing or who his opponent is.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Babe the Blue Ox, judging by his fantasies. In his head, he's not even in the same story as the rest of the cast.
    • 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, who rules all things cold & North. She's eight years old at the time.
    • Eight-year-old Therese is also kidnapped to be the queen of Discardia, the land of killer toys.. At one point, the toys reveal that Therese is not the first child monarch they've had, and that all the others died shortly after entering the land.
  • Continuity Drift: Happens a lot:
    • Snow White and Prince Charming. When we first get their backstory, Snow blames 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, Charming's a good man who rejects the advances of several woman while married to Snow, who admits the marriage started falling apart when Snow killed the seven dwarves out of revenge, which nearly lead to a war between two kingdoms; she lied to Charming about her motives and involvement.
    • 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 and totally unrelated to Totenkinder.
    • In the Peter & Max novel, it's revealed that Max had made every Fable infertile in the 1920s, meaning no child has been born until Bigby and Snow's children. But before that, in the comic, when Snow & Mama Bear & Beauty all get pregnant, it's just treated like a regular event & not the miracle it should've been.
    • Snow White & Rose Red's backstory is first presented as their mother sending Snow to her own sister to be raised. In the Finale arc, though, we find out that it's actually the mother's sister-in-law, as her real sisters are all dead due to the tontine.
    • At first, nothing special is attached to Snow & Bigby's children. Then, towards the final arc & after it's announced that one of the cubs must become the new North Wind, we learn about a prophecy that Ozma made concerning them & which now seems to be coming true. The "Cubs in Toyland" arc covers the first half of the prophecy & its impact on the over-arcing tale...but all we ever get of the rest are fast sum-ups and no real stories exploring how they came to be.
  • Cool Airship: The Glory of Baghdad. It's an airship powered by flying carpets that can take out hordes of dragons.
  • Cool Hat: Flycatcher's frog-cap most certainly counts. It's a green ball-cap with huge bulbous white eyes on top.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Bufkin. At first portrayed as a timid idiot who can barely keep from crapping himself whenever something unexpected happens in the Business Office, he comes out swinging when Baba Yaga breaks free.
  • Culture Justifies Anything: When the Arabian Fables join Fabletown, they are told that slavery is illegal in Fabletown & that they will have to free their slaves. The Arabian Fables object, claiming that slave ownership is part of their culture. King Cole agrees that Fabletown will honour their custom of owning slaves, but only if they agree to honour Fabletown's custom of executing slaveholders wherever they find them. The Arabian Fables immediately agree to free their slaves.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Reynard Fox, with a capital C. The short arc of the Christmas Pies has Reynard tricking an entire regiment of the Adversary into letting an entire community of refugees escape through the gate to the Mundy world.
  • 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, the capital has fallen, and Prince Charming's Heroic Sacrifice is all it takes to seal the deal. It helps that the Adversary,Geppetto, is practically catatonic with grief over the loss of his "children" in the previous arc.
    • It happens again in Homelands, where Boy Blue, albeit with some impressive magic gear, infiltrates the entire Empire all the way to the capital, gathers tons of intel and records from Imperial offices, assassinates the emperor, and discovers The Adversary's secret, with any encountered resistance being ineffective or a minor setback at worst. Even after being captured, Blue still manages to outflank the Adversary and escape with Red Riding Hood.
    • The Wolves arc, where Bigby, using a synergy of magic and technology, infiltrates and destroys the Empire's most powerful strategic resource in one massive explosion that stuns the Adversary into shock that lasts for several issues.
    • 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. Taken together, each Curb-Stomp Battle ends up being a subversion of the usual Evil Empire/Unstoppable Horde trope.
    • Also much of "The Good Prince" arc. While Flycatcher doesn't defeat the empire entirely, he beats army after army and eventually the elite forces of the Empire, the wooden soldiers, without little effort or injury on his part.
    • Subverted in the first fight between Totenkinder and Mr. Dark. At first, the entire battle looks to be shaping up to be this trope. With the remaining Boxer Commander as her ally, Totenkinder aka Bellflower takes minimal damage because she doesn't have any fear, is willing to show the full range of her power, and hurls continual spells at Dark that he can't counter. Then, when it finally looks like Dark is beaten, it doesn't take, he escapes, and nearly kills Totenkinder after all.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The Beast from Beauty and the Beast has the ability to become a fearsome monster whenever Beauty is mad at him, although that proves bothersome when both are threatened with exile to the Farm due to Beast not having control over his form. Awesome when Beast is in battle, but a curse in quieter times...
  • Cute Bruiser: Bigby during "The Great Fables Crossover". Kevin Thorn subjects Bigby to several form changes, finally turning the Big Bad Wolf into a cute little girl in a frilly pink dress — though said cute little girl proceeds to rip out throats with her teeth, slaughtering all of the Genre Literals. 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!".
    Bigby: That's it. Someone dies tonight.
  • Dark Action Girl: Goldilocks. She not only plans and executes the rebellion of the Farm Fables, but manages to escape the Fables' formidable trackers. She even takes on Bigby, & comes perilously close to killing him. Only a sneak attack by Snow White stops Goldie in her tracks.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Many of the side & supporting characters get their own spotlight stories within the larger arcs:
    • The story of two of the Adversary's wooden soldiers, Rodney and June, who end up falling for each other and subsequently request to become human. Later they become Chekhov's Gunman when they're the ones ordered to assassinate Cinderella before she reaches Fabletown with Pinocchio.
    • Their child, Junebug, gets her own moment in the "Castle Dark" arc, when she goes exploring the castle.
    • The Smalltown men get their backstory and focus in the "Barleycorn Girls" tale — which turns into a Chekhov's Gun for Bufkin later.
  • Death Is Cheap:
    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.
    • Averted, heart-breakingly so, by both Boy Blue and Dare. Both of their sacrifices are painful, drawn-out, and permanent.
  • Destructive Romance: The relationship between Jack and Rose Red is pure dysfunction and nearly gets them both killed, 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, nicknamed "Dex", 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?
    • Despite the lampshade, "The Great Fables Crossover" plays this completely straight. Not only does Dex show up as the entire situation looks impossible to solve, he solves it for the Fables by revealing that the egg in Snow White's office is an unhatched universe that they can trap Kevin Thorn in and promptly retrieves it for them.
  • 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.
    • The short "In a Castle Dark", in the "Farewell" arc. All the frames, especially the establishing shots of a tall building with smoke pouring out of it and the dialog of the fire fighters, strongly evoke 9/11 in NYC, just before the World Trade Center fell. One of the fire fighters talking about how the upper levels are just "gone" with no way to get at anyone trapped inside seals the image.
  • Depending on the Artist: Many of the one-shot tales also take extreme liberties with how characters are portrayed, but the main story arc isn't immune, either:
    • Pinocchio suffers the most from this. When he's first introduced, he looks like a real, cute little boy. In later stories, his face becomes more stylized and squared-off, with his jaw twisted into a sideways scowl, while cover art shows him as realistically as possible.
    • Perhaps most visibly with Flycatcher. Flycatcher was drawn with visible eyes and being extremely unattractive early on, while later he was drawn with bangs constantly covering his eyes & the goofy frog-cap. 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. Then, in the short "The Final Hurrah of the Three Blind Mice" in the final arc, Fly is drawn as this over-exaggerated cartoony thing with massively elongated features.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?:
    • Jack Horner's feats include tricking a whole legion of Devils (including Lucifer, Chernabog, Old Nick, Sprat and others) into giving him hundred more years of life before they take possession of his soul. 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. However, he managed to find yet another loophole by creating an unforgettable film trilogy of himself that made him nigh-immortal and invincible. Since the Devils can only claim his soul in the last day of his life, the now-immortal Jack Horner has escaped this as well.
    • When Jack Horner was suddenly turned into a dragon in the last arc, he lost his immortality and became destined to be slain by a hero, his son. This effectively killed Jack Horner in their final battle, but when the Devils came to collect his soul, all of them argued over who could claim it. They finally decided to just lock Jack up in the ends of time as punishment, but Jack still turned this to his advantage, by using his and Gary's literary powers to create a new universe in Jack's own liking.
    • Early in the series, Jack beat the Devil in a poker game. After getting himself attracted to a dying Southern Belle, he then used the Devil's Bag of Holding to trap the Grim Reaper and prevent his new girlfriend from dying, so he could have sex with her. Then, when Jack let Death out of the bag, Death loved the vacation & spared the girlfriend after all.
    • Beast himself once tricked the Blue Fairy into marrying her worst archenemy Gepetto. Hell, even Reynard the Fox, another archetype of tricksters, was impressed.
  • 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. The animal Fables expect Blue to come back from the dead one day as a dashing hero saving the day, when all Blue really wanted was to be freed of heroic responsibility [[I Just Want to Be Normal and just live a normal life.
  • 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:
  • In the main series, Totenkinder has moments of this. She may look like an old, helpless woman, but her true form is terrifying. Thankfully, we only see it via a reflection in King Cole's glasses.
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 and a de-bottled genie, the remaining heads from the surviving wooden soldiers join forces with Bufkin to help him take Baba Yaga 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 making the waitress pay for him by blatantly admitting he has no cash & planned to skip out on the check. He then takes her home to have sex with her.
    • Snow White's initial appearance has her handling of Beauty & The Beast's complaints without any compromise, remaining in control, and laying down the law on the pair without mercy.
  • 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, who has no qualms about releasing a bottled genie to destroy not only his opponents & Fabletown, but to promote himself to power to replace Sinbad.
  • Evil Twin: Rose Red starts out as this to Snow White; Rose joins with Jack to attempt to scam Bluebeard & is shown to have a very troubled relationship with her twin. While Rose and her relationship to Snow do improve over the course of the series, everything comes crashing down in the "Happily Ever After" arc, when Rose declares all-out war on an unwitting Snow in order to control the power of their mother's bloodline.
  • 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!"
    • The prophecy for Bigby's & Snow's cubs states that "the second will be a pauper". The second, Blossom, becomes a nature goddess on a wilderness world, living with animals in the wild. She has no money, but then, she neither needs nor wants any.
    • Used hilariously with Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty. When she was an infant, an evil fairy cursed her to die when Briar pricks her finger, a curse mitigated by a good fairy, who changed it so that Briar only falls asleep & can be awoken by "the kiss of a prince who truly loves her". In one scene, Bigby's chewing her out for accidentally pricking her finger at a jewelry counter, which caused Briar and the entire department store to fall asleep before Briar was awoken. How was Briar woken up? The police on the scene brought the K-9 unit and one very affectionate dog started licking Briar's face...
    Bigby: Don't tell me — the dog's name was Prince?
    Briar: Repeat any of this and I'll hate you forever.
  • 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 defeats Baba Yaga without stopping her knitting.
  • Exposition of Immortality: Tommy Sharp pulls this on 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. This clues the readers in just how long Fabletown has been operating and how old its citizens are.
  • Extreme Omnisexual: Goldilocks. While sleeping with Bluebeard, she admits to him that she's no speciesist, and that she's open in having sex with any living being. This includes not only sleeping with Baby Boo Bear, but also Bluebeard's goblin butler.
  • Eye Scream: Cursed to view all the sins and dark secrets of every person he ever looks at, due to a piece of enchanted mirror lodged in his eye sockets, Kay has cut his own eyes out numerous times with a kitchen knife, forcing Frau Totenkinder to regrow them for Kay whenever the Fables need someone's loyalties & background checked. This means Kay is doomed to cut out his own eyes over and over forever. When Kay looked upon a certain "kindly" old man, Kay falls to his knees in horror, then promptly runs to his bathroom with a very sharp knife, staring into the mirror as he's about to plunge the blade in.
    Kay: (with a knife to his eye): So many....
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • Geppetto started out as a kindly old man, outraged at the evils which the local nobility were inflicting on his friends and neighbors. Then he got the taste for power and kept justifying taking out more & more nobles & taking over more & more lands, finally putting himself in ultimate charge. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, indeed.
    • Nurse Sprat was a mean-spirited nurse who delighted in her power over helpless, sick Fables, but she was still nominally on the side of Fabletown. Then Mr. Dark came calling, Sprat went with him willingly, and, calling herself Leigh Duglas, proceeded to take control of Bigby and try to kill of the surviving Fables.
  • Fake Defector: Rose Red joins with the rebellious Fables in "Animal Farm", sending her sister Snow White on the run for her life. When Snow survives and manages to end the rebellion, we find out later that Rose did it 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, in order to scam Bluebeard out of his money.
  • Fantastic Nature Reserve: The Farm, a huge, isolated chunk of wilderness in far upstate New York which is home to the Fables who cannot appear as normal humans. Between mermaids, dragons, sleeping giants, talking pigs, and the characters from The Jungle Book, "fantastic" is an extreme understatement.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • The Adversary'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. Offering them food is, to them, the gravest of insults, as at least two people have found out to their misfortune.
    • The Fables themselves are anti-Goblin since the Gobs were on the Adversary's side during the war. Since the Gobs' favorite food happens to be talking animal Fables, the hatred is understandable.
  • 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. Rose Red threatens to bury him alive under a few tons of cement, and Snow White actually starts the cement-mixer pouring, until Rose talks her out of it.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: After the war against the Adversary, Rose Red falls for Sinbad, who returns as one of the war heroes, and marries him after only a few days of knowing him. This prompts Boy Blue's realization of Rose's tendency to always chase after any interesting man of the moment, only to lose interest once their glamour fades. This is proven by how she divorces Sinbad again in a heartbeat as soon as Blue returns a dying war hero.
  • Gender Bender: In Cinderella: Fables Are Forever, Ivan Durak turns out to be Dorothy Gale in disguise. This doubles as 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 the storybook genies, pure magical beings with powers bordering on Reality Warper, who were forced into their bottle-traps long ago by "King Sulymun", the Fables' version of King Solomon. They grant three wishes to whoever sets them free, 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 and does so without regard to either Fable or Mundy no matter what harm he does. Thorn has no qualms about dishing out Disproportionate Retribution to perceived slights, and plans 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 her 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 wanted, they're still too precious to just "discard" like that.
    • In "The Good Prince" arc, it's revealed Frau Totenkeinder owns several abortion clinics to gain her powers from them. Kay is able to blackmail her with this knowledge since, while not illegal in Fabletown, it is highly frowned upon.
    • Totenkinder threw Rapunzel out when she refused to abort her twins. It's also heavily implied that before then the two of them discretely sold abortifacent potions to village women who couldn't afford to have children.
  • Happily Married:
    • Despite all their arguing, Beauty and Beast have been married for centuries & are quite in love with each other, to the point that Beauty refused the rather substantial seduction of Prince Charming to remain faithful to her Beast.
    • Snow White & Bigby. Once they finally get together, they settle down into wedded bliss with their seven children.
    • From "The Last Story of Flycatcher", Flycatcher and Red Riding Hood end up not only married, but with at least one son. They're shown cuddled together outside the castle, smiling and quite, quite happy.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Subverted by Geppetto, aka The Adversary. When Fabletown alters their battle plans to grab him as part of Pinocchio's bargain to reveal the last remaining Imperial gate to the Mundy world, they force Geppetto to sign the Fabletown contract, which absolves him of all his prior crimes. However, he does not go quietly; despite now being part of Fabletown, he is constantly shown plotting against them and attempting to escape their control.
    • The same happened to Revise, who was just as reluctant.
    • Bigby. He starts as the monstrous Big Bad Wolf, killing everyone in his path just because he can. However, when he first meets Snow White, he not only helps to rescue her and her sister from Imperial forces, but later escapes to Fabletown, signs the contract, and becomes their sheriff, head of their covert operations, and a proud, loyal father.
  • Henpecked Husband: Poor Beast. Beauty pretty much has him wrapped around all her fingers. It doesn't help that his form changes from a handsome human male into a monstrous beast whenever Beauty gets upset with him.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.:
    • Rose Red spends month hiding in bed, refusing all contact and her Farm duties after Boy Blue dies. Only intervention by her long-dead mother's ghost finally snaps her out of it.
    • Darien, when realizes he needs to sacrifice himself in the "Cubs in Toyland" arc. His plaintive question "Will it hurt?" is just heartbreaking.
    • Therese, in the same "Cubs in Toyland" arc, once she realizes what Dare has done. She huddles on a castle ledge, barely eating, barely acknowledging her toy subjects, for years before she finally brings herself out of it.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Prince Charming at the end of "War and Pieces". Badly wounded, he tows the last remaining bomb to the final Imperial gate and detonates it, killing himself.
  • Also, the North Wind, as of the end of the "Super Team" arc. Realizing that killing Ghost, Bigby & Snow's rogue zephyr son would estrange him from Bigby, Snow, and his other grandchildren, yet unable to break the vow he made to destroy all such beings, North attacks Mr. Dark, dragging him into his Casket of the North Winds, killing both of them, thereby saving Fabletown and avoiding killing any of his grandchildren.
  • Dare in Cubs in Toyland, who sacrifices himself to restore the Cauldron of Plenty so Therese will survive.
  • Hidden Villain: The Adversary does have a true identity, but it's kept under wraps for quite a while. For many years, Fabletown thought the big, monstrous Emperor was the Big Bad, but the real head of the Empire is unknown to even its own citizens.
  • Hide Your Otherness: Fabletown forces all Fables to hide anything that might give away their true nature to the Mundanes of Earth. If a Fable is unable to hide their otherness, they're sent to the Farm to keep them out of sight:
    • Rapunzel has to get her hair cut several times a day to disguise its rapid, unnatural growth.
    • Fables with animal forms either have to be able to change into a human form or have a magic disguise.
    • Beauty & the Beast are threatened with the Farm, when Beast is unable to hide his beastly form due to Beauty's anger.
  • 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.
  • Homage: The entire mini-story, "The Birthday Secret", is a glorious tribute to Calvin and Hobbes. It's drawn in Bill Watterson's distinctive, fluid style and lettering and focuses hilariously on the Wolf cubs acting as bratty as five year olds can be. The real clue-in comes when the cubs are shouting out what they want for breakfast: one yells "Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs!"
  • Hope Bringer: The Anthropomorphic Personification of Hope and her four 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", 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: much of the New Camelot seems to involve who of the cast will take over the various roles of the mythical King Arthur tales. Two of the characters are from those old myths, Morgana Le Fay & Lancelot, and they don't take over their old roles. Instead, they move into different roles, opposite what they played in the original tale: Lancelot now plays Guinevere's role as the consort of "King Arthur"/Rose Red, with Morgana taking over Merlin's role as advisor, instead of being the wicked sorceress out to destroy 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.
    • Frau Totenkinder is the Wicked Witch of many different tales, taking on all their names and personas, including the Lady who blesses Lancelot with invulnerability in the original King Arthur myths, the Witch who tries to eat Hansel & Gretel, and as of her last incarnation, Belleflower.
  • Infant Immortality: Rarely, if ever, played straight, the series does not spare anyone just because they're babies or kids:
    • Averted horribly in the Cubs in Toyland story, where the toy-residents are all exiled to Discardia because they were indirectly responsible for the deaths of the children & infants they belonged to.
    • Averted again during the same arc with 9-year-old Darien sacrificing himself to reactivate the Cauldron of Plenty to keep Therese alive.
    • Averted yet again in the "Animal Farm" arc, with Baby Boo Bear and the children of The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe, who not only willingly take up guns to kill Snow & other opposed Fables, but also implied to have been executed for their role in the rebellion. All of them are shown in the background at points during the "The Good Prince" arc, as Flycatcher is leading the dead of the Witching Well to freedom.
  • Intellectual Animal:
    • The Fables living on the Farm only have the appearance of animals. They are every bit as smart as the Human Fables, and many of them are even more well-read.
    • Bufkin, the Flying Monkey, who has read every single book stored in the Business Office and uses his knowledge to defeat an unbottled Genie, Baba Yaga, and the Nome King of Oz.
  • 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, as 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.
    • Subverted with Frankie, in the Business Office, who takes every opportunity to refer to himself as a genius, but proves himself as dumb as a brick.
    • Inverted and averted with Bufkin, who at first continually and annoyingly refers to himself as a dumb and not-very-bright monkey every time he does something wrong, even though he's shown reading extremely complex, thick books. It takes the Magic Mirror to convince Bufkin otherwise, and Bufkin proceeds to use his vast knowledge of books to destroy his enemies. However, once aware of his smarts, Bufkin stays the same modest, silly monkey in speech and attitude.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Human Goldilocks sleeps with Baby Boo Bear of the Three Bears. While Goldie claims their relationship is a political statement, Papa Bear states otherwise.
      Papa Bear: No, it's because Papa's li'l Boo Bear is hung like a —
      Goldie: (cutting him off) I do it because it's a vital and powerful political statement...
    • Human Snow White and Bigby, who's the Big Bad Wolf & son of a wolf mother & the North Wind. Their romance story takes a long while to play out and ends with Bigby reuniting with Snow and their children. Per Bigby's words, it took him a few centuries to "get into human girls". Their romance and marriage is one of the few solid relationships in the series.
    • Bigby's wolf-mother and the North Wind, an Anthropomorphic Personification of the North. Their union results in a litter of cubs, but the North Wind's heart eventually changes and he leaves her; heartbroken, Bigby's mother pines away to death as a result.
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: In The Wolf Among Us, Bigby uses a cricket bat to smash up Georgie's nightclub till Georgie tells him what he wants to know.
  • 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:
    • The end of Storybook Love has Snow White agreeing to go on a date with Bigby as long as they take things "very slowly". Soon after, she realizes the two of them slept together during their drugged state and she's already pregnant. It takes a while for her to recover and the two of them to reconcile after that.
    • Bigby was 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", resulting in his wolf form becoming the size of an elephant, more than three times the size of his brothers. The runt of the litter becoming the Big Bad Wolf...
    • Two of the Three Little Pigs, who are victims and good guys in their fairytale, become vicious killers, leading the conspiracy to overthrow the Farm and kill Snow White. The Big Bad Wolf, who tried to blow the Pigs' houses down to eat them in the fairy tale, becomes the good guy, fighting to keep Snow alive and administer justice in Fabletown.
    • In the New Camelot, Morgan le Fay is cast in the Merlin role to Rose Red's King Arthur, helping Rose keep Camelot running; in the original legends, Morgan Le Fay tried to overthrow and kill Arthur. In the same arc, Sir Lancelot du Lac seems destined to be the new Guinevere; in the legends, he was Guinevere's adulterous lover and part of the reason the original Camelot fell. 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:
    • Bluebeard, the Fable who used to kill all of his wives, is a cowardly, conceited rich blowhard who continually plots behind peoples' backs, uses threats to intimidate his opponents back down, and has no qualms about killing helpless people, as long as they can't fight back. He makes no pretense of likability at all. After Snow White survives the Farm rebellion, Bluebeard drugs both Snow and Bigby into running away & sleeping together, then sends Goldilocks to assassinate them — in retaliation for Bigby insulting him.
    Bigby: Sure, you're a terror when gutting unarmed brides on their wedding night, or gunning down an unconscious man on a toilet. You're a coward, Bluebeard, hiding behind a lifetime of wealth & privilege. Now, unless you're prepared to thrown down...
    (Bluebeard only stands there.)
    Bigby: When you get done pissing yourself with fear, tuck tail and do what I told you to do.
    • Jack Horner, an egotistical womanizer who has no qualms about lying, stealing, cheating, and scamming anyone just to get rich. When he encounters a sick, dying woman in the Civil War, he only stops Death from taking her so he can screw her before she dies.
    • Prince Brandish stands out as perhaps the single most entitled, self-centered asshole in the entire series, and that's really saying something. He beats Snow after enforcing his supposed "marriage rights" on her, threatens to kill her children because they're "mongrels" due to Bigby being their father, changes Grimble into a helpless bird & tries to kill him, slaughters Weyland in cold blood, and kills Lancelot while laughing about it.
  • Jerkass with a Heart of Gold:
    • When first introduced, Prince Charming is depicted as a womanizing, power-hungry asshole whom almost everybody in the series dislikes, conning his way into the Mayorship of Fabletown. However, though his reasons for becoming Mayor were selfish, Charming works much harder at running Fabletown than King Cole ever did, truly doing the best he personally can. For example, he fully intended to give shapechanges to all non-human Fables to allow them to leave the Farm; he was forced to break that promise only because the Thirteenth Floor sorcerers told him it was impossible. Then in the War against the Empire, after his airship is blown from the sky, Prince Charming tows the bomb himself to its intended target and sacrifices himself in order to trigger it, crippling the Empire.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Every Fable in Fabletown qualifies. When they join the community, they sign a compact that forgives all of their past deeds, no matter how horrible or bloody, and no one in Fabletown is allowed to hold any of the past crimes against each other.
    • Subverted with The Adversary, Geppetto. While officially he's signed the Fabletown compact, the Fables will not forget nor forgive, and make it abundantly clear that they will not allow him in their stores or homes. The Farm animals take their own retribution, as well: after their attempts to kill him fail, they bury him alive deep in the forest.
    • Snow White. Despite being the former Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, she helps a murderer avoid punishment because he's her son and never suffers any consequences for that.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Tommy Sharp. A journalist, Tommy approached Bigby openly, in the middle of Fabletown, and claimed that he knew the secret of Fabletown, that he had proof that all of the Fables were immortal and had been around for over 100 years, and Tommy had pictures to prove they were all vampires. After Bigby gets done laughing his ass off, he arranges for a secret operation to erase all of Tommy files and blackmail the journalist into keeping his mouth shut. However, Bluebeard then takes matters into his own hands and shoots Tommy in cold blood.
  • King Incognito: In the final story arc, Rose Red, the leader of her troops & ruler of the New Camelot, dons a hooded cloak and wanders unknown among her troops on the eve of the battle, in a scene that directly homages the same scene in Henry V.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: When Snow and Bigby's eight-year-old child, Winter, is chosen as the North Wind's successor, the parents and siblings, Bellflower/Totenkinder, Dunster Happ, the former North Wind's servants, and the other Cardinal Winds proceeds to kneel down to her.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Freddy and Mouse as Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. The characters are still under copyright by Fritz Leiber's estate, so their names are altered, though their personalities and appearances are very much the same.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!:
    • Boy Blue is just a supporting character, an office boy to Snow White and a friend to Flycatcher & Pinocchio. But after his long-lost love Red Riding Hood shows up in Fabletown & proves to be an imposter, Blue gets dangerous & goes to rescue the real Ride. 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 people. Originally just the supporting comic-relief character and Chew Toy for the Business Office staff, he proceeds to declare war on Baba Yaga and a rogue d'jinn — and when they laugh him off, he takes them out. Spectacularly so.
  • Lilliputians: All of Littletown is populated by extremely tiny humans who are small enough to ride mice. The original male founders of Littletown were warriors & explorers from the actual kingdom of Lilliput; the first women were Barleycorn Brides, grown from enchanted corn. After a couple generations and expansion of their population, the corn is no longer used.
  • Lilliputian Warriors: The Mouse Guard is the police force of Littletown, armed warriors and police who ride mice. They even take on an army of the Adversary's wooden soldiers by scrambling up the wooden legs and unscrewing their knee joints.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: In Fairest, 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 of Characters: Well, duh. Every single public domain fairy tale and legend is represented here. Each book opens with a characters page, and there's never less than 15-20 speaking characters portrayed. Add in those with non-speaking parts, one-lines, or side-stories, and you've got too many to list here. See the Character page for more details.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Briar Rose, a.k.a 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. It is fortuitous that the police responding to the incident happened to bring a detection dog named "Prince".
    • Jack Horner pulls this when he sells his soul to the demons. His pact with them stipulates that they can have his soul when he dies, but then Jack makes a popular blockbuster trio of movies about his adventures. In the world of Fables, where Mundy popularity determines how tough a Fable can be to kill, this insures Jack will not only never die by old age, but is extremely tough to kill.
    • Snow White also uses this tactic on Bluebeard in the first story arc. Part of Jack Horner's scam was to have Rose Red sign a marriage contract with Bluebeard, stipulating that Rose Red would marry Bluebeard after one year in exchange for a huge sum of money, but Bluebeard has to keep the marriage agreement secret. When everyone thinks Rose is dead, Bluebeard tells Bigby and Snow about the agreement; when the scam is revealed, an enraged Bluebeard tries to make Rose Red marry him anyway or give him his money back — and Snow promptly drops the hammer. By telling Bigby about the contract, Bluebeard violated its terms, putting Rose Red in the clear.
  • 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).
  • Made of Evil: Mr. Dark. In his own words: "I'm the Dark One just out of sight. I'm the scary thing lurking under every bed & hiding in every closet...I am nothing less than every dark thing in the dread of night."
  • Masquerade: Fabletown insists on hiding its existence from mundane Earth people and goes to considerable lengths to do so. Each Fable lives under rules aimed at hiding their particular nature. For example, Rapunzel has to have her ever-growing hair cut every couple hours; non-human Fables have to buy magic to hide their natural forms, and if they cannot afford it, they're sent to the Farm. Pity any mundane who cracks the ruse and foolishly lets on that he knows about the Fables' existence — death is the best they can hope for.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Just about every Public-Domain Character from most Western fairy tales is in this series, with their tales intertwining with everyone else's, as well as quite a few Middle Eastern tales and a few sneaky LawyerFriendlyCameos from tales that are still under copyright: Prince Charming, Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty & the Beast, The Jungle Book, the Land of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Three Little Pigs, the Frog Prince, The Adventures of Pinocchio — and that's just a short list.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Frau Totenkinder is German for "Mrs. Dead Children".note  Totenkinder derives power from sacrificing children, and while she no longer sacrifices Fable children, she owns mundane abortion clinics & takes her power from those deaths. This is 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.
    • Snow & Bigby's daughter Winter becomes the new North Wind in the Inherit the Wind arc.
    • The janitor "Flycatcher's" background story reveals him to be the Frog Prince, who turns into a frog whenever he gets scared. As a human, he also has loves to catch and eat flies, too.
  • Mighty Whitey: The "1001 Nights of Snowfall" book is based on the Arabian Nights stories; in the original, the vizier's daughter, Scheherazade of Persia, outwits a murderous king by telling him stories each night, until he falls in love with her and cannot bear to kill her. In the Fables retelling, Scheherazade has passively accepted her doom, and it's her father who tricks European-Fairy-Tale-based Snow White into taking Scheherazade's place. Snow White gets the king to give up his murderous ways, and when Scheherazade comes to thank her for the extra year of life and states that she goes to the king herself that night & will likely die, Snow 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.
  • A Million Is a Statistic:
    • Utterly averted with Kay seeing Gepetto's crimes, including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents in the Homelands. He is completely shocked, and rushes back to his house to stab his eyes out again. "So many..."
    • Played straight in that same issue, as Geppetto gleefully admits the number of people who died without a care and doesn't think anything of it. He can't even understand why everyone's so upset with him over the killings, either.
    Mrs. Cornhusk: God will judge you! Mark my words!
    Geppetto: If he does, he'll think he's looking into a mirror.
  • The Mole:
    • Ichabod Crane. At first he was simply being a very lonely, awkward, and unstable clerk involved in the running of the Fabletown government and trusted by Snow White and King Cole. Then Ichabod was uncovered in a sting operation by Cinderella, who seduced him & found out Ichabod had been using his position to gather intel on Fabletown & was ready to sell out all of it to gain power in the Empire.
    • The first and second Red Riding Hoods, who were an unnamed sorceress working for the Empire and Baba Yaga using a disguise, respectively. They both masqueraded as a refugee Fable on the run from the Empire in order to gain military information on the last remaining Fable refuge in the Homelands and on Fabletown.
  • Multiple-Choice Past:
    • Jack has at least three backstories, two of which are clearly in conflict: he was either created wholecloth from a spelling error or was the result of a union between a Fable and a Literal.
  • Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty was either cursed by Frau Totenkinder, who was among the Thirteenth Floor sorcerers who helped to take apart and rewrite the curse to use as a weapon against the Empire or was cursed by Hadreon the Destroyer, who was turned into an enchanted car for her trouble. The series even comments during the "War & Pieces" arc that Totenkinder was most proficient at rewriting the curse, "almost as if she'd designed it herself". The Hadreon version is related during the "Fairest" spin-offs, which takes place before the final main arc, and Hadreon is shown to definitely not be another version of Totenkinder.
  • Muggles Do It Better:
    • The main reason why the Adversary doesn't launch a full scale attack on the Mundy world. When the Snow Queen suggests using magically induced plagues, famine and fire to take out Fabletown, Pinocchio and Rodney spell out how the Mundy governments would respond quickly and effectively, and with the help of Fabletown, would decimate the empire long before their plan could be completed. Not only has the Adversary has suppressed development of technology, but also all independent magic use.
    • Fabletown assaults the Empire using as much Mundy technology and tactics as they can. They outright buy several Mundy military-mercenary schools to train Fables how to be soldiers and adapt Mundy guns for use by non-human Fables. To top it off, they arm a flying airship with Mundy machine guns, enabling it to take out hordes of dragons & sorcerers from a distance, while remaining relatively untouched, and the Empire gates have no defense against the Mundy bombs that take them out.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: In order to keep its control over the conquered populace, The Adversary and his Empire keep all magic and potential mundane technology hidden, locked up, contained, and secreted away so no one can use it against them. This comes back to bite the Empire hard when Fabletown invades using a one-two punch combo of magic and mundane technology: the Empire has absolutely no defenses against it and can't get their locked-up resources available in time to counter anything Fabletown throws at them.
  • No Bisexuals: Averted throughout the series by at least three characters:
    • 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.
    • Rapunzel, who's been with both Rose Red and a Kitsune vixen named Tomoko, along with her male lovers.
    • Prince Charming, the serial womanizer who states at one point that he has no problems with sleeping with men & certainly no issue with a man being in love with him.
  • No Conservation of Energy: While the magicians are stated to have to store up magic for centuries and start over if they spend it, Totenkinder recovers really fast for her battles with Baba Yaga, the Adversary, Mr. Dark, and Cinderella. All of those fights are spectacular, flashy, and explosive, involving multiple conjurings, fireballs, and shape-changes. Each one has some other sorcerer stating that Totenkinder's holding nothing back & spending all she has, yet somehow Totenkinder's always ready for the next big flashy fight.
  • No Fourth Wall:
    • The literals in "Jack of Fables" address or refer to the audience on a regular basis.
    • Averted: there is a fourth wall in "Jack of Fables". In fact, she narrates a few of the issues: Eliza Wall, the fourth of the Wall sisters.
    • Babe the Blue Ox addresses the readers directly in all of his scenes. In "The Very Last Story of Babe the Miniature Blue Ox", Babe even threatens the reader with instant death if we turn the page, in order to prevent the story from ending. Of course, Babe getting to eat a ton of pizza and drink soda while holding a gun on us is a big benefit, too.
  • Nominal Hero: Jack. All of the Literals represent some form of storytelling trope, and as a Literal/Fable hybrid, Jack assumes the "hero" niche in his own spin-off series and in the in-universe movie series he produces. However, 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; and, finally, ended up as a ravenous cannibalistic dragon.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: In The Dark Ages arc, the magic sustaining Fabletown fails, forcing everyone to flee New York for The Farm. When Castle Dark falls and ruins everything the Fables tried to rebuild after Fabletown fell, King Cole is left sitting on the ruined stairs, lamenting this very trope.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Cinderella in "Cinderella Libertine", where she plays a Dumb Blonde in order to seduce and lure information out of Ichabod Crane.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The fight between Baba Yaga & Frau Totenkinder at the end of "March of the Wooden Soldiers". We only see a brief, faint reflection in King Cole's glasses of two EldritchAbominations fighting, before he runs away. The next thing we see is Beast dumping Baba Yaga's body down the Witching Well, followed by Totenkinder interrogating a captured and helpless — and very much alive — Baba Yaga in the dungeon.
  • Older Than They Look: All the Fables are well over 100 years old, though many look only in their late-30s, at most. Lampshaded with Pinocchio's complaints in the first arc:
    Pinocchio: I'm three hundred years old and still haven't hit puberty. I want my balls to drop and I want to get laid!
  • Once per Episode: Every issue of "Jack of Fables" features one page devoted to the rich and hilarious fantasy life of Babe the Miniature Blue Ox. This is such a regular occurrence that Babe is caught off-guard when he gets a second page during "The Great Fables Crossover".
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. While most of the Jacks of the stories are the same guy, Jack Horner, the Jack was the original Jack Frost and the father of his namesake/successor. There's also Jack Sprat, the executioner Jack Ketch, and the second Jack Frost, who's the son of Jack Horner.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Beauty and the Beast. We never find out what their real names are, if they have any.
    • Flycatcher, aka "Fly". His real name is only revealed when he suggests "Ambrose" as a name for one of Snow & Bigby's kids, but even after it's become known in-universe, he's only called "Fly."
    • Inverted with Colin, one of the Three Little Pigs. In the original fairy tale, the pigs are never named. In Comic Book/Fables, the dead loyal pig is always called Colin whenever he appears.
  • Orgy of Evidence: In the first arc, an overabundance of evidence and Jack's over-acting is what makes Bigby suspect that Rose Red's murder had been staged. There's too much blood splattered around and too many things overturned that shouldn't be in the room and while other things are left untouched or unbroken.
  • 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 has werewolves who are descended from a Nazi and an American soldier, with Bigby's blood injected into a human's system. They are so utterly outside of Bigby's experience that he's openly disgusted with them.
  • 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.
  • Perma-Stubble: Bigby Wolf. No matter how much he shaves, his stubble always comes back within minutes.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Snow & Bigby's daughter Therese becomes an adult due to her time in Discardia, as time there passes at a different pace. When she returns home to inform her family of Dare's death, her septuplet-siblings are still children.
  • Popularity Power:
    • One speculated source of the eponymous Fables' powers is that the more popular the story about a Fable is, the more harder they are to kill. For example, Snow White recovered from a sniper's bullet to the skull, but her sister, Rose Red, states she wouldn't 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 the "Jack" in almost every fairy tale, exploited this by going to Hollywood and making a trilogy of blockbuster movies about him. He's now effectively immortal, though not invincible.
    • A Discussed Trope, as it's brought up more than a few times within the series, but while Frau Totenkinder expresses doubt that it actually works that way, no other explanation is offered, either.
    • Also subverted by Frau Totenkinder. While she is present in many stories, she is anonymous in all of them, meaning she isn't popular by name & no one is aware that she is the specific wicked witch they dealt with in their past. This is lampshaded in several places by certain Fables stating that Totenkinder seems familiar, but they can't remember ever having met her. In her battle with Baba Yaga, Totenkinder implies that she wins and Baba Yaga loses because Baba Yaga misunderstood how this worked & came into the fight overconfident because of it.
  • Power at a Price: In "Fairest in All the Land", the Sword of Regret that Goldilocks uses on her murderous rampage allows the user to unerringly kill their intended target, but has an unavoidable price: it must claim a second life in payment for the first kill. This backfires on Goldilocks when going after Bo Peep and Cinderella. Cindy has figured out what's going on and arranges for the encounter to occur in a barren wasteland devoid of other living beings. Goldilocks kills Bo Peep, but Cinderella disarms her, and with no other possible victims present, the sword kills Goldilocks to pay the cost. Luckily, the Sword of Regret can also call one of each pair of victims back to life within seven days of their deaths. Bo Peep is restored, but Goldilocks is left dead.
  • 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.
  • Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: Ozma's prophecy about Snow & Bigby's children is pure ABAB iambic tetrameter:
    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.
  • Punch-Clock Villain:
    • The majority of goblins aren't particularly evil, just working stiffs who do as their commanders order them to do.
    • Rodney and June, two of the Adversary's wooden soldiers who fell in love with each other & ultimately were allowed to become human and live together in the mundy world. The price of their transformation is having to carry out assassinations whenever the Empire requests. They don't hold any ill will towards Fabletown or mundy humans at all and it's implied they're not happy about having to kill.
  • Punny Name: Bigby Wolf, aka Big B. Wolf, aka 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." Most of her speech is extensively flowery & dramatic.
  • Really Gets Around:
    • Prince Charming. He claims to have had over a thousand romantic conquests by the time he was 15, and when we're first introduced to him, he's not only scamming a waitress into sleeping with him, but we also learn he's had at least three wives. 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.
    • Jack Horner. His introduction starts him out with Rose Red, a backstory short shows him healing a terminally sick woman just to sleep with her, and in the "Jack of Fables" and "Great Fables Crossover" arcs, he's revealed to be the father of a number of Literals, demi-gods, and Anthropomorphic Personifications.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • Few of the Fables look their real age & most look far younger than they actually are. Most notably Pinocchio, who looks like a real boy, just as he wished for, but is actually over three hundred years old.
    • Notably averted with Frau Totenkinder, the wicked witch of all fairy tales. For most of the series, she looks like the extremely old woman she is, sitting & knitting in a rocking chair. Until she takes on Mr. Dark, anyway, and then this gets played straight, as Totenkinder sheds her years & shifts her form to that of a young, beautiful teenager.
  • Retired Monster:
    • The Adversary, Geppetto. He would gladly have slaughtered all the people of Earth through biological warfare, and even after being forced to sign the Fabletown Contract & become just another resident of NYC, he is quite unrepentant about his past. On his first stroll through Fabletown, he doesn't understand why anyone is upset with him, after all he did to ensure peace in the Empire.
    • Frau Totenkinder started by sacrificing her own baby to demons & wiping out the tribe she was born into, then continued to murder thousands of children in blood rituals to keep her power during the following centuries, which she used to inflict inventively cruel and very disproportionate "punishments" on anybody she pleased, showing up as the unseen evil force in assorted stories. She's now a little old lady knitting in a rocking chair & helping Fabletown deal with that nasty Evil Empire, oh my yes, & she invests her wealth in "perfectly legal ways" among the Mundies...by owning abortion clinics.
    • Bigby has killed and eaten hundreds, if not thousands, of humans over the course of his rogue Big Bad Wolf days, and shrugs it off without any remorse, despite now being Fabletown's sheriff and head of its covert operations.
  • 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 tried to kill his father a total of seven times, 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.
    • Peter & Max Piper have a rivalry, initially one sided but it escalates as the book goes on. Max's Start of Darkness is because Peter was the better piper and was given Frost, the family heirloom, despite being the younger brother.
  • 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.
  • Stingy Jack: Jack Hoerner earlier in his life.
  • 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 every time they meet for the way he left Bigby's mother to die.
  • 13 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 B.S.O.D. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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's 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 exiled Fables brought it down.
    • Cinderella's Fairy Godmother also embodies this trope.
    • Hansel has accused, tried, and convicted thousands of people as witches, including his own sister, all in the belief that he's doing God's holy work.
  • 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.
    • After the ghosts of Bluebeard and Shere Khan sell out Haven, they are shown to be coming back to life, Bluebeard demonstrating this by holding a glass for several seconds and may become antagonists again down the line. However, after this scene, neither are seen again.
    • In the solo story of Rodney & June Greenwood's daughter, Junebug, she is caught and nearly killed by monstrous rats living in Castle Dark. They force her to write a message for them, she draws them, and tries to tell her parents all about them, only for Rodney and June to not believe her, at first. The story's stinger is Rodney and June discover Junebug's back is covered in claw-marks & realize she's telling the truth. We never find out what happens to the rats.
  • 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"
  • 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".

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Comicbook/Fables