Literature: Enchanted Forest Chronicles aka: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles is a series of humorous fantasy novels by Patricia C. Wrede that deconstruct a number of common fairy-tale tropes.The first book starts with the forthright Princess Cimorene deciding that she is tired of being a princess (and doesn't much like the prince her parents are pushing at her). Her Fairy Godmother is no help with this problem so she follows the advice of a talking frog and ends up offering her services to a dragon. The first three books in the series follow Cimorene's adventures - the fourth one (which was actually written first) concerns her son Daystar.The books in the series are Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons, with an additional short story, "Utensile Strength".
Aerith and Bob: Most characters have names like Cimorene and Mendanbar and Kazul and so on. However there are some ordinary-named characters like Jack, Herman, and Rachel. The "normal"-sounding names are all given to characters spoofing familiar fairy-tale characters: Jack for Jack and the Beanstalk (where a pair of giants have been repeatedly vandalized by human men uniformly named Jack), Herman for Rumplestiltskin (who didn't want to keep people's children and changed his name so that it would be easier to remember or guess), and Rachel for Rapunzel (who let down her chair to people who somehow got the words mangled up).
All Witches Have Cats: Morwen owns a large number of cats, as the more cats a witch has, the more power she can channel.
Authority Equals Asskicking: The King of the Enchanted Forest inherits a link to the magical forces that sustain the realm, which is more than enough power to be a match for any individual spellcaster (though you still run into trouble with groups).
Awesome, but Impractical: The Sword of the Enchanted Forest: powerful magical weapon, chooser of the heir to the kingdom... also good for plumbing. On the other hand, the sword leaks magical energy if you try to take it out of the Forest, and every magic user except its wielder can tell.
Bad Powers, Bad People: Wizards absorb magic from everything around them, unlike witches and magicians who study magic and use magical objects. It seems as if only an unscrupulous person would want to be a wizard in this universe, since the magic absorption process visibly harms sentient creatures and damages the environment.
In Talking to Dragons, after the battle, it is mentioned that a few of the wizards surrendered and were willing to cooperate with the allies of the Enchanted Forest. Although, their alternative was being eaten by dragons.
Bag of Holding: Sleeves, technically; Morwen's enchanted her sleeves to work like a backpack, although there are limits to the spell, at which point her sleeves get heavy.
Baleful Polymorph: Quite a few. In Calling on Dragons, Killer is hit with multiple ones that stack.
Morwen is offended at the suggestion, although she considers doing it to Arona Vamist because he irritates her so much. Her cats encourage it as they want something to play with.
In "Utensile Strength", Mendanbar foils an evil sorcerer's attempt to turn a knight into a pollywog.
Blessed with Suck: The fact that Alianora wasn't cursed at her christening, despite the presence of an evil fairy, seems to have been the origin of so many problems in her life that for years her family thought she might have been better off with a curse instead. On the other hand, Alianora has managed to accrue a number of Boring, but Practical blessings such as the one on her teeth, not to mention that her unconventionality has made her the only princess besides Cimorene herself who is neither a Brainless Beauty nor an Alpha Bitch.
Bullying a Dragon: Arona Vamist goes out of his way to make himself hated by a group of notoriously temperamental people that can set things on fire with their minds. This might have been excusable in that he at least protected himself against their retribution by allying himself with wizards, but he continues his boneheaded streak by literally trying invoke this trope by taking severe exception to the intellectual positions held by Kazul — not just a dragon, but the King of the Dragons! And to make it worse, the argument is over the behavior of dragons, which Kazul is naturally an expert on.
Cats Are Snarkers: Morwen observes that it's a good thing only witches can understand cats, and only their own cats, because her horde tends to be pretty irreverent.
The Chains of Commanding: Mendanbar to a degree, although his inner monologue presents him as more sarcastic than angsty. He doesn't have any use for conventional formality, but he's very serious about his real responsibilities, almost to a fault when he tries to personally resolve all of the kingdom's problems. Both Morwen and Cimorene observe that he's visibly worn out from trying to do everything by himself.
Containment Field: Most interestingly when one group puts up a field to keep the other group from getting in, and the other group then puts up a second field around the first to ensure that the first group can't get in either.
Continuity Nod: In Dealing, Cimorene sneaks out of the castle for the first and only time by using an invisibility spell. In Searching, Mendanbar sneaks out of the castle specifically not using an invisibility spell, because he's apparently done it so many times that by now it'd be "cheating."
Cooking Duel: In "Utensile Strength", a cooking competition is used to determine the rightful owner of a magical Frying Pan of Doom. All of the contestants are warriors. And when Mendanbar decides to call it off after the rightful owner is found before the competition starts, they insist on going ahead with the competition anyway.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: As punishment for his crimes against the Enchanted Forest, Arona Vamist is made to take on all Killer's transformations, returning Killer to normal and turning Arona into a seven foot tall floating blue winged donkey.
Cool, but Inefficient: Literal with most wizards. They tend to be a theatrical lot and their spells create lightshows and loud sounds, all of which are a result of the excess magic that's not being used in the actual spell. The more skilled and dangerous wizards can control their magic to such a degree that only the desired effect of the spell occurs.
Deathbringer the Adorable: Killer the rabbit. On meeting him Morwen thinks to herself rabbits have very odd ideas about names, probably because they have to come up with so many of them. He is hit with a variety of transformational spells, but they don't do much to make him more fearsome, just ridiculous, and he's about as brave as you would probably expect an ordinary rabbit to be.
Doomed by Canon: The situation previously established in Talking to Dragons requires that Calling on Dragons have a less than happy ending.
Doomy Dooms of Doom: The Frying Pan of Doom. (The enchanter intended to create "The Sword of Doom", but he tripped over his pet pig and enchanted his wife's best frying pan instead.)
Dropped a Bridge on Him: At the end of the third book Kazul rather offhandedly informs the protagonists that she ate Zemenar offscreen.
Elemental Hair: Fire witches invariably have red hair (which tends to burst into flames when they get angry enough.)
Empathic Weapon: "That dratted sword" makes all sorts of judgment calls on its own, including the selection of the heir designate.
Energy Absorption: Wizards' staffs have the capacity to suck up ambient magic, which is at best discomfiting and at worst fatal to any living target.
Everyone Can See It: Double Subverted with Cimorene and Mendanbar. Quite a few characters they encounter in Searching assume they are a couple or about to become one, for no other reason than they are a guy and a girl traveling together. But the assumptions turn out to be Right for the Wrong Reasons as they fall for each other anyway.
Subverted in Calling on Dragons, when Cimorene becomes the queen of the Enchanted Forest.
Also subverted since, with a few exceptions, most princesses are stupid, spineless, and generally useless. In all fairness, they're raised to be that way, but most of the protagonists find them annoying.
Evil Redhead: Subverted in the case of fire-witches. While they are shown to have nasty tempers and are prone to tantrums, nearly all of the ones mentioned or seen are generally quite helpful to the protagonists.
The villain in "Utensile Strength" is a sorcerer who has usurped his niece's throne.
Prince Rupert, technically, although he's actually a milquetoast who likes his nephew. He's also rather annoyed that his sibling and in-law ran off questing rather than running the country, indicating he'd rather not play Evil Regent if he did not have to to keep his membership.
There's an entire group for them in the "Right Honorable Wicked Stepmothers' Traveling, Drinking, and Debating Society" — their 'Men's Auxiliary', while officially meant for wicked stepfathers, mostly consists of uncles.
Exploited Immunity: Witches melt in water, and wizards melt in soapy water (with some lemon). At one point a wizard uses the witch Morwen as a shield, so the stone prince gets both of them with the cleaning solution, correctly deducing that "no one who lives in a house as clean as Morwen's could possibly melt in a bucket of soapsuds".
Eye of Newt: Usually in passing Morwen will mention what components are going into her spells. In the first book Cimorene spends quite a bit of time trying to collect increasingly obscure components and had the most trouble locating a set of powdered hens' teeth.
Florence Nightingale Effect: Telemain and Morwen have a Relationship Upgrade after she supervises his recovery from an injury received in the battle against the wizards. It's not clear how much vulnerability and tenderness comes into it; since it's Telemain and Morwen, it mostly involves Morwen bossing Telemain around so he won't throw himself back into his research and forget to take things slowly.
Flying Broomstick: Morwen uses a broomstick, and later enchants a giant basket to fly. Telemain doesn't like it. Morwen insists it's because you're meant to ride them sidesaddle.
Cimorene and Mendanbar go from "I can't imagine marrying anybody" to "I'm not sure I trust you" to "Let's get married and live happily ever after" in about a week.
Averted for Daystar and Shiara; at the end of a similarly eventful week, they've decided to keep seeing each other, but haven't made any decisions about the long-term course of their relationship. (Also played with: the title of the final chapter promises an engagement and a happy ending, but the engagement turns out to be Morwen and Telemain deciding to take the step from bickering Like an Old Married Couple to actually being married.)
Buckets of soapy water (with lemon juice; don't forget the lemon juice) have an interesting effect on ... wizards. Not witches. (Although the one witch who's ever been in its path was a particularly tidy one and therefore not prone to melting.)
The short story collection Book of Enchantments has an actual Frying Pan of Doom.
Genre Savvy: This, combined with good old common sense, is near to a superpower in the setting. All of the protagonists have it, and almost no one else does, giving them a tremendous advantage most of the time.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Concerning the Stone Prince turning back to normal, in which he says he isn't sure, because there are advantages to being made of living stone. In which Alianora says "There are disadvantages too" while blushing. Upon hearing that Cimorene starts to giggle.
Harmless Villain: Prince Rupert is here, if there isn't a rank lower. He's not remotely evil, and is in fact in danger of being kicked out of the Men's Auxiliary of the Right Honorable Wicked Stepmothers' Traveling, Drinking, and Debating Society for not being villainous enough.
Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Pretty much nothing ever seems to go right for Antorell. He's not clever, not all that good a wizard, both his enemies and his own allies (including his father) largely hold him in contempt, and he's melted in every single book at least once. He doggedly continues to try and pit himself against Cimorene despite the fact that the result is the same every single time. If he weren't a villain (and didn't transform into a Smug Snake every time he thought he held the upper hand), you might be inclined to feel pity for him.
"Ought I to be taking this person seriously?" the stone prince said in a rather doubtful tone.
"He's been trying to figure out how the wizards work their spells," Mendanbar explained, "but he hasn't done it yet." "Why do you want to know that?" Cimorene asked Telemain with renewed suspicion. "Because that's what I do!" Telemain said.
Specifically, "what he does" is research magic, trying to find the underlying ur-spell in any given magical rite, as well as experimental magic. His house has two stairwells, one of which only goes up and the other only down, apparently for no other reason than he was experimenting and those were the nearest handy sets of stairs.
Jack-of-All-Trades: The aptly-named Jack. He mostly does peddling and minor repairs. He does not do giants.
Layman's Terms: Telemain's technical babble on magic often needs to be translated.
Literal Genie: This may have happened with the genie encountered by Cimorene and her unwanted fiancee Therandil. Therandil wishes to defeat a dragon in battle and rescue "his" captive princess. Cimorene then points out that Kazul, her dragon, is female, and thus the wish doesn't apply to her. Since both of them were actually happier with the idea of Therandil defeating a male dragon and rescuing a more "traditional" princess, they never actually try to find out if the wish was indeed literal.
Locked Out of the Loop: For most of Talking to Dragons, Daystar has no clear idea what's going on, and the various people who do know refuse to enlighten him. There is a good reason for this, however: if he was informed of what the sword he was carrying was and what his possessing it meant (that he was prince of the Enchanted Forest), the wizards could use magic to find him.
Long List: Willin carries around one for everything — caves in the Enchanted Forest Kingdom, formal occasions the kingdom no longer holds, torture implements once stocked in the dungeon...
Loyal Phlebotinum: Mendanbar's sword. It works only for the king or heir of the Enchanted Forest, although a family member can carry it safely.
Made of Temptation: There are two dippers next to the Water of Healing. The correct one to use is plain tin. The other is gold and gem-encrusted, and turns you to stone if you pick it up. Every prince who goes on a quest for the Water of Healing is told to use the tin one, but most of them think they know better and turn to stone until one with sense comes along and uses some of the water on them. This happens again and again; even the prince Cimorene gets the story from in Dealing With Dragons, who explicitly knew better, still gave in to the temptation to take the damn golden dipper off its hook to look at it... which is why he's "the stone prince."
Magi Babble: Telemain speaks in nothing but, at least when he's talking shop.
Magic Mirror: Several of them; mostly used for communication, but they can also be used to find things.
Mobile Maze: The forest constantly shifts itself about. Having a will of its own, it often acts in such a way intentionally, to separate people from each other, to get them lost, or to prevent "undesirables" from entering the forest at all.
Moral Guardians: Arona Vamist acts as one in Calling on Dragons, for some unfathomable reason. He basically spends his days calling up magical beings who he believes aren't "traditional" and trying to convince them to rearrange their lives to suit his tastes.
Morphic Resonance: When Vamist has all of Killer's curses shunted onto him, he ends up as a seven-foot blue floating donkey with wings...and a bald spot.
Mundane Utility: Mendanbar, King of the Enchanted Forest, uses his great magical powers to dust his house. In fact, this is more or less how he and Cimorene become acquainted with each other — he introduces himself by using the ancestral weapon linked to the realm of pure enchantment to unclog the drain. She has to forestall him from doing the dishes.
No Name Given: The stone prince presumably has one, but it's never mentioned what it is.
No Ontological Inertia: In several ways, really. Most importantly, after a magic user's death, their spells will cease to exert any influence (unless they're a very powerful/clever magic user). However, the way everything just snaps back to normal after Daystar brings down the wizards' shield around the castle and releases Mendenbar could be seen as an example of this trope as well.
No Export for You: Dealing with Dragons and Searching for Dragons were released in the UK as Dragonsbane and Dragon Search. The other books weren't released with them.
No Sell: Morwen shrugs off the soapy-water treatment, and explains it as "clean living".
Not That Kind of Mage: Telemain is a Magician not a Wizard, no matter how interested in how they work their spells he may be, and regardless of whether or not he happens to have one of their staves at the moment or not.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Cimorene on occasion, mainly in Dealing. She draws from her own sisters' behavior.
Off to Boarding School: Mendanbar's suggestion of what the aforementioned Evil Uncle should do. He's been ordered by the Wicked Stepmothers' Society to do something evil or lose his membership, but he genuinely likes his nephew, and in addition can't get his nephew to think getting lost in the forest is actually a bad thing, because the nephew is a wannabe adventurer. So Mendanbar tells the uncle that boarding school is the perfect solution, because it's a thing that's conventionally done by nasty people, that the nephew will hate, but won't actually do much harm.
One Steve Limit: Averted. The giants Dobbilan and Ballimore are regularly robbed by humans, who are different individuals each time but always named Jack. However, Jack the traveling merchant Cimorene and Mendanbar encounter has no interest in trying his luck.
"I'm a businessman. I don't do giants."
Open Sesame: The gate from the Mountains of Morning to the Caves of Fire and Night. Apparently Open Sesame was the literal passcode for a time, but "word got around and we had to change it."
Orwellian Ret Con: The re-release of Talking to Dragons had some edits to bring it into line with things that had changed during the writing of the prequels. These included:
In the original version of Talking to Dragons, Telemain was reasonably comprehensible, but the prequel novels gave him his habit of constantly speaking in Magi Babble. When Talking to Dragons was reissued, his dialogue was edited accordingly.
The circumstances under which Cimorene and Mendenbar knew each other — the original version of Talking asserted that the Enchanted Forest and the Mountains of Morning had been closely allied, bringing them into each other's immediate orbit, but in Searching the relationship between the two kingdoms is shown to be neutral at best, and in fact the two meet while trying to prevent an outbreak of full-scale war. There was further mention of Antorell having actually courted Cimorene, and that they were married only after the sword was stolen. These were also rectified in the re-release.
Our Elves Are Better: And the groups of elves are all apparently quite different from each other, to the point where in the last book, some side with the king and others with the wizards.
Pair the Spares: Cimorene deliberately does something like this when she sends Therandil to rescue Keredwel instead of her. It gets Therandil out of her hair, and the two are much better suited for each other, so everyone wins. She continues to do this for the rest of her time as Kazul's princess, sending the knights who tried to rescue her off to rescue other princesses.
Personality Powers: Fire-witches tend to have a certain similar temperament, although it's no indication of being either good or evil.
Pregnant Badass: Cimorene in Calling on Dragons. The baby grows up to be Daystar.
Prophecy Twist: When the stone prince was born, it was foretold that he would do a king a great service, which caused a great deal of trouble as he tried to figure out what service and which king. In the end, he does a great service to the king of the dragons, more or less by accident and without realising it would count until somebody points it out afterward.
Rescue Romance: Played With. Therandril and the other princesses attempt to invoke this with Cimorene. Cimorene says getting kidnapped by a dragon would be a good way for a princess in search of a husband to find a match.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Mendanbar, Cimorene, and Kazul are all quite active — Mendanbar to a unhealthy degree for a while. Daystar might also count, although he was unaware of any royal heritage at the time.
Runaway FiancÚ: Cimorene's adventures start when she flees an arranged marriage.
Satellite Love Interest: Prince Therandil for Cimorene. In fact, he's so shallow that she runs away and moves in with a dragon to get out of marrying him (The betrothal was her father's idea). She eventually gets rid of him by convincing him to rescue a different princess being held by another dragon. He sees nothing wrong with this, and becomes interested in this new princess after learning only four things about her: first name, name of her kingdom, hair color, and a description of her crown. Once he's gone, the only time Therandil gets mentioned at all is when Cimorene explains how she got rid of him to her friends.
Scullery Maid: There's a Running Gag in "Utensile Strength" about Cimorene taking measures to ensure that the palace only hires kitchen maids who can actually do the work, and not disguised princesses on the make.
She Is the King (Third type): In Dealing, Cimorene assumes that if Kazul wins the competition for King of the Dragons, she will be crowned Queen; but Kazul explains that no, King of the Dragons is a gender-neutral title, and Queen of the Dragons is a separate (also gender-neutral) job, with very little power, that nobody much wants. Also an inversion, since at the start of the story, the most recent Queen was a male dragon.
Cimorene. She made sure the stone prince "rescued" Woraug's princess and she sent her own fiancÚ after a more suitable match for him. Later she mentions that she dealt with most of the princes trying to rescue her after the first book's events by sending them to rescue other princesses (who actually wanted to be rescued), and that she made sure to pair up the nicest knights with the nicest princesses. She describes Shiara matter-of-factly as "the next Queen of the Enchanted Forest" at a point where neither Shiara or Daystar has consciously thought about their relationship that far ahead. Also it's never revealed just how much of a hand she had in the series Beta Couple hooking up...
As seen above in She Is Not My Girlfriend, a lot of people in Searching for Dragons think that Mendabar and Cimorene look good together.
Shout-Out: Naturally, to just about every fairy tale in the public consciousness, but also to some recent literature. The Fire-witch whose castle is full of petrified passersby is like the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the idea that witches and wizards melt in soapy water clearly comes from The Wizard of Oz, though in Morwen's case it is subverted. Some of the descriptions of the network of caverns under the Mountains of Morning echo those in Colossal Cave, including a maze of twisty little passages.
Squishy Wizard: Or at least water soluble wizards. Ok, so it takes a little soap and citrus too, but that only makes them tough for a stain.
Standard Hero Reward: Half a kingdom and the princess's hand in marriage is said to be the standard reward for rescuing a princess who has been captured by a dragon. When Cimorene learns that her parents have offered it on her behalf, she notes that half the kingdom is not only a considerably larger dowry than she might otherwise have been offered with, as the youngest of several sisters, it's larger than all her elder sisters' dowries put together.
Talking Animal: They're not uncommon. In particular there are witch's cats (who can only be heard by their witch, meaning the reader is only privy to their conversations in Calling), Killer the rabbit (also in Calling), and Suz the lizard in Talking. A few minor examples also exist, like the squirrel who directs Mendanbar to Morwen in Searching or the frog who sends Cimorene to the dragons in Dealing.
Cimorene: Are you an enchanted prince?
Talking Frog: No, but I've met a few, and picked up a few things.
Antorell could also count, given that by Talking, his attempts for revenge against Cimorene pretty much have consisted of him dramatically bursting into her house and screaming about how he'll get her, only for her to promptly melt him.
Arona Vamist could also count, seeing as he makes it his business to endlessly pester witches (both fire and regular) and dragons about the "proper" way they should behave. Granted he had the power of an entire group of wizards protecting him from the fire witches, but there's really no excuse for him to argue with Kazul over whether or not dragons eat princesses, especially since he had just lost said wizarding protection.
"Actually, it is," Telemain said. "The Enchanted Forest is unique, magically speaking, and therefore the interface between the forest and the rest of the world is equally unique. Penetrating that interface requires a specific application." "What's that mean, when it's at home?" said Jack. "You need a special spell to get into the Enchanted Forest, because it's different from everywhere else," Mendanbar translated. Telemain looked irritated. "That's what I just said."
True Love's Kiss: Pulled by Daystar to bring Shiara back from being a stone statue.
Twisted Ankle: Invoked by Cimorene during the period when princes keep trying to rescue her; she gains a period of respite by pretending to one would-be rescuer that she's sprained her ankle and is thus unable to negotiate the path down from the mountain until it heals. (The path is sufficiently narrow and treacherous that the traditional remedy of carrying her to safety is out of the question.)
Nobody likes wizards (dragons and other inherently magical beasts are even allergic to them).
Wizards don't like fire-witches due to some rather dangerous interactions thanks to the incompatibility of their magics, and they also do not like the unique magic wielded by the king of the Enchanted Forest.
Sorceresses ended up a little too popular for their own good.
Magicians are usually seen as confusing
Fire-witches as moody and unpredictable at best, but then you get to the worst of them...
Regular witches are careful to keep their scary reputation up (even though most of them seem to be nice enough) so they don't end up like the sorceresses.
Weaksauce Weakness: Any wizard can be melted (temporarily) with the simple application of soapy water with a little lemon juice. Later a spell is devised to have the same effect by simply pointing a finger and reciting a magic word.
What an Idiot: In-universe, this is Cimorene's reaction to the Stone Prince's story of how he became a walking, talking statue: despite knowing that he should use the tin dipper and not the golden one to draw water from the magic well, he couldn't resist taking the gold one down from its hook just to look at. (To be fair to the prince, he saved himself from being completely Taken for Granite with some very quick thinking, which Cimorene also acknowledges, and is generally one of the smarter characters in that particular book.)
Heck, they have a Traveling, Drinking, and Debating Society. And a men's auxiliary for the Evil Uncle contingent.
In Searching for Dragons, a princess in the Enchanted Forest tries to move Mendanbar with her story of how her Wicked Stepmother banished her there. Mendanbar is not sympathetic, as he instantly suspects that the princess and the stepmother talked the entire thing over as a way for the princess to get a good marriage. His son Daystar is more susceptible when a princess tells him a similar story in Talking to Dragons; that time it turns out to be a plot to get Daystar's sword.
All witches do, although a 'hear-everyone-else's-cats' spell is still not feasible. Morwen observes that, considering the way her own cats talk about other people, that's probably for the best.
Witches in general try to pretend that they are this, because they're afraid that if people are no longer afraid of them, they'll be endlessly bothered for magic cures for everything.
Witch Species: Fire Witches, although it's possible for them to have Muggle kids- just very unlikely.
Youngest Child Wins: Discussed. The stone prince was turned to stone while attempting a quest to obtain the magical cure for a king's illness; he tells Cimorene that in retrospect he ought to have realised that, as two of the king's three sons had already attempted the quest and failed, nobody was going to succeed except the third son.