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Comic Book / Castle Waiting

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Castle Waiting is a comic book series created, written and illustrated by Linda Medley and published by Fantagraphics. It was originally self-published by Medley, and picked up by the publisher after achieving success. The first volume was published in serialised form in 1996-2001, and the second volume by Fantagraphics in 2006-12.

The story combines many Fairy Tales and fairy tale tropes together to form a cohesive world. Characters include the enigmatic plague doctor Dr. Fell of the I do not love thee, Dr. Fell epigram, Simple Simon, and a gold-egg laying hen (a reference to "Jack and the Beanstalk"). The eponymous Castle Waiting is the castle of "Sleeping Beauty" fame. Many years have passed since the dim-witted princess left the castle with her prince without a second thought. Only the wall of thorns and three handmaidens remain. Since then, the castle has become a refuge. The main story begins with Lady Jain, a pregnant woman seeking sanctuary at Castle Waiting to escape her horrible husband.


The comic was ranked as one of the best comic books of 2006 in a critics' poll in December, 2006, by Publishers Weekly.

Tropes associated with this work:

  • Affably Evil: Leeds.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: The Solicitines have been criticised by some readers as imposing modern feminist ideals on Middle Ages female monasticism. However, they are very similar to the real beguine movement in Middle Ages Northern Europe, which similarly involved women living together as a religious order with significantly laxer conditions than full nuns - notably, and as depicted in the comic, they were allowed to own property and run businesses, and to leave the community without question if they decided that they wanted to marry a man.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: While the technology and look of the world is solidly medieval, the characters’ speech and mannerisms are modern, and historical events that took place centuries apart in our world seem to have happened within the past few decades in Castle Waiting. For example, the characters read and refer to books published in the mid-1800s and early 1900s. Despite that, the Black Death and the people of Poveglia being forced to leave by war are stated as occurring within the characters’ lifetimes; in reality, both happened in the mid-1300s. The stated backstory of Doctor Fell involves Poveglia being turned into a lazaretto and place of exile due to the Black Death, but in our world, Poveglia-as-lazaretto didn’t happen until the 1700s & was due to a localized outbreak of the Plague, not the Black Death.
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  • Anachronic Order: We get many, many flashbacks interspersed with the present day story. The tale starts with the entire backstory of the Castle Itself, jumps to Rackham as a young...person?...interviewing for the steward position with the three now-elderly ladies-in-waiting from the backstory, then jumps many years forward again to Jain’s flight from her husband and settling into the Castle, all interspersed with flashbacks to Jain’s childhoods. On top of that, the entire second half of book one is taken up by Sister Peace’s backstory, which in turn gets interrupted by the backstories of the various people she becomes friends with, and those stories are also interrupted by various backstories from those characters.
  • Anachronism Stew: Aside from the characters' modern mannerisms and dialogue, the library has an Oz book (1900), Rackham and Jain refer to Alice (1865) , and Peace is caught reading a copy of Jurgen (a book from 1919) hidden inside her Bible. Yet the technology level, weapons, clothing, and architecture is all solidly medieval. On top of that, many events from history that occurred centuries apart are spoken of as all happening within the characters’s lifetimes.
  • Arranged Marriage: Jain's did not turn out well.
    • To be fair, we don't know that the marriage Jain runs from is the one her father arranged with Tylo. Tylo's family is another merchant family, as Jain's is; however, she runs from a castle/keep at the beginning, one that has guards & fortifications. Considering that part of medieval life was that only nobles were allowed to build castles, one possibility is that the marriage was with the Prince we see in flashback in Book Two.
  • Bearded Baby: Skeeter, from the Sister Peace' Flashback history, had her magnificent mustache since birth, which meant she was given to the Solicitine Order right quick.
  • Beast Men:
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • In the first volume, Chess calls out “Lisunka!”, causing Jain to respond before she can stop herself. Chess then further identifies Jain as the “lesní paní”, before Jain tells him angrily that there’s no such thing anymore. Later, the Hammerlings call Jain’s son a “leshy”. “Lesní Paní” is Czech for “forest lady”, with “lisunka” being an old Russian word for a female forest god; “leshy” is likewise old Russian for “gods of the forest”. All of this points to an even more complicated backstory for Jain.
    • In the same volume, when Chess is introduced, he tells Rackham that he's certain that Jain is a girl he saw last year in the "Betebelle Wood". The fairy tale "Beauty and The Beast" was originally from France, and titled ""La Belle et la Bête" (The Beauty and The Beast), which means the forest's name translates to "Beast-Beauty Wood".
    • In volume two, towards the end of the Hammerling storyline, Rackham, Chess, & Sister Peace are teaching Doctor Fell how to bowl; there's been a running gag through the bowling subplot about learning to see the monster hiding behind the pins, which everyone treats as part of Simon's overactive imagination and they refuse to believe Chess's claim that the monster really exists. Then, when Doctor Fell proves to be skilled at bowling, to the amazement of the others, it provokes his nonchalant comment: "Bisogna semplicemente mirare per il mostro". Translation: "It's easy if you look for the monster."
  • Bright Castle
  • Broken Bird: Doctor Fell, who has gone insane thanks to his inability to cure the plague.
  • Children Are Innocent: The Devil has a problem when you go to curse a baby.
  • Close-Knit Community: Ready to welcome Jain.
  • Conjoined Twins: Billed as a two headed girl in a circus no less.
  • Creepy Twins: Jain's half-sisters, Andreia and Aimee. When they're children, they look exactly alike: round heads that look too big for their bodies, bulging eyes, no eyebrows, and receding hairlines — which aren't helped by the severe wimples they wear, nor by the tight, pulled-back hairstyle they have as adults.
  • Curse: the source of all their problems, indirectly
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Jain is pregnant out-of-wedlock, and flees her abusive husband; she comes to Castle Waiting to escape him and have her baby in peace.
    • Henry was involved heavily in war and in at least one battle, had to bury all of his dead friends. His son is also under a powerful curse, which caused Henry's heart to break. The Hammerlings bring the sick-and-dying Henry to Castle Waiting, then help Doctor Fell encase Henry's heart in iron bands to prevent him from feeling anything.
    • Doctor Fell was a brilliant doctor and surgeon, until he was assigned to the plague-necropolis of Poveglia. Overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of sick and dying, Fell cracks, then completely loses his sanity when his fiance is sent to the island...and dies there. When they arrive, Fell's friends find him still working to "cure" the dead, and hustle him off the island, eventually leaving him at the Castle when his insanity proves too much for them to handle.
  • Delivery Stork: Peace badgers Rackham into posing like this when Jain's son is born.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Simon is usually barefoot, although he does wear shoes occasionally in bad weather. Might be Barefoot Poverty, but then we hear that he's actually quite well paid for his work as a handyman.
  • Domestic Abuse: Jain's backstory and what drives her to Castle Waiting.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Massively inverted with Sister Peace and the Solicitine Nuns. Wow.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In the retelling of "Sleeping Beauty", Leeds is disgusted with Mald cursing a baby and implies that even Satan would disapprove — and given that it's heavily implied that the false Opinicus that ends up carrying Mald to hell is actually Satan himself, he'd seem to be right. In the second volume, we find that Leeds has a serious discomfort with "the sick stuff" that comes with torturing sinners.
  • Fairy Tale Free-for-All: The story is a crossover of various fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters living in Sleeping Beauty's former castle, which was abandoned following her rescue and marriage.
  • Familiar: Leeds was the familiar of Mald, the evil witch from the "Sleeping Beauty" retelling, until she got taken to Hell for cursing a baby.
  • Fantastic Slurs: Referring to a Hammerling as a "dwarf" can apparently be offensive, but only in certain situations and with a certain manner. Since Hammerlings appear to relate to humans as members of a separate, equally-powerful nation rather than an oppressed minority, this is probably more like British people calling Americans "Yanks" than a serious racist insult.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Abbess Clarisse. Widow of a lion tamer, but his lions are still alive...
  • Foreshadowing
  • Girls with Moustaches: Sister Peace is a major character and a bearded nun, who comes from a whole convent of such.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: The whole relationship between Sister Peace and Leeds.
  • Good Witch Versus Bad Witch: Melora and her friends versus Mald.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Pindar (human x Leshie) and Simon (human x giant).
  • Handsome Lech: Chess. Having a horse's head and hooves obviously isn't a problem. (Maybe the girls assume certain... other parts are also equine?)
  • Haunted Castle: Subverted. The castle is infested by poltersprites and houses a ghost, but they are all nice.
  • The Hedge of Thorns: The castle is sealed off by one of these. Fortunately a tunnel has been cut through, although it's still an unpleasant experience thanks to the skeletons of people who didn't make it through still caught up in it.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: The Solicitine storyline has Peace and Nessie. Reggie and Alphonse show signs of it too.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Subverted. Undead and other "evil" beings who used to be human get burned by holy symbols because they think they should, but actual demons have no such problem.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Leeds.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tylo. Portrayed from the first as a Jerkass little boy, in the second book he gives Jain her racing horse, Rosa, just to make her happy. As he and Jain get to know each other better, they get along a lot more
  • The Lad-ette: Sister Peace. Some of the other Solicitines even more so.
  • Loophole Abuse: The devil is directly stated to hate this trope by Leeds, and it's one of many reasons the evil witch from their version of Sleeping Beauty ends up on the wrong side of Even Evil Has Standards.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Possibly, as part of the background. The Leshies have disappeared and giants are getting smaller with each generation.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: For fairy tales in general.
  • Master of Unlocking: Tolly is a Hammerling "doorman", which means that he has a near-supernatural talent to sense the stresses and flaws in stone and make holes through walls with ridiculously little effort.
  • Meaningful Name: At first. Sister Peace was a well-behaved baby when she was born. That only lasted up until her christening. Too late to change it.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: The architecture, clothing, and technology are solidly Medieval Europe, complete with a castle, sword-fighting tournaments, feudalism, and saints who only existed in medieval times. This quickly becomes an Ambiguous Time Period, though, when we first see the thousands of books in the castle library, and the various backstories slowly get told.
  • Mix-and-Match Creatures:
    • The Opinicus had the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, the head of a camel, and the tail of...something. In its most recent appearance, it looks like a lion's tail, but early on it seemed a little snakier. This is somewhat at odds with medieval heraldry, where the Opinicus has the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion.
    • Leeds: head of a man on top of the feet/hooves of a satyr.
    • Rackham: head of a stork, body of a human man.
    • Chess: horse’s head and hind legs, upper body and arms of a human. He’s stated to have had a tail, until Doctor Fell removed it.
  • Nun Too Holy: All of the Solicitines, tey play tricks and are deeply involved in the local community.
  • Orphaned Punchline: At some point, Chess is shown to be telling Pindar jokes, but we only get to read the ending of one and the beginning of the next.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Averted with the Hammerlings. Yes, they're miners and metal workers with big beards and few women, & are called dwarves (though one character in the story thinks the term is degrading), but without the Scottish accents, heavy drinking, and bad tempers. They also love ninepins and have a reputation as spies and manipulators: they're arms dealers who are sometimes suspected of promoting wars for profit. This is because Castle Waiting takes its precedents mostly from fairy tales and mythology, ignoring all the extra cultural baggage added post-Tolkien (Tolkein's dwarves don't have Scottish accents, drink problems, or necessarily have bad tempers, but later adaptations added all that on.)
  • Overly Long Name: Skeeter's real name is Solicitous Kummernis Eutropia Dignifortis Uncumber Hulfe Reginfledes Liberata. Presumably, her nickname is loosely based on her initials, S.K.E.D.U.H.R.L.
  • Plague Doctor: Doctor Fell is a plague doctor who has been driven mad by his experiences.
  • Punny Name: The horse-knight is called Chess. Think of the knight chesspiece.
  • Roguish Romani: "Gypsies" are introduced as horse thieves, murderers, and scoundrels with ties to people who buy babies.
  • Running Gag: Fairy tale princesses are sweet but not very bright.
  • Secret Path: The castle's main keep and tower contain several.
    • One of which, to Jain's consternation, had large windows, a comfy nook, and a privy. It turned out to be a trap, however.
  • Sexy Figure Gesture: Tolly ends up using this when describing the clothes the hammerlings new female ward, AKA Snow White, will need.
  • Shatterpoint Tap: Basically Tolly's "doorman" skills - at least when it comes to solid stone.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: The backstory to the Solicitine Nuns — how their order was founded
  • The Quiet One/Silent Bob: Henry.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Rackham's name is a shout-out to the English artist Arthur Rackham, who illustrated numerous fairy tales and children's books.
    • When Sister Bridget is planning a St. Patrick's Day festival at the convent, she and the other nuns argue about what type of meat would go with green-coloured eggs.
    • Simon is of course Simple Simon.
    • Dr. Fell's name is a reference to the poem "I do not love thee, Dr. Fell"
  • Simple-Minded Wisdom: Simon. Although it's strongly implied Simon, being half-giant, is actually mentally still a growing child despite being as tall as a grown man.
  • Those Three Girls: Sleeping Beauty's ladies-in-waiting.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn: Pindar Junior is a normal baby when born, if green and having a weird face, but within a scant few months he’s grown huge for a newborn. The local midwife, Dinah Lucina, notes it’s pretty odd.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Jain has a chest Pindar senior magiced to act as a perfect laundry and bottomless wardrobe
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Simon's (thoroughly nice) father was killed by Jack the Giant Killer, who he views as a Serial Killer.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Rackham and Chess.
  • Waddling Head: Leeds' usual form consists of a demonic human head on tiny goats' legs.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The Hammerlings are sometimes accused of this.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: It's heavily implied that Rackham has tendencies in this direction.
  • Zillion-Dollar Bill: Two characters are effectively subjected to this trope when they're given a very valuable coin. Nobody in the town has enough money to make change for it.