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Literature / Once Upon a Marigold

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Once Upon a Marigold is a Young Adult novel by Jean Ferris.

Edric the troll lives a quiet, comfy life in the woods with little more than his two dogs and his campaign to get the Tooth Fairy fired on his mind. Of course, that all changes abruptly when he finds a little boy hiding in the bushes, who follows him home and refuses to leave. Edric ends up raising the boy, named Christian, but he quickly grows up and begins nursing a crush on the local princess. When Christian leaves the cave to find his place in the world, it isn't long before he gets wrapped up in something much, much bigger than he could anticipate.

There are two sequels, Twice Upon a Marigold and Thrice Upon a Marigold. A fourth book was planned, but the author died before it could be completed.


Tropes found in the books include:

  • Bad Boss: Rollo, captain of the palace guards, does everything in his power to have Christian killed just because his girlfriend found him cute. And of course, there's Olympia, who would have anyone who even looked at her wrong beheaded if she had her way.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Edric's dog, Beelzebub, is a wuss who hides behind his size.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Marigold's sisters Calista and Eve and their husbands are uneasy about the prospect of actually ruling their kingdom in the future.
    Calista and Eve and Princes Teddy and Harry had had many talks about how to be good monarchs, and they thought they could probably pull it off most of the time. But they didn't really want to do it. Worrying over affairs of state and regal demeanor and stuff like that didn't appeal much to them. They would prefer to have someone else run Zandelphia while they continued doing what they liked to do: play with their children, breed championship Norfolk terriers (of which the sale to neighboring kingdoms greatly benefitted the Royal Treasury or Zandelphia) and arrange fairs for Zandelphia's subjects.
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  • Changeling Fantasy: Subverted in that Christian ran away from his royal heritage to live in the woods with a troll.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The phoenix charm, the blacksmith's flying machine scraps, and the loose stone on the castle terrace are all integral to the climax.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Rollo, the head palace guard, goes into a smoldering rage whenever his girlfriend shows an interest in another man, and she likes to stir him up that way.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Olympia arranges Marigold's marriage to Sir Magnus, who's a decent enough man, but is boring and has nothing in common with Marigold.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Two of Marigold's triplet sisters are married to the twin crown princes of Zandelphia. This becomes triple when Marigold marries the twins' long-lost brother Christian.
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted by Marigold's triplet sisters, who were cowed into acting dumb and submissive by Olympia.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on Christian and Marigold discuss the myth of Perseus and Andromeda. Andromeda was a princess whose hubristic mother chained her to a rock to sacrifice to a sea monster, but was rescued by a youth named Perseus who was unaware that he was the son of Zeus. A similar structure happens in-story: Marigold is in the middle of her forced wedding to Magnus, but is rescued by Christian who shortly discovers he is the son of the neighboring kingdom's ruler.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Olympia, who, aside from being a Rich Bitch, casually drugs her husband and plots the death of their youngest child to have the throne for herself.
  • Happily Adopted:
    • Christian is perfectly happy living with Ed, his troll foster father, having run away from his strict biological parents as a child.
    • Marigold and her sisters are revealed to have been secretly adopted as babies because Olympia didn't want to damage her figure with pregnancy. Not even her husband knew about the adoptions, but after finding out he makes it clear he loves his daughters just the same.
  • Henpecked Husband: King Swithbert. He deeply, deeply regrets always letting her wife Olympia have her way with everything. When they were first married, he admired her passion, her determination, her headstrong-ness. Unfortunately, this got way out of hand, leading to the shrew that Olympia now is.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Olympia forces Marigold into these often, since she believes Marigold too plain for a regular Pimped-Out Dress to work.
  • It's All About Me: Olympia, in spades. In the second book, upon returning to the kingdom of Beaurivage after a year of amnesia, she interprets the Oh, Crap! reaction of the peasants as speechless delight at the return of their queen. The book points out that she literally tries to find fault with everything her daughters and servants do.
  • Marry for Love: It's a major theme that marriage should be a partnership between best friends and lifelong companions. Marigold's three older sisters are all Happily Married in other kingdoms, and only put up with Olympia's demands at their three-way wedding as to move away from her into their new lives as quickly as possible. In the end, Christian and Marigold are finally able to get married.
  • Mister Muffykins: Edric's second dog, Hecate, looks like one, but is really just desperate for attention. Olympia's vicious ferret, Fenleigh, plays this completely straight.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: King Swithbert might act like a senile old man, but that's only because Queen Olympia frequently slips drugs into his drinks under the guise that it's medicine. Once he decides to pour said drinks into a nearby potted plant, he almost immediately feels better. He still acts like a senile old man to prevent Olympia from finding out that she's been discovered.
  • Oblivious to Love: Christian, who grew up deeply sheltered, doesn't realize when one of the maids is flirting with him.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: The gold phoenix charm in Christian's suit, which marks him as the heir to Beaufort's kingdom. Played with in that Christian never looks at or touches it after going to live with Ed.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Marigold's sisters all had their marriages orchestrated by Olympia, but nonetheless find them deeply fulfilling.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: Christian turns out to be the long-lost crown prince of Zandelphia, having run away when he was six. After running away, he deliberately repressed his memories of his former life and ultimately forgot about his royal heritage. Furthermore, his younger twin brothers are married to two of Marigold's sisters.
  • Rebellious Princess: Marigold, through and through. By the end, her sisters have joined her as well. In this case, "rebellious" largely means anything not perfectly in line with Olympia's standards.
  • Ruling Couple: In the epilogue, set a year after the events of the book, Christian's biological father has died and he and Marigold has united their kingdoms, ruling as the benevolent king and queen.
  • Siblings Share the Throne: Two of Marigold's sisters are married to the twin princes of a neighboring kingdom. The midwife lost track of which brother is older, so it has been decided that they'll rule jointly once their father dies. Then it turns out that Christian is their older brother, making him the sole king once their father dies. Olympia, who wanted to be the mother of as many queens as possible, is pretty upset about this development.
  • Suddenly Suitable Suitor: Christian, courtesy of being discovered as the lost prince of a neighboring kingdom.
  • The Unfavorite: Marigold to Olympia, who think she's less beautiful and charismatic than her older sisters. She specifically says she wants to be the mother of three queens, a not-so-subtle way of saying she doesn't think Marigold will ever amount to anything.
  • Uptown Girl: Humble runaway Christian falls in love with Princess Marigold and gets a job at the castle so that he can be closer to her. However, he's imprisoned as soon as his relationship with the princess is discovered.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Marigold's wedding to Sir Magnus turns to chaos when Christian arrives to take her away but is struck by an arrow in the commotion. Later the same evening, the wedding goes on with Christian as the groom.