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Literature / Wildwood Dancing

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Set in historical Transylvania and loosely based on the fairytale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier centers on a family of sisters who have a secret bond with the mysterious Other Kingdom, where they go to dance at every Full Moon. When their father must go away for the winter, Jena and her sisters find themselves fighting for everything they hold dear – their home, their independence and the survival of the otherworld kingdom.


This story contains examples of:

  • Baleful Polymorph: Draguţsa changing Costi into a frog as his 'gift'.
  • Batman Gambit: Dragutsa does this to Jena, Cezar, and Costi/Gogu.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: One of the points of the story. Jena's wish turns out to be the wisest.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Jena towards all four of her sisters.
    • Sorrow is overprotective towards his younger sister, Silence.
  • Big Good: Draguţsa.
  • Brainy Brunette: Jena.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Tadeusz and Anastasia of the Night People. However this could be a subversion because it is hinted at least twice throughout the book that they aren't siblings in the genetic way. In any case Tadeusz himself refers to Anastasia as his 'lover, sister, and friend.'
  • Cain and Abel: Cezar and Costi. Funny thing is it's actually the younger brother who is the evil one in this example.
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  • The Chessmaster: Draguţsa.
  • Deal with the Devil: Examined and discussed regarding Jena, Costi and Cezar as children saying they wanted to be king and queen of various domains. As a result, Costi drowned, or so Jena believed, and Cezar's price was to let his older brother sink. Jena blames herself for making a foolish wish without realizing that they could come true, but Draguţsa tells her as an adult that she wouldn't take any of their lives. Instead, she turned Costi into a frog so that he and Cezar would get their wishes, and Jena got access to the Other Kingdom. What's more, Draguţsa told Jena to trust her instincts.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: What is commonly believed about the forest to the point that Cezar wants to cut it all down. The locals know better than to disrespect The Fair Folk like that.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Equivalent Exchange: Basically the Aesop of the story; you can't receive something without giving something in return. Jena, Costi, and especially Cezar learn this the hard way.
  • The Fair Folk: Jena and the girls dance with them once a month.
  • Fisher King: Elements of this. The more Cezar takes charge, the worse things get. This continues until Costi come back to take his place as his father's heir.
  • Foil: Tati/Sorrow versus Jena/Gogu-Costi. Both women are faced with their lover being otherwordly in some way - Sorrow is a member of the Other Kingdom and Costi has been transformed into a frog. However, Tati and Sorrow are classic Love at First Sight Star-Crossed Lovers, Tati is instantly trusting of Sorrow and wastes away without him. Meanwhile Jena/Gogu are close friends who have fallen in love over years, Jena is mistrusts Costi when he transforms but puts aside her own heartbreak to hold the family together.
  • Gentle Giant: Grigori.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: While the girls get on very well, there are two instances of one girl being the pretty sister and one girl being the smart sister. Tati and Iulia are the pretty ones. Jena and Paula are the smart ones.
  • Growing Up Sucks: One of the central points of the story is that change is inevitable, and that eventually the girls will grow up and leave home. Jena's arc consists of accepting that not all change is bad.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Cezar sees his older brother return in the flesh, and able to prove his identity to the nobles of their estate. Costi reveals that he remembers everything and as a frog, witnessed Cezar bullying Jena and her sisters, and his threats to the Fair Folk. Cezar's response is to call Costi an impostor, and eventually leave rather than apologize for all of his terrible actions.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Cezar. To the point that he was willing to watch his brother drown to become the heir.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: A platonic example: Jena towards her older sister Tatiana
  • Incurable Cough of Death: The girls' father has one, which drives the plot. He has to leave the castle for town in the winter, or he'll certainly get worse and die.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Tatiana.
  • Jerkass: Cezar.
  • Kissing Cousins: Cezar very much wants Jena for his own. She doesn't feel anything of the sort for him. Jena and Costi/Gogu get together in the end.
    • Note that despite the titles used throughout the story, at the start 'Uncle' Nicolae is referred to as their father's cousin, meaning that Jena and Cezar are actually only second cousins. Therefore, also Jenna and Costi
  • Love at First Sight: Sorrow and Tati.
  • The Man Behind the Man: A non-evil variant. Ileana is the forest queen, but make no mistake, Draguţsa is the real power in the woods.
  • Meaning Ful Name: Sorrow and Silence, anyone?
  • Missing Mom: The girls' mother died giving birth to Stella five years ago.
  • Never My Fault: Cezar wants to wipe out the woods so that the Fair Folk can't endanger the people. Draguţsa reveals that Cezar let Costi drown to get his wish, and the latter had a choice to save his older brother. Cezar remains in denial that his selfish ambition led to Costi being cursed.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Gogu the frog to Jena until the whole turning back into human and becoming the Love Interest thing.
  • Official Couple: Jena and Costi/Gogu and Tatiana and Sorrow.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The Night People.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The butterfly gown.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Tatiana, who is considered the beauty of the family.
  • Secret Test of Character: Why Draguţsa makes her deal with the children in the first place.
  • Sibling Triangle: Between Jena, Cezar, and Costi.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Tatiana and Sorrow. They do have an happy ending though.
  • The Twelve Dancing Princesses: This is a retelling of that story with five sisters instead of twelve. The Frog Prince is here, too.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Cezar used to be nice when he was a child. His Startof Darkness was when he let Costi seemingly drown to get his wish


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