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Western Animation / Tales of the Night

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Les Contes de la nuit (Tales of the Night) is a 2011 French animated film directed by Michel Ocelot. The film is comprised of six fairy tales, five of which first ran on TV in France as part of the Dragons et princesses (Dragons and Princesses) anthology. The sixth short is new to Tales of the Night. The story is framed with an old man (who used to work in a cinema) who mentors two young actors, helping them plan and act out their stories. The six stories are:

  • The Werewolf
  • Ti Jean and Belle-Sans-Connaitre (Beauty Without Knowing)
  • The Chosen One of the Golden City
  • The Tam-Tam Boy
  • The Boy Who Never Lied
  • The Doe-Girl and the Architect's Son

The film is visually striking, done in a shadow puppet style with crisp black silhouettes moving across a brightly-painted background. The stories are set in a variety of locales, from medieval Europe to Africa and Tibet. It's also notable that each of the stories contains a twist or Subverted Trope.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Androcles' Lion: The bee, mongoose, and iguana in Ti Jean and Belle-Sans-Connaitre help Ti Jean after he shows them kindness and feeds them.
  • Audible Sharpness: Several times when swords are drawn.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The wizard in The Doe-Girl and the Architect's Son takes Maude back to her room by summoning a giant spider to take her.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: In "The Werewolf", our titular hero is engaged to the elder of two sisters, who he believes was the one who gave him food and warm clothes when he was falsely imprisoned. Not long after the engagement, he trusts her with his secret and essentially entrusts her with his necklace that enables him to turn back into a man. But she proves to be a cruel and superficial person whose love for him is conditional. Upon learning he's a werewolf, she quickly schemes to get rid of him. She gets rid of the necklace so he'll be stuck a wolf and promptly frames his werewolf persona of killing him, much to her younger sister's sadness.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Boy Who Never Lied. The boy gets to marry the girl he loves and the king wins half the neighboring kingdom, but the boy's beloved horse Melongi is dead. The only consolation is Sumaki became pregnant with his foal before he died.
  • Dance Party Ending: In The Tam-Tam Boy.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The hero of The Chosen One of the Golden City kills the city's Benefactor.
  • The Fair Folk: Appears in The Doe-Girl and the Architect's Son.
  • Fairy Tale: The basis for the film. There's usually an interesting twist, though.
  • Freudian Slip: Towards the end, the younger sister sets up her older sister to meet Yan's werewolf self. When they come face to face, the older sister accidentally calls the werewolf by name. Although she tries to excuse that she meant to say "Yan's murderer", but the younger sister ousts her, declaring this means she knows the werewolf is really Yan himself.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Architect's son is implied to be half-fairy.
  • Hate Sink: In-Universe. The actress is so disgusted with the female lead in "The Boy who never lied" upon hearing what she's like that not even making her sympathetic towards the end helps the actress enjoy playing her. If anything, this foreshadows that the lead female will do something horrible.
  • Impossible Task: The King of the Underworld tries this in Ti Jean and Belle-Sans-Connaitre.
  • It Was with You All Along: She, actually. Maude in The Doe-Girl and the Architect's Son was actually turned into the crow that was seen throughout. The doe in the title was just a normal doe.
  • Karma Houdini: Arguably the princess in The Boy Who Never Lied. Her plan results in the boy losing his best friend, but she gets off with what amounts to a slap on the wrist. The boy even gets together with her at the end!
    • Downplayed in "The Werewolf". The only form of retribution the older sister gets for trying to get her werewolf fiancé Yan killed is to be disowned by him. Even then, she tries to sour the victory by disowning Yan as well and declaring no girl would ever want to marry a werewolf. However, her younger sister loves him unconditionally, so in the end, Yan and his new bride have the last laugh.
  • Magic Feather: The magical tam-tam turns out to not be what's making people dance: it's the Tam-Tam boy's skill with it.
  • Mayincatec: The setting for The Chosen One of the Golden City.
  • Mistaken for Own Murderer: Played with in "The Werewolf". In which case, the titular werewolf is framed by his fiancé as his human self's murderer. The fiancé planned for the hunting party to kill him so she could have him out of the way.
  • Mukokuseki: Non-Japanese example: Since the film is done in a shadow puppet style, the same models are able to be used again and again with only slight alterations in costume. For example, it allows the boy and girl characters (who are at the very least French in terms of nationality), to play African and Tibetan characters, in a way devoid of Unfortunate Implications.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In "The Boy Who Never Lied", it's strongly implied to be how the girl feels when the boy sadly presents her with soup made from Melongi's heart, who took his own life in order to help the boy save her. If it's any indication, she only intended to somehow make the boy lie (possibly about killing his horse), rather than lead to the actual horse's death.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Played with: The stories where the male and female protagonists fall in love only goes as far as showing them hugging/looking at each other affectionately. Until the final tale, that is.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: In The Werewolf, Yan is compelled to turn into a wolf at the full moon but his necklace actually controls the transformation.
  • Rescue Romance: In "The Werewolf", the titular werewolf rescues his fiancé's younger sister when she's attacked by a bear. This not only warms up the younger sister to the werewolf, but she trusts him enough to ride on his back.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The Chosen One of the Golden City has this as its central conflict, with the hero representing progress and knowledge going against the high priest who controls the people with his dogma. The people eventually side with the hero.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Melongi the horse kills himself after mating with Sumaki so that his human can save the girl he loves by giving her Melongi's heart. Unfortunately, she was faking it all along...
  • Shaming the Mob: In "The Chosen One of the Golden City", the lead female calls out her people on trying to kill the hero for essentially slaying the monster. She even points out that had the monster not been killed, they would still be living out their lives worried for their own daughters being sacrificed, instead of truly living.
  • Something Only They Would Say: In order to reveal to the younger sister his true identity, werewolf!Yan takes her to a special glade with a beautiful pond. This place is special because the only person who knows this location besides the younger sister is her beloved Yan.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Sumaki, the singing horse, is pregnant at the end of The Boy Who Never Lied even though the stallion Melongi is dead.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Twice over in The Chosen One of the Golden City. First, once the hero slays the benefactor (which promptly causes the city to lose its gold and prosperity), the people instantly turn on him. Monster or no, the benefactor was their only source of in-come after all. Second, the female lead sides with the hero, rather than kill him for killing her people's Benefactor. Despite that they are her people, she feels the hero is more deserving of her loyalty, because he's the only one who tried to stop the Benefactor from eating her.
  • Talking Animal: Melongi, the horse in The Boy Who Never Lied.
  • Ungrateful Townsfolk: In "The Chosen One of the Golden City", the people of the titular city are actually distraught when the hero kills their Benefactor. True, the Benefactor's death means their city will crumble and lose its gold. But it doesn't make them any less ungrateful, as it means they don't have to sacrifice their virgin women to the monster anymore.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: In The Chosen One of the Golden City, the villagers must sacrifice a beautiful girl to their "Benefactor" or, according to the prophecy, their city will crumble.
  • What You Are in the Dark: In "The Werewolf", we see both sisters' true nature. The elder sister may act as though she loves her fiancé despite his lycanthrope secret. But when he trusts her with the hiding spot of the necklace that allows him to turn human, she secretly steals it, throws it in a well, and lies to everybody that the werewolf ate her fiancé. The younger sister, on the other hand, loved the same boy and did all she could to keep him fed and clothed while he was falsely imprisoned. Everybody else thought he was guilty of his crime, but the younger sister secretly watched over him.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: A central plot point in The Boy Who Never Lied.