Once Upon a Webcomic: Erstwhile Tales

Although I’ve done many posts in my “Once Upon a Webcomic” series, Gina Biggs’ Erstwhile Tales is perhaps my favorite find among them.  Strangely, it’s also the one that seems to require the least amount of explanation.

Instead of just referencing the most obvious fairy tales (i.e. Cinderella, Snow White, etc.), this webcomic’s entire purpose is to shed light on some of the lesser known stories from the Grimm Brothers’ collection.  As someone who loves these less remembered stories best of all, I could hardly believe my luck when I stumbled upon this ongoing comic series that tells some of my favorites in comic form.

The stories, however, are not the only things to love about Erstwhile Tales; Biggs’ playful, storybook-style illustrations are lovely and perfectly capture the feel of the tales she uses this medium to share.

If you love lesser known fairy tales or would like to give some of them a try, you’ll delight in the magic of Erstwhile Tales.

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Tangled: Something Old and Something New

Well, I finally got around to watching Disney’s new Rapunzel flick, “Tangled.” I have to admit that it was pretty cute.  It bears little similarity to the original tale, but there are a few consistent plot points.  I’ve divided the film up into two lists for easy reading; similarities and differences between this story and the original a.k.a. “something old” and “something new.” Warning: SPOILER ALERT.

Something Old

  • Rapunzel was kidnapped when she was a baby and has been kept in a tower her entire life.
  • She believes Dame Gothel to be her mother and uses her long, golden hair to pull her up into the stairless tower daily.
  • She falls in love with her rescuer.
  • Her tears magically heal the wounds of her lover after he is injured by Dame Gothel.

Something New

  • Rapunzel’s parents are royalty, rather than the peasants of the original tale.
  • Gothel is just a vain old woman, rather than a witch.
  • Rapunzel’s parents did not steal any vegetables (i.e. rapunzel) from the witch that were traded for the baby, so her name is unexplained and bizarre.
  • Rapunzel’s hair has magical healing powers.
  • She is rescued by a rascally thief, rather than a prince.
  • Rapunzel does not become pregnant.
  • Gothel does not learn of Rapunzel’s lover and cast her out into the wilderness.
  • Her lover does not attempt to commit suicide when he fears he will never see her again.
  • He is not blinded by thorns during a fall from the tower.

As you can see, there is more new to this story than old.  Not much about this retelling relates to the original story.  Admittedly, the Grimm version contained some racy themes, so I can’t say I’m surprised by Disney’s choices.  Whether or not their changes were good for the integrity of the story, they were likely good for profit.

Fairy Tales and Comic Books: Not Just For Kids

As the sort of people who would read a fairy tale blog, you probably already believe that fairy tales are not just for children.  In my opinion, neither are comic books.  In fact, there are more and more comic books out there geared toward mature audiences.

That being said, fairy tales and adult comic books are a match made in heaven.  Vertigo’s “Fables,” although it is not the only adult fairy tale comic (Its main competitor is probably Zenescope’s “Grimm Fairy Tales.”), is arguably the best.

“Fables” is based on the premise that all of our favorite fairy tale characters are real beings from magical parallel worlds.  After being chased from their homes by “the Adversary,” they fled to New York City, where they began a secret community right under the noses of us “mundies,” meaning “mundane, non-magical people”–sort of the “Fables” version of J. K. Rowling’s “muggles.”  These “fables,” as they call themselves, are essentially immortal, and are kept alive by the mundies’ belief in them and love of their stories.

Their lives in New York City, however, are not a paradise.  The Adversary is still out to get them, and they have their own drama to deal with.  Snow White is now the deputy mayor of Fabletown, the Big Bad Wolf has taken human form and works as the town Sheriff, Prince Charming is sleeping with anything that moves, and Cinderella works at a shoe store, which gives her time to moonlight as a Fabletown secret agent.  Let’s just say that these are not your little sister’s fairy tales, and you should never read them to her.  These are definitely meant for mature audiences.

Overall, “Fables” is a brilliant series.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll marvel at the darkness its creators have brought to the series, and you’ll love every second of it.  Not only that, but there’s also a spin-off series to keep you occupied; “Jack of Fables” chronicles the often sordid adventures of Jack Horner following his banishment from Fabletown.

This is a perfect example of modern fairy tales done correctly.  This series has been running for almost ten years (since 2002), and I am hoping for at least another ten.

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