by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 21 of
Princess Tutu ?
How would you rate episode 22 of
Princess Tutu ?
Do you know this story? It's the tale of a man who met the devil and was tricked into promising him whatever was behind the house, only to have it be his daughter. In order to prevent the devil from taking her, the man cut off his daughter's beautiful hands.
Or maybe there was a girl whose father or brothers wanted to marry her, so she cut off her hands to repel them.
Or did the queen give birth to a daughter with no hands and was blamed for it? Or did she have her own hands lopped off because she birthed an unnatural child?
ATU706, “The Girl With No Hands”, is one of those odd folktales that gets shoved into the darkest corners of our collective closets due its decidedly creepy and violent themes, which naturally makes it a shoo-in for Princess Tutu's latter half. It works especially well for Fakir, whose hands have inherited Drosselmeyer's ability to write stories that come to life – a trait that ultimately got Drosselmeyer killed. That makes his story an interesting combination of ATU706 and another of Hans Christian Andersen's tales, The Red Shoes. I've mentioned that one before, mostly in reference to Rue, but a different aspect of the tale applies very well to Fakir too. Most people think of the story as the one where a girl puts on cursed red shoes that are very likely to dance her to death until she cuts off her feet to put an end to the spell. But in reality, the story's heroine, Karen, is proud of her shoes, and it's her lack of respect for Sundays and her falling prey to the sin of pride that triggers the curse, not the shoes themselves. When Karen goes to the executioner and begs him to cut off her feet, she's brought her mutilation on herself not because of her lack of feet, but because she had been so proud of her lovely red shoes that she ignored the teachings of God.
That relates directly to Fakir's ancestor, Herr Drosselmeyer. We learn in these episodes that Drosselmeyer died, or rather, was killed to put a stop to his stories, which had a bad habit of coming true in ways that the locals didn't appreciate, mostly because they couldn't tell what was real and what was fiction anymore. Drosselmeyer robbed them of their agency in order to force them to become characters in his story, much in the same way as he now controls Duck's transformation into both a girl and Tutu, and as the Raven controls Rue to the point where she doesn't even think she is Rue anymore. Because Drosselmeyer was so proud of his talent, and so vain as to not hear the complaints of others, he was cornered and had his hands parted from his body. They are his executioners both in symbol (the hoods their descendants wear backs that up) and in deed, because unlike the Girl from ATU706, the loss of his hands sends Drosselmeyer into what everyone hopes is death.
What makes Fakir different? For one thing, he lacks Drosselmeyer's pride. He could be read as having been Karen when he thought he was the Knight, but upon receiving his injuries in episode thirteen, he became instead ATU706's Girl, trying to do what's right but feeling as if he lacked the hands to actually implement it. He's also Inger, the heroine of Andersen's The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf, an 1859 story about how Inger stepped on a loaf of bread to save her shoes and got pulled down to hell until the prayers of a kind girl later saved her. As the Knight, Fakir was much more like Drosselmeyer, determined to carry out his version of the story at all costs, only to be saved by Tutu (or even just plain Duck) and Edel, and brought back into the light. It is these experiences that make Fakir a better person than Drosselmeyer – he's had a chance to learn his lesson and, unlike his ancestor, he's actually learned it. It's made him fear his own power (he remembers hell, when his parents died to preserve Drosselmeyer's version of reality), but like Karen, he is starting to understand what he did wrong.
That's fitting for these episodes, when Duck begins to doubt her own power as most magical girls do before finding their untapped wells of strength. Rue is also beginning to get the idea that there may be more to her than her father says there is, and ultimately it will be up to all three of them, powered by the Steadfast Tin Soldier's heart, Uzura, to save Mytho. Drosselmeyer doesn't like it, but the devil never enjoys it when someone thwarts his plans.
Do you know this story? It's the one where the characters in the story fight back against the covers that are less designed to keep them in as they are to keep other influences out. And like John Kendrick Bangs' A Rebellious Heroine and Roderick Townley's The Great Good Thing, this one may have a happy ending.
Princess Tutu is currently streaming on HiDive.
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