by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Princess Tutu ?
How would you rate episode 8 of
Princess Tutu ?
Do you know the story of the boy who left home to learn about the shivers? It's sort of an odd fairy tale with a variety of interpretations, but the main issue in the context of Princess Tutu is that it follows a young man who is lacking one emotion that most other people have. In his case it's fear, but for Mytho, the slow return of his feelings by Tutu casts him as an extreme version of that folkloric hero, the boy who was kept at home lest he learn about feelings. He's been robbed of his agency, just like Duck, and also like our plucky heroine, he's starting to think that maybe he ought to wonder what it is that he's lacking and why Rue and Fakir are so determined that he not get it back – and why Tutu is so firmly in the opposite camp. Up until episode seven, Mytho has just bowed to whatever any given person wants, but both his fear of Tutu at the end of episode six and then his decision that he's willing to get his heart back anyway in episode seven spell not only the return of his will, but also the moment when he transcends the role written for him.
By this I mean the typical role of a prince in a fairy tale. Think for a second – how often does a male character in the fairy tales you know get a name? I'm not talking about Disney films (although there are plenty who answer the question), but written or oral folklore. The answer is “not many” if you don't count “Prince Charming,” which is more of a descriptor like “Sleeping Beauty” – it's what he is, not who. Princesses fare a bit better – Sleeping Beauty has a name (Talia, Aurora, Briar Rose), and Cinderella and Rapunzel's tales are best known under their given names or nicknames. But if a male character in a fairy tale is going to have a name, he's usually Jack or Hans Dumm, and those are largely considered placeholders, an everyman indicator. We talk a lot about the princesses and maidens in folklore not having much in the way of agency, but if you think about it, the princes don't fare much better. Therefore Mytho's rebellion against Fakir and Rue isn't just him becoming a person, it's the refutation of his existence as a character.
That's important as Princess Tutu begins to move into its deconstruction of the basic folklore narrative. We're not quite there yet, but if you look closely, you can see it starting. Perhaps one of the major signs is the fact that for the first time Herr Drosselmeyer feels compelled to step out of the shadows between time where he lives – Duck is beginning to make him worry that he's losing control over the story. She may need him to transform into Tutu, but Drosselmeyer needs her to fulfill her role as a character in his story even more; he's defined himself by The Prince and the Raven, and it's in keeping its characters trapped within Gold Crown Town that he is able to continue to exist. His entire being at this point is composed of his identity as Author, and if his characters rebel, where does that leave him? One answer to that question can be found in American humorist John Kendrick Bangs' 1898 novel A Rebellious Heroine. It's criminally out of print, but that means you can read it free. It's very relevant to Princess Tutu in that the eponymous heroine is a woman who doesn't care for what her author is doing to her, and so she decides to take matters into her own hands, leaving him to frantically scramble to “fix” the story. Of course, the only way he's able to communicate with her is via pen, and while Drosselmeyer has only stepped out of his stopped clock now, he's had a pen in the game the whole time – Edel. Whenever Duck is uncertain or has done something that might jeopardize the story, have you noticed who shows up? She's Drosselmeyer's direct line to his characters, and thus far it's looking like her job is to keep the story moving in the direction the author desires.
That what he wants is somewhat twisted has been clear for a while now, but the reveal in episode eight that Fakir is the warrior/knight from The Prince and the Raven is perhaps the most obvious twist yet. Fakir is almost a perversion of the White Knight character from chivalric tales, his goal shifted from helping to hurting, although he clearly doesn't see it that way. He's aligned himself much more with Rue than with Duck, or rather, with Kraehe than with Tutu, which brings us to another largely overlooked tale type, The White Bride and the Black Bride. This is the story that the ballet Swan Lake, with its white and black swans, draws from, wherein the true bride is replaced by a false one. Generally the false bride kills the true bride (something we see in The Goose Girl and Little Brother and Little Sister tale types as well), only to have the true bride be reborn when the deception is revealed. In the context of the show, Tutu, who we know will vanish into a speck of light if she confesses her love for the prince, is the True Bride, while Kraehe is the False Bride, determined to win the prince for herself. Will it play out like the tale type? Or will Drosselmeyer have his way and the tale will end miserably for everyone?
We'll just have to wait and see. The only certainty is that at least a few of the characters are afraid of their own story.
Princess Tutu is currently streaming on HiDive.
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