Frau Totenkinder: Wikis


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Frau Totenkinder
Frau Totenkinder
From Fables #43, Art by Mark Buckingham
Publication information
Publisher Vertigo Comics
First appearance Fables #3 (September 2002)
Created by Bill Willingham
In-story information
Alter ego the Black Forest witch
Team affiliations Fabletown
Abilities Extremely powerful magical ability; high intelligence gathering capability.

Frau Totenkinder is a fictional character in the comic book series Fables, created by Bill Willingham. Leader of the magicians of Fabletown, Totenkinder (a pseudonym which approximates to "dead children" or "children of the dead" in German) represents many of the unnamed witches found in tales and legends. Her outward appearance as a rather frail old woman masks the fact that she is one of the most powerful Fables to have escaped the Homelands. She has appeared throughout the series as an integral part of the Fabletown community, both defending it against the Adversary's mages and making her own deals with its residents.[1]


Character history



Totenkinder was born a beautiful girl into the Fog Mountain tribe and grew up there, apparently during the Paleolithic era. Once she reached puberty, she began to experience premonitions, initially weak, but growing in strength and accuracy, until the tribe made her their shaman. She became romantically involved with Aurac, the son of the tribe's chief who expected to marry her, until another nearby tribe invaded their lands. To avert war, the chief's son was married to the daughter of the other chief, leaving the newly pregnant Totenkinder alone. If it had become known that the two had slept together, both would have been banished, so Aurac denounced her, accusing her of consorting with demons, which led to her being banished from the tribe.

Realizing that she would need far greater power than she currently possessed in order to survive, Totenkinder ritually sacrificed her newborn son and was granted considerable power, which she used to take revenge on Aurac. She learned that, while sacrificing one child a year would keep her power, sacrificing two would prevent her from aging. Years passed as she heaped every indignity imaginable on the tribe that cast her out; ages passed and she remained unchanged, growing only in power and cunning. She assisted those who were kind to her, creating the three Billy Goats Gruff to eliminate a bridge troll that was causing problems for a village that won her favor, and blessing those who she felt worthy. She took her revenge on the town of Hamelin by giving away an enchanted flute that was used to lure away their children. Prompted by her experience with Aurac, she waged her own private war against handsome princes and men of wealth and privilege, during which she was responsible for the curses on Beast, Flycatcher, and Rapunzel. In order to stem her own physical desires, she allowed herself to age considerably. Finally, tiring of dealing with others, she retired to a cottage deep in the woods, interacting with others only when a child passed, when she would dress up her house with sweets to lure them in to be sacrificed to keep her power. Eventually, she encountered Hansel and Gretel, who outsmarted her and burned her in her own oven. Surviving in horrific condition, she was eventually rescued by Snow White and Rose Red, running from the Adversary's forces. Telling her about the mundane world, Snow and Rose attempted to help her reach it, covering a considerable distance with her. However, they became separated while traveling and exactly how Totenkinder ultimately reached the mundane world is unknown.[1]

The Mundane world

Since arriving in Fabletown, Totenkinder has kept a relatively low profile. With the general amnesty absolving her of her past sins, she has assumed leadership of the various magic-users present in the mundane world and has shown an interest in helping others, including, with some irony, her old foe, Gretel, in studying the magical arts.

Totenkinder has been instrumental in resolving two of the recent crises to hit Fabletown. She defeated Baba Yaga in magical combat during the wooden soldier assault, much to the shock of the latter, who had always considered her opponent to be minor-league at best. She was also responsible for thwarting the plans of Yusuf, chief advisor to Sinbad of the Arabian Fables, when he released a d'jinn, instructing it to eliminate all his opponents and bring him great power and wealth. Totenkinder anticipated this possibility and ensorcelled him, so that, unknown to him, he actually instructed the genie to kill all his accomplices, then himself (in as drawn-out and painful a manner as possible; as had been intended for his opponents, had to be now intended for him) and then return safely to its bottle.[1] Without her foresight, it seems likely that Fabletown would have been largely destroyed, quite possibly along with much of the mundane world around it.

She has established something of an alliance with Beast since his advancement to the position of sheriff; while this generally establishes itself as a quid-pro-quo arrangement of mutual favors, it remains to be seen if any darker reasons lie behind it. Totenkinder has recently revealed the nature of her spies in the Empire. She installed a magical brush in the woodcarver guild's tools which allows her to look through the eyes of any of the carved beings whose eyes are painted using that brush and to see what they see. Among her unwitting spies is Geppetto's pet owl. She has also been able to apply this spell upon Fabletown's zephyr spies, as per Prince Charming's request. This allowed for members of the Fables' magical community to see what spies saw, in order to make up for the zephyrs' lack of experience with solid beings.

In a recent conversation with Beast, she tells him nearly everything regarding her intentions in the upcoming war with the Empire. In her opinion, Fabletown won't win in the war, simply because there is no war to begin with. To her, this is a personal duel between her and Geppetto, with their respective "allies" being their chess pieces. To mitigate Beast's horror, Totenkinder further insists that Fabletown and everyone in it is very dear to her, and she intends to get as many people alive out of it as possible. She explains that this drive to destroy Geppetto and wipe out all he created stems from a debt she believes she incurred when Rose Red and Snow White rescued and revived her after her defeat at the hands of Hansel and Gretel. In return for their "undeserved act of kindness", Totenkinder made their enemy her enemy, and intends to free the Homelands for them.

Personality, ability and identity

While generally acting in the best interests of Fabletown, Totenkinder is something of a schemer and often seems to be playing her own game. Her help usually comes with a price, such as the many "favors" Cinderella owes Totenkinder for the enchanted items she provides (although what those favors are have yet to be revealed). Very little escapes her attention in Fabletown; she was the only one to be aware of Snow White's seventh child, for example, and knew of the arrest of Trusty John, despite attempts to keep it quiet. Her intelligence network in the Homelands is extensive, as she has access to the sight of many of those running the Empire.

When she came to Fabletown, Frau Totenkinder ostensibly stopped killing newborn infants for her power, instead merely taking a little blood from each newborn Fable. However, though she still does this, it is apparently just a ruse to ease the minds of the Fabletown community, and she still secretly sacrifices children to maintain her power, only now it is many more than two a year. How she manages this is unrevealed, but she maintains that what she does is legal in the Mundane world even though it is frowned upon in the Fable community. It is implied that Totenkinder is a financier of abortion clinics.

In Fables 88 its revealed that her rocking chair was her gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretal, the stone tower from Rapunzel and the stone on which she killed her baby.

In the same way that Jack represents many of the different Jack tales, Totenkinder is "just about every witch in fairy tales", according to Willingham, as long as that witch was unnamed in their story. Therefore, Frau Totenkinder is not any of the Witches of Oz.[2] In his online Fabletown forum, Willingham clarified that Totenkinder and Cinderella's Fairy Godmother are two separate characters, and that the story from 1001 Nights of Snowfall was probably a nonspecific story similar to that of the Witch archetype. She is also not any of the named witches of Arthurian Legend (e.g. Morgan le Fey, or the Lady in the Lake) however she did make contributions during that era.


  1. ^ a b c Irvine, Alex (2008), "Fables", in Dougall, Alastair, The Vertigo Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, pp. 72–81, ISBN 0-7566-4122-5, OCLC 213309015  
  2. ^ :: View topic - Another Night with the Sultan - the Fables OGN Letters


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