|“||I've a great debt to pay, for an undeserved act of kindness done to me long ago, in an old burned cottage in the woods. Two young girls, on the run from a terrible conqueror found me in a dire state. Rather than move on, as far and as fast as they could, which would have been the wise decision, they sojourned for the time it took to care for me. It was then that I vowed to make their enemy MY enemy and destroy the Adversary, wiping all his works from the face of the Earth.||”|
Frau Totenkinder, also known as The Black Forest Witch, but whose first name was Bellflower, is a powerful member of the 13th Floor in Fabletown. She is an old rival of Baba Yaga and the Fairy Godmother, as well as the Adversary.
Frau Totenkinder was born into the Fog Mountain tribe, seven years after the ice had retreated from their current home, and grew into a beautiful young woman, apparently during the Paleolithic era. Once she reached puberty around the age of fourteen, 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 cast out, so Aurac denounced her, accusing her of consorting with demons, which led to her lone banishment 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 partly 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. One of her earliest exploits having been her blessing a Roman City with seven years of plentiful harvest and then seven years of famine. Frau Totenkinder also blessed "Lance of the Lake" so that as long as his heart was true and he live a life free of sin, he would win every battle and every duel.
Becoming a powerful witch, she assisted those who were kind to her, and punished those who were less than kind. She helped a village who earned her favor by creating the three Billy Goats Gruff to eliminate a bridge troll that was causing problems for the village. Later, she took her revenge on the village of Hamelin by giving Max Piper an enchanted flute, instructing him to lure away every child of the town as they'd earned her ire. Prompted by her experience with Aurac, she always waged her own private war against handsome princes and men of wealth and privilege, during which she was responsible for the curses on Lord Beast and Prince Ambrose. In order to stem her own physical desires, she allowed herself to age considerably, practiced her craft, ruined the lives of those who displeased her, and blessed those who didn't. One such instance of the latter, Totenkinder reward a woman's good daughter, whom the mother despised, with every manner of riches and blessings, but this woman's beloved evil, vain, daughters she baked into a pie and shared it with their mother for lunch, revealing her punishment to this woman as she ate the pie.
At some point, Totenkinder purchased a girl named Rapunzel in exchange for a handful of gold. Making the girl her apprentice, Totenkinder shut Rapunzel away in a tower and, for unknown reasons, cursed Rapunzel's hair to rapidly grow. Eventually, Rapunzel begun a passionate love affair with a prince and this resulted in Rapunzel becoming pregnant. When Totenkinder found out, she threw her young ward out. Soon after disowning her adopted daughter, Totenkinder grew tired of social congress with men and other sorts of people, and withdrew to a cottage deep in the remote woods. Once or twice a year, when she sensed their proximity, she'd dress up her home in an extravagance of sweet cakes and candies to lure the rare passing child to be sacrificed; sometimes more than a year would pass between such visits, and her power waned. After an extended period of time since her last child-sacrifice, she encountered Hansel and Gretel, who outsmarted her and burned her alive in her own oven.
Surviving in horrific condition, she was eventually rescued by Snow White and Rose Red , running from the Adversary's forces. The two nursed her back to health, while she used her power to temporarily drive away the Adversary's forces and prevent them from disturbing her recovery.
While she healed herself, Totenkinder revealed her life story to the two girls and while Rose grew to to respect her for her tale, Snow was now horrified of Totenkinder. While Snow wanted go leave Totenkinder before she grew strong enough to harm them, Rose convinced her otherwise and, 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 or when Totenkinder ultimately reached the mundane world is unknown.
During the Invasion of the Wooden Soldiers she clashed in a duel with Baba Yaga, defeating and imprisoning her in the Business Office. She later became vital during the incident with the Arabian Fables, helping to recapture the unleashed D'jinn.
She continued to assist Fabletown with their needs until the moment Mister Dark attacked. Having decided that the duel with the creature would be her last service, she rejuvenated herself (taking the name of Bellflower and traveled to the Homelands to find a way to stop him. There she found Dunster Happ, the sorcerer who had imprisoned ("boxed") him the first time, and requested his help. Although he declined, Bellflower remained with him, the two having developed feelings for each other.
She returns to The Farm to announce her duel with Mister Dark to everyone there. Her duel takes place in New York city, during which she dispatches his witherlings and destroys all the teeth he has collected, preventing him from summoning them again. Bellflower manages to actually wound him and, with the help of Clara and the other Fables, she is able to trap Mister Dark inside a gold statue. But he manages to escape and mortally wound her, apparently killing her. She didn't die but transported herself back to the Farm where she reincorporated, but having spent all her magic during the duel, she is no longer a match for Mr. Dark. As she had already decided before the battle that it would be her last, she leaves with Dunster.
She is seen again in the Homeland of the North, having been recruited by the North Wind to help with his sacrifice in dealing with Dullahan. However, they become trapped there until Winter finds them and brings them back with her.
Death and Defeat
Not long after her resurrection, she returns to The Farm in order to aid Rose Red in stopping Bigby Wolf, who was feral while under the control of Nurse Spratt. Inspired by the knight in golden armor and witch template Beast and Ozma set up to fight Bigby, they confront him and draw their fight with him, as Totenkinder manages to position the fight so that Bigby will be killed by her if he kills Red Rose. She is eventually killed by Cinderella on Snow White's request, as Snow White feared her siding with Rose Red in their upcoming battle. Their fight involves heavy magic on both sides and causes a large explosion, largely ruining the new Fabletown castle. After the explosion, Cinderella manages to crawl over to a burnt Totenkinder, killing her by stabbing her in the forehead with the glass slipper, before dying herself.
In her honor, an institution dedicated to the study of magic was named after her: the Totenkinder Memorial School of Magic.
Her personality can be a mystery, and she is known by most Fables as an old crone. She often deals with the other Fables, casting spells or providing enchanted items in return for favors. Frau Totenkinder is a schemer who holds her own secrets and plans; she knew the identity of the Adversary long before Boy Blue found out but kept it to herself in order to protect her source. She is manipulative, cunning, and sharp. Her manipulative nature has caused Beast to question her intentions, as her actions mirror that of the Adversary.
However, she has a strong loyalty towards Fabletown. She is fond of the community as they have made her feel welcome and accepted, more so than her original tribe. She has helped her community through every crisis. She considers herself in debt to Snow White and Rose Red, who saved her from the oven and took care of her when they could have fled the Adversary's forces more quickly by leaving her behind and, because of this, she is determined to make sure that they win against the Adversary.
Despite her previous cruel and harsh actions done to survive and later her various acts of cruelty and her seemingly lack of regret or pity for her victims, it was later hinted by Frau Totekinder that she does indeed harbor some regret and guilt over some of her actions. This is fully seen in her relationship with her adoptive daughter,Rapunzel, where she clearly stated that she regretted sacrificing her new born son for power and saw the girl as her second chance at motherhood. Centuries later despite not outwardly showing it, she still continued to harbor care and maternal love for her despite their strained relationship and has gone the extra mile to protect her from her various enemies.
Frau Totenkinder's natural form was as a beautiful young woman, but she normally appeared to be an old woman.
Powers and Abilities
Frau Totenkinder was said to be one of the most, if not the most, powerful members of Fabletown; as stated by the North Wind himself, she was possibly on the verge of becoming one of the Great Powers - some sort of archetype of witches. In the Homelands she was known for cooking and eating children, however her power is derived through ritual child sacrifice rather than blood drinking or other acts of cannibalism.
- Immortality: As a Fable, Frau Totenkinder was immortal and very difficult to kill; the degree of a Fable's immortality was apparently dependent on how well known they were to the mundane. Even before her status as a Fable was established, a young Frau Totenkinder learned that by sacrificing two children a year she would not age. While she initially, by choice, appeared to be an old woman, she could use her power to regain and maintain a more youthful appearance.
- Precognition: According the tale she told to Snow White and Rose Red, Frau Totenkinder began to experience premonitions after turning fourteen. They were weak at first, predicting minor events (i.e. when it would rain), but eventually these visions grew in clarity and accuracy. She also displayed a sort of sixth-sense, seen when she sensed that Mister Dark had targeted Fabletown because of some sort of slight or insult done to him.
- Witchcraft: Frau Totenkinder was an extremely powerful witch, having garnered much experience over her long life, and is one of the most powerful sorcerers in the comics. At her peak, her power was enough to allow her to hold her own in combat against one of the Great Powers, for which she prepared hundreds of spells tied to trigger words. She was ultimately defeated and her reserves of power were significantly expended; Mr. North claimed she spent more than a millennia accumulating magical power, and that it would take Totenkinder at least another thousand years to even become a shadow of what she once was prior to her duel with Mister Dark.
- Self-Resurrection: She was once burned to ashes in her own oven, but was so powerful (and popular among the mundies) that she was able to survive and reconstitute herself. During her confrontation with Baba Yaga she claimed to have been killed several times only to return again. She once more revived herself after being killed by the Dark Man.
- Spell Creation: Totenkinder has even created spells and is noted to have made the Death Curse the wicked fairy cast upon Briar Rose.
- Cursing: Frau Totenkinder has cursed several princes in her time. Her spells were normally so powerful that only "the heart's true love" could undo her curses; whether or not this was by her own design is not explicitly stated. Several prominent characters, including Ambrose and Beast, are suggested to owe Totenkinder for their conditions.
- Magical Energy Blasts: Frau Totenkinder could form and hurl powerful bolts of magical energy.
- Elemental Manipulation: Totenkinder has shown the power to ignite fire, coating her blades in sheaths of flame, and had summoned a potent rainstorm during her battle with Baba Yaga.
- Telekinesis: Frau Totenkinder has been shown moving objects with non-physical magical force (e.g. when she animated thousands of golden coins to entrap the Dark Man).
- Mind Control: She could cast spells that manipulated or altered the mental facilities of others. Possibly through her spells to affect the mind, she could paralyze her enemies, as seen during her final battle with Cinderella. There were limitations to her mind-altering spells though; for example, her spell on Yusuf was only able to tweak his words within the confines of something he would normally say.
- Behavioral Enchantments: Frau Totekinder has also shown the ability to specifically alter certain parts of another person or intelligent talking animals behavior freely. As seen where she was able to enchant a intelligent porcupine to have a sexual attraction with human women in order to punish him for harassing her.
- Shape-Shifting: As seen in her battle with Baba Yaga and Mister Dark, Totenkinder could change her shape into that of a dragon-like, eldritch abomination and a monstrous bladed beast. On a more minor scale, she could provide Cinderella with a potion to transform her into a mouse and transform others into other forms as she pleases.
- Transmutation: Totenkinder changed one of the daggers thrown at her by Cinderella into leafs, and the other one she turned into a viper.
- Portal Creation: After rejuvenating her youthful vigor, Totenkinder opened a magical doorway back to the Homelands. When preparing to exchange Tom Taylor for his wizard counterpart, she notably remarked that she had previously made journeys longer than a mere world away, suggesting that she has prior experience creating portals.
- Blessing: During her many exploits across the millennia, Frau Totenkinder has displayed the ability to give/create powerful blessings to those she deems worthy of them or those who have shown her kindness. As seen where she bequeath "Lance of the Lake" a specific Blessing where as long as his heart remained true and live his life free of sin, he would always win every duel. Frau Totenkinder was also known to be powerful enough to give multiple blessings to a single person with a variety of effects, as she was known to have to have blessed a kind hearted girl a number of various blessings that gave her good fortune,immense riches,good health and many other gifts to the girl for her goodness.
- Magical Tool Creation: Frau Totenkinder was also shown to be exceptionally skilled in making magical tools with varied powers and abilities. One of the most well known items she created was the Pipe used by the Pied Piper of Hamlin to lure all of the children from their homes. She was also noted to have created numerous powerful charms used by Cinderella during her time as a spy, that was later used to kill her.
- Magical Negation/Severing: When Geppetto was forcibly inducted as a member of the 13th Floor, Frau Totenkinder was able to severe all of his external connections to various other sources of magic in the Homelands from his now defunct Empire. Frau Totenkinder also later implied that she could freely and easily severe and negate the other magical abilities and powers of her fellow members 13th Floor if she wanted and allowed them to retain their abilities and powers purely because they posed no threat to her.
- Weapon Proficiency: Frau was adapt in the use of her dual knives in battle, evident during her fight with the Dark One. Her weapons are imbued with magic to harm and potentially kill even Eldritch Abominations.
- Occult Knowledge and Experience: She was, apparently, the eldest of all of Fabletown's magicians, and has her fair share of experieombating beings of great power (e.g. Djinn, Literals and harbingers of doom such as Mister Dark).
Frau Totekinder was known to have been a avid collector and hoarder for various magical Items and tools during her time living in Fabletown and would occasionally lend these items out to its citizens for a price.
- Judgement and Hunger: Originally presented as a pair of knitting needles, these blades' power was revealed upon Totenkinder reverting to Belleflower. These function both as weapons and wands, as they channel and direct many of her most potent spells. These blades were strong enough to gravely wound Mr.Dark. Judgement was broken during a clash with a feral Bigby. She remarked that with it's destruction half of her remaining power was lost.
- Pathfinder: Frau Totenkinder describes her bag of knitting materials as being her bag of tricks and seems to function as a receptacle for her spells as she once withdrew a transformation potion from it for Cinderella. It became a small pouch worn on Totenkinder's belt following her reverting to Belleflower.
- The Stronghold: Frau Totenkinder's rocking chair is revealed to be the seat of her power. Assuming many forms and names over the centuries, the original true form of her "stronghold" was the stone where she sacrificed her child (named Damnation and Regret). It would go on to become the tower that imprisoned Rapunzel (named Refuge) and the candy house that lured Hansel and Gretel (named Capture). It eventually became the talisman Totenkinder wore around her neck following her transformation into Belleflower (named Burden).
- Scrying Pool: Frau Totenkinder possessed a scrying pool that allowed her to observe and spy on others from a considerable distance from herself, as seen where she was able to spy on Rapunzel while she was in Japan while still being in America.
- Frau Totenkinder's name is derived from the German word Kinder, meaning children, as well as tot, which means dead. Frau means "Mrs.". This should literally mean "Mrs. Dead Children", but the used grammatical form is wrong.Totenkinder would be correct, if Willingham used an article: Die toten Kinder ("the dead children"). Otherwise the correct spelling would be tote Kinder or stylistically Totekinder.
- Her name could etymologically be taken to mean Mrs. Childkiller.
- Bill Willingham described Frau Totenkinder as a fusion of every unnamed witch in stories, including the ones featured in Hansel and Gretel, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel etc.
- The Totenkinder Memorial School of Magic was named in her honor.
- Given Totenkinder's involvement in so many different famous stories, she counts as a very well-known Fable, and may yet return to life one day.
- "Diaspora". First published in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (October 2006).
- "Witch's Tale". First published in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (October 2006).
- Irvine, Alex (2008), "Fables", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The Vertigo Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, pp. 72–81, ISBN 0-7566-4122-5, OCLC 213309015
- Fables #105 The Wind that Shakes the Worlds First published in (July 2011).
- Fables #150