It’s so moving that Emma Swan, when cursed with no memories, read the story of her OWN life and thought “I’m not this person but she’s who I WANT to be”.
The woman Emma became is the kind of person she always wished she was, but didn’t think she could be. All those traits she admired were within her - she just needed LOVE. The support and encouragement of her family allowed to be her BEST self - a self that younger, broken Emma would look at and admire.
Emma Swan, at the conclusion of her story, was an inspiration to herself.
And I can’t think of a more beautiful way to end her journey.
Once upon a time, there was a clumsy school girl granted the power to transform into the magical ballerina Princess Tutu.
“Once upon a time” is a familiar phrase used to connect stories that take place in lands distant and times different from one another into the same fairytale world. Each episode of the anime Princess Tutu begins with this familiar phrase and then proceeds to tell a story both known and new, where Hans Christian Anderson’s Ugly Ducking becomes Odette, the Swan Queen, from Swan Lake, thanks to the magic of the mysterious Drosselmeyer, who bares a striking resemblance to the character of the same name from The Nutcracker. Princess Tutu is not just a retelling of a handful of fairy tales, it’s an adaptation of stories across literature, ballet, opera, and of course, anime. Each piece of Princess Tutu’s narrative belongs to worlds larger than its own. The series challenges paradigms about typical narrative creation by weaving together multiple “grand narratives”.
While working as an editor for Kadokawa Shoten in the late 80s, Otsuka Eiji wrote a paper called “World and Variation: The Reproduction and Consumption of Narrative” in which he explains the idea of the grand narrative. An individual story only gives the audience a small glimpse into that wider world that the story is set in. This wider world is full of countless narratives told from countless perspectives that make up the grand narrative. Eiji uses the Gundam franchise to illustrate this concept where any given episode of the anime is a small snapshot of narrative within the larger universe(s) Gundam takes place in. Eiji explains, “Countless other [stories] could exist if someone else were the main character.”
Everyone is the main character of their own story. But most of these stories that make up the grand narrative of a world are hidden from view. It’s impossible to tell every story at once and have it be comprehensible. Instead we can only consume small bite-sized narratives that give us a snapshot of the (hopefully) interesting parts of a protagonist’s life. But who, exactly, is controlling these smaller narratives? This is a question faced by the characters of Princess Tutu.
The concept of shifting protagonists and expanding the audience’s view into the grand narrative heavily ties into Princess Tutu’s premise. The anime’s story is catalyzed by Drosselmeyer, the author of a fictitious book called The Prince and The Raven. The book’s ending is a stalemate between the titular characters so Drosselmeyer decides to promote the minor character of Princess Tutu to the role of main character to help the story move forward.
As you can probably tell by the name, Princess Tutu is heavily influenced by ballet. One of the show’s more significant influences is Swan Lake. Through the anime’s re-purposing of Swan Lake’s Odette as a magical girl, Princess Tutu continues to uphold ballet’s tradition of adapting the story for its own purposes.
Princess Tutu and Odette
The basic story of Swan Lake is about a prince falling in love with a girl cursed to be a swan from sunrise to sunset by an evil sorcerer. The sorcerer tricks the prince into confessing his love for his daughter, Odile, instead of the swan girl thus dooming the swan girl’s chance at true love and breaking the curse.
Amanda Kennell, an American scholar, outlines in her paper “Origin and Ownership from Ballet to Anime” Swan Lake’s production history and the evolution of the ballet’s narrative. The original staging in 1877 had the story end with the villain going unpunished and the two lovers drowning in a flood. In a revival staging from 1895 the villain was defeated and the two lovers reunited in heaven after throwing themselves into a lake. In a single scene production called The Magic Swan from the 1940s, the iconic “black swan” was introduced setting the precedent for the same ballerina to play the role of Odette and Odile in striking white and black costumes. And finally, another staging in 2006, not only adopted the White and Black Swan motif, but also changed the ending once again so that the prince kills the villain and he and Odette live happily ever after.
Despite each staging of the classic having significant differences, none of the variations are cast away as counterfeits. The value of the production isn’t in how close it is to the original Swan Lake but instead in the relative merit of each variation. In fact, it doesn’t really matter which you consider “the original” where the additions made by each carry their own merit and add to Swan Lake’s grand narrative. In this same regard, it would be acceptable to consider Princess Tutu another variation on the world of Swan Lake’s grand narrative.
There is terminology for this phenomenon in Kabuki theater. Eiji points out in his paper the similarities between the concepts of Sekai (world) and Shukou (plot) from Kabuki theater and his ideas of the grand narrative and the smaller narratives.
In Kabuki, Sekai represents the world a story takes place in and Shukou represents the story that is a product of that world. Each staging of a Kabuki play is its own Shukou derived from either a single Sekai or the mixing of Sekai. What matters in creating a good performance is not necessarily conveying the Sekai but instead the relative merit of the Shukou’s take on things. No performance is exactly the same and different actors bring different strengths to a performance and in turn provide a different experience for the audience’s entertainment. This of course carries over to more art forms than just Kabuki, classic ballet is in a similar position where entire songs are sometimes re-choreographed just to match the strengths of an individual ballerina. Ballet in particular has a long tradition of making minor and major changes to suit an individual performance. Whether it be tweaking choreography or straight up giving the story a different ending. The evolution of Swan Lake’s production is an excellent example of how productions of what are considered to be the same story can dramatically vary.
But Princess Tutu borrows from more stories than just Swan Lake. This brings us back to Kabuki and the idea of mixing Sekai in order to create another Shukou.
Princess Tutu takes pieces of classic stories and rearranges them to create something simultaneously familiar and completely new. Princess Tutu is not forging a new Shukou from only Swan Lake’s Sekai, but instead is connecting the canon of European literature and performing arts together into an even more extensive grand narrative.
Just look at the series’ opening for example, where Swan Lake and The Nutcracker are intertwined with one another as the anime’s titular character is dressed in the ballet costume of Odette and dances to The Nutcracker’s Flower Waltz to simultaneously combine the worlds of two ballets while producing an entirely new moment unique to the Princess Tutu anime.
The anime ends on the implication that if one person tries to control a story and the grand narrative it’s connected to, that person will fail. Princess Tutu is an excellent reminder of how stories are dynamic. Stories end up taking on a life of their own evolving, expanding and being reworked by both creators and consumers.
Eiji explains that once the consumers feel they have a grasp on the grand narrative they are free to produce their own small narratives from it. This is exactly how its creators forged Princess Tutu from the grand narrative of classic literature and performing arts. Just as mangaka can’t help it if a doujinshi adds to the narrative of their original story, Travosky can’t control the new life his ballets have taken on in Princess Tutu. Stories will take on a life of their own, abandon the need for an original and become a part to a larger grand narrative to be consumed and reworked over and over.
Here’s another old story. I’m posting it while I try to get myself to write something new. It’s probably my favorite one-shot, so I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Raven loved the rain.
As the first drops fell, she created a black, bird-like dome over her head to keep it off and took a deep breath, savoring the fresh smell and the slight chill it brought. It’s not that she was dark or moody; it was simply that rain and gloom calmed her. Beautiful, sunny days had the same effect on her as Starfire did; they were delightful and enjoyable, but ultimately exhausting. Give her a nice, long autumn rain any time.
She floated a few inches off the ground in lotus position, watching the pond as it rippled with the impacts of the tiny missiles falling from above. The ducks and swans didn’t mind it; they probably enjoyed it just as much as she did.
She allowed herself a small smile, hearing the alarmed shouts coming from her friends as they scrambled to cover the barbecue and protect the picnic food spread on the grass while seeking shelter from the falling droplets. Maybe she should help them? There wasn’t anything valuable that could get damaged, and the worst danger was that one of them could come down with a mild cold. No, she could afford to be a little selfish today and enjoy her favorite weather by herself.
I had a thought this morning...(prepare yourselves)
Now please don’t throw things at me…but consider this…what if the TLK is actually a small setback for CS?
Let’s think about this…Emma’s just begun openly flirting with him, just beginning to truly open up. But her issues are still there. They’d didn’t magically go poof. She’s still the orphan girl who always gets left. She freaked out when Walsh proposed and she’d been seeing him for eight months. She hasn’t been back in Storybrooke 8 days and suddenly there’s TLKs going on? That’s a lot to take in.
Plus there’s the implications of what it means. And what Killian would expect. Emma’s not Snow. Or even Charming. She could very well kiss Killian, break his curse, and have a bloody panic attack. What does this mean? Am I ready to be in a full fledged relationship? What about Henry and his memories? What about Zelena still running around trying to kill them all? Accepting her feelings for him are one thing. Actually being in a functioning relationship is something else. The last one she had, the guy turned out to be a monkey, for Pete’s sake.
Logic and emotions…not mixy, people. Logically, the TLK would tell Emma all she needs to know. But accepting that, and what it means for her life, is, like her magic, something else entirely. It took her the better part of two episodes to truly become comfortable with her magic, once she committed to doing it.
What I’m saying is…this could be where the “I might have to stop chasing you” type comment from Killian comes from. If Emma tries to run from what the TLK means, then I can see a tiny speck of frustration (or hell, just a heads up or a joking tease) peaking through on Killian’s part. You can’t wait for life to come to you. You can’t wait for things to be perfect. If you do that, you wind up alone. We all know he’d wait until the end of time for her, but Emma doesn’t. She still has trouble believing she’s worth all that devotion, because no one’s ever done it for her before.
I can see a scenario where we get the TLK in 3.19, Emma freaking out in 3.20 while the birthing drama happens, then true acceptance in 3.21 and 3.22. Those last two are Jen’s favorite Emma episodes, what better way for that to be than for Emma to finally accept that her True Love really isn’t going anywhere and will fight by her side through…everything, even time travel shenanigans?
Basically, everyone has setbacks in their development. Killian tried to go back to being a pirate in the EF, did something he’s regretted ever since. What if this is Emma’s setback? She’s been pretty steady in her development in 3B, to the point where she’s pretty much openly flirting with Killian. But as we know, jumping from 0 to 60, really isn’t her strong suit. She made a decision to stop living in the past, which is fine when you’re just starting out with the openly flirty teenager stage. But jumping from that to an epic TLK Snowing-esque romance? VERY BIG LEAP, especially for someone like Emma.
All I’m really saying is…cautious optimism, people. This show is still a drama. And TLKs don’t magically solve all your problems. You still have to make a choice about what that TLK means and how you want to proceed.
an: Part Two of my accidental Arrow/ CS crossover. I’m not even sorry for the way I end this one. All titles are from “Inception” because I have a Nolan thing. Part One can be found here: xxx
“I’ll tell you a riddle. You’re waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t matter. How can it not matter to you where that train will take you?
Because you’ll be together.”
His lair is better than hers.
For some reason that irks her. It’s not exactly surprising - where her family had been millionaires, his had been billionaires, and Killian has never worked a day in his life - he’s had plenty of extra time to devote to toys and trinkets, overlarge networks and -
“Is that a grenade launcher?”
He scoffs, glaring at the thing like it personally offends him. “Yes, very discreet, wouldn’t you say?”
“Then why do you have it?”
“I have unlimited sources of income and a penchant for impulse buys. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”