so I’ve wondered this since the trailer came out years and years ago and Chloe defended the movie - was the red shoes teaser written by the same team that made the movie? were they forced to market it like that, was that based on an earlier draft, etc?? not sure if you know but you seem like the leading expert!
Sorry, this is gonna be an absolute novel because you know I’m an animation fan and the history and production of Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs is SO interesting and insane. Like, Tangled levels of insane. Thanks for calling me an expert, no one else was gonna do it so I just kind of took up the helm lol.
Here’s the low-down... The timeline of the movie’s production is an absolute mess and kind of an extremely wild ride. It was in production for ten years, went through a lot of different crew members, and went through at least two other major versions of the story before landing on the final version.
Since there’s not a ton of info on the movie’s production, a lot of this is pieced together from different interviews and context clues, and also a lot of what I’ve read and what I am quoting has been translated from Korean, sometimes pretty roughly. But yeah.
Here’s the story of why the Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs teasers and poster were so, so bad and fatshame-y and the actual movie was so, so good and body-positive. (With pictures and production artwork!)
(This is a beast of a post so I’m putting it under a cut.)
All right, so. After its conception originally as a short story by the South Korean studio Locus Creative in 2009-2010-ish, Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs was being worked on and was set to come out in Summer 2017, as evidenced by this poster at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, featuring a different logo and very different character designs for most of the dwarfs.
In early-mid 2016, the first teaser (in which we see Snow White undress and then two dwarfs recoil in horror at her fatness when she takes her magic shoes off) was released, after the film had kind of been slowly chugging along for 6 or so years. (I am having such trouble pinpointing when the second teaser was released (in which one of the dwarfs basically attacks Snow while she is sleeping to steal her shoes), but I believe it was around the same time.) The teasers didn’t get that much traction because this was a small film from a small indie studio in South Korea.
None of the final actors had been cast yet. At this point in the production, the story was different, one of the many versions that the movie went through. As in the final movie, the dwarfs were actually cursed knights/princes and Snow White switched back and forth between two body types due to her magic shoes, but in this version, the dwarfs needed to steal the shoes from her in order to break their curse (rather than needing “a kiss from the most beautiful woman in the world” like in the final movie).
The weird thing is, I believe they had JUST changed the movie’s story when the teaser came out. I’m almost positive it was released more as a proof of concept than as an actual trailer for the movie. They had just recently combined two separate characters (seen above), a typical pretty, skinny princess character (Snow White) and a cute chubby girl character (’Bonnie’), into one single character that switches back and forth between the two appearances when she wears the magic shoes (also they had just dropped literally half of the movie taking place in the real world, with a magic mirror portal, it was a whole thing).
They didn’t have the details of this aspect of the new story hammered out yet, and the first pass at presenting Snow’s magically changing body type, was, yeah, not good and super offensive. This was a really inexperienced indie studio making their first film on a low budget, so even the animation and voice acting wasn’t great. I think they just wanted to get SOMETHING out there because it had been 6 years and they wanted to have something to show for it.
But here’s the thing. Despite how the teasers make it seem, this was always supposed to be a movie about body positivity, letting go of appearance-based prejudices, and loving yourself and others for who you are and for who they are, which we see in the final film.
I like to think of our film as a kindhearted one. Our intentions are nice.
- Director Sung-ho Hong
It’s important to keep in mind that this movie was made in South Korea by a 99% Korean crew, and, as I understand it anyway, in Korean culture, ‘fatshaming’ is not really a thing that is seen as overtly offensive. Also, children’s media there seems to have more adult things in it than in the US, which probably accounts for the more risque parts of the teasers. That said, I really believe that at this point in the timeline, the movie was on-track to be bad (or at least not very good) when it was released, and it would have ended up bad IF a few key players hadn’t signed on (which I’ll get to in a moment).
Interestingly, the movie’s producer, Sujin Hwang, said in a 2017 interview:
“[Both teasers] were solely produced to induce curiosity. They’re completely irrelevant to the actual story.”
- Producer Sujin Hwang
I think what she was trying to convey was that neither one is a scene in the actual movie, because while the teasers didn’t reflect the revamped story as it existed in summer 2017 (the time of the interview), they DID reflect the earlier version of the story where the dwarfs wanted her shoes, which is what the story was at the time they were made.
Now that we’re in post-teaser 2016, HERE’S where things start to turn around. After the teasers were released, my guy Disney veteran and native Korean Jin Kim joined the project. He and Red Shoes director Sung-ho Hong had been buddies for about eight years and Sung-ho had been trying to get Jin to come to Seoul and work with him at Locus for a long time, and he finally succeeded.
Jin and his twenty years of Disney experience as an animator and senior designer on films like Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and Moana, had a HUGE HUGE HUGE influence on the movie. He redesigned almost all the characters, oversaw all the visual development from the moment he signed on, and heavily (HEAVILY) supervised the animation, literally going frame-by-frame through preliminary animations and drawing over them, teaching the inexperienced animators at Locus everything he knew. (Literally almost everyone except him either only had TV experience or had no professional experience because they just gotten out of school.)
From an outsider’s perspective, it really seems as though Jin joining the project (and his gargantuan effort) made the quality SKYROCKET. Not just in character design and animation, but also in things like effects animation, story, etc. After he joined, Locus really started pushing HARD to make a good, high-quality movie, and his influence and experience from being a prominent figure at Disney was absolutely key. The studio also began to really study Disney films and other well-made animated films from other studios to really try and pinpoint what the DNA of a good animated movie really is.
I don’t have any solid evidence, but I’m pretty sure that Tony Bancroft (an animator and the co-director of Mulan) then joined the project because he’s good friends with Jin Kim. He is only credited as the voice director (the movie was recorded in English and the characters were animated to the English dialogue), but I am SURE that he probably also had a pretty big influence on the movie, because like... How could he not? I really really think there was more to his role than his title would have you believe, even though there’s almost no info out there about it.
So now the movie goes through a gigantic metamorphosis. Character designs, visual development, and animation quality are all rapidly improving, the story is tightening, and the themes of the movie (which, again, were always the same and intended to be positive) are being presented in a more sincere way. The movie is becoming the sweet, self-love-encouraging and body-positive movie that was eventually released.
I’m putting a gif from the credits of the final movie here. As we move into 2017, when the giant eruption of backlash occurred, please keep in mind that the story was finalized at this point and that THIS was the movie people were so mad about:
Chloe Grace Moretz accepted the role of Snow White immediately after she read the script and she recorded her lines (I think) in early-ish 2017. Her co-star Sam Claflin also immediately accepted the role of the romantic interest, Merlin, after reading the script and recorded his lines in (I believe) July 2017.
In the summer of 2017, the story and script were more or less the same as in the final movie. Promotional images from that time show that most of dwarfs had been completely redesigned by this point and didn’t have their teaser designs anymore.
They also released a few screenshots that look exactly like the final film. The movie was advertised as coming out in ‘2018′ at this point. Here’s a promo image from 2017 that is MUCH more tactfully worded than the infamous Cannes poster:
So now we’re in summer 2017. The Cannes Film Festival. The movie’s script and story have been basically nailed down, animation is underway, and the Korean film company Finecut is beginning to market and sell the movie to worldwide audiences. They are planning on showing some footage to potential buyers at the festival, and they make a poster to advertise the film there.
Unfortunately, it’s THIS POSTER:
Now here’s where there are some unknowns. By this point, the movie is basically in its final form, which is an adorable, body-positive story about loving people for who they are, loving yourself for who YOU are, and that provides commentary on society’s standards of beauty and how they affect how people are treated/viewed. So why this poster??? All I can really tell is that someone (I think Finecut) really, REALLY messed up and either horribly mistranslated the tagline, or didn’t do enough research to know that this kind of thing is REALLY NOT OKAY in western culture.
The above picture is shared and the internet backlash begins, fueled by tweets from prominent body-positivity activists like Tess Holliday. Even Chloe Grace Moretz speaks out against it, because she of all people KNOWS that that’s not what the movie is about. The internet then finds the old teasers from before the movie was revamped and it makes things worse. Producer Sujin Hwang profusely apologizes and says that that is NOT the message of the movie. Locus pulls the advertising campaign, and takes down the two old teasers.
“Our film, a family comedy, carries a message designed to challenge social prejudices related to standards of physical beauty in society by emphasizing the importance of inner beauty.”
- Producer Sujin Hwang
Voice director Tony Bancroft also tried to explain the situation:
“The truth is the film has a body-positive message as its core theme–it’s the opposite of what reports are saying. The problem is one poorly translated movie poster that has been taken dramatically out of context.”
- Voice Director Tony Bancroft
And then... There was nothing for a while. The movie didn’t come out in 2018 and was delayed. From what I can tell, I DON’T believe this delay was related to the Cannes backlash. I think it was mostly due to Locus’s limited budget and resources, because as we know, animation is difficult, time-consuming, expensive, and easy to do badly but hard to do well. Also, probably with Jin Kim and Tony Bancroft’s influence, they REALLY wanted to make sure to do a good job with the animation because they now had a great story and they really wanted the movie to be a quality, worldwide hit that would kind of put South Korean feature animation on the map. Just take a look at how nice the final animation was:
The movie was released in South Korea on July 25th, 2019. Unfortunately, the damage was done in the English-speaking markets and it was not released to an English-speaking audience until June 22, 2020, when it was released digitally in the UK. At the time of this post, there is no set US release date, but the distribution rights were recently bought by Lionsgate and the MPAA gave the film an official PG rating.
So who’s to blame? There’s no good answer. You could blame Locus for making those old teasers. You could blame Finecut for the competely tonedeaf Cannes poster. You could even blame cancel culture for raging against the movie based on one poster and two old teaser trailers without researching what the movie was actually about.
All I know is, it’s a damn shame.
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The Dark Prince pt.2 | JJK
𝔓𝔞𝔦𝔯𝔦𝔫𝔤: Prince!Jungkook X Caretaker! freader
𝔊𝔢𝔫𝔯𝔢: Yandere themes, Royalty!au, Curse!au, Smut, Angst, 5k
𝔖𝔶𝔫𝔬𝔭𝔰𝔦𝔰: His family name cursed, Jungkook is doomed to live his life in the furthest tower of the castle, alone and abandoned. You are charged with serving his highness with any need he may have, no matter the demand.
𝔚𝔞𝔯𝔫𝔦𝔫𝔤𝔰: 18 +M smut, gl*ry h*le of SORTS?? IDK how to label it, borderline dub-con touching/kissing, teasing, virgin!Jungkook, mentions of touching/ seeing/ washing cum, hints of pining, mentions of curses and witches, mentions of death, mentions of corruption, angst, anger, obsession, misunderstandings, name calling, abandonment issues, allusion to depression, future smut.
𝙖/𝙣: 𝙏𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙠 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙩𝙤 𝙢𝙮 𝙬𝙞𝙛𝙚𝙮 @googikoo 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙢𝙖𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙖𝙢𝙖𝙯𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙗𝙖𝙣𝙣𝙚𝙧 <3. 𝘐 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶!
pt.1 - pt. 2 - pt. 3 - pt. 4 - pt. 5 - pt. 6 - pt. 7 - Final
Before anyone came the next morning, Jungkook was up and ready to confront his new visitor. If you were going to care for him, he had better get to know all about you. He couldn’t have some random stranger be assigned to him. His biggest fear was that he’d end up killing you without his knowledge. It seemed the curse favored few people, and beyond his parents, he wasn’t sure who would have this mercy. He was never told more, only knowing that the curse was carried through his bloodline.
That’s why he’d been holed up in the tower all this time just as his uncle had been until his death. Many said it was natural causes, but Jungkook always knew it was from heartbreak. His father, just like many Jeons before him, all carried the curse, but it was always one male that physically exhibited it. If that male married, his curse would become darker and when he finally did look upon his wife, she would run screaming with her body already halfway out of the window. So it was decided to keep them from ever marrying, never having true love. None of the Jeon’s really ever experienced love for that matter. The cursed ones were always locked up and put away, the secret shame of the family, only lies associated with the Jeon name. Jungkook’s own mother married the king out of fear of death, but she held a greater fear knowing that she would bring an abomination into the world with a king who’s bloodline was tainted. His father pined for her love, but even to this day she felt nothing for him, after all, what queen loved a man they were arranged to marry -- even less a cursed one.
Even still Jungkook was born, his own father unable to have children somehow miraculously passed on his curse once more. To say the queen was beyond upset at the knowledge that she carried a cursed child was an understatement. Jungkook didn’t spend much time with them even as a child, but he knew she didn’t love his father. No woman ever loved a Jeon.
One thing he knew was that his red eyes were a dead give away of the evil within him, and that if anyone looked straight at them, they’d be corrupted by the evil there. Yet no cursed Jeon male was ever able to control this. The problem was, that when he had someone’s soul in his power, the evil thoughts swarming in his head always wanted death...always demanded it. He speculated the evil didn’t affect those within his bloodline, but he couldn’t explain the nanny. The generations before him had been lucky, sisters being born into the family were able to care for their brother without being affected. He, however, did not meet the same fate. He never understood how she had never been affected, and he hoped that her daughter would be the same.
Glancing in the mirror, he adjusts his now long hair, his curls unruly and disobedient. He knew you wouldn’t even see him, so he felt silly, but it was important that he made a good impression. The day before he’d ruined everything with his curiosity. It wasn’t his fault after all. He couldn’t help that he’d been locked up since he was a child having only been in contact with his parents, caregiver, and perhaps a guard once every few years. A new person was too much to process, and the fact that you were young just like him….and free. You probably lived your life happily, walking about carefree, taking in the sights of nature all around you. He envied that of you. You were obviously told to come to the tower as your mother’s successor, but why? Was your freedom stolen because of his parents?
In a way he was glad you were told to come. It felt like a sort of punishment for you to be here since he never knew about you in the first place. Why hadn’t your mother entrusted him with this information? Had she lied and been afraid of him just like everyone else? He never got that feeling from her, but it did hurt to know that she didn’t share with him the one thing he considered to be important to her.
The creaking doors, a sound he’d become all too familiar with, signals your entrance. Jungkook waits by his door where he expects you to slide food through any minute. He couldn’t help the way his body vibrated, his bottom lip trembling in his determination to hide his emotions. He hated how he was always so sensitive to things and that his face gave him away. In some ways he was glad the gilded tower he called home served as a barrier from being hurt by the people outside. Even the ones he’s let in have managed to hurt him regardless of his fortress.
He hears the slot open and the plate slide through. He told himself he’d wait a moment so that you wouldn’t be afraid of him touching you again. He’d respect you, gain your trust. Maybe he could make a friend. He counted backwards in his head from thirty and then he all but ran to the door. Getting on his knees, he leaned forward to peak through so that he wouldn’t drop the plate, but what he wasn’t expecting was for the door on your side to still be open. Not once had the previous caregiver done this mistake, and for the first time in a long time, he was able to see the other side. There wasn’t much but a wall of bricks and a small table, but when he adjusted himself further, he caught a skirt, which he presumed to be yours. He doesn’t know how much time passed, but he stood there, hunched over, looking through the small opening as if it were the greatest gift he’d ever received. He didn’t realize that he’d been staring at the way the material of your clothes swayed, on occasion exposing a bit of ankle.
He really must be depraved, he thought, if a bit of skin was making him feel the things he was feeling. When you turned to look towards the door, suddenly realizing you left it open, the abrupt slamming of the metal when you shut the slot threw Jungkook back onto his butt. He could hear the way you were panting, almost as if you’d seen a rat. He felt stupid for having become so intrigued by something so simple. Grabbing his breakfast, he sat back on the floor, staring at the slot the entire time. He told himself he wouldn’t ruin things, but here he had gone and let curiosity get the better of him.
You couldn’t believe how careless you’d been. What if his tentacled arms had reached out and killed you? What if he had slithered out? You stopped yourself, counting to ten in order to calm your nerves. Your mother had been very clear since the beginning of your training -- the prince is not a monster. You hated that you couldn’t keep the stories out of your head, the ones the children in the town had conjured up in order to explain something they knew nothing of. The gossip was heavy amongst all the people in the kingdom so it was hard to keep your thoughts untainted.
Your mother had given up most of her life in the service of the prince, and not once had she been killed by him. This was something she made a point of every night as she taught you how to cook and sew for the king’s service. You knew you would be doomed to follow in her footsteps, the king had made it clear once he got the idea in his head that if your mother was able to survive the fate of the curse, so could you. So far it’s proven accurate since you aren’t dead. You never expected your mother to pass away so soon, but what exactly was the life expectancy of a poor townswoman doomed to serve the cursed prince for almost twenty years? Her health was always a problem, but she never stopped to care for herself, not when she had to spend all her days with the prince, and nights with her only daughter. You’d never admit this was the reason your father had left, but you weren’t stupid. Of course, your mother had been threatened by death if she didn’t serve, and that left you to be raised by your neighbors, the last people in the town who didn’t whisper under their breath about your mother and her association with the demon prince. You were surprised you’d made it through your childhood without being burned at the stake.
The king had made sure you were protected well, a promise he made to your mother once she agreed to care for the prince. So now here you were...a pathetic young woman now bound to a man who lived behind a steel door in a tower. You don’t know exactly what it looks like behind the indelible line, but he was royalty, so you were sure he must live well. It was your job to take care of all his needs, to be at his beck and call, but the burning sensation his fingers left on your skin when he touched you still lingered. That night you had gone home and scrubbed your skin raw, hoping that he hadn’t condemned you in some way. But, he hadn’t, as you were now standing in front of the laundry shoot collecting his clothes and items for wash.
Reaching in, you marvel at the quality of the clothes knowing full well most of them were sewn by your mother’s hand. Then, a sticky substance touches your fingers and you curiously pull out the item noticing it’s a pillow….a pillow with...what was that?
Inspecting it closer, you realize what it is and you drop it quickly, shame covering your entire face. You could feel the blood rushing up to your head, and you almost faint at the idea of what the prince has done. You weren’t naïve by any means, and you’ve experienced men before, but this...this felt inappropriate. He was the prince after all. Wrapping the pillow in the other items, you quickly walk out towards the wash basins put in place by the king. Though the tower was a sort of prison, it had everything you could ever need. Water was always fresh and brought daily, food, and even a working fireplace and kitchen were made, all for the man that no one has ever seen.
As you prepared the water and soap to clean the laundry, you can’t help but peek over at the pile you know conceals the evidence of the prince’s emissions. Breathing slowly, you work to keep your calm as you unwrap the items and place them into the water. You wash mindlessly, keeping your head focused on anything but the sticky substance now sloshing between your fingers. He was a twenty three year old man, this was normal….it was normal…
Finally done, you hang the clothing just right and shake out the pillow firmly, glad that you were able to clean it and remove any evidence of what the young prince had done the night before. You walk back into the tower, the kitchen so very close and near to the door that kept the prince separated from the world. You wondered if your mother had conversations with him while she cooked, if she preferred his company over yours. And then a knock on the sliding door startles you. Walking away from the carrots you’d been chopping, you inch your way to the slot, sliding it open just a crack, making sure he can’t see you.
“Yes, your highness?”
“So you do speak.”
His voice, now closer, is soft and sweet...almost like honey. It was more innocent than the first time you’d heard it and it shocks you into silence for a moment.
“Y-y-yess..I apologize, your highness. I have not introduced myself. I am _____, daughter of ____. At your service.”
From what Jungkook could see, you bowed to him in respect, but he wishes you would have come closer to the opening so he could see your face. Your voice already had him imagining you were an angel, so he couldn’t imagine what the rest of you looked like.
Nervously you wait for him to speak again, secretly intrigued and in want of hearing the melodious tone of his voice. You’d be lying if you weren’t curious about his looks, something your mother was never able to share since she had only seen him as a child. As royalty, you imagined he had to be handsome. You’ve yet to see an ugly prince. Besides, in all the years the Jeon’s have reigned, cursed or not, beauty was not in short supply.
Jungkook clears his throat, suddenly nervous that you have acknowledged him. “I am h-honored to have you in my service.”
You kneel down further, unable to hear him clearly because it sounded like he was whispering. Was the prince actually being shy? Deciding against your better judgement, you pull back the opening a bit more, your fingertips on the edge of the metal, bringing a slight fear that he could harm you if he saw any part of you. That is what your mother had warned you about, her words clearly etched in your mind. “NEVER look upon the prince. His curse will charm you, poison your mind, corrupt your soul.”
What exactly she meant by it wasn’t clear, but you never dared ask, already full of terror at the thought to even disobey. If your mother managed to live as long as she had abiding by these rules, you’d be sure to do the same.
It’s when you hear Jungkook do the same, the metal scraping against itself as he pulled his window wider, that you panic a bit. Sitting on your haunches, back rigid as a board, and eyes facing the wall in front of you, you hold your breath waiting for his request, whatever it may be.
“Is there something you require, your highness?”
Jungkook isn’t sure why, but the sound of you calling him highness sent a thrill down his spine. Your voice was so much softer this close, and he regretted not introducing himself correctly in the first place. “I...I do not. I simply…”, Again he tenses, ashamed that his status as prince was not enough to protect him from being an incompetent fool. “I was just wondering if you would indulge me in conversation.”
You're taken aback, his request is something you most certainly had never been trained for. Your role was to care for him, provide for his needs as a royal, not be his counselor. Too afraid to deny his request in fear of punishment, you indulge him.
“If that is what the prince wishes.”
Jungkook is shocked that you have agreed, but then again, what other choice did you have? He thinks hard about what he wants to say, uncertain if his words will be too probing leaving him back at square one where you don’t speak to him at all. He could demand it, if he wanted it, but he didn’t want to force anything...not this. He needed it to be real, to be genuine.
“I was just curious about your position here. I have not been informed of the reason for your placement. Did you come here out of your own will?”
“Your highness, I have been assigned to your service since I can remember.”
“Then the answer is no.”
You don’t want to seem rude nor do you want to get yourself in trouble so you divert the conversation to another topic.
“Would his highness like the stew this evening?”
“Are you afraid of me?”
Of course he’d be relentless, something your mother had informed you about. She used to comment how she spoiled him rotten, but you thought it was just her way of making him sound harmless. The problem now was how to answer him without offending him. Were you afraid, technically yes, but you couldn’t be blamed when your entire life you’d been raised surrounded by dark stories. How else were you supposed to handle the knowledge that the prince of your kingdom had a curse that killed people?
“I am not entitled to say. My job is to serve.”
“But are you afraid? What do the townspeople say of me? Do you think me a monster as well?”
Even though you know you should be afraid, rightfully so, his words soften your heart a bit and you almost feel sorry for him. It couldn’t be easy for him to be behind a fortress his entire life. How could he know what everyone thinks of him? The message had to be clear that no one wanted him. Why else would he be locked away?
“I do not indulge in the conversations of others. I do not know what others say.”
“I do not!”
“Then why pull your hand away from me?”
You don’t expect him to bring up what you thought you had so flawlessly hidden. You hadn’t even said a thing. Why did he jump to such a conclusion? He wasn’t wrong, but now you feel embarrassed and unsure of how to respond.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to answer me. I let my words get ahead of me.”
“No, I should be the one to apologize. I was...a-afraid. I...didn’t mean to offend you.”
And there were the words Jungkook had been waiting for, the revelation that you were indeed afraid of him. How unfair for him that people he hasn’t even met already had their ideas about him when they knew nothing of him. Knew nothing of the countless nights he spent crying, the abandonment he felt by his own parents, and the worst blow of all, the death of his beloved servant.
“Please, do not apologize. I acknowledge your fear. I’ll leave you be.”
You didn’t want the conversation to end this way, but before you could say another word, he shuts the door on his side leaving you sitting alone feeling like the worst person alive. Perhaps all the stories you’ve heard didn’t have it right. Standing up to get back to your tasks, you try to ignore the silence in the hall, unable to keep yourself from staring at his door, hoping that he isn’t so upset he never speaks to you again.
Jungkook stood in silence most of the day, sitting on his bed as he’s been doing a lot lately. Typically he’d work out using the furniture in the room and his own body weight. He wishes he could train with the knights, hearing them often from his large caged window, the bars limiting his view but not his hearing. He’d hear people often, especially during special events and holidays. The most popular ones being the birthdays of his parents. His day, however, would garner no attention, not for lack of effort on the queen’s side. She really did love her son, but somehow throughout the years, she too kept her distance. Perhaps they had started to give up hope, the hope that Jungkook could barely grasp even now.
A tear rolls down his cheek, one he wasn’t expecting, the shutting of the tower doors a final blow to the sorrow he felt within. And then, as if a dam that had been overflowing with no control, the floodgates blew wide open causing him to bawl out loudly. For a moment he felt ashamed, but he realized it didn’t matter. Why not give the people a sound to associate with the beast living in the dark and distant tower? He cried that night, for all the years stolen from him and for the pain he never released in mourning for his beloved nanny. He didn’t care anymore. What was the point?
He doesn’t recall falling asleep, but before he knew it, the morning had come, a robin chirping a sweet tune waking him fully. He smiled at the bird, sitting on the ledge of his barred window, the rays of sunlight illuminating his new feathered friend brilliantly. For a moment, the peaceful sound made him forget, a smile now forming on his lips. Sitting up and tucking his knees to his chest, he was careful not to startle the animal, quietly enjoying the gift of music it so easily gave. This bird didn’t know anything about him, didn’t know what he could do, and it made Jungkook happy if but for a moment.
And then another noise, one he wasn’t looking forward to reminded him of the relationship he managed to sabotage in under ten minutes. He ignored you for as long as he could, but when you slid his fresh linens through his laundry shoot, he could no longer pretend you weren’t there. He especially couldn’t ignore the pillow when it fell to the ground, now clean and free of any stains he made a few nights before. At that moment, something in him snapped. You knew far too much information about him, yet you still kept all the information about yourself locked up. If your mother taught you how to care for him, he expected that and nothing less. He was the prince after all.
Stomping over to his door, he knocks three times before plopping himself on the floor and opening the small window, a pout on his lips making it clear that he was in no mood to be toyed with. And just as he expected, you came quickly, as you should. The only thing you said were the same annoying words as last time.
“Is there something you require, your highness?”
“Yes there is! I will no longer be ignored. I am demanding that you treat me with respect and that you speak to me when spoken to.”
You had not expected this tone, and you certainly did not expect him to sound so menacing. You began to wonder how big he actually was and a little bit of the fear you held before came creeping back. Not knowing what to say, you wait in silence.
“Now, I expect my breakfast served instantly, and then you will sit with me and talk. Is that understood?”
You jumped up to do what he asked, almost tripping over the hem of your skirt. He hadn’t exhibited this behavior before and you didn’t want to push him further. Quickly you gathered his items, preparing him a breakfast fit for a king. All the while Jungkook stood by the door waiting, relishing in your mistake once again by leaving your small door open. The sliver was much smaller than last time, but it still allowed him to give in to the smells wafting into his room, his belly reminding him that he wasn’t as big and bad as he thought. And then finally, when his stomach could wait no longer, you pushed his plate through and this time he was ready. He grabbed your hand fully, pulling you in slightly, your entire hand and wrist now in his room. He held the plate in one hand and your wrist in the other, balancing between decorum and desire. He chose the first, knowing that if he wanted to be on good terms with you, he had to be nice. And so, with ever so tender lips, he bent forward to kiss your wrist.
“Thank you, my lady.”, and then he let go, watching your hand linger for a moment, and then it was gone.
Clutching your hand to your chest, you thought to run and scream at the daring act of the prince, but then you remembered your conversation from the day before. Standing up, you turn to continue with your day all the while waiting for him to return his empty plate. When he did, you hesitated, instinctually wanting to grab it in order to clean it quickly, but you didn’t dare give him such liberties again. After ten minutes you heard him calling you, suddenly relieved he was no longer upset.
And so it went on like this, days of awkward conversation, and games of cat and mouse that were entertaining to say the least. You came to realize the prince had a playful side and it made you all the more intrigued about the man behind the wall. He seemed childish in some ways, a consequence you presume having to do with him being locked away for so long. But he wasn’t always this way. Most of the time he was very mature, well spoken, having a way of speaking that made you wonder whether he knew what he did to you. He’d hum sometimes, and other times sing, his voice more beautiful than you could have ever imagined. He would also occasionally compliment your appearance, making you chuckle at the fact that he’s never seen you, yet you were not willing to deny that his words stirred butterflies in your stomach.
He learned how to get his way with you quickly, adapting his tone and pitch to incite a reaction from you that always earned him what he wanted. In no time, a month had passed and you were beginning to get used to your new position...even enjoying the company of the prince. He was basically the only person that spoke to you anyway, the townspeople even less welcoming of you now that they knew where you spent your days. It wasn’t a hard adjustment for you, having had to deal with ridicule since you were a child. In a way you could relate to the young man in the tower, the innocent soul plagued with a curse he never wanted--being despised by everyone without being truly known.
While getting to know him, you learned Jungkook knew little about his curse, and how his family promised him a solution, one he was sure would never happen. You learned his favorite meals, the way he was particular about certain drinks and how his clothing should look. You found it funny since he wouldn’t even be seeing anyone, but then again, you had to admit that being a prince was instinctual and he took his role seriously. He hoped to someday be the ruler he was destined to be, but on other days he felt the weight of the truth, his silence deafening. You learned to leave him be, waiting for his cheerful call when he was ready to talk.
Your relationship had strangely blossomed into a comfortable awkward thing, and it really didn’t make you feel uncomfortable at all. Even your touches had become more frequent. Jungkook made sure to touch your fingers or swipe over your wrists with featherlight touches every opportunity he could. It was charming in a way, how his curiosity got the better of him, and how instead of controlling himself, he just went with what he felt. It was endearing that he behaved so innocently, but you knew it wasn’t always that way. A man of his age certainly had to be curious in other ways too. Being locked away from any type of physical contact had to be difficult for him. His pillow made that very clear. You would never say anything, of course. You can’t recall how many times you washed the stains from his favorite cushion, knowing each time it occurred, it was on the days you had allowed him to touch your hand.
You’d never admit it, but you tested him some days, seeing if he’d dare do something more. You’d watch the way he moved his fingers, admiring the veins in his arms, his long, lithe fingers and pretty nails captivating you, making you even more curious about the man who had slowly crept into your heart. Perhaps this was why your mother had taken her job so seriously. You couldn’t blame her, his charm was quite alluring.
It’s on a particularly hot day when you go to slide him a cool plate of delicious fruit, hoping to freshen his mood. He took it happily, complimenting your attention to detail and the way his fruit was perfectly placed on the dish. You would say he made you blush, but you could never reveal such a farce, not when you knew your job was to serve him. Nothing more, nothing less. As usual he would return the plate, and you having gotten hot within the confines of the tower, had tucked your skirt up between your undergarments, hoping to the gods a fresh breeze would pass through the windows. Realizing too late that your legs were within view of the small opening, you grabbed the plate in a hurry hoping that his curious mind hadn’t looked through this time, something you realized he’d been doing a lot. You’d been leaving the small door open on purpose encouraging him in his actions, though he didn’t have to know this.
This time luck was not on your side. His hand, which for the first time ever, reached through to your side, caused you to freeze in place. It moved forward, toward your leg, and you stood there unable to move away. Perhaps you were enticed, curious to see if he was brave enough to do more or even fascinated by his eagerness. Either way, it didn’t matter...not when his fingertips were caressing your calf as if it were a most delicate flower. His fingers felt soft, gentle even, and in that moment that you realized how tragically caught in his web you were. You knew you shouldn’t have, but you couldn’t help dipping lower, allowing him the chance to feel the tender skin just behind your knee. He said nothing the entire time, his hand shaking as you placed your head against the metal door, suddenly way hotter than you were moments ago.
Lost in the moment, you let him caress you, lying to yourself that you were merely providing him the service that he needed. But then, a low whine, one that threw off your focus, made your eyes snap open and your body jolt. Stepping back you watched as Jungkook’s hand tensed at the loss of contact before clenching his fist and pulling it back, the veins protruding a clear indicator of the effort it took for him to restrain himself. When his hand disappeared your mind returned to what you just let happen, and you untucked your skirt quickly, stepping out of the hall and into the cold of the night. Night….it was time to go home. You wanted to tell him goodbye, let him know that you weren’t upset by his actions, if anything you were also to blame, but you couldn’t ...you were a coward.
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Jude isn’t Balekin’s murderer; she is the fulfilment of his curse.
okay, so hear me out. i've been seeing a lot of people stressed that Jude betrayed Cardan's one request to not murder Balekin, and i have come to testify on her behalf.
i don’t know if anyone has said this already, but i've been rereading TFOTA- as one does when the stress of life compels them- and something clicked this time through that didn't click with me before.
I. The Crown's Curse
in chapter 17 of The Cruel Prince, Jude asks Dulcamara in a lecture what would happen if someone tried to steal the crown instead of having it placed upon their head by another in Mab's bloodline. this is Dulcamara'a response:
"The crown is cursed so that a murder of its wearer causes the death of the person responsible." (p. 175, TCP)
Jude basically is just like "huh. interesting." and goes on with her day. but three chapters later, in chapter 20 (otherwise known as the Death chapter), Eldred takes the crown off his head.
now, if we were to take the words of the lesson literally, as Balekin and many others (including Jude herself) have done, we would think that from the moment the crown leaves Eldred’s head, the crown is "in transition”- meaning, it does not have a wearer.
true enough, Holly has always made it clear that faeries take everything literally. in chapter 2, Jude narrates:
Faeries can't lie, so they tend to concentrate on words and ignore tone, especially if they haven't lived among humans. (p. 10, TCP)
so it makes sense that the tales about the crown and its various curses and magics, would be taken literally by the subjects of Elfhame.
but here's the crux: there is more than one interpretation to the words of the lesson.
II. The Crown's Wearer
firstly, we can presume Eldred did not wear the crown in the bath and to bed; that he did not perform the magical rite every time he put it back on after taking it off. he still possessed the magic of the crown even if it was not on his head, as made apparent in this passage:
Eldred's hand comes up. I think he means to conjure up the same magic that made the roots grow, made the branches of the throne bloom and twine... Instead, the newly budded flowers of the throne brown and wither. (p. 239, TCP)
Jude writes this off as Eldred not possessing magic anymore, due to the crown having already been passed from his head. but as we know, Jude's perspective is often biased. i don't think his magic is gone during this scene. i think the fullness of Eldred’s power has been dulled. tampered down for months by a poison given to him without his knowledge by Dain, who wanted to force Eldred to grow tired of being High King:
"He [Dain] even persuaded Eldred to step down after poisoning his wine so that he became tired and ill." (p. 266, TCP)
while it’s true withering flowers is not much in the way of High Kingly magic, it's certainly not nothing. if Eldred's powers were truly gone because the crown was in transition, he would not have been able to make even the smallest of magics occur.
additionally, Jude herself possessed the magic of the crown before it ever touched her head. in The Queen of Nothing, after she has been gravely injured, Jude heals herself with the help of the land. flowers grow where her blood spills. Jude, having never worn the crown of Elfhame, was still The Crown (as pointed out by Cardan’s infamous riddle of exile).
meaning, the magic of the crown does not abide by such clear terms; and the "wearer" in Dulcamara's quote cannot mean in the literal sense of the word.
III. The Murderer
secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we must focus on who the person "responsible" is, in the context of "the murder of its wearer".
i think the less obvious suspect is Dain. at the time of the coronation, he'd been poisoning Eldred for months. if Eldred had not decided to step down as High King to go to the afterlife, the poison would have killed him. not to mention the fact that it was Dain who persuaded Eldred to seek the Land of Promise. and just as a lie of deceit is still a lie, poisoning someone so that they are weak and tired in order to convince them to die is still murder.
and indeed, Dain is the first to die at the coronation. perhaps his bloody demise, at the curse’s behest, became Dain’s fate the moment he started poisoning the High King of Elfhame. if he had not, and there had not been a coronation, Eldred would not have died. perhaps, in the curse’s eyes, Dain was partially responsible for Eldred’s doom.
the more obvious suspect is Balekin. after all, he was the one who staged the coup to overthrow Dain before he was crowned. Balekin was also the one to run Eldred through with a sword. Balekin thought, at that point, the crown had no wearer- thus exempting him from the curse. however, taking the previous argument into account, Eldred was still the crown's figurative wearer.
since we know that magic in Elfhame does not always abide by literal terms, we can also presume that the death of the person responsible would not have to be immediate, since the curse never specified when.
III a. The Moths as Evidence
if we want to get literary with it, the harbinger of Balekin's death curse manifests at the precise moment he murders his father:
He [Eldred] doesn't fall like the others. Instead of blood pouring from his wound, red moths stream out, into the air. They rush out of him so quickly that in a moment, the High King's body is gone and there are just those red moths, swirling up into the air in a vast cloud, a tornado of soft wings. (p. 243, TCP)
Jude writes this off as something that is unusual but not completely unexpected for faerie, and she convinces us of the same. after she murders Valerian in a previous chapter, Jude mentions that strange things happen to corpses of faeries when they die. so by the time we get to the bloody coronation, Eldred's body turning into a swarm of moths does not seem so strange to the readers
in literature, however, moths symbolise death. now, if it was just this passage where the moths appear, i would concede that perhaps Holly was alluding to Eldred's death when she chose this imagery. and perhaps she still was. but this is not the only place the moths make an appearance.
in beginning of The Wicked King, we see the moths emerge again. only this time, it is not anywhere near Eldred:
But no matter how elegant he [Balekin] appears, he is still in the Tower of Forgetting, a few ruddy moths alighting on the wall above him... I thought they were all gone, but it seems that a few follow him still, a reminder of his sins. (p. 23, TWK)
the moths are following Balekin. and again, at the end of The Wicked King, the moths reappear in Hollow Hall:
Above his [Balekin's] head, red moths dance. He left them behind in the Undersea, but now that he's back, they circle around him like a candle flame. (p. 259, TWK)
this last mention of the moths is a mere two chapters before Jude murders Balekin. why else would Holly continue this imagery if not to foreshadow the Prince's death?
so in sum, Balekin's being murdered by Jude's hand (or dagger, rather) is as much his unavoidable fate as hers was to become the High Queen of Elfhame.
i would also argue that Jude was fated to be Balekin's murderer from the moment he killed Eldred. in The Wicked King, Jude takes Lady Asha from the Tower of Forgetting to the Court of Shadows. there, Jude makes a bargain- Lady Asha’s freedom for information regarding Jude’s mother. Lady Asha tells her the following:
"There was a hag who came across Madoc's land when your mother was pregnant with Vivienne. The hag was given to prophecy and divined futures in eggshells. And do you know what the hag said? That Eva's child was destined to be a greater weapon than Justin could ever forge." (p. 130, TWK)
Eva thought the prophecy was about the child in her belly. and if Madoc was present during the reading, presumably, this was what prompted Eva to flee Elfhame with Justin. to protect Vivi from being used by Madoc as a weapon. little did she know, the child the prophecy was actually referring to was Jude, who would not be conceived until some years later.
it was always Jude's fate to become a formidable weapon. and as Lady Asha points out at the end of her tale, “No one can outrun fate.”
thus, the crown's curse needed a weapon great enough to slay a Prince of Faerie/the High King's murderer; and it found one in a mortal girl who, despite every odd pitted against her, rose to power through cunning and ambition alone.
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