FANDOM


Farm-Fresh balanceYMMVTransmit blueRadarWikEd fancyquotesQuotes • (Emoticon happyFunnyHeartHeartwarmingSilk award star gold 3Awesome) • RefridgeratorFridgeGroupCharactersScript editFanfic RecsSkull0Nightmare FuelRsz 1rsz 2rsz 1shout-out iconShout OutMagnifierPlotGota iconoTear JerkerBug-silkHeadscratchersHelpTriviaWMGFilmRoll-smallRecapRainbowHo YayPhoto linkImage LinksNyan-Cat-OriginalMemesHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic
File:Orphans-tale.jpg

A mysterious orphaned girl lives by herself on the garden of a Middle Eastern-esque palace, shunned by the nobility and considered a witch due to the black birthmarks around her eyes. A boy, son of the Sultan, manages to find out her secret: in the marks are written stories, which the girl agrees to narrate. Thus begins the Framing Device to The Orphan's Tales, a fantasy book in two volumes (In the Night Garden and The Cities of Coin and Spice) by Catherynne M Valente. What follows is a complex plot that, heavily inspired by several fairy tales and the Arabian Nights, includes most of the tropes related to those stories and subverts, deconstructs or lampshades most of them along the way.


The Orphan's Tales provides examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: Characters have names with Middle Eastern, Scandinavian, Indian, African, Japanese, Eastern European, Greek, English and many other influences. Bonus points need to be given to Ragnhild and St. Sigrid, two women from Middle Eastern inspired cultures who have Scandinavian-sounding names.
  • Affably Evil: The Leucrotta is actually a fairly nice guy, if you don't try to fight him. Even then, he'd mostly kill you because that's his role in the story, not because he actually dislikes you.
  • Always Save the Girl: Eyvind sets out to defy all his country's laws and traditions to be with the girl he loves. In the end he estranges himself for decades from everyone he knew and loved in the hopes of being reunited with her.
  • And the Adventure Continues...: The story ends with Aerie, Lantern, Solace, Scald, and Sleeve showing up to embrace Sorrow as her family. The prince is sad, as he thinks his role in the story is over...until Sorrow reaches out to him, asking him to join her on her future adventures, and he follows her with great enthusiasm.
  • Arranged Marriage: Dinarzad is engaged and by the end married to a stranger.
  • The Atoner: Leander's story almost entirely revolves around him attempting to bring back to life Aerie, who he foolishly killed. Later, it shifts to being about avenging Knife and Aerie, who have been wronged by his father
  • Belly Mouth: Giota.
  • Best Served Cold: Sleeve is s very small, but also very patient spider.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Lantern towards Aerie.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Almost all of the Stars, and a few other elemental forces.
    • Yi. They can’t understand why people may be terrified by view of their dead loved ones, walking among them again. They seem to be offended by law that forces them to wear distinguishing clothes.
    • The Gaselli. There's nothing wrong with eating people but it is abomination to eat sheep or goats. Because they look after the sheep and goats.
  • Blood Magic: Starlight is really a blood of the sky and can be used to perform some kinds of magic, like Shapeshifting.
  • Body Surf: The Yi possess the bodies of the dead, but the bodies that they use inevitably end up decaying and becoming unusable.
  • Bottle Fairy: Grog
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Quri and Jin. Justified, since this the only way their species will survive.
  • Burn the Witch: Leander's mother is burned at the stake for committing witchcraft.
  • Chained by Fashion: The Black Papess wears the chains that were used to bind her previous incarnation in death/torture.
  • Clockwork Creature: Hour
  • Creation Myth: The whole story is one.
  • Chekhov's Armoury
  • Court Mage: Omir serves three kings over the course of his career.
  • Emergency Transformation: Happened to Aerie and other people from her tribe.
  • End of an Age: Many times, over and over again.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Omir Doulios.
  • Famed in Story: Zmeya's tragic story is so popular people go mad from love for her, or like Oubliette try to follow her to the land of death.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink
  • Fantastic Ghetto: Magical beings and other non-humans in Shadukiam live in separated areas, outside of the rose dome. Djinn had their own crowded quarter, before they moved to Kash. Yi are forced to wear special clothes to distinguish them from normal people. Giota, an oracle who knows the answer to every question, chose to reside in the shadow of Basilica, where only the despised appear, to guide them.
  • Fantastic Racism: Between humans and almost very magical being, especially Stars.
    • Also how the Oluwa feel about the Griffin and vice versa.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: Eshkol and her kinsmen. They are divided into families based on which tree they will turn into after their death.
  • Four-Element Ensemble: Applied to all four tales. The Book of the Steppe is Earth, the Sea is Water, the Storm is Air, and the Scald is Fire.
  • Genie in a Bottle: What happened to many genies before and what many of them still fears.
  • Girl in the Tower: Subverted. Magadin isn't actually a damsel, nor is she trapped.
  • God: The Mare. It's easy to see her as one, since she created a whole universe.
  • God Save Us From the Queen: The Black Papess.
  • Godiva Hair: Giota wears nothing but a dress made of her hair.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Huldra, 1/3 a cow, 1/3 a tree and 1/3 a girl.
    • There is also a girl, whose grandfather was a Djinn so she is a Three-Quarters Human Hybrid.
  • Holy City: Al-a-Nur, the seat of the Twelve Towers. Eleven religions are held in balance by the rule of a Papess.
  • Human Mom, Nonhuman Dad
  • Human Sacrifice: Attempted with Seven. "Gods" didn't care or even knew.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Gaselli are the most prominent example.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: The Ash Queen. Played with in that normal for her is possessing a spark of flame like other djinn.
  • Insistent Terminology: Grog is a Magyr, not a mermaid
  • Jerkass: Dinarzad, the Marsh King, Marsili, Oluwakim, and many others
    • Dinarzad loses her Jerkass status entirely by the second book
  • Karmic Death: Indrajit and the Vaharaasind get some.
  • Karmic Transformation: A whole city, which becomes the city of Marrow.
    • Also after you die, you are given a form, which is connected to who you were during your life.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Laakea.
  • Last of His Kind: Quri and Jin until their eggs hatch.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Zmeya and Itto are girl's parents.
    • Knife is Leander's mother
  • The Magic Goes Away: Sort of: there's plenty of magical creatures around, but the magic of the Stars has been diluted down to essentially nonexistence.
  • Mad Scientist: Folio, or at least very eccentric one.
  • Mad Oracle: Subverted with Giota. She pretends to be mad to scare off wealthy hypocrites and make place for these desperate enough (thus really in need) to seek her advice anyway.
  • Meaningful Name: Sorrow, Solace, Knife, Hour, Seven, Snow, Dinarzad (Queen Scheherazade's sister in Arabian Nights) etc.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: When you change form, you body adjusts to this change. Played with in Aerie's case. She keeps human mind inside goose body, but thinks in inhuman categories, like nest and eggs instead of home and children.
  • Missing Mom: Most notably the Mare herself, but motherless children are a common occurrence in this story, whether because their mother is dead, disappeared, or just emotionally unavailable.
  • Moral Myopia: The Yi regularly kill sentient beings of every race or species, and see no reason why anyone would be upset at the sight of their loved ones' dead bodies walking around, possessed by a monster and decomposing. On the other hand, if one of their own is killed, they will tear the killer to shreds where he stands.
  • The Nameless: More than a few characters, as is standard practice in a fairy tale. Most interesting, though, the boy's name is never revealed. The girl appears to be going the same way until the very end.
  • Nested Story: At points in the book, the story is as much as five layers deep.
  • North Is Cold South Is Hot: Muireann and Ajanabh are the most obvious example.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: The general rule across the story.
    • Our Centaurs Are Different: Their hearts are divided into eight parts, and once they ruled the Eight Kingdoms.
    • Our Dragons Are Different: Any goldfish can become one by jumping over a dam. However, its immature phase will look exactly like a young maiden -- until they mature fully. Flying over the same dam will cause said dragon to revert back to a goldfish.
    • Our Genies Are Different: Genies can grant wishes, but are restricted by law to ones granted by Kashkash, their god. They also only live for about fifteen years at the most, and when they die their fires will go out.
    • Our Giants Are Bigger: One becomes the gate and walls around a whole city.
    • Our Griffins Are Different
    • Our Mermaids Are Different: Indeed, they're big, burly, poisonous, and will drink you under the table. And called magyr. There are technically mermaids as well, but they aren't nearly as interesting.
  • Parent Child Incest: Averted. Ismail needs to marry the woman who fits a certain belt. The only woman it fits is his mother. He finds a way around this problem anyway.
  • Parental Abandonment: The girl's parents are so ashamed of her mark that they leave her to raise herself in the Garden.
  • Parental Substitute: Giota for Quri and Jin.
  • Pirates: Tommy and her crew.
  • Plant Person: Ravhija and later her seedling Ravhi
  • The Quest: Deconstructed all over the place. Most adventures don't go as planned, and the actual travel is depicted as being extremely boring.
  • Rags to Royalty: Ismail wasn't a peasant exactly, but he was the son of a backwater country baron.
  • Rashomon Style: Not present through the entire text, but at points within the story the same event will be told by different, and conflicting, points of view.
  • Reluctant Warrior: Beast/the Leucrotta. In fact, when Leander just asks for his skin nicely, he agrees, much to the consternation of the Marsh King
  • The Reveal: The girl is really Sorrow, daughter of two dead stars. The child Lantern took under his wings turned out to be a daughter of people Aerie left Sorrow with.
    • Sigrid the Netweaver is actually Ulla, the bear that Eyvind was in love with.
    • Knife is Leander's mother, and Aerie is his half-sister.
  • Robot Girl: Hour
  • Rule of Seven
  • Same Sex Triplets: The Sorella.
  • Scary Black Man: Oluwakim
  • Screw Destiny: Interestingly, even if some characters, like Zmeya, claims You Can't Fight Fate, the book as whole seems to teach us that if you really want and try hard enough you may find your own path to follow.
  • Sea Monster
  • Self-Made Orphan: The entire Tower of Parricides is based around this. Ismail kills his father. Leander also kills his father and later joins this Tower in penance.
  • Seven Deadly Sins:
    • Greed: It is what led city of Shadukiam to its doom more than one time.
    • Lust: For power, from Indrajit, through previous king of Eight Kingdoms to Ismail.
    • Gluttony: Golod, and by extension Shadukiam.
  • Selkies and Wereseals: Shroud.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: Poor, poor Eyvind
    • But the magyr's consoling words to him, though gruff, suggest perhaps a subversion of this trope, eventually.
  • Shapeshifting: Both involuntary and voluntary ones.
  • Shapeshifting Lover: Shroud.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Kashkash is said to be a first genie, who ever lived, and feared by both his own kind and humans, even many years after his death. Turns out to be invoked by Kashkash himself.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Hind and Hadil.
  • Stages of Monster Grief: Magadin. She goes through despair, because of what she has been turned into, continues with quiet resignation and at the end fully embraces her new nature.
  • Stop Worshipping Me!: Sigrid, later Zmeya.
    • While the other Stars are not as popular as Zmeya, they are also annoyed and perplexed about being treated as gods.
  • Switched At Birth: Sorrow is left in Solace's place. Solace is given to Lantern to raise.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The first thing we see Leander doing is stealing and killing a goose , who turns into a girl, from an old woman. To make matters worse, the old woman is his mother and the girl his half-sister. His story is basically him trying to make amends for this.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Lampshaded and subverted. Magadin makes a point of saying that her stepmother was wonderful.
    • Her stepsisters, though...well, they were certainly wicked enough to sell her out to Omir.
  • Wicked Weasel: At least if you ask a basilisk.
  • Wicked Witch: Knife
  • X Meets Y: The basic premise is Arabian Nights meets Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man. Then it gets complicated.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Zmeya and the Sorella.
  • You Are Number Six: Seven.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.