Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall
Posted November 17, 2010on:
If there was an illustrated book of bedtime stories for grown ups, I image it would look something like 1001 Nights of Snowfall. A dozen or so illustrated stories of varying length, this graphic novel almost begs to be read out of order, depending on the type and length of story you want at bedtime.
The overarching story, told between the fairy tales is that the Fables are on their way to the New World, having been pushed out of Europe by the Adversary. Hoping for a military alliance, Snow White visits the world of Arabic Fables to speak with the Sultan. After weeks of being ignored, she finally wins an audience with him, to find she will be treated the same as his other brides – the Sultan plans wed her, bed her, and behead her in the morning. Snow, thinking fast, offers to tell the Sultan just one story before he cuts her head off, and he obliges. If you’re thinking Scheherezade, you’re on the right track.
Written by Bill Willingham and illustrated by a handful of artists in almost a mosaic style, Snow White tells the Sultan of how her divorce from Prince Charming came to be, or frog princes and lost memories, of how the Big Bad Wolf came to be, of a beautiful woman who grew up to be a bitter and vengeful witch, and of how King Cole became the mayor of Fabletown, now being built in New Amsterdam.
These are sort of the fairly tales you grew up with, and sort of not. There’s a reason I compared 1001 Nights of Snowfall to “ an illustrated book of bedtime stories for grown ups”, these are very, very different from the Disney-ified versions you tell your children at bedtime. The stories Snow chooses to tell the Sultan are more the befores and afters of the fairy tales we grew up with, rather than the actual tales themselves.
My favorite parts were the conversations between Snow and the Sultan, I could easily read an entire graphic novel about just those two. Every story is illustrated by a different artist, and although they are all first rate, I found I enjoyed the artwork of Charles Vess (who doesn’t??), James Jean, Brian Bolland and Esao Andrews the best.
Designed as a prequel to star a smattering of characters found in the Fables graphic novels, this was my first Fables graphic novel. I read it, enjoyed it, and shortly afterwards read the first Fables volume, and then shortly after that, I reread 1001 Nights, and lo and behold, it made much more sense.
I’m finding more and more that prequels tend to make more sense after you’ve read the work they are based on. Maybe they should call them “flashbacks” instead of prequels.