Leader of the magicians of Fabletown, Frau Totenkinder (which approximates to "Death of Children" in German) is the Black Forest witch from the Hansel and Gretel story. Her outward appearance as a rather frail old woman masks the fact that she is one of the most powerful Fables to have escaped the Homelands, and she could, in all probability, hold her own against most of those mages working for the Adversary.
Totenkinder was born into the Fog Mountain tribe and grew up there. Once she reached puberty, 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, 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 became known that the two had slept together, both would have been banished, so Aurac denounced her, accusing her of consorting with demons, leading to her being banished 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 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. She assists those who are kind to her, creating the three Billy Goats Gruff to eliminate a bridge troll that was causing problems for a village that wins her favor, and blessing those who she felt worthy. She took her revenge on the town of Hamelin by creating an enchanted flute that was used to lure away their children. Prompted by her experience with Aurac, she waged her own private war against handsome princes and men of wealth and privilege, during which she was responsible for the curses on Beast and Flycatcher. In order to stem her own physical desires, she allowed herself to age considerably. Finally, tiring of dealing with others, she retired to a cottage deep in the woods, interacting with others only when a child passed, when she would dress up her house with sweets to lure them in to be sacrificed to keep her power. Finally, she encountered Hansel and Gretel, who outsmarted her and burned her in her own oven. Surviving in horrific condition, she was eventually rescued by Snow White and Rose Red, running from the Adversary's forces. 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 Totenkinder ultimately reached the mundane world is unknown.
Very little escapes her attention in Fabletown; she was the only one to be aware of Snow White's seventh child, for example, and knew of the arrest of Trusty John, despite attempts to keep it quiet. She also has her methods of gathering information from within the Homelands - she claims to have numerous spies there and was aware, for example, that Boy Blue had been captured by the enemy during his time there. Totenkinder has been instrumental in resolving two of the recent crises to hit Fabletown. She defeated Baba Yaga in magical combat during the wooden soldier assault, much to the shock of the latter, who had always considered her opponent to be minor-league at best. She was also responsible for thwarting the plans of Yusuf, chief adviser to Sinbad of the Arabian Fables, when he released a d'jinn, instructing it to eliminate all his opponents and bring him great power and wealth. Totenkinder anticipated this possibility and ensorcelled him, so that, unknown to him, he actually instructed the genie to kill all his accomplices, then himself (in as drawn-out and painful a manner as possible; as had been intended for his opponents, had to be now intended for him) and then return safely to its bottle. Without her foresight, it seems likely that Fabletown would have been largely destroyed, quite possibly along with much of the mundane world around it.
While generally acting in the best interests of Fabletown, Totenkinder is something of a schemer and often seems to be playing her own game. Her help usually comes with a price, as Cinderella found out when she needed one of the witch's potions (although what that price was has yet to be revealed). She has established something of an alliance with Beast since his advancement to the position of sheriff; while this generally establishes itself as a quid-pro-quo arrangement of mutual favours, it remains to be seen if any darker reasons lie behind it.
- In the same way that Jack represents many of the different Jack tales, Totenkinder is "just about every witch in fairy tales", according to Willingham, as long as that witch was unnamed in their story (therefore, Frau Totenkinder is not any of the Witches of Oz, nor is she Cinderella's fairy godmother or any of the named witches of Arthurian legend).
- Literal ethymology of her name would be translated as Mrs. Childkiller
- 14 Appearances of Frau Totenkinder (Fables)
- Images featuring Frau Totenkinder (Fables)
- Quotations by or about Frau Totenkinder (Fables)
- Character Gallery: Frau Totenkinder (Fables)