The 10th Kingdom
Take just about every well-known Fairy Tale, myth, legend, oral history, and fantasy story known to man. Cross them with screwball comedy, an epic Hero's Journey, fantastic (for television, anyway) special effects, and a lot of surprising twists. Add a dash of tragedy and mystery, a sprinkling of some rather serious (or should we say, Grimm?) issues, and some great British casting, and what do you get?
Not the Wicked Stepmother's potion, but the 2000 NBC miniseries The 10th Kingdom. At almost eight hours long (ten with commercials in the original airing), this film is not for the faint of heart, and will probably require a lot of breaks (for the bathroom, if nothing else).
Virginia Lewis, a down-on-her-luck New York waitress, and her ne'er-do-well janitor father Tony, are accidentally dragged out of their boring, miserable lives when they cross paths with a golden retriever (actually an enchanted prince) and an ex-convict werewolf (actually, half-wolf) -- one fleeing his stepmother the Evil Queen, the other working for her (sometimes). Complications and hi-jinks result, as magic spills over into New York (the Tenth Kingdom of the title), and soon the foursome end up via magic mirror in the world of the Nine Kingdoms, where fairy tales are real but "Happy Ever After didn't last as long as we'd hoped." Pursued by vengeful Trolls and their odious father, and Rutger Hauer as a typically villainous but effectively chilling Huntsman, they must chase after the magic mirror and wend their way in and out of the lives of many fairy tale characters (always with a twist) in order to find their way home again.
Oh, and restore the prince to his throne, save the Kingdoms, learn a few valuable lessons, and discover some secrets that will resolve past tragedies. Something for everyone!
Not to be confused with The Twelve Kingdoms.
- Addictive Magic: The magic shoes. The Troll King appears to already be suffering from a crippling addiction to them at the story's outset, and Virginia falls under their spell very quickly. Somewhat deconstructed as well: the Troll King has an established shoe fetish and Wolf thinks Virgina just has a strong desire to be invisible, shrugging it off himself. Played with and lampshaded in that one of the pieces from the soundtrack is actually entitled "Addicted to Magic"...but instead of playing during anything to do with the magic shoes, it appears when Wolf tempts Tony with the magic bean, during the Dog Prince's Urine Trouble scene, and when the magic mushrooms are tempting Tony to eat them in the Deadly Swamp.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted. Wolf does get the girl in the end, but being a bad boy didn't help, and after his disastrous initial encounter with Virginia he spends a good part of the series reading self help books to reform himself. Played straight however with Sally and the shepherdesses, it seems.
- Alliterative Name: Prince Wendell Winston Walter White (used once).
- Wolf uses one with the Peeps. Warren Wolfson.
- All Trolls Are Different: Trolls in the The Tenth Kingdom are human-sized, ugly, with overdone mullets, and an obsession with leather. Especially shoes. It isn't clear if the shoe fetish is a racial trait or not, all of the trolls who exhibit it are immediate family. Despite their human size, they are incredibly strong. At one point one was hit by a car, leaving a deep indent in the front of the car but barely moving the troll.
- And they can read.
- Almost Kiss: Used when they get to the appropriately named Kissing Town, where love is literally in the air in the form of CGI butterflies. The first time at Snow White's coffin, then later on the balcony, but thanks to the Rule of Three Wolf finally gets one the third time.
- Another Dimension: The world of the Nine Kingdoms to ours (and vice versa), linked via Magic Mirror. The scene where Prince first crosses over to New York (as well as when Virginia and Wolf return there at the end--but no other time) displays a whole series of mirror frames the traveler smashes through, implying there may be a whole network of alternate dimensions, mirror worlds, and alternate universes. (One rather exceptional Fanfic, Reality, made use of this notion by having the Wicked Stepmother continually try and change the course of events through different "shard" worlds splintered off by the power of her mirrors). The original VHS artwork, as well as the opening title sequence shown in the page picture, reflects this by making the New York skyline and the fantasy world of the Nine Kingdoms literal parallel images in the water. It's a very interesting design motif that sadly didn't get pursued in the actual story. Whether it would have been in sequels, we'll never know.
- Apple of Discord: The trolls are holding Virginia captive, and Wolf throws a box into the room. The note says that it's a present for the strongest, bravest troll. Cue all three knocking each other out.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When the trolls walk towards the Queen's cell in the prison, three signs pop up which say, in order of appearance: "Absolutely no communication with the prisoner", "Absolutely no physical contact with the prisoner", and "No food beyond this point".
- Asshole Victim: Sally Peep and Relish the Troll King.
- Attention Deficit Ooh Tasty: Wolf is extraordinarily distracted by food.
- Auction: Thanks to the old Elf revealing what it really was (and receiving his reward for it), the Magic Mirror ends up being sold at one of these in Kissing Town. The heroes rush in with the money they'd earned gambling at the local casino...only to have the Huntsman pull a Whammy Bid on them thanks to the money he stole from the Elf. This of course leads into a reverse Hostage for Macguffin situation, where the Huntsman will smash the mirror unless they give him Prince for the Evil Queen. Trying to find a way around that, it turns out, just makes things worse.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: A very interesting subversion: the crowning of King Wendell goes off with all the pomp and circumstance you could hope for, with tons of rich courtiers and royals in attendance, a panoply of gorgeous decorations and architecture, and a final speech just prior that borders on Crowning Moment of Awesome. But not only does the royal toast which follows this end up seemingly killing all the guests, but it isn't even really Wendell being tested or crowned, it's the Evil Queen's dog under a spell. There is, however, a genuine version of the trope later when, after the heroes have saved the day, they're all given medals and other rewards.
- Babies Ever After: Averted at the end. At the same time that he is asking her to marry him, Wolf tells Virginia (who is completely unaware of anything unusual) that she is pregnant with their "wolf cub", claiming that he "just knows these things". But, as she says at the end, they did not have a Happily Ever After, as there was more trouble ahead of them in the other kingdoms (though she does not mention what ever happened to the child).
- I got the impression that she just didn't have the baby yet. After all, the first adventure took a week, tops. At the end, Wolf is seen touching Virginia's stomach on a bridge in Manhattan; however, their expressions could either be interpreted as tender or somber so if you prefer dark endings, you could easily assume she had a miscarriage.
- Badass Longcoat: The Huntsman.
- Banister Slide: Fake!Prince Wendell at his coronation ceremony.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: See Literal Genie, particularly the swamp example.
- Because Destiny Says So: Played with. It is apparently Virginia's destiny to stop the Evil Queen, save all the monarchs of the Kingdoms, and restore Prince Wendell to his rightful throne, but the whole reason she is able to do so is because the Queen is her long-lost mother, so thus she has a special advantage; this might even be seen as her responsibility, a personal problem she must clean up after. She is also receiving help from her Spirit Advisor, Snow White, and at least part of her motivation in doing so is simply so she can get to the Traveling mirror and go home. Yet to judge by the Gypsy Queen's fortune she has "a destiny that stretches way back in time", and Snow White tells her that Wendell "needs you to save his kingdom, we all do," so you get the feeling there's something rather arbitrary about all this. The fairy godmother does do a very good (if slightly Anvilicious) job of comparing her life to Virginia's to explain why she "found the right person." On the other hand, Virginia would never have come to the Kingdoms if Wendell hadn't knocked over the mirror when running from the Trolls and Wolf, then gone through it, there is no indication how or why the mirror ended up in the basement of a prison, and Christine becoming the Evil Queen was made possible by the Swamp Witch having a mirror which opened to New York. So clearly some sort of organizing principle seems to have guided the plot. By the end, after killing her mother in self-defense with the poison comb, when Wolf tells her it was not her fault, even Virginia seems to buy into it by saying the fateful words: "It was my destiny..."
- Big Applesauce: The portal which opens between our world and the world where fairy tales are real is, of course, located in New York's Central Park. What makes this miniseries a particularly striking example of the trope is how the opening titles quite conspicuously, and jaw-droppingly, magically morph the New York City skyline into a fantasy land to suggest the crossing over of magic into the real world. The sequence, quite justifiably, won an Emmy. To watch the sequence, go here.
- Big Bad: The Queen.
- Biggus Dickus: Sally Peep mistakes Wolf as one of these when she sees the bulge in the back of his pants caused by his tail.
- Book Ends: "My name is Virginia, and I live at the edge of the forest."
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Wolf's list of self-help books. Granted, he picked the last one up by mistake.
Wolf: Don't worry, I'm not who I used to be. I've had extensive therapy. I realize I have been using food as a substitute for love and I have the books to prove it - "Breaking the Cycle", "Heal Yourself in 7 Days", "Stop Blaming Yourself, Please, and "Help for the Bedwetting Child".
- Burn the Witch: The Little Lamb Villagers' answer to the wolf problem. Truth in Television for people once believed to be werewolves (since most werewolves were also believed to be witches who received their new shapes as part of a Deal with the Devil), though how a Real Life medieval attitude ended up in the Kingdoms is...thought-provoking. (See Fantasy World Map.)
- Butt Monkey: Tony.
- Camp Gay: Lord Rupert.
- Catch Phrase: Wolf has two: "Huff Puff" when he's excited or surprised and "Oh, Cripes!".
- Cave Mouth: The cave entrance is not just a dragon's head, it's an actual dragon's head.
- Chalk Outline: Parodied--after Sally Peep is murdered, the location of her body is outlined in chalk, including her shepherd's crook. The Novelization lampshades this by having Tony reflect in his thoughts: "They were nothing if not thorough."
- Cliff Hanger: Not as many as you might think, since not every commercial break was at an exciting, momentous development. The endings of each of its five parts, however, do all count. Part 1 ended with an actual freeze-frame of the Traveling mirror being thrown onto a boat, leaving it till the next night to reveal if it broke or not. (It didn't. That time.) Part 2 ended with the capture of Virginia by the Huntsman, Part 3 with the revelation that the mirror was now at Auction at a price they could never pay, and Part 4 ended when Virginia and Tony realized the Queen was Virginia's mother. And Part 5 ends with mention that there was soon another crisis in the kingdoms.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Parodied by the Troll children with Virginia (complete with Burly refusing to accept her confession because that went against tradition, and wasn't as fun), but played horrifyingly straight with Relish and the red-hot shoes, as well as Tony getting beanstalk lashings. The first got interrupted and the second used a Discretion Shot/Distant Reaction Shot, but even so...
- Courtroom Antic: A rather amusing version has Virginia exclaim, after Wolf has practically incriminated himself while being grilled by the Judge, "Your Honor, my client is suffering from post-menstrual tension!" Not to mention Wolf's memorably existential self-defense: "Ohhhh, I'm twisting everything I'm saying!"
- Courtroom Episode: In Little Lamb Village.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Wolf turns out to be a hero by the end, but along the way he still displays a number of darker traits which get used to their advantage.
- Death by Irony: The Huntsman. And for that matter, the Queen.
- Decapitation Presentation: The Queen cuts off the Troll King's head. Fake Wendell holds the head out the carriage window as they ride through the village.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Virginia shows traits of this due to being left by her mother, and the Queen, her mother, is finally proud of her daughter as she lays dying
- Despair Event Horizon: Though she was apparently mentally unstable beforehand, Christine had a complete breakdown after nearly drowning her young daughter. She immediately ran away which led to her discovering the portal to the Swamp Witch’s lair and subsequently becoming the Evil Queen.
- Distant Reaction Shot: To Tony being given fifty beanstalk lashes, complete with increasingly distant shots of Snow White Memorial Prison.
- Damsel in Distress: Though sometimes subverted.
- The Dragon: The Huntsman is the Queen's Dragon. Relish the Troll King was supposed to be this, but went out of control quickly.
- Dream Sequence: Virginia and her father have an extremely bizarre and disturbing example of this, complete with the ghost of Snow White doing her level best to snap them out of it. Christine's usage of the poisoned comb on her little girl's hair is particularly chilling, while the weird Electra-complex suggested by Virginia being Tony's wife (not to mention Wendell the dog as her brother—or is that prophetic?) are just plain odd. But what do you expect from something inspired by eating magic mushrooms? Of special note (something which appears throughout the miniseries) is the emphasis on the decidedly more grim aspects of fairytales...
- Embarrassing First Name: Juliet The Blind Woodsman.
- Evil Overlooker: Relish, on the DVD cover.
- Evil Overlord: The Queen.
- Fake Defector: A particularly well-done example in Wolf, who seems to change sides at the speed of light. Only in the very end we find out whose side he had been on.
- Fantastic Arousal: Wolf's tail. See the entry on "What Do You Mean, It's Not For Kids?", as well as Freud Was Right.
- Fantastic Racism: Most inhabitants of the Nine Kingdoms are very prejudiced against half-wolves. Other than Wendell (and presumably, Red Riding Hood), the only ones shown on-screen to possess it are the people of Little Lamb Village which, thanks to wolves predating on their flocks, would seem to be at least slightly justifiable...except even they take it farther than is fair or humane (see Kangaroo Court and Burn the Witch). There are also a few uncomfortable similarities, surely intentional, to an inverted Where Da White Women At?/All Girls Want Bad Boys in how Wolf reacts to the shepherdesses and they to him. Let's leave it at that.
- It is played at first as if the Gypsies are also guilty of this, but once Wolf reveals the Gypsy Queen's grandson is also a wolf, he is accepted happily among them. Ironically, Wolf was the one who seemed to indulge in Roma stereotypes when warning Virginia and Tony as they came into the Gypsies' camp.
- Fantasy World Map: on the wall of Snow White Memorial Prison, so that both the hapless heroes Trapped in Another World and the viewers can learn exactly what the Nine Kingdoms look like. Unlike most versions of the fantasy map, it displays places which are never visited in the miniseries, since the story remains confined to the Fourth Kingdom (with brief forays into the Third and Ninth). It also has the amusing location marker "You Are Imprisoned Here" -- this becomes a slight Running Gag in the Novelization with a map in Kissing Town marked "You Are Romantically Here" -- and has the interesting feature of being remarkably similar in outlines to Europe... a feature which has led to some interesting Epileptic Trees among the fandom, ranging from the Nine Kingdoms having diverged from our timeline centuries ago to our world being a nonmagical, cursed offshoot of the Kingdoms.
- According to Word of God, if any of the sequels he'd planned to write had been allowed to make it out of Development Hell, they would have involved visits to or taken place entirely in each of the other kingdoms. The first sequel, which was to be called House of Wolves (about Wolf's past), would have been set in the Second Kingdom, Red Riding Hood's.
- Fortune Teller: The self-styled Gypsy Queen. Interestingly, we see her use three different forms of it--Tarot cards for Tony, palm-reading for Wolf, and scrying for Virginia (with a bit of Sympathetic Magic thrown in through a lock of her hair). Of course Tony's fortune consists of nothing but gaining and losing wealth and a whole series of fictitious cards painting him out to be an idiot. (The only real one, the Fool, might have been misread thanks to Hollywood stereotypes, since Tony does turn out to later have some Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass traits.) In the Novelization she even says "I see nothing more beneath the surface"--whether this is completely accurate or an example of the fortune teller being misled by her own first impressions is left to the reader to decide. Wolf and Virginia's fortunes, in any event, are insightful and correct, with his predicting the future (albeit taken out of context to cast him in the worst possible light) and hers hinting at her Dark and Troubled Past and Because Destiny Says So heroine status.
- Fractured Fairy Tale
- Freaky Friday Flip: The Queen makes her pet dog switch bodies with Prince Wendell, which is what gets the entire plot going.
- Fruit Cart: While in New York, a police car takes out several outdoor book stands and a fruit cart for good measure.
- Genre Savvy: Subverted. For a miniseries which purports to deconstruct fairytales, surprisingly few characters in The Tenth Kingdom seem to be Genre Savvy. Street smart Virginia certainly isn't, other than when she realizes that "everyone in this place is crazy!" Wolf only gets a few moments now and then, one of the most memorable being his knowledge of fairy tale endings: "We either live happily ever after or we get killed by horrible curses." (Another would be his explanation, after Prince gets turned to gold, that "things have a way of bouncing back here"... only to admit, when confronted by Tony, that he was "just saying that" and proceeding to tempt Prince with a stick with delicious snark.) The most truly Genre Savvy moment in the entire miniseries, surprisingly, comes from Tony, after the Blind Woodsman explains how they can obtain his magic axe... by guessing his name -- except if they fail, he chops off Wolf's head:
Tony: What is it with you people? What kind of twisted upbringing did you have? Why can't you just say, "Oh, that'll be a hundred gold coins"? Why is it always "Not unless you lay a magic egg, or count the hairs on that giant's ass"?
- Of course this is immediately subverted when Tony, believing he knows which fairy tale he's in, agrees to the deal and guesses the Woodsman is named Rumpelstiltskin. Wrong! Good thing that magic bird came along when it did.
- Let's not forget Wolf stopping Tony from eating an apple at Snow White's cottage, because it probably grew from the one that poisoned her.
- God Save Us From the Queen: Averted in that the "Golden Age" is referred to several times in which the Nine Kingdoms prospered under the rule of their queens, and we specifically never see anything but wisdom, goodness, and heroism from Snow White and Cinderella. It is played straight, however, with the Evil Queen. Nowhere is this more apparent than when she reveals herself to the servants in Wendell's castle.
Evil Queen: If asked, you will say that your master, the prince, has returned and is well. If I hear one whisper, one rumor that anything is amiss, I will kill your children in front of you... Tonight, every king, queen, emperor, and dignitary throughout the Nine Kingdoms will be attending Prince Wendell's coronation ball. The evening will proceed as planned, with one tiny exception--we are going to murder all the guests.
- Goldfish Poop Gang: The troll children.
- Grail in the Garbage: The mirror which allows passage between our world and the Nine Kingdoms turns up for dirt cheap at an auction. When the auctioneers find out what it can do, however... It was also this to begin with, since it was first found amid piles of junk in the basement of Snow White Memorial Prison, something which is never explained.
- G-Rated Drug: Played straight and Lampshaded with the trolls' use of dwarf moss (it makes one "see fairies" and all that).
- G-Rated Mental Illness: Played with. Christine is described as having been mentally ill and was “getting worse and worse”. No specifics are given about the illness but her homicidal tendencies toward young Virginia are disconcerting to say the least.
- Happily Ever After: An in-universe principle, but one which also comes true for Wendell and, to some extent it seems, for Wolf and Virginia.
- Heel Face Turn: Wolf.
- Heroic BSOD: After killing her own mother in self defence and realising what she has done, Virginia goes into a version of one of these - she falls asleep for almost 2 days from both physical and emotional exhaustion.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Huntsman gets hit in the heart by the magic bolt from his magic crossbow.
- The Peep Family, who stole the magic well water that belonged to their town and used it for their own gain for decades, didn't count on Tony and Virginia finding out and using it to their advantage in the Shepherdess contest. And much later, Sally Peep, utterly embarrassed at having lost, gets back at her grandfather (whom she blames for her loss) by destroying the well water's hiding place. She planned to reveal her family's secret to the town, but Wilfred killed her. She tried screaming his name but everyone who heard it thought she was saying "wolf", so naturally they were planning on executing Wolf. Tony and Wendell discover what really happened and out Wilfred and the entire family to the whole town. Wilfred admits what he did with no other available option, Sally's mother goes into a homicidal rage and tries to kill Wilfred, and a riot breaks out. The next day the town seems all right, but the Peeps aren't heard from again.
- Hold Your Hippogriffs: The fairytale universe has some interesting cover-ups for swearing. The trolls are fond of the phrase “Suck an elf!” and the phrase “What in the fairying forest?” is heard at least twice.
- Cinderella apparently went through "magic surgery".
- How Do You Like Them Apples?: The Queen's Spirit Advisor suggests she use poison apples to gain the upper hand. She follows through by poisoning an entire orchard of apples to kill the trolls.
- Hypocrite: The Peep family. They call Virginia a cheat during the shepherdess contest, but they themselves having been cheating for years because they blocked up their village's wishing well.
- I Always Wanted to Say That: Acorn says this when he tells Virginia to go into the cellar.
Acorn: Maybe what you seek is down there.
Virginia: What do you mean by that?
Acorn: I don't know. I just always wanted to say it.
- Wolf also says this in regards to asking Virginia to drop her Rapunzel Hair so he can climb it.
- I Choose to Stay: Tony, mainly because of the consequences of his Genre Blind wishes have left him in major legal trouble back home in New York City.
- If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him: Although never actually spoken, it is heavily implied (and even nearly subverted) during the scene at the Huntsman's treehouse in The Tenth Kingdom, when Wolf is about to kill him with the magic axe and Virginia stops him.
Virginia: No! We can't kill him.
Wolf: Of course we can, he'd kill us!
Virginia: That's not the point, he's helpless!
Wolf: Exactly why we should kill him now!
Virginia: Wolf, no!
Wolf: Awwww, he's gonna come after us!
Virginia: I don't care, we're not killing him.
Wolf: You're gonna regret this moment.
- And of course, he's right.
- I'll Take Two Beers, Too!: Two examples, both from the Grill on the Park. One diner, there with his wife, orders a slew of drinks and dishes, then follows this up with "And my wife will have..." Meanwhile Wolf's order of lamb with six glasses of warm milk highlights his Big Eater nature.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Wolf tries to cook and eat Virginia's grandmother, but the stove's a bit too small.
- Well he is the grandson of the Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood.
- Implacable Man: The Huntsman.
- Important Haircut: Virginia has a Life-Saving Haircut.
- Intoxication Ensues: Despite being told by the fairies to not eat anything in the forest under any circumstances, Tony and Virgina eat the wild mushrooms. They get giggly, pass out, and end up in a strange, joint nightmare.
- It Tastes Like Feet: Subversion. Tony tastes baked beanstalk (no, not baked beans. BEANSTALK). "It tastes like an old mattress!" "No, it doesn't. Old mattresses have a sweaty, meaty taste."
- Jerkass: Prince Wendell, at the beginning (he gets better through his time as a dog), and plenty of minor characters encountered throughout the kingdom. The Troll King also, if he doesn't qualify for an outright Complete Monster.
- Kangaroo Court: With a jury made up of sheep in this case.
- Karmic Death: A number of characters throughout, minor and major. From major, The Troll King, killed by the Queen while attempting to backstab her; the Huntsman, killed by his own magic crossbow (which he even fired the time it killed him); and the Queen herself, of course, killed by a poison comb, after attempting to poison the royalty of the Nine Kingdoms and making poison her weapon of choice in general.
- Knights and Knaves: Parodied, lampshaded, and otherwise completely hung out to dry. Oddly enough this is still completely in the spirit of the original, since the puzzle as presented here contains a logical contradiction and cannot be solved normally.
- Lampshade Hanging: Constantly, mainly on the absurdity of the fairy tales the characters encounter for real.
- If You Know What I Mean: Invoked by Virginia when she tries to defend Wolf during his trial and suggests that the Peep girls are the easiest shepherdesses in the village. Cue shocks from most of the people present, as well as quite a few giggles from some of the other shepderdesses. Of course, it seemed to do more harm than good, considering what this "trial" really was.
- Large Ham: Wolf, most certainly, and also the Troll King and his children. The Queen mostly averts Evil Is Hammy and is normally underplayed and calm, outside of a couple of scenes.
- Literal Ass Kissing: Because of his wish, Butt Monkey Tony has his boss follow him around and continually try to do this. Tony ends up having to shoo him away frequently. The rest of Murray's family eventually shows up and ends up giving him the same treatment. It doesn't help that at least one of the Murrays must have been something of a brown-noser already, since he insists on kissing Tony's ass repeatedly. (Or could that also have been covered under the "and be my slaves forever" part?)
Tony: No, no! Once was enough.
- Literal Genie: Tony's dragon dung bean fulfills this trope to a tee: his first wish of making his landlord and his family become his slaves included the phrase 'and kiss my ass'...so every single Murray family member insists on doing exactly that with obsessive attention. The beer in the fridge is indeed neverending, to the point of making it explode, the vacuum he asked to 'clean the entire house' follows the directions to the letter (including trying to vacuum up the curtains), and even the beneficial wish of being able to speak to Wendell the dog is limited to only Tony being able to hear him, since he said "I" rather than "we". And when he wishes for money, it is stolen from the bank, and the cops are quick to track it down.
- This also occurs later in the Deadly Swamp (because Tony never learns):
Fairy #1: Oh look, they're all chained up! That can't be helping!
Fairy #2: Would you like to be separated from each other?
Tony: More than you can imagine.
(the fairies cast a spell, making their manacles fall off; Tony and Virginia each look around, only to find they're alone in different parts of the swamp)
Tony: Hey! When I said we wanted to be separated, I didn't mean literally!
- A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll": In a "shepherdess contest" which includes a singing portion, Virginia goes with "We Will Shear You" (in the style of Queen's "We Will Rock You").
- Love Is in the Air: The entire purpose of the ludicrous Kissing Town, which makes this trope quite literal, since not only are there magical hearts floating everywhere around every happy couple getting married, but every time Virginia seems ready to dismiss Wolf as a love interest, in swoop the hearts to change her mind and turn her into a hopeless romantic. They even form a gigantic heart over the pair's heads when they share their first kiss.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Gender-switched and inverted!
- Luke, You Are My Father: Gender-flipped. Virginia has to tell the Evil Queen that she is her long-forgotten daughter.
- Mage in Manhattan: The trolls, but only for a short while.
- Magic A Is Magic A: Despite the fact that in part one, Wendell's transformation into a dog and of the dog into him is shown through a now-somewhat-dated but still effective slow-morph, his later restoration at the end of the series occurs in only a few split seconds while he and the Dog Prince whirl around in each others' arms and then fly apart with a burst of magical sparkles. The only explanation for this sudden change in the speed of transformation is an attempt to show off the special effects, most likely as a minor example of the Rule of Cool. (More dramatic, after all!).
- Magic Mirror: Lots of these. Besides the main set of mirrors that the Evil Queen has ("mirrors to travel, mirrors to spy, mirrors to remember, mirrors to forget, mirrors to rule the world!"), people can use them like videophones. The Huntsman even has a small pocket mirror that acts as a video cellphone!
- At one point, the heroes are shown to a mirror which answers questions, and finds that that particular kind of mirror is incapable of even understanding a question that isn't spoken in rhyme.
- The Man Behind the Man: Or in this case woman behind the woman, since it's the Swamp Witch behind the Queen.
- Methuselah Syndrome: Cinderella, complete with humorous implications.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: After a while, Prince Wendell becomes dumber and starts to think and act like a dog, while the dog also slowly starts thinking more like a human (but never quite gets it) although this may simply be training.
- Missing Mom: Christine is even stated to be missing. Until we find out she's the Evil Queen.
- Mood Whiplash: The entire first disc (or third, roughly) is very goofy and humorous, but the second grows far more dark to the point that the troll children are the only steady comic relief. Though they're out of commission for awhile.
- Most Common Card Game: The aristocrats at the casino play Happy Family and Snap.
- Move Along, Nothing to See Here: Used when the rich elf dies.
- Made more amusing by the exact wording used:
Sheriff: Move along, nothing to see here...just a dead elf, wings ain't flapping anymore...
- Mushroom Samba: Via the magic mushrooms in the Deadly Swamp. Literally, since they sing and sway.
- Mysterious Parent: Virginia's mother, who is the Evil Queen.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Virginia frees the magic birds from the Gypsy camp, so they won't get eaten and used in youth and beauty spells--and what does she get for her troubles? A curse of hair that never stops growing, which ends up getting her captured by the Huntsman. Sure, taking away the Gypsies' livelihood after they had shown the travelers hospitality (sort of) wasn't a wise move on her part, but it certainly doesn't seem fair to punish her for being sympathetic to a Talking Animal. Of course the Gypsies immediately get Laser-Guided Karma courtesy of the Huntsman...but so does the young wolf-boy, who never did anything wrong. Grim, indeed.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: In an odd variation, despite living in the Big Applesauce Virginia thinks to herself (in voiceover narration) on the way to work at the beginning of the miniseries that she knew "nothing exciting was ever going to happen" to her and "some people just lead quiet lives". Cue her running into a golden retriever on her bicycle who is actually a transformed prince from the world of fairy tales, and...
- Novelization: Co-written under the pseudonym Kathryn Wesley, by the husband and wife team of Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, and based on an earlier version of the screenplay. See Trivia for more details.
- Offing the Offspring: Virginia's mother tried to drown her daughter when she was younger. She tries to choke her to death several times later too.
- Oh Crap: Wolf often exclaims "Oh, cripes!"
- Only Smart People May Pass: Though on one occasion this is subverted -- confronted with two doors and told by a toad that one is the right door and the other "will lead to a horrible death," Tony angrily picks it up, decries how stupid the whole scenario is, and throws it through a door at random. It explodes, so they take the other door. Oddly enough this is the only logical solution, since the version of Knights and Knaves it gives is unsolvable (the toad gives the rules ending with "I always lie", meaning the rules themselves are in doubt).
- Alternatively, the "I always lie" rule might only apply once the puzzle has properly begun (his descriptions of the doors certainly are truthful), in which case Virginia and Wolf are majorly overthinking a very straightforward puzzle.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Though conspicuously beardless. And apparently Communist. (Which considering what hard workers they are, and how much they would surely hate being exploited and looked down upon, makes a twisted kind of sense.)
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Though admittedly we only meet a half-wolf, not a true werewolf. To judge from Wolf, Nine Kingdoms wolves do not seem to be vulnerable to silver, change only on the three nights of the full moon, and while changed have no control over their actions and no memory of what they have done. They also seem to be afflicted by the 'take on lupine mannerisms and characteristics' aspect of this trope, since Wolf is constantly scratching at his temple, whines and whimpers and growls, nuzzles Virginia, and scrapes the ground with his feet to cover his tracks—although this may merely be a product of actor Scott Cohen's enthusiastic character immersion. What makes the half-wolves interesting is the twists: they always possess tails, even in human form, which change size with the time of the month and apparently act as erogenous zones, and explicit reference is made to the female cycle by how Wolf starts gaining PMS-like symptoms as the full moon approaches and, when fighting the change, ends up with...cramps. Still more interestingly, it is never truly explained what the term 'half-wolf' actually means. Are they the literal product of a coupling between a full wolf and a human, and this is what grants them their ability to change forms? Or is it merely a euphemism for werewolf, which could be considered a half-wolf because they can also appear as humans? Or is it even possible, taking into account the prejudice against them in the Kingdoms, that the term is meant to be parallel to mulattos, quadroons, and octaroons in the real world—so if a half-wolf had a child with a human, their offspring would be a quarter-wolf, and so on? Wolf's sole Transformation Sequence during the miniseries is inconclusive, since all we see is him becoming a typical Lon Chaney Wolf Man. According to Simon Moore, however, Wolf was intended to become a Dire Wolf, but they didn't have the budget for such special effects. What this says about the nature of half-wolves isn't clear.
- Out-Gambitted: The Troll King arrives early for his meeting with the Queen in an orchard to position his men to ambush her. The queen had already been there hours before to poison all the apples, even choosing a poison that would take just long enough to kick in at the dramatically appropriate moment.
- Plot Device: The Magic Mirror.
- Poison Is Evil: Especially when it's used in apples and an ancient comb. Unsurprising, considering the source material.
- Pretty in Mink: After the climax, Virginia talks about her mother having a fur coat. It has almost nothing to do with the story except just to be there/be a Tear Jerker (and fit Christine's characterization as a socialite). A perfect use of an Everythings Better trope.
- Punny Name: Done with a surprisingly subtle touch: if the romantic leads should marry, Virginia will be Virginia Wolf.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: The troll children.
- Rapunzel Hair: Virginia gets to deal with the realistic consequences of this at one point.
- Redemption Equals Death: For the Evil Queen, since it also frees her from Mind Control/Demonic Possession.
- Refuge in Audacity: While various points in the miniseries could be called this, none stands out more than the entire character of Wolf (and how Scott Cohen chose to portray him). Of particular note is his scene trying to cook Virginia's grandmother, especially his commentary during it.
- Rescue Romance: Subverted: Wolf believes his rescue of Virginia from the Trolls will earn him her love, but she refuses to trust him because, as she points out, "You tried to eat my grandmother!"
- The Reveal: The Queen is Virginia's mother. See also Luke, I Am Your Father above. Made particularly well done because the few bits of Foreshadowing relevant to it were very subtle. The Backstory about Christine seems on first viewing to be merely setting Virginia up as yet another protagonist dealing with Parental Abandonment issues, not a Missing Mom who will actually become directly relevant to the plot; the fact the Queen has another Traveling mirror (and thus could conceivably have come from Earth) is only noticeable using Freeze-Frame Bonus or if the viewer is paying very close attention (and is revealed in the narrative only a short time before her identity is); and the "strange feeling" Virginia gets in her cell could easily be chalked up to magic.
- Rich Bitch: Or, rather, a rich son of a bitch -- Prince Wendell, that is.
- And for most of the miniseries, that's quite literal.
- Right in Front of Me: While defending Wolf in court, Virginia gets a seemingly bright idea. The real criminal is a man who was wearing a wolf mask for the village festivities the day before; the victim's shouts of "Wolf!" were directed at him. Virginia proceeds to call the 'criminal' all sorts of names... until she is told that the judge was wearing the mask and her argument falls flat.
- Rock Bottom: After Virginia finds out Wolf spent all the money he'd won at gambling on dinner instead of buying the Traveling mirror, she walks out on him, thinking he's a selfish bastard who doesn't really love her. Feeling depressed, she sits down on the steps, and says aloud that at least things can't get any worse. At exactly that moment, her father Tony, climbing around on the roof, drops the Traveling mirror, and it smashes into a million pieces right at Virginia's feet. This is a fairy tale land we're talking about, and breaking a mirror has its consequences...
- Running Gag: After entering New York and discovering what Earth culture was like, the three Troll siblings come upon a CD boom box with the Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in it. Upon hearing it, they immediately become instant fans, toting it everywhere with them and singing along as loudly and annoyingly as possible until the batteries on the boom box die. They attempt to explain the music and its origin to their father, with genuinely hilarious results — although the usage of the Bee Gees' full name as the Brothers Gibb, hardly common knowledge, seems rather out of place, especially coming from such moronic characters who can't even read properly. (See: East Eighty-onest Street.) Presumably this was included in order to avoid being obvious or to make it funnier. (And it works.) They then proceed to continue singing the song for the rest of the miniseries.
- Possibly also a nod to "the Brothers Grimm", famed collectors of fairy tales.
- Scarily Competent Tracker: The Huntsman.
- Right below him is Wolf, who can track nearly anything by it's smell, especially Virginia.
- Falling behind Wolf are the Troll kids. While they may be stupid, they show a remarkable amount of tracking skills and manage to dog the heroes whenever they aren't a golden statue.
- Scenery Porn: The Nine Kingdoms portion of the miniseries was filmed for the most part on-location in Europe. Notable examples would be the castle and surroundings which double as Snow White Memorial Prison, the countryside used for Dragon Mountain and its approach, and Krimml Waterfall which doubles for Snow White Falls.
- Sequel Hook: The closing narration mentioned that "this is the end of the first book of the Tenth Kingdom". Nothing came of it, though.
- The writer has had the sequel written for years but hasn't been able to get it made yet.
- Short Cuts Make Long Delays: Lampshaded. There are two roads leading to Wendell's castle, and the pair of unlikely heroes are on foot: they must choose whether to take the long and pretty path or the short and scary path. "Virginia, don't you think there's a chance that it's going around something? But... but one path has trees, and the other... argh!" They take the scary path.
- Single-Issue Psychology: Subverted and lampshaded: Wolf's issues with food, love, and his animal urges are hilariously sent up in scenes with a New York Jewish psychiatrist, and after only one session (which he later describes to Virginia as "extensive therapy") he suddenly pronounces himself a changed man and produces "the books to prove it," consisting of several titles of real, well-known self-help books. However, Wolf only shows the beginning of change (acknowledging that he has the problem) and several times shows that he is still a slave to his stomach. Later, the others read passages that relate to each of them, but show no immediate changes. Similarly, but much more darkly, the source of the Evil Queen's wicked nature seems to stem from one event: once it is revealed that she is actually Virginia's missing mother, Tony then reveals that she attempted to drown Virginia as a little girl because she was 'sick and getting worse and worse', a rather vague statement of mental illness. And it was this instability that made her easy prey for Snow White's Wicked Stepmother.
- Skewed Priorities: From the first meeting of Wendell's privy council, after they have been discussing Wendell not stopping in Beantown, his conspicuous absence and lack of communication, and the Evil Queen's breakout.
Lord Rupert: Now to the real crisis. There is a shortage of bluebells throughout the Kingdom, my color scheme for the coronation banquet will have to be completely rethought.
The magic mirror being consulted can only hear rhyming verse.
Virginia: Our mirror's smashed - what can we do? Where the hell are the other two?
- Spirit Advisor: Snow White. She calls herself a fairy godmother, but also freely admits she is actually dead (something which is never really stated about fairy godmothers). Only Virginia and Wendell (the latter either because he's gone doggy at the time or because he's her grandson) can see and speak with her—Tony cannot. She later appears in Virginia's dreams. According to the Novelization, she was also disguised as the old woman from the forest who gave them a lesson in solidarity and warned them of the Huntsman, and the little Cupid girl from Kissing Town who told them where to find the cart which had taken the mirror away.
- The Starscream: Relish the Troll King swiftly becomes this, since he doesn't have the patience to wait for the Queen to carry out her Xanatos Gambit. And, to be fair, because he got tired of her constantly ordering him around like a Mook and giving him headaches and hemorrhages with her Magic Mirror summons.
- Stealth Pun: See Punny Name.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Tony questions the gold watch he receives from Mrs. Murray as "not being one of those cheap imitations". This same suspicion is brought up by the Tooth Fairy when Tony tries to pay him with it.
- Surrounded by Idiots: The Troll King, who is fairly clever and competent (though no match for the Queen), is supported only by his dimwitted children and soldiers. He doesn't seem happy about this lack of competence in his henchmen. (In the Novelization, when one of his advisors questions why they were in the apple grove so long before meeting the Queen, Relish thinks to himself that this Troll was no longer his advisor, though "he didn't know that yet".)
- Swamps Are Evil: The Deadly Swamp. Not only is it the home of the Swamp Witch (Snow White's Wicked Stepmother), it has mischievous fairies that enjoy being "naughty" to travelers and magic mushrooms which tempt people to eat them...after which they fall asleep and are consumed by the swamp.
- A Taste of the Lash: Tony's punishment for trying to break into the Governor's office with the copied key. What is particularly odd, considering the history of flogging in Britain and Simon Moore being British, is that there seems to be no consequences to this: the very next time Tony is shown he doesn't seem to be unduly suffering, nor is he ever shown favoring his back, nor is it ever mentioned again in the miniseries. Either despite Tony's cries beanstalks aren't particularly painful (note that in Real Life whipping can kill at forty lashes), or this is another example of straddling the line between What Do You Mean It's for Kids? and What Do You Mean It's Not for Kids? due to it being a Bowdlerized Fairy Tale world.
- Tempting Fate: See Rock Bottom.
- Trailers Always Spoil: NBC was notorious for doing this during most if not of all of their miniseries "events", but a particularly Egregious example occurred twice for The Tenth Kingdom: just after the suspenseful scenes in which Virginia and Tony were trying to buy the Traveling mirror at auction, the trailer revealed that it gets broken, and right as we're wondering if the heroes will get to the ball and stop the Evil Queen's plot in time, the trailer revealed all of Wendell's guests collapsing from poison. Next commercial break then shows us both the same guests awakening, revealing they weren't really dead and Prince and Wendell switching back—though granted, this was something of The Untwist by that late in the game. About the only major plot point not revealed by the trailers, thankfully, was that the Evil Queen was Virginia's mother. Not to mention Wolf stopping the Huntsman from killing Virginia at the end.
- Transformation Sequence: For Wendell/Prince.
- Transformation Trauma: For Wolf.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Suck an elf!" Although this could be very wrong sounding...
- Urine Trouble: The Dog Prince with a pillar, early on when he is still resisting the Queen's "human training".
- Vile Villain Saccharine Show: Subverted. For the first half or so of the miniseries (before the Queen's Evil Plan is fully revealed), a case could be made that both the Troll King and the Huntsman act as this, since the Nine Kingdoms otherwise come across as a silly, funny, and not particularly threatening place (aside from the Third). As more of the Queen and her plans come out, and as the heroes travel and become exposed to the underbelly of the Kingdoms and the ramifications of certain fairy tales and attitudes, it seems much grimmer indeed, to the point of being a Crap Saccharine World.
Wolf: The days of Happy Ever After are gone. These are dark times.
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Wolf's proposal to Virginia. Not only does he preface the evening, when Virginia initially tries to weasel out of dinner, by saying he "spent a lot of time planning this spontaneous evening", he: has a song composed especially for her, played by a string quartet on the roof of their carriage (which is filled to overflowing with flowers); rents an entire restaurant just for the two of them, with a meal consisting of 13 main courses; and purchases the most expensive engagement ring he can find—a magical singing ring with a saccharinely cute cherub face and shimmering, bell-like voice which extols the virtues of their love to Virginia. She turns him down out of outrage when she learns he spent money they could have used to accomplish their goals on the proposal instead. At the end of the miniseries, he tries again, in a much more restrained manner, and she accepts.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: The three Troll children, thanks to their love of shoes and leather, consider it a terrible crime when shoes are "very badly cared for--scuffed and cracked and neglected", and Blabberwort tells Virginia so. Lampshaded in the Novelization, first when Virginia notes Blabberwort's tone "suggested she had committed mass murder" and then when she decides they weren't "bent on destruction, only on defending shoes".
- What Happened to the Mouse?: We never actually see what happens to the Troll siblings. The novelization reveals that they were originally going to be put to death, but Tony pleads for them and they are returned to their kingdom to rule as the Troll King is no longer living. A deleted scene reveals that they did originally film something along the lines of this. Funny enough, it was a blooper scene that was shown during the credits of the Making of featurette.
- We never find out what happened to the Peep Family after Wilfred Peep is revealed to be Sally's killer, and that the family had stolen the magic well water and hoarded it for themselves for decades. Chances are, they either fled the town in shame, they were banished, or some of them might've been jailed.
- The White Prince: Prince Wendell, quite literally.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Something of this comes through in the Troll King's impatient, sardonic, and contemptuous attitude to the Evil Queen when she continues to pursue her plan to train the Dog Prince as an imposter, take over the Fourth Kingdom, and then through him rule the Nine Kingdoms as the power behind the power--since his modus operandi is to invade and take the kingdom by force. In a perhaps delicious twist, the Evil Queen eventually decides, after receiving advice from her own dark Spirit Advisor, to heed Relish's advice...by using it against him with a handy bit of poison after he has become too large a thorn in her side.
- Also invoked by Wolf when they have the Huntsman at their mercy. Virgina stops him from doing it. Justified, since Virginia doesn't want to be a murderer.
- Wicked Stepmother: The Queen to Prince Wendell. Snow White's shows up as the Swamp Witch.
- With This Ring: Conflict arises when Wolf spends all his money on a magic engagement ring with a sentient, singing pearl on top. Virginia is upset that he didn't use the money to buy the mirror they've been chasing the entire series. See Wacky Marriage Proposal.
- Wolf Man: Wolf. Duh.
- Would Hurt a Child:
- The Huntsman inadvertently killed his own seven year old son to prove his worthiness to the Queen. Later, he kills an entire gypsy camp including an innocent half-wolf boy.
- It's also highly implied that the Queen killed an entire family including a young girl because the Dog Prince told them too much about her plans. Not to mention that she tried to drown her own daughter years before becoming Queen.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Virginia and her father know their fairy tales. Too bad this world is based on the originals instead of the child-friendly versions they grew up with...
- Xanatos Gambit: The Queen's main plan would be one of these, with even a bit of Xanatos Speed Chess thrown in: originally she clearly intended to hold Wendell prisoner while training the Dog Prince, with his escape necessitating the involvement of Wolf and the Troll children (to ensure he did not warn anyone of her plans or find a way to switch back) but her training plan continuing without a hitch. This plan, in turn, was meant merely to allow her access to Castle White and the chance to poison all the ball guests; whether or not the Dog Prince succeeded in passing his tests, was crowned, or even fooled anyone was only a smokescreen to keep anyone from becoming suspicious until the toast could be performed, so in the end it didn't really matter what happened to the prince. Explained by the fact she had seven years in prison to plot it.
- Her method of dealing with the Troll King is even better: after using a threat to his children (whom she didn't even have) to get him to agree to a meeting, if Relish had agreed to withdraw his armies and cease threatening the Fourth Kingdom, her plans would be back on schedule. But if he didn't agree and tried to kill her, she planned to poison him, counting on his greed and gluttony (as well as being Genre Blind--meeting the protege of Snow White's stepmother in an apple orchard?) to be his undoing. This not only eliminated his threat to the kingdom (and Wendell's advisors signing away sovereignty so she couldn't use the Dog Prince's coronation for her murder spree), it provided an "act of bravery" to present to the courtiers at the ball. And when Relish revealed he had arrived early and broken her demand to Come Alone, she in turn revealed she'd arrived even earlier, and the poison was thus there to eliminate not just him, but his soldiers too.
- You Shall Not Pass: Tony does this when the heroes are pursued by the Trolls in the castle, eventually defeating all three.