The Fairy Tale Motifs in Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness

For the longest time, Disney had this reputation of sanitizing fairy tales for a family-friendly audience. Now that Disney has evolved into an eldritch abomination of a mega-corporation, however, there’s a movie within the umbrella that takes fairy tales back to their horror-themed roots: Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness.

Spoilers for Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness.

Each of the main characters in this movie fall under a fairy tale archetype. While the movie is categorized as horror, fairy tales and horror have a long history of going together. The original Brothers Grimm fairy tales usually had some sort of body horror along with lots of dark atmospheric settings.

America Chavez: The Princess In Distress

Yes, my dear readers, America Chavez is secretly a Disney Princess. And like a lot of Disney Princesses, she starts out as a damsel in distress. This precocious young girl is in way over her head with powers she doesn’t understand along with demons chasing after her. However, America learns that she needs to tap into her self-confidence and trust in her ability to hone her powers. Once she does so, she ends up saving the day. I really hope that I see more of America Chavez in future MCU installments.

Wong: The Noble Knight

Wong is the Sorcerer Supreme and while he plays a supporting role in this movie, his archetype is that of the Noble Knight. He is stalwart, courageous, and loyal to his friends. He stands up to the villain and keeps Doctor Strange in check.

Wong seriously needs his own movie or series on Disney Plus.

Christine Palmer: The Helper-Maiden

In Saint George and the Dragon as well as the myths of Jason and Medea (and Theseus and Ariadne), the helper-maiden is a woman who helps the hero. Christine Palmer is essentially Doctor Strange’s anchor, reminding him of what he needs to do. Much like Wong, Christine constantly questions Strange and does her best to protect America Chavez.

Wanda Maximoff: The Evil Witch/Queen

Every fairy tale has one. And I’m not gonna lie: Wanda being the villain of this movie hurt, especially after Wandavision. Corrupted by the Darkhold and driven by a grief that she hasn’t been able to process, Wanda grasps at dark powers, all for the desire to have some sense of control over her life.

What separates Wanda from every other Evil Witch and Evil Queen is that her motivations are ones that any grieving mother and widow can understand. And eventually, she learns her lesson, realizing that she turned into a monster that frightens her own children.

(I also do not think that Wanda is dead, even with her collapsing the Darkhold tower around her. She is way too powerful to go down that easily.)

Doctor Stephen Strange: The Clever Trickster

Doctor Strange’s archetype is one that’s found more often in mythologies and folklore than fairy tales. The Clever Trickster takes the form of the cunning fox or the sly crow, the gods Hermes and Odin, and Loki, heroes like Odysseus, Jason, and Theseus.

Doctor Strange’s lesson in this movie is humility. Every other Strange in every other universe was arrogant, prone to corruption, and always took charge at the expense of what everyone else needed. Strange knows better than anyone that actions have consequences and by the end, he takes a good step in humility by bowing to Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme and his most trusted friend.

One other way that Doctor Strange learns humility is that he is humble enough to let Christine Palmer be happy. Even though he loves Christine, he won’t hold her or any other version of her hostage. Their love was never meant to be and Strange has accepted that.

I’ll end this blog post with a quote from GK Chesterton, who knew a thing or two about fairy tales:

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.

And that is why fairy tales and horror go hand in hand.

How Moon Knight Reminds Me of Anime

It’s said in the MCU fandom that each MCU film and show falls under a different genre. For example, Captain America: The First Avenger was a historical wartime film while Guardians of the Galaxy would be considered more of a sci-fi action/comedy. In the case of Moon Knight, the best genre I can compare this show to is actually anime.

Anime in and of itself has many genres, but elements of Moon Knight reminded me a lot of various anime shows I watched. Here’s a list as to how:

1) The Egyptian/Middle Eastern aesthetic of Moon Knight’s costume reminded me of Moonlight Knight from Sailor Moon R.

Back in the very early days of Sailor Moon’s infamous DIC English dub, there was a filler arc in the 2nd season (Sailor Moon R) where Darien/Mamoru’s “subconscious” manifested itself into an Arabian Night inspired hero called Moonlight Knight, complete with a saber sword and everything. I mean, look at this picture.

The resemblance is uncanny.

2) Like Sailor Moon, Steven Grant starts out as a crybaby but develops into a courageous monster hunter

Steven Grant is, by far, the most relatable reluctant hero in the MCU. He’s got the most ordinary job: gift shop worker and inventory for a museum in England. However, he also struggles with Dissociative Identity Disorder and he was unaware of his condition until he comes across the villain, Arthur Harrow. And even when Steven Grant tries out the Moon Knight powers for the first time, he doesn’t get things perfect right away. By the end of the series, Steven developed his own fighting style.

It’s very similar to how Usagi Tsukino became Sailor Moon. She started out as a below-average middle school student who gets powers she doesn’t understand. When she goes into her first fight, she literally cries so hard, her wails turn into a sonic scream. However, like Steven Grant, Usagi eventually develops into a true soldier of love and justice.

3) The relationship the hero has with the supernatural world

There are a lot of anime shows involve protagonists with some connection to the supernatural world. Dragon Ball Z was partially inspired by The Legend of Sun Wukong which includes lots of gods and mythical figures from Chinese mythology. Yu Yu Hakusho featured an entire underworld and one of the supporting characters was a psychopomp, a guide of lost souls. In these anime, the supernatural world interacts with the world of the anime, having real consequences.

Moon Knight is the first show outside of the Thor movies to have a connection with an established pantheon of gods. What makes Moon Knight unique, however, is that the gods themselves interact with the protagonist and play a larger role in the story, interacting with the human world, rather than being separate from it like the gods of Asgard are. My favorite of the deities featured was Taweret, the sweet hippo-humanoid goddess of childbirth and mothers who became an essential ally to Steve/Marc as well as to Layla.

4) The Egyptian aesthetic is similar to Yu-Gi-Oh

The first Yu-Gi-Oh series centered on a very meek, mild-mannered student named Yugi Moto who (for a while) was unaware of the spirit that lived in his Millennium Puzzle. He’s quite similar to Steven Grant as both Yugi and Steven had a love for Egyptian history. Similar to Marc Spector, Yami (or Atem as he would later be known) was ruthless, relentless, and created some nightmare-fuel punishments for those who crossed his path. However, Yugi eventually worked alongside Yami/Atem and the two of them became great friends.

Also, to note, one of the Millennium items was the Millennium Scales, used by Shadi. These Millennium Scales He also attempted to summon Ammit in order to devour Yami Yugi’s soul. More info about the Millennium Items can be found in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKRbLZh8vcw

5) The hypercompetent tsundere

I. Love. Layla. As far as MCU girlfriends and love interests go, she takes the top tier, stealing the spot from Pepper Potts. She is a very smart, strategic woman who just happens to have a love/hate relationship with Steven and Marc. And by that I mean she starts falling for Steven all the while being very estranged from Marc.

The “tsundere” is a classic anime archetype, usually reserved for female characters. The best way to describe a tsundere can be found in this video:

So yeah. Layla is very much a tsundere. And I love where she ends up in the finale. But that’s spoiler territory.

Overall, I really loved Moon Knight as it’s the perfect mix of urban fantasy, supernatural, and adventure.

How long until Season 2, people?!