The Librarians and the Fables of Doom

IMDB : aired January 4, 2014 : previous episode 
John Rogers (executive producer) answers questions about this episode
index and explanation of these posts


When fairy tales start coming to life, the Librarians have to figure out why (and how to stop it).


Some background: (mostly so I can stick some interesting stuff in here.)

Fairy talesThe Brothers Grimm. Hans Christian Andersen. The Aarne-Thompson classification system for folklore. I grew up with a great fondness for Italo Calvino’s Italian Fairy Tales. More classification with summaries.

Also, John Rogers highly recommends Seanan McGuire’s Indexing if you like this episode (and I entirely second it, and also note that her October Daye series, which begins with Rosemary and Rue also does interesting things with folklore.)


Rewatching this, I really love how they’re playing with the stories, and with the assumptions about stories (and gender, and gender roles). It’s nothing earthshattering, on one hand, but it’s handled so deftly.

Ok, I also adore Jenkins and his vending machine. (One of the things that’s true about this show is as it’s finding its footing, there are awesome little bits like this popping up more and more often. So looking forward to season 2.)

The later part of this scene, I’m contemplating the parallels to the original Ghostbusters. 

One of the things I find especially rewarding in this episode is the little changes – costuming, make-up, and so on – that make the changes in the narrative and the sense of both danger and story so much more potent.



The Town Musicians of Bremen is a Grimm folk tale. Traffic flow. Fingerprints. Trolls (the supernatural being kind).

Three Billy Goats Gruff. Emperor’s New Clothes. (Um. Mayor’s.) A summary of talking animals in the Grimm fairy tales. Not sure about the music festival one (unless it’s a reference to Thomas the Rhymer.) The oven is perhaps Hansel and Gretel but there are other tales with ovens.

Little Red Riding Hood. The average size of a wolf depends on what it’s been eating.

Because I am being detail focused, the items on the board are at the bottom of this post.

Guinness people = Guinness Book of World Records. (Incidentally, when I worked in a high school, an enduringly popular book with a surprising number of students.)

The Black Death. The Yersina Pestis bacterium. (Incidentally, saw something this week that suggests gerbils are more to blame than rats because they were the longterm resevoir population between outbreaks. See the New Yorker and the Sceptic’s Guide for more.)

Possible stories: Hansel and Gretel. Snow White. Cinderella. (But there are so many other possibilities)


I like this library. They keep finding such nice libraries to film in.

Jane Austen. Presumably Charlotte or Emily Bronte (or arguably Anne or Branwell, but). Charles Dickens. Hunger Games (Katniss Everdeen). Artemis Fowl series. The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is a real thing.

ANC = absolute neutrophil count.

Three Little Pigs.

I love the sudden appearing owl. John Rogers says: “The owl on Stone’s arm was originally intended to be a bluejay harassing Baird, but apparently corvids are smart enough to know they should be paid scale to hit their marks, so the much more compliant owl was used.” (Corvids are very very smart.)

The Jack. (My favourite Jack book is Charles de Lint’s Jack of Kinrowan)

Little Bo Peep. Pinocchio. The briars from Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty/etc.

I love Ezekial sneaking along on the side of the hospital gurney, and it made me think of the sheep scene from Homer.

Did you know the origin of the term robot? Ninja again.

Swamp gas. Which does have some interesting ties to folklore.

Paradise Lost.

Items on the board:

You can see the photo here, from Kate Rorick, one of the writers. (Some of them are hard to read in that, but it let me fill out the list I got from pausing the video, so yay!)  Wikipedia has links and sorting, so I’m not going to duplicate that.

Column 1:

  1. Spear of Destiny
  2. Blackbeard’s Chest
  3. The Tree of Confucius
  4. Sitting Bull’s Feather
  5. Gaelic Vampires
  6. The Genie’s Lamp
  7. Shakespeare’s Quill
  8. Leprechauns
  9. The Wolf’s Whistle
  10. Interstellar Wireless
  11. The Cap of Invisibility

Column 2:

  1. Goose with Golden Eggs
  2. Trident of Poseidon
  3. The Golden Fish Scale
  4. The Immortals
  5. Libris Fabula
  6. Lantern of Diogenes
  7. The Singing Sword of Conaire Mor
  8. Homer’s Sandal
  9. The Telltale Heart
  10. Ozymandius’s Dream Journal
  11. Sirens
  12. Red Herring of Yang Tz0 (hard to read, might be Yang Tze)

Column 3:

  1. Pipes of Pan
  2. Wand of Fairies
  3. Icelandic Swans
  4. The Holy Grail
  5. John Henry’s Hammer
  6. Mother Goose Treaty (of 1918)
  7. Aztec Smoking Mirror
  8. W.D.’s Frozen Head
  9. The Stein of Many Drinkers
  10. Necklace of Harmonia

Column 4:

  1. Reanimation Elixir
  2. Magic Mushrooms
  3. Lilies
  4. Tesla’s Death Ray
  5. The Black Mask
  6. The Sampo
  7. Cupid’s Bow
  8. Aphrodite’s Magic Girdle
  9. The Veil of Scheherazade
  10. Whirling Dervishes
  11. The Peaches of Immortality
  12. Murphy’s Lawbook

Column 5:

  1. Book of Thoth
  2. Loki’s Spear
  3. Unicorn
  4. The Stone of Giramphiel
  5. Yata no Kagami
  6. Inuit Raven Cloak
  7. Aesop’s Lyre
  8. The Wand of Wishes
  9. Jacob’s Step Stool
  10. Tasmanian Devils
  11. Fountain of Youth
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1 comment to The Librarians and the Fables of Doom

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

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