|First appearance||Fables #1 (July 2002)|
|Created by||Bill Willingham|
|Notable aliases||The Frog Prince|
Flycatcher, or Prince Ambrose and later King Ambrose, is a fictional character in the comic book series Fables, created by Bill Willingham. He is based on the Frog Prince and first appeared in Fables #1 (July 2002).
Fictional character biography
Flycatcher was once a normal human, until Frau Totenkinder (prior to receiving amnesty) turned Flycatcher into a frog, who could only return to human form when he found true love. When he did, he became a happily married prince of a small kingdom in the Homelands, with a beautiful wife and many children. He lived peacefully with his family, his only quirk being the occasional resumption of his frog curse when he was nervous, scared or especially excited. Fortunately it only took a kiss from his loving wife to return him to human form, and, as time went on, he would often go for years between instances of the curse asserting itself. His tranquil family life was shattered when the Adversary invaded his realm. As Fly prepared to fight the empire, he was unaware that the enemy troops had already invaded his castle. As he bid farewell to his family, enemy soldiers burst into the room, causing Fly's curse to manifest immediately. Trapped in his frog form, he could only watch helplessly as his younger children were murdered and his wife and eldest daughter repeatedly raped before being killed themselves.
How Fly eventually returned to his human form is unknown, though it is speculated that he took a last kiss from his dead wife. Unable to face the truth, Fly wandered as a beggar, asking everywhere he went if people had seen his family. Finally he learned of the sanctuary of the mundane world and, figuring that his family would have fled there, he traveled there as well. Failing to reunite there, Fly asked one of the magic mirrors retrieved from the Homelands to search for his family on his behalf while he stayed protected in Fabletown—a position which racked him further with guilt. Some of his friends and coworkers were aware of this situation, and together conspired to keep the truth from him, knowing that it would destroy him. Still, when drunk, Fly appeared to have clearer memory of what really happened to his family, which believed to be the reason why he'd so rarely drink.
Flycatcher acted as the janitor for the Woodland building, the center of government for Fabletown. However, he wasn't employed in the traditional sense- the nature of his history being such that, if he had a job that he could choose to quit, he would have to do so and return to the Homelands to seek his missing family. As this would almost certainly result in his death, Bigby Wolf developed a system of convenient deception, whereby Fly was made to work off a never-ending series of short community service orders for a series of minor infractions (usually eating flies.) Fly remained in the job that he enjoyed doing, and where he felt important in the service to his fellow fables. The arrangement was nearly disrupted when the well-meaning Beast, misguidedly freed Fly from his wrongful "punishment" and offered to employ him legitimately instead, before Rose Red explained the real nature of the situation.
Upon her arrival from the Homelands, Fly began spending a considerable amount of time with Red Riding Hood, having been asked to look after her by his close friend Boy Blue before the latter departed for the Farm. "Ride" became enamored of Fly for his sweet and thoughtful nature, and eventually accompanied him to Bigby and Snow White's wedding. Fly, however, seemed oblivious to the fact that Red was falling for him, something that he only seemingly began to realize when she went out into the mundane city, where she had a makeover with him in mind. He was shocked when he saw her and ran away, hiding in the depths of the business office, where his curse then manifested and reverted Fly again to his frog form.
Eventually, Santa Claus visited Flycatcher on Christmas eve and forced him to reveal that he could still speak as a frog, and also that he still remembers what happened to his family. Santa then presented Fly with the ghost of his wife, so that she could restore him to human form. Santa then explained that Fly was destined to play a crucial part in future events, but only if he could learn to accept the past and move forward.
During The Good Prince, Flycatcher finally faces his past. With his memory fully restored, he resigned from his "job" at the Woodlands and swore vengeance on those who destroyed his family, attempting to enlist Boy Blue's help in training him combat skills. Blue refused, partly on the grounds that Fly's idea was essentially a suicide mission, but more importantly because he didn't want to be responsible for the one truly good Fable losing his innocence.
It was this purity of spirit that would become central to Fly's actual destiny. Returning to Fabletown, Fly found himself awakening from his sleep as he was supernaturally drawn to the business office, where he encountered the ghost of the Forsworn Knight, now released from his armor. Introducing himself as Lance, the ghost of the great knight informed Fly that he was to act as a guide for the first part of Fly's quest. Lance bequeathed his magical armor to Fly (which resumed its luster after being placed on a pure and just person), as well as helping him to obtain the legendary Excalibur. Lance then formally knighted Fly, claiming he was to take up the role of the Once and Future King (formerly held by King Arthur). Fly was imbued with a now-clear vision of what he was meant to do.
Flycatcher proceeded to lead Lancelot into the Witching Well, to find the ghosts of those who had previously been thrown there. Among the ghosts were Little Miss Muffet's spider husband, Gretel, Shere Khan and Bluebeard, as well as Trusty John (the only fable besides Fly to jump down the Witching Well while still alive.) The ghosts are informed that they shall have new flesh while near Flycatcher on the condition that they serve as his loyal army. The many ghosts follow Fly for the more than month's march out of the land of the dead and into the Homelands, eventually finding the garden kingdom where Flycatcher was once prince. Rechristening his kingdom "Haven", Flycatcher brought to him powerful magics that nullified any sent by the Adversary to his lands. Fly conquered opposing armies one after another through non-lethal means—he duels one giant to exhaustion using only the flat of his blade and sends his ghost army into the minds of a goblin horde, racking them with their own fears and nightmares. He positions Haven as a "third course" beside the two opposing parties in the war between the Adversary's empire and Fabletown. Flycatcher manages to defeat every enemy sent at him without shedding any blood and graciously accepts his defeated enemies as new citizens of Haven, since their return to the Emperor will result in their death for failure.
Eventually, the Adversary assembles all of the wooden soldiers into the dreaded Golden Horde. As they march — immune to the fear of Fly's ghosts, and with the magic of the Sacred Grove too strong for Fly's to nullify — the advancing army appears unbeatable. Fly senses the end of his visions, and believes that it means his final act will include his death. He walks alone to meet the Horde, apparently for the purpose of surrender. However, to the surprise of puppets and Fly alike, his magical armor (the armor of the Unspoiled Knight) adds itself to the Sacred Grove's magic, causing all of the wooden soldiers to suddenly sprout into an enormous grove of trees. Flycatcher, having not expected his own survival, explains that the Adversary is now defeated; the soldiers, nearly every one in the Empire, have all become a new Sacred Grove. Because there can be only one Sacred Grove in all the worlds, this means that Gepetto's will never grow back. Moreover, the Sacred Grove's magic has increased Fly's own, meaning he would be able to continue expanding his kingdom of benevolent rule.
When questioned about his intentions toward the sacred grove — explicitly, whether he intends to raise his own wooden soldier army and capture lands for the Empire — Fly experiences a nightmarish vision of an older version of himself waging war on countless worlds with such a wooden soldier army, whereupon he declares that the grove is to be left alone and that it be a place of quiet reflection and peace.
When Boy Blue was recovering from his injury from the enchanted arrow that he was shot with during "War and Pieces," Blue told Flycatcher about how naiive he was being about Riding Hoods feelings about him and that he should be with her. Fly was quick to notice that Blues arm had turned gangrenous and infected. When Blue was eventually taken to the Farm after the fall of Fabletown to Mr. Dark, becoming infected by the dark magic contained within the witching cloak, which originally was a sack carried by Mr. Dark, Flycatcher attempted to use the magic given to him by Haven and the Sacred Grove to heal Blue. However, this attempt failed and Flycatcher was reduced to tears as he told everyone to say their last goodbyes to his best friend. Blue was buried in Haven on the hill overlooking the baseball field there.
Flycatcher finally moved forward with his feelings toward Riding Hood, kissing her and accidentally transforming back into a frog. However, he decided he had allowed the curse to dominate him for too long and he turned himself back under his own power. Flycatcher was called forward on a sad matter when one of his goblin subjects, Mr. Brump, being drunk, ate a squirrel fable. Fly begged Trusty John to find a way to allow Brump mercy and thereby keep Flycatcher from breaking his policy about killing. Flycatcher used his magic to gain Blues strength by touching his grave and hardened his heart, simply banishing Mr. Brump from Haven, under penalty of death if he should return. Flycatcher, tired of hiding his feelings, asks Riding Hood to spend the night with him, which she happily agrees to.
Personality and traits
Tall and decidedly gangly, Fly is almost universally popular in Fabletown, as he's known for being kind and friendly to all (if not exceptionally bright). Indeed, he is generally treated with respect and politeness even by the most shady and harsh fables in the town. He becomes an invaluable part of administering Fabletown as the primary custodian of the Woodlands office. Snow and Bigby name one of their children Ambrose in their friend's honor. Although still ostensibly searching for his family, Fly develops something of a crush on Briar Rose during their centuries in Fabletown, to the extent that his kiss was enough to wake her from her curse.
Fables artist Mark Buckingham has stated that Flycatcher is his favorite character; Buckingham has said that he is the only truly innocent character in the series. This has since been backed up in the series itself, in which it has been noted that Flycatcher was the only Fable to reach the mundane world who had nothing to be forgiven, covered up, or otherwise absolved of, under the Fabletown amnesty.