Kindred

In Ludwig Revolution’s side columns, Kaori Yuki comments briefly on each fairy tale that she retells as well its main character. In the case of Little Briar Rose, she points out that Idike is unusually popular among the readers, and wonders whether it’s due to her personality or due to her role, especially the way Lui behaves around her. She also remarks that this particular tale may not be typical of Lui, but that she likes it nonetheless.

So, with Idike’s narrative singularity in mind, it’s interesting to examine why Idike of all characters is so dear to Lui and what may make them the superior match in comparison to all other bride candidates on his journey, seeing how it’s implied that his most sincere affections are reserved for her alone. I won’t bother commenting on all specific bride candidates so as not to give away plot points; it suffices to say that if you read the series, it’s self-explaining why things don’t work out between Lui and the respective character, with romantic unavailability (due to various reasons) being the least of his worries.

Let’s start the topic with the biggest running gag in the series: Lui is obsessed with big breasts; first inquiries and first impressions are all about the respective character’s cup size to him, much to Wilhelm’s dismay. Idike is the first flat-chested bride candidate in the series — which is partly because Lui first meets her in a dream, where she assumes the appearance of a 15-year-old due to her time having been stopped. Flat-chested girls and women are rare in the series in comparison to the amount of well-endowed characters, which includes those who aren’t in the spotlight of the respective fairy tale. Not counting recurring assassins and Kathrein from The Frog King, or Iron Henry, who is still a child, Rapunzel and Cinderella from their eponymous tales are the only ones without a cup size to Lui’s liking. I’d also count Kaguya from Princess Kaguya/The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, as Lui starts pursuing her seriously without even knowing her cup size due to the many layers of her traditional attire.

These three characters happen to be the few main characters of their respective tale who Lui cares about, and aside from the aforementioned Kathrein, they’re the only ones he treats with untypical gentleness. This is different from the slight consideration that he gives Maleen in Maid Maleen, and a stark contrast to his indifference or superficial involvement with every other potential bride, who are all either shallow or have a bad personality (to put it mildly). I can’t tell whether all three of them not being his usual “type” as far as cup size is concerned was a conscious choice — I do, however, believe that Kaori Yuki intentionally wrote Lui as not caring about looks in those stories for a reason. See, upon further examination, these three — and only these three — have something in common with Idike: They’re all prisoners of their circumstances, they all struggle with the pain of loneliness, and they all pretend to be strong.

Lui has different relationships with these women: To Cinderella, he wishes to be an ally as she pursues her prince and makes her dream come true, and he feels very protective of her. To Rapunzel and Kaguya, he wishes to offer a direct way to escape from their prisons (the tower and the parental order to marry as well as living in a land not her own) through marriage, though Rapunzel’s heart already belongs to someone else. (As for Kathrein, she, too, is lonely and feels neglected by her father.) I doubt that Kaori Yuki synchronized Lui’s behaviour towards specific women with the similarities of their narratives in mind, and think that is’ more likely she went with whatever idea she thought would make the most interesting story. And while Idike isn’t explicitly referred to outside of Rapunzel, I think the connection between Lui’s untypically gentle behaviour and those “trapped and waiting for a rescue” narratives is remarkable and thus merits talking about. (That may sound bad when presented without context, but rest assured all those female characters get their own happy ending due to their own actions and choices, even if Lui helps them along the way.)

As already mentioned as part of Rapunzel, Lui seems particularly sensitive when it comes to girls and women who try to be strong in the face of hardships and loneliness specifically. This may indeed be due to them reminding him of Idike, which he explicitly states in Rapunzel. Characterization is not among Ludwig Revolution’s priorities, and Lui is not necessarily intended as a character to sympathize with or to root for, as he is arrogant, egocentric, flighty, irresponsible and frequently portrayed as shallow.

I’ve also mentioned that Little Red Riding Hood in the first volume comes closest to providing a backstory for Lui and Wilhelm. In that tale, Wilhelm mentions that during their first encounter, the prince was all by himself in a big room, surrounded by nothing but expensive, lifeless toys. At the beginning of Little Briar Rose, Wilhelm also theorizes that Lui frequently sleeping around may be due to him having been raised in solitude while weighed down by his responsibilities as royalty and as the kingdom’s heir, and that he may secretly long for the touch of someone else’s skin. It’s written off as a joke, and I won’t pretend that Lui is a complex character (especially with the series being intentionally superficial in its characterization), but I don’t think Wilhelm is necessarily wrong on all accounts.

And here’s why: When Lui so harshly criticizes Idike rather than offering her any words of comfort, prompting her to cry, his words are interlaced with a silent image of his silhouette amidst the toys — in direct reference to the previous chapter, where Wilhelm talked about their first encounter, as the toys match up. It’s fleeting, it’s provided without commentary, and Lui isn’t one to explain his own behaviour (even towards Wilhelm) — yet, it ultimately shows that his relationship with Idike is the only one to not be solely about the woman he’s pursuing, but about himself as well. Lui understands Idike’s loneliness, pain and frustrations because he recognizes his younger self in her, and his harsh words are either a result of his own harsh past and position or genuinely meant as comfort, as he may have embraced them as solace while growing up.

Lui connects with Idike through her weakness, her loneliness and her hurt, and that is something far more real than all the other relationships, which tend to be idealized and romanticized or are just plain shallow. Idike is also the one person who shows him her “ugliness” — her realness — from the very start as she speaks frankly, bluntly and honestly, and continues to do so even after being aware of his status as a prince. Rather than seeing her positive traits first and rejecting her upon seeing the negative ones, as is the case with the vast majority of bride candidates (to be fair, positive here means beauty and big breasts), he is able to see her as the person she is from their very first encounter — not as the princess.

When Idike thanks him for finding the real her, I don’t think it’s just about making it through the physical thorns and finding her outside of the dream realm. It’s about finding the truth buried under the lies that she believed, and about breaking down her walls — her nastiness and her strong front — to find out who she truly is, and to embrace all of it in the end.

And isn’t all that what Lui has always wanted deep down — for people to see him, perhaps even love him for who he is rather than as the prince? For them to speak their mind and be honest with him rather than pretending to care? Hasn’t he, too, established a wall of thorns for his own protection after being disappointed by those around him? And perhaps somewhere in all that, he may cherish how Idike was able to cry the tears that he couldn’t shed.