Frau Totenkinder (a pseudonym meaning as much as "Dead Children" or "Child Killer" in German) appears to be one of the oldest of the European Fables. The woman who would become Totenkinder was originally born to and became the shamaness of a tribe of prehistoric people. After an affair with the son of the chief (who was shortly thereafter married the “princess” of another tribe to prevent a inter-tribal war) left her pregnant, she was driven out of the tribe by her ex-lover lest his new in-laws discover that the child she was carrying was his and the war between the two tribes begin again. Totenkinder exacted her revenge by sacrificing her own newborn child to gain power and cursed her ex-lover with boils and warts. She discovered that by sacrificing a child each year, she could gain magical power. By sacrificing two, she could remain ever youthful.
Totenkinder lived down through the ages, the witch of many European legends. Helpful to those that were kind to her, vengeful to those that were not. Because of her initial bad experience with the son of a ruler, she cursed many princes such as the Rapunzel, Briar Rose, Beast and Ambrose, the Frog Prince. Because she would still occasionally have feelings for young men, she allowed herself to age. Retiring to a house deep in the woods that she would glamour to look like a gingerbread house one a year to attract a child for sacrifice. But Hansel and Gretel outsmarted her when she was weak, burning her in her own oven.
It was there her skeleton, still alive, was found by Snow White and Rose Red while on the run from the Adversary’s army. Rose pulled her out of the oven and she and Snow nursed the old woman back to health. When Totenkinder told them who she was, Snow immediately became distrustful and disdainful, but Rose continued to treat the old woman kindly. The three traveled on together for a while, but were separated. How Totenkinder found her way to the Mundane world is unknown, but she arrived many centuries ago and began weaving spells about her to connect herself to her new world and protect herself and Fable Town, becoming the Fable community’s most powerful witch (though others have been seen). Despite being responsible for her death, Frau showed no ill-will with Gretel and put her under her tutelage.
When the Adversary attacked fabled town with a horde of wooden soldiers, Totenkinder and the witches and magicians of Fable Town were initially tasked with keeping the battle from being noticed by the Mundane humans living nearby, but Totenkinder went to the Mayor’s penthouse apartment and called the orchestrator of the battle, Baba Yaga (in the guise of Red Riding Hood), to the roof for a magical duel. King Cole investigated noises coming from his patio and saw the two monstrous demon-like figures locked in mortal combat. Totenkinder won the battle and confined Baba Yaga deep in the caverns of the Fable Town municipal building for interrogation.
Since the Beast has taken over as sheriff and spymaster for Fable Town, Frau Totenkinder has been much more involved in it’s events. She likes the good natured Beast more than his colder predecessor ( Bigby Wolf) and has altered his enchantment so that he can transform at will (though it is unknown whether or not he knows that it was she that cursed him in the first place). She was also responsible for thwarting the plans of Yusuf, chief advisor to Sinbad of the Arabian Fables, when he released a d'jinn, instructing it to eliminate all his opponents and bring him great power and wealth. Totenkinder anticipated this possibility and ensorcelled him, so that, unknown to him, he actually instructed the genie to kill all his accomplices, then himself (in the same drawn-out and painful a manner that he had intended for his enemies) and then return safely to its bottle.
She also has her own network of spies in the Fable Lands and has kept the new Mayor, Prince Charming abreast of information they gather. But while she has been very helpful in recent events, it is implied that Totenkinder is a wild-card playing her own deep game. She has established something of an alliance with Beast since his advancement to the position of sheriff; while this generally establishes itself as a quid-pro-quo arrangement of mutual favors, it remains to be seen if any darker reasons lie behind it. Totenkinder eventually reveals the nature of her spies in the Empire. She installed a magical brush in the woodcarver guild's tools which allows her to look through the eyes of any of the carved beings whose eyes are painted using that brush and to see what they see. Among her unwitting spies is Geppetto's pet owl. She has also been able to apply this spell upon Fabletown's zephyr spies, as per Prince Charming's request. This allowed for members of the Fables' magical community to see what spies saw, in order to make up for the zephyrs' lack of experience with solid beings.
In one conversation with Beast, she tells him nearly everything regarding her intentions in the then-upcoming war with the Empire. In her opinion, she says, Fabletown cannot win in war, simply because there is no war to begin with. To her, this is a personal duel between her and Geppetto, with their respective "allies" being their chess pieces. To mitigate Beast's horror, Totenkinder further insists that Fabletown and everyone in it is very dear to her, and she intends to get as many people alive out of it as possible. She explains that this drive to destroy Geppetto and wipe out all he created stems from a debt she believes she incurred when Rose Red and Snow White rescued and revived her after her defeat at the hands of Hansel and Gretel. In return for their "undeserved act of kindness", Totenkinder made their enemy her enemy, and intends to free the Homelands for them.
It was discovered in CInderella: From Fabletown with Love, that she had an enemy in Cinderella and Briar Rose's same Fairy Godmother. She was also responsible for the death of the Fairy Godmother's sisters by giving them apples. To get back at her for interfering in her plans, the Fairy Godmother brought the Prince to Rapunzel.
Recently, Frau left the witches of the 13th Floor at the Farm in search of Dunster Happ as her youngerself under the alias Belleflower. The same man that had imprisoned Mister Dark, in some way before leaving, Ozma was left as leader in her place. During her training, she and Dunster slowly fell in love, something Frau never thought could happen, nor did she ever look for a new love. In Fables #100 issue, Frau returned and came to fight Mister Dark, however although she pulled a good fight. Frau ultimately lost and was seemingly killed by Mr. Dark.
Though he defeated her in battle and apparently withered her away, she was not dead. Instead, in a desperate act she turned herself into a drift message and sent herself off to the Farm to meet with Dunster Happ, her lover. However, she was surprised to find Maddy and Ozma waiting for her as well, Maddy realized that she had survived the battle and both waited for her. While Ozma had hoped to use Frau's powers again to fight Mr. Dark, Frau reveals that the battle was her final attempt. She also tells them as of now, she's retired from all wars. She and Dunster have no plans to join the group in Haven.
She leaves, telling Ozma she's now the leader of the witches and wizards. The fate of defeating Mr. Dark is left to her and she'll not see anyone again. She and Dunster then leave for parts unknown. She would appear again, with her husband at some remote arctic plain. Mr. North had summoned them to be there when he killed himself, taking Mr. Dark along with him. She chooses to leave his box in the icy lands, leaving with her husband to figure out how to get back home.
They would eventually gain freedom from their icy lands when Winter, unintentionally found her way there during a test for the North Wind's title. The two were still lost and had been using all their magic to survive. Out of kindness, Winter took them (though it took a while) back to Mr. North's castle. There Bellflower told them how Winter saved them.
Personality, ability and identity
While generally acting in the best interests of Fabletown, Totenkinder is something of a schemer and often seems to be playing her own game. Her help usually comes with a price, such as the many "favors" Cinderella owes Totenkinder for the enchanted items she provides (although what those favors are have yet to be revealed). Very little escapes her attention in Fabletown; she was the only one to be aware of Snow White's seventh child, for example, and knew of the arrest of Trusty John, despite attempts to keep it quiet. Her intelligence network in the Homelands is extensive, as she has access to the sight of many of those running the Empire.
When she came to Fabletown, Frau Totenkinder ostensibly stopped killing newborn infants for her power, instead merely taking a little blood from each newborn Fable. However, during a conversation with Kay, it is revealed that she this is just a ruse to ease the minds of the Fabletown community, and she still secretly sacrifices children to maintain her power, only now it is many more than two a year. How she manages this is unrevealed, but she maintains that what she does is legal in the mundane world even though it would be frowned upon by the Fable community should they learn of it. While there is a popular fan theory that Totenkinder could be financing abortion clinics, none of Fables's writers or artists have weighed in on the matter.
In Fables #88 its revealed that her rocking chair is her "Keep", made of her gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel, the stone tower from Rapunzel and the stone on which she killed her baby. She gives some of its names as "Refuge," "Burden, "Damnation" and "Regret."
In the same way that Jack represents many of the different Jack tales, Totenkinder is "just about every witch in fairy tales", according to Willingham, as long as that witch was unnamed in their story. Therefore, Frau Totenkinder is not any of the Witches of Oz. In his online Fabletown forum, Willingham clarified that Totenkinder and Cinderella's Fairy Godmother are two separate characters, and that the story from 1001 Nights of Snowfall was probably a nonspecific story similar to that of the Witch archetype. She is also not any of the named witches of Arthurian Legend (e.g. Morgan le Fey, or the Lady in the Lake) but she did make contributions during that era. She introduces herself to Dunster Happ as "Bellflower", which may either be her original name from childhood or another pseudonym such as "Totenkinder."