Is Damsel Based on a True Story or a Book?

Image Credit: John Wilson/Netflix

Netflix’s ‘Damsel’ follows the story of a young girl named Elodie, whose happy ending with her Prince Charming comes to an end when he and his family offer her up as the sacrifice to a dragon. What should have been the beginning of a new life turns into the worst time of her life as she finds herself trapped in a cave trying to escape a dragon that has killed many girls over the centuries. The story unfolds like a fairy tale but marks a distinct departure from the tropes of the genre. Where does the inspiration for the film come from? SPOILERS AHEAD

Damsel Was Simultaneously Developed as a Book

Many times, when a book is very promising, it gets a movie/TV show deal even before its release. With ‘Damsel,’ something similar happened, but with a twist. ‘Damsel’ was developed as a film based on the screenplay of Dan Mazeau. Falling in the genre of fantasy and fairy tale, the story showed such promise for expansion that the creators believed that it deserved its own book. So, in a reverse scenario, the film inspired the book, rather than the other way around, though the book was released earlier than the film.

Image Credit: John Wilson/Netflix

The novel version of ‘Damsel’ is penned by the New York Times bestselling author Evelyn Skye, who was given access to early drafts of the screenplay to get an idea of Elodie’s journey. While the bones of the movie and the book remain the same, Skye was given the creative freedom to bring her own take on the story and write it in a way that would give the readers a different experience than watching the film.

With the film and the novel being developed at the same time, the filmmakers and the author had access to each other’s work, and their unique perspectives allowed them to riff off of each other, leading to what Skye called “a unique, collaborative partnership” between them. The finer details she had added in the book were used to expand the characters and the world around them in the film. Watching the movie come to life in front of her allowed Skye to expand her imagination even more and add another dimension to the novel.

Whatever their versions of Elodie’s journey may have been, the filmmakers and the author agreed upon one key point of her story. They loved the idea of flipping the genre and changing the meaning of the word “damsel” such that she is not someone waiting to be rescued from her distress; she is doing the rescuing herself. It was about “a young woman becoming a strong, independent, and empowered adult” and subverting expectations by doing what everyone thought was impossible for her: survive.

Image Credit: John Wilson/Netflix

For actress Millie Bobby Brown, playing Elodie was a unique challenge. While she has played smart and strong young women before, she found that she always had something to draw from. She revealed that she channeled ‘Mad Max’ while playing Eleven in ‘Stranger Things’ and Hermoine while playing the titular character in ‘Enola Holmes.’ With Elodie, however, she had to find her own footing because there was no frame of reference for the character. Another thing that the actress found to be a challenge was not having a scene partner and shooting most of the film by herself.

Despite these challenges, Brown carries herself as Elodie in an impressive manner and successfully brings out the true message of the story. She and the rest of the ‘Damsel’ team were focused on making Elodie and her story feel as real and realistic to the audience as possible, even though it’s clearly a fantasy with a fire-breathing, sacrifice-demanding dragon. Still, they grounded the characters in reality, allowing the audience to be immediately submerged in the story and not feel out of place with it.

Read More: Where and When Does Damsel Take Place?