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Noelle Holiday Appreciation Zone!!
(still a work-in-progress)

Noelle Holiday is a deer girl from the game that unwittingly took over my life. She's central to the chapter I hate the most, and when I played it for the first time, she was this... shining beacon, almost. She was the only person who FELT like a person in that chapter, and I won't get into all my gripes with it now, but I just want you to know:
Noelle is literally the only reason I haven't completely disowned Deltarune.

If she wasn't in chapter 2 in the way she was, I would've just pretended Spade King was my OC and ran away screaming from the franchise.

Noelle, though, is too compelling to let me completely disregard the rest of the game. She's this mixture of anxious and outgoing, cute and creepy, well-meaning and coldly distant. I love her character because she reminds me a lot of the ills of this world, and how powerless we can be to really DO anything about it... until we actually step out into the light. Her story, to me, no matter what route you take, is about how decisive action matters, and it's a lesson I'm still learning in my daily life. Her yearning for freedom, and her thirst for knowledge, can only be sedated by herself. She can't just sit and wait for someone to save her and do everything for her, decide everything for her; even if she's physically weak and easily hurt, standing up for herself is the most important thing she can do, for herself and for those around her.

THAT is why I love Noelle Holiday.

However there's also the simple aesthetic fact that she is the cutest little squishable bab I've ever seen!! Ralsei doesn't have SHIT on Noelle in my opinion, she's the cutest of the whole cast. And with that comes the simple fact that I am a simple man, who grew up as a girl, who loved dress-up and dresses and skirts and childish fashion, so obviously I'm gonna give Noelle as many pretty dresses as I can muster and NONE of you can stop me. Ironically, I think none of them are Christmas themed.

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Noelle's default Deltarune outfit may not be my favourite, but it's super iconic!
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Being honest for a second? I'm not much of a Christmas guy. Not just because Orthodox Christianity (the one I arguably grew up with) has a MUCH different way of celebrating it than the western catholic church, but also just... the aesthetics of it never spoke to me. New Years is when you get presents, not Christmas, and I never really watched Christmas movies as a kid. I watched Rudolph the red nosed raindeer because my bestie reminded me it was stop motion and I was going through a stop motion appreciation "phase". That's, like, the CORNERSTONE of the western Christmas aesthetic, and I had NEVER seen it until I was like 20.

My point is, I have trouble relating to my daughter's defining aesthetic, which is sad, but I think she shines better in other ones, anyway (maybe I just don't like green on red, though). Her interests, though, I can (mostly) relate to. I like video games too, but where she's kind of a crackshot at finding glitches and anomalies, I'm more of a... surprised by the mundane kind of guy. I remember playing RougeLight as a little kid and being AWED beyond all reasonable measure discovering all the little secrets of that game, and I can almost picture Noelle in my place, finding those hidden areas and randomly generated easter eggs, and I wanna bond with her over those monumental discoveries that generally mean very little unless you decide they have meaning.

And that's kind of another thing I love about Noelle, she just... DECIDES stuff matters to her. Maybe it's a coping mechanism, maybe she's genuinely just passionate about a lot of stuff, but it almost feels like she latches onto almost arbitrary things and gives them a lot of personal meaning. Scary movies, glitches in video games, hell, even Christmas! Finding out if Susie has a tail or not! A lot of these things are so mundane and ordinary, but they mean So Much to her and I just!!! God, I dunno, I guess I see myself in that, in a weird way.

I'd get unreasonably attached to certain toys or items as a kid (fucking autism), and I feel like part of me Decided to be attached, without it having much meaning before I ascribed something to it. Noelle is kind of like that too, actually... I found her character compelling and, over time, I realised how similar she is to who I wanted to be growing up, who I thought I could never be. What with being a gifted kid reaching burnout, and being hit in the face with dysphoria in slow motion at that age, I started to seriously feel like I was failing at being everything I was supposed to be. Being able to humanise (ironically through a monster) that idealised goal of a person I couldn't be is almost cathartic! I feel like Noelle helped me let go of the lingering feeling that I OWED something to femininity, to the little girl I used to be, because I can just repay that imaginary debt to an imaginary little girl, who kind of reminds me of me! It's weird, this is all really fuckin' weird, but it makes sense in my frenzied dysphoric brain.

All of this, arguably, might also contribute to why I don't vibe with the headcanon that Noelle is trans? This is a weird tangent but bear with me - There's a lot of people in the fandom who headcanon her as mtf and, while cute, I kinda don't vibe with it specifically because of all the traditional femininity tied to her childhood, specifically. Even if her parents are super progressive and supportive (unlikely knowing what we know about her mom), there's bound to have been an age when Noelle WAS being raised as a boy, and that... kind of doesn't fit with what we see in-game, I think. Like, people don't like to talk about it but being RAISED as the wrong gender is what contributes to a lot of dysphoria, and I can't apply a trans headcanon to a character I can tell has been unequivically raised as a certain gender (especially concearning Noelle and traditionally femanine roles, she's taught to help and not speak up, and while it's a product of her mom being abusive, it's also just... the way girls are typically raised? As a counter example, I headcanon Dess as possibly trans, and she grew up in the same house as Noelle but, in my characterisation of her, doesn't behave the same nor copes with it the same, partly because she wasn't raised as a girl her whole life)

Plus, I think a much more interesting queer lense to look at Noelle through is the fact that she's a lesbian, both because it's canon and there's a lot of her gay bullshit in the story to chew through if you want to analyse, but also because I feel like that quiet, pining queer kid just trying to find a way to express themselves is EXACTLY who Noelle is even outside of her romantic sublop subplot with Susie, it goes perfectly with her narrative - coming out of the closet vs hatching from an egg, if you know what I mean. For example, I think Kris (even though already canonically trans/nb because of their pronouns) fits the narrative of "hatching" better than Noelle does, because it's essentially a slowburn buildup of them growing into their own and finding out what being Kris ACTUALLY means - a storyline that, if viewed through a queer lense, I can arguably relate to more than Noelle's story.

If we're gonna talk about something more tangible (and not about me) concearning Noelle, I'd like to bring up her family. It's kind of disturbing to me in how... real it feels. I've heard a lot of awful family experiances from people and Noelle kind of... embodies the silent suffering attached to it all. Her mother is distant and hinted to be cruel and controlling, her dad is supportive but too scared to properly stand up to her abusive mother, not to mention unwittingly absent from her life because of his illness. She's rendered completely alone when she shouldn't be. Her relationship with Dess, too, is tragic.

They were undeniably close when they were kids, and losing her must've been pure terror and sorrow for Noelle. It's a pivital point in chapter 2 that she accepts her disappearance, and slowly starts to internalise it in a healthier way (though it's communicated fucking terribly chapter 2 sucks so bad), slowly spelling out her name while reminiscing about her childhood with Kris. It's such a beautiful scene, and it paints such a vivid picture of the devide that's been made between her and Kris, despite the fact that their situations are more similar now than ever before. Controlling mothers (Toriel obviously to a MUCH lesser extent), absent fathers, and lost older siblings. They're so much alike, and it hurts that chapter 2 doesn't mend their friendship in the way it deserves to be mended. They deserve time to actually spend AS friends, not whatever the fuck the date-baiting in the city was. It was literally just there so there was room for the snowgrave route. It's embaressing how poorly planned and executed that chapter is. ANYWAY,

Noelle, in general, I think deserves to fully BE part of the fun gang. Not just because Kris is basically family to her, and Susie is her big gay crush, but because Ralsei could be the friend she needs, and she could be the friend he needs, too. Ralsei has this way of... quietly observing people. He guages Susie and Kris' interests and desires near perfectly without them ever actively talking about them, without ever fully opening up to Ralsei, could you imagine the impact that'd have on Noelle? She's so closed off in her own way, she's never fully honest and she's genuinely cold in a lot of her politenesses towards people, and if Ralsei came along, sniffed out what she really wants and let her just... enjoy being a kid again?

God, I feel like it'd go a long way to getting her on the right path again, at least mentally. And, Noelle is a walking spotlight herself, she's constantly getting up into people's business without making it about herself, and I feel like her presence in Ralsei's life would, not only remind him that things outside the prophecy matter, but that HE matters without the prophecy, too.

He has nerdy interests, just like her, but unlike Berdly he's not obnoxious about his interests and he hardly makes them about himself, or about putting other people down. I feel like having someone ACTUALLY support his more pushover-like qualities by being a pushover herself would, actually, allow him to be LESS of a pushover! He'd think to himself, "Hey, I want Noelle to be happy, and be able to speak up for herself... what if I did it too? What if we did it together? Maybe we don't need Kris and Susie for that..." (Ahem, Kingdomrune, ahem)

And, good god, let's not dismiss her relationship with Susie!! The girls are like opposite mirrors to each other, and Susie represents this wild rebelliousness to Noelle that she craves so badly, while Noelle, to Susie, is this quiet reminder that she isn't completely alone, that even at her worst someone's willing to give her a patient smile. That means SO much to her before she meets Kris and Ralsei, before she starts making her own friends, to the point it's the reason she never bullied Noelle. Noelle MEANT something to her. She meant a LOT to her, but she never said it. In a sad way, Susie is Noelle almost seeking out the kind of cruelty she's used to, where praise is scarce and people belittle her, in a place and in a peer she knows so little about. Susie, of course, doesn't treat Noelle that way, and it makes her question her worth. At first, negatively, but later positively. Susie influences Noelle to think outside the box, outside the restrictions people give her, and imagine something grander for herself than just the bare minimum, when she doesn't even get that.

I love it because both of them almost idealise each other, but not in the literal way. They idealise what the other is capable of (rebellion vs conformity, failure vs success, warmth vs coldness), and through that grow to appreciate the person herself because she's not just the IDEA of something good, she's the embodyment of it. Susie is the embodyment of firey power and sticking it to the man, Noelle is the embodyment of a kind coldness and achieving whatever is expected of her. Susie WANTS success and to fit in somewhere, Noelle WANTS the unordinary and to get the fuck out of here. They both open the door for one another, and I hope by holding onto one another neither of them stray too far in one direction or the other.

Suselle is obviously the best choice in ship for Noelle and whoever says otherwise is wrong, but what's really interesting to me is that the game lets us... Not Do That. It lets us glimpse into a world where Noelle failed to say 'no' one too many times and ends up stuck with her childhood best friend in an unspeakably toxic relationship. The snowgrave route is, in my opinion, an exploration of how Kris and Noelle's flaws could've amplified one another, if left unchecked, SPECIFICALLY in the context of romance and marriage. Again, it's supposed to be a glimpse into a possible future, since there's a LOT of marriage symbolism tied to Kris and Noelle in the snowgrave route - it's essentially them repeating the mistakes of their parents and turning into an abusive couple.

Kris, what with clearly having separation issues, both from seeing their parents split up, as well as losing Asriel and Dess, likely wouldn't give Noelle the ability to leave, if they spiral into those abusive behavures on behest of the player in the first place. Kris isn't above manipulation (the act system is essentially just that, if we wanna look at it through a grim light), and Noelle is specifically suseptible to manipulation. She says so herself, she doesn't know how to say no, she was never taught that, and the snowgrave route takes away her ability to learn it. Her mother is controlling, so being under the player's/Kris' control is nothing new to her, but in the marriage metaphor she'd likely just be mimicking what her father does - lightly mediating without ever stopping the core issue, the core abuse. By the end of chapter 2 she's hooked and wants to find out what's wrong with Kris, it's an excuse to be around her abuser and a reason to stay by them, when the real reason is likely that she doesn't know how to function without them (again, in the marriage metaphor). Taking it upon herself to find out what's wrong with Kris, maybe even trying to "fix" them, would exactly be her downfall, she's digging her own grave by not getting away from them, because she doesn't know she even CAN.

If Noelle turns out to be the angel in Deltarune, I hope that's the route that's taken. Her trying to "fix" things, obediently following a higher power in hopes it'll mend her broken and abusive relationships, as a way to show she doesn't know how to seek out healthier ones. Of course, I think this story choice would only make sense in the snowgrave route, hence that exact plotpoint in Kingdomrune. Again.

Outside of all the angsty stuff though, I find Noelle's ice powers to be really, REALLY cool. Like, on the one hand, there's the reading that the magic system is a way to explore everyone's trauma, which makes all her powers undeniably sad, but if we lightly discard that reading and look at it more from the perspective of Noelle herself being tied to ice, that she herself is cold in some fundamental way, I think makes things a little more interesting. And, no, I don't mean in a "the abused becomes the abuser" way, I mean in a way that she was taught to shut down. Going cold and distancing herself from things is a coping mechanism, it's likely the only way she knows how to deal with conflict and tragedy. She just goes numb, because things just hurt too much.

Introducing warmth into her life, through Susie, Ralsei, Kris or even Rudy, means directly allowing her to feel hurt, but loved. It's her opening up her gilded cage in order to see the world outside. And, really, what IS Noelle if not someone who deeply WANTS to be hurt, but is too scared to let herself, so she almost Asks other people to do it for her. She has a crush on the school bully, for Christ's sake, she's a masochist through and through and yet ANOTHER reason why she's my daughter. I guess it's heredatary.

And, before you ask, no I don't really care about Rudy that much. I'm not invested in his plot tbh I'm just here to take his daughter. Her ACTUAL dad has nothing to do with the fact that I'M her dad now.

Speaking of people in Noelle's life I'm not much invested in. Fuckin' Berdly's there. And, like, however much I might not like the kid because he's meant to be comic relief but just sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me, I can't deny that his friendship with Noelle is something to be examined more closely. We all already know that he genuinely values her as a person, as in the snowgrave route he tries to save her from Kris, but a crucial part in all that is that he doesn't listen. He doesn't let Noelle speak, he doesn't let her make her own choices, he wants to be the knight in shining armour, not even because of any romantic feelings or whatever, but because he's so desperate for validation that "saving" Noelle from reading in front of the class is... validating to him.

I can't stress enough, though, how the hell does Noelle feel about all this? Her supposed closest friend doesn't see her for who she is, just studies with her and wants to "save" her, without ever even asking her what she WANTS. He's this gross embodiment of the way she's so easily taken advantige of, without him ever directly hurting her, but the way he treats her is nonetheless hurtful on some level. I hate birdbrain, but I think even he deserves to have a genuine friend, and I WANT him and Noelle to actually work out their issues. I wish Noelle could be an autonomous person in his eyes and not just this ideal of smartness or whatever. I wish she could TELL him what she wants, and why she wants it, instead of getting talked over. But, until Berdly learns how to listen, I'm placing Noelle FIRMLY in the fun gang friend group and far, far away from him.

Oh also, did I mention? Leshy is Noelle's uncle. From her mom's side. I won't elaborate on this at this time.

All in all, I consider that Noelle has to be protected at all costs.