Rumplestiltskin's Transformation in Once Upon a Time: Literary Anti-Hero to Hero Archetype
by Lori J. Fitzgerald (@MedievalLit) and Teresa Martin (@Teresa__Martin)
“Ah, but I’m a villain. And villains don’t get happy endings.”
~Rumplestiltskin to his father in Episode 3x11, “Going Home”
In the first few episodes of Season One on Once Upon a Time, it was easy to classify the characters into stereotypical roles: Snow White, Prince Charming, and Emma as the heroes/protagonists and the Evil Queen and Rumplestiltskin as the villains/antagonists. However, as the stories unfolded and we learned more during the Enchanted Forest flashbacks, it became apparent that the lines of good and evil were not as clear cut as they were drawn in the original fairy tales or the Disney movie versions. The creators of the show, Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, emphasized from the very beginning that their take on the characters was not a traditional one; all their creations were complex and dynamic, or changing characters with both virtues and flaws. So the Evil Queen’s revenge stems from the murder of her true love, Rumplestiltskin was betrayed by his wife and lost his son, Snow White casts a curse that kills Regina’s mother and blackens her own heart, and Emma sanctions a Lost Boy’s heart being ripped from his chest to facilitate contacting Henry. These are just some examples of “Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” as the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth would chant (I.i.10). So far, none of the major series players in Once Upon a Time are true villains or true heroes. They are all flawed protagonists. Rumplestiltskin in particular is a literary anti-hero, which is a flawed protagonist, or main character, which has qualities usually belonging to a villain, but these traits are tempered with other human, identifiable, and sometimes even noble traits as well.
One of the earliest uses of the narrative role of anti-hero is by John Milton in Paradise Lost (1667), who casts Lucifer as the central figure in the first part of his epic poem. Lucifer is overwhelmingly arrogant, powerful, cunning and deceptive, but he is also the most beautiful angel and so charismatic that he is able to rally the other angels in his army after a crushing defeat in the war. During the Romantic period of literature (approximately 1800-1850), the anti-hero was given further “dark” qualities of being emotionally conflicted, brooding, and self-destructive by the poet Lord Byron, and thus the terms anti-hero and Byronic hero became intertwined. A Byronic hero was described by the Romantic literary critic Lord Macaulay (1800-1859) as "a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection.” Byron’s pirate anti-hero in “The Corsair” (1814) is
That man of loneliness and mystery,
Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh— (I, VIII)
And He knew himself a villain—but he deem'd
The rest no better than the thing he seem'd;
And scorn'd the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.
He knew himself detested, but he knew
The hearts that loath'd him, crouch'd and dreaded too.
Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
From all affection and from all contempt: (I, XII)
Some well-known Byronic/anti-heroes in literature include the wild and vengeful Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and the secretive, brooding Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Both of these characters may have been patterned after Lord Byron himself, whose own lover characterized him as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series is a well-known contemporary Byronic hero, and Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader can also fit this role.
The Pan Flute
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
The Once episode “Nasty Habits” featured the story of the Pied Piper with Peter Pan being the man who used “unholy music” to lure children into becoming Lost Boys. This inspired admiration among the fandom for the haunting tune by Mark Isham. Talk also erupted of the featured wind instrument, the pan flute, and inspired a deeper look at the rich history behind its deceptively simple setup.
As a wind instrument, the pan flute developed later than the percussion instruments which are associated with the eldest of humanity’s ancestors. More ancient because the making and playing of them is more natural to the human instinct—hitting an object against another--and simple. The winds were not far behind, also being somewhat natural, as they are played by blowing through a tube. They likely developed when people blew into bamboo sticks and learned to pitch them by length. There is no particular place where the pan flute developed; rather it is recorded as being found from archaeological works dated as early as the Neanderthals, to the written works of antiquity all over the world. These were made from natural materials, in particular hollow wood. Reeds were also made into pan flutes hence leading to the reason the instrument got its name from the Greek god Pan (White).
By Chris Fitzner - @ChrisFitzner
Alone in the stairwell and hidden from the view of my relatives, I gazed, wide eyed, at the beautiful antique mirror hanging on the wall of the landing. What was it like on the other side of the mirror? Could the reflection be its own world, simply an inverse of the world I lived in and if so, how could I get into it? I would poke at the hard glass surface, waiting for that magic moment when the barrier fell and the glass was suddenly pliable and I would step through into the heroic adventure I read about and longed for.
Explore the Arthurian legend surrounding Lancelot, take a trip into the woods to discover the mythology behind Red Riding Hood or learn more about a modern day hero called Snow White. Origins provides unique insights and perspectives from talented writers into the characters we know and love, going far beyond the boundaries of Storybrooke.