By Lori J. Fitzgerald
Huzzah! Once Upon a Time has entered the realm of Arthurian legend and literature with Episode 2x03, “The Lady of the Lake,” which features probably the most well-known Knight of the Round Table, Sir Lancelot. There are many works of Arthurian literature which span across the medieval period in Europe (approximately 1100-1500 AD), but Le Morte Darthur, by Sir Thomas Malory (1485) is considered the definitive work, as he took many of the Arthurian texts that came before him and shaped them into what is considered the paradigm of knightly stories, of which Sir Lancelot is as central a figure as King Arthur himself.
The feudal system was the reality behind King Arthur’s court. The knight, a professional and trained soldier of the warrior-elite, became a lord’s vassal, a member of his retinue, by pledging his military services and fealty to the lord. In return, the liege-lord granted the knight a tract of land or property called a fief. Knights ran their estates, kept order in the area, and administered justice to the lower classes. They could be called into battle at any time by their lord, and they were expected to fight valiantly to protect him. As part of the ruling class with such an important role in society, knights were also expected to follow a code of behavior. Medieval romances such as Le Morte Darthur mirrored real life in that the knight became the main character whose plot conflict often involved the attempt to adhere to the chivalric ideal of behavior (Cavendish 39-40).
The Code of Chivalry included several elements, among them battle prowess, largesse, gentilesse, curtesye, and trouthe. Battle prowess is strength and valor on the battlefield. Largesse is material generosity, and gentilesse is spiritual generosity. Curtesye is courtly manners, gentlemanly respect and fairness, and also involves the exaltation of women, also known as courtly love. Trouthe, or integrity, is most important; a knight who has trouthe maintains what is right in society and is true to his own ideal sense of self. If a knight follows the Code of Chivalry as a basis for behavior, then he gains and maintains honor.
Sir Lancelot is the first knight to be introduced in Le Morte Darthur:
Soon after Arthur had come from Rome into England, all the knights of the Round Table resorted unto the king and made many jousts and tournaments. Some knights so increased in arms and worship that they passed all their fellows in prowess and noble deeds, and that was well proved by many. But especially it was proved by Sir Lancelot du Lake, for in all tournaments, jousts, and deeds of arms, for both life and death, he passed all other knights; at no time was he overcome, unless it were by treason or enchantment. (141)
As the knight who surpasses all others, Sir Lancelot becomes the champion of the court, representing Arthur in battle and protecting him and his queen, Guinevere. In Once Upon a Time, Prince Charming asks how a Knight of the Round Table could “fall from grace,” and Lancelot answers because of “a woman.” This woman is, of course, Queen Guinevere, Arthur’s wife. In courtly love, which had its own code of conduct recorded by the writer Andreas Capellanus, the lovers’ feelings were kept unannounced and in secrecy; however, publicly the knight performed deeds of valor dedicated to and in adoration of his beloved which brought them both honor. The knight was absolutely committed to her, and if his desire was frustrated, then he would feel the throes of “love languor,” or lovesickness (Cantor 349). Therefore, loyalty and service to a beloved were equated with the same loyalty and service given to a liege lord (Keen 30). Lancelot, as the best knight, also excelled at courtly love: “Wherefore Queen Guinevere had him in great favor above all other knights, and certainly he loved the queen in return above all other ladies all the days of his life. For her he did many deeds of arms, and he saved her from the fire through his noble chivalry” (Malory 141). Courtly love, however, was supposed to be unrequited love. When, through his human fallibility, Lancelot gives in to his physical desire, he crosses the boundary to treason, the worst crime in medieval eyes, which could consist of slaying the liege lord, lying with his wife, or surrendering his castle (Keen 8-10). However, it is worth noting that Arthur knew of the affair, but chose to ignore it, and it was only when the charge of treason was brought in front of him at court by jealous knights that he had no choice but to act upon it: “…the king was full loath that such a charge should be upon Sir Lancelot and his queen, because the king had a suspicion of the situation. But he wished not to hear of it, for Sir Lancelot had done so much for him and the queen so many times that, wit ye well, the king loved him passingly well” (Malory 695). As an outcast from Camelot in Once Upon a Time, Lancelot has become a “sword-for-hire” for King George; this was a form of “bastard feudalism” in which a lord paid a fixed fee or offered political protection in return for feudal services from “freelancers,” or mercenary knights (Benson 142-143). It is no wonder that Once Upon a Time’s Lancelot has a tone of bitterness in answering Snow and Charming, for he has lost his love, his liege lord, and his honor.
The Development of Instrumental Program Music from Ancient Times to the Era of Television Drama
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
The progression of instrumental music and its ability to stir the soul has been with humanity since the first instrument was created. Originally intended by our human ancestors to accompany sung prayers, instrumental music has had a long and progressive movement culminating in program music utilized in works created both for movies and television shows. This has made possible beloved soundtracks, not the least of which is the one which enhances the drama on ABC’s Once Upon A Time.
Archaeological excavations have proven that music has always been an integral part of human existence. Primarily it was used in religious rituals. These tended to be in the form of chant, with occasional uses of pitches that would step and slide. The instruments that were created for the accompaniment would be rhythmic with some pitch. Pictorial evidence from Egypt shows the lyre, while Indian cultures utilized varied string instruments, and Chinese cultures created what some consider an ancestor of the violin, the erthu.* By approximately 6000-1000 B.C. these instruments and those like them became common not only in religious rituals, but for dance, celebrations, and processions.
The development of modern Western music occurred within the institutions of the Catholic Church particularly after the Fall of Rome. The Eastern Catholic Rites contributed by establishing complex chants and harmonies, but were, and remain, vocally based, and hence did not lead to the development of secular musical instruments. The Latin Rite of the Church, the one most common in the West, is similar to its Eastern counterparts as its music was originally only vocal, but gradually, during the Early Middle Ages, instruments were added to enhance the liturgy. These were done to inspire awe that was intended to uplift the soul to the contemplation of God. Later, religious orders through the work of Guido D’Arrezo began what would evolve into the modern scale. This monk used the first syllables of a Latin hymn to develop what came to be called solfege: “do, re, mi, fa, sol, la,” and used the hand to measure the steps and half steps. Over the centuries “ti” and the octave “do” were added. The use of the hand to assist in ear training and pitch is still used, albeit in a more simplified version.
The organ began to appear as early as 900 A.D. with the intent of finding an instrument to mirror the grandeur of the magnificent architecture apparent in the cathedrals. Recognition of more various instruments increased exponentially when the Crusades occurred, and the returning soldiers brought with them the knowledge with which they came in contact in the Middle East. The Renaissance era continued this trend as instruments were created that had the technical precision to match the human voice. Choral music also became more complex and used polyphony. The printing press enabled the learning to be spread on a scope never possible before. This combination and the Catholic Reformation gave rise to the feeling that music, art, and learning should be more elaborate to inspire the fervor apparent in the parallel Protestant Reformation. Such advances created the perfect storm of the Baroque Era in which the modern instruments as we know them and the genius of composers were able to translate the complexities of the music which they wished to create through the modern orchestra. Art music--music to be listened to for its own sake-- flourished. While secular music had always been a part of cultures, the highest and most learned were now devoting their art to this rather than exclusively to the Church.
Opera became popular during this era. These glorious works presented epic stories that were acted and sung while accompanied by orchestras. What audiences saw on the stage was interconnected with the music that expressed the emotions of the story unfolding before them. During the Romantic Era of the 19th Century, opera composer and librettist Richard Wagner took these ideas to the next level when he began to use leitmotifs. A leitmotif according to Webster’s Dictionary is “an associated melodic phrase or figure that accompanies the reappearance of an idea, person, or situation . . .” This use would become essential to movies which, during the silent era, would require piano accompaniment to give sound to the story. Once talking films developed, movie music could be recorded by an orchestra to become a part of the film’s soundtrack. These music scores continued to be used to great effect and often included leitmotifs. When television was invented, and shows were created for this medium, music naturally served the same purpose as in movies.
Now that I have laid before you a brief summary of how instrumental music developed and appears as an essential element of television drama, it is natural that I should expound on how this is utilized in Once Upon a Time. However, I believe this website has comments from someone far more qualified than I to expound upon this score. (see my interview with Once composer Mark Isham http://www.onceuponafans.com/interviews/category/mark-isham)
Oxford History of Western Music: 5-vol. set (Oxford History of Western Music) by Richard Taruskin
A Popular History of the Art of Music from the Earliest Times until the Present by W.S.B Matthews
What in the Name of Rumplestiltskin’s Leather Pants is a Wraith?
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
That was the question on many a fan’s lips after a creature blasted through the floor of Aurora’s elaborate sleeping chamber in “Broken,” the Season Two premiere of Once Upon a Time. This creature was not given a name until Mulan described it as a Qui Shen, and translated it as “wraith.” She then clarified that this was a “soul-sucker.” The only further information that could be gleaned from the episode was that this creature marked a person and would be driven away by light. Subsequent personal research unearthed results that were unexpected. The trail led almost immediately to Scotland. However, the original wraith was different from what one may have read in The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy literature. For a wraith is not a black clothed soul-sucking creature, but rather the duplicate of one’s own soul.
The word “wraith” first appeared approximately in the 16th century, meaning “spirit.” A wraith is defined as “a ghost of a person on the verge of death . . . an exact likeness of its human counterpart, showing itself to relatives of that person as he is about to die …. [This] appears to have developed from a very old belief that a person’s soul is an exact duplicate of his or her living body (Haining 215).” A person will be suddenly confronted face to face with his double and that will be a sign that his death is near, but most commonly it is seen by others (Briggs 309-310). For the latter, it would occur “if someone were to catch a glimpse of a person whom they knew passing the door or window, and on looking outside were to find no such person there …. This was considered a remarkably clear instance of a person’s wraith, or spirit being seen at the time of death (Napier 70).”
The traditions of the traditional Qui-Shen are also incorporated into the plot. In the attack on Prince Phillip, daylight scares the wraith away. Later, Snow and Charming use fire to repel the creature as well as lead it into the magical hat. Moreover, when Rumpelstiltskin presses the medallion into Regina’s hand, she has the appearance of one who has been weakened, as though perhaps some of her energy was taken from her soul. The show has therefore utilized ancient Chinese Traditions with modern lore resulting in the enrichment of the show’s canon.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Once Upon a Time is how the writers use stories and legends from the world over. “Broken” informed fans that the show would be exploring deeper realms of literature and myth. Delving into the concept of the soul being taken by a Qui Shen introduced Chinese myth as a significant part of the story which affected residents of both the Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke. Furthermore, the door is open for the appearance of these frightening portents as told in ancient lore. Perhaps in the next Storybrooke deaths, the characters will possibly see their wraiths thereby sending the same chills to the audience that the Celtic people of long ago felt when telling these tales on cold winter nights.
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
Once in the days before, there was a king and queen who wished to have a child. One day, while in her bath, the Queen was visited by a frog from the land of the waters, who announced that she would bring a girl into the world. What the frog said came to be. The baby girl was beautiful, and the King was so filled with happiness that he held a great festival. He invited family and friends, and also the wise women who would give the child sweet and favorable gifts. There were thirteen wise women in his kingdom, but there were only twelve golden plates on which they could eat. Therefore, one of them had to be left behind. This feast was celebrated with great magnificence. Towards the end, the time came for the wise women to give the miraculous gifts. One gave virtue, the second beauty, and the third riches so that the baby would have everything in the world she wished. As the eleventh was about to make her proclamation, the thirteenth wise woman suddenly entered. She wanted revenge for not being invited and cried out with a loud voice that on her fifteenth birthday, the girl would prick her finger on a spindle and fall dead. Without a further word, she turned and walked from the hall. The twelfth wise woman then modified the curse to say that the girl would not die, but fall asleep for a hundred years.
The king, not wanting this to befall his daughter, ordered all spindles in his kingdom to be destroyed. Yet upon the girl came all the other gifts that the wise women had prophesied. She had such beauty, goodness, courtesy, grace, and intelligence that everyone who saw her loved her.
On the girl’s fifteenth birthday, the parents were away from the castle, and she went throughout the castle exploring everything with enthusiasm. Finally she went to an old tower where there was a woman working a spindle. The Princess asked the old woman what she was doing and the woman answered that she was spinning. As the princess asked what kind of thing it was that went about so merrily, she took it from the old lady, for she wanted to spin herself.
No sooner had the girl touched the spindle than she was pricked on her finger. In the blink of an eye, she felt the sting and fell onto a bed into a deep sleep. As the King and Queen returned, they too fell asleep as did everyone else throughout the castle and grounds. Then all around there grew thorny hedges. Every year these hedges grew thicker and thicker, until the whole castle was hidden from sight.
As time went on, throughout the land the story spread about the beautiful sleeping princess, Thorn- Rose. From time to time a prince tried to enter the castle through the hedges. But it was not possible because of the thorns, so he would be caught and died a terrible death.
After a longer time, a prince heard from an old man about the castle behind a great thorn-hedge. Inside was a beautiful princess named Thorn-Rose who had slept one hundred years. However, many had died trying to get inside. The prince said he was not afraid and would go to see Thorn-Rose. The good old man tried to dissuade him, but the prince would not hear a word.
Now the hundred years had passed and it was the day that Thorn-Rose was supposed to awake. When the Prince arrived to where the thorn bushes should be, instead there were large, beautiful flowers, which parted by themselves, and let him pass unharmed.
Finally he came to the tower where Thorn-Rose slept. There she lay and looked so beautiful that he could not turn his eyes from her. He approached and gave her a kiss. When his kiss touched her, Thorn-Rose batted her eyes and woke up looking at him with a friendly smile. They went downstairs where all had also awakened. Then there was a wedding between the Prince and Thorn-Rose in all splendor, and they lived happily until their end.*
This is the story of “Sleeping Beauty” as written by the Grimm Brothers in the 19th Century. The lovely girl’s name is Dörnroschen, which in English is Thorn-Rose. That name highlights the rose symbol which runs throughout the story. The rose and the thorn have traditionally been associated with great beauty, but also great pain. The expression, “it’s not a rose without the thorns,” while overused, has a rich meaning. There can never be great beauty without great cost. Thorn-Rose’s gifts of comeliness, goodness, courtesy, grace, and intelligence are never acquired without great effort and suffering. Even beauty is its own curse, for those who are physically attractive have the pain of unwanted attention, as well as the uncertainty of never truly knowing if they are loved for their looks, or for who they are. Thorn-Rose experiences this price, one can extrapolate, long before she was pricked by the spindle.
It is also notable that Thorn-Rose is not the only one who falls into a deep sleep. The entire household shares in the suffering. They too are surrounded by thorns, showing the great cost of the curse. The Prince, playing the role of the Savior, enters at the moment ordained for the curse to end. Thus the brambles had transformed into roses. His reward is his bride. The wedding between the Prince and Thorn-Rose signals the end of their adversity, and the entire household rejoices.
How Thorn-Rose is tricked into pricking her finger on the spindle is worthy of examination. The parallel with Eve in the Garden cannot be avoided. Thorn-Rose is intrigued by the spindle, as Eve is by the apple. Thorn-Rose is entranced by the beauty of the spinning and takes the spindle eagerly. This results in the would-be fatal prick on her finger. It is as though she passes into death, even though she is sleeping. Traditionally the spindle is a symbol of “life and the temporal (Cirlot 304).” That was the fate of Adam and Eve who, in taking the Forbidden Fruit, were cast from an eternal existence into a promise of death. An explicit connection between Adam and Eve with the spindle can be found in the twelfth century Huntenerian Psalter which illustrates this Biblical story. Adam is shown tilling the soil, while Eve is using a spindle.
The Disney version of “Sleeping Beauty” is a magnificent work of art. While it is tempting to watch with a focus on the cute fairies, the love story, and the action-packed fight with the dragon, one must deliberately pause to see that this version retains many of the essential themes of the Grimm version. One feels the great pain and joy of knowing that parents are present, yet the insidiousness of Maleficent escalates from a curse to her transformation as a hideous dragon, vomiting out her hatred with the fatal fire. The Prince, Phillip, conquers the dragon, often a symbol of Satan, and receives his well-earned prize: Aurora, his wife.
The famous scene in which Aurora and the Phillip meet is delightful. First we hear Aurora’s soprano vocalise, with birds echoing her lyrical voice. Then the scene continues into Aurora’s waltz with the birds into which the Prince cuts. The pair waltzes gracefully together until the song ends when Aurora lays her head on Philip's shoulder and both look to the sunset. The next time the Prince sees Aurora is after he has risked his life for her. The movie ends with all secure in the knowledge that that the engaged couple will be exquisitely happy.
Aurora is a very different character from Thorn-Rose. Her name, meaning Dawn, is beautiful and innocent. She does escape into the woods, but with birds and a song. In contrast, Thorn-Rose’s frolic in the castle has the tinge of forbidden fruit as she investigates places to which she had never been. Moreover, she explores while her parents are away. In the movie, Aurora has to be put into a spell to prick her finger, while Thorn- Rose pricks her finger after taking the spindle of her own free will. Yet the stories end in the same manner. The couples get married and live Happily Ever After. This is appropriate as marriage is often used as a symbol in both secular and religious literature of eternal happiness. One could say that this is exactly what is illustrated in the movie since Aurora and her Prince literally dance away into the clouds, as though rising to Heaven. The movie was released in 1959.
Fast-forward to September 30th, 2012. Two lone riders gallop toward an eastern-looking castle. They cross a beautiful mosaic floor to approach a pedestal encircled by brambles. This hearkens back to the thorn bushes from the Grimm story. The rose, the Princess, is at the center, but surrounded by thorns. The Prince begins the process of cutting away the pain of separation by slicing through the circle with his sword. As he enters, a small spinning wheel is visible in the corner of the television screen. The Prince leans over the Princess and expresses some doubt about the effectiveness of what he is to do. Regardless, he kisses her. A loud gasp bursts from the Princess, breaking the curse. She calls him Phillip, and he addresses her as Aurora. He attempts to comfort her since she fears that Maleficent will come after her. In a near panic she says that “first she goes after my mother, then me.”
Wait! Aurora said that Maleficent went after her mother. Those who have read the Charles Perrault story know what that means!
Aurora’s mother is Sleeping Beauty.
“The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood,” penned by Charles Perrault, was the first modern edition of the tale written over 150 years before the Grimm version This “Beauty” is never given a name. She is only called “The Princess.” After her sleeping curse is broken by an unnamed Prince, they marry and have two children. One of them is a daughter named Aurora. There are fantastic adventures which follow, including facing an Ogre nemesis. It would appear, given the information from the Season Two premiere, that the writers of Once Upon a Time have decided to use this version as their source. The audience indeed is surprised, as they are by the use of wraiths as enemies. Moreover, Aurora has been supplied with an unlikely companion and rival, Mulan. These two antagonists appear to be set on adventures with more familiar heroines, Mary Margaret and Emma Swan, who are as fantastic to the princesses as Ogres are to the audience.
Now, what in the name of Rumplestilskin’s Leather Pants were those wraiths?
That is another story altogether.
*my personal and rough translation/summary of the Grimm Brothers’ story, “Dörnroschen.“
Brüder Grimm. “Dörnroschen. “ Aschenputtel und andere Märchen gesammelt von den Brüdern Grimm. Bonn, Inter Nationes, 1985.
Cirlot, J.E. A Dictionary of Symbols, Second Edition. Taylor and Francis e-Library, 2001.
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.