Magnificent Maleficent: Family Through Blood and Water
By Mauri Lazaro (@darkdeariemauri) and Teresa Martin (@Teresa__Martin)
Maleficent has a rather nebulous past on Once Upon A Time. She died, fans thought, but then it was revealed in Season Two that a spell “sustains her in whatever form she’s in”. How this leads to her return, all are still waiting to see. Until then, an examination of Maleficant’s past on Once and other versions of the tale on which she is based can shed some light on what will be seen in 4b.
In the traditional versions of “Sleeping Beauty”, the character on which Maleficent is based is a “wise woman,” sometimes fairy, of the realm, and the only one not invited to the christening of a new princess. This was indeed a serious matter. A christening is not merely a ceremony. In the traditional sense, it integrates a person into a world-wide family. There are godparents, who have an oath to be the guide to the child both by example and in action. If the parents die, the godparents become the parents de facto. Also, all present welcome the child as their own, and take oaths along with the parents and godparents. So leaving this fairy out of the ceremony was not just a snub. It was a formal acknowledgement that she is not of the family. . . outside, broken away from all. This grave ostracism spurred her to take revenge by imposing a curse upon the child. She is only temporarily successful because the curse is broken with a Prince’s kiss.
On Once Upon A Time, fans first saw the scorned fairy, known now by the name Disney gave her, Maleficent, in “The Thing You Love Most”. She is introduced as Regina’s “only friend.” It is learned that Regina had traded The Curse with Maleficent in exchange for a sleeping potion. Fans also found out that Sleeping Beauty “got the best” of Maleficent when she was around the same age as Snow White. This established that the Charles Perrault version of the fairy tale is being utilized by Once writers. In his narrative the children of the original Sleeping Beauty feature, including a daughter, Aurora. Maleficent’s story on Once might include a snub as in the original tale, but perhaps one less symbolic and more damaging. When her backstory is told, her origins will likely rhyme with the familiar trope “evil isn’t born, it’s made.”
This would be in stark contrast to the Disney cartoon in which Maleficent has no redeemable qualities. She is held in contempt by not only being left out of the christening, but also how she is spoken to by the other fairies. Her curse and determination to thwart Phillip from awakening Aurora is not given any motivation except that of one who does not want her revenge undone. A hint of motivation, envy, is seen in the manner in which she finally appears as a great dragon, traditionally the great enemy of Good; a demon destined for perdition and determined that all should share its fate.
Nursery Rhymes and Once Upon A Time
By Teresa Martin-- @Teresa__Martin
Nursery Rhymes are a form of verse that after hundreds of years still permeate the lives of little children. One can go to just about any pre-school in the English-speaking world and start singing the first line of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and immediately the children as one will start belting it out like the chorus of U2’s “In the Name of Love.” Then, when they reach the line “three bags full,” you’ll likely behold a sea of three little fingers raised with the gusto of Katniss saluting Rue.
Yet, as familiar as nursery rhymes are, finding the origins of them is elusive. Little is certain from where they came except the fact that they have been a staple of children’s lives for as far back as ten generations. This is credibly asserted by Iona and Peter Opie, authors of The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1). In this work it is hypothesized that nursery rhymes are “fragments of ballads or of folk songs, . . . . remnants of ancient custom and ritual” and “last echoes of long-forgotten evil.” Like fairy tales, the source materials were likely not intended for children (3).
The Cold Bothers Her
by Teresa Martin @Teresa__Martin
The Snow Queen is the fairy tale on which Frozen is loosely based and will be the focus of the arc for Season Four A of Once Upon A Time. The original story by Hans Christian Andersen is a heavily pious, Christian narrative of the Devil, his servant the Snow Queen, and two children who become the victims and ultimately victors over a spiritual assault. In true Andersen fashion, the narrative focuses on children as the spiritually strong, having within them the ability to see truth and beauty, and hence able to conquer. The fairy tale begins with a troll who is the most traditional villain and sparks the
He was the very worst—the ‘devil’ himself. One day he was in a really good
mood, For he had just finished making a mirror that could shrink the image of
whatever was good and beautiful down to almost nothing, while anything
worthless and ugly was magnified and would look even worse.
The mirror would actually laugh whenever in the face of piety. But as in the myth told in The Bible, all was fun and games with the mirror until the demons got the urge to
…Fly all the way up to heaven to make fun of the angels and of God himself.
The higher they flew with the mirror, the more it chuckled until finally they
could barely hold onto it. They flew higher and higher, closer to God and the
angels, but suddenly the mirror shook so hard with laughter that it flew out of
their hands and crashed down to earth, where it shattered in into a hundred
million billion pieces and even more than that (Andersen, 19).
The particles from the mirror scatter all over the world. There are different effects on people depending on where pieces land. The most apparent effect comes from the mirror as a symbol of truth, and hence, when it shatters, truth is shattered. A piece of it gets in the eye, so that perception of what was true and good is distorted. It “made everything looks bad or else it only let you see what was wrong with things.” The worst though was when it went to a person’s heart for “their hearts became as cold as a chunk of ice” (Andersen, 22). Maria Tatar, a master contemporary critic of fairy tales, sees the Devil in this story as “a kind of artistic Anti-Christ whose art consists in finding truth . . . through criticism and satiric distortion.” As a result, this splintering is “the opposite of love, a power that unites and overcomes oppositions and antagonism.” Tatar further elaborates in her commentary that “for many theologians, the devil is seen as the being that divides and creates enmity . . . The transition from plentitude and wholeness to division and sin reveals the action of evil in the world. God’s creation is shattered and atomizes into isolated fragments and creates Hell on Earth” (Andersen, 22).
Hans Christian Anderson: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Child
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish writer living from 1805-1875. He penned many of the great fairy tales, his stories making up the corpus of some of the classics including “The Little Mermaid,” “The Red Shoes, ”The Little Match Girl,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “The Snow Queen.” The latter is the tale on which the Disney movie Frozen was loosely based and will play a large part on Once in the Fall. He was prolific, writing poetry and some adult literature, yet it is for his fairy tales for which he remains most famous. Andersen was unique in that most of his stories were not collections from oral folk stories, but inventions of his own and because of this some place him as a forerunner of the fantasy genre (4, 5 Wullschlager).
Andersen’s stories also frequently feature the innocence, and therefore, wisdom of children. A biographer stated, ”Addressing himself to the child in the adult through a revolutionary shift in perspective, he gave voice through his characters to groups which had traditionally been mute and oppressed—the children, the poor, those who did not fit social or sexual stereotypes ” His stories indeed contain sophisticated themes. “ ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ and ‘The Ugly Duckling’ remain bywords for aspects of the human condition, while character emitting terror or sacrifice” (4,5 Wullschlager). “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is particularly a tale which epitomizes vanity, abuse of power, as well as the phenomena of mob behavior.
There’s Something About Marian
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
A surprise happened during the summer of 2013. In the middle of #SaveHenry hashtagery and speculation, some news reached Oncers. The role of Robin Hood had been recast. Really? Odd, since Tom Ellis had made a strong impression in “Lacey” stealing from Rumplestiltskin thereby saving both his wife and their unborn son. The episode ended sweetly with the couple kissing and happily going off into the sunset. Fans sighed. Once had done it again, taking an iconic character, expertly played, if not well-developed, into the story. They even provided a treat with the brief appearance of Maid Marian. Signed, sealed, delivered. The End.
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).
FOR THOSE IN PERIL ON THE SEA
Ships as an Essential Narrative Tool in Once Upon A Time
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
Ships are quite a popular topic among the Once Community, partly no doubt because many fan-favorite moments involve ships, and everyone loves romance and melodrama. But there is also another function that they serve. Ships on Once Upon a Time are an indispensable narrative tool by which the writers present their story. Thus in many ways they serve as the soul of the show, for the essence of the characters are entwined with their soul-mates. The outside forces beyond their control shape the characters, maybe even change them, but it is the uniting of souls through love that keeps the journey to Happily Ever After compelling.
Consider that the series began with Snowing.
We are all familiar with the dramatic, sigh-inducing opening scenes with Prince Charming riding out to kiss Snow White and wake her from the sleeping curse. Their love is asserted through their dialogue and the famous “I Will Always Find You” (try listening to the dubbing actor say that in French!). Then it’s to a wedding. You couldn’t have more shipping in these scenes if you visited a Fed Ex store.
The Lives and Works of The Brothers Grimm
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
The Brothers Grimm are a staple of popular culture. People see them in television, movies, or passing references. Since the siblings are also inseparable from fairy tales, I have frequently found myself name-dropping and quoting them in my essays. Having read their stories in High School German Class, I recognized their important contribution in recording fairy tales and, later, as the sources for many narratives on Once Upon a Time. Then, to my embarrassment, I realized how little I actually knew about them! What were their lives like, what inspired them, why did they write down the stories in the first place? In other words, who the heck were these guys? With apologies to those for whom this is self-evident, particularly German Oncers, I would put forth the assertion that this is a subject, especially in America, about which many remain ignorant. Therefore, last winter I began to study the biographies of these German scholars and was astonished by the vastness of their work, the drama of their lives, and how indispensable their achievements were to German philology.
The Grimm Brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm, were born a year apart in the late eighteenth century. Their family was devoutly Christian in the Calvinist Tradition, and it was to their faith that the men looked throughout their lives, especially in their political convictions, poverty, and the loss of friends and siblings by distance or death. The boys were always close companions sharing lonely childhood years away from their close-knit family while they attended boarding school. Both studied at the university level to become lawyers, but a love of research led them to work as librarians in Kassel in order to support their widowed mother and siblings. It was during this time that they began the accumulation of fairy tales, using a combination of written sources and oral retellings. The brothers’ opinions on fairy tales are articulated in their introduction to a work on legends:
The fairy tales are thus destined, partly because of their external distribution
and partly because of their innermost essences, to capture the pure thoughts of a
childlike world view. They nourish us directly like milk, mild and delicate, or like
honey, sweet and satisfying, but without the burden of earthly gravity. (Grimm)
The Miller’s Daughter
by Teresa Martin--@Teresa__Martin
“The Miller’s Daughter” episode intrigued me immediately when the news of its airing reached the internet, not because of the plot, not because of “what really happened with Cora and Rumplestiltskin,” but rather in the title itself. The Once Upon A Time audience was going to be treated, for the first time in Season Two, to a classic fairy tale with the Once twist. All had seen Rumpelstiltskin and the miller’s daughter, Cora, but never seen them featured together using the source material. We had not seen the fairy tale that epitomizes one of the most popular characters on the show, Rumplestiltskin. He and the lowly daughter were finally going to be together, acting out the conflict, battle of wills, and their final estrangement. No wonder fans were salivating.
The original tale, as recorded by the Grimm Brothers, presents the narrative of an unfortunate daughter whose father brags that she can spin straw into gold. When word reaches the king, she is locked in a tower to spin the gold or die in the morning. Rumplestiltskin then appears, offering to complete the task in exchange for certain items. Three successive times he does this, and the king marries her. Yet to her horror, she finds that Rumplestiltskin intends to take her first-born as payment. Seeing her distress, Rumplestiltskin takes pity on her and says that she can keep the child if she guesses his name. Sending a servant to assist her, she finds out the name, and when she says “Rumplestiltskin,” he tears himself in two falling into hell.
Maria Tatar notes that while Rumplestiltskin is an imp, and portrayed as a treacherous creature, he nevertheless shows a remarkable pity for the daughter, especially in the face of her despair at losing her child. Like the Rumplestiltskin of Once Upon a Time, there is more behind the evil persona.
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.