Use of Fairy Tales Vs. Mythology in Once Upon a Time

tumblr_static_once-upon-a-timeI love fairy tales for a few reasons. First of all, I love that they have lasted over centuries of storytelling. They are stories that almost everyone knows, in some form or another. They are tales that have created characters that have lasted throughout the ages. They are tales that give us a glimpse into a life long ago while also allowing us to mold them to our present day lives. Many are basic stories that have grown over time. I also love the lessons they tend to leave behind, again lessons that grow as time goes on.

I also adore mythology as well. To me, mythology is very similar to fairytales. They both are stories full of fantastic elements, that take the reader or listener on an epic journey. They are also a great way of understanding what life was like in the distant past. Mythology gives us a glimpse how ancient peoples lived and ran their lives. They are also stories that again, can change and grow with time. Today we envision them in so many different ways. We can recreate them to fit our lives and fit our modern times.

Once Upon a Time is one of my favorite shows because of how they have taken some classic tales and breathed new life into them. They started the series by re-telling some of the classic tales; Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and a number of others. The show started simply. The first season was just establishing the characters and how they all fit together. One of the best parts of this show is that all the tales do fit together in some manner.

Over the course of the show, many of the stories have taken on a life of their own. Snow White, a character I never put much thought into, grew into a character I understand and admire. I know that these are just their reimagining of these stories but they have given me a new way to look at tales that I have always loved. Characters that at times seemed very one dimensional; such as The Evil Queen, have gotten so much depth to them. Regina is not just The Evil Queen, she is a woman who has made wrong choices in her life and is striving to turn her life around. She is the epitome of the struggle between good and evil and how the fight is never over.

I have always admired the way the creators have taken inspiration from the originals of the classics. They don’t base their stories off the Disney versions. They are not afraid to take a character we thought we should always hate and make them grow into a character we love; such as Captain Hook.

I remember when they were going to introduce Elsa and Anna from Frozen to the series how worried I was. I was worried that they were jumping on a bandwagon and were going to lose the intricate story-telling they had used for so long. I was scared it was just going to be a re-telling of the Frozen story, which would have been a major disappointment.

I was pleasantly surprised to see them take elements of the Frozen movie and connect the original story of The Snow Queen into the story. Frozen is inspired by The Snow Queen but makes little reference to the original story. Once Upon a Time actually integrated The Snow Queen herself into the story, along with some great story elements such as the shards of ice entering the eyes and changing the characters. I loved that they were able to take these two stories and created a new one that was intriguing and fun to watch.

Once-Upon-a-Time-5x13-Labor-of-Love-Title-card-with-graves-in-the-UnderworldThey have always a done a great job of re-telling the fairytale stories (there are a few exceptions of them dropping a few story lines but in general they do a great job) which was why I was very excited to see them bring in the concept of The Underworld and Mythology into the show. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by how they did it.

First, I did like how they portrayed The Underworld. In mythology, The Underworld is not Hell. It is much as it was portrayed in the show, an in-between spot. It is a place to take care of any unfinished business and then move on. It is not a horrible place to be. It is more like a purgatory.

The show did a good job at making it clear that it was not Hell. The characters could move on to a “better place,” or a “worse place.” We get to infer for ourselves what that meant. I liked that element.

What disappointed me most about the storyline was the lack of character development for Hades. In mythology, Hades is not a horrible person. When the lots were drawn for the universe Hades got The Underworld. It was not a punishment. He was not angry or being doomed. That is just what he got.

Over time society has vilified Hades because he resided over the land of the dead. We are scared of death and what it means and what comes after. Because of that fear we have made it so that Hades is a scary entity. He is equated with the devil. Our fear of death has created a villain out of him.

In the show, they worked with that idea, which was fine. What I was disappointed about was that we didn’t get to see him grow at all. All of our other villains, we have seen them change over time. We always gotten their backstories and we have gotten to see how they became the villain in the first place. Usually, there is some trauma that has created this person we have before us. We got none of that with Hades.

We never got to see why he was cursed by Zeus. We got a sentence about it, something about Zeus being scared of Hades’s want for power. Which is fine but in this show we are used to getting so much more. We are used to seeing our characters have depth, Hades lacked that.

I was disappointed because there was so much potential with the mythology storylines. We saw Hercules for an episode and we saw Zesus for half a second. That was all. I expected to get much more. With the plethora of material that was available to play with and expand it could have been very interesting to see it all develop and mix with the fairytales.

Now I know they may not have wanted to stray too far from the fairytales and get lost in this new storytelling. The issue is they are running out of fairy tales. They need to be able to move the stories forward without pushing the limits too much. The new “Land of Lost Stories,” may be teetering on the edge. I think they could have done a lot with the mythology and integrating the two together. Mythology is a form of fairytales (at least to me) and I think it could have been very interesting to see how these two forms of storytelling combined with one another.

I still love this show. I am interested to see where they can go from this point. I was just hoping to get a lot more from the mythology storylines than we got. There was potential there that was not realized as I was hoping it would be.

Advertisements

Posted on May 29, 2016, in Once Upon a Time, Tv Shows, Writer's Perspective and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: