Once Upon A Time Episode 4: The Price of Gold
Once Upon A Time cast photo

Once Upon A Time Space

Deals at Ye Faire

Episode 4: The Price of Gold.

As soon as we see the elegantly clad women getting into the carriage and leaving behind the girl in rags, we know we are about to see a version of Cinderella. The previous episode, "Snow Falls", showed us that Once Upon A Time would extend the familiar fairy tales and give us new information about the classic characters by showing us events that took place both before and after the times described in Rumple vaporizes the Fairy Godmother the classic versions. But when Rumplestiltskin vaporizes the fairy godmother, we know that we are seeing not just an extension of the classic tale but a radically different version!

Although most people are familiar with the Disney version of Cinderella which is based upon the French version, Cendrillon, ou La petite Pantoufle de Verre (Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper) written by Charles Perrault in 1697, this ancient folk tale has gone by many names in many different lands. The oldest complete version was told by the Greek geographer and historian Strabo in the first century BCE. Strabo told of a beautiful Greek slave girl named Rhodopis ("rosy cheeks") who lived in Egypt. One day, when everyone else was attending a celebration given by the Pharaoh, Rhodopis had to stay home and do laundry. While she was washing clothes at the river, the falcon god Horus swooped down and took one of the rose-gilded slippers given to Rhodopis by her master. Horus dropped the slipper in the Pharaoh's lap, and Pharaoh, being smart enough to know that a gift from the gods should not be ignored, searched the entire kingdom for the maiden whose foot would fit the slipper. Of course, he found Rhodopis and the story concludes with the same happy ending found in modern versions.

As old as Strabo's tale is, it is partly based upon a tale told 400 years earlier by the first of the great Greek historians, Herodotus. The modern historian Michael Grant has said

"History no doubt began with Herodotus..."
Michael Grant, The Ancient Historians

and Herodotus was indeed the first to write what we regard as history in the modern sense of the word. While there had been some written accounts of battles, lists of kings, religous instructions, and assorted myths and legends written for more than a thousand years before his time, Herodotus is the first author we know of who tried to analyze and tie together events in order to see a historical perspective. Like the author of the work you are reading, Herodotus was fond of digression and although his famous work was a history of the Persian Wars which the Greeks fought in the fifth century BCE, he fills his books with delightful anecdotes and asides. One of these is the story of the real Rhodopis, a Greek slave who lived in Egypt a century earlier. So, when we sit in front of our television, sipping our hot chocolate with cinnamon while watching this episode of Once Upon A Time, we are watching a story that is based in part on the life of a woman who lived 2500 years ago. Although Rhodopis was originally a slave, her freedom was purchased by Charaxos, the brother of the famous Greek poet, Sappho. Rhodopis became one of what the Greeks called the heterae - a sort of very high-status courtesan who provided companionship to the wealthiest and most powerful men in the society (for a price). The heterae were the most highly educated women in Greek society and were the only women allowed to own and contol large amounts of money and to participate in the gatherings known as symposia, which ranged from drinking parties to serious philosophical discussions. Herodotus also says Rhodopis knew Aesop, who told her many stories. Might we eventually see some of Aesop's Fables used in our favorite show?

So, we should not be too shocked that Kitsis and Horowitz have changed some of the familiar elements of the Cinderella story - there have been many changes over the years. Replacing the fairy godmother with Rumplestiltskin gives Rumple another chance to repeat his often-heard warning from the previous episodes that "All magic comes with a price." This scene not only allows Rumple to reinforce that theme but also provides a couple of humorous references to remind us of the classic version of the tale. First, when he explains to the puzzled Cinderella why her shoes are made of glass ("Every story needs a memorable detail") and again when he advises her "Remember to watch the clock."

The cut to a shot of the clock in Storybrooke gives us a wonderful transition between the two worlds. When Sheriff Graham offers the deputy job to Emma with the suggestion "Stay a while", we see his offer is at odds with Regina, who shows up soon afterward and Graham offers Emma a job reminds Emma of her nomadic lifestyle. We have already seen small changes in this tendency of hers in the previous episodes when she first decided to stay in Storybrooke for a week and then decided to move in with Mary Margaret. The episode returns to this theme when Mary Margaret comments that Emma's small number of possessions "must make things easier when you have to move" and again at the hospital when Henry tells Emma that she is the only one who can leave Storybrook. We see at the end of the episode that Emma is now ready to put down some roots when she reminds Henry of his comment and then says "See you tomorrow", just before she calls Graham to accept the job.

Regina's conversation with Emma not only provides a link to the theme of putting down roots begun in the previous scene with Graham, it also provides a link to the next scene with Ashley when Regina insists that Emma will not stay in Storybrooke because "People don't change." Of course, this ties in to Emma's advice to Ashley that she must take responsibility to change her life because "there are no fairy godmothers in this world." Here, as we see repeatedly throughout this episode, Emma's advice to Ashley is based upon her own experience which was so similar to Ashley's. Emma asks Ashley about keeping her baby The parallels are shown even more strongly later in the episode when Emma asks Ashley if she is really willing to make the committment to keep her baby by saying "Are you sure? Because I wasn't." Emma's statement "You can't ever leave" again reminds us of her decision to stay in Storybrooke for Henry.

When Henry shows up as Mr. Gold is asking Emma to find Ashley, his inability to identify a fairy tale counterpart for Mr. Gold may be significant. Henry seems to have no trouble figuring out the identities of other residents of Storybrooke from clues in his book but he doesn't associate Mr. Gold with Rumplestiltskin despite the similarities that we see (Rumplestiltskin spun straw into gold, both make deals, etc...) Henry even comments to Emma that no one has ever broken a deal with Mr. Gold. But he doesn't see the similarities to Rumplestiltskin, despite the fact that Rumple later says to Cinderella, "Nobody breaks deals with me, dearie." Why?

In Fairy Tale Land (FTL) the fireworks over the palace during the wedding celebration evoke the familiar images of the fireworks over the castle at Disneyland. We also see where this story fits into the chronology of FTL when we see that Snow and James are attending the ball. They appear to be married, so this is after their wedding in the pilot but clearly before Snow has begun to show any obvious signs of pregnancy. We also see the origin of Rumplestiltskin's prison and how he came to be imprisoned in the first episode.

The original fairy tale of Rumplestiltskin's deal to spin staw into gold for a miller's daughter in exchange for her first born child has been woven nicely into the Cinderella story in this episode, but it's not clear why Rumplestiltskin wants the baby. Mr. Gold obviously continues the tradition of trading in children since he not only made the deal for Ashley's baby but we remember he also brokered Regina's adoption of Henry. When Emma agrees to owe him a favor in exchange for Ashley's debt we are left to wonder just what will be the "The Price of Gold"?

At the end of the episode we get a couple of more reminders of the classic tale of Cinderella. Just as Cinderella lost her glass slipper while rushing down the stairs to beat her midnight deadline, Henry loses a shoe while racing up the stairs to beat the 5:00 PM deadline of Regina's arrival. The writers also create a moment of tension when the Henry loses a shoe angry tone in Regina's voice as she says "What did I tell you?" reminds us of her earlier warning to Henry not to leave the house. The relief for both Henry and the audience is significant when we realize she is only talking about the lost shoe. The shoe theme is reinforced even more at the hospital when Shawn shows up and places a baby shoe on Alexandra's foot, just as the prince placed the slipper on Cinderella.

Characters in Episode 4:The Price of Gold
Fairy Tale Name Storybrooke NameNotes on Names
CinderellaAshley Boyd Cinder and ash are synonomous
Prince Charming (James)David Nolan King David of Israel was a shepherd who became king.
Snow WhiteMary Margaret Blanchard Blanchard is derived from the French "blanc", meaning "white".
Evil QueenRegina Mills "Regina" is Latin for "Queen".The woman who promised her child to Rumplestiltskin was a miller's daughter.
- none - Henry Mills Henry is derived from "Henricus", meaning "ruler of the homeland". Henricus Cornelius Agrippa wrote influential works on magic in the 16th century.
Emma Emma Swan The Ugly Duckling who became a swan?
?Sheriff Graham-
Red Riding HoodRubyRubies are red.
GrumpyLeroy "Le Roi" is French for "the King". Is Grumpy the leader of the 7 dwarves?
Prince ThomasShawn-