I’ve come across numerous indications that the writing of ABC’s hit series Once Upon a Time strikes some people as awful.

I think I know why.

And I beg to differ.

From the moment I first heard  the concept, I was thrilled and optimistic. In depth stories of beloved fairy tale characters? What’s not to like? Their parallel lives in the horrible, horrible place they’ve been banished to? What’s not to love? (TPTB have long been forgiven for the little fact that that horrible, horrible place is the reality we all call home without aide of banishment. We’ve suffered all along in this dreary life without magic. Who knew?) That the men behind the Once Upon a Time magic also guided us through the deliciously confounding labyrinth that was Lost? Icing. Cake. I wasn’t crazy about the end, but what a ride it was that led us there!

So. I have adored Once Upon a Time, from the first moment until the recent cliffhanger. I love everything about it. The costumes alone are a reason to watch.  Regina\Evil Queen is like quicksilver.Now you hate her. Then you don’t.Wait…now you hate her again. I forgive her for calling those lowly Red Delicious hanging from her poison tree by the lofty title Honey Crisp. I may think the writers know their stuff, but like the rest of us, they are human.  I’m almost certain of it. 

The thing is that fairy tales are their own off from center little genre. I’m not sure what the Brothers Grimm and all their dark angled comrades in words actually intended, but I like to think it wasn’t to scare children to sleep. That probably lies squarely on the head of some nameless peasant, with a tendency toward dark humor and the uncanny for his time ability to read.

Fairy tales come with a certain stylized language. Not so much the words themselves, but how they’re arranged. There’s a cadence and flair to the way they sound in the heads of their readers. In the right voice/brain combination, they emerge the same way when read aloud. Gifted actors capture that atmospheric rhythm perfectly. Think The Princess Bride.

There is drama in fairy tales that is missing in our everyday lives. High drama. If we aren’t exposed to it often, we don’t recognize it when it suddenly appears. It sounds stilted and unnatural to our untutored ears. Only if we know to expect it do we recognize its arrival. Once Upon a Time captures the extravagance of high drama to a tea…er…T. The Mad Hatter influence, don’t you know?

If you’ve read Wicked and its sister books, you know I just channeled Sir Brrr for a second there. If I could have my fondest Once Upon a Time wish granted, it would be for a Wizard of Oz episode, with Idina Menzel playing old Westie.

I suppose I’m a bit sensitive to the reactions of unaccustomed ears to specific speech patterns, whether written or spoken. I once got a very nice comment from a literary magazine on a story set in England, followed by a second comment that the dialogue seemed unnatural. It seemed unnatural to someone not familiar with words, speech patterns, and idioms common to
the British.

I cut my teenage reading teeth on Dickens, Shakespeare, and the Bronte sisters, and spent several weeks traveling around the U. K. as an adult. I’ve read enough Anne Perry Victorian mysteries to have a crush on Monk and wish for a Great Aunt Vespasia of my own.

I’ve been an Anglophile almost as long as I’ve been a person, and though I do not affect a British accent, I probably would if I thought I could get by with it. When I create British characters, I hear them that way in my head. Hopefully, all readers don’t need me in their heads with them to translate.

And hopefully all Once Upon a Time viewers don’t need the Brothers Grimm in their heads to translate fairy tale speak for them. Worse yet, Mr. Gold. I’m sure Rumplestiltskin would be happy to oblige. Just remember, dearie…down the road there’s always a price for his services.

Once Upon a Time Season 2 Promo