The Beast Must Die


The Seer’s ominous final words to Rumplestiltskin, “The boy will be your undoing,” are a hot topic in the aftermath of Once’s new episode “Manhattan.” The boy, likely refers to Henry, whose decision to find Emma and bring her to Storybrooke set off a chain of events ending in Rumplestiltskin’s reunion with Baelfire. However, “undoing” was likely chosen for its ambiguity. While the prophecy might allude to the end of Rumplestiltskin’s term as the Dark One, it could also be a euphuism for his physical death.  Brace yourselves, dearies: the Beast must die.

By Beast, I mean the Dark One and Rumplestiltskin. When analyzing Rumplestiltskin we should remember the complex layers of his character. As David Nolan suggested in the episode 202, “We are both.” Not only is Rumplestiltskin the Dark One, a wicked imp, but he is also a simple weaver living under the shadow of cowardice. However, there is a third aspect of Rumplestiltskin’s character: Mr. Gold. In this third person is the potential for self-actualization. If Rumplestiltskin represents natural man and the Dark One man’s latent wickedness, then perhaps Mr. Gold is an archetype for man’s potential for heroism. Gold, in a literary sense, often represents quality, value, and merit. Let’s cross our fingers and hope we can one day say, “He’s as good as Gold.”

In all shapes and forms, Rumplestiltskin has lived under a curse. Whether it was the curse of a legacy of cowardice inherited from his father, as mentioned in “Manhattan”, or the curse of the Dark One, trading humanity for magical powers, we have never really seen Rumplestiltskin as the man he was meant to be. The closest we have come to seeing an uncursed Rumplestiltskin was when he was called to the frontlines of the Ogre Wars. His natural happiness was a joy to watch; however, some fans, including myself, feel it was not in character considering the opinions he shared in “Desperate Souls” concerning the war and the “blood of children” shed on the battlefield.

In “Skin Deep,” the powers that be (AKA the creative team behind Once Upon a Time) set up the Dark One/Rumplestiltskin as an stand-in for the Beast character from the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. This is indicated by the presence of Belle, a young brunette clothed in a golden gown with a penchant for books, the allusions to “an old woman selling flowers,” and the power of True Love to return him to his human form. However, we cannot neglect the final aspect of the Beauty and the Beast transfiguration: the Beast dies before being resurrected in his human form.

The moment Belle’s lips touched Rumplestiltskin’s we should have known death was on the horizon. Transfiguration as a result of death and True Love is a concept found in many other genres of fiction as well as in various religions. Christians believe once they have accepted salvation, the nature of their “old self” has died and they have become new creations in Christ. The idea of reincarnation is a vital tenet of Hinduism. Resurrection, in both the spiritual and physical sense, cannot occur without death.

Transfiguration is found in other genres of fiction. [NON-OUAT SPOILERS] Gandalf the Grey must die before he is remade and promoted to Gandalf the White. Harry Potter must die to destroy Voldemort, before being resurrected. Death is a pivotal point dividing the lesser past from the greater future. In order for Rumplestiltskin to find his happy ending, the Dark One has to be killed.

How will it happen? Dearies, understand that the blade of the Dark One is going to penetrate Rumplestiltskin’s chest. In the last two seasons, countless close-up shots of the bloodied dagger of Zoso have hinted at the ominous future. We’ve heard Cora admit the dagger is “the one magical item which can kill” Rumplestiltskin (Manhattan). This foreshadowing is beyond heavy-handed. The dagger exists to end the life of the Dark One, whoever he/she is. This only reinforces the theme of the cyclical nature of life.

But, before gathering the Rumbelle Army to march on the studio lot in Vancouver, be comforted. Although, Rumple is going to die, he will not be written off the show. Lost set up a precedence of characters showing up posthumously. Rumplestiltskin admitted “magic cannot bring people back from the dead” in Fairy Tale Land (In the Name of the Brother). However, the rules which govern the Enchanted Forest are not the same for every realm, including the Land Without Magic, where he will be killed. Of course, should Rumplestiltskin allow the boy to live and accept death, his passing will exemplify the sacrificial nature of True Love. In film, this almost always bolsters the probability of resurrection.

For one, Rumplestiltskin may have already laid plans for his post-mortem resurgence. We know he has asked Dr. Frankenstein to show him how to wield the power to “restore life” (In the Name of the Brother).  Although, Victor’s experiment was not exactly successful, it proves Rumplestiltskin knew of his death and was preparing to counteract his unhappily ever after. Who knows what he has in the works?

However, I find the whole “one-step-ahead-of-the-game” approach predictable, albeit in character. What would make for a really awesome story arc would be for Rumplestiltskin to die and enter into a new realm: the Netherworld. We could see Rumplestiltskin trapped in the Netherworld, plagued by the souls of his deceased enemies, trying to find a literal way out of Hell. Ruled by Hades, a new world would allow for the introduction of more Greco-Roman mythological characters.

When Rumplestiltskin dies by the dagger, a new Dark One will be born. Should Rumplestiltskin be stabbed by one of the Evil Regals, the people of Storybrooke are in for trouble. Although Rumplestiltskin was no saint, his villainy has always been driven by a desire for power, respect, and Bae. Since the events of “The Return,” Rumplestiltskin has been looking for Bae, not lordship. This is not the case with Cora or Regina whose attempts to gain control of the throne have pitted them against the Charmings.

A coup by the new Dark One could lead to a quest to find the one person who knows his/her weaknesses: Rumplestiltskin. Imagine a quest into the Afterlife, led by a fellowship which could include the Charmings, Emma, Bae, and possibly Belle, to retrieve his soul from the Underworld. The question then becomes: Will they ask Rumplestiltskin to save them all and once again take on the curse of the Dark One?

My guess is yes. If Belle has regained her memory and survived to that point in the plot, hopefully she will be waiting with True Love’s Kiss on her lips. But, in order for all this to happen…Rumplestiltskin must die.

Original date of publication: February 18, 2013

Also available at: Once


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