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Your prison, all of our prisons, will be time. Time will stop, and we will be trapped. Someplace horrible, where everything we hold dear, everything we love, will be ripped from us while we suffer for all eternity. While the Queen celebrates, victorious at last. No more happy endings.
Rumplestiltskin to Snow White and Prince Charming src

The Dark Curse is a curse featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. It first appears in the first episode of the first season.

The Dark Curse is the main plot focal point for the series. It is originally cast by the Evil Queen out of vengeance against Snow White, bringing the Enchanted Forest inhabitants to the Land Without Magic and trapping them in the town of Storybrooke, Maine with no memory of their past lives. After being broken by Emma Swan, the Savior, the curse is later recast by Peter Pan, Snow White, Hook, the Black Fairy and Drizella for various reasons.

History

Before First Curse

Afraid of a prophecy that foretells her newborn son will die by the hands of a newly born Evil, recently-turned fairy Fiona goes to the Sacred Fairy Vault to create a powerful curse with the combination of two different fairy spells that will banish everyone to a Land Without Magic where they can't hurt him. Before being banished by the Blue Fairy into a dark realm, Fiona manages to write the curse's scroll. ("The Black Fairy")

Decades later, Fiona's son, Rumplestiltskin, grows to become the the Dark One. His son, Baelfire, does not want his father to become so power hungry, and with the help of the Blue Fairy, he receives a magic bean to travel to the land without magic. Rumplestiltskin is afraid of losing his powers and refuses to go with his son. He lets go of Bae's hand and watches him fall through the portal whilst screaming to his father that he's a coward for breaking their deal. Rumplestiltskin learns from the Blue Fairy that there is a curse that can take him to the same land, but she believes that it is beyond his capabilities. Unbeknownst to him that said curse was created by his own mother, he vows to find it no matter how long or much it will take him. ("The Return")

Many years later, he successfully locates the Dark Curse deep under Bald Mountain, protected by a series of traps. He summons Ursula and Cruella De Vil to the Forbidden Fortress, where he convinces them and Maleficent to help him retrieve the curse, claiming that it will grant them their happy endings. Selecting them due to three deadly traps in Bald Mountain, Rumplestiltskin takes them to the location. There, each woman uses her magical ability to defeat an obstacle. Cruella uses her power of persuasion to pacify venomous blood scarabs, Maleficent absorbs a barrier of fire into her staff, and finally, Ursula grabs the curse orb with her tentacles. This triggers a small quake as the Chernabog, a demon guarding the curse, awakens to attack the intruders. Before the beast reaches the room, Rumplestiltskin admits using them for his own gain. Before taking his leave out of the exit, he advises that the Chernabog will devour the heart of the person with the most potential for evil, and it's only a matter of which of the three it picks first. Left to the creature's mercy, the trio outsmart the Chernabog and later escape into a crack in the ceiling. ("Darkness on the Edge of Town")

From combining the hairs of Snow White and Prince Charming, Rumplestiltskin makes a true love potion, and he adds a drop of it onto the curse scroll. By doing this he ensures that after the curse is cast only someone born from their true love can break the curse. ("Heart of Darkness")

Since one of the main ingredients for enacting the curse is the heart of the thing someone loves most, Rumplestiltskin cannot cast it himself and will need another person to do it. In a grand scheme, he instigates a series of events to ensure Regina, who he wishes to cast the curse, will be ready to do so in the near future. At some point, Rumplestiltskin gives Regina the curse's scroll, but instead of casting it, she exchanges the curse with Maleficent for the sleeping curse to use on her stepdaughter, Snow White. ("The Thing You Love Most")

Realizing it will take more than just teaching Regina the arts of witchcraft and feeding her hatred, Rumplestiltskin casts a protection spell that makes it impossible for her to ever harm Snow White or Prince Charming again anywhere in the world. He then proceeds to remind her that the Dark Curse would send them all to another world, where the protection spell would not work. At this point, Regina finally decides to cast it. ("The Cricket Game")

Before getting the curse back from Maleficent, the Evil Queen crashes Snow White and Prince Charming's wedding to announce her intentions of ruining their happy endings. ("Pilot")

After going to the Forbidden Fortress, Regina finds Maleficent unwilling to part with the curse, so she forcibly takes it. Although her fellow witch heeds that casting the curse will put a void within which can never be filled, Regina doesn't care. ("The Thing You Love Most", "Pilot")

Maleficent and her associates Cruella De Vil and Ursula approach Snow White and Charming and explain the Queen is planning to cast the curse, saying that it will affect themselves and everyone else. To defeat the curse, the trio wants Snow White and Prince Charming to consult the Tree of Wisdom, a being that will only answer questions from two of the most valiant heroes. Once they reach the tree, the royal couple put each of their palms on two rocks and ask their question, but both are ejected backward. When the villainous trio arrives, Maleficent recognizes the tree refused them because Snow White is pregnant, and her child, although born of true love, has great potential to be evil. The Savior has therefore already been conceived at this point, and it's only a matter of time before she is born. ("Unforgiven")

Over the course of time in which the Evil Queen is preparing the curse, Snow White becomes more and more curious about ominous threat, especially with a baby on the way. She and Prince Charming visit Rumplestiltskin in his cell; knowing he has a gift for prophetic visions. In exchange for her child's name, Rumplestiltskin explains that the Evil Queen's curse will tear everyone from the Enchanted Forest and exile them to a land where all of the Enchanted Forest's residents will be imprisoned and frozen in time, all of their happiness taken by the Evil Queen. He goes on to explain that Snow White's unborn child, Emma, is their only hope. On the child's twenty-eighth birthday, she will return and become the savior that can break the curse. ("Pilot")

To protect their unborn daughter from the curse, the Blue Fairy offers Prince Charming and Snow White an enchanted tree which can be made into a magic wardrobe capable of protecting anyone inside from any curse. The Blue Fairy has Geppetto carve the wardrobe, in exchange for letting his son Pinocchio escape the Dark Curse through it. This leaves place for only one more person to go through, situation which forces the fairy to lie to Snow and Charming and tell them the wardrobe can only transport one person. ("Pilot", "The Stranger")

After Rumplestiltskin receives the name of Snow White's child, he furiously scribbles it on a piece of parchment in squid ink to help him recover his lost memories the very moment he hears the name again. ("Queen of Hearts")

Snow attempts to make some sense of the curse by questioning the Blue Fairy further on how the savior will know to save them in twenty-eight years time. Vaguely, the Blue Fairy is going by instinct, and knows with certainty that someday, in some form, the savior will learn of their story and break the curse. ("Going Home")

The Evil Queen gathers some followers to enact the spell ranging from a Blind Witch, a Scarred Ogre, an evil Gnome, and some other unidentified villains. After a failed attempt at casting the curse by sacrificing the heart of her childhood steed she pays a visit to Rumplestiltskin, and he agrees to tell her what went wrong — for a price. In the new land she plans on taking everyone to, he wants to live a comfortable life with wealth and position, and she will have to heed his every desire, just as long as he says, "Please". The Evil Queen agrees to this because she does not think he will remember, and learns she must sacrifice something far more precious — the heart of the thing she loves the most. She returns home and rips out the heart of her father. When she finally enacts the curse using this heart, it envelopes the Enchanted Forest in a spreading cloud of darkness. ("The Thing You Love Most")

She pays a last minute visit to Rumplestiltskin. While she relishes in the fact in a matter of time, everyone will forget who they are and be cursed, Rumplestiltskin warns her to be prepared to suffer a consequence for casting the curse. He states that she will gain an empty void in her heart and someday will come to him with a need to fill it. She takes his foretelling lightly, and leaves for Snow and Charming's castle. ("Save Henry")

At the castle tower, two of the seven dwarves, Grumpy and Sleepy signal the bell as the curse approaches. Originally, a pregnant Snow White is decided as the one person to go through the wardrobe, but Emma is born early. The Blue Fairy backs out her deal with Geppetto and asks him to let Snow White and her infant daughter to reach safety through the wardrobe. He refuses to listen and has Pinocchio go into the wardrobe while also making him promise to look out for Emma as she grows up. Meanwhile, Prince Charming fights his way past the Evil Queen's knights infiltrating the castle in order to place her into the wardrobe. He suffers grievous injures after doing so, and before passing out, sees Emma is gone from the wardrobe after the knights break it open. ("Pilot", "The Stranger")

As the curse spreads through the entire Enchanted Forest, Regina's mother Cora secretly protects herself and Hook from being taken by casting a shield over a small corner of the land. This area includes Aurora's Palace and Sherwood Forest. ("Queen of Hearts", "Broken")

The Evil Queen arrives to the castle to have one last confrontation with Snow White before the room is violently ripped apart and they are all engulfed by the curse. Per Cora's protection, she, Hook and other people inhabiting a nearby island are left behind in the Enchanted Forest and frozen in time for twenty-eight years. Both Emma and Pinocchio land safety in another world and end up getting placed in the same foster care home as orphans. However, Pinocchio abandons her to grow up alone.

During First Curse

Much like the Black Fairy anticipated when she first created it, the curse whisks the affected Enchanted Forest inhabitants to a land without magic. It freezes time over in most known magical realms, such as the entire Fairy Tale Land —including not only the now virtually uninhabited Enchanted Forest, but also Arendelle, Camelot, DunBroch, Agrabah and Hangman's Island) —, as well as Wonderland, Victorian England and Oz among others.

In late October 1983 Land Without Magic, the curse creates a town called Storybrooke, located in a Maine forest alongside the coast. Two camp-goers, Kurt and Owen Flynn, happen to accidentally witness the Dark Curse, but mistake it for a fearsome storm and hide inside their tent for safety. The former Evil Queen awakes in a new life as Regina Mills, the mayor of the newly created town, and quickly adapts to having everything she could ever want. While her memories stay intact, mostly everyone else's recollections are completely stripped away and replaced with false ones. As another effect of the curse, time stands still and people cannot age or grow older, although they fail to notice such things. Among other effects of the curse, Regina meets the cursed counterparts of Snow White and Prince Charming, a school teacher known as Mary Margaret Blanchard and an unnamed coma patient. She urges Mary Margaret to deliver flowers to John Doe, relishing in the idea of Snow White and Charming being so close together and yet not knowing each other and without a chance to even communicate. ("Welcome to Storybrooke")

Since Kurt's car is damaged from the storm, he and Owen decide to hitchhike. Unexpectedly, they come across Storybrooke, which Kurt is in disbelief of since they passed through the area prior and there was nothing there. Regina is dismayed that Kurt and Owen are staying in Storybrooke temporarily until the car is fixed and wants them gone. However, as the days pass, Regina grows more disillusioned and bored with the sameness of the town. She also recognizes that gaining power means nothing when everyone is obeying her out of force, due to the curse, rather than free will. Owen turns out to be a blessing in disguise for her when she invites both him and Kurt over for dinner. She grows fond of Owen, but can't accept Kurt's decision to not stay in town. Regina tries everything to force them to stay, even making Sheriff Graham arrest Kurt on false charges, but ultimately, she allows a fearful Owen to leave Storybrooke. After he crosses the town line, he is no-longer able to enter the town due to it being magically shielded from the outside world by the curse. ("Welcome to Storybrooke")

One day, ten years into the curse, Mary Margaret carries a bouquet of flowers as she is going to visit John Doe when she notices a flower growing on the pavement. She places it in John Doe's hospital room, unknowingly triggering the magic in it, which allows the man to regain his memories and awaken from his coma. The man, David, tries to convince her that she is his wife Snow and holds out his hand to her as a sign of trust. After taking his hand, Mary Margaret regains her memories and happily kisses David. David attempts to rally Leroy into helping them, but since Leroy is still cursed and remembers nothing, Mary Margaret excuses David's behavior by saying he is a psychiatric patient. To keep Regina from finding David, Mary Margaret tells him to meet her at an abandoned farmhouse while she misleads Regina into believing David is in the woods. Regina, realizing Mary Margaret is "awake", threatens to kill Archie unless she confesses. Mary Margaret prepares to stab her with scissors, but when the rest of the search party arrive, she escapes unnoticed. At the farmhouse, David tells her about the flower's power to reunite them with Emma, however, Mr. Gold explains that if they use it now, Emma will never break the curse and everyone else will remain cursed forever. Mr. Gold gives a potion to Mary Margaret, telling her to recurse herself and wait for Emma to break the curse in eighteen years. The couple use the flower to view a young Emma through a portal door, but Mary Margaret convinces David that they can't go to her now knowing that the other townspeople will be cursed forever. In the end, they recurse themselves, in the hopes Emma will one day break the curse and free them all. ("Awake")

Eight years later, Emma Swan is a grown woman and now lives in Portland. While hijacking a car, she meets another fellow thief, Neal, and the two fall madly in love as they make a living as petty robbers. She steals back watches that he is wanted for taking and forms a plan to sell them so they can use the money for travel. Instead, Neal is warned by a stranger, August, who is actually the grown-up Pinocchio, to leave Emma so she can fulfill her destiny of breaking the curse. Emma is arrested for larceny and sent to a prison in Arizona. Several months later, she tests positive for pregnancy and gives up the child at birth, who then is put up for adoption in Boston. ("Tallahassee")

On the other side of the spectrum, Regina discovers Rumplestiltskin's forewarning about the void in her heart has come true. She attempts to gain more meaning in her life by adopting an infant boy, unknowingly the same child Emma gave up, who she names Henry. While digging up on the boy's birth parents, she is stunned to discover Henry's birth mother was found in the woods eighteen years ago as a baby. She puts two and two together, realizing that the woman is the savior of the curse, and angrily accosts Mr. Gold about it, though he remembers nothing from his prior life. This leads Regina to give Henry back to the adoption agency, but her heart has already been won by the infant, and she decides to raise him as her own. Rather than spend years worrying about Henry's birth mother, she concocts a potion to help herself forget ever knowing the true identity of the woman. ("Save Henry")

In another ten years, Henry grows up to be an unhappy child. He believes Regina does not love him and is further saddened with knowledge that his birth mother gave him up. One morning, schoolteacher Mary Margaret finds a mysterious fairytale storybook sitting in her bedroom closet. Unbeknownst to her and the other residents of Storybrooke, twenty-eight years have passed, as what the Blue Fairy once told Snow White is finally happening. Mary Margaret takes the book with her to school and cheers Henry up by giving him it. She heeds that fairytales have happy endings and by reading them, Henry can learn to have hope for a better life for himself as well. As Henry looks up from flipping through the book, he, to his own amazement, sees a momentarily illusion of Snow White in place of Mary Margaret. ("Going Home")

From reading the book, Henry grows obsessed and fixated on the idea every story in it is real, and that all the people in Storybrooke are under a curse inflicted by the Evil Queen, who is also his mother Regina. After stealing Mary Margaret's credit card, he tracks down his birth mother, Emma, in Boston and hitches a ride there. Emma is flabbergasted by the sudden appearance of the son she never had and drives him back home. She doesn't take his frequent jabbing about fairytales being real, a curse and an Evil Queen seriously. Once she drops him off at Regina's house, Emma becomes curious about how her biological son has been all these years. At his castle playground, Emma bonds with Henry, especially since he appears to understand her reason for giving him up at birth, which was to allow him a better chance in life. However, she doesn't get his fascination in dubbing her the savior of a curse and imagining her as the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. After Regina attempts to intimidate her into leaving, Emma decides to stay in town out of concern for Henry. At the inn, Mr. Gold encounters Emma, and upon hearing her name, he regains memories of his former life. That night, Henry watches from his bedroom window as the curse begins to weaken when the clock tower begins moving forward in time from eight-fifteen to eight-sixteen. Halfway around the world in Phuket, August awakens to a shooting pain in his leg as he is reverting to wood. ("Pilot", "Selfless, Brave and True")

Regina begins to suspect Mr. Gold holds memories from his previous life when he exercises the "please" enchantment on her. She attempts to confront him about it, but this only leads him to use the enchantment a second time. As Emma remains in town, various effects of the curse begin breaking, particularly in the residents' lives, as their happy endings are restored. She is still skeptical over Henry's continuous stream of fairytale claims. August decides he must face his past and go through with the original task he never completed, which was to guide Emma into breaking the curse. Before setting off to Storybrooke, he informs Neal in New York City of his plans. August fails in helping Emma to see the light while his progression back to wood rapidly speeds up. The curse grows more feeble to the point Regina's apple tree begins withering and she consults Mr. Gold for answers. They are both aware of a certain loophole, namely that if Emma dies, the curse itself will be lifted. This is not something Regina wants, but she desires Emma to get out of the way so Henry can be hers only. She procures a poisoned apple from the Enchanted Forest and bakes it into an apple turnover just as Emma finally decides it would be best to leave Henry so Regina can be his mother. Henry stops Emma by eating the apple turnover and falls into a coma. By chance, she touches his storybook and receives a flood of memories from her short time in the Enchanted Forest. Despite Emma's attempt to get a true love potion to revive Henry, Mr. Gold steals it. When Henry dies, Emma says a final goodbye with a kiss on his forehead. This causes a trigger of true love's kiss that brings Henry back, but also breaks the curse. ("The Thing You Love Most", "Skin Deep", "True North", "The Stranger", "An Apple Red as Blood", "A Land Without Magic", "Selfless, Brave and True")

After First Curse

After the Dark Curse is broken, everyone regains their previously lost memories about their old lives. Mr. Gold drops the true love potion into the wishing well to bring magic to Storybrooke. Concurrently, the lifting of the Dark Curse allows the people in the Enchanted Forest to be unfrozen as well. Princess Aurora, who has been asleep since the casting of the curse, is awakened with true love's kiss by Prince Phillip. She has no idea of anything that transpired, but plans to go with Phillip and Mulan to a Safe Haven where the remaining inhabitants left behind by the curse are now living. Back in Storybrooke, an attempt to send a Wraith away to another world causes Emma to be sucked into the portal while Mary Margaret jumps after her. The Wraith lands in the Enchanted Forest and brands Phillip for death by absorbing his soul. Emma and Mary Margaret are blamed for this and taken along to the Safe Haven as prisoners where they meet Cora. The two gain the help of Lancelot and begin searching for a way home. On the flip side, Mr. Gold realizes too late the hefty price that comes with bringing magic to Storybrooke, which makes it impossible for anyone to leave town without losing their Enchanted Forest memories. This renders him unable to search for his son outside of town. ("A Land Without Magic", "Broken", "We Are Both")

Following Emma and Mary Margaret's return to Storybrooke, Cora and her accomplice Hook also find a means to the small town. The residents are thrown into a frenzy when a stranger crashes his car into Storybrooke as the town is no longer invisible to outsiders. The dangers of crossing the town line prove deadly for Belle, who becomes amnesiac and remembers nothing of her Enchanted Forest life. Belle later regains her memories through a potion made by Mother Superior. ("Queen of Hearts", "The Outsider", "And Straight On 'Til Morning")

Another journey arises when Henry is kidnapped to Neverland and his family follow suit to rescue him from Peter Pan. As they fly home on the Jolly Roger, Pan secretly switches bodies with Henry. Once in Storybrooke, he wreaks havoc by stealing the Dark Curse scroll. With intentions of recasting it, he dumps all the ingredients into the wishing well and lastly sacrifices the heart of his most loyal underling, Felix, as the curse takes the form of a green smoke. Since Regina is the original caster of the curse, she must be the one to destroy the scroll and therefore nullify Pan's curse. However, there will be a great magical price for this action alone. Mr. Gold uses a Black Fairy wand to return Henry and Pan to their bodies. Then, Henry himself hands over the Dark Curse scroll to Regina. She passes out after touching it and awakens with knowledge of the price for halting the curse. Pan accosts the residents by freezing them in place and stealing the scroll back. Mr. Gold finishes Pan off by stabbing him, as well as himself, with the Dark One's Dagger so both of them perish. After they vanish, Regina picks up the scroll. She admits the weight of undoing Pan's curse involves wiping Storybrooke out of existence by removing the original Dark Curse and every former Enchanted Forest inhabitant will return to their old world. To keep Henry from being alone, Emma leaves town with him. Regina can craft new memories for them and prevents Pan's curse as she and every other person is sent back to the Enchanted Forest. ("And Straight On 'Til Morning", "Save Henry" - "Going Home")

Before Second Curse

After Regina undoes the first curse, everyone in Storybrooke is sent back to the Enchanted Forest. The undoing of the curse breaks the connection between the worlds, divided them, and places a wall between them. Therefore, portals are no longer accessible and travelling between worlds using either magic beans or the hat is not possible. ("A Curious Thing")

Eight months after returning to the Enchanted Forest, Snow White and Prince Charming discover from Aurora and Phillip that the Wicked Witch of the West wants their new baby. After visiting Glinda, the banished Good Witch of the South, they discover that Emma is the key to stopping the Wicked Witch from getting their new baby by using light magic born of true love to steal her pendant, rendering her powerless. Snow White concludes that the only way that they will stop her is by re-casting the Dark Curse and taking them back to Storybrooke so that they can contact Emma. So they go back to Regina, who tells them that her re-enacting the Curse once again is out of the question, as it would require her to sacrifice the heart of the one she loves the most, Henry, who happens to be with Emma in the Land Without Magic. Apparently, alternative means of travelling across realms are no options either, leaving the curse as the sole means of crossing the realms. Charming sacrifices himself so that Regina can rip his heart out, which Snow White uses to cast the new curse. They succeed, however, just before the curse cloud forms, the Wicked Witch drops a forgetting potion into the curse mixture to "spice it up a bit" and cause everyone to forget the past year in the Enchanted Forest so that they cannot stop her. After gloating and watching the curse cloud begin to expand, she flies off back to the Dark Castle to make antidotes for herself and Rumplestiltskin so that they can retain their memories of the past year. however, after she leaves the room, Neal temporarily escapes from his father's body and sends the potion and a note to Hook telling him to find Emma and give her the potion. Regina later splits Snow White's heart in half on Snow's request in order to revive Charming. After succeeding, the curse cloud engulfs them. ("A Curious Thing")

Hook receives a memory potion along with a anonymous message from someone asking him to deliver it to Emma. As the impending second curse approaches, Hook abandons his crew and successfully outruns the curse in the Jolly Roger until he reaches its boundary. With the re-casting of the curse, the connection between worlds and portal allows realm traveling to be made possible again. He later trades his beloved ship for a magic bean for passage to New York to find Emma. ("Snow Drifts")

During Second Curse

The second curse returns everyone to Storybrooke, however, their memories of the prior year in the Enchanted Forest are wiped clean due to the Wicked Witch's forgetting potion and no one can recall anything after Regina undid Pan's curse. The only clue that everyone has of time having passed is Mary Margaret's pregnancy. Emma's memory is restored by Hook and she returns to Storybrooke to find out about the new curse. She also discovers that the majority of the townsfolk suspect Regina. However, Emma teams up with Regina, orchestrating a town hall meeting to trick everyone into believing the mayor is responsible for the new curse. In secret, the twosome work on replicating the memory potion given to Emma to help them remember the missing year, however, it doesn't work. In another plan, they attempt to bait the real culprit by announcing to the townspeople that a memory potion is nearly finished, and whoever drinks it will remember who cast the curse. The criminal escapes, but they later discover Wicked Witch of the West is to blame. ("New York City Serenade", "Witch Hunt")

While temporarily assuming control of Mr. Gold's body, Neal realizes he and his father are sharing the same body. He makes Emma separate them so Mr. Gold can tell her the Wicked Witch's true identity. She succeeds, but Neal dies as a result. Mr. Gold reveals that Zelena is the Wicked Witch of the West. With Zelena's cover is blown, she publicly reveals herself Regina's older half-sister as well as Cora's first-born child. She later challenges Regina to a magical showdown on Main Street in front of the clock tower. ("Quiet Minds", "It's Not Easy Being Green")

After posing as Ariel and getting Hook to reveal his true love's name, Zelena curses his lips so that when he kisses Emma, her magic will be stolen. She also threatens to kill Emma's loved ones as motivation for Hook to follow through with the plan. David, Mary Margaret and Regina later realize that Henry's belief and Emma's true love is the key to breaking the new curse and search for the story book in hope to restore Henry's memories. The plan works, but Zelena steals Henry and threatens to kill him due to Hook's failure to remove Emma's magic. She proceeds to knock Regina out when she attempts to free him. Emma uses her magic to force Zelena to let him go, but she disappears in a cloud of green smoke. Henry races over to Regina, who wakes up and admits her love for Henry. She plants a kiss on his forehead, and this act of true love breaks the new curse. ("The Jolly Roger", "A Curious Thing")

After Second Curse
After the second curse is broken by Regina's true love for Henry, everyone regains their previously lost memories of the past year in the Enchanted Forest. ("A Curious Thing")

Before Third Curse

As Emma becomes the new Dark One to save Regina and the whole town, the journey of saving Emma from the Darkness begins for the heroes. Once they land in Camelot with the tornado that was created by the Apprentice's wand, they find Emma. But the famous King Arthur of Camelot finds them too and says that he expects them to come because the great Sorcerer Merlin prophesied it a long time ago. As Arthur shows them the tree that Merlin was imprisoned in, the group starts to research how to get Merlin out. With the help of the dreamcatcher, Emma sees Merlin's true love and also the very first Dark One, Nimue, turning him into a tree with one of his tears. After Regina, Emma and Henry free him, Merlin tells them how to reunite the Dark One's Dagger and Excalibur: The Flame of Prometheus. As Emma grabs the flame ember from Nimue's chest, she finally has a chance of getting rid of the Darkness. While she is reuniting the two blades with the flame, suddenly, the cut on Hook's neck, which was caused because of Arthur, reopens. Because the wound came from Excalibur, it cannot be healed, meaning Hook will die. Emma wants to tether Hook to the sword to save his life, and though Merlin warns she'll pay a steep price for it, she teleports herself and Hook to the middlemist field, where she links Hook's life to Excalibur, making him a Dark One. ("The Dark Swan", "The Price", "Siege Perilous", "Dreamcatcher", "Nimue", "Birth")

Hook's body reappears inside the vault, where he awakens and finds himself being surrounded by a mass of darkness, as he painfully relives his past sorrows of losing both Milah and Emma because of the Crocodile's actions. And he decides to go back to Storybrooke to kill Mr. Gold to have his revenge. Darkness reminds him that to do this, he must cast the Dark Curse and sacrifices the thing he loves most. When he kills the powerless Merlin, it means that Nimue kills him because she lives in all the Dark Ones and Merlin is the one Nimue still loves most. After Emma goes into the diner, she understands what he is doing and suddenly knocks Hook out and absorbs his memories from the last six weeks into a dreamcatcher, in the hopes of finding a way to restore him to the man he used to be. Consequentially, she takes everyone else's memories too to keep them from remembering Hook is a Dark One, before adding the dreamcatcher to the curse brew for a full memory wipe. Finally the curse closes in some of the Enchanted Forest and all Camelot and send them to Storybrooke. ("Broken Heart")

After Third Curse

After Hook learns that Emma turned him into a Dark One, she returns everyone's memories with the dreamcatchers. ("Broken Heart")

The Black Fairy gathers a mass of dark fairy dust and uses it to curse Storybrooke. ("The Song in Your Heart")

Known Ingredients

  • The heart of "the thing you love most" is the most recurrent ingredient. Destroying said heart is the contingent final step in casting the curse. ("The Thing You Love Most", "Going Home", "A Curious Thing")
  • A lock of hair from those with the darkest of souls. This ingredient seems to be necessary for the first casting only. ("The Thing You Love Most")
  • Wolfsbane ("The Black Fairy")
  • Rumplestiltskin also added a drop of true love potion onto the parchment of the Dark Curse, which was created from two strands of hair from both Snow White and Prince Charming. It is unknown whether the drop of true love counts as an ingredient because the curse would still work even if it was not added as demonstrated when Peter Pan attempts to cast it.("A Land Without Magic", "Going Home")
    • Incidentally, Emma is the only one who can break the first curse because she is a product of the true love that Rumplestiltskin wove into the curse scroll. However, Regina breaks the second curse with her true love for Henry. ("A Land Without Magic", "A Curious Thing")
  • Even if the caster does not intend to wipe the victims' memories, memory wiping ingredients can be added separately by another person.
    • The Wicked Witch of the West drops a forgetting potion into Snow White's curse, causing everyone to lose their recollection of the last year in the Enchanted Forest. She later crafts an antidote for herself to prevent memory loss. ("A Curious Thing")
    • Emma used a dreamcatcher with the stolen memories of Mary Margaret, David, Henry, Regina, Robin Hood, Zelena, and several others to add a memory wipe to Hook's curse to erase memories of the past six weeks in the Enchanted Forest and Camelot. ("Broken Heart")
  • Dark Fairy Dust. This ingredient, in a large quantity, appears to be the only ingredient used for the Black Fairy's curse due to its dark properties. ("The Song in Your Heart")

Physical Description

First Curse
The first curse, cast by the Evil Queen, manifested as a black/gray storm cloud with shades of purple and green with green lightning.[1] This curse spread violently throughout the Enchanted Forest, destroying nearly everything in its path. ("Pilot", "The Thing You Love Most", "Queen of Hearts (Episode)", "New York City Serenade")
Pan's Curse
The curse cast by Peter Pan manifested as a green storm cloud with lightning that spread rapidly throughout Storybrooke.[2] Upon being overridden by Regina to undo her curse and return everyone to the Enchanted Forest, it gained a light purple color with lightning that spread gently throughout the remainder of Storybrooke.[3] ("Going Home", "New York City Serenade")
Second Curse
The second curse, cast by Snow White, manifested with the same appearance as the first curse.[4] The green shades and lightning were the result of Zelena altering the curse to erase memories through the use of a forgetting potion. However, unlike the first curse, this curse spread gently throughout the Enchanted Forest. ("A Curious Thing")
Third Curse
The third curse, cast by Hook, manifested as a light purple cloud with golden lightning.[5] The golden lightning was the result of Emma altering the curse to erase memories through the use of a dreamcatcher.("Broken Heart")
Fourth Curse
The fourth curse, cast by the Black Fairy, manifested as tendrils of dense black smoke with hints of dark fairy dust sparkle.[6] ("The Song in Your Heart")


Effects

First Curse
  • Nearly everyone from the Enchanted Forest and some other realms are transported to Storybrooke and lose all memories of their former lives and relationships.
  • The memories they lost are then replaced by new lives in accord to the new land the Curse transported them into, allowing recipients to comprehend their new environment along with its aspects (i.e. technology).
  • A part of the Enchanted Forest remained untouched after the Dark Curse and froze for twenty-eight years; this is caused by Cora's protective shielding spell.
  • Some magical creatures are turned into humans, including fairy and dwarf species as well as Jiminy and Gus.
  • All powerful magic has been taken away, and is now limited, with only some exceptional consequences to performing it or trying to get in touch with it again.
  • Everyone's "happily ever after" is gone.
  • The curse does not affect outsiders with Enchanted Forest heritage, such as Henry Mills, as much as those who were originally cursed, but it does affect them somehow.
  • The curse does not appear to affect people who arrive to Storybrooke after the Savior, namely August.
  • Time is frozen and no one ages or changes in Storybrooke. Henry is an exception because he was born in the Land Without Magic and is neither present in Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest when the curse is cast.
    • Time is not frozen only in Storybrooke; it is also frozen in all the lands with magic, including Camelot, Agrabah, Arendelle, Victorian England, Oz, Wonderland, Neverland and the Land of Untold Stories (although the latter two worlds's time is always still).
    • In most of these realms people are not aware of time passing at all during the 28 years, and live their lives as if no such a gap took place. The only known exception to this is the Enchanted Forest itself, where the people protected by Cora's protection spell stopped most of the effects of the curse.
    • No-one in Storyrbooke seems to notice Henry is the only person aging.
  • Outsiders cannot come to Storybrooke, unless they have Enchanted Forest heritage, or they were already in the territory before the Curse was cast. Kurt and his son Owen were able to enter the city because they already camped over its location as Storybrooke came into existence. After this, Regina allows Owen to leave Storybrooke. Many years later, Owen is able to return to Storybrooke only because the curse is broken by that time. Ingrid is able to enter Storybrooke due to a powerful magical scroll given to her by the Apprentice on behalf of The Sorcerer.
  • Terrible consequences will happen to anyone, under the effects of the curse, who tries to leave Storybrooke. Examples include:
    • Ashley attempts to leave town after snatching back the adoption papers of her unborn child, she ends up having contractions in the process, and cannot drive. ("The Price of Gold")
    • Emma is left with no choice but to take Ava and Nicholas Zimmer to Boston after their father, Michael Tillman, refuses to claim them as his own. The car breaks down on the drive out of town giving Emma another chance to persuade Michael to take the children in. ("True North")
    • Kathryn decides to leave town, but in the process of going out of town, Mr. Gold abducts her as part of a previous deal with Regina. ("What Happened to Frederick")
    • When Emma drives out of town after dropping Henry off, she sees a wolf in her path and crashes the car. However, this might also be from different external forces trying to keep her in town to break the curse. Emma was not under the effects of the curse since it was shown at other times that she, as well as Henry, and August were able to leave Storybrooke while the curse was still in effect. ("Pilot")

Specific Effects

In addition to not remembering their Enchanted Forest lives, the characters have all been "punished" in their own ways.

  • Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard - Is a timid and meek schoolteacher often both in speech and dress. She has a lousy love life.
  • Prince Charming/David Nolan - Knocked into a coma due to the wounds he received before the curse took him, and is under the patient name John Doe. Upon waking up, David is placed in an unhappy marriage with Kathryn.
  • Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold - He "owns the town" as a monthly rent collector. Owns a pawnshop and is also a licensed lawyer. Has no power over Regina until he regains his memories, and while a mass presence in town, his power was limited only to his shop.
  • Jiminy Cricket/Archie Hopper - Reverts to human and once again becomes the voice of reason as the town psychiatrist, but has trouble listening to his own conscience and obeys Regina out of fear.
  • Huntsman/Sheriff Graham - He is the town sheriff, and engages in a physical relationship with the mayor, Regina, and is always under her thumb.
  • Red Riding Hood/Ruby - A young woman that lacks self-confidence but dresses scantily and is very flirty with customers. Waitresses at the diner and constantly has several disagreements with her grandmother.
  • Granny/Granny - She and Ruby constantly knock heads and argue about everything. Runs two town businesses; a diner and bed and breakfast.
  • Belle/Belle - A long term patient at the psychiatric ward of Storybrooke General Hospital. After the curse is broken, Regina gives Belle new fake memories, turning her into Lacey, a partying, cladly-dressed barfly.
  • Victor Frankenstein/Dr. Whale - A man focused on work, but becomes a bit of woman chaser and drinker.[7] Works at the hospital as a doctor.
  • Geppetto/Marco - Married, and is unhappily childless. Did try to have children, but "he was not meant to be".
  • Blue Fairy/Mother Superior - Head nun of all the sisters at the nunnery, and often clashes with Mr. Gold.
  • Magic Mirror/Sidney Glass - A reporter for the town's newspaper, the Daily Mirror, and is secretly in love with Regina. Spies on other people for her as a lackey.
  • Abigail/Kathryn Nolan - Married to David, but has an unhappy marriage rooted with issues.
  • Frederick/Jim - The gym teacher of the town school.
  • King George/Albert Spencer - Becomes a district attorney, and aside from that does not have much power in town.
  • Jefferson/Jefferson - Recalls all memories of his life in the Enchanted Forest, but lives in an extensive mansion. Is an amateur cartographer, and longs to be reunited with his daughter, Grace, who does not remember him.
  • Grace/Paige - Lives next door to her actual father, Jefferson, as the daughter of two unnamed parents.
  • Grumpy/Leroy - An outcast in town because of his drinking habits, and does shifts at the hospital as a janitor.
  • Cinderella/Ashley Boyd - Stays pregnant for twenty-eight years; unable to give birth and abandoned by her boyfriend and true love, Sean.
  • Prince Thomas/Sean Herman - A young man who presumably, under the false event modifiers of the Dark Curse, gets his girlfriend, Ashley, pregnant. With pressure from his father, he abandons Ashley and her unborn child.
  • The King/Mitchell Herman - Does not approve of his son's relationship with Ashley, and even more so because she is pregnant.
  • Hansel and Gretel/Nicholas Zimmer and Ava Zimmer - Two siblings who become orphans after their mother passes away, and resort to stealing for survival.
  • The Woodcutter/Michael Tillman - A mechanic who remains unaware he has children.
  • Nova/Astrid - Is a sister of the nunnery. She remains clumsy and hapless.
  • Sir Maurice/Moe French - Runs a flower delivery business, and is often late on rent for Mr. Gold.
  • Gus/Billy - Becomes human, and works as a mechanic.
  • Maleficent - Transformed into her dragon form and imprisoned beneath the clock tower in a cavern.
Reversion
  • The Storybrooke inhabitants are transported back to the Enchanted Forest with everything reverted to how it was before the first curse was cast, except the deceased people. ("Going Home")
  • The passages between worlds are closed, which make impossible the travel between them. However, they can be reopened with another Dark Curse. ("Going Home", "New York City Serenade", "A Curious Thing")
Second Curse
  • The Enchanted Forest inhabitants are transported back to Storybrooke with everything reverted to how it was before the first curse was undone. Magic remains in Storybrooke. ("New York City Serenade", "A Curious Thing")
  • Due to the Wicked Witch of the West dropping a forgetting potion into the second curse, everyone loses their memories of the last year spent in the Enchanted Forest. She herself ingests an antidote to retain her memories. After passing the vial to Rumplestiltskin, Neal temporarily breaks free from his father's body to send the potion to Hook. In writing, he asks him to use it to restore Emma's memories. ("A Curious Thing")
  • Those picked up by the second curse who weren't affected by the first curse have been given new lives in Storybrooke, however, they still retain their old names, memories and personalities. ("New York City Serenade")
Third Curse
  • Everyone who is in Camelot when the Curse is cast again is transported to Storybrooke.
  • This time, the Curse does not provide the cursed people with Land Without Magic appearances (such as wardrobe or hairstyle changes) or new memories.
  • Due to the addition of a dreamcatcher to the Curse, the last six weeks are wiped from the memory of everyone who is affected.
Fourth Curse

Specific Effects

  • The Black Fairy - Replaces Regina as mayor of Storybrooke and Henry's adoptive mother.
  • Emma - Locked in the hospital psychiatric ward for her "delusions" of magic from Henry to break her Savior spirit.
  • Gideon - Believes he was abandoned by his mother, Belle when he was young. Works with his father, Mr. Gold, at the pawnshop. His heart is also secretly returned to the Black Fairy's possession.
  • Belle - Lives alone in Storybrooke with no memory of Mr. Gold or Gideon.
  • Archie Hopper - Resumes his role from the first curse as the town psychiatrist who obediently obeys the Black Fairy.


Breaking and Undoing the Dark Curse

Ways to Break the Curse

General
  • The trigger can reverse the effects of the curse by erasing Storybrooke from existence, which would also kill all those not born in the Land Without Magic. The only way to escape this would be to escape to another land prior to the trigger's effects coming into full force. ("Second Star to the Right")}
  • If the caster of the curse that is currently in effect destroys the curse scroll, the curse can be undone. This results in Storybrooke fading out of existence and everyone not born in the Land Without Magic returning to the Enchanted Forest. ("Going Home")
First Curse
Second Curse
Third Curse
Fourth Curse


Parts of the Curse Broken and Undone

First Curse
  • Mr. Gold regains his Enchanted Forest memories when he hears Emma say her own name for the first time. ("Pilot")
  • Time resumes in Storybrooke, which allows changes in town's inhabitants' lives as well. ("Pilot")
    • Time is also unfrozen for the inhabitants left behind in the Enchanted Forest, who were protected by the effects of the curse twenty-eight years ago when Cora cast a shield. ("Broken")
  • Prince Charming's counterpart, David, awakens from his coma after Mary Margaret reads him the Snow White fairytale from Henry's book. ("Snow Falls")
  • Crickets return in town after Archie stands up to Regina. ("That Still Small Voice")
  • Graham regains his memories after sharing a kiss with Emma, but is killed by Regina. ("The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter")
  • A sinkhole collapses, and reveals a shard from Snow White's glass coffin, but Regina hides it in time. Later, she throws it down a mine vent as the shard collects with many other broken pieces of the coffin. ("That Still Small Voice")
  • David had flashes of memories from his life in the Enchanted Forest. However, he mistakes them as memories he had prior to being in the coma as well as confusing memories from the other world as ones he was recovering from his blackouts. ("The Shepherd", "Heart of Darkness")
  • Fireflies appear when Leroy and Astrid reunite. ("Dreamy")
  • Emma breaks the curse by giving Henry true love's kiss, which helps everyone to remember their past lives. ("A Land Without Magic")
  • After the curse ends, the residents can leave or enter town. However, Mr. Gold brought magic to Storybrooke, and as a price for it, he and everyone else cannot leave town without losing their Enchanted Forest memories. ("Broken")
  • Storybrooke is visible to and can be entered by outsiders. ("The Outsider")
  • Storybrooke fades from existence when Regina destroys the curse scroll and undoes the First Curse. ("Going Home")
Second Curse
Third Curse
  • Zelena used Emma's dreamcatchers to return her and Hook's memories. ("Birth")
  • Emma used her dreamcatchers to return the memories of David, Mary Margaret, Regina, Robin Hood, Merida and Henry. ("Swan Song")
  • After Emma lost the darkness inside her and Hook died, the spell that turned people into trees disappeared from the town line, allowing people to cross it with no ill-effects. ("Only You", "An Untold Story")
Fourth Curse


Characters Aware of the Curse

First Curse
  • Regina retains her memories from before the casting of the first curse because she is the one who enacted it.
  • Part of Jefferson's punishment is to remember his former life. ("Hat Trick")
  • In 1993, a pixie flower caused Mary Margaret and David Nolan to remember their past lives as Snow White and Prince Charming. Mr. Gold also recalls his past life as Rumplestiltskin, after hearing the Savior's name, Emma. However, after realizing he has been awakened eighteen years before Emma will arrive to break the curse, Mr. Gold recommends that Mary Margaret and David drink a potion that will put them back under the effects of the curse, as he intends to. Although they briefly consider leaving Storybrooke and finding Emma, David and Mary Margaret eventually decide to drink the potion. ("Awake")
  • Mr. Gold regains his Enchanted Forest memories when he hears Emma say her own name for the first time. ("Pilot")
  • Graham begins to recall his former life when he kisses Emma, and the magic inside her triggers the memories. After they kiss a second time, he remembers everything. ("The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter")
  • August successfully evades the curse by being one of the two people to go through the wardrobe into the Land Without Magic. At the time, he is old enough to remember the first curse. ("The Stranger")
  • Henry believes in the curse because of the book he was given by Mary Margaret.
  • At least Archie, Emma and Mary Margaret are all aware of the concept of the first curse via Henry, though they do not believe it actually exists. Henry eats a poisoned tart intended for Emma and collapses to prove it. ("An Apple Red as Blood")
  • Following Henry's hospitalization, Emma regains her Enchanted Forest memories after touching Henry's book and realizes the curse is real. ("A Land Without Magic")
  • The first curse is broken by Emma's true love for Henry and everyone regains their Enchanted Forest past lives. ("Broken")
Second Curse
  • After Snow White and Prince Charming recast the curse, the Wicked Witch of the West alters the second curse and drops in a forgetting potion to make everyone forget the past year, but makes antidotes for herself and Rumplestiltskin. Before Rumplestiltskin can drink it, Neal sends the potion to Hook. The Wicked Witch of the West assumes a new identity in Storybrooke as Zelena. ("A Curious Thing")
    • The second curse is broken by Regina's true love for Henry and everyone regains their previously lost memories of the past year in the Enchanted Forest. ("A Curious Thing")
Third Curse
  • Only Emma knows what happened back in Camelot as she was the one who took everyone's memories with the dreamcatcher and added it into the curse cauldron. ("Broken Heart")
    • Emma later gives everyone their memories back.
Fourth Curse
Fifth Curse
  • Ivy retains her memories since she is the caster of the curse. ("Greenbacks")
  • Although she does not remember, Lucy is well aware of the concept of the Dark Curse, and believes it. ("Hyperion Heights")
  • Victoria retains her memories due to unknown reasons. ("The Garden of Forking Paths")
  • Eloise Gardener retains her memories due to unknown reasons. ("The Garden of Forking Paths")
  • Weaver regains his memories after Tilly shoots him. ("Beauty")
  • Tilly can regain her memories when she does not take her pills. ("Beauty")
  • Roni regains her memories after drinking something that Ivy gives her. ("Wake Up Call")


Trivia

On-screen Notes

  • The green mist of Pan's curse is featured in the title card for "Going Home".[8]
  • The way in which the Dark Curse is both prepared and cast has changed since its first appearance. In the first season, the curse is prepared by building a fire, throwing the ingredients into the flames and then throwing the dead sacrificed heart into the flames as the final ingredient. However, since the third season, the curse is prepared and cast by placing the ingredients into a bubbling cauldron (or in one case, the Storybrooke Wishing Well), and then crushing the sacrificed enchanted heart into the cauldron as the final ingredient. ("The Thing You Love Most", "Going Home")
    • This is due to the fact that the concept of enchanted hearts was not created until the seventh episode of the first season. Before that point, ripping out a heart killed the victim and had no magical impact on the victim's heart, which also died.
    • However, the preparation drastically changes in its appearance in the fifth season, with the ashes of the crushed heart simply being poured into a container full of an entirely different spell. The curse cloud changes appearance drastically in this instance as well, taking the form of a thick, purple smoke with golden lightning. ("Broken Heart")
    • When the Black Fairy curses Storybrooke in the sixth season, dark fairy dust appears to be the only ingredient used. ("The Song in Your Heart")
  • The first and second curses engulf Snow White, Prince Charming and the Evil Queen in a parallel fashion. In both cases, Snow White and Prince Charming are lying together on the ground with the Evil Queen standing over them. ("Pilot", "A Curious Thing")
  • The manifestation of the curse appears to change based on the intentions of its caster. Regina, Pan and Hook had malicious intentions when they cast their curses and thus the cloud of magic was more violent and rapidly spread, with Regina's destroying anything in its path. However, when Snow cast her curse, the cloud spread in a gentler manner. ("Pilot", "Going Home", "A Curious Thing", "Broken Heart")
  • Ironically, the curse actually saved Prince Charming's life, as it froze time and placed him in a coma. ("Pilot")
  • Henry theorized that the Dark Curse "went to places with other stories" that aren't in his storybook to rationalize how Dr. Whale is in Storybrooke. ("In the Name of the Brother")
  • The Dark Curse is a combination of two different fairy spells. ("The Black Fairy")

Production Notes

Props Notes

Goofs

  • In "The Thing You Love Most", when the Evil Queen casts the first curse, it's clearly nearing the end of sunset, with nighttime having fallen by the time that the curse arrives at the Royal Castle as shown in "Pilot". However, in "Queen of Hearts, when Cora casts the protection spell to keep herself and Hook safe from the curse, it's still daytime.
  • When the residents of Storybrooke reappear in the Enchanted Forest after Regina undoes her curse, everyone in the group returns to their original clothes. However, Snow White, Belle, Neal and Hook are notable exceptions: Snow White is wearing a cloak (to hide Ginnifer Goodwin's real-life pregnancy on-screen), Belle is wearing her signature yellow dress instead of prison attire, Neal is given Enchanted Forest attire despite the fact that he was not cursed nor was he in the Enchanted Forest when the first curse hit, and Hook's vest is changed from black to his pre-curse red vest despite the fact that he was never cursed.[14]

Script Notes

  • In the original "Pilot" script, the Dark Curse is not black smoke, but a green mist.[9] It only appears in its green mist form in "Going Home" after being cast by Peter Pan, however, the reasons for its altered appearance are unknown.

Appearances

Note: "Archive" denotes archive footage.

References

Start a Discussion Discussions about Dark Curse

  • The Fifth Curse

    15 messages
    • Drizella definitly cast the curse, or part of the curse. That's all we know at this point though, there is probably more to the story.
    • I think these two threads should merge with this ongoing thread: http://onceuponatime.wikia.com/wiki/Thread:346091 
  • Who cast the new Curse?

    34 messages
    • Lola987 wrote: I don't think it was Drizella. The last ep heavily implied it was Drizella, and everything pointed to her casting it, ...
    • Anyone else seem to think that whoever cursed Henry really hated him? Think of the past that was given to him: Born in prison (which was ...