Your prison.. all of our prisons, will be time. Time will stop, and we will be trapped. Some place 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
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, and the curse is responsible for the bringing the Enchanted Forest inhabitants to the Land Without Magic, where everyone is trapped in the town of Storybrooke, Maine. Stripped of their past life memories, they are given false memories by the curse's effects. Snow White later recasts the curse to return everyone to Storybrooke in order to find Emma and stop the Wicked Witch of the West.
Before First Curse
During First Curse
After First Curse
Before Second Curse
During Second Curse
After Second Curse
- A lock of hair from those with the darkest of souls.
- The heart of "the thing you love most".
- 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.
- Extra ingredients can be added to the curse. For example, the Wicked Witch of the West drops a forgetting potion into the second curse, which causes everyone to lose their recollection of the last year in the Enchanted Forest. She later crafts an antidote for herself to prevent memory loss.
- Nearly everyone from the Enchanted Forest and some other realms are transported to Storybrooke and lose all memories of their former lives and relationships.
- 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 Saviour, namely August.
- Time is frozen and no one ages or changes in either Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest. 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.
- 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")
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. 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.
- Mad Hatter/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/Maleficent - Transformed into her dragon form and imprisoned beneath the clock tower in a cavern.
- 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. ("New York City Serenade")
Breaking and Undoing the Dark Curse
Ways to Break the Curse
- Mr. Gold designed the curse to break if Emma dies. ("An Apple Red as Blood")
- Emma's true love for Henry breaks the first curse and the Sleeping Curse unintentionally inflicted upon him. ("A Land Without Magic")
- Regina's true love for Henry breaks the second curse. ("A Curious Thing")
- The trigger can reverse the effects of the first 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 Regina, the original caster of the curse, destroys the curse scroll, the curse can be undone. Additionally, destroying the scroll results in Storybrooke fading out of existence and everyone not born in the Land Without Magic returning to the Enchanted Forest. ("Going Home")
Parts of the Curse Broken and Undone
- Time has resumed in Storybrooke, which allows changes in town's inhabitants' lives as well. ("Pilot")
- Prince Charming's counterpart, David, awakens from his coma after Mary Margaret reads him the Snow White fairytale from Henry's book. ("Snow Falls")
- Since the casting of the curse, Ashley remains heavily pregnant, but only after time resumes, she gives birth to Alexandra Herman. Afterwards, she happily reunites with her boyfriend and now fiancé, Sean. ("The Price of Gold")
- 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")
- Ava and Nicholas Zimmer reunite with their father, Michael Tillman. ("True North")
- Fireflies appear when Leroy and Astrid reunite. ("Dreamy")
- Jefferson realizes Emma's presence in town is causing time to resume, and recognizes her as having magic while everyone else is powerless. ("Hat Trick")
- Ruby's rocky relationship with Granny changes for the better after she quits her diner job and works as an assistant for Emma. Ruby comes to realize she actually likes the diner job and only quit out of lack of self-confidence. ("Red-Handed")
- Mary Margaret protects Emma from Jefferson by successfully using fighting moves from her prior life as Snow White, though she remains unaware. ("Hat Trick")
- Since separating from his father at a young age, August finally gets the courage to talk to Marco and be his assistant. ("The Stranger")
- 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")
Characters Aware of the 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.
- 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. Following Henry's hospitalization, Emma realizes the curse is real after touching Henry's book and receiving memories of herself as an infant in the Enchanted Forest. ("An Apple Red as Blood", "A Land Without Magic")
- The first curse is broken by Emma's true love for Henry and everyone remembers their Enchanted Forest past lives. ("Broken")
- 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")
- The way in which the Dark Curse is both prepared and cast has changed since its first appearance. In the first and second seasons, the curse is prepared by building a fire, placing the ingredients into it and then throwing the sacrificed heart into the flames. However, in 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 heart into the cauldron.
- For the first and second curses, in both circumstances, Snow White and Prince Charming are lying together on the ground with the Evil Queen standing over them.
- In the original "Pilot" script, the Dark Curse is not black smoke, but a green mist. 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.
- For the first curse, the show cast members believed it would only be broken in the very last airing episode of the series. ("Once Upon a Time: Secrets of Storybrooke")
|Once Upon a Time: Season One|
Is a Lonely
|"Fruit of the|
|Once Upon a Time: Season Two|
|Once Upon a Time: Season Three|
|"The Heart of|
|Once Upon a Time: Season Four|
on the Edge
|"Unforgiven":||"Enter the Dragon":||"Poor|
|"Best Laid Plans":||"Heart of Gold":||"Sympathy|
|"Once Upon a Time:|
Magic is Coming":
|"Once Upon a Time:|
The Price of Magic":
|"Once Upon a Time:|
Journey to Neverland":
|"Once Upon a Time:|
Wicked is Coming":
|"Once Upon a Time:|
Storybrooke Has Frozen Over":
|"Once Upon a Time:|
Secrets of Storybrooke":
Note: "Archive" denotes archive footage.
- The Dark Curse is featured in Once Upon a Time's Season One novelization, Reawakened: A Once Upon a Time Tale.