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Once Upon a Time provides examples of the following tropes:

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  • Iconic Item:
    • Emma's red coat.
    • Captain Hook's, well, hook.
    • The only time we see Elsa dressed differently than the movie is in the flashbacks. Otherwise, it's her iconic blue dress all the time, even when impractical (such as while riding in Emma's VW).
    • Belle is occasionally seen wearing the same outfits her animated counterpart wore. In Season 4's season premiere that included her yellow ball gown.
    • Maleficent's traditional horned headdress in Season 4.
  • The Idealist:
    • Prince Charming, compared to Snow White. He is the one who invents their I Will Find You motto and thinks that Emma will come back.
    • Daniel, compared to Regina. He believed that they should just talk to her mother, and that they would overcome their hardships and marry easily in the end.
  • Identity Amnesia: Everyone with the exception of Emma, Henry, Regina, Gold, Jefferson, Neal/Baelfire, and August. Graham was cured from this after kissing Emma...just before he died.
    • At the end of Season 1 the curse is broken and the Identity Amnesia is removed, only to be replaced by a new version: anyone who attempts to leave Storybrooke, or is forced across the town line loses all memory of who they were before the curse. Most notably, this happens to Belle in Season 2, leaving her with no memories at all since unlike most Storybrooke residents she didn't have a Storybrooke counterpart during the curse.
    • The trope is somewhat turned on its ear by several Storybrooke residents, most notably Red/Ruby, stating they wish they still had identity amnesia as they didn't care to regain memories of things they did before the curse.
    • Emma and Henry have this for awhile in Season 3, after Pan's curse prompts Regina to give them happy fake memories where they've always been together but have no recollection of Storybrooke or it's inhabitants.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Some scenes in Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest focus on one specific element, closes in the focus, and when the shot pulls back, the location has changed from one to the other. One notable example is The Reveal of August's true identity.
  • Idiot Ball: Meted much more often in the second season.
    • Granny in "Red-Handed." Instead of simply telling Ruby that she is the wolf and her cloak can prevent the transformation, she relies on the mistaken assumption that Ruby will heed her warnings, stay inside, and always wear her cloak.
    • It's practically a Required Secondary Power for Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin. That is, aside from all the actual magic, his power over people lies in the "Deals" he makes with them. But what really makes that power work is his ability to smack them with the Idiot Ball at the key moment of the negotiation.
    • The otherwise cunning Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin is given an idiot ball any time there's trouble concerning Belle.
      • When Regina of all people tells him about Belle's death, he seems to immediately forget all magical or non-magical means of checking this himself. Regina keeps Belle locked up for 28 years.
      • When Belle stumbled over the town line and lost her memory (thereby making Gold a stranger to her) his reactions include turning extremely violent in plain sight of her, kissing her when she's unconscious in hospital, trying to pressure her into remembering while babbling on about charms, magic and castles and generally reverting to his cold-hearted jerk persona - hell of a way to endear himself to her.
      • Or anything concerning his son. In Ep. 2.12, Cora literally gives him a ball as enticement to accept the Deal she's offering.
    • In the second episode of the second season, "We Are Both":
      • Emma and Snow neglect to mention anything about Storybrooke, the curse, and/or their identities to the Enchanted Forest's survivors. That would've made the trip home so much easier, and Cora might not have been alerted to their presence.
      • And then they try to make a bolt for it while tied up and surrounded by alert, armed villagers.
    • In the third episode of the second season, "Lady of the Lake":
      • Emma shoots her gun in order to break up an argument. Shortly after learning that ogres hunt via sound.
      • Emma telling Cora about Henry.
      • Snow drinks "water" given to her by King George, a man who clearly has it out for her.
    • In the sixth episode of the second season, "Tallahassee":
      • Emma double-crosses and abandons Hook out of fear of being betrayed again by a man, despite him not lying about his absence of loyalty to Cora, and her being MUCH more trusting of and intimate with Graham. Hook doesn't take this well, later ripping out Aurora's heart for Cora and providing her with a means to get to Storybrooke.
    • In "Child of the Moon" while Ruby/Red is concerned enough about changing into a wolf and hurting people that she locks herself up, no one thinks to have people on watch, they just go off on their business with even Granny not on guard duty. Not even a security camera if they were that concerned that the guard wouldn't be safe.
    • The eighth episode of the second season, "Into the Deep":
      • Aurora gets captured by Cora, whom we've already seen impersonate Lancelot, and yet when she turns up again they don't suspect any trap. Granted it's not the same kind of trick as before, but...
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: "The home of the blind witch. That doesn't sound good."
  • If I Can't Have You...: Regina murders Graham once he rejects her for Emma.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Queens of Darkness Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella pull one on Regina when the latter goes under cover to find out what they, and Gold, want with the book. To prove herself, she has to kidnap Pinocchio. She later has to do it again by getting a missing page of the book from Henry; he recognizes Regina's true motives and gives her a forgery to satisfy Maleficent and Co.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight:
    • Snow White's allies after she takes Rumple's potion and the resulting memory loss turns her to the dark side. Subverted in that they fail, and only falling in love again brings her back instead of recalling old memories.
    • Prince Charming coaxes Ruby in her wolf form out of her fear.
  • Ignorance Is Bliss: The Dark Curse exiled characters from a fairy tale world into the real world with new memories. Considering nearly all of them have ridiculously tragic back stories, sometimes not knowing is a blessing.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Up to Eleven. Regina has an Ignored Epiphany about always having many Ignored Epiphanies.
    Regina: You know what my problem is? I never learn from my mistakes.
  • I Know Your True Name:
    • Rumplestiltskin is very particular about knowing people's names. It is stated in the pilot that if he knows your name, he will have power over you.
    • By knowing the Dark One's true name, it can be summoned and killed, should you have its dagger.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: This is how Regina slips up in the Season 2 episode "The Evil Queen." She's in disguise at the time, and in trying to convince Snow there is good in Regina, she drops her persona for an instant and reveals something about their shared history only Regina would know. In response, Snow nearly kills her, but Regina runs at the last second.
  • Immortal Breaker: Only the Dark One's dagger can kill the Dark One. However, while that One would die, doing so would also cause the killer to become the new Dark One. Only true love's kiss or willingly passing the blade to the Guardian can break the curse permanently.
  • Immortality Immorality: The Dark One is the only human that can gain (practically) everlasting life but it also turns them into monsters. Bringing one back to life involves Human Sacrifice.
  • Impairment Shot: We see the view of the dark henchman and the wardrobe tilt and go out of focus as Prince Charming closes his eyes after being mortally wounded in the Pilot.
  • Impersonating the Evil Twin: Charming fills in for his brother, James, although he isn't aware of his twin's evil until later.
  • Implicit Prison: Storybrooke, which prevents its residents from leaving, except for Henry in the pilot apparently, and once the curse is broken anyone attempting to leave loses their original memories. A Season 3 episode reveals that Regina also left the town at one point in order to adopt Henry, and again in order to return him when she had second thoughts about adopting.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills:
    • Charming's ridiculously good aim taking out the Queen's henchman with a bow and arrow in "Snow Falls".
    • Graham hits the bullseye three times in a row while playing darts in Storybrooke. He claims that he never misses — after drunkenly throwing a dart at a doorjamb just as Emma is about to walk out.
  • Improbably Cool Car: Storybrooke's streets are filled with well-preserved classics. Emma's VW Beetle fits right in.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Enforced, Subverted, and Double Subverted. Snow White's mother's dying words were an injunction to her daughter to be Good, and Snow lived a determinedly good life ever since...up until the threat posed by the Regina/Cora team-up drove her to trick Regina into killing Cora. That act horrified her into temporary catatonia, and since then she has been on a quest for redemption for every villain she sees, and herself.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Several times, mostly from Emma.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison:
    • After a fashion, how Snow deduces that Lancelot is Cora in disguise. Emma only told one person Henry's name.
    • Again in "The Evil Queen": This is how Snow figures out that the peasant woman she's been helping is actually a disguised Regina. When Snow is saying how there was never any good in Regina, Regina brings up the time she saved Snow when her horse went out of control. Snow told the peasant that story, but she never mentioned that the Evil Queen was the one who'd saved her.
    • Belle figures out that Lumiere is lying in "Quiet Minds" when he says that he's been trapped in Rumplestiltskin's library for centuries. Belle knows that Rumple built that library for her and did so barely thirty years ago.
    • Henry realizes the stranger he's talking to isn't another just another Peter Pan refugee when the boy calls him by name.
  • Infant Immortality: Come on. Did you really think they were going to kill off Henry in the first season finale?
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Excalibur. It's first mentioned in the third season, when Charming finds it for Snow so that she can drive out Regina (The sword Snow was using wasn't Excalibur, though. It was a fake Charming made as a Magic Feather so that she could rule). It's one of the few powerful non-Dark artifacts, and Rumplestiltskin even notes that it is immune to his powers. Season five, which puts a bigger focus on Camelot, expands on this - Excalibur was split in two, and the Dark One's dagger is actually the tip of the blade. The reason it's so powerful is because it was forged by Merlin from the Holy Grail.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: A rare inversion of the trope. Many of the characters specifically based on Disney original characters, rather than fairy-tale characters, look like they stepped right out of the movie.
    • Georgina Haig, though not involved with Frozen, is a dead ringer for Elsa's animated form, more so than any other OUAT character to date. The rest of the frozen cast are no slouches either. Tyler Jacob Moore very much captures Hans's physical form, and Elizabeth Lail is a near-perfect match to Anna.
    • Most of the Brave characters as well, notably Amy Manson as Merida and Lily Knight as the Witch.
  • Inn Between the Worlds: There is a room reachable through the Mad Hatter's hat connecting the Enchanted Forest with Wonderland, the Land of Oz, Neverland and the Land Without Color along with other various worlds or universes, though only ones with some magic.
  • Intangible Price: Magic always has a price, though it's not always as clear-cut as say, the cost of casting the Dark Curse which is destroying the thing they love most.
  • Intangible Theft: Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West, steals three things for her time travel spell: Rumplestiltskin's (metaphorical) brain, Prince Charming's courage, and Regina's heart (or rather, a physical manifestation of her metaphorical heart).
  • Interclass Romance: Played with. Snow White was a princess forced to live as an outlaw while Charming was a shepherd who took the place of his twin who raised as a prince.
    • Cinderella & her prince, Regina & Daniel and Cora & Henry were straighter examples.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Henry and Emma walk in on Snow and Charming in bed at the start of "The Cricket Game". Young Henry doesn't grasp what they were doing.
    Henry: What are you guys doing in bed? It's the middle of the afternoon!
    Emma: I'm...gonna go make some tacos! [turns around quickly]
    Charming: It's impressive that we can still provide her with a few traumatic childhood memories at this stage of the game.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Albeit a PG-rated version. When Tinkerbell and Hook first meet she holds him at knife-point at threatens to kill him. Hook backs her against a rock and they have a low-voiced conversation, faces inches apart, where they trade threats and discuss love, revenge, and "finding satisfaction."
  • Interspecies Romance: Between Grumpy (née Dreamy) the dwarf and Nova the fairy.
  • In the Blood: Strong magical powers can be passed from parent to child, whether by birth or other circumstance. This is revealed because Neal/Baelfire has stronger than normal magical capabilities with his father becoming the Dark One... about ten years after he was born. Of course, Rumpelstiltskin is the son of Peter Pan, who (as a mortal) had enough magical ability to control the Shadow, taking over Neverland and tossing his little boy away like so much trash. A reverse-engineered example would be Snow White, who never showed any magic aptitude, flinging fireballs around in Alternate History FTL, and our only clue is that Emma has magic.
  • Invincible Villain:
    • Cora comes off as one initially, thanks to her having very powerful magic, when most of the heroes are relatively mundane ( her first major defeat comes when the main characters accidentally find out that love is a very powerful magic).
    • Rumpelstiltskin is a literal one as long as you don't have his dagger.
    • Tamara appears to be infallible in her first few appearances. While she isn't directly opposing the heroes at the time, her plans succeed in the most contrived ways. Despite being new to Storybrooke, she ends up always being in the right place at the right time. However, it ends up that Tamara was only invincible because her secret boss allowed it.
    • Pan himself is a true example, as his tie to the power of Neverland makes him a Physical God so long as he believes he is...and he's arrogant enough to believe it wholeheartedly. However, it turns out that Rumplestiltskin was right all along; Pan can be defeated—but at the cost of his own life.
    • Hades is the biggest example. Being a god, nothing can harm him, let alone kill him save the Olympian Crystal, which can destroy anything.
  • Ironic Echo: Many of the Storybrooke characters echo lines from their fantasy counterparts.
    • Rumplestilskin (in his Mr. Gold form) refers to his favourite phrase "Magic always has a price" when lamenting that magic has become his crutch, since he has become dependent on using it to compensate for being such a coward.
    • Giving a baby their best chance.
      • A further twist of this with the reveal that Cora gave up Zelena in order to give herself her best chance.
    • "You have no idea what I'm capable of."
    • "I will always find you", said by Prince Charming to Snow White, in the Pilot and "Snow Falls" (two very different contexts); also Mary Margaret in the pilot: "If you love them and they love you, they will always find you."
    • Prince Charming to Baby Emma: "Find us"—later, grown up Emma: "Finding people is what I do."
    • In Episode 4, Mr. Gold calls Emma "charming"—aka her father's nickname. He called David the same thing in Episode 6.
    • "Didn't see that coming, did you?" both said by Charming to two very different animals.
    • Everything that happens to Rumplestiltskin in Episode 8, including The Dark One telling him "Magic always comes at a price."
    • Two phrases in Episode 16, both uttered twice. "I'm just invested in your future." Said by Rumple/Gold to Mary Margaret/Snow both times, and "Evil isn't born, it's made." (By two different villains.)
    • A visual version of this for a spoken line. You know how Regina messed with the Queen of Hearts earlier? Well, look at where Emma is aiming in Regina's dream. "Off with her head."
    • One episode named for a real-world city, "Tallahassee". deals with Emma's relationship with Henry's biological father. So does the next episode named for a real-world city, "Manhattan".
    • Belle/Lacey telling Gold that he "wasn't the man she thought he was." The first instance is in the Enchanted Forest, when Rumple spared Robin Hood's life. The second time was in Storybrooke, when Lacey finds Gold in the middle of beating the former Sheriff of Nottingham half to death with his cane.
    • "Does that surprise you?" is Hook's reaction both times Emma thanks him for doing something good/heroic.
    • In the first episode, Emma says to Henry "I don't have a son". In the Season 6 finale, Henry says to Lucy "I don't have a daughter". Doubles as a huge callback to the start of the show.
  • Irony:
    • Since the gross majority of the plot depends on deception, there are innumerable examples of dramatic irony.
    • Victor Frankenstein, of all people, leading an angry mob in the Season 2 premiere.
  • Island of Misfit Everything: The Land of Untold Stories
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Rumple getting himself locked up in Snow and Charming's dungeon early in the series was almost certainly of his own volition, as it enabled him to put pressure on Regina to accept his "Please" deal, lest she be unable to enact the Dark Curse.
  • It's Always Spring: Averted. For some reason, it's always "coat and jacket" weather in Storybrooke.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Kathryn, eventually, towards David and Mary Margaret. Regina does not agree.
    • Also, Neal, Henry's father, to Emma, who wanted her to live a crime free life.
    • David hopes that if he dies, Snow will be able to move on because he had been injured by a poisoned arrow.
    • In season 4, Regina of all characters is doing all she can to save Robin's wife Marian. She also suggests to him that if she fails, he will have to forget about her and love his wife back to make the true love's kiss work.
  • I Will Find You: Becoming a family motto for Snow White and Charming.



  • Jerkass Genie: Partial subversion in that it's the magic, not the genie, as the Arc Words "Magic comes at a price." The genie is even perfectly willing to warn against it. He's still personally a jerkass, in either world.
  • Jerk Witha Heartof Gold: Hook, despite pulling many awful stunts, ultimately operates by a code of honor and turns out to be a full hero once his feelings for Emma develop.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Regina and Mr. Gold both display aspects of this:
    • With Regina, every now and then she shows a side of her that's more sympathetic, such as when her son falls down the well or when she's saved from the fire. And then she ruins it either the same episode, or an episode later by doing something completely harsh. For example, it seems like she finally warmed up to Emma being there, when she confessed that Mr. Gold set her up, and after saving her from the fire. But it turns out that she just wants her there in order to go after people she doesn't like, telling her to "do her job" (which includes arresting innocent people).
    • Mr. Gold has some positive qualities and genuinely loves Belle and his son (yet is shown to break promises and/or behave cruelly toward them because of his obsession with power), and in addition to his gambits with positive outcomes, likes to make deals to screw people over and has killed for poorly justified reasons.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: It's from the people who worked on LOST, after all.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: It ended up a Red Herring, but the Fandom briefly feared that Snow White had done it in The Miller's Daughter. Her behavior is the sort of thing which would have been listed under Pragmatic Hero for some people on the show, but it's supposed to be Snow White, an archetype of Ideal Hero.


  • Kick the Dog: Regina's speech to Emma at the end of the pilot is absurdly cruel.
    • And the way Snow goes about killing Cora, though to Snow's credit, she regretted her actions almost immediately afterwards.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch:
    • Rumplestiltskin's first evil act was to slaughter the soldiers who humiliated him in front of his son and were going to conscript said son into the army.
    • In "Skin Deep", Mr. Gold behaves as a rather unsympathetic Loan Shark toward Moe French and later on savagely beats him for stealing something of value to him. This is somewhat understandable because in the Enchanted Forest, French is Belle's father and supposedly put her in an insane asylum where she was mistreated until she committed suicide in despair. This turns out to have been Blatant Lies, but Rumplestiltskin has no way of knowing that.
    • More often than not, most of the drama in the show consists of Regina, Rumplestiltskin, Hook and Cora antagonising each other.
    • Rumple murders Zelena when she's powerless and begging for mercy. Given that she enslaved Rumple, made him fight against his own allies, caused the death of his son, and tried to destroy everyone's existence by going back in time, most of the audience cheered.
    • Emma decks The Author hard enough to knock him several feet backwards once she meets him during the events of "Operation: Mongoose". Seeing as how he had changed the heroes lives for the worse and tried to kill Henry repeatedly, you can't say he didn't have it coming.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Cinderella's fairy godmother.
  • Killed Off for Real: Graham, and also Cora, as well as August, at least the adult version. They still appear in flashback arcs, though.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Prince Charming rushing to Snow White in the opening of the pilot.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Rumple turns a man into a slug and crushes him for a minor spat he had with Balefire.
  • Kubrick Stare: Emma pulls off a pretty strong one in the Season 1 finale.
  • Kudzu Plot: Unsurprisingly since it's from creators that once worked on LOST.
    • While most threads are tied up, several storylines will likely never have a proper conclusion. How and why did the Queen of Hearts captured King Henry? How Jefferson and Doctor Whale end up in Storybrooke despite living in others worlds than the Enchanted Forest? Why does August know so much about Rumplestilskin and his son? How did Aurora and Mulan bring Phillip back? And for that matter, what happened to Mulan after supposedly joining Robin Hood's Merry Men?
      • How Henry ended up captured (and shrunken) in Wonderland is finally revealed in the first episode of Season 5B. At least some of why August knows what he is does is revealed or implied (though not all) in Season 4B during the Author arc (he had access to the storybook and learned all about the Author from the Dragon and his research). Some of what happened to Mulan is revealed in Season 5A, but still not all. The rest remains unexplained.


  • Lady in Red:
    • In Emma Swan's first scene she wears a sexy magenta dress to a blind date that turns out to be her trap to catch an escaped bailjumper.
      • During the vast majority of the scenes taking place outdoors, Emma is wearing a red leather jacket. In fact, said jacket has practically gone on to become an Iconic Item for her.
    • Red Riding Hood's Storybrooke counterpart Ruby.
  • Large Ham: The Enchanted Forest versions of the Evil Queen and Rumplestiltskin.
    • "This is the Wicked West!"
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Rumplestiltskin's cowardice costs him his wife, his son, Belle, and more.
    • The Genie's murder of the man who freed him leads to his re-imprisonment.
    • Perhaps to be expected in a series that also features Pinocchio, lies tend to rebound back on those who tell them.
    • David's dishonesty with Kathryn and Mary Margaret almost costs him Mary Margaret for good.
    • The events of "Tallahassee" and the first scene in "Broken" suggest Emma may have set herself up for some of this later on by telling Henry that his father died a hero. (And the events of "Manhattan" prove this to be correct.)
    • Cora sets up a spell where one life can be exchanged for another's and sickens Snow White's mom in the hopes of corrupting Snow White into using Dark magic to save her mother. Snow White refuses and her mom dies from Cora's spell. 30+ years later, Cora is rampaging across Storybrooke and about to get absolute power, while Hook has poisoned Rumple. Snow gets her hands on that candle again. Supplied by Rumple, who then encourages her to use it on Cora so that Cora dies instead of him.
    • Regina spent her time as Queen on an indiscriminate Roaring Rampage of Revenge against anyone suspected of helping (or sympathizing with) Snow White across the countryside, slaughtering entire villages to make a point. One of the people she executed? Maid Marian. Now, she's built a new life, hooked up with Robin Hood, made some progress on a Heel–Face Turn... Guess who Emma rescued while playing with the Timey-Wimey Ball and brought back to present-day Storybrooke?
    • After having experienced a life with Henry (albeit a fake memory of one), Emma is adamant that she and Henry would be better off returning to New York rather than staying in Storybrooke with her family. It takes a trip to the past and almost undoing her existence to set her straight.
  • Leaking Can of Evil: The darkness is this. Long ago, Merlin fought the darkness and sealed it inside a willing human being and used a magical dagger created from a shard of the sword Excalibur to control them. This being became the first in a long line of beings known as "The Dark One" and appeared as a dark mage of unfathomable power and a green scaly appearance only a mother could love. So long as the dagger was held by the forces of good, they could control the Dark One and keep him/her from ravaging the land. Unfortunately Rumplestiltskin held onto the dagger and was instead tempered from laying waste to the world by his remaining humanity embodied by his love for his son and desire to reunite with him.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In "Skin Deep".
    Evil Queen: Oh no, I wouldn't ask a woman to kiss the man who held her captive. What kind of message is that?
    • It's pretty clear that Emma and Regina are finding it hard to take the whole flying monkey business completely seriously.
    • With the Season 4 introduction of "The Author", it is implied that a previous "Author" was Walt Disney himself, responsible for creating the most well-known versions of all the fairy tale characters.
  • Legacy Character: The Big Bad Wolf, of all characters.
    • Rumplestiltskin is the latest in a long line of "Dark Ones", each one immortal until murdered by the next one. He was preceded by Zoso and eventually replaced by Emma.
  • Leitmotif: The Evil Queen, Snow White, Charming (who has an especially awesome one), and the Official Couple Snow/Charming all have their own music themes. Later, August, Belle, and Hook have their own. Hook and Emma also have one as a couple.
    • The music that plays in the backgruond when Rumplestiltskin and Belle dance on their honeymoon is the theme song from Beauty and the Beast. Similarly, the tune to Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians} plays in one of her scenes.
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • This, along with Reconstruction, may explain the show's success. After years of sexed up comedy shows, reality TV, Darker and Edgier dramas with Black and Gray Morality conflicts, and grislier police/medical/lawyer procedural shows, a straight up battle between good and evil with an intriguing mystery at the core feels so refreshing to audiences in comparison.
    • The second season goes Darker and Edgier, and... well, the above reasoning also explains why it's had a noticeable drop in the ratings compared to the first season.
      • Season 4, however, introduced the inherently lighter and softer characters from Frozen and the rating shot right back up again.
    • The story of Hansel and Gretel is softened by making it an accident that the children were separated from their father rather than him abandoning them.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Many instances of this. It is the source of a few Funny Moments to see how alike some characters are to their parents or grandparents.
    • The most serious use of this trope is most probably the resemblance between Peter Pan and his son Rumplestiltskin in terms of how they abandoned their respective sons out of sheer selfishness. There is, however, one key difference: Rumple instantly regretted it, and spent years trying to make up for it, while his father never regretted it, to the point that he even gloats about it.
    • Like Father Like Daughter: It would seem that Henry's daughter does not fall far from her progenitor's tree. Who else but his daughter could turn up at the doorstep of someone who she knew wouldn't know her from Adam's housecat.
    • This is also very notable amongst the Mills women in particular. Regina and Zelena are both rather vicious and heartless like their mother Cora (which Cora ultimately wanted all along), and Regina especially shows off the same controlling behavior with her son that Cora showed with her. The aversion of this trope is also extremely important with the sisters, however - Cora would never have sacrificed herself for her daughters, and in fact explicitly sacrifices their own happiness for her benefit. Regina and Zelena both have put their lives directly in danger (Zelena even offering to trade places with Robin when the latter ends up chosen as a Human Sacrifice for Gothel) in order to protect their children.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Somewhat in the Enchanted Forest, at least for some of the more iconic characters. For instance, Belle shows up in a bar in "Dreamy" wearing the same finery she had when in her father's and the Beast's castles.
    • The outfit Queen Eva is buried in is the same one she wears planning a ball and then on her deathbed.
    • Captain Hook has been wearing the same leather pants and coat since he was introduced, basically.
      • He finally updates his look in "The Apprentice", and he seems to be sticking with the new outfit.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Snow crosses the Moral Event Horizon, her heart literally begins to blacken. Regina's heart is almost entirely black.
  • Little Black Dress: Possibly a bit of lampshade-hanging given the wholesome nature of the characters involved, but so far Belle, Ariel and Tinker Bell have all been seen wearing some variant of the LBD while in Storybrooke. In fact so far it's the only item of clothing Ariel and Tink have been seen wearing thus far (with Belle sometimes swapping out for a little blue dress or some such, though she also dresses weather-appropriate when necessary).
  • Living Emotional Crutch:Daniel, young Regina's lover to Regina. After, he dies, she is ready to be married off and looks like she is dead inside. If Regina didn't discover that Snow was partly responsible for Daniel's death, Regina possibly would have stayed dead inside.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: With what appears to be access to the whole of Disney's character catalog, the show's number of characters is ever expanding.
  • Local Hangout: Granny's diner (which seems also to serve drinks like a pub).
  • Longest Pregnancy Ever: Ella's 28-year and 9-month pregnancy. Justified in the fact that time having stopped in Storybrooke is a major plot point. Ella was pregnant when the curse hit, so logically, she would have been stuck like that until Emma arrived. And when Emma does arrive, she's finally able to give birth. Though it's not like she would remember being pregnant for that long, at least until the curse is broken.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Henry and Emma. Emma and her parents, Charming and his twin. Rumple and Peter Pan, his father. Rumple and Baelfire/Neal, his son.
    • Ingrid the Snow Queen is revealed to be the aunt of Elsa and the former foster mother of Emma.
    • Young Emma's childhood friend Lily is the long lost daughter of Maleficent, who was stolen from her mother by Snow and Charming while she was still an egg.
  • The Lost Lenore/The Mourning After: This is how Snow White's father feels about his first wife.
    • Daniel is very much this for Regina, his death being the main cause for her hatred against Snow, which is why she cast the curse.
  • Love at First Sight: Oddly enough, less than you'd think. Several of the main couples (Rumplestiltskin/Belle, Snow White/Prince Charming) did NOT have this in their romance, and for those who did (The genie/Regina), there ended up being negative consequences from it.
    • You could argue that, at least, Prince Charming did fall in love with Snow White at first sight...
    • Played Straight/Retconned in "A Curious Thing", Snow confess to Charming: " I've loved you since the first moment I saw you".
    • In "Ariel", Hook claims he never thought he'd be capable of letting go of his first love, until he met Emma. Although his revenge continued to guide his actions after that and for a while he still flirted with every woman in sight.
    • Emma and Hook avert this as well, which Hook lampshades in the Season 6 finale.
      Hook: Look, it wasn't exactly Love at First Sight, but we've worked it out, okay?
  • Love Hurts:
    • Dozens of times between Charming/David and Snow/Mary Margaret. Those two in both worlds run into emotional/moral roadblock after roadblock on the way to getting together. They're pretty battered and bruised at this point.
    • Emma suffers from this when she discovers Graham has been sleeping with Regina. And later on when Henry's biological father reenters her life in a very unexpected manner.
    • Rumplestiltskin:
      • He ends up with this after he learns what happened to Belle after he made her leave his castle (under the incorrect impression that she was working for the Evil Queen).
      • And then there's what Milah did to him...and what he did to Milah afterward.
      • And then there's what Cora did to him after he helps her.
    • Having to forsake his love for the fairy Nova turned Dreamy the Dwarf into the Grumpy Dwarf we know today.
    • Regina and Daniel. That ended well.
    • Hook spends most of Season 3 making heart eyes and heartbroken eyes at Emma, especially when obstacles such as Neal's return and Pan's Curse prevent them from being together.
  • Love Makes You Evil:
    • Sidney/the Magic Mirror became evil because of his love for the Evil Queen.
    • Regina’s trying to frame Mary Margaret by implicating this.
    • Regina herself turned evil after the death of her true love, something for which she blames Snow.
    • Rumplestiltskin, for a slightly broader definition of "love" that includes parental love.
    • Both played straight and subverted with Captain Hook. The loss of his love Milah turned him evil, while falling in love with Emma makes him a better man.
  • Love Martyr: Belle to Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold. After an initial rejection from him and her in a cell in an asylum for bloody 28 years!, the start of the second season sees them in a relationship of sorts. They both avowedly love each other, but Gold is still fully capable of being a manipulative jerk, and sweet mother of Shakespeare, does Belle pay the price for it, be it through Gold himself or one of his many enemies recognizing Belle as the weak spot in his armor. And yet Belle never wavers.
  • Love Potion: The only potion Rumplestiltskin has been unable to make. Until he combines a strand of hair from Snow White and Prince Charming.
  • Love Redeems: Played with in the case of Rumplestiltskin. It's implied love could have saved him, but he rejected it. Because giving up his powers would have required him to give up on ever seeing Baelfire again; see Love Makes You Evil above. Since the girl in question hasn't given up yet, this may or may not turn into a full-blown Love Redeems.
    • Regina's attempts to redeem herself in Season 2 are motivated by the desire to prove herself to Henry and win him back.
      • Her love for Robin pushes her even further. Notably, she goes for I Want My Beloved to Be Happy and is willing for him to go with Marian instead, although she might get him anyway as it was actually Zelena disguised as Marian.
    • Captain Hook's redemption arc in Season 3 is motivated by his feelings for Emma.
  • Love Triangle:
    • A sort of lopsided one appears in Episode 7 between Emma, Graham and Regina. It ends with Graham's death by Regina's hand.
    • Then there's Snow White and Prince Charming loving each other despite the latter's Arranged Marriage to Abigail, as well as their Storybrooke counterparts: Mary Margaret, David and his wife Kathryn. The former love triangle is resolved with Charming leaving his wedding for Snow, and the latter love triangle is resolved once Kathryn pulls an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy and everyone gets their memories back.
    • Prince Phillip and Aurora are each other's true love. Mulan, Phillip's longtime comrade and friend, might be in love with him too. His untimely death at the hands of the wraith leaves this matter unresolved. Things have gotten a little more interesting with the reveal that Mulan is in love with Aurora as well, but has decided not to tell her because Aurora is pregnant with Phillip's baby.
    • Season 3 creates one between Emma, Neal, and Hook. Hook has feelings for her and Emma and Neal still deeply love each other, but have gone through too much pain to even think about attempting resume their relationship, with Emma even at one point proclaiming that she wished Neal was dead in order not to deal with it. So Emma preemptively shuts down the triangle by saying that the only important one in her life is Henry.
      • It seems like the love triangle will continue post-saving Henry, but Neal dies, officially resolving the triangle via Deathofthe Hypotenuse.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: Downplayed beginning in the second season. While those Enchanted Forest residents who had Storybrooke counterparts use modern-day tech with ease, those who did not—such as Belle, Hook, and Elsa—sometimes struggle. But this also varies according to their personalities. By season 4, bookish Belle has taught herself to use the internet, while Hook admits to not really knowing how to use a phone beyond pressing Emma's name.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: "The Bear King" is Merida, Mulan and Ruby versus Arthur and Zelina. None of the main characters appear at all.


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