By Teresa Martin - @Teresa__Martin
Once Upon a Time a rich family falls on hard times. Of all the children, only Belle stands out as a character of dignity. Noble though she is, she resolves to make the best of her situation and is not too proud to reduce herself to manual labor, seeking out the needy in her new “little town.” Belle is also a great scholar whose great learning and love of books keeps her from melancholy. When she finds herself in a situation wherein she becomes enslaved to a Beast, she is called by her sisters a “victim of beauty.”
In the service of the Beast she is constantly in danger of succumbing to a deeper melancholy and continues to look within and her books to survive. But she has another consolation. When she sleeps she is visited by a comely Prince, who loves her madly, and she falls in love with him as they converse. He also serves as her conscience, advising her of the truth in her heart.
In Belle’s waking hours, she visits with the Beast nightly and he always asks her to marry him, something from which she shrinks. Yet she pities the Beast in his misery.
Finally, so missing her old life, the Beast releases her to visit her home. She pledges to him that she will return.
But she doesn’t.
Surrounded by a comforting, non-complex environment, she finds solace. This leads her to break her vow and stay with those who make her happy.
Make her smile.
Yet this proves to be shallow as she finds that she is losing herself.
The Prince still comes to her in dreams, but he is in great pain since he is dying. His heart is shattered and he is all alone in his misery. The Prince shows her that it was the breaking of her vow that caused this.
Finally, Belle can take it no longer.
She goes back to the Beast and finds the dying Prince as she saw him in her dreams, yet it is not the man she knows, but the Beast.
At this moment she realizes that her Prince was the Beast all along and when she broke with him she broke with her True Love.
In soul-destroying tears she begs him to live. To come back to her.
She declares her love.
At that the Beast’s curse breaks. They are married and live “Happily Ever After.”
This is “Beauty and the Beast.”
Or as I like to call it, Season Four Rumbelle.
Rumplestiltskin has so far in 4b only revealed himself to Belle on two occasions: once wrapped in the “comely,” to make an understatement, Killian and later while she is literally asleep.
On a bed.
Both times in the Beast’s abode: Mr. Gold’s Pawn Shop.
During the heart-to-heart interaction with RumpleKillian, the scene takes on the ambiance of Fairy Tale Belle’s dreams. She opens up to him, tells how nice it is to be with Will who is easy to be around. Yet as she says this, she looks as though she is about to burst into tears.
And a lovely red rose shines in the background.
The scene climaxes with the “Prince” and she pledging themselves to each other in an exact mirror of “Skin Deep”.
The next time Rumple the Beastly Prince visits Belle, she is under a sleeping curse.
He bares his soul to her, telling her the truth about what he is and what he is facing. The scene ends with a kiss on her hand.
The ultimate respect a gentleman can pay to his lady.
There were fan complaints that these scenes were creepy and made Rumple look like a sick stalker. And indeed it would be if it were not mirroring the fairy tale.
For it is all symbolic. Every single moment.
Even Will, about whom I have had fantasies which include shouting “look at the flowers”, is a symbol: of Belle’s fickle family in the fairy tale.
No, I am not saying Will is fickle, but he is perceived that way, and will be so long as Anastasia, his Bride, haunts him. And she does haunt him by his absolute silence about her.
At first I thought it was crummy story-telling, but now I am convinced to the contrary.
It is exquisite storytelling.
And it is magical.
This shift in my perceptions occurred when I saw Rumplestiltskin kiss his sleeping Belle’s hand in the shop. I was instantly transported back in time to the little girl I was, so long ago, who would repeatedly go to my record player and play a narrative of “Beauty and the Beast”, with a book in my hand, as I waited for the “ding” which would tell me it was time to turn the page to see what happens next.
Even though I already knew what would happen, I listened to it over and over.
Since then as an adult I have learned what it is to fall in love with Beauty. To love until it hurts. And, maybe even one day, love until my life may be required of me by a world that is often quite Beastly.
And that is ok. Because I believe in Love.
This is why Once Upon a Time is so precious to me. Stories are sacred, and “Beauty and the Beast” has been the most holy of all.
That is the magic of Rumbelle.
I may be completely wrong, but I think what’s to come is so major that there has been a conscious choice this season by the writers, in a manner never yet seen, to be cryptic (at best), and deliberately misleading (at worst). They have chosen to use any means necessary to keep the plot secret, even at the expense of losing viewers. And they have lost them. A lot of them.
They almost lost me.
Shame on me for falling for it.
Because something is coming. Something big. Something that the writers believe is such a game-changer it will be worth the gamble that fans will love it when it comes.
For I think we are about to see the breaking of Rumplestiltskin’s curse.
I am not alone in this. It is all over social media and with good reason. All the pieces are blatantly in place and as it unwinds, we have been, unwittingly, treated to a masterful performance by Robert Carlyle that will ultimately make “Skin Deep” look like a half-hearted Valentine’s Day special.
Rumple lost his Happy Ending when Baelfire was murdered by Zelena, and in 4a he killed his heart: Belle. Hook once said explicitly that Rumple’s heart resided in Belle, which is why he shot her, leading to lost memories. To illustrate this symbolism, in 4b Rumple has a heart-attack. His 4a spiritual death is now a physical manifestation—as the rose in the cartoon was—of his borrowed time. He will die if he cannot have his redemption.
And that redemption is Belle.
Belle is a character in her own right, yes, but it cannot be avoided that she is also a symbol.
She is Beauty.
It is within her very name.
I’ve written that Belle is only Skin Deep in 4b and she almost seems Beastly: a woman who flaunts the breaking of her wedding vows in her husband’s shop.
As Belle in the Fairy Tale broke her vow to the Beast, killing him.
Belle as Skin Deep works if she is now incarnated into the very name of that episode, just as she is in the fairy tale. She has to be if this arc is a “Skin Deep” redo.
Except this time when True Love’s Kiss happens, Rumple will not run away, perhaps because he won’t be able to physically. But likely he will have been brought so low he won’t be capable of halting a thrust into the Refiner’s Fire which takes away the despicable selfishness that has blocked the magic from any previous kiss in Storybrooke. It will not be a great miracle-moment that brings him there or even a great act on his part. If only because I think “Heart of Gold” showed it has already happened: first when he was smote by his curse, and later by his vile actions which caused Belle to banish him. This passive hole of his own making has eaten him up so much that his heart as black as coal, as Zelena said, and the only thing left will be the emptiness which finally allows love in.
This is why the marriage of The Beauty and the Beast was never annulled or divorced onscreen.
Marriage is a symbol of Happily Ever After in fairy tales.
And so a magnificent conclusion to the Tale As Old As Time is on the horizon, only a few weeks away.
How bittersweet and strange it will be for me, and maybe others in the Once fandom, so gravely disheartened, to find that of all seasons, this is not the one to give up on our beloved show.
As we find that we can change about our perceptions of what we’ve seen.
And learn that we were wrong.