A Fan Theory by Teresa Martin (@Teresa__Martin)
The Powers that Be on Once Upon A Time have confirmed that Rumpelstiltskin will play a role in returning Belle’s memories. It occurred to me that he will relinquish his powers in exchange for Belle returning to normal. This is a logical progression in the story of Belle and Rumpelstiltskin for “Skin Deep” established that their conflict centered on his love of power. The attachment was ultimately for a good cause as the audience learned later in “The Return.” That episode revealed that Rumpelstiltskin’s desire for power was not a lust, but rather faithfulness to his belief that magic was the only way to get his son back. When he mistakenly thought that August was his son, Rumpelstiltskin showed that Bae had become his sole motivation since he handed the dagger to August, essentially renouncing his power.
Hence finding the real Bae will be more than an emotional reunion, but also the event that signals the end of Rumpelstiltskin’s reign as the Dark One. The scene with August will replay except this time it will be the real Baelfire to whom Rumpelstiltskin gives the dagger. This will turn out to be the “price” he needed to pay to finally have Belle, not only with her memories intact, but also as his mate. The conflict prevalent in Rumbelle’s story-arc since Season One will be resolved.
Yet with the finding of Baelfire, this plot will not only be about how it affects Rumpelstiltskin. If we consider that Neal is Baelfire and is given the dagger, he will have the power of the Dark One at his disposal. Being a changed man from his experiences in the school of hard-knocks, he has perhaps changed his convictions and come to believe that his father was right: having power is the only way to protect himself and those he loves. Therefore, he will choose to use the power of the dagger to become the new Dark One.
This means that the spoiler pictures of Cora with the dagger are actually not as ominous as they seem. Rather Cora will produce the ultimate “fail” when she tries to control Rumple and instead is faced with Dark One Baelfire, sword ready to take out the presumptuous witch. Since it is unlikely that Bae in his teens had a mentor that trained him in “wax on, wax, off,” his skills with the sword are explained by the acquiring of new power. How Bae receives this is not certain, but it is not unprecedented for new rules of magic to “conveniently” emerge for a plot.
Therefore the recovery of Belle will be both a sacrifice for Rumpelstiltskin and a gain. He will retain his means of protecting his loved ones, not by wielding it himself, but through Baelfire’s choice to make his family a magical force with which Cora must reckon as the season progresses.