May 30, 2012

Once Upon a Time: Emma's Baby Blanket, By Samantha Kymmell-Harvey -- A Guest Post

Editor's Note: Today's guest post can be seen as a companion piece to a post about ABC's hit TV show Once Upon A Time, by Samantha Kymmell-Harvey and published in EC a few months ago. Together, they give us a great picture of what is appealing about the show.

With all that’s going on in ABC’s Once Upon a Time it’s so easy to overlook the tiny details that just might make difference in future episodes. Like Emma’s baby blanket. We see Granny stitching it in the pilot. Next, we see it draped across the back of a chair in Emma’s Boston apartment. Finally, she brings it with her when she moves in with Mary Margaret.  Why would tough Sheriff Swan keep her baby blanket? “Because it’s all I have of my parents,” she tells Nicolas and Ava (Hansel and Gretel in Fairytale Land), with whom she feels a strong connection because they too have lost their mother and father.

Gustave Dore (altered)
What if Emma’s baby blanket is more than just a memento of her parents and proof of her  true name? What if it, perhaps, it possesses a special quality? At the moment, this is pure speculation -- but it wouldn’t be the first time an Otherworldly mother, forced apart from her family, leaves behind an extraordinary blanket for her child.

In the highlands of Scotland, Dunvegan Castle proudly displays the Fairy Flag of the Clan McLeod. Legend has it that a handsome chief of the MacLeod clan fell in love with the beautiful daughter of the Fairy King. Despite her father’s warning that the human would grow old and die, the fairy princess insists on marrying him. So the King grants her permission to remain in the human world as Chief MacLeod’s wife for one year and one day. They are happily wed and soon a son is born to the couple.

But when a year and a day had passed, the Fairy Princess tearfully leaves her husband, warning him that the baby must not be allowed to cry, for she would hear it and it would pain her.

On Chief MacLeod’s birthday, there is a great celebration with a feast and music for dancing. When the baby finally falls asleep, his young caretaker sneaks out to enjoy the music. She does not hear the child begin to cry. But the Fairy Princess does, and she returns to her son’s crib, wraps him up in her fairy shawl, and lulls him to sleep with her magical words. In the morning, they find the baby sleeping peacefully, wrapped in a silk cloth of yellow and red elf-dots.

This shawl is the Fairy Flag. The princess tells her son that if the MacLeods find themselves in mortal danger, they need only to wave the flag and the Fairy Folk would come to their aid.

The Fairy Princess bequeaths this protective blanket to her child, just as Snow White wraps baby Emma in a blanket before sending her to the human world to protect her from the curse. Maybe her blanket is ordinary, but perhaps it possesses the love and protection of an Otherworldly mother separated from her child.

Samantha Kymmell-Harvey’s work can be found in Fantastique Unfettered, Underneath the Juniper Tree, and The Urbanite.

Check out her blog at


Teresa Robeson said...

Because we don't watch a whole lot of shows in real time, I've put Once Upon a Time (and Grimm) in my Netflix queue and can't wait to start watching them!

Lissa said...

I love the story of the fairy princess--I don't think I've heard that one before.

Anonymous said...

I couldn’t agree more, about the part where the author says that it is easy to overlook the tiny details. I’ve never heard of this story about the fairy princess, but did definitely does make me wonder how significant that blanket could be; also makes me want to watch Once Upon a Time. I feel that fairy tales don’t get the examination and attention as much as they should get, and it is easy to concentrate on the bigger picture while leaving the little stuff which can make a huge difference in the story. Not taking enough notice of the message behind a tale can lead to awful misconceptions, instead of raising questions about why something is done a certain way. Perhaps the blanket is a symbol of protection and comfort, and helps hold that bond between the mother and the child. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean that it is a bad thing, but rather a moment that you are on your own into the human world, but at the same time you have this “blanket” to always look back at when you feel alone.

Diana Hernandez

Anonymous said...

What an interesting perspective on a detail that many people wouldn’t consider! I agree with you that Emma’s baby blanket has a hidden meaning to it. It seems as if every detail on “Once Upon a Time” has some purpose to it and the more times that detail appears the greater importance the detail will have for the character it belongs to. There does seem to be some sort of parallel between Emma and her blanket and the story of the Fairy princess story, just what the connection is, is yet to be discovered. It seems that in most Fairy tales love over comes all, whether it be parental, brotherly, or romantic love. That love includes objects that have been made or given out of love. These objects many times even seem to have protective powers against evil or others attempting to harm the owner of the object. Thank you for offering an intersting perspective on objects and their meanings in fairy tales!

Anna W.