(& scroll down to read my literary sleuthing posts)
Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

George Augustus Frederick, The Prince of Whales, The Big Bad Wolf, King George & Dr. Whale

So far, in my previous two posts, I have focused on the mysterious August Wayne Booth in my argument that Once Upon A Time (OUAT) is, in part, a veiled reworking of Jane Austen’s greatest novel, _Emma_:

And I also noted that the name “Emma Swan” is based, in part, on the name of the eponymous heroine of _Emma_, Emma Woodhouse. Before going on, I also want to add that it is not a coincidence that Emma’s last name is “Woodhouse”, because in an important way she is like the three pigs who are not safe from the Big Bad Wolf while they are in their house of twigs (which is a “wood house”)—and this is a fairy tale which interested Jane Austen:

Anyway, with that background, I am now going to expand my OUAT name analysis to also include FOUR OTHER character names:

DR. WHALE is a doctor at Storybrooke’s's hospital. He has very strong ties to Regina Mills, and is willing to do anything for her.

KING GEORGE is the father of Prince James and his twin.

FREDERICK is a knight who was accidentally turned to gold, when he saved King Midas from an attack.

HENRY is a precocious 10 year-old boy who believes the inhabitants of Storybrooke are characters from his fairy tale book trapped in the real world by the Evil Queen’s curse.

So what does the interaction of the above six character names (August Wayne Booth, Emma Swan, Dr. Whale, Frederick, King George, and Henry) have to do with Jane Austen’s _Emma_? Only everything!

Let me take you through this step by step:

As every Janeite knows, in Chapter 9 of Austen’s _Emma_, there is a charade:

My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,
Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.
Another view of man, my second brings,
Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!

But, ah! united, what reverse we have!
Man’s boasted power and freedom, all are flown;
Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,
And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.

The heroine, Emma Woodhouse, naively believes she understands everything and is smarter than her friend Harriet, and Emma quickly solves the charade with the answer “courtship”. However, in 2006, my friend the brilliant scholar Colleen Sheehan found that there was at least one other _secret_ answer to the charade, one which Harriet’s “dumb” answers actually point to, and that answer is the “Prince of Whales”:

So far so good?

Now we get to the meat on the bone.

If you read Colleen Sheehan’s article carefully, you may have noted that the full name of the Prince Regent was GEORGE AUGUSTUS FREDERICK of the House of Hanover. And even without having read Colleen’s article, you might have known already that his father was the famous KING GEORGE III who lost the American colonies during our American Revolutionary War, and that the Prince became KING GEORGE IV in 1820 when his father finally died.

So, is it just a coincidence that all these names have been applied to characters in OUAT which, in its fairy tale world is all about kings and queens?
The icing on the allusive cake, so to speak, is that the secret answer to the charade in Chapter 9 of _Emma_ is the Prince of WHALES (which of course is a pun on the place name “WALES” without an “h”). Jane Austen was secretly but very satirically alluding to the derisive name that the English people had given to the Prince, who, in addition to being a manslut, profligate gambler, and general hellraiser for decades before he became king, was also extremely obese, due to the awful combination of his gluttonous lifestyle and the rare genetic disease, porphyria, that seriously disabled and then killed his father King George III.
Now, you will have to believe me that, never having watched OUAT before this past Sunday, I had absolutely no idea until this morning that there was a character in OUAT named “Dr. WHALE”—but after finding all of the above connections in OUAT’s character names to the charade from Chapter 9 of _Emma_, just for the helluvit, I searched “OUAT Whale” to see what came up, and Dr. Whale is what turned up on my screen!!!!

Now, what are the odds that all of these names, including most of all “Whale”, would be used in OUAT in this particular courtly, fairy tale context by accident, by pure unintended coincidence? I would suggest to you, vanishingly small odds indeed! It seems to me that at least one of the creators of OUAT has been reading up online about the shadow story of _Emma_ , which I have been talking about since early 2005 in public Austen discussion groups.

So I will leave you all to absorb all of the above, and ponder what the veiled allusion to _Emma_ in OUAT might mean?

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

P.S.: And I will leave for a future post the curious fact that the man whom Emma marries at the end of Austen’s novel is named……GEORGE KNIGHTley, and that the name of Emma’s father and also that of one her nephews, is HENRY! And, for good measure, to note that Jane Austen’s own father (and her second eldest brother, who was disabled in some unknown way) was GEORGE, and that two of Jane Austen’s brothers were, respectively, named HENRY and JAMES!


Anonymous said...

Being a fan of both OUAT & Jane Austen I must say the following:

I think you're stretching things a little far in terms of trying to find connections between Jane Austen & a simple television series. While Emma might share her name with our beloved heroine, she shares none of her personality nor her dilemmas. OUAT's Emma is not rich and secure, nor has she stayed in one place all her life having never ventured beyond the village where she grew up.

Another thing, the names Jane used in her novels were actual names of nobility, usually noble lines that had long since gone extinct centuries earlier.

Another thing, while oral traditions existed, the story of the three little pigs as we know it wasn't in print until long after Jane Austen had died--the 1890 when Joseph Jacobs collected English folklore and published a collection of tales. The earliest printed versions appeared at earliest in the 1840s. Austen died in 1817--so the probability of her knowing the story would have to be relied upon her family being familiar with the folk story--which most people of her class in the 19th Century weren't--hence the reason for Jacobs collecting the folk tales to begin with, to reintroduce the folk traditions the rising middle class had long since lost or forgotten.

Arnie Perlstein said...


I don't think it's a simple tv series at all, I think it's a very ambitious one. And you're being way too strict in your allusive criteria, something I see a lot--you miss the point that fiction writers are not CPA's, they're metaphorical gymnasts, and therefore they would not bother to write the kind of allusions you say are legitimate.

And by the way, I have traced the Three Pigs story back at least as early as 1830, only 22 years after Jane Austen's Letter 57 in which I claim she first allude to that story. I am confident that I will find versions from early in the 18th century.

She was an amazing literary scholar in her own right, I have evidence of that in dozens of different contexts.

Just you wait, Henry Higgins....

Arnie Perlstein said...

And I meant to add, the most important part of my claims is the clustering of allusive bread crumbs in OUAT---any one of the names could be a coincidence, but to find that particular dense cluster of names which all point specifically to Emma, and in particular, the puzzlishness of Emma, is beyond all statistical probability.