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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The "Living Water" in Once Upon A Time

Time for another plunge into the murky metaphorical depths of Once Upon A Time (OUAT), this time following up on one of the Austenesque echoes I previously detected, i.e., the reference by the mysterious stranger August Wayne Booth to the "watering hole" he brings her to in Episode 13 of OUAT....

This past week, I've been catching up on all the episodes of OUAT which I did not see (as I only began watching at Episode 13!), and allowing my imagination to wander freely among the themes and symbols which abound in OUAT. That's when I was led once again to Episode 13, "What Happened to Frederick", specifically the magical water which just happens to crop up in both the fairy tale world and the real world.

To briefly summarize how that works out in Episode 13, I quote from fellow OUAT obsessive Catriona Wightman at....

...for these summaries:

Fairy Tale World:

"[Abigail's] one true love, Frederick, ended up being turned into gold after saving Midas from an attack. The only potential cure is to collect some water from a magical lake, which will bring whatever you have lost back to you. Naturally, this legendary lake is protected by an evil beast who has vanquished all that have attempted to take water. But Prince Charming's so miserable that he's willing to risk death to reunite Abigail and Frederick. When he gets to the lake, he discovers that the beast is actually a siren, who turns into Snow White. This is an interesting scene, actually - Charming knows that it's not Snow, but can't quite resist kissing her. Still, he's our hero, so even though no-one else has survived he manages it (because he knows true love, naturally)."


Real World:

"Somehow, [August Wayne Booth] got his hands on Henry's book and puts it back together again, before taking Emma to a well and feeding her water said to have the ability to bring whatever you have lost back to you (sound familiar?)."

What occurred to me as I contemplated these two scenes, is that the connection between them is not limited merely to being about water with magical properties--what is also present in both of these scenes is that they both carry an erotic charge. In the fairy world, that sexual charge is made pretty darned explicit when Charming is nearly overpowered by lust for the ultra-tempting super-sexy siren. In the real world, that charge is there too, but it's subliminal, as a kind of subtle sexual tension which seems to arise between Emma and the handsome smiling stranger, August Wayne Booth, as she rides out with him on his motorcycle to the wishing well, and he teases her with all sorts of hints about hidden meanings in Henry's book.

And that brings me finally to my main point---call me crazy, but this meme of magical water, combined with a private, intimate rustic sexualized encounter between a man and a woman, instantly brought to my mind a very famous passage from the most famous book ever written---I am talking about Chapter 4 of the Gospel of John in the Christian Bible, the mysterious tale of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman:

"...Then came [Jesus] to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus by the well; and it was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said unto her, "Give Me to drink." (For His disciples had gone away unto the city to buy meat.)

Then said the woman of Samaria unto Him, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest a drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria?" For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, "If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, `Give Me to drink,' thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." The woman said unto Him, "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. From whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank thereof himself, and his children and his cattle?"

Jesus answered and said unto her, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." The woman said unto Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw."

Jesus said unto her, "Go, call thy husband, and come hither." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said unto her, "Thou hast well said, `I have no husband'; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband. In that thou saidst truly."

The woman said unto Him, "Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and ye say that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said unto her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither on this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."

The woman said unto Him, "I know that Messiah cometh, who is called Christ. When He has come, He will tell us all things." Jesus said unto her, "I that speak unto thee am He." And upon this came His disciples and marveled that He talked with the woman; yet no man said, "What seekest Thou?" or, "Why talkest Thou with her?" The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city and said to the men, "Come, see a man who told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ?" Then they went out of the city and came unto Him....."

END QUOTE (KJB, Modernized)

Now, if you've read the above closely, the reason this passage from John 4 came to my mind should be clear. I think it's quite likely that whoever was responsible for putting the magical water motif in the scenes in Episode 13 had in the back of his/her mind the above passage from John Chapter 4. There's just too much metaphorical "smoke" for this to be coincidental.

And...what makes this Biblical resonance even more striking is that I realized a month ago that there are unmistakable sexual overtones of this passage in John Chapter 4. When I first detected these overtones myself, I did some quick research, and was relieved to find that they have been noticed before by a number of Biblical scholars, and have been argued most convincingly and thoroughly by the brilliant Prof. Alan Watson, in his book Jesus And the Jews: the Pharisaic Tradition in John.

So...what does this all mean, in terms of the viewer's understanding of the nature of the book that Henry had, and which AWB returns to him? What does it suggest about August Wayne Booth himself?

I leave it to all those who have persevered through this post, and who find the implications intriguing, to infer from it whatever comes to your imagination. And let's see what happens in the new Episode that will be airing this evening, which perhaps will shed more light on this "living water" in OUAT!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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