Once Upon a Time returns tonight for its seventh season, during which most of the original characters are gone and we’ve left Storybrooke for good. It’s a recipe for a mighty big mess, but fans know that’s just par for the course. Once Upon a Time is one of the wackiest shows on TV, thanks to the way it pulls characters from fairy tales and literature (most of them Disney adapted) and throws them in a blender, resulting in some truly odd pairings. Here are the relationships from the show—romantic, platonic, genetic, etc.—that would impress even the most imaginative fan fic writer.
The legendary warrior may have saved China and won the heart of a captain—but in Once Upon a Time, Mulan only had eyes for a prince... and possibly his fiancée. In the second season of the series, Mulan and Sleeping Beauty’s beau Prince Phillip were traveling buddies after she and Belle managed to change him back after he was transformed into a beast called Yaoguai. While everyone else in Storybrooke was suffering a curse, they were stuck back in the Enchanted Forest trying to find and wake up Sleeping Beauty, Prince Phillip’s one true love. Only one problem: Mulan herself was in love with Phillip.
At first, this meant Mulan watched like a lovesick puppy as Phillip and Aurora made googly eyes at each other, but then Phillip died (don’t worry, he came back, death means nothing on Once Upon a Time). While he was gone, though, his meant Mulan and Aurora got to spend more time together... and here’s where things get a bit more complicated. While Mulan was never confirmed to be queer, it’s heavily implied that she developed feelings for Aurora. It could be she was in love with both of them, or her feelings had shifted from one to the other. In any case, it didn’t matter. Aurora and Phillip had a baby together, and Mulan ended up as a freelancer for Merida.
King Arthur might just the biggest asshole in Once Upon a Time history. He ordered one of his servants to commit suicide, and drugged Guinevere so that she would forget she hated his guts and would serve as his perfect wife and queen. Oh yeah, and he murdered the father of Merida. You know, the girl from Brave. That’s why her entire story arc in the fifth season was dedicated to bringing Arthur down by any means necessary. But she had one obstacle: Prince Charming, who quickly became Arthur’s best bro. They even went jousting together in a pick-up truck! Trust me, it’s even crazier than it sounds.
Sadly, Merida didn’t succeed in defeating Arthur after he was captured by the heroes, because she stupidly let Sleepy, one of the Seven Dwarves, guard his cell (come on, girl). But it all worked out in the end: Hades showed up and broke Arthur’s neck, leaving his dead body on a bridge. Later on, we learned that Arthur had democratically seized control of the Underworld from Cruella de Vil and ruled it for 50 years. Hopefully that suicide guy is cool with it!
This is the stuff fan fiction was made for. Two of the greatest evil geniuses of our time, teaching first graders. During an episode in the sixth season, we saw Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll band together to make more of Jekyll’s serum, and Snow White got the idea to have them teach science to tiny little children. Can you imagine what that lesson plan would’ve looked like?
Technically we don’t actually see them teach the class, but Snow’s word is law so my belief is that it damn well happened before Jekyll kicked the bucket. That said, not showing these two mixing beakers in front of a bunch of six-year-olds might be one of the biggest crimes Once Upon a Time has ever committed—other than killing off Mr. Hyde as a villain, which I could go on and on about.
Ah, the relationship that started it all (if you want to set any Oncer’s heart aflutter, just mutter the words Swan Queen). When Emma Swan first arrived in Storybrooke at the behest of her biological child, Henry Mills, there was one woman who was not happy about the reunion: Regina Mills, Henry’s adoptive mother. Only this wasn’t a normal custody battle, since Emma Swan was the long-lost daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, and Regina was the Evil Queen... and Snow’s stepmother.
Over the years, Emma and Regina grew from mortal enemies to close friends, and willing co-mothers. It’s a happy ending, but it’s also incredibly awkward, given that (technically) Regina is both Henry’s mother and step-grandmother. And most of Henry’s grandparents are the same age as his parents. Speaking of which...
Henry’s father, Neil, was the son of Rumplestiltskin (different spelling than the original story)—you know, the guy who didn’t like when people knew how to pronounce his name. In Once Upon a Time, Rumple is known as the Dark One, i.e. the physical host of a dark magic simply known as the Darkness. As a result, he’s got ties with everybody, because he’s really good at making deals. He was Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, he helped Dr. Jekyll become Mr. Hyde, and he was married to Belle. That’s just for starters.
And the person Rumple actually taught to turn straw into gold? Why, that was the Evil Queen’s mother, Cora, who also happens to be the Queen of Hearts in Wonderland. Confused yet? Well, not as much as you’re about to be.
That’s right, Rumplestiltskin’s father is the boy who wouldn’t grow up. If you’re scratching your head wondering how a child who never reached puberty could spawn an offspring who became the literal embodiment of darkness, it’s kinda-sorta-technically explained in the show. Basically, Rumple’s adult father made a deal with a Shadow to be turned into an adolescent again, abandoning little Rumple in the process. Peter Pan then became the megalomaniacal overlord of Neverland, tempting lonely boys to come to his island with his magic pan flute (oh yeah, he’s the Pied Piper, too) and trapping them there for all eternity.
Apart from Rumpelstiltskin and Belle, which will go down in history as the most toxic relationship ever shown on television, Hades and Zelena is probably the worst couple Once Upon a Time has shipped (so far). Basically, the Lord of the Underworld fell in love with the Wicked Witch of the West after they went on a quasi-date together to go rip out the Scarecrow’s brain, which included sharing a bicycle and rolling around laughing in the leaves! It was his belief that loving her would make it so he could use the Olympus Crystal, which is a thing that I’m not going to bother getting into because it really doesn’t matter.
Hades ended up recreating the Underworld so that it would look like Storybrooke, because he thought it would make Zelena happy—though it’s actually because the budget on this show was like $35 per episode by that point. And the whole thing ended with Hades tragically dying and Zelena mourning the loss of her “True Love,” even though they’d only known each other for a collective total of, like, two hours and most of it was spent falling off a bike.
6) Captain Hook and Princess Jasmine sailed together on the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Stop me if you’ve heard this one! Once Upon a Time is known for how many times it brings random fairy tale characters together for no good reason, but season six had one of the craziest crossovers I’ve ever witnessed. During the season, Captain Hook was transported to the Enchanted Forest via the Nautilus (with Captain Nemo) to keep him separated from Emma, so Hook embarked on a quest to return to her side. During this adventure, the Nautilus came across Aladdin and Jasmine. Then through the magic of wishing (because Aladdin was a genie) they all ended up on an island where they encountered none other than Ariel, one of Jasmine’s best friends, who just happened to live on that very island with Prince Eric! What are the odds?
As weird as Hades and the Wicked Witch pairing was, that was nothing compared to that time when Zelena convinced Emma to fall in love with a monkey. After the third midseason break, we found Emma and Henry living happily in New York City, their memories of Storybrooke having been erased. She also got a boyfriend; his name was Walsh and he was super cute. After dating him for eight months, he even proposed! Things were looking bright for Emma.
Too bad Walsh was actually one of the Wicked Witch Zelena’s Flying Monkeys who was turned into a human and sent to spy on Emma for... reasons? It’s never quite clear. In any case, Emma found out the truth after drinking a potion of lost memories and Walsh revealed his true monkey form. Everything worked out for the best, but I can’t imagine Emma ever recovered from her bout of accidental bestiality. However, none of those compare to what has to be my favorite fan fiction pairing of all time....
Behold, the eight greatest words in the English language. Princess Anna, the girl from Frozen, is the one who instructed Snow White’s Prince Charming in the art of swordplay. That is something outside the realms of both reality and fantasy, yet here we are. And somehow, it still manages to pale in comparison to the actual reason why: So Prince Charming could defeat Little Bo Peep. What is this show?!
You see, Prince Charming didn’t start out as a prince. He was actually a farmer named David, and his twin brother had been selected to be the prince, so David spent most of his time with his mother growing stuff. Little Bo Peep, who was basically a mob boss, came by and demanded protection money or else she’d enslave David and his mom forever with her magical Shepard’s Crook. So Anna, who was temporarily crashing at David’s place, decided to teach him to sword fight so he could defend himself against Mob Peep. And it worked! So yeah, if you’re ever wondering how Prince Charming was able to save Snow White from the Evil Queen... it’s all because of Anna from Frozen.