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All Magic Comes At A Price


So we all have our favorite fairy tale stories that our parents used to tell us before bedtime. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel… the list goes on and on. But, what we were living in an a world that was remnant of a parallel one? That is the basis of ABC’s new show Once Upon A Time

Set in Storeybrook, Maine, every citizen is actually a character from a fairy tale, where they have no reelection of who they were or their pasts. The hour-long episodes flip back and forth between Storeybrooke and the fairy realm, connecting characters’ past actions with their current personalities. Since only two people in Storeybook know the town’s secret, the Evil Queen (Mayor Regina Mills) and Rumpelstiltskin (Mr. Gold), you see how their knowledge of the past affects their current behavior. Although I do not want to spoil the show, if you are interested in watching, but there is one particular episode that has resonated with me since it aired in January.

To give you an overview of the episode, which reveals the background of Rumpelstiltskin character, the Enchanted Forrest is currently at war with the ogres and every child over the age of 14 must serve in the military. The Duke’s men gather young children with the help of “The Dark One” who possess magical powers. Rumpelstiltskin, a cowardly and scared simpleton tries to keep his 13 year-old son out of the service by attempting to run away in the middle of the night. Watch below to see what happens:

Upon leaving the encounter with the Duke’s men, Rumpelstiltskin and his son come across an old beggar, to which Rumpelstiltskin gives him money for his journey. The beggar tells him a secret about how he can control The Dark One and ultimately, possess the power himself. By stealing the Duke’s dagger, the item that controls The Dark One’s power, he would be able to direct his powers; but, if Rumpelstiltskin kills him, then he will obtained all the power himself. Although his son is worried about his father’s plan, Rumpelstiltskin carries through with it, stealing the dagger and ultimately killing The Dark One, which turns out to be the old beggar from the day before. “All magic comes at a price,” the dying beggar tells Rumpelstiltskin and the viewers see this come into play when he returns to save his son from the Duke’s men and is a completely changed man. His son does not recognize his father, whose character has drastically changed from a soft-spoken, loving father, to a heinous, cruel villain.

So, what does this have to do with business, government, and society? Lets think back to our second class when we dissected the relationship between the financial disaster of 2008 and ethics. In discussing the lack of ethical decision making made by numerous players including banks, mortgage lenders, Wall Street brokers, investors,  etc…, we concluded that it was a multitude of players that contributed to the collapse of the American economy. If all of these entities had made ethical business decisions from the onset, then the financial crisis might not have occurred. However, because they were acting in their own self-interest, seeking to reap individual reward instead of looking out for the well being of their clients, customers or fellow employees, decisions were executed, risks took, and promises made that in reality, should not have occurred. People placed their trust and confidence in higher powers, sometimes not even understanding the logistics of deals and plans being made, in order to seek internal benefits for themselves and their families. Although the abovementioned financial players believed at the time they were acting in the best interest of their clients, they produced even greater harm to the country’s and global economies.

In the case of Rumpelstiltskin and his pursuit of ultimate power, he was acting in his own self-interest. The thing he prized the most, his son, was at risk, so he thought he was doing the ethical thing by stealing the Duke’s dagger and ultimately slaying The Dark One. However, it came at a substantial cost; loosing his son, loosing his true character and creating greater harm to the Enchanted Forest (if you watch the show you understand what I mean). Because he placed his trust and confidence in the beggar out of desperation, he did not know or understand what he was getting himself into. Rumpelstiltskin was so quick to seek the dagger and the kill The Dark One because his desire to seek internal benefit for himself and his son clouted his decision-making. Although he believed he was acting ethically and morally by killing “The Dark One,” it ultimately brought him to his own demise. Like millions of Americans and corporations, Rumpelstiltskin placed his trust in others while not fully understanding the logistics of his ventures. As a result, both groups faced immense hardships (and in Rumpelstiltskin case, a brand new life of evil and mischief), as they tried to recover from their actions. 

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About Dana Silverstein

I am a Senior Management and History major at Bucknell University. I currently live in Westchester, New York and am hoping to start a career in advertising upon graduation.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “All Magic Comes At A Price

  1. You present some really interesting insights and analysis to support your connection of the episode to ethics and decision-making. I especially liked how you used the Financial crisis that we discussed in class as a point of comparison. I probably would have not seen the link right away, but the ideas you point out make perfect sense. Good work! Also, it’s really funny that you chose Once Upon a Time. My dad was just telling me about it a few days ago – he loves the show!

    Posted by Lauren McGuiggan | March 6, 2012, 9:02 am
  2. You just turned me into a new follower of Once Upon A Time. I am a huge sucker for a good fairytale and this Quasi-real life setting seems to be a thoroughly entertaining show. Furthermore I love how you connected this rash desire for seeking power to the desire for seeking short-term gain at the expense of any other possible byproducts. I would imagine that there are many representations of this in the show, as we hear the theme of selfishness arise in many fairy tales, but your example proved to be spot on, revealing, and thoroughly entertaining!

    Posted by Derek | March 6, 2012, 9:23 am
  3. Derek – Thinking about each individual episode, there are a lot of them where individuals are pursuing their own self-interest and or ultimate power. Everyone seems to be striving to obtain some sort of control or maintain it, especially the Evil Queen. No fairy tale is without a classic love story, but in Once Upon A Time, it seems that those in pursuit of it will do anything and everything to be with their one true love. As a result, many times, characters end up dead or damaged. That’s the same for financial crisis; people were pursuing their own self-interests and those involved ended up dead, as in companies going bankrupt or individual Americans loosing their savings. There are more connections you can make with the show and our class… I think that we could apply Nozick to the idea of King’s transferring lands back and forth between each other or the exchange of a marriage for daughter for the uniting of kingdoms and should the King receive more compensation than his subjects (correlating with our discussions about Home Depot).

    Posted by Dana Silverstein | March 6, 2012, 2:02 pm
  4. I actually really hate you a lot because this was going to be what my post was about, but apparently youre a burglar. Nonetheless, I still liked your post. Rumpelstiltskin definitely relates to the ethics of business, in a way I also think that many of his actions relate to last weeks readings on Rawls and Nozick as well. According to Nozick, much of what we may view as unjust he views as just. But I have to say that even Nozick wouldn’t agree with the majority of the deals Rumpelstiltskin makes. For example, he exchanges the well being of a kingdom for Belle, and initially uses her as a slave–thus denying her freedom.

    Posted by Catherine Gibbons | March 6, 2012, 4:40 pm
  5. …but the last couple episodes have been quite bad

    Posted by Catherine Gibbons | March 6, 2012, 4:40 pm

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