Once upon a time

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Frontispiece to The How and Why Library, 1909

"Once upon a time" is a stock phrase used to introduce a narrative of past events, typically in fairy tales and folk tales. It has been used in some form since at least 1380 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) in storytelling in the English language and has started many narratives since 1600. These stories sometimes end with "and they all lived happily ever after", or, originally, "happily until their deaths".

The phrase is common in fairy tales for younger children. It was used in the original translations of the stories of Charles Perrault as a translation for the French "il était une fois", of Hans Christian Andersen as a translation for the Danish "der var engang" (literally "there was once"), the Brothers Grimm as a translation for the German "es war einmal" (literally "it was once") and Joseph Jacobs in English translations and fairy tales.

In More English Fairy Tales, Joseph Jacobs notes that:

"The opening formula are varied enough, but none of them has much play of fancy. 'Once upon a time and a very good time it was, though it wasn't in my time nor in your time not in any one else's time.' is effective enough for a fairy epoch, and is common, according to Mayhew (London Labour, III), among tramps."[1]

The phrase is also used in retellings of myths, fables and folklore.[2]

Other languages[edit]

The "story-starting phrase" is a common feature of many languages.

Language Common beginning Common beginning (English translation) Common ending Common ending (English translation)
Albanian Na ishte një herë... Once there was... Dhe ata jetuan lumtur pergjithmonë And they lived happy forever
Afrikaans Eendag, lank gelede... One day, a long time ago... Fluit, fluit, die storie is uit Whistle, whistle, the story is done
Moroccan Arabic Hajitek ma jitek (حجيتك ما جيتك) I've told you what's coming وخبيرتي مشات من واد لواد وانا بقيت مع الناس الجواد And my tale went from valley to valley and I remained with the good people.
Amharic በድሮ ዘመን... Once a long time ago... ተረቴን መልሱ አፌን በዳቦ አብሱ:: Return my story and feed me bread. (It is a way of saying tell me a story for the one I have told you.)
Classical Arabic kān yā mā kān, fī qadīmi-z-zamān, wa-salifi-l-‘aṣri wa-l-’awān...

(كان يا ما كان،في قديم الزمان، وسالف العصر والأوان)

There was, oh what there was (or there wasn't) in the oldest of days and ages and times...
Armenian (Eastern) Լինում է, չի լինում... (Linum e, chi linum) There was, there was not... Երկնքից երեք խնձոր է ընկնում՝ Մեկը գրողին, մեկը պատմողին, մեկն էլ լսողին: (Yerknkits yereq khndzor e ynknum` Meky groxin, meky patmoxin, mekn el lsoxin) 3 apples fall from the sky/heaven - one for the writer/author, one for the storyteller, one for the listener Note: (the three apples can "be given" to different people, when people tell stories they change the three to whatever they like. The version noted here is the most common/known)
Armenian (Western) Կայ ու չկայ (Gar u chgar) There was, there was not... Երկինքէն երեք խնձոր կ՚իյնայ՝ Մէկը գրողին, մէկը պատմողին, մէկն ալ լսողին: (Yerginken yerek khntsor giyna` Megu kroghin, megu badmoghin, megn al lsoghin} 3 apples fall from the sky/heaven - one for the writer/author, one for the storyteller, one for the listener Note: (the three apples can "be given" to different people, when people tell stories they change the three to whatever they like. The version noted here is the most common/known)
Assamese বহুত দিনৰ আগত... (Bahut dinor aagot...) Long time ago... Unknown Unknown
Asturian Ello yera una vez... There was once... Y con esto acabóse'l cuentu. And so the tale is finished.
Azeri Biri var idi, biri yox idi... There was, (and) there was not... Unknown Unknown
Basque Bazen behin... Once upon a time... ...eta hala bazan ala ez bazan, sar dadila kalabazan eta atera dadila ...-ko plazan ... and it was or it was not, come in in the pumpkin and come out in the square of... (name of a town).
Bengali ek je chhilo raja... Once there lived a king aamaar kothati furolo; Notey gaachhti murolo My story ends and the spinach is eaten by the goat. (cf A Goat eats the root of a herb unlike cows, so being consumed by goats figuratively means something being irreversibly ended.)
Ek deshe chhilo... In some country, there was...
Breton Ur wech e oa... Once upon a time... ...hag e vevjont eürus asambles hag o devoe kalz a vugale. ...and they lived happily and had many children.
Bulgarian Имало едно време...
(Imalo edno vreme...)
There was, once upon a time... ...и заживели щастливо до края на дните си (...i zazhiveli shtastlivo do kraya na dnite si) ...and they lived happily until the end of their days
...и три дни яли, пили и се веселили (...i tri dni yali, pili i se veselili) ...and for three days they ate, drank and had fun.
Catalan Hi havia una vegada... There was a time... Vet aquí un gat, vet aquí un gos, aquest conte ja s'ha fos. I vet aquí un gos, vet aquí un gat, aquest conte s'ha acabat. Here's a cat, here's a dog, this tale is already melted. And here's a dog, here's a cat, this tale is finished.
Temps era temps... Time was time... I van ser feliços i van menjar anissos. And they were happy and they ate candies.
Això era i no era... This was and was not... I conte contat, conte acabat Tale told, tale finished
Això va anar i era... This went and was... I visqueren molts anys de molta felicitat. And they lived many years of happiness.
Això va passar en aquells temps antics This occurred in those ancient times Van ser molt feliços, tingueren molts fills i encara viurien si no s'hagueren mort They were very happy, had many children, and still would live if they had not died
Chinese (Mandarin) T: 很久很久以前
S: 很久很久以前
P: Hěnjiǔ hěnjiǔ yǐqián

A very very long time ago...

Once upon a time...
T: 從此,他們過著幸福快樂的日子
S: 从此,他们过着幸福快乐的日子
P: Cóngcǐ, tāmenguòzhe xìngfú kuàilè de rìzi
... and they lived a happy life
Chinese (Classical) 昔者
Anciently... - -
Croatian Bio jednom jedan... There was once a... ...i živjeli su sretno do kraja života. ...and they lived happily until the end of their lives.
Czech Bylo nebylo, ... There was, there was not... ... a žili šťastně až do smrti. ...and they lived happily until they died.
Byl jednou jeden... There was once a ... ...a jestli neumřeli, žijí tam dodnes. ...and if they have not died yet, they still live there today.
Za sedmero horami a sedmero řekami... Beyond seven mountain ranges, beyond seven rivers . . . Zazvonil zvonec a pohádky je konec. A bell rang and the tale comes to its end.
Danish Der var engang... There was, once... Og de levede lykkeligt til deres dages ende. And they lived happily until the end of their days.
Engang for længe siden... Once a long time ago... Og hvis de ikke er døde, lever de endnu. And if they're not dead, they are still alive.
Dutch Er was eens... Once there was... ... en ze leefden nog lang en gelukkig. ...and they lived long and happily.
En toen kwam er een olifant met een hele lange snuit en die blies het verhaaltje uit. And then came an elephant with a very long snout, and it blew the story out (over).
Esperanto Iam estis... Once there was... La mizero finiĝis kaj ili ĝoje vivis kune. Their misery was ended and they lived together joyfully.
En tempo jam de longa pasinta,
kiam efikas ankoraŭ sorĉado….
In a time already long past,
when it was still of use to cast a spell…
Nenio mankis en ilia feliĉo ĝis la morto. Nothing was lacking to their happiness until their death.
Estonian Elasid kord... There once lived a... ... ja nad elasid õnnelikult elu lõpuni. ...and they lived happily until the end of their lives.
Seitsme maa ja mere taga elas kord... Behind seven lands and seas there lived a... ...ja kui nad surnud ei ole, siis elavad nad õnnelikult edasi ...and if they're not dead, they still live happily.
Faroese Einaferð var tað... Once there was... Og tey livdu lukkuliga allar teirra dagar. and they lived happily all their days.
snip, snap, snúti, so var søgan úti. snip, snap, stout, then the story was out.
Filipino Noong unang panahon... At the beginning of time... / At the first time... At sila'y namuhay nang mapayapa at masagana. And they lived peacefully and prosperously.
Wakas. [The] end.
Finnish Olipa kerran... Once there was... Ja he elivät onnellisina elämänsä loppuun saakka. And they lived happily until the ends of their lives.
Sen pituinen se. That's the length of it.
French Il était une fois There was one time / There was once... ...et ils vécurent heureux et eurent beaucoup d'enfants ...and they lived happily and had many children.
...et ils vécurent heureux jusqu'à la fin des temps ...and they lived happily until the end of time.
German Es war einmal...[3] Once there was... ...und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann leben sie noch heute. ...and if they have not died, they are still alive today.
In den alten Zeiten, als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat Back in the days when it was still of help to wish for a thing,... ...und sie lebten glücklich und zufrieden bis ans Ende ihrer Tage. ...and they lived happily and contentedly until the end of their days.
Georgian იყო და არა იყო რა, იყო...
(iq̇o da ara iq̇o ra, iq̇o...)
There was, and there was not, there was... ჭირი – იქა, ლხინი – აქა, ქატო – იქა, ფქვილი – აქა

(Čiri – ik′a, lxini – ak′a, k′at′o – ik′a, p′k′vili – ak′a)

Disaster there, feast here... bran there, flour here...
Goemai (Nigeria, West Chadic) Unknown (Story teller begins in a sing song voice) "Story, Story". The children reply "Story"

A long time ago... / In the days of our ancestors / When men were men and women tended the kitchen

Tamtis noe lat / dok ba muaan yi wa My tale has finished, (it) has returned to go (and) come home.
Greek (Modern) μια φορά κι έναν καιρό...
(mia forá ki énan keró...)
Once and a time... (time = epoch/era/age)

(or) Once upon a time and once upon an era

...και ζήσανε αυτοί καλά και εμείς καλύτερα. (...ke zísane aftí kalá ke emís kalítera) And they lived well, and we lived better
Guarani Oiko va'ekue petei There used to be a Heta ara rire otopa tembiapo ha upei rire oiko porã vy'apope After some days he found a job his life changed and he was truly happy ever after
Gujarati ઘણાં વર્ષો પહેલાંની વાત છે
(Ghaṇã vaṣô pahelãnī vāta che)
This is an old story. Unknown Unknown
એક જમાનામાં... (Eka jamānāmã...) In one era, ... Unknown Unknown
વર્ષો પહેલાં... (Vaṣô pahelã...) A long back Unknown Unknown
Hebrew הָיֹה הָיָה פעם
(Hayoh hayah pa'am...)
Once there was... והם חיו באושר ועושר עד עצם היום הזה (Ve'hem ẖayu be'osher va'osher ad etzem hayom hazeh) And they lived in happiness and wealth to this very day.
הָיֹה הָיוּ פעם
(Hayo hayu pa'am...)
Once there were...
Hindi किसी ज़माने में (Kisī zamāne meṃ) In one era, ... Unknown Unknown
बहुत पुरानी बात है
(Bahuta purānī bāta hai)
It's an old story, ...
Hungarian Egyszer volt, hol nem volt, volt egyszer egy... Once there was, where there wasn't, there was a... Itt a vége, fuss el véle! This is the end; run away with it.
... Hetedhétországon is túl, az Óperenciás tengeren is túl, az üveghegyeken is túl, hol a kurtafarkú malac túr [Optional, signifying distance]

... cross seven countries, through the sea of Operencia, through the glass mountains, where the curly-tailed pig delves

Boldogan éltek, amíg meg nem haltak. They lived happily until they died.
Aki nem hiszi, járjon utána! Whoever doesn't believe it shall investigate.
Icelandic Einu sinni fyrir langa löngu... Once a long time ago... Og þau lifðu hamingjusöm til æviloka And they lived happy for the rest of their lives.
Einu sinni var... Once there was... Köttur úti í mýri, setti upp á sér stýrið og úti er ævintýrið A cat in the bog put up his tail and there ends the fairytale.
Köttur úti í mýri, setti upp á sér stýri, úti er ævintýri Cat out in the swamp, lifted its tail, the adventure is finished.
Indonesian Pada zaman dahulu kala... A long time ago... Dan mereka hidup bahagia selama-lamanya. And they lived happily ever after.
Iraqw (Tanzania, Kenya, Cushitic) tokaro-yâ Once upon a time Unknown Unknown
In oral literature: Kar aníng te-'ée' to-ká a inhláw ar aakó doo-rén ni alki'-a i tí I remember something that our father told me and that is this: Unknown Unknown
Irish Fadó, fadó in Éirinn... Long, long ago in Ireland
Bhí ann fadó agus fadó a bhí. Dá mbeithinnse an uair sin ann ní bheithinn anois ann. Ach mar tá mé tá scéal beag amháin agam. Mar tá sé agamsa inniu go mba seacht míle fearr a bheas sé agatsa amáireach. Nár chaille tú leis ach péire dho na clárfhiaclaí, cúig cinn dho na cúilfhiaclaí agus stiall bhreá dhon charbad. It was long long ago. If I was there that time I would not be here now. But as I am I have one small story. As I have it today may you have it seven thousand times better tomorrow. May you only lose a pair of the incisors by it, five of the grinders and a fine strip of the gum. Ghabh siadsan an t-áth, agus ghabh mise an clochán. Báthadh iadsan agus tháinig mise. Níor thug siad dom ach brógaí páipéir agus bainne reamhair! They went by the ford, and I went by the stepping stones. They were drowned and I survived. They gave me nothing but paper shoes and fat milk!
Italian C'era una volta... There was once... E vissero felici e contenti. And they lived happy and content.
Japanese 昔昔 (昔々, むかしむかし, Mukashi mukashi) Long ago, long ago... めでたしめでたし
(Medetashi medetashi)
So blissful
Kannada Ondanondu kaaladalli... Once, in a long past age,... Unknown Unknown
Kazakh Ерте ерте ертеде, ешкі жүні бөртеде

(erte erte ertede, eshki zhuni bortede)

Direct translation: "A long, long time ago, when goat's wool was grey". Meaning: "A long long time ago, when goats had feathers")
Khroskyabs (Sichuan, Qiangic)[4] χnɑ χnɑ Long, long ago ɳæn χbi nə yoɯ My story has finished
næ xhɛ pəjær Was that fun?
Korean 옛날 옛적에...
(Yet-nal Yet-jeok-e...)
On an old day, in the old times, 그리고 행복하게 살았답니다
(Geurigo haeng-bok ha-gae sal-at damnida)
And they lived happily after then.
호랑이 담배 피우던 시절에...
(holang-i dambae piudeon sijeol-e...)
Back when tigers used to smoke tobacco.[5]
Koti (Mozambique, Bantu) Rakú z'éepo waarí-vó oswááipu nwúlw'eéne saána Once upon the time, there was a truly great friendship... Unknown Unknown
Kurdish Hebû nebû,...hebû

ھەبوو نەبوو (ڕۆژێ لە ڕۆژان)

Once there was and there was not, there was... Çîroka min çû diyaran, rehmet li dê û bavê guhdaran. My story went to other homes, God bless the mothers and fathers of its listeners
Kyrgyz илгери-илгери...
A long, long time ago... Unknown Unknown
Ladino Avia de ser... There once was...
Latin Olim... At that time, Once Unknown Unknown
Latvian Reiz sen senos laikos... Once long ago in times long gone Unknown Unknown
Lithuanian Vieną kartą... Once upon the time
Už devynių jūrų, už devynių marių... Beyond nine seas, beyond nine lagoons Ir aš ten buvau, alų midų gėriau, per barzdą varvėjo, burnoj neturėjau And I was there, drank some mead ale, dribbled through my beard, had not in my mouth
Kartą seniai, seniai... Once long, long ago
Buvo nebuvo... There was, and there was not
Luxembourgish Et war eemol...
(old orthography: Et wor eemol...)
Once there was... An wann se net gestuerwen sin, dann liewen se nach haut ...and if they haven't died yet, they are still living today.
Macedonian Си беше еднаш...
(Si beshe ednash...)
Once upon the time there was... Unknown Unknown
Malayalam Pandu oridathu... Long ago, at a place... Unknown Unknown
Malay Pada zaman dahulu... Once upon a time Mereka hidup bahagia selama-lamanya. They lived happily ever after.
Marathi कोणे एके काळी...
(kone eke kaali...)
in a very old time... आणि ते सुखाने राहू लागले
(aani te sukhane raahu laagle)
and they lived happily ever after
Maragoli Mmadikhu ga khaare In olden days Unknown Unknown
Maltese Darba, fost l-oħrajn... Once upon a time... U għexu henjin u kuntenti għal dejjem And they lived happily and contentedly ever after.
Nepali एका देशमा (eka desh ma) Once in a country... सुन्नेलाई सुनको माला, भन्नेलाई फूलको माला, यो कथा वैकुण्ठ जाला, फेरि भन्ने बेला तात्ततै आइजाला (Sunne lai sunako mala, bhanne lai phoolako mala, yo katha Vaikuntha jaala, pheri bhanne bela tattatai aaijaala) A golden–garland to the listener, A flower–garland to the narrator; This story shall go to Vishnu's abode (Heaven), And come back hot (fresh) on someone else's (the next narrator) lips. (Said in a rhyme.)
Norwegian Det var en gang... There was, once... Og så levde de lykkelige alle sine dager And then they lived happily for the remainder of their days.
Og er de ikke døde, så lever de ennå. And if they're not dead, they still live.
Snipp, snapp, snute, så er eventyret ute. Snip, snap, snute (snout), then this adventure is finished. (sometimes the English is translated to rhyme "Snip, snap, snout, this adventure is told out.")
Occitan Un còp èra... There was one time / There was once...
Pashto داسي کار وو چي
(Daasi kaar wo che)
There was this work that... Bas The End
داسي چل وو چي
(Daasi chal wo che)
There was this work that... Bas The End
Persian ... ،روزی، روزگاری
Ruzi, ruzgāri, ...
Someday, sometime, ... ،به پایان آمد این دفتر
.حکایت همچنان باقیست
Be pāyān āmad in daftar,
hekāyat hamčenān bāqist.
This book has come to end,
(but) the story yet remains.
... ،یکی بود، یکی نبود
Yeki bud, yeki nabud, ...
Someone was, someone wasn't, ... ،قصه‌ی ما به سر رسید
.کلاغه به خونش نرسید

Qesse ye mā be sar resid,
kalāqe be xunaš naresid.

Our tale has come to end,
(but) the crow hasn't arrived at his house.
Polish (Dawno, dawno temu,) za siedmioma górami, za siedmioma lasami... (A long, long time ago,) beyond seven mountains, beyond seven forests... ...i żyli długo i szczęśliwie. ...and they lived long and happily.
Za siedmioma górami, za siedmioma rzekami... Beyond seven mountains, beyond seven rivers... ...a ja tam byłem, miód i wino piłem. ...and I was there [usually at a wedding] too, and drank mead and wine.
Portuguese Era uma vez... There was, once... ...e viveram felizes para sempre ...and they lived happily forever.
Qiang Gver gver ngue du... A long long time ago... Unknown Unknown
Romanian A fost odată, ca niciodată că dacă n-ar fi fost, nu s-ar mai povesti... There once was, (as never before)... because if there wasn't, it wouldn't have been to told ...şi au trăit fericiţi până la adânci bătrâneţi. ...and they lived happily until old age.
Russian Давным-давно
Long, long time ago... И жили они долго и счастливо (и умерли в один день).[6]
(I zhili oni dolgo i s-chastlivo (i umerli v odin den').)
...and they lived long and happily [and died on the same day]
(В тридевятом царстве, в тридесятом государстве) Жил, был...

((V tridevyatom tsarstve, v tridesyatom gosudarstve) Zhil byl...)

(In the three-ninth kingdom, in the three-tenth realm) There lived, there was... ... и стали они жить поживать, да добра наживать.[7]

(i stali oni zhit' pozhivat', da dobra nazhivat')

... and they lived and prospered.
Sanskrit पुराकाले (Pūrākāle) In the ancient time... Unknown Unknown
कदाचित् (Kadācit) Once upon the time, At any time Unknown Unknown
Scots In the days o lang syne Long ago Unknown Unknown
Scottish Gaelic Latha bha seo A day that was here (agus sin fhathast mar a tha) chun an latha an diugh (and that's still how it is) until the present day.
Serbian Једном давно...
(Jednom davno...);

Некада давно...
(Nekada davno...)

Once, a long time ago... ...и живеше сретно/срећно до краја живота. (...i živeše sretno/srećno do kraja života.) ...and they lived happily for the rest of their lives.
Била једном једна...
(fem., Bila jednom jedna)

Био једном један...
(masc., Bio jednom jedan)
Било једном једно...
(neuter, Bilo jednom jedno)

There once was one... ...и живеше дуго и сретно/срећно. (...i živeše dugo i sretno/srećno.) ...and they lived long and happily.
Shona Paivapo... A long time ago, there existed Ndopanoperera sarungano End of the story.
Slovak Kde bolo, tam bolo... Where it was, there it was... ...a žili spolu šťastne, až kým nepomreli. ...and they lived together happily, until they died.
Za horami, za dolami... Beyond the hills, beyond the valleys... ...a žili spolu šťastne až do smrti. ...and they lived together happily until their deaths.
Za siedmimi horami a za siedmimi dolinami... Beyond seven mountains and seven valleys... ...a pokiaľ nepomreli, žijú šťastne dodnes. ...and if they haven't died already, they are living happily to this day.
Tam, kde sa voda sypala a piesok sa lial... Where the water was being strewn and the sand poured... Zazvonil zvonec a rozprávke je koniec. The bell chimed and the tale came to its end.
Bol raz jeden... Once, there was a...
Slovene Pred davnimi časi... A long time ago... ...in živela sta srečno do konca svojih dni. ...and they (both) lived happy until the end of their days.
Nekoč je bil(a)/živel(a)... Once upon a time there was/lived... ...in živeli so srečno do konca svojih dni. ... and they (all) lived happily until the end of their days.
Somali Sheeko, sheeko, sheeko xariir... Story, story, a story of silk...
Spanish Érase una vez... There was, once... ...y vivieron felices y comieron perdices. ...and they lived happy and ate partridges.
Había una vez... There was, once... ...y colorín, colorado, este cuento se ha acabado. ...and redhead, red, [8] this tale has ended.
Swahili (east African) Hapo zamani za kale... A long time ago Unknown Unknown
Swedish Det var en gång... Once, there was... ...och så levde de lyckliga i alla sina dagar. ...and then they lived happily for all of their days.
En gång för länge sedan... Once, long ago... Snipp snapp snut, så var sagan slut Snip, snap, snute (snout), thus the story ends.
Tagalog Noóng unang panahón... Back in the old time... At sila'y nabuhay nang masaya And they lived happily.
Tamil language முன்னொரு காலத்திலே... (Muḷḷoru kālattilē...) At a time long ago Subham The End.
Telugu language అనగనగా ఒక రోజు...
(anaganagā oka rōju)
Once upon a day... Subham/ Kadha Kanchi ki The End.
Thai กาลครั้งหนึ่งนานมาแล้ว
(gaan kráng nèung naan maa láew)
Once upon the time (long ago)... แล้วทุกคนก็อยู่ด้วยกันอย่างมีความสุขตลอดไป

(láew túk kon gôr yòo dûay gan yàang mee kwaam sùk dtà-lòt bpai)

And they lived happily forever.
Turkish Bir varmış, bir yokmuş. Evvel zaman içinde, kalbur saman içinde, cinler cirit oynar iken eski hamam içinde, pireler berber [iken], develer tellal [iken], ben ninemin beşiğini tıngır mıngır sallar iken, uzak diyarların birinde... Once there was, and once there wasn't. In the long-distant days of yore, when haystacks winnowed sieves, when genies played jereed in the old bathhouse, [when] fleas were barbers, [when] camels were town criers, [and when] I softly rocked my baby grandmother to sleep in her creaking cradle, there was/lived, in an exotic land, far, far away, a/an...*

∗ : This traditional opening phrase by the storyteller is rich with rhyming wordplays, tongue-twisters, as well as comedic and bizarre situational juxtapositions that are meant to draw listeners in, and set the stage for a whimsical, fantastical storyline.

Gökten üç elma düşmüş; biri onların, biri anlatanın, diğeri de dinleyenlerin başına. Onlar ermiş muradına, biz çıkalım kerevetine.

Gökten üç elma düşmüş; birincisi, içindeki çocuğu yaşatmayı bilenlere, ikincisi, davranmadan önce dinleyip düşünenlere, üçüncüsü ise özündeki sevgiyi ve umudu hiç kaybetmeyenlere. Onlar ermiş muradına, biz çıkalım kerevetine.

Lastly, three apples fell from the sky; one for our story's heroes, one for the person who told their tale, and one for those who listened and promise to share. And with that, they* all achieved their hearts' desires. Let us** now step up and settle into their thrones.***

Lastly, three apples fell from the sky; one for those who know to keep their inner child alive, one for those who know to listen and think before they act, and one for those who never lose the love and hope within their soul. And with that, they* all achieved their hearts' desires. Let us** now step up and settle into their thrones.***

∗ : the protagonists of the story
∗∗: the listeners
∗∗∗: a common conclusory storytelling expression meaning "may we all share in their good fortune"

Ugaritic When ... then[9] When ... then N/A N/A
Ukrainian Давним-давно
Long, long time ago... І жили вони довго і щасливо.
(I zhyly vony dovho i shchaslyvo.)
...and they lived long and happily.
(В деякому царстві, у деякій державі) жив-був...

((V deyakomu tsarstvi, u deyakiy derzhavi) zhyv-buv...)

(In some kingdom, in some land) There lived, there was...
Urdu ایک دفعہ کا ذکر ہے۔۔۔
(Ek dafa ka zikar hai...)

بہت بہت سال پہلے۔۔۔

(Bohut bohut sal pehle...)

Once upon a time...

Many many years ago...

Unknown Unknown
Vietnamese Ngày xửa ngày xưa... A long, long time ago... ...và họ sống hạnh phúc mãi mãi về sau ...and they live happily ever after
Yiddish אַמאָל איז געווען אַ מעשׂה (Amol iz geven a mayse) Once there was a story
Welsh Amser maith yn ôl... A long time ago... Unknown Unknown

Modern variants[edit]

  • Don McLean's "American Pie" begins with the phrase "A long, long time ago...".
  • All of the Star Wars films, as well as several of the expanded universe novels, begin with the phrase "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....".
  • The musical Into the Woods begins with the Narrator's line, "Once upon a time." The second act commences with his line, "Once upon a time... later..." The musical is a retelling of many famous fairy tales.
  • In the Singaporean comedy series Under One Roof, Moses Lim's character Tan Ah Teck begins his stories with "Long before your time, in the southern province of China ...".
  • In the 2010 Edgar Wright film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the opening scene narrates the words "Not so long ago, in the mysterious land of Toronto, Canada."
  • The opening line of the theme song to MST3k is: "In the not-too-distant future ... next Sunday, A.D."
  • Bionicle features the line "In the time before time...".
  • The opening line of the TV series Merlin features the line "In a land of myth, and a time of magic..."
  • The first episode of Ivor the Engine opens with the line "Not so very long ago, in the top left-hand corner of Wales..."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jacobs, Joseph (1893). More English Fairy Tales. p. 216–217.
  2. ^ Konnikova, Maria. "The Power of Once upon a Time : A Story to Tame The Wild Things". Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  3. ^ Madrid, Anthony (23 May 2018). ""Once Upon a Time" and Other Formulaic Folktale Flourishes". The Paris Review.
  4. ^ G.yu lha (2012). Warming Your Hands with Moonlight: Lavrung Tibetan Oral Traditions and Culture (PDF). Asian Highlands Perspectives. Vol. 13. Asian Highlands Perspectives. p. 48. ISSN 1925-6329. Tone is unmarked in the source.
  5. ^ "Back When Tigers Used to Smoke: The Origin of Korea". USC Digital Folklore Archives. 12 May 2019. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  6. ^ "Они жили долго и счастливо и умерли в один день - Dslov.ru". dslov.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  7. ^ "Жить поживать да добра наживать - Dslov.ru". Dslov.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  8. ^ "Colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado: Colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado: Conociendo mi casa de estudio".
  9. ^ Smith, Baal Cycle, Vol I, p. 35

External links[edit]