In Reply to: Once upon a time posted by Smokey Stover on March 27, 2009 at 20:09:
: : How did "Once upon a time" become such a popular opening line?
: Compared to what? How would you start a story for your children, which you are going to pretend happened a long time ago? It's simple and self-explanatory, and no doubt when one story-teller used it, everyone else wishing to tell a story saw the advantage of it.
: Of course, our children are more sophisticated. Aren't they? What shall we tell them? That there are no more stories?
I found out the "why" but not the "when." In a chapter called "The Importance of Externalization" it says: "The fairy story, although it may begin with the child's psychological state of mind -- such as feelings of rejection when compared to siblings, like Cinderella's -- never starts with his physical reality...The child who is familiar with fairy tales understands that these speak to him in the language of symbols and not that of everyday reality...what we are told about are not tangible facts or real persons or places. As for the child himself, real events become important through the symbolic meaning he attaches to them, or which he finds in them...'Once upon a time,' 'In a certain country,' 'A thousand years ago or longer,' 'At a time when animals still talked,' 'Once in an old castle in the midst of of a large and dense forest' -- such beginnings suggest that what follows does not pertain to the here and now that we know. This deliberate vagueness in the beginnings of fairy tales symbolizes that we are leaving the concrete world of ordinary reality..." "The Uses of Enchantment -- The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales" by Bruno Bettelheim. Random House, New York, Vintage Books Edition, May 1977. Page 62.