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This article focuses on the magical entity.
For the episode, see "Darkness on the Edge of Town".

I'm many things. I'm the voice in your head; the Dark One's powers inside you, inside all the Dark Ones.

—The Darkness, under Rumplestiltskin's appearance, to Emma src

The Darkness, and its host the Dark One, is a magical entity featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. It débuts in the first episode of the first season.

The Darkness is an allusion to the spell cast by the wicked fairy in the fairytale of "Beauty and the Beast", and the spell cast by the Enchantress in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast.


The Darkness is, as the name implies, a dark magical entity resided in all the Dark Ones. It was first created when Nimue corrupted her Holy Grail magic by using her powers for evil, which is killing someone. The more Dark Ones are killed and other hosts take its place, the more powerful the Darkness becomes. ("Nimue", "Swan Song")

The Goal of the Darkness

  • The Darkness can appear in a Dark One's mind as in the appearance of the previous hosts' dark spirits to corrupt the host even more, just like it did with Emma Swan and Hook. It's unknown if this situation also happened with Rumplestiltskin, Zoso or Gorgon the Invincible, since Emma and Hook did not become Dark One in a traditional way, by killing the previous host, therefore, were not corrupted in the beginning, unlike other hosts. ("Operation Mongoose Part 2", "Birth")
    • When appearing in a Dark One's mind, the Darkness can manifest itself into whichever Dark One it wishes, including the current one, or all of them at once. ("The Dark Swan", "Nimue", "The Final Battle Part 2")
  • After many years of dark deeds, the heart of the Dark One finally fills with the Darkness, and in a manner of speaking, the host "dies" after a strong "heart attack", which means that the host loses any ability to love, and only the Dark One remains. Should this happen, the Darkness would gain full control of its host. ("Sympathy for the De Vil", "Mother")
  • The secret, but also the hardest and most important goal of all Dark Ones, is to open a portal from the Overworld to the Underworld in order for all the previous Dark Ones to return to life after they find suitable victims to take their place. Once this is done, they plan to erase Light Magic. ("Broken Heart", "Swan Song")

Powers and Abilities


Appearance of the Dark One

  • When the Dark One corrupts themselves, the Darkness inside them can react differently:
    • When Rumplestiltskin changes, his skin suddenly turns gray-green and scaly with his nails turning black and longer. His eyes become amber colored. ("Desperate Souls")
    • Zoso's skin seems to be yellowish and scaly. ("The Apprentice")
    • When Nimue changes, the same thing also happens to her, except her skin color becomes bluish. ("Nimue")
    • When Emma changes, her hair color becomes bleached blonde, with her lips being a deathly red and her outfit being a leathery garb. ("Birth")
      • It should be noted that before Emma fully corrupts herself, when she heals Robin Hood and realizes that she begins to like the power and the darkness, the skin of her hand turns yellowish and scaly for a brief time. ("The Price")
    • When Hook kills Merlin, however, nothing is seen to be changed for his physical body. ("Broken Heart")

The Link Between the Darkness and the Dagger

  • Due to being tethered to the Dark One Dagger, the Darkness and the dagger are connected. As a result, the dagger sometimes calls its "other half" by whispering. ("The Broken Kingdom")
    • It can also call the previous host if they are alive at that point. However, the situation is extremely rare, as the only previous hosts that are alive are Emma Swan and Hook. ("Swan Song")
  • The user of the dagger can control the Dark One in any way. If they command them to do something, the Dark One has no option but to obey the user. However, the thing that the user controls is the Darkness itself, not the host's emotions. So, it's different than controlling someone with their enchanted heart, which can not just control their emotions, but even make them forget certain memories after their heart is ripped. ("The Return", "The Tower", "Sympathy for the De Vil" et al.)
    • However, Mr. Gold was temporarily able to escape from the dagger's commands when he was helped by Neal, because the two shared a mind and body at the time; however, it hurts him physically and emotionally. ("Quiet Minds", "Birth")
    • A Dark One cannot be controlled in the Land Without Magic, since the dagger cannot harness any magic there. ("The Return")
  • A Dark One can use the dagger itself to do stronger and more powerful magic. ("Ill-Boding Patterns" et al.)
  • A Dark One can cleave themselves from the dagger's control with a powerful spell whose ingredients include a person who knew the host before they became the Dark One and an enhanced Sorcerer's Hat filled with strong magic, such as the fairies. Interestingly, Mr. Gold is also in the impression of using his magic even beyond the town line after the spell has been enacted. ("Heroes and Villains")

The Dark One's Fail-safe

  • Nimue constructs the Vault of the Dark One for herself and makes her first public appearance emerging from it, under the title of Dark One. As the Dark Ones being the true owners of this vault, it serves them well over the centuries: ("Quiet Minds")
    • Nimue places some of her Darkness inside the vault that attracts any intruders, therefore protecting the vault at all cost. ("The Broken Kingdom")
    • The idyllic garden, which is accessible via a portal in the vault, hosts a table stand that has a protective barrier. This stand protects the Dark One Dagger when placed, making it untouchable anyone other than the Dark One. ("The Broken Kingdom")
    • When the host becomes the Dark One via other way than killing the previous Dark One or the Dark One kills themselves with the dagger, the Darkness automatically sends itself to the vault, waiting for a rebirth with its previous host. This way, the Darkness is intended to never be destroyed. ("Going Home", "Operation Mongoose Part 2", "The Dark Swan")

Erasing and Passing of the Darkness

Killing the Dark One

  • The traditional and most-known way to kill the Dark One is to stab them with the Dark One Dagger, and the power of the Darkness passes to the one who kills them. ("Desperate Souls" et al.)
  • According to Cora and Mr. Gold, when the Dark One is killed without the dagger, such as by being poisoned with dreamshade in the Land Without Magic, she/he will expel the power of the darkness, with no new Dark One, and the curse will "pass from this world". ("The Miller's Daughter")
  • It's possible for a Dark One to kill another immortal person (either Merlin or another Dark One) who is gifted with the Holy Grail. ("Nimue (Episode)", "Nimue")
  • It is also possible for a Dark One to kill themselves with the dagger. However, the Darkness automatically sends itself to the Vault of the Dark One, ready to be spread out to the world with its previous host after someone sacrifices themselves. ("Going Home", "Quiet Minds")

Getting Rid of the Dark One Curse

  • True love's kiss will not break a Dark One's curse if the Dark One likes the power and does not want to give it up.[3] When the afflicted wants it, it is no longer a curse. ("Skin Deep", "The Price")
    • Nor will true love's kiss work if both people involved are Dark Ones.[4] ("Broken Heart")
  • To destroy the Darkness once and for all, Emma planned to turn Zelena into a vessel, and use the Excalibur to kill her, whilst also erasing the Darkness. However, she never had the chance to do it. ("Birth")
    • Instead, Hook was turned into a vessel. And with all the Dark Ones' Darkness inside Excalibur, Emma cut away his immortality, therefore turning him into his old state before he became the Dark One and killing him, whilst also "destroying" the Darkness. ("Swan Song")
  • It is possible for a Dark One to give their powers and immortality to the Guardian, who is someone incorruptible by evil, willing to sacrifice. Therefore, it won't corrupt them, and the Darkness will be safe. ("One Little Tear", "The Guardian")
  • A Dark One somehow losing his magic and immortality may not mean that the Dark One loses his Dark One-ness, as Wish Henry removed all of Weaver's powers of the Dark One with the Author's pen, but he still remained as the Dark One. ("Leaving Storybrooke")
    • After Wish Henry removes Weaver's immortality, it becomes possible for him to die again, whilst erasing the Darkness in the process. ("Leaving Storybrooke")

Aftermath of a Dark One

  • According to Mr. Gold, a person who dies as a Dark One must have an unfinished business, therefore this person is automatically sent to the Underworld. However, this is proven false, as Weaver died as a Dark One and went to Mount Olympus to be with Belle instead of the Underworld. It should be noted though, that his heart had been purged of the Darkness during his sacrifice. ("Souls of the Departed", "Leaving Storybrooke")

More Than One Dark One

Multiplying the Darkness

  • There can be more than one Dark One at once, as demonstrated by Emma Swan and Killian Jones, by removing Merlin's Holy Grail magic with the Promethean Flame, corrupting it (just like Nimue did to her Holy Grail magic), and tethering it to the new host. However, it will only multiply the Darkness, and it will be even more difficult to destroy it. ("Nimue", "Birth", "Broken Heart", "Swan Song")

"Wish" Darkness

  • After the creation of the Wish Realm, a part of the Darkness became the Wish version of the Dark One, likely multiplying the overall power of the Darkness in the process. The Wish version was linked to its main reality version: if the main reality one loses his position of the Dark One (or is destroyed), it will be the same for his Wish Realm version. ("Homecoming", "Leaving Storybrooke")


Before First Curse

The Darkness is the corrupted soul of Nimue, lover of the Sorcerer Merlin. Vortigan, attempting to kill Nimue, seemingly fatally stabs her, but it turns out Nimue had drunk from the Holy Grail and had gained magic and immortality like Merlin. She then proceeds to rip out Vortigan's heart, and after ignoring Merlin's pleads for her to not give in to the darkness, she crushes his heart, and the Flame of Prometheus becomes extinguished. Because she used the power of the Holy Grail for evil, Nimue's soul is corrupted and she becomes the first Dark One, smashing Excalibur so that Merlin cannot destroy the darkness or her magic inside her. ("Nimue")

Nimue later created a vault for her own usage, and emerged as the Dark One to the public from this vault. She has turned her dark soul into a curse that allows her to live on beyond the death of her physical body, inhabiting the soul of whoever kills the current Dark One with the dagger, gifting that person with the Dark One's power. ("Quiet Minds")

While the Darkness originated as Nimue's soul, it grows more powerful by assimilating the darkness of each soul that it passes on to as part of the Dark One curse. Because of this, the Darkness can manifest itself as every Dark One there ever was, even to the point of manifesting as all of them at the same time. ("Nimue")

Merlin takes the other half of Excalibur and binds Nimue to it - thus creating the Dark One's Dagger. Eventually, Nimue and Merlin meet again, but Merlin, in a moment of utter grief, becomes overpowered by Nimue, who transforms him into a tree. ("Dreamcatcher")

At some point, Merlin had created a special hat, capable of absorbing and accumulating magic. The hat is protected by the Apprentice from each person that takes on the Dark One's powers. Every Dark One tries to steal the hat, but none of them succeed. ("The Apprentice")

One day, the latest Dark One, Zoso, arrives in an attempt to open the guarded relic, only to be blasted away by the artifact's magic. Once the Apprentice informs the Dark One why his mission will never succeed, a beaten Zoso teleports away. ("The Apprentice")

Decades later, while Zoso is still the Dark One, the kingdom resorts to using children as soldiers in another Ogre Wars. Rumplestiltskin fears for the possibility of losing his child and flees away with him. But they are approached by a mysterious old man, who steers him towards stealing a magical dagger which can control the Dark One. Rumplestiltskin decides to steal the dagger from the Duke of the Frontlands, with the hopes of protecting Baelfire and turning the Dark One into a force for good. Once alone, Rumplestiltskin summons the Dark One and he stabs the entity with the dagger in a fit of blind rage. But he discovers the Dark One is the old man who told him about the dagger. Then Rumplestiltskin's own name replaces Zoso's on the dagger, and he gains the powers of the Dark One. ("Desperate Souls")

Before Second Curse
Rumplestiltskin's body and his dagger are recreated from a black liquid, when his son, Neal, uses a key to open the Vault of the Dark One. As an unexpected cost, which Neal is not aware of, he dies while Rumplestiltskin is revived. As his son perishes, Rumplestiltskin grabs hold of him as well as the dagger. However, he is not able to grip both at the same time, and the Wicked Witch snatches the dagger. Unwilling to let Neal perish, he absorbs his son into his own body to keep him alive. Enslaved to the Wicked Witch's orders via the dagger, she orders him to kill Belle. Just before he does, Lumiere entraps the Wicked Witch in flames. Belle flees with Lumiere in tow while Rumplestiltskin is forced to stay behind. ("Quiet Minds")

After Second Curse
Because of his centuries of committing bad deeds as the Dark One, Mr. Gold's heart is almost consumed by the Darkness. If he does nothing, Gold would die, and the Darkness would be free on its own, which could destroy the world. ("Mother")

Before Third Curse

To stop this from happening, the Apprentice absorbs the Darkness out of his heart and into the hat. However, the Darkness breaks free and attacks him. Emma repels it with a blast of light magic and the Darkness flees into town, but before she can follow, the Apprentice tells her about the Sorcerer's past dealings with the Darkness and how the Dark One was born from it. On the streets, Emma and her parents join Regina and Robin Hood as they look for the Darkness, which has seemingly vanished. However, when the Darkness tries infiltrating Regina and removing the light from her, Emma uses the dagger to bind it to her soul and become the new Dark One. She then vanishes into thin air while the dagger drops to the ground, revealing her name is now on it. ("Operation Mongoose Part 2")

After absorbing the Darkness, Emma disappears from Storybrooke, with her body reforming out of the Vault of the Dark One in the Enchanted Forest. Finding herself garbed in a cloak, she soon discovers that the Darkness, under a manifestation of Rumplestiltskin - one voice out of the many Dark Ones - is now her guide, and he intends to stay until she fully accepts her powers. ("The Dark Swan")

Throughout the Camelot quest, the main goal of the heroes is to destroy the Darkness by finding Merlin. ("The Dark Swan", "The Price", "Siege Perilous", "The Broken Kingdom", "Dreamcatcher")

Once they succeed in doing so, Merlin reveals that he will be able to rid Emma of the Darkness once they reforge Excalibur using the Promethean Flame. While Emma and Merlin search for the Flame, Merlin reveals the truth behind the Darkness's origins, and Emma ends up in a battle against herself when the Darkness creates a mental image of Nimue in her mind. ("Nimue")

In order to get the dagger and reforge Excalibur, Arthur teams up with Zelena and gets her to use the tether spell Merlin used on the dagger to attach Merlin himself to the other half of Excalibur. Merlin is able to overcome Arthur's commands, and Emma and Hook get Excalibur back. ("Nimue, "Birth")

Following this encounter, Hook's neck gets a minor cut from Excalibur, which Emma easily heals. However, a cut from Excalibur can never be fully healed, and the cut reopens just before Emma can reforge the sword, causing Hook to begin to die. Unwilling to let him die, Emma takes both halves of Excalibur and uses her magic to tether Hook to the sword instead of Merlin. The corrupted Darkness inside Merlin mysteriously flies out of Merlin as he says that it is too late, and after Emma is done with the transfer, her outfit magically changes and Hook is teleported away, emerging from the Vault as the second Dark One. ("Birth")

After Third Curse

After Hook casts a curse to kill Mr. Gold in Camelot, he challenges him to a duel on his ship. Before the duel begins, Hook fixes Mr. Gold's limp, so there will be a fair fight. At one point, Mr. Gold stabs Hook cleanly through his chest, but it has no effect since he didn't use Excalibur. Hook then slashes him with his hooked hand, but then, Mr. Gold drops a pulley weight on him, making Hook drop Excalibur. Instead of killing him with the sword, Mr. Gold spares him, wanting him to taste defeat at the hands of his worst enemy. That night, Hook fulfills the Darkness's plan to open a portal to the Underworld. With the blood of Mr. Gold, who has been to the Underworld and back, he opens the gateway, allowing Nimue and all the previous Dark Ones to arrive in Storybrooke. ("Broken Heart")

After Hook opens a portal to the Underworld, all the souls of the deceased Dark Ones claim a living soul to replace their souls in the Underworld. When the heroes confront Hook and all the former dead Dark Ones, the spirit of Nimue magically chokes Emma. Hook realizes what kind of man he wants to be, using Excalibur, which he obtained by tricking Emma into giving it to him after she got it from Mr. Gold, to absorb the spirits of the Dark Ones. Hook begs his true love to kill him, destroying the Darkness and letting him die a hero. Emma reluctantly does this, destroying the sword, along with the Darkness's hold on her. Unbeknownst to Emma, Mr. Gold poured a potion to make the sword a magic "conduit", which transferred all the Dark Ones' magic to him. The next day, a grieving Emma hears whispering, following it to Mr. Gold Pawnbroker & Antiquities Dealer. Mr. Gold reveals his actions to Emma, showing her the Dark One Dagger, the source of the whispering. Emma then threatens to tell Belle unless Mr. Gold helps her travel to the Underworld to rescue Hook. The new Dark One, reluctantly, opens a portal to the Underworld, leading Emma and company to the boat of Charon. ("Swan Song")

After Fourth Curse

After killing the Black Fairy and breaking her Dark Curse, the current Dark One, Mr. Gold, and his wife, Belle, rush through the Storybrooke Mines to find their son Gideon's heart and stop him from killing Emma Swan, the Savior. After Belle twists her ankle and tells her husband to leave her behind, Mr. Gold ventures further into the mines on his own and finds the heart. As he holds it, the darkness appears in the form of Rumplestiltskin, Mr. Gold's counterpart from the Enchanted Forest, and tells him not to, reminding him that if he allows Gideon to kill the Savior, dark magic will be unstoppable and he will be able to break the laws of magic and be happy with his family, including his dead son, Baelfire. Despite the temptation, Mr. Gold does the right thing and tells Gideon through his heart to stop trying to kill Emma. However, the Black Fairy has cast a spell that keeps this from working and the Darkness taunts him before vanishing. Despite this, Mr. Gold's attempt to do the right thing fulfills the requirements and the final battle is won as Emma is revived by true love's kiss. ("The Final Battle Part 2")

As peace resumes in Storybrooke, Mr. Gold takes Belle to see the world as she has always wished to do. When the couple goes to an ancient bridge where people come to make wishes in exchange for sacrifice, he tells her of his intentions to give up his Dark One powers in order to become mortal and grow old with her. Mr. Gold throws the dagger into the river but it magically returns to him, to which he and Belle attempt to find another method of freeing him from the Darkness. In time, Belle discovers a fairy prophecy which states that after the Dark One finds eternal love, his dark powers can be removed only when the sun is at its brightest and that it sets in the Edge of Realms where time is frozen. Belle agrees to build a life with him at the Edge of Realms as they both wait for the day the sun will set, however, months turn into years, as she ages into an elderly woman while Mr. Gold remains the same because of the Darkness keeping him immortal and youthful. On one such day, Belle collapses, and as her life comes to its natural end, she reveals to him that the sun in the prophecy was not the one in the sky but her life, and she didn't want to tell him as she knew he would try to find a way around it. She assures him that they will be reunited again and he must continue the journey to be rid of the Darkness without her. After Belle's passing, Mr. Gold learns about a being called the Guardian, who can take on the Darkness from the Dark One and be strong enough to not be corrupted by it. ("Beauty")

Traveling to the New Enchanted Forest, Mr. Gold comes to suspect a girl named Alice is the Guardian. He also finds out from Dr. Facilier, who can communicate with the dead, that Belle fears Mr. Gold is running out of time as the Darkness will overtake him again. After Alice is proven to be the Guardian, she absorbs all the Darkness from Mr. Gold's body into the dagger, but before she can completely assume her role, which requires her to become immortal, Mr. Gold stops her, not wanting to sacrifice her life for his own happiness. This causes Mr. Gold to succumb to the Darkness by regaining the scaly skin and impish manner he once had as Rumplestiltskin. ("The Guardian")

After Fifth Curse
Rumplestiltskin (Wish Realm) eventually leaves the Wish Realm and arrives in Seattle in the Land Without Magic. Once the Dark Curse is broken by Henry, Rumplestiltskin's counterpart, Weaver, confronts Mr. Samdi about stealing a book that contains his memories with his version of Belle. Weaver almost kills Mr. Samdi, but stops upon remembering Belle, and Mr. Samdi begins to taunt him for having turned into the worst version of himself. Before Samdi can finish mocking Weaver, Rumplestiltskin stabs him in the back and kills him with his dagger, acting insulted as he considers himself the worst version of Rumplestiltskin. He then tells Weaver that it's time they got better reacquainted. ("Is This Henry Mills?")


On-Screen Notes


Props Notes


Note: "Archive" denotes archive footage.

See also


  1. File:511AreYouAlright.png
    Except Nimue, we see 20 hooded Dark Ones in this scene. Among these 20 masked figures, 2 of them are Gorgon and Zoso, so 18 Dark Ones are still unknown.
  2. Martin, Rebecca (March 19, 2013). Once Upon a Time: When Did Rumplestiltskin Regain His Memories?. Wetpaint. “As you can see in the video below, Adam and Edward say explicitly that Gold got his Fairytale Land memories back after Emma (Jennifer Morrison) came to town. Specifically, it happened "when he heard her name in the pilot," which is why he asked Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) for her name in the first place.”
    Once Upon A Time - Live Facebook Interview With Adam Horowitz & Eddie Kitsis (May 9th 2012) - Part 3. YouTube (May 9, 2012).
  3. TwitterLogo.svg @AndrewChambliss (Andrew Chambliss) on Twitter (October 14, 2015). "Rumple explained to Emma after kiss - it doesn't work if you like the power/don't want to give up"
  4. TwitterLogo.svg @InkTankGirl (Brigitte Hales) on Twitter (November 14, 2015). "Yep." (screenshot)
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