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When people fall under a sleeping curse, the soul travels to a Netherworld, where it resides until awoken. Now, this world is between life and death, and it’s very real. However, even when the curse is broken, sometimes, in sleep, the victims find their way back to that world. Victims like you.

Mr. Gold to Henry Mills src

The Netherworld is a world featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. It first appears in the seventh episode of the second season.


Before First Curse

The Netherworld is a liminal space in which the souls of sleeping curse victims are imprisoned. Their seemingly lifeless bodies remain in the physical world until their curse is broken, if such a moment ever arrives. Under the curse, the soul wanders in a dark, disorienting room of mirrors, feeling hopelessly lost and lonely for their loved ones that remain in the waking world. Each victim seems to be trapped in their own unique void within the Netherworld, as there is no evidence to indicate that two people under concurrent sleeping curses can interact with each other; however, they can still hear what is going on in proximity to their bodies. They can also connect with previous sleeping curse victims by breaking down the floor of the mirror room, which is directly above a separate chamber, a red room with no exits and flaming curtains that houses former prisoners whose minds have returned to the Netherworld as they dream. At the time of the first curse's casting, Brennan and Briar Rose had both been imprisoned in the Netherworld, and had escaped after a kiss from their respective true loves. ("Into the Deep", "Enter the Dragon", "Swan Song")

After King Stefan wakes Briar Rose, Maleficent falls into depression over her nemesis's happy ending. With some encouragement from a novice witch, Regina, the sorceress rediscovers her spark in life by inflicting the same curse on Briar Rose and Stefan's daughter, Aurora, sending the young princess to the Netherworld. By the time the first Dark Curse is cast, Aurora is still trapped under Maleficent's spell. As thanks to Regina, Maleficent gives some of the sleeping curse potion to Regina, who promptly uses it on Roman, the prized steed of Regina's stepdaughter, Snow White. ("Enter the Dragon")

Regina, now reigning as the Evil Queen of the Enchanted Forest, procures some more of the sleeping curse potion from Maleficent and infuses it in an apple. Snow White willingly takes a bite of the cursed fruit in exchange for the release of her beloved, Prince Charming, from the Evil Queen's grasp. However, the Evil Queen does not keep her end of the bargain, keeping Prince Charming in her dungeon to keep him from waking Snow White with a kiss of true love. With the help of a huntsman and Rumplestiltskin, he escapes the Evil Queen and locates his true love, saving her with a kiss. Some time after, Snow White begins to experience a prolonged period of recurring nightmares in which her consciousness returns to another part of the Netherworld, trapped in a fiery room. Over time, the nightmares gradually fade. ("An Apple Red as Blood", "A Land Without Magic", "Tallahassee")

During First Curse

Hoping to prevent Emma from breaking the curse and reclaim her position as the sole mother in Henry's life, Regina retrieves the poisoned apple and bakes it into a turnover for Emma. However, Regina's plans go awry when Henry takes a bite of the cursed pastry first, entering the Netherworld under a sleeping curse. He is eventually released when Emma, kisses his forehead. This motherly kiss of true love releases Henry from the spell and breaks the Dark Curse in Storybrooke.("An Apple Red as Blood", "A Land Without Magic")

After First Curse

Following Emma giving Henry true love's kiss, he is awoken from the sleeping curse, and at the same time, the Dark Curse is broken in Storybrooke. In the Enchanted Forest, time resumes. Prince Phillip and his traveling companion, Mulan, have been searching for Phillip's lost love, Aurora. They find her asleep on a bier in a crumbling palace. He revives her with true love's kiss. Shortly after these events, both Henry and Aurora's souls return to the Netherworld, which manifests as a shared, unsettling dream of a windowless, doorless room with red curtains burning in flames. Henry recounts his nightmare to David by describing the presence of a woman across the room, which Aurora mirrors in recollection of seeing a young boy in the dream's room. ("Tallahassee")

Once more, Henry and Aurora meet again at opposite ends of the room; trapped by the flames threatening to engulf them. Both Henry and Aurora's ordeals in the inferno cause burns and other injuries to manifest on their physical bodies. To understand what is happening to Henry, David and Regina consult Mr. Gold to learn more about this side effect of the sleeping curse. Mr. Gold explains that while a victim is asleep under the curse, the person's soul journeys to the Netherworld. Even after being free from the binding effects of the curse via true love's kiss, the soul will still continue to traverse to the Netherworld for a period of time. Mr. Gold gives Henry a special necklace to wear when he falls asleep so the flames in the Netherworld will not harm him. Fueled by the power of it, Henry easily fans down the fire separating him from Aurora and begins to breach a line of communication with her. ("Child of the Moon ", "Into the Deep")

Henry learns from speaking with Aurora that she is from the Enchanted Forest, and is currently with Emma and Mary Margaret while trying to escape the clutches of their enemy, Cora. While Mulan is reluctant to let her princess return to the dangerous Netherworld, Aurora insists on meeting with Henry. The boy tries to tell Aurora how to defeat Cora by gathering squid ink from Rumplestiltskin's old cell, but Mulan forces Aurora awake before she can hear him and Aurora is subsequently kidnapped by Cora. Mary Margaret comes up with a plan to use poppies to induce a deep enough sleep so she can return to the Netherworld and talk to her grandson. Meanwhile in Storybrooke, David volunteers to be put under the sleeping curse to relay the needed information without subjecting Henry to further harm, using the enchanted necklace for protection. After pricking his finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, David arrives in a dark room with mirrors and discovers that the fiery room which torments returning prisoners is directly underneath. After breaking the floor, David falls into the fiery room where Mary Margaret is presently waiting to speak to Henry. She is shocked to see him, but he makes haste by informing her about the squid ink. Mary Margaret tries to break David's curse with true love's kiss, but they are unable to physically touch while in the Netherworld. ("Into the Deep")

While Emma and Mary Margaret fight against Cora and Hook for their chance to return home, David remains asleep and trapped alone in the Netherworld inferno. When they do make it back to Storybrooke, Mary Margaret rushes to David's side and revives him with true love's kiss. ("Queen of Hearts")

Following a mishap that lands Neal in the Enchanted Forest, his concern for Emma and Henry's whereabouts prompts Aurora to help him by trying to seek them out in the Netherworld. Neal asks for two messages to be delivered; to tell Henry his father is still alive, and for Emma to know he loves her, but she has no luck finding either party in the dream world. ("The Heart of the Truest Believer")

After Third Curse

In Oz, Dorothy is inflicted with the sleeping curse by Zelena, who wishes to use the silver slippers to return home. After being inflicted, Dorothy's soul presumably ends up in the Netherworld, but she is freed from this realm after Ruby returns to Oz and gives Dorothy a kiss, which breaks the curse. ("Ruby Slippers")

After Belle puts herself under a sleeping curse, her soul is trapped in the Netherworld. However, when Mr. Gold uses the Sands of Morpheus on her, she is pulled from the Netherworld and into the Dream World. Disguising himself as Morpheus, her unborn son warns Mr. Gold that Belle will be returned to the Netherworld if he does not awaken her before the hourglass runs out. However, in the end, she is awakened by her son. ("Ruby Slippers", "The Savior")

In an attempt to get her ultimate revenge on Snow White, the Evil Queen casts a sleeping curse on her and David's shared heart. As a result, whenever one is awakened by True Love's Kiss, the other is put to sleep. Presumably, the Queen modified the spell to keep the couple from reuniting in the Netherworld, just as they suffer from the inability to physically be together in Storybrooke. ("Heartless")

Emma, Hook, Regina, Granny, Doc, Mr. Clark, Leroy, Walter, Archie and Marco, amongst others, each take a sip of the essence of Snow and David's sleeping curse, hoping to dilute it enough to break it. Presumably, they all briefly end up in the Netherworld while asleep. Fortunately, the shared curse turns out to be so weak that they all wake up shortly after. ("Awake")



For detailed location information, please see the list of minor Netherworld locations.

Ways to Access the Netherworld

The Netherworld can be accessed:

  • By being under a sleeping curse. ("Into the Deep")
  • By having the short term "side effect" of falling asleep after being awoken from a sleeping curse. ("Into the Deep")
  • Using ground poppy dust to induce a deep enough sleep in a former curse victim that their natural defenses "fall away" and they return to their metaphysical prison. ("Into the Deep")


On-Screen Notes

Production Notes


Note: "Archive" denotes archive footage.