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They're born in a magical place, the Hill of Stones. They answer your question when you bring them back home.

Merida to Emma src

Will-o'-the-wisps, better known as the Wisps, are a species featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. They are native to the Enchanted Forest, and first appear, with their only appearance, in the first episode of the fifth season.

Will-o'-the-wisps are based on the species of the same name from the Disney/Pixar film, Brave.


Before Third Curse

In the Enchanted Forest, some distance away from the Hill of Stones, Emma accidentally blinks herself to a forest area near a stream, after a manifestation of Rumplestiltskin tells her to picture herself there. He then directs her to a nearby will-o-wisp that is flying by, stating that the creature can lead her to Merlin. Emma begins a frantic chase after the wisp, but before she can reach it, Merida grabs it. Emma magically pulls her back, which causes Merida to draw her bow and arrow at her, accusing the blonde of being a witch. Instead, Emma tries to explain her desperate circumstances, and while Merida sympathizes with her, she also needs the wisp to find her kidnapped brothers. After putting down her weapon, Merida suggests they can fight for the wisp and the winner can have it, as long as there are no weapons or magic involved. Emma declines, not wanting to give into her own darkness, and asks Merida to take the wisp and leave. Merida thanks her and proposes giving the wisp to her after she is done using it at the Hill of Stones. When the two rest for the night, Emma hears from Rumplestiltskin that the wisp will belong to Merida once she has used it, and it can never be used by another again, as long as Merida's heart is still beating. Merida, overhearing Emma seemingly talk to herself about betraying her, flees in the morning to the Hill of Stones, where she whispers into the wisp. Following a confrontation, Emma rips out Merida's heart, crushing it, but before she can end the latter's life for good, Hook and her family arrive to convince her into returning the heart. Afterwards, Merida parts from Emma on good terms, and goes to follow the wisp. ("The Dark Swan")

Later on, the wisp leads Merida to a boat to cross the Ivory Sea, getting her back to DunBroch. Before she can row away away, King Arthur shows up and sees her stealing his boat. For treason, he imprisons her in his kingdom and takes the wisp for himself. ("The Bear and the Bow")



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