Strong Male Character

I’ve written several posts on strong female fictional characters. This post is on a strong male fictional character, Rumplestiltskin of the TV series Once Upon a Time. This will make more since, if you are a fan of the series. Even if you’re not, I hope you will see how a good character is made up of layers.

A short rundown: The evil Queen Regina wants revenge because Snow White has betrayed her. Per a curse, the queen destroys all of fairy and moves everyone to Storybrooke, Maine, where there is no magic and where no one remembers who they are. For twenty-eight years time has stood still, until Emma arrives and decides to stay. It was foretold that Emma will break the curse and set everyone free. Only Emma does not believe in fairyland or magic.


A strong character isn’t someone who is a mighty action figure. A strong character is someone who is an interesting and has a complicated nature. Just when you think you have him figure out, he does something that seems out of character, but as you get to know him and what is in his heart, his actions make since.

Rumplestiltskin says the most powerful magic is Love. The Bible says Love casts out all fear. Love is stronger than faith or hope. Love is the only magic Rumple did not have.

Rumple is evil; he’s the dark lord. He takes pleasure in turning someone he doesn’t like into a slug and crushing him under foot. People run from him. Yet, they also go to him when they have an imposable desire, or problem, that only magic can fix. The price for his service is often too high to pay, like a first-born child.

When Snow White comes with a request, he asks for a strand of hair. When Prince Charming comes, Rumple asks for his cloak so he can retrieve a strand of hair.

The two strands intertwine. He places them in a small glass bottle no larger than his palm, and places it on the shelf. He now has a bottle of Love, the most powerful magic. Why would someone so happily evil want love?

Rumple used to be a kindly, though a bit crowdly, human. When the children of his village came a certain age, the king would take them away to become soldiers of war. Rumple wanted to save his son from this fate. He became the evil one buy killing the previous dark lord. He used his new power to end the war and set all children free, but the power also changed him. He now likes being evil and seeks more power. To stop him, someone must kill Rumple and assume the darkness.

Ah, not so fast.

True Love’s kiss almost changed Rumple back into a normal human, but as the transformation was taking place, he refused.

I thought it was because he loved being evil and didn’t want to give up his power. All the evidence pointed to that conclusion, but I was wrong. Those devious writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz were misleading me.

They’d also let confused clues.

From the beginning, I knew Rumple was aware that he was from fairyland. I knew while in fairyland, he had allowed himself to be captured and put in prison for the rest of his life. Rumple never does anything without reason. He wanted to learn the name of Snow White’s child, Emma. He couldn’t just ask, he had to put himself in a position where where Snow white would come to him. The price to her request was the name of her daughter.

I thought his motive was revenge. I thought he planned on helping Emma defeat the queen.

The queen betrayed him and broke his heart. What better way to get back at her than to undo her curse? I thought he was the one person Emma could trust to set everyone free. But two things nagged at me.

He made the curse. Why undo it? Why make it in the first place? Why help Emma, he never does anything for free or unless it benefited him. Revenge didn’t seem enough.

Now I know, everything he’d done, turn down true love, and create a curse to destroy all of fairyland, was for love.

Mister evil himself is trying to mend his broken heart; not the one the queen broke.

He would not give up magic for the true love of a woman. Instead, he gave magic up for the love of his heart, his son.

His son wanted his father back. The son tried to bring Rumple to a place where there was no magic and he could be himself again. But the evil dark lord, whom every one fears, was too terrified to jump into the void. At first, I thought he refused to go because he didn’t want to give up his magic. But he was truly afraid. He didn’t know where the void would lead. He thought it was a trick and he’d be torn apart. The son went and Rumple was left behind.

Rumple immediately regretted his decision, but it was too late.

Everything he did from that moment on, all his evilness, was because of love. Except evil warped Rumple so he does things son would not have approved. Nevertheless, somewhere deep inside, there is a spark that wants to come out, but it’s weak, evil is stronger. True love cannot die. Rumple desire to be good for his son. Unfortunately, at the moment, he doesn’t know what that means.

One second, Rumple is repentive, and is begging forgiveness of the one he thought was his son. The next moment he’s ready to gut the imposter. In the end, Rumple lets the man live because it might be to his benefit. Now that’s the Rumplestiltskin we know.

The writers set Rumplestiltskin up as an evil man. They set us up to think everything he does is for his evil pleasure, but there is more to him than that. He would not be as interesting if all he was, was evil. Love is the exact opposite of his nature and what he represents. Love gives his dimension.

He is suddenly venerable. He has fears and feelings. Something we didn’t see when the writers first introduced him. They mislead us only to reveal a more captivating character of depth.

Characters like Rumplestiltskin take careful, thoughtful planning. So many authors, myself included, allow a character to control his or her destiny, and I’m sure the same is true for Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. But I’m also sure when a character demands to be apart of the story, they take control and develop the character to his or her full potential. It’s how characters like Rumplestiltskin become strong fictional characters.


On a side note, I think Robert Carlyle should receive an Emmy for his portrayal of Rumplestiltskin.