“Once Upon a Time” by J.R. Poulter with Teacher Notes

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Once Upon a Time    by J.R.Poulter

Once upon a long ago

In the distant mists of time

There was a prince who had to make

A poesy all in rhyme.


He had to weave a wondrous tale

For his intended bride,

That swept the legends of the land

The myths from far and wide


Into one vast saga,

A tome to end all tomes!

He set out to collect the tales,

It took him far from home.


The prince crossed many deserts,

He climbed  too many hills,

He walked through sun and snow and sleet.

He suffered many ills!


At last, he had his great big book!

At last, he’d wed his bride!

But as he neared the castle,

He heard a mournful sigh…


What stood there was a ruin,

Wind moaned through empty halls.

Of all the pomp and pageantry,

Nothing was left at all…


Amidst a drape of spider webs

Within the central court,

He found a tomb whose statuary

Had been most marvelous wrought.


There was his bride, robed as a queen,

Her king was by her side.

A scroll lay open on her lap

Of fictions, fables, lies…


The prince stood still, 

As turned to stone.

The ancient beams

Above him groaned.


A crack, a scream,

He was no more.

The Tome of Tales 

Lay on the floor.


The wind tore at the pages,

Tossing them far away.

All that was left, the marble tomb

And what it had to say,


“Once upon a time…”

[in “Myths & Legends” a Prints Charming Anthology edited by Sally Odgers]


“Once Upon a Time” is a narrative verse fantasy in loosely rhyming quatrains.

The story is framed around the idea of a ‘trial of love’ whereby a suitor is set a difficult task, which he has to perform in order to win the lady he loves.

Difficult to impossible tasks are seen in other fairy tales. Rumplestiltskin and Cinderella are examples.  Greek legends also contain this sort of plot device  as with the trials of Hercules and the legend of Perseus and Medusa.

Activity: Write a story or draw a wall frieze in sections  about a hero who is set an impossible task  and how he achieves it.

Discussion: It is said a challenge is good for you, it develops your thinking processes and your problem solving skills. True or false? Give reasons.

Activity: List examples of  ‘challenges’ you meet in everyday life.

Discussion: Homework and chores – institutionalized cruelty, child labour are necessary for maturation/character building, learning responsibility  and ‘earning’ our way.

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