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date: 29 November 2021

p. 11. Once upon a timelocked

p. 11. Once upon a timelocked

  • Jonathan Bate


What qualities does a story have that allows it to pass the test of continued esteem so well? ‘Once upon a time’ considers the golden rules of good literature. Such works as Winnie-the-Pooh and The Tale of Peter Rabbit can be read and re-read because of the strengths of their storytelling and characterization, and the quality of the writing. We keep somewhere in our memories, as William Wordsworth phrases it, ‘recollections of early childhood’. Literature is much about inverting traditions as inheriting them. The most interesting characters are often outsiders and reading is a solitary activity. Where did the phrase ‘Once up a time’ begin?

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