- “I am his apprentice. And you are not the first Dark One I have faced.”
- ―The Apprentice to Zoso
The Apprentice is a character of the show Once Upon a Time, based on the role of the Sorcerer's Apprentice. He first appears in the fourth episode of the fourth season. He is the longest lived, non-immortal in the series.
Before the First Curse
In the Enchanted Forest, around the equaivalent of the 16th century in Our World, an unnamed boy was made the apprentice to the immortal wizard Merlin. After Merlin's romance with Nimue resulted in the birth of the Dark One lineage and the wizard himself being turned into a tree, the Apprentice took charge of finding authors for the Once Upon a Time books.
For centuries, the Apprentice watchover a box capable of transforming into a hat for absorbing and accumulating magic, from each person that takes on the Dark One's powers. As an added measure of security, the sorcerer curses the box so those who have succumbed to darkness may never open it, and only someone who has been tempted into darkness but has not given into it can do the opposite. While sweeping the grounds of the box's location, the latest Dark One, Zoso, arrives in an attempt to open the guarded relic. The apprentice, after being magically thrown aside by Zoso, watches the Dark One's futile endeavor to access the box's contents only to be blasted away by the artifact's magic. Once he informs the Dark One of why his mission will never succeed, a beaten Zoso teleports away.
In 1966, the current author (implied to be Walt Disney) passed away, and the Apprentice went to Our World to find a new author by sending out invitations to the fictional Star Publishing to rookie authors. One such applicant was Issac Heller, a falling TV salesman. The Apprentice tested him by presenting the Author's quill among other pens, in order to determine his nature as a writer. Issac chose the quill, proving he could believe in magic and the Apprentice hired him.
Years later, Zoso is succeeded by the next Dark One, Rumplestiltskin, who also conspires to possess the sorcerer's box and utilize the hat within it. The apprentice, now living in a small cottage, stores the box in his basement for safekeeping. In a deal with Anna, Rumplestiltskin sends her to put a bottled substance, which she presumes to be poison, into the apprentice's tea. In actuality, it is an antidote to cure him from a poison he had ingested from Rumplestiltskin. During one day, the apprentice opens his door to Anna and invites her in for tea and biscuits. He even allows her to stay at his home as long as she desires. As he sweeps the floor, Anna checks on the boiling kettle. Despite Rumplestiltskin's instructions, she dumps the bottled substance into a fire. After Anna's departure from the cottage, the poison causes him to turn into a mouse. Since discovering the truth, Anna rushes to the apprentice's house and begs Rumplestiltskin to undo the poison's effects, but the Dark One tricks the girl into nearly succumbing to darkness but ultimately turning away from it. After Rumplestiltskin gains the box, the apprentice, in mouse form, jumps onto and bites the Dark One's hand. Startled, Rumplestiltskin drops the dagger, to which Anna seizes it and commands him to give the box to her. She forces him into sending her and the box to Arendelle as well as reverting the apprentice into a human.
The Apprentice later meets the Princess of Arendelle's aunt, Ingrid the Snow Queen. She wants him to ask the Sorcerer what she needs to complete her family. After Ingrid had frozen Anna and Kristoff following her tricking Anna into imprisoning Elsa in a magical urn, she is approached in a cave by the Apprentice. In exchange that Ingrid hands him the box instead of giving it to Rumplestiltskin, he will tell her what the Sorcerer told him about Ingrid's question. Ingrid does so and the Apprentice tells her that she will need a true sister. As the sister in question is not born yet, the Apprentice tells Ingrid that the sister she requires will grow up on Earth as he manifests a portal door to take Ingrid to Earth in the 1980s.
Snow White and Prince Charming are directed by a peddler to the Apprentice's house where they talk to him about the vision of Emma being corrupted. The Apprentice tells them that a blank slate would purge the darkness from their child. He warns them that once the spell is enacted, it can't be reversed. When Maleficent's egg is obtained, Snow White and Charming ended up transferring their unborn child's potential for darkness into Maleficent's egg, and the Apprentice had no choice but to banish the unborn child into a Land Without Magic, as its presence in the Enchanted Forest would have been too dangerous to handle. The Apprentice furious at the events The Author had manipulated, demanded for the quill back telling him he had abused all the rules, having lied and deceived himself and the Sorcerer and forsaken his holy duty. The Apprentice then traps him within a illustrated of a door in a page of the book as punishment for his crime.
The Apprentice later tells his master about what has been done with Maleficent's child. He asks whether there is a way to undo this but the Sorcerer says no. the Sorcerer then goes on to tell his apprentice the girls will now and forever remain entwined together.
During the First Curse
The Apprentice travels to a A Land Without Magic and meets Lily on a bus. He compliments her on her necklace and remarks how it compliments the birthmark on her wrist.Questioning how her knew this, he tells that he knows everything about her and can explain why her life is so miserable. He believes he owes the truth to her.
After the Second Curse
Receiving a knock at his door, the apprentice is shocked to see the Dark One, Mr. Gold. Forced into a seat by Mr. Gold's accomplice, Hook, he watches the Dark One set down the sorcerer's box, opening it with the cursed dagger, which transforms into a hat. Despite being surprised Mr. Gold has the box, the apprentice warns that every Dark One has tried to possess it, but all eventually fail. With cautious assertion, he declares the unlikelihood of Mr. Gold's plan to amass enough magic in the hat to free himself from the dagger's will and still keep his Dark One powers. Mr. Gold assures him otherwise, and then turns the hat's underside to face the apprentice, who is sucked into it.
The Blue Fairy, is able to release the Apprentice, who immediately says that there's no time to waste. He tells Emma, Hook, Henry, Mary Margaret, David, and Regina that they must find the storybook page depicting the door, as well as the door's key, for only then will they be able to lock Isaac back into the book where he belongs. Emma, Regina, and the Apprentice head to Gold's Pawn Shop.
After Henry is revealed to be the new author, the Sorcerer's Apprentice tells Henry more about his new powers as the Author, which do not include the ability to resurrect the dead, such as his father Neal, since he died in the real world. He urges Henry to resist the temptation of embellishing stories with the quill like Isaac had done and Henry responds by snapping it in half, saying that "no one should have that much power." With this action, the old man deems they have picked the right person for the job.
Belle shows up to tell everyone that the last bit of humanity in Gold's heart is about to turn black and the group finds Gold unconscious. The Apprentice then uses his power to pull the darkness out of Gold and transfers it into the Sorcerer's Hat. He then puts a pure white heart back into Gold. However, the hat is unable to contain the darkness and it is unleashed into the Apprentice. Emma then uses her light magic to pull the darkness back out of the apprentice and the dark magic disappears out of the shop. As the apprentice lays dying, he tells Emma and Hook that the darkness must be tethering to a human soul that can be controlled with the Dark One's Dagger and that the only person who can prevent the darkness from destroying all the realms is a sorcerer named Merlin, who lives in a place far away.
Once the Darkness consumes Emma and she becomes the new Dark One, he gives Emma's allies a wand which will transport them to another realm, through the use of Light and Dark Magic. He dies shortly afterward, having been weakened by the Darkness.
- Unlike Sorcerer Mickey and Dave Stutler, this version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice is an old man who is based on the original apprentice from the Goethe poem.
- He is described as "an elderly, grizzled, and unflappable knight who for many, many years has dedicated himself to serving a righteous cause".
- His transformation into a mouse is a reference to Mickey Mouse, the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia.
- While not immortal, the Apprentice lived for over 500 years thanks to the magic he was taught by Merlin slowing his aging.
- The Apprentice moved on from the Underworld after Henry made the right choice to restore their inhabitants stories to reveal their unfinished business.
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