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Before I forget to post it all in depth, I had some more thinkie thoughts on Cora, her deal and why she got to keep Regina, when the deal was originally for her firstborn.
So I got to thinking.
We know Cora is an ambitious woman. Very ambitious. She believes “one’s trajectory should keep moving up”, even though she started life as the daughter of a miller. The daughter of the miller to be precise: the woman who made a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to save her life when the King commanded she spin straw into gold, after her father was a lying windbag.
But here’s where I’m thinking OUaT will be playing on the tale. Cora doesn’t seem the type to make a deal just for her life. I’m pretty sure she made a deal with Rumpelstiltskin that was “if you get me to be Queen, I will give you anything you want, even my firstborn”. To which Rumpel, delighted by the possibility of having someone to twist up from birth, agreed.
So, a suitable King in need of a wife was found: a King with a fondness for gold by the name of George. George was thrilled to bits when it appeared this lovely miller’s daughter could spin straw into as much gold as he could possibly want. King George naturally wanted to keep this all to himself, but while he was a greedy man, he was also a man who held family in deep regard.
As Cora found out, “love doesn’t last”. When he found out the woman he was to wed was willing to trade their firstborn child for her place at his side, he dropped her like hot coals, because he could not love a woman who did not care for the child of her blood. He, instead, married a woman he ended up falling in love with. Cora, furious at losing out on the position she regarded as hers, cursed the new Queen to barrenness.
Cora, instead, found a suitable man, a malleable man, a man whose heart she quite literally stole away. Henry bowed to her every whim, doted and adored her, even if it wasn’t always quite as he wished. And when their child was born, their firstborn, Cora knew she could not be Queen herself, but her daughter became her cypher. Her daughter would be and have all the things she always wanted and never got.
When Rumpelstiltskin came to claim the child, Cora denied him. She turned him away, telling him that their deal was that she would be Queen. She took her child back from him, and from that day, until the day Regina called on him, he bided his time, and in the end, he gave Cora what she wanted: he arranged for her to be cast into a world, where she could make herself a Queen. No one breaks a deal with Rumpelstiltskin, dearie.