Once upon a time is a stock phrase (or a 'fossilized phrase') that has been used for many hundreds of years in storytelling in the English language.
It is particularly apparent in fairytales for children, where it is almost always the opening line of a tale. It was commonly used in the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, or The Brothers Grimm
The phrase is also frequently used in oral storytelling, such as retellings of myths, fables, and folklore.
Equivalent phrases are also used in many other languages to begin a fable or tale:
8*In oral literature, phrases like "I remember something that our father told me and that is this:" are common (Iraqw: Kar aníng te-'ée' to-ká a inhláw ar aakó doo-rén ni alki'-a i tí). Endings are often like "Such is the story that our father told us" (Iraqw: a-n ti'itá-r akóo doo-rén na alki'íit).
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