Once upon a time
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Once upon a time" is a stock phrase that has been used in some form since at least 1380 (according to the OED) in storytelling in the English language, and seems to have become a widely accepted convention for opening oral narratives by around 1600. These stories often then end with "... and they all lived happily ever after". These are examples of the narrative form, and occur most frequently in the narratives produced by children aged between 6 and 8.
It is particularly apparent in fairytales for younger children, where it is almost always the opening line of a tale. It was commonly used in the original translations of the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, or the Brothers Grimm as a translation for the German es war einmal (literally "it was once").
- Don McLean's "American Pie" begins with the phrase 'A long, long time ago...'
- Each of the Star Wars films begins with the phrase 'a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.'