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Author
Comment
ErinK2010
Registered User
(10/19/06 1:02 pm)

Fairytale stepmothers
I am writing a paper for my english class about the negative effect that fairytales can have on the perceptions of stepmothers of real life. If you all wouldn't mind, please answer the following question and also list your age and the state/country in which you live. Thanks!


Did your first exposure to the idea of a stepmother come from a fairytale such as "Cinderella"?

katherine
Registered User
(10/20/06 6:54 am)


Re: Fairytale stepmothers
Age 24
Great Britain

As my parents never divorced, and none of my friends parents split or remarried - i guess the concept of a stepmother was indeed introduced by fairytales (particularly Snow White) and i cant recall a tale in which the stepmother figure is ever painted in a positive light, as they are always portrayed as the polar opposite of the young and virtuous maiden/princess - i think the word im looking for is dichotomy - dichotomy of virgin/whore, young/old, good/evil , victim/purpetrator, beauty/ugliness. Such tales certainly made the idea of a father bringing a new woman into the family home, a frightening one!

ErinK2010
Registered User
(10/20/06 8:06 am)

Re: Fairytale stepmothers
Thanks, Katherine.

My parents separated but neither remarried, so all my ideas are courtesy of the Grimm Brothers, whose stories I read as often as possible.

princessterribel
Registered User
(10/22/06 2:38 am)

Re: Fairytale stepmothers
I am lucky enough to have both of my parents still together but another point to explore might be that the fairytale reflects the very real concerns of the child. Perhaps the Grimms (for example), rather than creating their wicked stepmother by themselves, played upon a real childhood fear of the loss and replacement of the biological mother.
What I am saying is that rather than the fairytale image of the stepmother influencing society perhaps it is society that influences this fairytale creation. I am sorry if I have not described this very well.

I don't remember where my first encounter of a stepmother came from although I would say that it would be Cinderella that I would think of on hearing the word Stepmother. Probably because it is my favourite tale.

aka Greensleeves
Registered User
(10/23/06 4:01 pm)

Re: Fairytale stepmothers
Well, I'll admit that yes, my first exposure to the idea of a stepmother was from fairy tales. I'm 32.

However, I don't think it influenced my real-life perceptions thereof in any meaningful way.

Princessterrible makes a good point, one echoed by a folklore professor of mine. He stressed that the stepparents in Grimm were stand-ins for the biological parents, arguing that it would be too traumatic to address the idea of "My real mother doesn't love me." A stepmother is a safer villain figure--allowing readers to approach the concept of an unloving and threatening parent without committing fully to the horror of that threat coming from a biological parent.

cailinodea
Registered User
(10/23/06 6:53 pm)

Re: Fairytale stepmothers
43
USA (Nevada)

My dad's mom died when he was 16 and the only Gramma B. I ever knew was his stepmother. The funny thing is, I never thought about her as a stepmother, even though I always knew she was. Stepmother was something only found in fairy tales and they were bad. Gramma B. wasn't bad so she wasn't a stepmother. I don't know how old I was before I got things reconciled in my mind - it may even have been after she died (I was 9). I have a stepmother now and I am one as well, so my view of stepmothers are quite different than they were all those decades ago!

Colleen

Heidi Anne Heiner
ezOP
(10/23/06 7:50 pm)

Re: Fairytale stepmothers
Age 34
Tennessee, USA

My first exposure to stepmothers was in fairy tales, and, yes I thought the stereotype must be true at a very young age. To be completely honest, The Brady Bunch helped break the stereotype for me. There's an episode where the stepmother issue is the plot and it helped me realize that wicked stepmothers were a thing of fiction since I knew Carol Brady was not wicked or mean. How's that for showing my age! I don't remember many Brady Bunch plots, but that one always stood out for me.

My personal experience with stepmothers was very limited until I was at least a teenager. Then the emotion wasn't about wickedness but mostly just about the pains of friends with divided homes. Now that most stepmothers result from divorce, not the death of the birth mother, it gives the stepmother issue a whole other scope with alimony and visitation and those other issues that cause tension.

Heidi

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(10/23/06 11:46 pm)

Re: Fairytale stepmothers
[[ stand-ins for real parents ... safer villains ]]

This is an interesting theory, but I don't see how it could be claimed to apply to all tellings of all stories to all audiences in all centuries. :-)

I think this has been discussed, and some evidence was found of stories whose early version had a real parent villain which changed to a step villain in later versions. But I recall it as not being enough evidence to support such a generalization.

Perhaps there was a short period between high mortality rates and high divorce rates, when step parents were as rare as spinning wheels, and such a theory would be plausible. But in periods when in fact there are many step parents ... and step SISTERS -- well, not all of them can be saints, and there really can be much cause for friction.

avalondeb
Registered User
(11/1/06 2:09 pm)

Re: Fairytale stepmothers
Age 41
New York State, USA

I have had:
2 stepmothers
1 stepfather
1 stepsister
2 stepbrothers

I first heard about "steps" from Disney's Cinderella.

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