n Mousaion - When love shows itself as cruelty : the role of the fairy tale stepmother in the development of the under-aged reader

Volume 29, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0027-2639



Stemming from the competition between the stepmother and the child for the husband/father's affection, the stepmother is stigmatised as the villain in fairy tales. When considering the stepmother-child relationship, it becomes apparent that even though the stepmother is usually associated with jealousy and cruelty, her character is two-sided. While she has subversive intentions, her actions lead the protagonist to identify and strengthen his/her best qualities.

It seems unacceptable to the reader that a natural mother would treat her child with the cruelty that the stepmother does in fairy tales, subjecting the child to the dangers and perils of the outside world. This article argues that the stepmother's portrayal in fairy tales can, with the help of psychoanalytical readings, be interpreted as a catalyst to enable the process of the child's enforced emancipation from the mother.
The article analyses the roles ascribed in fairy tales to the mother and child figures and the roles they play in the development of under-aged recipients. The behaviour of mothers and stepmothers in fairy tales is analysed to show how they act in the child's best interest, aiding the child's emancipation from the mother.

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