After the last post, I started to ponder the role of female fairy tale characters. A lot has been written about Fairy Tale Princesses and we hear about Disney Princesses all the time, but what about those other fairy tale females? You know the ones I’m talking about – those wicked witches and evil stepmothers and dark queens.
As it turns out, wicked fairy tale females are actually beloved by many, as evidenced by such things as #evilregal on Twitter. Want to see? Type #evilregal in on Twitter and you’ll soon find that #evilregals are huge fans of Lana Parrilla‘s character, the Evil Queen Regina Mills, on ABC’s Once Upon a Time. While we’re on the topic, let’s take the Regina Mills character as an example. Regina Mills represents the Evil Queen from Snow White. The Evil Queen in Snow White also happens to be the Evil Stepmother of Snow White in ABC’s Once Upon a Time — in the Grimm Brothers’ version, she is Snow White’s mother. But what makes her evil? Why is she the bad one?
That is where ABC’s Once Upon a Time attempts to fill in the backstory behind this Evil Queen and give us her perspective. I believe that is why so many people have become #evilregals. They sympathize with the circumstances that might cause someone to become “evil”.
Why are such “bad” characters placed in fairy tales in the first place? I think it is to emphasize the contrast with the “good” fairy tales princesses. If the nice, beautiful, good princesses are supposed to represent what we should strive to be, then the mean, ugly, bad females represent what we should stay away from. Placing morals in fairy tales became emphasized when the Grimm Brothers collections were marketed toward children.
More recently, taking a closer look at the backstories of fairy tale characters and what motivates them, good or bad, seems to be coming into vogue. Take ABC’s Once Upon a Time once again as an example. Or how about Cinder by Marissa Meyer? This Cinderella character is quite different from the traditional concept. But if the shoe – err – foot fits . . . .
While we’re looking at evil females, how about looking closer at the classic fairy tale of Cinderella? Cinderella’s evil stepmother and evil stepsisters are perhaps three of the most popular wicked female characters in fairy tales. Movies, ballets, and literary versions of Cinderella abound. Cinderella’s evil stepmother and stepsisters have been portrayed in so many ways – ugly and bumbling in Disney’s Cinderella cartoon, often by men in ballet versions. My favorite is the Grimm Brothers’ version where Cinderella’s evil stepmother instructs the stepsisters to hack off parts of their feet in order to get the shoe to fit. And the rhyme where the pigeons tell the prince “Rook di goo, rook di goo! There’s blood in the shoe. The shoe is too tight, This bride is not right!” emphasizes the extremes the evil stepsisters are willing to go to.
Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and Sleeping Beauty are other examples of classic fairy tales with wicked female characters. Whether we love them or hate them, these wicked witches, evil stepmothers and dark queens definitely add to a love of fairy tales!