Cold, heartless, evil witch, despicable old hag. These are only a few of the multitude of terms that have been used through the last several centuries to describe the second wife of Cinderella’s father, more commonly known as the “wicked” stepmother. However, the following questions must be asked: Was she truly cold? Was she truly heartless? Was she truly an evil witch or despicable old hag? Or were all of these characteristics just part of the classic fairy tale written centuries ago, from every perspective other than her own.
Not only is it an absolute necessity to ask these questions, but also to look at the other factors that played into the story, including, but not limited to, the role that Cinderella’s mother played, despite the fact that she was deceased. Also, where was Cinderella’s father during all of this so called “inhumane treatment” of his daughter? Not to mention whose point of view the fairy tale was written from. Along with all of these there are the obvious differences of what would be considered normal behavior for a mother now, and what would be considered normal during the time that this classical fairy tale was written. All of these questions must be asked in order to come to a fair conclusion; they all play a vital role in allowing a clear view of the woman who was so long referred to as “wicked” to come through. Cinderella’s stepmother is not wicked, cruel, or evil in the slightest; rather, she is simply a desperately misunderstood mother.
The first thing to be examined is the comparison between Cinderellas’ mother, and her stepmother. Cinderellas’ mother, whether directly or indirectly, is in fact a large part of the story. Deceased though she may be, she is by her daughters’ side from the very beginning to the very end of this fairy tale and is a large part in her daughters’ success over the stepsisters. “Dear child, be good and say your prayers; God will help you, and I shall look down on you from heaven and always be with you. (Grimm 595)” In the version told by Charles Perrault, the dead mother is portrayed by the fairy godmother who shows up just in time to help Cinderella prepare for the ball to get her chance at her “happily ever after” through the use of magic. In the article “Cinderella: Not so Morally Superior” by Elisabeth Panttaja we get a closer look at how Cinderellas’ mother is intertwined in the version of the fairy tale written by the Grimm brothers. “But is she really motherless? Not really, since the twig that she plants on her mother’s grave grows into a tree that takes care of her, just as her mother promised to do. The mother then, is figured in the hazel tree and in the birds that live in it’s branches. (645). In looking at these facts another question must be asked, if it were in fact Cinderella’s mother that was alive, and the mother of the other two girls that was deceased, would the stepsisters have even gotten the few luxuries that Cinderella received? Would they have gotten less? Would they have been allowed their chance at happily ever after? No! It is obvious through all of this that the stepmother is not cruel, she is simply out for the best interest of her own daughters, just as Cinderella’s mother was looking out for Cinderella’s best interest.
The next factor that needs to be looked at in order to clear the stepmothers name is the issue of Cinderella’s father. Would a man, who truly appeared to love his daughter in all versions of the fairy tale, simply sit back and allow his new wife to treat his child in such an inhumane manner? No! In her article, “I am Cinderella’s Stepmother and I Know My Rights” Judith Rossner gives us a view of what Cinderella’s father was like before the stepmother even came into the picture, “incapable of mobilizing himself or controlling his strong-willed daughter. She would not go to school… (641).” Also, in “Ashputtle”, the Grimm brothers version of Cinderella, it appears that it was not Cinderella’s...
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