I’m about halfway through The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and a couple of days ago I came across the following quote
Context: Claire’s grandma finds out about Henry and tries to caution Claire about the potential life she will live with him.
It instantly got me thinking about mothers in fairy tales. Since I only remember these stories vaguely, I could only come up with a generalization: Rarely do mothers take an active role in fairy tales.
I say rarely because I am presently unaware of any fairy tale that contradicts this. For all I know, there could be a few that contradict my generalization.
I couldn’t shake it off. I wanted to know more. I was confident that I would find an article or a blog post exploring this theme.
I found an article on the website, For Book’s Sake, and it provided a nice overview of the different females and their roles in fairy tales. Specifically on Mothers:
“Mothers are never protagonists. Goldilocks, Jack and Red Riding Hood have mamas who embody a child’s-eye view of a parent – the big someone who tells you to do the right thing, a straw doll; set up to be gleefully smashed down.“-Vanessa Woolf-Hoyle
This other blogpost I read seems to justify how Mother’s are presented in fairy tales. That, in order for the protagonist to grow they need to, more or less, go out into the world. And of course a caring mother wouldn’t want her child to be doing something potentially dangerous.
Although it makes sense, that kind of perspective paints a general picture that Mothers are more of an obstacle than a person/ character who can potentially function in various ways in a story. And perhaps it varies from culture to culture. The fairy tales I grew up with (and I feel are more widespread) are predominantly Western.
I’m pretty sure more critical writing has been done on this subject. Something I’ll be looking into in the future.
What do you think?