Evil stepmothers abound in fairy tales and mythology. Most of us grew up with stories about Cinderella’s stepmother who jeopardized Cinderalla’s chance for happiness. A common trope has been to pit a stepmother against her stepdaughter. When viewed through a modern lens, we realize that these stories depict the lack of female power and how their livelihood depends on the men in their lives. It is no wonder these women are typically battling for a man’s attention.
In Indian mythology, Queen Kaikeyi in Ramayana is the catalyst for the epic. She banishes her stepson, Rama, to the forest for fourteen years and sets in motion the quest for Sita. Her crime is wanting the throne for her birth son. Her desire paints her in a dark light compared to the sacrifice of noble Rama.
For a good stepmother, you need to turn to Mrs.Dashwood in Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Here, the stepson wrongs the stepmother by his greed.
Coming to my books, you catch a glimpse of Queen Charu in the prequel Novella. She is not an evil stepmother. Nor is she a saint. She is misguided, complex, and human.
Her chapter Queen of Malla in Heir to Malla is one of my favorite. It is a quiet chapter of a mother sharing her story with her daughter. Her words reveal so much about the place and agency of women in those times.
Who is your favorite fictional stepmother?