Worst Fairy Tale Parents

Part of what makes a particular piece of writing stand out is the author's ability to create memorable characters. Worst Fairy tale parents will demonstrate this and show how memorable characters aren't necessarily likeable ones. 
Most writers have fun playing around with naughty characters. Others seek to romance the reader with heroes so gallant, they wish said heroes could materialise and sweep them off their feet. Fairy stories on the other hand, are notorious for getting criminal characters misclassified as heroes (as discussed in the linked article). 

Worst fairy tale parents

What I'd like to discuss today is the portrayal of a number of parents in traditional fairy tales. While reading the following stories to my children, I wonder over and over again, why the parents failed to do something about their children's dilemmas. 

Here's the countdown to my worst fairy tale parents.

Worst fairy tale parent - 1: Cinderella's dad

After his wife's death, Cinderella's dad hooked up with an awful woman who had 2 spoilt brats of her own. The new mother-figure he chose for his impressionable daughter, still traumatised from her mother's death, was a woman who knew nothing about raising children.
After all, she'd let her own two run riot. In an age where a woman's place was doing house work and bringing up kids, her daughters couldn't even tie their own shoe laces let alone style their own hair. He gave this stranger power over his household and free rein to physically and mentally abuse his own child. Call the social services. Mr. Cinderella is one stroke short of a full midnight!

Worst fairy tale parent - 2: Rapunzel's parents

They agreed to give up their own child to a woman they knew dabbled in black arts. Whatever happened to protecting your child at all cost? For a silly little pregnancy craving, a little girl was 'sold' to spend the rest of her life in a tower all by herself. There's no fairness in that. Parents who put up less than a fight for their beautiful baby do not deserve a strand of pity. 

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Worst fairy tale parent - 3: Hanzel and Gretel's dad

Speaking of worst fairy tale parents, here's another man who made bad personal choices and caused his children to suffer because of it. His wife died, leaving him with two kids to look after on his own.  It was obviously a difficult time for him. Not only did he lose his wife, but he hadn't work in such a long time, it was getting difficult to feed his own family. His new wife came up with the bizarre solution to the hardship problem which solely involved straying the kids. In our day and age, people who stray animals are classed as criminals. As the story goes, it didn't take him long to be convinced that 'losing' the kids in the woods was a pretty good idea.
In the end, this lazy loser-dad succeeded with his dirty deed, causing no end of trouble for the youngsters. It was only through Gretel's strong will and quick wit that they did not also lose their lives. Did their father take them back once they returned home with gold and other treasures? You bet he did.

Worst fairy tale parent - 4: Snow White's step-mother

Do you see a common trend? I can't compile a list of worst fairy parents and leave this woman out. Fathers in fairy tales don't seem to take any responsibility for their kids. Here is one who remarried a narcissist so involved in herself that she was prepared to kill her young step-daughter merely for being prettier. Where was the father in all this and why didn't he put a stop to the crazy campaign? This evil step-mother hitched up a terrible plan of poison, cruelty, abandonment and attempted murder. Any mother mirroring this step-mother's example of child abuse and neglect is bound for prison in my book.


Worst fairy tale parent -5: Jack's (from the beanstalk) mother

Here is a mother the social services would love to get their giant, collective hands on. She encourages her son to first of all steal (repeatedly) someone else's treasures they'd worked hard to build up. If that wasn't enough, when the big guy came calling to retrieve his possessions - and he had every right to - she assisted her son in murdering him!

We can't do anything about these parents or the way they've behaved with their kids. After all, they're merely fictional people. But how do we write parents' characters these days? Are they people with faults,  or are they literary errors (like the ones we've just looked at) wearing an illusion of human nature?
If you haven't had your fill of fairy tales and worst parents, the Disney club are doing special deals at the moment. I've included a few of their give aways  below. 


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Icy BC February 10, 2010 at 12:16 AM  

Oh you've gotten me thinking..Yes, how do we describe parents these days? Hard working, glue to computer, catching up with the latest technology equipments..with lots of faults, of course!!!

Al February 10, 2010 at 4:48 AM  

I love it.
A new take on the classics.
Very funny!


Publish or Perish

Anne Lyken-Garner February 10, 2010 at 6:29 AM  

Icy, you've got something there. Are we committing the same mistakes nowadays, only in digital format?

Al, welcome to my blog.

Diamonds and Toads February 10, 2010 at 7:37 PM  

Bad parenting is the essence of many fairy tales. I teach a class on fairy tale analysis and have a blog where we focus on bad fairy-tale parents all the time. It's great to see other writers who think about this!
Don't forget Beauty and the Beast's dad. He's a real bad one underneath all of that blahblah and hand wringing.

Anne Lyken-Garner February 11, 2010 at 6:26 AM  

D and T, you're right. I'm now tempted to write him in. Perhaps I will. Thanks for the tip.

June June 6, 2012 at 1:56 AM  

Fantastic reviews. Very original and interesting.I think your blog is very useful and offers a lot of quality to people like me. Thanks for leaving such encouraging words on my blog. I'm giving you a Kreativ Blogger Award. Please come over to my blog to collect it. :-)

Anne Lyken-Garner June 8, 2012 at 9:50 PM  

Thank you, June. I'm honoured by the award, but since I haven't got time to pass them on to other bloggers, I feel guilty accepting awards for my blogs.

I generally love getting them, but can't accept them because of time constraints. Thank you once again. You've made my day!

Anne's a published author, freelance writer and experienced editor. She's just signed her second publishing contract this year with 2 separate publishing houses. You can hire her or see her available books in the side panel on the right.
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