In Storyland every day is, more or less, Mother’s Day . . .
Mothers in Storyland might be well advised to increase their life insurance. The actuarial statistics are staggering. Compared with their counterparts in Real Life, Literary Moms are highly likely to suffer an early death. The mothers of Cinderella and Snow White, for example, pass away in the first paragraphs of their daughters’ stories. And motherless orphans abound in children’s books: Babar, Dorothy (of Kansas and Oz), Harry Potter, Tom Sawyer, and on and on. That said, let us consider the various kinds of moms who survive these injurious odds.
Monster Moms. In Storyland, the biological mother often passes away and is replaced by the Monster Mom. In novels, we encounter the Awful Aunt: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, for example, has to suffer under the tyranny of her Aunt Miranda and Pollyanna is badgered by her grumpy Aunt Polly. In fairy tales, of course, the arriving Monster Mom is often the evil stepmother. (Given their reputation, this sometimes worries real stepmothers: See below.)
Originally appeared in Parents’ Choice (May 2005).
is a specialist in children's literature and other cultural topics. He writes for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. Some of his seven books are listed below. A former professor, Griswold taught at San Diego State University, UCLA, UCSD, UConn, and the National University of Ireland in Galway.
Audacious Kids: The Classic American Children’s Story
Feeling Like a Kid: Childhood and Children’s Literature
The Meanings of “Beauty and the Beast”: A Handbook