"Once upon a time" and "happily ever after" are often children's favorite memories from the stories they grow up with. The fairytales read by children often influence their vision of reality. A child's perception of reality may be thrown askew by the many stereotypes found within these childhood stories. These stereotypes teach children and affect their attitudes as they grow up. Particularly, there has been a tradition of portraying women in a negative way. The Grimm brothers have even gone so far as to call their stories "household tales," implying that women are the ones who stay with children and tell them fairytales (Rexer 3). Grimm's version of "Hansel and Gretel" illustrates some of the negative portrayals through the roles of the stepmother, wicked witch, and the passive female heroine. .
The first stereotype brought about by the story is that of a controlling, selfish, and jealous "evil stepmother." The poor family has not enough food or money so that the whole family can survive, so the stepmother, being the evil woman she is, thinks up a plan to lead the children into the forest and leave them there to die. When the father resists she mocks him, then ends up convincing him that "then we must all four die of hunger, you may as well plane the planks for our coffins" (Grimm 1). Despite his initial plead to not follow that plan, he eventually surrenders to his wife's demands. This scenario clearly shows the stepmother is selfish. She willingly wishes to sacrifice the children for her own well-being. .
Often times, there is a need to see stepmothers as evil, especially in fairytales. Children frequently fear losing ties to their biological mother in a case such as the one in "Hansel and Gretel." They internalize the image of an "all-good mother when the real mother is not all-good, which permits anger at the stepmother" (Warner 31). .
Evil is not exclusive to stepmothers though; fairytales often portray witches as old women.