The mother is nowhere to be seen in most fairy tales and fables.
Fairy Tale Mothers (and some not so much…)
In Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid, the mothers were all dead, and in some, the fathers too.
Even in (not so fairy) tales like Harry Potter, or Spiderman, their parents had both died.
If Cinderella’s mom was alive… there would be no story to tell, but one of a happy girl with two loving, but poor, parents.
If Snow White’s mother were around… the king would have never married the wicked stepmother. Snow would have led a charmed, adored life.
Picture if Belle’s mother had been alive… The dynamic changes. Now, instead of Belle and her father sacrificing for each other- there is a family. Maybe Belle’s mom would have talked some sense into someone, and then they would have had soup-escaping the perilous journey and inevitable capture.
If Ariel’s mom had been there… would she have laid her head in her mother’s tailed lap and spilled her heart out, instead of running away? Perhaps, or maybe not. Would she have trusted the sea-witch that helped her change? Or maybe, her mother would have known her adventuresome spirit, and warned her, cultivated her toward adventure of a different kind. Perhaps, or maybe she would have run away anyway.
If Harry Potter’s parents had been alive… they certainly wouldn’t have wanted him going off fighting Voldemort! In fact, his link with Voldemort never would have existed, since they wouldn’t have been killed in the first place.
If Peter Parker (Spiderman)’s parents had been alive… he wouldn’t have been living with his aunt and uncle. He never would have tried to seek revenge for his uncle’s death, and the whole story would cease to exist.
Why Do Writers Kill Off the Moms?
My theory is that (most) mothers keep our lives safe, boring, and well adjusted. That’s why many interesting stories seem to begin with the lack of a maternal figure. Children should not need to be heroes, that’s why they have us! To protect them. Good stories need drama and struggles, and that is what us mamas, seek to keep from our children.
I like this idea, that we are so powerfully necessary to a child having a good, dependable life (without drama and struggle and radioactive spiders).The alternative is that our world is very anti-mother, and has been for a very long time, since these stories have been passed down (in some form or another) for ages.
On the podcast The PopCast with Knox and Jamie, they did an episode called Pop Culture Moms (episode 193, premiered on May 10th). It explored this idea, and is a hilarious, interesting listen. My main takeaway from it was this:
The most identity-altering thing you can do to a character, is for them to lose their mother.
Not just what we do, but who we are is so important, mamas.