The Origin of the Wicked Stepmother Myth and Why It’s So Popular

Think about fairy tales. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it how Cinderella was treated by her stepmother? Or perhaps how Snow White almost got killed by her stepmom. Evidently, the evil stepmom myth plays an integral role in many of our favorite fairy tales. Evil women have been haunting fairytale stories for centuries. But what’s its origin? Read on to find out.

A Rivalry Between Two Women

Maria Tatar, an expert on German folklore at Harvard University, believes a toxic rivalry between two women lies at the heart of the evil stepmother myth. But the trope for that character may be traced to ancient Rome, believes historian Augusto Fraschetti. He pinpoints the myth’s origin to a particular figure. Namely, that’s Livia Druscilla, also known as the first Roman empress. She was Caesar Augustus’s second wife.

Livia’s son Tiberius, who was born when she married Augustus, was to be the next Roman emperor. That happened after a series of events that, the historian believes, signify foul play from Livia. There’s an early piece of evidence that supports this hypothesis.

Tacitus, who lived from A.D. 56 to 120, portrayed her as an evil stepmother who became a ruthless and power-hungry individual who stopped at nothing to make her son the heir to the throne in his version of Roman history.

The Wicked Stepmother Trope Across Cultures

The Origin of the Wicked Stepmother Myth and Why It’s So Popular

Livia might have been one of the first evil stepmoms noted in our history, but she’s not the only one. In cultures across the globe, the trope of the wicked stepmother echoes in folk tales describing toxic female rivalry. In some regions of Asia and Africa, the evil second wife appears to torture the first wife, who was described as virtuous. In Europe, however, she appears as a wicked mother-in-law, stepmom, or sister.

Tatar considers the abundance of folktale stories containing stepmothers reflected reality. As a matter of fact, one in five children growing up in the Grimm brothers’ era lived with a stepparent and a biological one.

The Wicked Stepmother’s Modern Representation

Many of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales have become wildly popular and serve as the basis for many Disney movies. In many of them, the evil stepmother turns out not to be so wicked. Disney rehabilitates many of the figures denoted as ruthless and evil in the original stories. Evidently, modern society shifts the way we view these characters.

Tatar believes the change is positive. We no longer live in 19th-century Germany, so this figure no longer fits our lifestyle and culture. Our values are different. So, why shouldn’t we adapt stories to reflect that?

Archaeological Mystery – Where Exactly Is Attila the Hun’s Tomb?

Attila the Hun, the warlord who invaded and ravaged both the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire, passed away on his wedding night at the age of 58. To this day, it is a matter of debate whether the Hun ruler perished of natural causes, or whether he met his demise at the hands of his new wife, Ildico. To add even more mystery to an already complicated plot, nobody really knows where Attila was buried because his tomb has never been found.

Archaeological Mystery - Where Exactly Is Attila the Hun’s Tomb?

Attila the Hun Was Feared by the Romans

Attila was born in the Pannonian steppe during the late 4th century and ruled the Huns until his passing in 453 A.D. He was sometimes referred to as “Flagellum Dei,” which translated from Latin means “scourge of God” or “whip of God.” Although he threatened to sack Rome and Constantinople, he never actually attacked the two largest cities in the Roman Empire. Instead, he forced emperors to pay him large amounts of gold in exchange for peace treaties that didn’t always last long.

While much is known about Atilla the Hun’s warmongering days, very little is known about his final resting place. In fact, according to Zsófia Masek, a post-doctoral researcher of archaeology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, there is only one surviving written source about his funeral — a sixth-century book written by Jordanes titled Getica.

The Hun Ruler Had an Elaborate Funeral

According to the book, Attila was buried in a triple coffin. The innermost was crafted of gold, the second was made of silver, and the outermost was forged of iron. According to Jordanes, the gold and silver were a symbol of the wealth accumulated by the Hun ruler while the iron signified his people’s military might.

Jordanes adds that servants who had built the tomb were eliminated in an attempt to keep its location secret. He also wrote that Attila the Hun was put to rest with captured enemy weapons, gems, and various ornaments.

Where Is His Tomb?

The Great Hungarian Plain

Many historians believe the great Hun warlord is resting somewhere on the Hungarian Puszta, also known as the Great Hungarian Plain. Their theory is built on the fact that Attila had made his headquarters in the region. Some claim that the tomb is next to a river while others defend the theory that the Hun ruler had a riverbed burial.

It’s also possible that Attila the Hun is buried in the Serbian or Romanian parts of the Great Hungarian Plain. Furthermore, it’s uncertain whether anything remains of the tomb. While some scholars are optimistic about discovering his burial site, others aren’t so confident about it. One thing is certain, this archaeological mystery will continue to baffle historians.