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Inside the mythological roots of the “wicked Stepmother” trope

Ancient stories, whether we know them or not, have a kind of purchase in our consciousness. Just look at how our culture portrays stepmothers...

Illustration: Kate Hazell

We all know about stepmothers in fairytales. Think of the word stepmother, and there’s always that dread word “wicked” hovering behind it, unspoken but present.

I’m a stepmother myself, of sorts, in that my partner, the classics professor, has children. But I don’t tend to use the term: I’ve never done anything that I consider to be actual parenting. There are lots of us out there tentatively forging relationships with the offspring of loved ones, not quite knowing how to refer to ourselves, ploughing on without…

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