The evil stepmother is a fixture in European fairy tales because the stepmother was very much a fixture in early European society–mortality in childbirth was very high, and it wasn’t unusual for a father to suddenly find himself alone with multiple mouths to feed. So he remarried and brought another woman into the house, and eventually they had yet more children, thus changing the power dynamics of inheritance in the household in a way that had very little to do with inherent, archetypal evil and everything to do with social expectation and pressure. What was a woman to do when she remarried into a family and had to act as mother to her husband’s children as well as her own, in a time when economic prosperity was a magical dream for most? Would she think of killing her husband’s children so that her own children might therefore inherit and thrive? [...] Perhaps. Perhaps not. But the fear that stepmothers (or stepfathers) might do this kind of thing was very real, and it was that fear–fed by the socioeconomic pressures felt by the growing urban class–that fed the stories.
We see this also with the stories passed around in France–fairies who swoop in to save the day when women themselves can’t do so; romantic tales of young girls who marry beasts as a balm to those young ladies facing arranged marriages to older, distant dukes. We see this with the removal of fairies and insertion of religion into the German tales. Fairy tales, in short, are not created in a vacuum. As with all stories, they change and bend both with and in response to culture.
— Amanda Leduc, Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space
Last full moon of the year, in Þingvellir by Ann Silvestre.