We all know the basic set-up of every fairy tale. There's the hero or heroine, and there's The Other. The foe, the malefactor, the dark sinister force driving the tale. Some might call them a villain, but I've already used up my "V" for this challenge, so I prefer to think of them as Wolves and Witches, the two most common categories of fairy tale antagonists.
Category #1: Wolves
How many times have we seen wolves as the evil force in fairy tales and fables? Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Peter and the Wolf . . . the list goes on and on. So why them? Why this creature? Arguably it finds its basis in the rural setting of most tales, settings in which wolves were a significant threat to the pastoral way of life. Not to mention wolves have long suffered a dark connotation, associated with the phases of the moon and lycanthropy. Wolves can be seen as a representation of a carnal, masculine threat, one which plagues women (like Red Riding Hood), and social structures (as in the Three Little Pigs) alike.
Category #2: Witches
As many wolves appear in fairy tales, witches make an equal showing. The cannibalistic fiend in Hansel and Gretel, the sorceress from Snow White, and the very memorable sea witch who threatens poor unfortunate souls. They often take the place of the "mother" figure, a twisted abomination of the maternal influence. They are the counterparts to the female protagonists, and where the former are depicted as vulnerable and weak, these antagonists show strength and a need for power. Since it would be too great a stretch for both a passive and gentile female to exist on the same page as an assertive woman, their dark power gets represented as a supernatural force rather than inner strength. Witches are the answer to how to create a powerful, female villain.
I find it interesting that fairy tales tend to "Other-ize" their villains, making them more than ordinary humans. More interesting when you realize that the original tales depicted ordinary women and mothers rather than witchy stepmothers.
This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is Fairy Tales. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you'd like to check out the other participants, simply click here.