Are stepmothers really evil, like the beloved fairy tale Cinderella makes them out to be? Immediately in the introduction of Leslie Jamison’s print feature, In The Shadow of a Fairy Tale, we are taken into her world of acting as a stepmother to her stepdaughter Lily. We are brought into the tragedy of young Lily’s upbringing and how it aligns with one of a dark fairy-tale story. Jamison utilizes her own experience to tackle this question and also question this fairy tale ‘stereotype’ of casting the stepmothers as evil and the orphan child as being abused. She faces this stereotype every day. She fears being evil, like all story books seem to portray. Soon after she introduces us to her relationship with Lily, Jamison launches into more factual information on various fairy-tale characters and archetypes. She explores the different scary stepmothers we’ve grown up reading about, like the evil queen from ‘Snow White’ or the stepmother in ‘Hansel and Gretel.’
The remainder of the piece plays out with this bouncing back and forth between the personal and the factual. Which is nice, if you ask me, as once you get tired of reading about Jamison buying a present for Lily, you get to then read about the climactic decision of whether or not to actually call the stepmother Mother. In writing the piece this way, Jamison is also able to add a certain depth to the exploration of this issue. Incorporating her own experience and psychological dilemma with the topic-at-hand makes her words all the more meaningful.
With all the dark twists and turns the feature takes, one could only hope there’s a happy ending involved (at least I know I did). Jamison begins her ending by delving into the only two fairy tales in existence that actually involve good stepmothers. With this, she weaves into how stepparenting is more than what a mere story may make it out to be. It is love. And in the end, stepmothers are just like you and I. So the end-all-be-all question becomes this: are fairy-tales really just a bunch of baloney?