Fairytale Retellings & Prompts: Queens

This month we’re doing a series called the A-Z blogging challenge where we dive into Fairytale Retellings and provide prompts for writers. Writers are the people making the books, television shows, and movies of tomorrow. For more information on the challenge check out my earlier post here.

The queens and let’s add step-mothers have gotten a bad rap in most fairytales. Let’s break down the why before we shout out our favorite women we love to hate.

So, despite already covering many of the fairytales that have queens in them I thought it would be interesting to take a look at them more closely.

Many fairytales now focused on children have some reincarnation of the evil queen. Her role is to be counter to all things maternal and loving and instead representing the ambitious, jealous, and conniving older woman.

This is used to counter the “princess” in the story who is all things innocent, humble, and (let’s be honest) sheltered. In fact, her lack of knowledge of the world around her usually makes her appear slow and her actions daft.

A woman in charge, who knows what she wants and doesn’t take no for an answer is depicted as the vilest of all things but some of my favorite retellings turn this idea on its head by giving us the real motivations behind the queen’s actions.

In Cinderella, the stepmother is a broken woman (though ‘queen’ of her castle) who’s lost love and fortune twice and wants to secure prestigious marriages for her two fatherless daughters.

The Snow White story has a queen trying desperately to hold on to her youth, beauty, and power by all means necessary but in some versions of the retelling, she’s a woman who has a grudge against Snow for her lack of discretion.

Even the Queen of Hearts was a wronged sister taking her anger out on her kingdom until she’s shown the love she felt she deserved.

So with these in mind, you might have read some fantastic retellings depicting the queens or stepmothers in a new light. Feel free to share them in the comments below. Let’s give these women some props. Here are a few to get you started:

Prompt: How would you write a ‘queen-like’ character today whether good or bad? Does her history justify her current behavior?

For more blogs participating in A to Z 2020 click the link here.


T.S. Valmond is the science fiction and young adult fantasy author of The Bolaji Kingdoms Series and The Verity Chronicles. As an award-winning poet, world traveler, and sign language interpreter she uses her experiences to fuel her stories. She’s a regular contributor to the website and founder of the Riders & Flyers group.


  1. It’s quite interesting to see new backstories for evil characters. Gray rather than outright bad seems to be the new trend. Loved Maleficient for the same.

    1. Agreed.

  2. I like finding folktales where the “old queen” or the stepmother are not evil, but helpful. I think we need some positive mother- and mother-in-law representations in fairy tales 🙂 In “Dancing on Blades” I translated a Transcarpathian folktale where the mother-in-law dowager queen helps her daughter-in-law in a Rumpelstiltskin type story.

    The Multicolored Diary

    1. Oh, I like that. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. As I am now queen-aged instead of princess-aged, it is interesting to think about the motivations and perceptions of older women in fiction. There are plenty of good mothers and queens in the fairy tales, but they just all die! I don’t fancy that, so I will hope to make it to wise-woman-age. Then I can choose to help all those young folks on their quests instead of being a wicked crone.
    Black and White (Words and Pictures)

    1. Great point!

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