[Typecasting is one explanation. “What do we have? Nags, witches, evil stepmothers, cannibals, ogres. It’s quite dreadful,” says Maria Tatar, who teaches a course on folklore and mythology at Harvard. Still, Tatar is quick to point out that old women are also powerful — they’re often the ones who can work magic.
“I always look to the Disney film Snow White and that charismatic, wicked queen who is down in the cellar with her chemistry set. There’s a sequence in which she turns from a beautiful, charismatic, wicked queen into an old hag,” Tatar says. “I think that’s a scene that is probably more frightening for adults than children because it compresses the aging process into about 20 seconds.”
Tatar says old women villains are especially scary because, historically, the most powerful person in a child’s life was the mother. “Children do have a way of splitting the mother figure into … the evil mother — who’s always making rules and regulations, policing your behavior, getting angry at you — and then the benevolent nurturer — the one who is giving and protects you, makes sure that you survive.”] Read the full article here | NPR