Follow TV Tropes


Wicked Stepmother

Go To
This is what happens when we leave dad without child supervision.

"Better a serpent than a stepmother!"

The Wicked Stepmother, the woman hostile to her stepchildren, is a perennial trope. Older Than Feudalism, she appears in legends and folklore around the world and is the villain of many a Fairy Tale.

Psychologists hypothesize that she is an Archetypal Character devised by children as a means of channeling their negative feelings about their mother toward someone who isn't actually their mother (allowing them to process those negative feelings while still idealizing their mother). Some historians, meanwhile, believe that the trope was developed for didactic purposes, serving as a means of warning children against potentially untrustworthy suitors that might try to court their widowed parents for their wealth or their nobility; indeed, Death by Childbirth was extremely common in the Middle Ages (and well into the Modern Era), leading to many children of the period being raised by stepmothers.

Sadly enough, Truth in Television; children are vastly more likely to be abused by stepparents. In fact, in some languages, the word for "stepmother" is the word for "mother" followed by a pejorative suffix.note  Even centuries of subversion have not transformed her into a Discredited Trope; she can still be played either straight or subverted.

She generally favors her own children — whether from a previous marriage or this one — over her stepchildren. Not that that causes this trope, because it's kind of natural. It's just another symptom. Sometimes her economic motives are made clear: there is only so much to go around, and she wants it for herself or her own children. An equivalent male figure is the Evil Uncle — because inheritance is generally through the male line, the uncle can inherit his brother's children's estate. Envy is another common cause; the Wicked Stepmother either wants to be Fairest of Them All or to have her daughters be so.

On the other hand, the stepsiblings or halfsiblings can but need not be hostile to the hero(ine). If they are hostile, Youngest Child Wins is trumped by the older child's stepchild status.

The father is seldom a factor. If not dead (which is common), he will nevertheless never intervene on his child's behalf, if he even knows how bad things are.

Her tactics vary widely. She may simply oppress the heroine, keeping her in rags and slaving at household work — sometimes going as far as assigning the Impossible Task. As a Wicked Witch, she may transform the child(ren) into animals. She may drive or send them off. She may act violently toward them and even kill them (and perhaps cap that by cooking them up and serving them to their father.) Rarely is she ever a Lecherous Stepparent.

The stepchild(ren) may succeed in defeating her through help from their real though dead mother — the Grimms' version of "Cinderella", "Aschenputtel," has Aschenputtel get her gowns from the tree planted on her mother's grave. Talking Animals may also feature, as can a Fairy Godmother. These figures can do everything from performing the Impossible Task on behalf of the child to ensuring that She Cleans Up Nicely despite the dirt and rags she is reduced to.

This trope is sometimes the result of writers attempting to Bowdlerise fairy tales by transforming a cruel mother into a wicked stepmother. For instance, Grimms' original tales of "Snow White" and "Hansel and Gretel" both featured a cruel mother.

Given her status as a villain, the Wicked Stepmother's chances of surviving the ending are not good. The Happily Ever After ending of most fairy tales often dwells with more detail on how the Wicked Stepmother and/or her children were punished than on the hero and happiness. On the other hand, stepmothers who are not disposed of often return; when she is not executed at the wedding, she may, for instance, try to kill the heroine when she gives birth and replace her with her own daughter; so the Fairy Tale doesn't end (happily or not) until she's dead.

Sometimes preceded by a Guess Who I'm Marrying? scenario. Can involve a Missing Mom; older stories usually do, often caused by Death by Childbirth.

A common subversion is the jealous Daddy's Girl regarding any stepmother as a Wicked Stepmother; see Parent with New Paramour for cases where it's the children who are in the wrong.

The possibility of a Wicked Stepmother may hang over a Blended Family Drama. The Red-Headed Stepchild is a particular victim.

Subtrope of Evil Matriarch. Note that the Magical Nanny often becomes a stepmother via Marry the Nanny, but never a wicked one. Department of Child Disservices is a modern organized variation. Usually, Social Services Does Not Exist in stories with a Wicked Stepmother. Contrast Good Stepmother for the trope's logical antithesis. Often a staple of the Cinderella Plot. These stepparents can also be The Ex's New Jerkass if the children's other parent is still alive. While close to an Always Female trope, there are occasional Wicked Stepfathers.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk gives us the Queen of Midland (Princess Charlotte's stepmother). It's established early on that she and Charlotte don't see eye-to-eye and don't have a good relationship due to her being cold and frigid. She looks down on commoners due to her pedigree, and highly disapproves of Charlotte's relationship with Griffith to the point of plotting to assassinate him. It didn't work.
  • Downplayed in Bi no Kyoujin. Kabu's father left his mother for a younger and bouncier mistress that he made the clan's ane (usual title for a Yakuza leader's consort), much to Kabu's annoyance. While his stepmother never shows outward spite for Kabu, even helps him with the grooming of his lover Nirasawa, he goes as far as calling her a whore in front of his father, hinting that their relationship is less than cordial in actuality.
  • Hinako's rapist in Bitter Virgin is her stepdad. She was impregnated twice by him, the first being a miscarriage early on and the second resulting in a baby boy whom she gave up for adoption to Give Him a Normal Life.
  • Chie Shinohara: The Best Collection has Akemi Nosaka in A Frozen Summer's Day, who married her much-older husband and beat her stepdaughter, Youko, after her husband died. They had a bad relationship even beforehand, though whether Akemi actually beat Youko at that time, too, is not revealed.
  • Kallen Stadfeldt's stepmother from Code Geass hates Kallen because she is the child of her husband's former mistress, who is also Japanese.
  • In Elfen Lied, Mayu is raped by her stepfather until she eventually runs away.
  • In Fruits Basket, when they realize how woefully miscast the characters are in a "Cinderella" play, they rewrite the play, titling it "Sorta Cinderella". An Elegant Gothic Lolita Cinderella is impervious to her Wicked Stepmother's demands; but she loves her sweet and innocent stepsister, who suffers at the mother's hands because she wishes to marry her off. The entire play runs along the same lines; flat and emotionless Cinderella calmly asks pretty-boy Fairy Godparent to burn down the palace, ignores the Prince while obsessing over the meat dishes at the ball, plays matchmaker to the Prince and stepsister. Curiously enough, the cruel and domineering wicked stepmother is the only cast member who takes naturally to her role.
  • In Ghost Hunt, a little girl's possessed doll told her that her stepmother was evil and trying to poison her.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry gives Rena one. Once Rena reveals to her that she knows about her desire to get her father's money, the stepmother drops her facade and tries strangling her. When Rena gets the upper hand, she tries to beg for her life by claiming to be pregnant. Unfortunately, that ended up being the wrong thing to say, as it reminded Rena of why her mother divorced her father.
  • In How The Masked Earl Fell In Love, Crysta's father takes another wife, a woman named Deborah, after Crysta's mother dies. Crysta discovers to her horror that Deborah's daughter Stephania is Crysta's half-sister, meaning her father had a child with Deborah while his first wife was still alive. Deborah and Crysta end up spending money wastefully, forcing Crysta to focus on managing her estate and resulting in her fiance leaving her for Stephania. Afterward, Deborah claims this is all Crysta's fault, slaps her when she calls Deborah out for her irresponsibility, and reveals that Crysta ceded her status as heiress to Stephania when the engagement was dissolved, before marrying her off to a mysterious but wealthy earl.
  • In Inuyasha, Sesshomaru has a lot of contempt for Inuyasha's late mother. It's never said whether she was ever cruel to him (more than likely she wasn't), but he despised his father marrying a human, who he considers inferior, and blames her for his death, saying their love weakened him.
  • In Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story, Sana's mother married into the Futaba family, and her father was emotionally abusive to her, considering her inferior to his sons. Worse, Sana's mother took her new husband's side and neglected Sana in favor of her husband's sons, making her a more loving mother to her stepsons than her daughter.
  • My Stepmother And Stepsisters Arent Wicked: Miya's stepmother Teru Kozo looks the part of the wicked stepmother. She frequently shows up with a stern expression and her daughters, both biological and otherwise, fear incurring her wrath. When it comes to acting the part, however, she is frequently shown to be a strict but loving parent. When Miya works up the nerve to call Teru "Mother", Teru very firmly tells her to not do so, as Miya apologizes for offending her, Teru explains that Miya shouldn't call anyone else "mother" except her late biological mother. She then goes on to say she has no objection to being called "Mommy".
  • In Petshop Of Horrors Tokyo there is an inversion in one story in which the stepmother is the protagonist and it is the stepdaughter who is wicked, trying to ensure her stepmother is left penniless by tricking her ill father into divorcing the woman. Little does she know is that her father is not as ill as he seems.
  • Shigeko from Pieta does her best to marginalize and shove Rio to the side, so that she doesn't interfere with her picturesque family life.
  • Prétear, being a mixture of "Snow White" and "Cinderella" turned into a Magical Girl anime, does provide the main character with a stepmother, clearly aiming to invoke this trope, but then subverts it — sure, Natsue is strict, but not evil, and she is so much in love with Himeno's father Kaoru she'd rather spend her time with him instead of lecturing Himeno. In the original manga, Natsue is crueler, but still obsessed with Kaoru, to the point of not caring not only for Himeno but also for her own daughters. And in this continuity she was possessed by the Big Bad, so it's not entirely her fault...
  • Subverted in Ranking of Kings: The young prince Boji is conspired against by his stepmother Hiling, who wants her biological son Daida on the throne. Despite this, Hiling cares for Boji as a person and tried to put a great deal of effort into being a good stepmother to him before Daida was born: She wants her son to be the king, but she doesn't want Boji in any harm either. It's suggested that she doesn't want Boji to be the king because she doesn't think he's equipped to fulfill the role—Boji is goodhearted and kind and she recognizes this, but he's also physically disabled, very immature, and painfully naïve.
  • In Ranma ½, the secondary character Konatsu has a Wicked Stepmother (who bears a remarkable resemblance to late actor Edward G Robinson) and two Wicked and UGLY Stepsisters. Konatsu's entire life story is a direct and unabashed ripoff of the Cinderella tale's backstory (except for the cross-dressing ninja part).
  • Red River (1995):
    • Kail's stepmother Queen Nakia is very wicked, to the point of being the Big Bad of the series. Notably, Nakia has pretty much no love for any of her family, biological or otherwise. It's revealed from the start that she wants to use black magic to kill off her stepchildren so that her own son Juda can take the throne, but it's also hinted that her love for Juda is centered around her desire to have her bloodline rule Hattusa in revenge for her having to be forced as the king's new bride. She shows no affection for her husband and, when her brother is horrified to learn the various things she's done, she coolly threatens to kill him if he reveals her plans. She also kills her own niece, just to try to frame Yuri.
    • This trope is averted by Kail's mother Queen Henti, who besides loving her own sons was also a good stepmother to the son of the king's previous wife) as well as Kail's other stepbrothers (one is the son of a concubine, another was the child of a royal maid).note 
  • Saiyuki:
    • Gyokumen. Big time towards Kougaiji. Made even worse when it's revealed she doesn't even like her own daughter.
    • Gojyo's stepmother despised him for being both her husband's bastard and a half-youkai. She was constantly abusive to him, which came to a head when she tried to kill him with an axe and her own son killed her to prevent it.
  • The queen of Estgloria, Christina's stepmother in Shina Dark. Not only does she live extravagantly while the kingdom starves and falls apart, she arranged for the assassination of Christina's mother (not because of jealousy due to her position as royal concubine, but because she was a filthy commoner, and therefore unworthy of being treated as royalty), and she also slowly poisoned Christina for YEARS so it would look like she died due to bad health instead of a long, drawn-out and painful assassination.
  • In SPY×FAMILY, one of Anya's biggest fears is that Fiona Frost becomes this to her. Not just because she's already fond of her Good Stepmother Yor (who despite her flaws genuinely loves her), but because as a telepath she's been able to read exactly what Fiona would do to her if she became Loid's wife, which includes whipping her as a form of discipline.
  • In one story of The Tarot Cafe, a young girl named Fey is implied to be the child of a prostitute and a wealthy man who had some brief relationship with her mother. When the mother dies, Fey is sent to live with her father, and his wife and son. The father is cold and dismissive of her, but dies pretty soon in and doesn't have much of a presence. The son eventually befriends Fey and enjoys her company. The stepmother, however, hates Fey and believes that the girl is cursing the family to die. The stepmother has various people come in to beat and abuse Fey, and eventually dies while trying to whip Fey herself. It's also revealed that the stepmother threw Fey's music box (the last thing she had of her mother) down the well.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, Kaneki's aunt seemed to have been following the Evil Stepmother handbook. After being partially responsible for her sister's death from overwork, she turns her resentment on her newly-orphaned nephew — accusing him of purposefully making her own son look bad by getting good grades. Kaneki recalls that she slowly phased him out of all family interaction, first reducing the amount of food he was given at meals before finally just leaving him minimal funds to purchase his own food. She also threw his father's books, while pretending she was doing him a favor by "cleaning his room". By the time of the story, she has long since stopped having any contact with him. The sequel reveals that his mother was just as bad if not worse, being physically abusive.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: Zora is the official wife of Leon's father Balcus, while Leon's mother Luce is The Mistress. Zola is a mix of Bad Boss and this, as Balcus is a Hen Pecked Husband and only married to her because he needs to be for political reasons. Zola hates men and both abuses and bleeds dry her husband, favoring her own children, Rutart and Merce, who are actually a case of Bastard Bastard, since they're the result of an affair, but are first in line of succession anyway. After Zola accidentally admits to her children being bastards, Balcus uses that as an excuse to divorce her, disown her children, and get Remarried to the Mistress.


    Comic Books 
  • Invoked by Layla Miller of X-Factor Investigations. She asked a client why she thought her stepmother could have done something terrible, aside from the "stepmothers are evil trope".
  • Shiklah is this to Ellie in Deadpool. Ellie is the daughter Deadpool had with a fling he knew once. She was adopted by a good friend of Deadpool's, Emily Preston. To watch over her, Deadpool bought the house across the street where he stakes out to be sure everything's okay. In one instance, Shiklah calls him and tells him that she knows he's watching over his "bastard" instead of being home making proper heirs with her.
    • Word of God says Shiklah doesn't care at all for Ellie because she's a product of her husband and another woman—stating that he could imagine it being demon culture to kill their spouse's other children. They also go on to state that Shiklah views Ellie as a threat, which goes into Jealous Parent.
  • In Nightmares & Fairy Tales, one story flips this on its head with a sweet nurse marrying the husband of the woman she looks after following the wife's death. The man's daughter with the first wife hates the nurse and then seemingly is drowned in the ocean by the first wife. The husband is sure the nurse did it, and she ends up in a mental hospital. It's left uncertain whether or not the ghost of the first wife really was framing her, or if she seriously was that unhinged.
  • A VERY common trope in girl's comics, such as Bunty, Mandy, Jinty and Tammy. However, there was a bit of variety in that sometimes it was a wicked aunt, a wicked foster family, etc.

    Comic Strips 
  • Discussed in Peanuts here; Charlie Brown reads a bunch of fairy tales and concludes the prevalence of the trope is evidence of a massive conspiracy against stepmothers.
  • A 2020 story arc in Luann has Tiffany narrowly avoiding this trope. Her father is engaged to a pregnant woman who treats Tiffany like a servant, and Tiffany puts up with it only because her father is so happy. It's both a relief and a blow when Tiffany discovers that the woman has been faking her pregnancy in order to trap him in the relationship.
  • In the supplementary materials for For Better or for Worse, Elizabeth’s friend Cadance is revealed to have one of these in Mitchell. While her biological father wasn’t a nice guy, Mitchell is far worse, constantly putting her down or trying to sexually assault her, sometimes in front of her mother. After her mother stays in denial and chooses Mitchell over her, Cadance cuts ties with them both, spending time with her Cool Aunt Ruby and making plans to not have Mitchell anywhere near her and her common law husband’s future child.

    Fairy Tales 
  • The Trope Codifier, of course, is the wicked stepmother in Cinderella and all its variations, who treats her stepdaughter like a slave while grooming her own daughters to become princesses.
  • In the tales of the Brothers Grimm:
    • In "The Juniper Tree", the stepmother kills her stepson, cooks the body, and serves the dish to the boy's father. The stepmother's motive was that she wanted her daughter to get the family's money instead of the son. The girl is extremely distressed with the death of her half-brother. He gets better. The stepmother does not.
    • In "The Three Little Men in the Wood", the stepmother sends her stepdaughter into the woods on an impossible task to kill her. When she returns, having won magical rewards with her good manners, she sends her daughter after and is furious when her ill-tempered daughter is justly punished. When the stepdaughter marries the king, she tries to murder her and replace her with her own daughter.
    • In "The White Bride and The Black One", after a similar distribution of curses, the stepmother tries to murder the stepdaughter en route to her wedding and replace her with her own daughter.
    • In "Brother and Sister" the stepmother drives off the title characters with her cruelty, tries to enchant them into animal forms (and, in the case of the Brother, succeeds), and tries to murder Sister after her marriage and replace her with her own daughter.
    • In "Snow White", the queen is jealous of her stepdaughter because she wants to be the Fairest of Them All.
    • "Hansel and Gretel": From the second edition of the Grimm tales onward, the plan to abandon Hansel and Gretel in the woods is put forward by their stepmother, and the father only complies because the stepmother pressures him. The trope does not appear in the first edition, where the woman is the kids' actual mother, and the father shares the blame for abandoning the children.
    • In "The Seven Ravens", seven princes are changed into ravens by their witch stepmother, and their sister chased away by the queen as well.
    • "Rapunzel" had a Wicked Witch for an adoptive mother. In the original Grimm version, the witch was actually Rapunzel's godmother.
    • "Aschenputtel", the Grimms' variation on Cinderella. Not only does she enslave her stepdaughter, she orders her own daughters to cut off parts of their feet to make the slipper fit near the end.
    • In "Mother Holle", the main character's father dies, leaving his daughter to the mercy of her abusive stepmother, who treats her as a slave while doting on her lazy biological daughter. Obvious comparisons are made in-story.
      A widow had two daughters, the one was beautiful and industrious, the other ugly and lazy. She greatly favored the ugly, lazy girl, because she was her own daughter. And the other one had to do all the work and be the Cinderella of the house.
  • In the fairy tales of Joseph Jacobs:
    • In "The Rose Tree", the stepmother kills her stepdaughter out of pure jealousy of her beauty, cooks the body, and serves the dish to her husband. This is the same story as the Grimms' "The Juniper Tree," just with the child changed to a girl and tree undergoing an Adaptational Species Change. In most versions, the child gets better. (The half-sibling in both this story and "The Juniper Tree" is invariably on good terms with the stepchild.)
    • In "The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh", the stepmother, out of jealousy at her beauty, turns her stepdaughter into a dragon; the spell is broken by her brother.
    • In "The Ridere of Riddles", the stepmother tries to poison her stepson. Her son, however, loves his brother, warns him, and then flees with him.
    • In "The Well At the World's End", the stepmother sends her stepdaughter to the title well with a sieve and then, out of sheer nastiness, forces her to obey the frog.
    • In "Kate Crackernuts", the envious stepmother has her stepdaughter Anne's head turned into a sheep's head. Unusually, her own daughter Kate supports Anne and sets out with her stepsister to break the spell, and eventually restores Anne to normal.
    • An example of a Wicked Stepfather in a fairy tale is "The Little Bull-Calf".
  • In Andrew Lang Fairy Books:
    • In "The Boys with Golden Stars" the stepmother tries to kill her stepson's children, again because he had chosen a bride other than her daughter.
    • In "How Ian Direach got the Blue Falcon", a stepmother's curse forces her stepson to track down the blue falcon after he had found only a feather from it. (He counter curses her to do things while he's away, and then, when he returns, she's so angry she kills herself.)
    • A rare fairy tale with a Wicked Stepfather is "The Gold-bearded Man", where the mother of the hero marries a cruel man who usurps the throne from his stepson.
    • In "The Witch", the Wicked Stepmother intentionally sends her children to a Wicked Witch.
    • In "Geirlaug the King's Daughter", the stepmother is a witch who poisons three of her husband's guards.
    • In "The Wonderful Birch", a Wicked Witch turns the heroine's mother into a sheep and by shapeshifting takes her place; she has the sheep killed and feeds it to the woman's husband, although the daughter does not eat and manages to bury the bones. Then she does everything described in "Cinderella" and then enchants her stepdaughter after the wedding and puts her own daughter in her place.
    • In "The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen", the stepmother plays a game of cards with her stepsons so she can force them to go on an impossible quest. The youngest wins against her but decides to go with his brothers.
    • In "Alphege, or The Green Monkey", the stepmother of the protagonist Alphege tries to drive him out and put her son on the throne. She gets what she wants when an unrelated incident turns Alphege into a green monkey. (Luckily, the younger son turns out to be a much better person than his mother.) Alphege eventually comes back to reclaim his throne.
  • In the Norwegian Folktales by Asbjørnsen and Moe:
    • In "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", the stepmother enchants her stepson into a bear out of revenge because he would not marry her daughter.
    • In "The Twelve Wild Ducks", the stepmother is jealous of her stepson's bride's beauty and tries to have her killed.
    • In "Katie Woodencloak", Katie flees her stepmother in fear for her life.
    • "Prince Lindworm": In some versions, the heroine is sold to the lindworm by her stepmother, usually in the hope that he will eat her. When she learns that she accidentally married off her stepdaughter to a king, she either kills herself or plots revenge.
  • In Alexander Afanasyev's "Traditional Russian Legends":
    • In "Vasilissa the Beautiful", the stepmother sends Vasilissa to Baba Yaga's hut to be devoured.
    • In "Morozko", the old woman hates her stepdaughter, mistreats her every day, and outright attempts to get her killed. Needless to say, her biological daughter is a pampered, spoiled brat.
  • In "The Green Knight" from Svendt Grundtvig's Danish Fairy Tales, the stepmother persuades the heroine to get her father to marry her and then abuses her.
  • The stepmother in "Cenerentola" by Giambattista Basile persuades the heroine to get their fathers to marry them but then abuses her.
  • In the Portuguese fairy tale "The Hearth Cat", a woman persuades the girl to tell her father to marry her... and becomes an evil stepmother.
  • Story 25 of "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio" has one who exploits the bond between her son and his half-brother to try and trick her stepson into suicide.
  • In Giovanni Francesco Straparola's "Biancabella and the Snake", the hero Ferrinando's Wicked Stepmother orders her men to kill Biancabella after she marries her stepson; they don't, but they gouge out her eyes and cut off her hands as evidence that they have. Biancabella has to go through a Break the Cutie process to get her place in the family back.
  • In the fairy tales of Madame d'Aulnoy:
    • In "Graciosa And Percinet", Graciosa's stepmother Grognon repeatedly tries to get rid of her, has her beaten, and even imprisons her. Percinet rescues Graciosa from Grognon's repeated attempts on her.
    • "The Blue Bird" starts with Princess Florine's father marrying a widow with a daughter named Truitonne. The stepmother is jealous of Florine's beauty and tries to marry Truitonne off to King Charming, whom Florine had fallen in love with, by locking Florine in a tower. Despite the stepmother's role in the story, it is the stepsister Truitonne who is the primary antagonist, as the stepmother dies halfway through, and Truitonne continues to antagonize Florine until she is punished at the end.
  • In "Tourbillon" by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont La Force, the evil fairy Uliciane marries the father of the protagonist Prétintin and persecutes her.
  • Aoife in The Children of Lir can't bring herself to kill her husband's children by her dead sister, so she transforms them into swans for nine hundred years. This is just the start of her evil, and suffering a Fate Worse than Death can't stand in the way of her plans.
  • In Hans Christian Andersen's "The Six Swans", twelve princes are changed into swans by their witch stepmother, and their sister chased away by the queen as well.
  • A Wicked Stepfather appears in the American fairy tale "The Princess That Wore a Rabbit-skin Dress" (from Tales from the Cloud Walking Country by Marie Campbell). The protagonist's stepfather tries to force her to marry him
  • Played with in "Blondine, Bonne-Biche, and Beau-Minon" by Sophie de Ségur. Blondine's first stepmother Fourbette is a straight example. Fourbette is responsible for Blondine's disappearance - she tricks the driver of Blondine's carriage into leading Blondine into the Forest of Lilacs. Fourbette later dies. At the end of the story, Blondine meets the fairy Bienveillante, who had once been Blondine's friend Bonne-Biche the deer. Bienveillante brings Blondine back to her father. The fairy marries the king, becomes Blondine's second stepmother, and averts this trope. Inverted for Blondine's half-sister Brunette, whose mother was the wicked Fourbette and her stepmother the good Bienveillante.
  • Japanese Mythology:
    • In The Mirror of Matsuyama, the stepmother isn't very kind to her teenage stepdaughter, but that's because she fears that the girl hates her so much that she's secretly cursing her, and lashes back in that belief. At the end of the story, the father finally steps in and asks his daughter to explain everything; she says that she was actually just looking at a mirror, which was the last thing her dead mother ever gave her. note  Upon hearing this, the stepmother realizes that she was wrong, begs for forgiveness, and apologizes for being cruel and once she's forgiven, the family lives together happily after that.
    • That is not to say the figure of the Wicked Stepmother is foreign to Japanese folklore. The tale of Hachikazuki (the princess who had to wear a wooden bowl on her head) has the heroine driven from home by one after years of abuse.
    • Japanese just-so stories often explain the mole was once a beautiful woman who was turned into such an ugly creature as punishment for abusing her stepchildren. In one variant, this was a karmic punishment for burying her stepdaughter alive (though she ended up rescued).
    • The Japanese folktale of "The White Bird Sister" has a Double Subversion. A feudal lord with a son and daughter remarries after his wife dies. The new stepmother turns out to be a loving mother to the children, despite having a daughter from her dead husband, and the family seems happy together. When the daughter is arranged to marry a neighboring lord, however, she cooks and murders the girl, sends her own daughter to take her place, and gives the son away as a slave to the other lord, revealing herself to be a Wicked Stepmother all along.
  • "The Maiden Czar" gives the stepmother an unusual motive, in that she's actually fallen in love with her stepson and thus schemes to keep him from the title character.
  • Following Cinderella's example, the Indonesian folktale Bawang Merah Bawang Putih featured a vicious stepmother who's also the real mother of the equally vicious Bawang Merah, both teaming up to enslave and torture Bawang Putih for unspecified reasons, could be for Greed or jealousy or just pure sadism or lulz.

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust: Asuka's stepmother had an affair with Asuka's father when Asuka's mother Kyoko was still alive and married him as soon as Kyoko was dead and buried. Obviously, Asuka and she did not get along well, so the woman tried to use drugs on her stepchild to turn her into a placid, obedient daughter. Bonus points for actually having a Red-Headed Stepchild.
  • A downplayed Gender Flipped example in Bastard (Harry Potter). Even though Jonathan Alien was understandably unhappy with the birth of his stepson Gil (after his wife’s brief affair with Gilderoy Lockhart), he brings him up properly, pays for his education, and gives him a dangerous but interesting and well-paid job. Then it gets subverted when Gil gets stuck in another time without a hope of return – and guess which member of his family he misses most.
    Gil: A little more of that, and I’ll come to the conclusion that Papa Jon didn’t hate me as much as he pretended.
  • Danny Phantom: Stranded Downplayed and GenderInverted. Jean Luc Bevier has a very strained relationship with his stepdaughter Star Strong. Star resents Jean for seducing her mom Stella while she was married to her father. While Jean himself seems to be indifferent to Star and tolerates her for her mother's sake. However, Jean is not abusive to Star and does not go out of his way to make her miserable, seemingly his contempt at staying out of her way.
  • Evangelion 303: Subverted with Ritsuko. Shinji does not like his father's lover, he hates when she orders him around, and some of his comments imply that she barely took care of him. However, he never said that she intentionally abused him.
  • As we find out in Kiryuuin Chronicles, the abusive man to whom Satsuki thought was her father is really this as her mother, Ragyo, was forced into this marriage, while she was pregnant with Satsuki by someone else.
  • Consul of The Underworld: The Game Begins: Persephone started as one when her husband Hades brought his illegitimate daughter to the Underworld, basically pulling a Ned Stark on his wife. Worse was the fact a demigod isn't supposed to be raised by his divine parent, meaning Hades basically committed a crime and further justifying Persephone's distaste for the girl. However, she greatly mellowed with the time and nowadays Alkais considers her as more of a mother to her than her true birth mother.
  • In 4 Horsewomen - Family Is Forever, this is part of Charlotte Flair's backstory. Her biological mother had committed suicide a few years earlier and her father, Ric Flair, remarried. When Ric snapped and killed her siblings and tried to do the same to her, it was made clear at the hospital that the stepmother didn't care anything about her or any of the other kids, leading to Charlotte being adopted by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
  • The Unrelenting Frozen Seas: The Trials: Rhode isn't keen on meeting Amphitrite because of this trope. Especially when she knows what kind of horrors Hera visited upon her husband's illegitimate offspring. However, Triton's claim that Amphitrite would like to talk with her and has this desire for some time points to the goddess averting this. Word of God is that she can afford to be nice since a daughter is unable to challenge her son for Poseidon's succession.
  • Chujo from RWBY: Scars, better known by her Meaningful Rename of Cinder Falls, had an abusive stepmother named Murasaki.

    Films — Animation 
  • Almost played straight with Lorelei in the Polly Pocket feature PollyWorld. Fortunately, Lorelei unwittingly revealed her true colors in public, catching the attention of John Pocket, who promptly called off the engagement.
  • Rachel, Elizabeth's stepmother in The Legend of the Titanic, helps the villain's Big Bad plot to sink the Titanic.
  • Anna Conda in Kis Vuk. She is the film's Big Bad and the head of the film's animal cruelty-filled circus. Her stepdaughter is Arabella, one of the performers.
  • Just like in the novel on which it was very loosely based, Murdstone from David Copperfield (1993) is a wicked stepfather.
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • Queen Grimhilde of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs dresses the young princess in rags and forces her to do all the chores in the castle. As in the original tale, she sends her huntsman to cut out the princess's heart. When he doesn't do it, she turns herself into a hag to get her own hands dirty. One of two contenders for the Trope Codifier as far as Disney goes, along with...
    • Lady Tremaine of Cinderella is far more cruel and manipulative than her fairy tale counterpart. When Cinderella is about to go to the ball, she manipulates her two daughters into destroying Cinderella's dress so she can't go. Later, she locks Cinderella in her attic room to stop her from trying on the glass slipper. The sequels show that she can be just as rotten to her own daughters.
  • Barbie as Rapunzel has Gothel kidnapping Rapunzel as a baby - out of revenge for the girl's father never loving her back. The girl is forced to be her servant for years, though only gets trapped in the tower for one day.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent of Ever After is a heartless stepmother to Danielle (and a pretty lousy mother to her own younger daughter, Jacqueline). As it's a retelling of Cinderella, this is par for the course, but the Baroness makes it clear from pretty much her first scene that she has little more than contempt for her husband's daughter, and it only gets worse from there. Watching her be grandly humiliated in front of the entire French court near the end of the film is beyond satisfying.
  • Ella Cinders, a Twice-Told Tale version of "Cinderella", has the mandatory wicked stepmother who treats Ella like crap and uses her as a slave.
  • Subverted in Labyrinth, in which Sarah's stepmother complains that Sarah treats her as if she's a wicked stepmother. Sarah's Character Development in the movie reveals the real problem is Sarah's jealousy toward her stepmother and new half-brother. Her stepmother isn't exactly a saint either, though — she spends her one scene being snappish and insensitive, implying it's acceptable to take Sarah for granted as a babysitter because she's a loner, a bit of a geek, and she doesn't date. Sarah's Character Development can be read a few different ways, in particular the idea that what she learns isn't that she needs to get over her baseless jealousy (which, based on the way her stepmother acts, may be justified) but that life isn't fair, and maturity means not pitching a fit over it.
    • In the manga sequel to Labyrinth, Return to the Labyrinth, Irene is evil even with her own biological child, Toby. She goes as far as not even showing up to his play and going out with his father instead, and Sarah has to make him dinner.
  • Juliana: At some undetermined point after Juliana's father's death, Juliana's mother remarried. Pacho, the stepfather, is an absolute scumbag of a human being. He's an alcoholic, unemployed loser who is prone to anger attacks where he verbally and physically lashes out at his wife and stepdaughter. He also plays favorites, doting on the son he had with Juliana's mother. This is because he's extremely sexist, expecting Juliana and his mother to cook for him but also dress him up, polish his shoes, and buy his beer for him. Oh, and he steals Juliana's new, hard-earned radio.
  • In Juno, this is subverted. Juno's relationship with her stepmother is pretty good and improves greatly throughout the film. Her stepmother is a caring parental figure for Juno and even defends her against an ultrasound technician who says Juno would've been a bad mother. Juno's biological mother is estranged.
  • Zig-Zagged in Enchanted: the villain, Nerissa, is a Wicked Stepmother; but oddly her target is not her stepson, Prince Edward, but his betrothed, Giselle. Edward has spent years gallivanting around like a Knight Errant while Nerissa runs the kingdom, but now she's worried about him settling down. There's also a scene where Morgan complains about her father planning to marry Nancy because of this trope (given that Nancy's surname is "Tremaine," that's understandable). Giselle, however, assures her that plenty of stepmothers subvert this trope. Giselle herself becomes an aversion, as she ends up as Morgan's stepmother by the end.
    • Played with in the sequel, Disenchanted (2022). Giselle, homesick of Andalasia and hurt by the hardships of her new world, decides to wish for a "fairy tale-life", turning her suburb of Monroeville into the fantasy land of Monroelasia, but one thing she did not think about was her new position as Morgan's step-mother: much to her horror, her wish slowly turns her into a fairy tale wicked stepmother. The four "steps" to becoming a wicked stepmother are even explicitly listed as the four new traits Giselle obtains: wickedness, vanity, cruelty and ambition.
  • The Night of the Hunter has possibly the most wicked stepfather in film. The outwardly charismatic but wildly twisted Reverend Harry Powell, a serial killer who targets wealthy widows, eyes a jackpot when his cellmate, a bank robber about to be hanged, reveals that he hid $10,000 from a robbery around his house. Powell sweet-talks his way into marrying the dead man’s widow, but his violent ways surface when neither she nor her two kids will tell him where the money is. Frustrated that the money hasn’t shown, Powell ultimately kills the widow and threatens to do the same to her children unless they reveal the money’s location, and follows them to the house where they’ve taken refuge. For his trouble, he ends up taking a shotgun blast to the shoulder, is arrested, and sentenced to hang for killing 25 women over the course of his spree.
  • Pan's Labyrinth has an evil stepfather. For Captain Vidal, "wicked" is putting it mildly.
  • The Sound of Music: Maria's rival Baroness Ilse is clearly aiming to be a Wicked Stepmother; she's already planning to pack the children Off to Boarding School, but it's subverted near the end, when the Baroness pulls an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy, willingly ending her engagement with Captain von Trapp after he realized that he loved Maria.
  • Fiona of A Cinderella Story forces her stepdaughter Sam to work long hours in the family diner, belittles her and hid her acceptance letter to Princeton to avoid losing her free labor. It later is revealed that she also hid her late husband's will, which left everything to Sam, which gets her arrested and forced to work in said diner at the end of the movie.
    • Gail in A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song forces her stepdaughter, Katie, to do all the housework, treats her like dirt, and even forces her to lip-sync her daughter, while constantly thwarting her own attempts at music stardom. She also threatens to use Loophole Abuse to steal her inheritance and even threatens to throw her in foster care if she doesn't obey her.
  • A Tale of Two Sisters gives a double-subverted case, which is not made clear until The Reveal at the end. Eun-ju, the stepmother to Su-mi and Su-yeon, is initially presented as this because she clearly loathes them, treats them like annoyances, and at one point beats and locks Su-yeon in a wardrobe for supposedly killing her pet birds. In reality, the Eun-ju seen throughout most of the film was Su-mi acting out her Split Personality of what she believes Eun-ju to be and Su-yeon was Dead All Along. The real Eun-ju seems to be a subversion, as she shows up to help Su-mi's father Moo-hyeon take her back to the institution and promises to visit her, but it is later revealed in flashbacks that Eun-ju was Moo-hyeon's mistress while he was still married, causing Su-mi and Su-yeon's mother to hang herself in a wardrobe, and when that same wardrobe crushed Su-yeon to death, Eun-ju knowingly let her die to spite Su-mi for insulting her.
  • Played with in The Uninvited (2009), the American remake of A Tale of Two Sisters, where Elizabeth Banks's character is the father's new girlfriend after his wife died in a fire. Throughout the movie, Anna keeps seeing ghostly images of her dead mother seemingly accusing the girlfriend (who was her nurse) of setting the fire. In fact, Anna was the one who accidentally set the fire, killing her mother and sister, and blocked it out with the memories manifesting as ghostly images. The girlfriend was simply trying to be nice to her.
  • Played with in Nanny McPhee. Lily says that she does not want a stepmother because of all the wicked stepmothers she has read about in books. Selma Quickly would indeed have become a very nasty stepmother to the kids... had she married Mr. Brown.
  • Wicked stepfather in Mystery Team.
  • Sucker Punch has Baby Doll's stepfather, who in the first scene flies into a drunken rage after learning that Baby Doll and her sister are their mother's beneficiaries rather than him. He then proceeds to try and rape the girls, then commits Baby Doll to a Bedlam House after she fights back (accidentally killing her sister), bribing the corrupt head orderly into giving Baby Doll a lobotomy.
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999) has Lady Von Tassell, who offs her husband and tries to off her stepdaughter, the local weird girl Katrina, in order to inherit the family fortune. She's also implied to have killed her husband's first wife, Katrina's mother, while posing as her nurse.
  • It Takes Two has Clarice Kensington, who almost became one except that Alyssa's father called off the engagement.
  • In The Parent Trap (1961) and The Parent Trap (1998), the twins almost end up with an Evil Stepmother. The one in the remake is especially egregious since the girls' father is a millionaire and the stepmother-to-be is a bona fide Gold Digger.
  • In Double Indemnity, Phyllis Dietrichson is generally a wicked person, having arranged the murder of her husband and (probably) having murdered his first wife to take her place, and so can't be expected to be anything like congenial to her stepdaughter Lola, especially since she's the only one who sees through Phyllis.
  • The antagonist of the body-swap comedy 18 Again! is a wicked step-grandmother — the trophy girlfriend of an elderly millionaire playboy (played by George Burns). She reveals her true character early in the film when she comes on to her would-be step-grandson, with whom the protagonist will later switch souls via a car accident. We later learn that, prior to the events of the film, she convinced him to change his will so she would inherit everything, and is planning to take him off life support as he lies comatose with his grandson's soul inside of him. (Of course, she has no way of knowing that, but still.)
  • Hinted at, though not played at all straight, with Gayle in SAVE ME. She isn't literally the stepmother of the men at Genesis House (if anything, she's more like a foster mother, since many of them are there because their families have insisted on sending them or straight-up won't have them in the house), and she's certainly much more sympathetic than most examples of this trope, to the point where she's nearly a deconstruction, but the fact remains that she doesn't treat the men at all equally — Mark, who reminds her of her dead son, is a favorite from day one, whereas she never likes or trusts Scott despite the fact that he goes out of his way to be honest with her and puts as much effort into the program as anybody.
  • A Gender Flipped example with Dean from Kingsman: The Secret Service. He has no problem threatening Eggsy, making good on said threats, or saying lewd things about Eggsy's mother to his face.
  • In Chaplin's The Circus, the Circus Proprietor is a Wicked Stepfather who denies his stepdaughter a meal for punishment and is shown hitting her at several occasions.
  • In Back to the Future Part II, in the "Hell Valley" timeline, Biff is definitely one of these, very casually planning to kill Marty.
  • A Serial Killer Pater Familicide would definitely qualify, as shown in The Stepfather and in the 2009 remake.
  • Given a Decon-Recon Switch in Snow White: A Tale of Terror. Lady Claudia starts out quite willing to love her stepdaughter Lilli, but years of the girl shunning and rebuffing her slowly destroys that love. Once Claudia suffers a miscarriage, she goes mad with grief and tries to murder Lilli.
  • An interesting case in The Sixth Sense. Kyra's mother is often assumed by many viewers to be her stepmother, despite the film never saying it, presumably because of this trope's influence. For reference - she poisoned her daughter to make her sick; with the elder daughter dead, she has now moved on to doing the same to the younger one. The script merely calls her 'Kyra's Mother'.
  • In Pitch Perfect, Beca seems to view her stepmother this way, since she calls the woman "the step-monster". We never get to see the stepmother, so it's not clear how one-sided the antagonism is, although it's suggested that it's mostly because Beca's still bitter about her parents' divorce.
  • Viscerally portrayed in Assamese horror film Kothanodi (The River of Fables) where crazy stepmother Senehi tortures and brutally murders her stepdaughter Tejimola.
  • In the Hellraiser Julia marries Kristy's father and proceeds to have an affair with his brother, Frank. When Frank escapes from hell, Julia kills several men so he can be brought back to his original state. Once they're discovered by Kristy, Julia helps Frank with trying to murder her.
  • A variation in Not Cinderellas Type, where both foster parents fit the bill, although the foster mom is the one who does most of the abuse. For bonus points, Indy's full name is "Cindy Ella Zimmerman", and her would-be boyfriend points out how appropriate it is, given her aunt and cousins' behaviors. In the end, it's also revealed that her aunt and uncle have ripped her off by appropriating the life insurance payout on her mother's fatal car accident, then also made Indy sell off everything she owned in order to "pay for the funeral costs" and then spent years making her feel like she was a burden on them, when, in fact, they were the ones profiting from her being in their "care". Fortunately, since this is a modern version, Surprisingly Realistic Outcome when her would-be boyfriend's father (the school's shrink) finds out and informs Child Services. While the family hires a pricey attorney, there's way too much evidence for them to slide on everything they've put Indy through. The father then adopts Indy himself (she isn't squicked out by dating her new foster brother, though), and she finally learns what a real family is, while her aunt and uncle are forced to pay her back everything they have stolen from her, plus extra.
  • In the short horror film Suckablood, Tilly's stepmother smacks her with a cane hard enough to draw blood to dissuade her from sucking her thumbs and ultimately curses her when that doesn't work.
  • In Mirror, Mirror, Snow White's evil stepmother (played by Julia Roberts of all people) is a semi-immortal being who seems to have murdered Snow White's father to gain control of the kingdom. He's not dead - which, for Sean Bean, is an accomplishment - and returns before the end of the film.
  • In Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers, Miki's stepmother Mei Ling is in league with the Big Bad Dragon. She arranges for her husband to be attacked (and later murdered) and for Miki to be kidnapped, as well as faking her own kidnapping and torture in an attempt to extract the location of the Andaman Pearl from Miki.
  • In The Candy Snatchers, Candy's stepfather married her mother solely for her fortune and has spent the last ten years hoping for Candy to die so he can inherit the fortune instead of her.
  • In Rags, Charlie's stepfather Arthur is a Gender Flipped version of the archetypal stepmother. Not only does he mistreat Charlie for the sake of his own sons, but he seemingly has no respect for Charlie's dead mother either, selling her piano to buy a karaoke machine and then planning to sell her restaurant as well.
  • In A Blueprint for Murder, Lynne murdered her husband and then plans to murder her two stepchildren because the will states that she receives the entire estate if the children die before they reach their majority.
  • Implied in Scent of a Woman; Charlie comments on one point that his stepfather aids his mom in running the convenience store. Based on the choice of words, he sounds distant at best. Due to that, Frank considerably cools off and sorta takes on a parental role for Charlie for the rest of the film.
  • In Werewolf by Night (2022), Verussa is Elsa's stepmother and berates Elsa and calls her a disappointment more than once. After finding out Jack is a monster and Elsa helped him free Ted, Verussa forces Jack to transform with the Bloodstone so he'll kill Elsa, and she's pretty excited about the prospect of shooting Elsa when she's cornered.
  • Morozko is based on a Russian legend of a Cinderella-esque girl who must endure abuse from her standard-issue Fairy Tale Wicked Stepmother and stepsister. The girl's father is alive but is so browbeaten that he doesn't object even when told to dump his daughter in the forest in the middle of winter.

  • In Aimee, Aimee's stepmother is this. Not only is she a Bible-thumping hypocrite, she actually rapes Aimee often.
  • L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables:
    • Rainbow Valley, the minister's motherless children are told by another child that all stepmothers are wicked, it comes with the role. Nevertheless, the youngest goes to persuade a woman to marry her father because her father is so miserable since she rejected him. And in Rilla of Ingleside, it is clear that she is a perfectly lovely stepmother.
    • While they're technically foster mothers, Anne herself was raised by two different women after her parents died, and neither were described as particularly pleasant. Both kept Anne around as a child servant and it was heavily implied that they treated her even worse than Anne herself lets on. Anne says that these women did the best they could and life was hard on them, but Marilla is able to read between the lines enough to pity Anne and keep her as her ward.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: The polygynous brand of Exotic Extended Marriage is frequent among nobles and it's not rare for men to take mistresses on top of this, so things can get ugly when women end up with some power over the fate of children who are their husband's, but not their own:
    • Veronica, who has an extreme case of Thicker Than Water, is abusive towards Ferdinand, the bastard son her husband took into the main household to be raised as their heir's right-hand man. Despite Ferdinand being quite happy with his future position, Veronica got into her head that he wanted to become the heir himself and got hostile to him to the point that when her husband died, Ferdinand almost immediately fled the household out of fear for his own life.
    • Gloria started out as the second wife in a household whose first wife had already produced an heir, making Gloria's own eventual son second-in-line. Then the first wife died and made Gloria the first wife. The first thing Gloria did was start scheming to make her own son the heir in his half-brother's place. After Gloria's own son gets executed for Bodyguard Betrayal and the rest of the household avoids execution only because the region's archduke is into finding alternatives, Gloria seeks revenge towards the person her son refused to protect with no regard for the consequences on the rest of the household, including her stepson.
    • The High Bishop, one of the antagonists, has this as his backstory as well. His mother had a Death by Childbirth and the second wife who was made first wife by the event had him sent to the temple because he's a de facto Muggle Born of Mages in terms of his innate capacity to wield magic.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Someday": Presented in a rather gender-neutral sense in the stories told by the Bard. Stepfamilies are code for evil or neglectful and have nothing to do with marriage. In the Bard's Self-Insert Fic, it lives with cruel step-people who viciously insult and beat him.
  • Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales:
    • The wicked queen in "Snow White" turns her stepdaughter Snow White into a scullery maid and then tries to have her killed when the mirror declares her more fair than her.
    • Divya Simla in "Hansel and Gretel" attempts to abandon her stepchildren, Rishi and Laxmi, into the woods to fend for themselves, and only briefly hesitates to try and bake them upon being prodded by Shakuntala.
  • The Betsy the Vampire Queen books by Mary Janice Davidson have Antonia Taylor, Betsy's stepmother. She pursued a married man, destroying his marriage, and tried to turn him against his then-teenage daughter. She wanted him to surrender full custody to his ex-wife, and when that failed, to send Betsy to military school. Her efforts continue into Betsy's thirties when, after Betsy's funeral, she eats a celebratory lobster dinner and books a cruise. She is even, at one point in the backstory, possessed by Lucifer for a year, and no one notices because she's so nasty by nature. Undead and Unworthy spoilers: After her death, The Ant comes back to haunt Betsy as a ghost because, in life, her sole purpose was to torment Betsy. Part of this new torment includes walking in on Betsy and her husband during lovemaking, and making no apology or attempt to leave.
  • In the Chinese Cinderella story Bound by Donna Jo Napoli, Xing Xing's stepmother rarely calls her by name, referring to her as the Lazy One, despite Xing Xing doing most of the work in the house. She constantly puts down Xing Xing, no matter how hard she worked to make her stepmother happy.
  • In Tom Kratman's Caliphate, Al Khalifa is a revolting bitch who's jealous that a girl (Besma) birthed by a slave was in line to inherit Abdul Mohsem's wealth over al Khalifa's own son. She agreed to allow her husband to purchase Petra because while al Khalifa couldn't harm Besma, as Abdul's cherished child, she could harm a slave without consequences. In order to make Besma suffer and drive a wedge between her and her father, Al Khalifa beats Petra regularly, arranges for her to be gang-raped and sold to a brothel (at twelve years old).
  • Chocoholic Mysteries: Subverted by Lee herself. In Bear Burglary, she refers to herself at one point as having been one for her former stepson Jeff, but in fact, she'd actually tried to be a nice parent, even though Jeff avoided her as much as he could while she was married to his father. Despite his earlier behavior towards her, he ends up coming to her for help during the events of the book, and she helps clear his name when he finds a body and becomes a suspect for murder as a result.
  • The trope is used in various ways in several Agatha Christie stories:
    • In Appointment with Death, the victim is an old woman so tyrannical and flat-out evil that her death is seen as just as regrettable as the victim in Murder on the Orient Express, who was a kidnapper and murderer of children. She has three stepchildren and one daughter of her own. She mentally abuses them all out of a sadistic desire to see them suffer. This includes driving her own daughter into becoming schizophrenic, her older stepson into divorce, and driving the younger two children into desiring her death. Obviously, one of the family did her in. Except none of them did.
    • In both The Murder at the Vicarage and Lord Edgware Dies, the daughter of the murdered man in each case hated her father, but also has no love of her stepmother, and tries to pin the murder on her. In both cases, the trope is Double Subverted: the stepdaughter is right, and both stepmothers (Anne Protheroe and Jane Wilkinson) really did murder their husbands.
  • In Dorothy Gilman's The Clairvoyant Countess, the first client we see consult Madame Karitska is furious when Madame Karitska warns her not to trust the person who sent her a letter; she thinks he's the only person she can trust. It's her stepfather, and it turns out that he murders her, after having murdered her mother.
  • Emily's stepfather in Cloud of Sparrows, who beats and whips Emily's brothers and rapes Emily and her mother. He also murdered Emily's biological father, who was an altogether nicer chap.
  • Max in Codex Alera is a Heroic Bastard, the illegitimate older son of High Lord Antillus. Trouble is, Antillus married for political reasons after Max was born, and Max has a legitimate younger brother named Crassus. Maximus has no intention of challenging Crassus' position as heir — however, Lady Antillus would prefer that any threats to her son's inheritance be removed. As such, Max's mother died in an "accident", and Max has been dodging similar attempts on his life since he was 14. Ironically, Maximus and Crassus are extremely close and often work together.
  • Madame Heloise de Villefort in The Count of Monte Cristo is the young wife of middle-aged prosecutor Villefort, with a spoiled eight-year-old son. She despises Valentine, Villefort's daughter by his previous marriage, because all of the property of her grandparents will revert to her rather than her stepbrother. She eventually goes on a killing spree, poisoning Valentine's maternal grandparents and attempting to poison her husband's paralytic father (his servant is killed instead). The titular Count fakes Valentine's death to get her to safety (though he did provide the poison in the first place, in his revenge against Villefort). Madame de Villefort's murders are finally discovered by her husband. To escape justice, she poisons herself, and just to spite her husband, kills her son as well.
  • At least partially justified with Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladova, stepmother of Sonya from Crime and Punishment. While she is the person responsible for driving her to prostitution, all her actions are shown as a result of a mental breakdown caused by struggling with her loss of financial security and social status, an alcoholic husband, and her own terminal illness.
  • In the Daughter of Evil novels, Queen Prim poisons most of her stepchildren so her son Kyle can be king. Of course, she doesn't treat her own children any better; forcing the aforementioned son to be king and having him possessed by a demon so he'd be easy to control and using her daughter as little more than a tool in her plans for her son.
  • Mr. Murdstone in David Copperfield is an archetypal evil stepfather. He's emotionally abusive and tortures both David and David's mother Clara. He's helped by his equally evil sister Jane. He once beats poor Davy very hard and sends him off to a boarding school, and then to London to work in a factory.
  • Eleanor & Park: Eleanor has a classic evil stepfather named Richie Trout. He’s an Alcoholic Parent who beats and yells at her mother Sabrina and verbally and emotionally terrorizes her and her brothers and sister. The climax reveals that he’s also been planning to rape Eleanor (and possibly her sister Maisie) for some time and writing disgusting notes on her school textbooks. This results on her running away and threatening to press charges if Sabrina doesn’t leave him.
  • Elemental Masters:
    • The Serpent's Shadow, the series' Snow White retelling, actually averts this by changing the evil stepmother character into our heroine's evil aunt instead.
    • Phoenix and Ashes, based on Cinderella, has Allison, who uses her powers as a dark Earth Master to murder Eleanor's father for his money, before magically binding her to the house and forcing her to be a servant for Allison and her two daughters. She's also implied to have caused the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic to try and make World War I last longer.
  • Ella Enchanted, a retelling/send-up of "Cinderella", has Dame Olga, who puts Ella to work after marrying her father. To make matters worse, Ella has a curse requiring her to obey orders.
  • Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles features "The Right Honorable Wicked Stepmothers' Traveling, Drinking, and Debating Society", including the "Men's Auxiliary" which has a few Wicked Stepfathers, but is mainly for Wicked Uncles. In one book, when the Genre Savvy hero runs across a princess lamenting her exile in the forest, he concludes that she and her stepmother had cooked it up between them.
  • In the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms novels, The Tradition makes tropes come true, so any woman who marries a widower with children from the previous marriage is in danger of becoming this regardless of their original personality unless steps are taken to prevent it.
  • In Girls Made Of Snow And Glass, a retelling of "Snow White", Mina doesn't start out as one — while somewhat aloof and often busy with her queen duties, she shows her stepdaughter Lynet affection when she has the time and Lynet genuinely admires her — but when Lynet's father passes on ruling duties of the southern territories from Mina to Lynet, Mina's lifelong insecurities and fears about being discarded when her beauty fades flare up and cause her to veer closer to this trope as she tries increasingly underhanded methods of seizing control of the southern territories back from Lynet. She ultimately subverts this trope when she realizes that she really does love Lynet and saves her from being killed by her abusive father.
  • An interesting spin happens in The Golden Bowl by Henry James (and the film it inspired of the same name). Maggie, the daughter of wealthy Adam, marries an impoverished prince, Amerigo. Maggie meanwhile thinks it would be a great idea to hook her widowed father up with her best friend Charlotte, thus making her best friend her stepmother. Neither Maggie nor Adam realizes, for a long time, that Amerigo and Charlotte are having an affair.
  • Stepfather variety - in Half Magic, the children are very nervous about their mother dating a man who keeps running into them on their magical adventures, mainly because they're worried he'll be like David Copperfield's Mr. Murdstone. They are finally convinced otherwise when he helps them sort out the next magical mess they get into, and even plays Shipper on Deck for himself and their mother. The sequel shows that he is, in fact, a very good father to them.
  • In his essay collection Happy To Be Here, Garrison Keillor wrote "My Stepmother, Myself", a Deconstruction of fairy-tale stepmothers, suggesting what happened to three famous fairy-tale heroines after Happily Ever After. Snow White and Gretel regret that their relationships with their stepmothers were so sour (and Snow has to deal with the fact that Prince Charming could only get it up if she pretended to be dead), while Cinderella now regards her stepmom as her new best friend; living in a palace where a phalanx of servants do everything for her, she finds that she misses doing chores for her stepmom.
  • Inverted in The Hate U Give. Seven much prefers his stepmom Lisa over his biological mom, calling her "Ma" and not correcting people when they assume she's his mother. Lisa did much more to raise Seven than his biological mother ever did, and loves him unconditionally, even though Seven exists due to a one-night stand his father (Lisa's husband) had with his mother. (Lisa absolutely despises Seven's mother, but loves Seven too much to take it out on him, and avoids slighting his mother while he's in earshot.)
  • Island Beneath The Sea: Horténse Guizot marries Valmorain and spends years trying to conceive a son that would steal the right to inherit from Maurice, her husband’s only child from his first marriage, to no avail because Valmorain is too attached to his son, and because she keeps giving birth to daughters. She is also that to Rosette, her husband’s child with the enslaved Teté (not that he is willing to acknowledge her as a daughter). She tries and fails to get Valmorain into selling her at age 7.
  • A rare male example in Stephen King's The House on Maple Street — fortunately he gets blasted into space when the house/spaceship launches.
  • In Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle, the Genre Savvy characters know that stepmothers are supposed to be wicked, but the actual stepmother is only a little careless.
  • Played with and zigzagged in "I Know This Much Is True" Ray, Dominick's stepfather is stern and even physically abusive. He is very much seen as the evil villain ruining their family while Dominick is a child, but towards the end of the book, when Dominick is in his forties, he actually comes to begrudgingly appreciate Ray for supporting and Raising two kids that aren't his. Even as an adult, after his mother has died, Ray continues to be there for him when he really needs help.
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries:
    • SueEllen Kingsley of Killer Blonde, to the nth degree. With the way she mistreats Heidi (including destroying the last thing connecting her to her birth mother), any decent parent reading the book would be forgiven for wanting to rip SueEllen's eyes out.
    • A "wicked stepfather" variation for Conrad Devane of Killing Bridezilla. The man was perfectly willing to kill Patti to collect her money and revitalize his business and kill the man who was covering him.
  • The evil aunts Spiker and Sponge in James and the Giant Peach are basically this to young James when they take him in after his parents' deaths. They treat him like a servant and keep him locked away from the public after the peach turns into a tourist attraction.
  • Mrs. Reed from Jane Eyre, while technically an aunt, still qualifies as an evil stepmother. Not only does she play the part, she is Jane's aunt by marriage, and thus not a blood relative.
  • John's Lily: Mary Alfrick's mother died when she was a child, and her father remarried a woman who openly dislikes and constantly insults Mary while making her do most of the household work and childcare. She's also cruel to her biological children, whom she alternately spoils and abuses. When Mary becomes engaged to John, her stepmother tries to keep them apart so Mary will stay at home and keep doing her stepmother's work.
  • Inverted with Jagoda’s stepmother in Kroniki Drugiego Kręgu series. Nocny Kwiat is caring and supportive of her stepdaughter. Jagoda's biological mother was a cold-hearted bitch, who neglected her child and even physically abused her on the one occasion.
  • Conversed in British statesman Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son, as a metaphor for the dawning American Revolution. "For my part, I never saw a froward child mended by whipping; and I would not have the mother country become a stepmother." (letter 283)
  • Inverted in Denise Skelton's A Life Of My Own, where the stepmother, Liz, is the protagonist, and she is mistreated by her husband and tormented by her two ungrateful stepdaughters.
  • Multiple characters in The Lunar Chronicles, as you would expect from fairytale retellings.
    • Cinder's adopted mother Adri verbally abuses Cinder, mostly for being a cyborg, and uses her as the family's sole source of income, rather than get a job herself. Worse, she is allowed to do all of these things because Cinder essentially is her property due to the cyborg laws.
    • Queen Levana is indifferent at best and abusive at worst to her stepdaughter, Winter, seeing her as an unwanted reminder of the first wife to the man she forced and essentially brainwashed into being with her.
    • Sybil, one of Levena's minions, keeps her charge Cress locked away in a satellite.
  • Fanny Price's evil aunt Mrs. Norris in Mansfield Park is her aunt by blood and emotionally abusive to her. Fanny is lucky she doesn't live with her under one roof, but she visits them constantly. Mrs. Norris hates her for no reason and wishes her no comfort, but adores her other nephews and nieces who are a baronet's kids. (Fanny's parents are not dead, but she lives with her uncle the baronet.)
  • Anne Boleyn is presented as this in the young adult novel Mary Bloody Mary, which is about the youth of the future Mary I. After marrying Henry VIII, Anne treats Mary horribly, forcing her to act as a personal servant to her newborn half-sister Elizabeth. Some Truth in Television is involved, as the real Mary did have to take a subservient role to Elizabeth until Anne's execution reduced both royal daughters to the same status. The book ends with Henry newly married to Jane Seymour, who was historically a Good Stepmother to both Mary and Elizabeth.
  • A variation in Matilda with Miss Honey's backstory; after her mother died, she was raised by by her Maiden Aunt, her mother's stepsister. Said Maiden Aunt is none other than The Trunchbull, who is also implied to have murdered Miss Honey's father in order to get her hands on his money and property. Inverted with Matilda herself, as her biological mother is the wicked one while Miss Honey, her adoptive mother in the end, is kind and loving. (The film adaptation somewhat subverts this, as Matilda's mother is shown to be less cruel and ultimately signs the adoption papers because she realizes it's what's best for her daughter, although Miss Honey's backstory remains intact.)
  • Mercy Thompson:
    • Inverted hard by Mercy, she couldn't have a better relationship with her stepdaughter, Jessie. Adam wouldn't have married Mercy if it were otherwise. Jessie's biological mother, on the other hand, is a shallow, self-absorbed, negligent twit who tries to use Jessie as a weapon against Adam. Jessie finally calls her out on this in Fire Touched, when her mom ends up endangering the entire Columbia Basin pack and tries to shift the blame onto Adam.
    • Played straight with Leah, Bran's wife, given that Bran effectively became Mercy's de facto father after her adopted father committed suicide. Leah is described as being an unpleasant bitch under the best of circumstances and hates Mercy from the start. This leads to Leah becoming the victim of an ever-increasing prank war from Mercy.
  • Gender-inverted by Regine's stepfather from More Than This, an alcoholic who beat her and eventually caused her death.
  • Subverted in the children's book My Wicked Stepmother; having grown up on such stories, the young protagonist is determined to consider his new stepmother a wicked stepmother, but she's actually a genuinely nice person who tries her hardest to win him over.
  • Kanoko Saimori from My Happy Marriage despises Sumi Saimori for getting an arranged marriage with the man she loved, and thus seems to have made it her life's goal as Shinichi's second wife to ruin the life of Sumi's daugher, Miyo. She reduces Miyo to a lowly servant and destroys everything Sumi owned just to deprive Miyo, and encourages her own daughter, Kaya, to also abuse Miyo. Even the arranged marriage to Kiyoka Kudou — though it improves Miyo's life — was cooked up by her and Shinichi as the final way to wash their hands of her, as they assumed Kiyoka's rumored reputation as a Jerkass meant he would throw Miyo out of his home without them losing face.
  • In C. S. Lewis' Narnia book The Horse and His Boy:
    • Aravis runs away because her stepmother arranges a marriage that she hates solely to spite Aravis.
    • Shasta, the boy of the title, runs away from an abusive caretaker who was going to sell him into slavery. Not technically a stepparent, but very similar.
  • Evil Stepfather turns up in A Night in the Lonesome Octobera priest of Nyarlathotep planning to sacrifice his stepdaughter to acquire supernatural power.
  • The Ogre Downstairs: Gender-Inverted with the "Ogre", as the children call their new stepfather. Also zig-zagged; while he and his wife have realistic relationship issues and shortcomings as parents, some of his alleged nastiness is hinted to be a dry sense of humour that the children mistook for literal statements, and he succeeds in improving his relationship with the kids after having a minor Jerkass Realization.
  • Inverted and discussed in The Orphan's Tales. Magadin's stepmother was wonderful and seemed to prefer her over her own blood daughter. Because of this, Magadin’s stepsisters became jealous and ratted her out to the resident Evil Sorcerer, when he came looking for young maidens to experiment on.
    " father married again...I see you smile, Witch. You think you know how these stories go. ... I quickly became my stepmother's favorite, quick and clever as I was."
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
    • Percy's Jerkass stepfather, "Smelly" Gabe Ugliano. Percy's mother Sally only married him because Gabe's "mortal stench" helped hide Percy from monsters. Gabe proceeded to abuse Percy and Sally, and to squander the family's money on gambling and booze, until Sally got sweet, sweet revenge at the end of the first book.
    • Subverted with Annabeth's stepmom, who is way better than Annabeth describes. It might be a case of fear on her stepmom's part (which she eventually tried to get over), utter lack of parenting ability on her father's part, and a little kid's perspective plus several years of built-up bitterness on Annabeth's part. Once all parties were actually willing to work at being a stable family, they started getting along.
    • Persephone. Little bit different in that Nico is the result of her husband having an affair with a mortal, as gods do, but Nico claims that she hates him. He can still use seeds from her garden to prolong his life in a "death trance", though. Persephone herself finally gives her own perspective in The Sun and the Star, saying that she found Nico hard to look at because he was a living reminder of her husband's betrayal, but that she's come to appreciate him over time, and recognizes she hasn't treated him as he deserves. However, she doesn't tell Nico any of this; she's counseling his boyfriend to help him in their relationship, but she asks Will to keep the whole thing between them.
      Persephone: [coldly] We had a little family spat.
      Nico: Family spat? You turned me into a dandelion!
    • Hera is an aversion, but only because she can be just as awful to her own kids. She drove Hercules insane so that he killed his wife and kids, but she also threw her own son, Hephaestus, off Mount Olympus for being ugly.
    • A number of goddesses avert this though: Amphitrite doesn't shower Percy with affection, but she doesn't go out of her way to make his life unpleasant. Similarly Sigyn doesn't do anything to Loki's children made without her, though given how Loki acts that just means they only have one god making their lives miserable.
  • Point Horror Unleashed plays with the trope in Scissorman. Protagonists Stu and Jane paint her this way, not because she's wicked to them, but because she actually disciplines them for misbehaviour and makes them eat healthy food. It's played horrifyingly straight at the end where it is revealed she's the titular monster, and uses this fact to scare both of them straight.
  • Basically the concept in The Poison Apples. One stepmother only acted this way because of her stepdaughter's poorly handled reaction to her engagement to her husband, another is 100% sweet and endearing to her stepchildren, and the third one is almost completely cold and cruel to her eldest stepdaughter.
  • In George MacDonald's "Port In A Storm", the narrator's uncle, with the very best of intentions, comes very close to this: he doesn't want people to think he's after his stepdaughter's fortune, and warns off his nephew. Fortunately, the nephew gets a promise out of him, and he agrees to let him woo her.
  • Princess Ben has a subversion. Sophia does not treat Ben kindly (starving her, locking her in a tower, etc.). However, this is because Ben is immature and a bit spoiled. Once she matures, Sophia treats her more respectfully.
  • Subverted in The Princess Bride: Prince Humperdinck calls his stepmother "ES", short for Evil Stepmother, because when he was a child he used to think that all stepmothers are evil. She's actually stated to be the most beloved person in the kingdom, and she and Humperdinck have a very good relationship — the name is more of an endearment than anything.
  • Inverted in Room with Leo, Ma's stepfather. Initially Ma is hostile towards him (as a reminder of her parents' divorce), but as seen later, Leo proves a far better and sweeter grandparent to Jack than his real biological grandfather. By the end of the book, Leo and Jack have a good bond, with Jack considering Leo to be "a real grandparent" that Ma hopes her own father would grow into.
  • The Scholomance: The protagonist El's maternal step-grandfather, who is a practiced maleficer. El is fairly certain he murdered her actual maternal grandfather (the timing was too much of a coincidence) to prey upon her maternal grandmother, who was also a renowned healer like El's mother Gwen, to have her take care of him. He's still alive, and even tried to trap Gwen into doing the same for a while before El accidentally opened one of his letters and sent one of his mind-tugging spells back at him.
  • Juliet Marillier's first book in The Sevenwaters Trilogy, Daughter of the Forest, is a retelling of the fairy tale "The Six Swans" and deals with a very evil enchantress stepmother, Lady Oonagh, who turns her six stepsons into swans and only their younger sister can reverse the spell.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • A rare Evil Stepfather example occurs in the story "The Speckled Band", which has Dr. Grimesby Roylott trying to eliminate his stepdaughters Julia and Helen before they have a chance to marry and inherit their share of their mother's fortune. Julia dies, but Helen manages to reach for Holmes before she perishes as well, and Roylott ends up having a Karmic Death, while Helen survives to inherit and marry.
    • "A Case of Identity," in which the heroine's stepfather is so eager to prevent her from marrying and collecting the money which is rightfully hers from her father, he masquerades as a different man, persuades his stepdaughter to marry him, and then leaves her at the altar — after extracting a promise from her that she will wait for him no matter how long it takes. Made even worse by the fact that her mother is in on the scheme, and doesn't seem to have a problem with it from what the reader is shown. The heroine also makes a fairly decent living as a typist. If she married and moved out, her mother and stepfather would lose that income as well.
    • Subverted in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches." The stepmother isn't exactly a saint, being complicit in the crime being committed in the story, but the heroine's father is the true villain.
  • In Shock Point, Cassie's stepfather Rick is a psychiatrist who makes money enrolling teens in a clinical trial for a behavioral modification drug called Socom. He forges the signatures of parents who won't agree to it and gives it to kids without their knowledge. When the drug turns out to cause delusions and suicidal urges in a minority of patients, Rick covers it up. Cassie discovers evidence of Rick's crimes, but before she can get an adult to take her seriously, Rick plants crystal meth in her room so her mother will agree to send her to Peaceful Cove, an abusive reform school, which Rick hopes will keep her out of the way until she turns eighteen.
  • Inverted in Neil Gaiman's Snow, Glass, Apples; here, Snow White is a vampire whom the good stepmother tries and fails to defeat while protecting the kingdom.
  • Song at Dawn: The reason Estela is hiding in a ditch and calling herself 'Estela' is because her stepmother turned her father against her and planned to have her killed.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The Dance of the Dragons had its root causes in a rivalry between Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and her stepmother Queen Alicent Hightower. Their rivalry exploded into conflict when Rhaenyra's father King Viserys I died. The king had wanted Rhaenyra to inherit the throne, but the queen crowned her eldest son instead, and managed to rally support from several major houses. War broke out as Rhaenyra called on her own allies to help her seize the throne from her half-brother and stepmother. In the end, both claimants were killed and the throne passed to Rhaenyra's 10-year-old son.
    • Going further back, Queen Visenya Targaryen is suspected of poisoning her nephew/stepson Aenys (her brother married both her and her sister, and her brother and sister are Aenys's parents) so her son Maegor could take the throne.
    • Catelyn Stark, otherwise the definitive example of a Mama Bear, does not have a good relationship with her husband's illegitimate son, Jon Snow. However, she treated him very well by the standards of her society, where other women are noted not to even tolerate the presence of their husband's illegitimate children in their own homes. She does not prevent Jon Snow from having any of the comforts of noble life, and does not interfere in any of his relationships. However, when her son, Bran, is comatose and she is extremely sleep deprived after tending all alone to him for weeks, her relationship with Jon takes a turn for the worse, with her wishing that he had fallen off Winterfell's tower instead of her biological son Bran, but it's easy to see where that resentment came from. When Catelyn was a teenager, all alone with her new husband, a total stranger to her, in the North, where she knew nobody else, she asked him about the identity of Jon's mother. Ned Stark reacted violently to her simple, reasonable question, and scared her into silence. In Westeros, bastards are not normally used to be raised in a castle with their biological parents and half-siblings, so Cat's Silent Treatment is an improvement.
  • Ganelon is Roland's wicked stepfather in The Song of Roland and other material related to the Matter of France. He betrayed Charlemagne's rearguard during the retreat from Spain, leading to Roland's death at Roncesvalles.
  • Corie treats Greta as such in Summers at Castle Auburn, but she acknowledges that their relationship is a complicated one and doesn't blame Greta for disliking her. Greta is in fact the mother of Corie's legitimate half-sister.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Inverted with Shallan's mother and stepmother. Her stepmother Malise Davar neé Gevelmar is ineffectual at staving off her husband's abuse, but at least tries to protect her stepchildren and dies trying to help them flee. Her mother tried to kill Shallan for being a Surgebinder.
  • A Sweet Valley High novel had the central character constantly being verbally and emotionally bullied by her stepmother, to the point where she would outright lie to the girl's father and tell him that she was being rude and disrespectful to her — and the jerk would believe her. Not until the girl saves her baby half-sister's life (she was choking on a button) does it finally dawn on the woman how horrible she's been. The stepmother not only apologizes but admits that she was trying to drive her husband's daughter away in order to have all of her father's attention to herself.
    • Two other books in the franchise feature this trope as a plot point, both with the same character. Said character is a Daddy's Girl to her single father and has bad abandonment issues. The first book plays this trope ridiculously straight with her father's new girlfriend having only started dating him for his money and being absolutely horrid to the girl, who puts up with it for her father's sake until the girlfriend leaves her alone for the weekend, prompting such a fit of nerves that the girl takes a nearly fatal Staircase Tumble; her furious father breaks up with the girlfriend when the truth comes out. The next book has the father start dating the mother of a family that has a bad reputation and the man's daughter and the daughter of the woman already have a grudge against each other. Interestingly, both of them have different ideas of how this trope will play out: the man's daughter just assumes that the "criminal" woman and her "delinquent" kids will ruin her and her father while the woman's daughter assumes that she'll become The Unfavorite, not just for her mother and stepfather but for her beloved older brother as well (for his part, the brother has no problem with his mom's new boyfriend and is the only kid to see that nothing bad will happen). In the end, both girls realize that they were wrong and help their parents get back together.
  • A Tale of...:
    • Referenced in A Tale of the Wicked Queen when the Creepy Triplets ask Snow White if her stepmother is an evil one like in fairy-tale. They're disappointed to find out she is not.
    • A Tale of the Wicked Queen is a Twice-Told Tale of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that shows how and why Grimhilde became so evil. The Queen starts out as a sweet stepmother to her new daughter Snow White and sees Snow as her own. She specifically wanted to avoid being an abusive parent like her own emotionally and physically abusive father. After her husband dies in war, the Queen becomes lost in grief and takes solace in the Magic Mirror (which is actually her father's soul trapped in a mirror, thus explaining why she so desires his approval). Over time her own grief, and intervention from the Odd Sisters, changes the Queen into an evil, jealous person. After she lets herself die, her soul gets trapped in the mirror. Her final line implies that reverted back to her kind motherly self. The Queen mixes trope with My Beloved Smother. Though she is genuinely jealous of Snow, much of her abuse comes from trying to shield her daughter from the outside world and from men (the Prince in particular).
    • A Tale of The Wicked Stepmother turns Cinderella into an Hourglass Plot. Cinderella’s father, Sir Richard, is abusive to both his new wife, whom he only married for her inheritance from her late husband, and to her two daughters. He makes them do chores and stop their lessons for ladies, while blatantly favoring Cinderella. He doesn’t plan to present Anastasia and Drizella alongside Cinderella because he says they’re too ugly.
  • This trope is so old that The Tale of Genji, the world's oldest surviving novel, uses it and then lampshades it. Genji is the son of the Emperor but can't be named a successor because of his low-ranked mother and his evil stepmother, Kokiden. Later in the novel, Genji is talking about stories with his son and notes how tiring it is to see all the wicked stepmothers in the local stories.
  • Enforced in the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms; because the world runs on narrative causality, even stepmothers who don't start out evil become evil, unless Genre Savvy people can subvert it. Played with in The Sleeping Beauty, where no fewer than three evil sorceresses try to enchant the king while he is still mourning his beloved wife; the local Fairy Godmother beats them to it and marries the king herself in disguise as the Obviously Evil Wicked Stepmother. The next book Beauty And The Werewolf reveals that the heroine's stepmother avoided this fate (as much as her stepsisters avoided becoming wicked) thanks to her being a busybody. A rare occasion of a flaw saving people, though the heroine learns to calm down and calls herself out for being such a busybody when she realizes people really didn't need her being so controlling to have things work.
  • "Talma Gordon": Captain Gordon's second wife Mary treats Jeannette and Talma, the daughters of his first wife, with contempt and speaks badly of their mother. It's said that she envies the inheritance that the first Mrs. Gordon left her daughters.
  • In C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, the nurse Batta tells the princesses that their new stepmother will be evil, just like in the stories she's told them. It turns out to be a subversion, as their stepmother is a frail, gentle young woman who is relatively kind to the girls until she dies in childbirth.
  • Tinker: There's a fairly spectacular Gender Flipped example — Lain and Esme Shenske's stepfather (and thus Tinker's step-grandfather) is not only evil, but also the emperor of the Skin Clan, long thought dead, and the series' Big Bad. It's also implied that he had Lain and Esme's father murdered.
  • Deconstructed in George Egerton's short story "Wedlock". The stepmother is an alcoholic who loathes her stepchildren, but her husband is an abuser who keeps her separated from her own daughter. When the husband prevents her from learning that her daughter is mortally ill until it is too late, she is Driven to Madness and murders all three of her stepchildren.
  • The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains, by Frederick Marryat (originally a chapter of Marryat's novel The Phantom Ship (1837), but often reprinted seperately), tells the backstory of Hermann Krantz, a friend of Philip Vanderdecken (the main character of the full novel). After Hermann's father murdered his wife and her lover, he and his three children fled to the Hartz Mountains in Germany, where Krantz was eventually tricked into marrying the daughter of a spirit of the Hartz Mountains. Hermann recounts how his stepmother was eventually revealed as a werewolf, who proceeded to murder and cannibalize two of her stepchildren before being caught and killed by her husband, thereby triggering a curse that would ultimately result in Hermann's own death by tiger.
  • In E. D. Baker's The Wide-Awake Princess, Tomas and Clara were abandoned in the woods by their stepmother because they would eat food she wanted to keep for her pet dogs.
  • In the Chivalric Romance William Of Palerne, a wolf is really a prince enchanted by his Wicked Stepmother. A rare example of the stepmother getting redeemed, as she willingly turns him back by the end.
  • In Wintergirls, Jennifer is a more nuanced approach to this trope. She does try to love her stepdaughter Lia but gets snappish with her when she thinks Lia is being even the tiniest bit of a bad influence on her own daughter Emma. This isn't completely unreasonable, given Lia's crippling anorexia and self-harming habit.
  • Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall doesn't even have to see Mary Tudor to make her life difficult. Anne admittedly does have an understandable interest in securing her daughter Elizabeth's claims to inherit, but she routinely mocks Mary, makes cruel remarks about her appearance, and tells Thomas Cromwell to destroy her reputation by having one of his apprentices seduce her (he refuses). In a particularly petty move, Anne rechristens her fool, a dwarf, Mary.
  • Fitting if not the letter of the trope then definitely the spirit is the mother's boyfriend in You Dont Know Me. In addition to the regular beatings, he heaps on the psychological abuse in droves. If the boyfriend hadn't put John in the hospital, the mother would have married him, making him a full-fledged example.
  • The Wildered Quest: Given that Eldraine is a world heavy on Fairy Tale Motifs, this trope is naturally lampshaded, but is actually subverted and in fact inverted. Will and Rowan's stepmother has a strained relationship with the protagonists, and a few suspect her of being responsible for the king's disappearance (mostly because she's now the de facto ruler of Eldraine in his absence) but the former is shown to be out of protectiveness more than anything, and neither Will or Rowan give any serious consideration to the latter. In reality their birth mother is the wicked one, having been a witch who enchanted their father into loving and impregnating her, only so she could sacrifice the newborn infants for an immortality potion; it was their future-stepmother who saved their lives.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Accused (2023): The end of "Danny's Story" reveals that Danny was right-his stepmother really did murder his mother, has now murdered his father and is currently poisoning his brother.
  • The Adventures of Shirley Holmes episode "The Case of the Rising Moon" featured a princess from an eastern land being targeted for murder. The princess, whose name means "Rising Moon", believed her stepmother was behind this because, with the princess dead, the stepmother's son would be the next in line for the throne. It was later revealed the stepmother was innocent and the conspiracy had been engineered by sexists who didn't want a woman as a ruler.
  • ABC Afterschool Special: "Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale", from 1985, averts the wicked stepmother trope in this tale of a teenage girl, the title character whose widowed father had gotten re-married, dealing with deep insecurities. Cindy fears that her stepmother, Janet, is putting on an act, but Janet is eventually able to prove that she loves and accepts Cindy as her own daughter... unlike Janet's own spoiled daughters (Lizzie and Laura), who fit the "wicked stepsisters" trope perfectly. Helping Cindy accept Janet as her new stepmother: A homeless lady armed with a shopping cart... who turns out to be her fairy godmother. (The fairy godmother was played by Pearl Bailey in one of her last roles, prior to her illness and death.) In the end, the fairy godmother deals quite severely with Cindy's evil stepsisters – literally blowing them away(!) while Cindy gets the handsome prince, snaring him at an elegant party held by her father and stepmother.
  • In one episode of Bones, the Villain of the Week was the victim's stepmother, who killed him so her own son would get the whole inheritance. Since she sacrificed her medication to be able to poison him, she died in no more than five days after being discovered. (she didn't care about dying as long as her son got the money). Because her son wasn't guilty of any crime regarding the inheritance, he did get it all but isn't comfortable with the means. It's ultimately a Pyrrhic Victory for the stepmother, who got what she wanted but at the cost of not only her life but her son's respect.
  • In Carrusel, Mario's stepmother Natalia starts out like this. She does become nicer, though.
  • The '80s Sitcom The Charmings was about Snow White, her husband, their two kids, and her stepmother in a modern setting. They ended up knocked into the real world when the stepmother attempted to curse Snow and her family; as the opening narration stated, "She also got herself and one dwarf." A recurring theme in the show was the family trying to make the stepmother feel included so she'd stop hating them, and her clearly growing fonder of them (especially of her step-grandsons) and trying to fight that feeling so she could continue being evil.
  • Leslie Williams, the Villain of the Week of the second Columbo pilot was a Black Widow and Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who kept up appearances very well but was extremely passive-aggressive to her college-aged stepdaughter Margaret. After showing her true colors to her husband, she made the poor man break down in front of his daughter before killing him as part of her scheme to take over his law firm. When Margaret accuses Leslie and slaps her at the victim's funeral, she kindly tells Margaret she'll overlook it but on an "unrelated" note her trust fund was emptied to pay the "ransom" and she'll need to find work. When Margaret forges evidence to try to get Columbo to arrest her prematurely, she drops the mask entirely and threatens to leave her penniless on the street if she acts out of line again.
    Leslie: Where will all your friends be then, Margaret, when you haven't the money to buy them anymore?
  • The Eternal Love: Madam Da, Tan Er's stepmother, has Tan Er tortured for Xiao Tan's actions.
  • Played with in Flashpoint where a corporate robber was so desperate for an emotional connection that he falls in love with a teenage girl claiming that her stepfather was abusing her. What the robber didn't know was that the "girl" was actually a teenage boy altering his voice and wanted his stepfather dead, but from what was seen, the stepfather at worst was neglectful due to his work.
  • Game of Thrones: While not abusive, Catelyn Stark makes it pretty clear to Jon Snow, her husband's son by another woman, that she doesn't want him around. Ned Stark conceived Jon as the result of adultery and brought him home as a baby to raise alongside his trueborn children, resulting in Catelyn's unhappiness with this situation and prompting her resentment of the kid.From the books...  Catelyn comes to regret her dislike of Jon after all the tragedy that befalls her, believing that it was karmic retribution for betraying the promise she made to love him, a bargain she made with the gods so that Jon would live when he became very ill as a baby. In the Season 6 finale, it's revealed that Catelyn wasn't so much Jon's wicked stepmother as his wicked aunt; Jon's mother was Ned's sister Lyanna Stark and his biological father was Rhaegar Targaryen. After Lyanna died following childbirth, Ned adopted his nephew Jon, raised and loved him as his own, and passed Jon off as his illegitimate child to protect Jon from the wrath of King Robert Baratheon, who had been Lyanna's fiancé before she eloped with Rhaegar. Catelyn may have acted very differently if she'd known Jon was her nephew instead of a child her husband conceived with another woman as a result of infidelity; unfortunately, by the time the truth is known, Catelyn has already been killed.
    • House of the Dragon: Alicent Hightower channels the energy of this trope as an older adult but is also a more nuanced examination of it. On the surface, she is bitter, spiteful, paranoid and petty towards her stepdaughter, Rhaenyra Targaryen. However, it is not so simple because her suspicions about Rhaenyra not telling her the truth are correct. Alicent is increasingly unhappy and lovelorn in her relationship with Viserys, but is still devoted to him, fussing over him and bearing him four trueborn children. Meanwhile, Rhaenyra (her Best Friend before Alicent's marriage) has been lying to her, to her father, and to the realm constantly for ten years, bearing three obvious bastards and having the gall to insult everyone's intelligence by calling them legitimate Velaryons. When she brings the matter to her husband, he tells her essentially to shut up, never speak of it again, and that to do so would be treason. By the time she confides in Larys Strong that she wants — no, needs her father back as Hand of the King, it looks less like a Wicked Stepmother and more like a put-upon wife who needs someone, anyone to believe her when she tells the truth. Even before that, her trust in Rhaenyra was shattered when they were both still young adults by discovering she had lied to her about trysts with Daemon Targaryen and Criston Cole, which makes Alicent less inclined to trust that Rhaenyra won't act to remove Alicent's children with Viserys (her half-siblings) as potential threats to her power if she ascends the throne.
  • Tracy Quartermaine starts out as this to Lulu Spencer in General Hospital, even being called "Stepmonster", but the trope is slowly subverted as the two get to know each other. Tracy even asked Lulu to be her maid of honour at her wedding to Luke, and Lulu told Tracy she was honoured to have Tracy as a stepmother.
  • In Gotham, Oswald Cobblepot finds his biological father, Elijah Van Dahl, soon after losing his mother and discovers that Elijah has a wife and two stepchildren. The step-family is... less than friendly towards him. (Not helped by the fact that his treatment in Arkham Asylum made him seem... special.) It's later revealed that they are only after the inheritance, and since Oswald is Elijah's only real child, they (correctly) believe he is going to leave everything to Oswald. They try to get rid of him by revealing his past as a criminal, but Oswald already told him willingly and Elijah's only reaction is that Oswald was too modest about himself. The stepsister tries to seduce Oswald but it doesn't work. Then they try to poison Oswald's drink... and Elijah drinks it instead. After the funeral, they decide to keep him as a maid, and plan to later fake his "suicide". This ends up destroying them, as Oswald finds the poison, snaps out of his brainwashing, murders and cooks his step-siblings, feeds them to his stepmom, and finally stabs her to death with a kitchen knife.
  • In Grand Hotel, Gigi was Beatriz Mendoza's best friend, but when Beatriz died, Gigi wasted no time making a move on her husband Santiago, who just happened to be the owner of a gorgeous hotel. Santiago's children Alicia and Javi have never warmed to her, nor to her two daughters Carolina and Yoli.
  • In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hera, Queen of the Gods, acts as this towards her husband's bastard son Hercules. This is in keeping with original myths of their relationship, as Hera was responsible for the majority of hardships the hero faced in his life.
  • Higher Ground: Elaine, Scott's abusive stepmom, had raped him repeatedly.
  • In the Lost episode "Abandoned", we learn Shannon is the way she is partly due to her stepmother, who cuts her off after Shannon's father's death. Like many retellings of "Cinderella", this is stated to be due to her jealousy of Shannon's relationship with her father.
  • In Mad Men, flashbacks to Don Draper's (or Dick Whitman as he was known back then) childhood reveal that his stepmother, Abigail Whitman, was a horrible maternal figure, referring to him as a "whore-child" (she only took him in because all of her own children up until that point had been stillbirths). It's telling that when Don learns of her death, his response is "Good".
  • Married... with Children subverted the trope in the story arc where Al left Peggy and she dated a rich man. The reason Bud and Kelly considered him wicked? He wanted them to get jobs and be independent.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Played straight initially with the Evil Queen Regina, but eventually subverted. It's revealed that she was once a kind and good-hearted woman who was corrupted by years of Rumpelstiltskin's manipulation and the fact that she really wanted to marry Daniel the stable boy instead of the king, but young Snow White was tricked into revealing her secret, causing Regina to blame her. She eventually makes a Heel–Face Turn out of love for her adoptive son Henry. And as nasty as she was before, Regina is nothing compared to her wicked mother Cora.
    • Gender Flipped with Zelena. Her adoptive mother is shown to have been a nice and caring woman, while the father was the drunkard who abused her.
    • Cinderella has one, of course, but we never see her. The spin-off hints that the stepmother wasn't much better to her own daughters either.
    • The second version of Cinderella, a major character in season 7, had an evil stepmother who plays much more of a role in the series. Due to a very twisted chain of events she's also Rapunzel! Mother Gothel kidnapped Rapunzel when she was already a mother of two daughters, Anastasia and Drizella. Rapunzel eventually escaped and got back to her family, but was so twisted by Gothel's treatment of her that she secretly curses the girls' Good Stepmother Cecelia in order to get back with her husband Marcus - the Curse of the Poisoned Heart, which prevents two people who love each other from being near each other without dying, forcing Cecelia to flee to Wonderland for her family's safety. Then after Anastasia drowns while trying to save Ella from falling through a crack in the ice, Rapunzel proceeds to be very cruel to not only Ella, her stepdaughter, but also to The Unfavorite daughter Drizella, whom she thinks doesn't remember or love her, and has her husband killed because he managed to rescue Ella but not Anastasia.
  • Gender inverted in Planet Earth: Dynasties. Because one of Charm's older cubs is too young to breed, the new males have no need for her and consider her just a useless mouth to feed. They kick her out, with the only other option being death. They eventually kick out all cubs, leaving only Charm and her adult daughter Yaya.
  • In Port Charles, Caleb Morley was tricked and turned into a vampire by his stepmother (whom he had actually trusted, which is why his father used her).
  • The Princess Wei Young: Chiyun Rou, the real Wei Young's stepmother, is responsible for Wei Young's death, and makes repeated attempts to kill or disgrace Xin Er.
  • A downplayed example with Aytolun Hatun in Resurrection: Ertuğrul. While she's certainly despicable, having been responsible for the death of her "husband" Korkut’s former wife Duru and targeting Korkut himself next, her stepson Tugtekin initially knows nothing about the fact and actually takes some of her words at face value.
  • Played with in Revenge — although not technically Amanda's stepmother, Victoria was deeply in love with Amanda's father, David, and planning to run away with him to start a life together. She instead frames him for terrorism and institutionalizes Amanda to protect her own interests. When Amanda returns to the Hamptons as Emily, Victoria forms an antagonistic and abusive relationship with her almost-stepchild, believing her to merely be her almost-daughter-in-law.
  • Saturday Night Live had a Cut for Time Parody Commercial for "My Little Stepchildren" dolls, in which Natalie Portman's character's daughter becomes a "wicked step-mommy" to the eponymous dolls.
  • Scoundrels (2010): When Patty Hong tells Cal about her stepmother Nina, she literally calls her a "wicked stepmother", and it's clear the two don't have a good relationship, with Patty only seeing Nina as a Trophy Wife for her father.
  • In one episode of Seinfeld, Jerry had a girlfriend whose stepmother was obsessed over her stepdaughter's speed dial, and she did not want to lose her spot to Jerry. Jerry's girlfriend finds out about her stepmother's plans, and throughout the rest of the episode, the two women take the speed dial more and more seriously.
  • The stepmother in the Korean Series Shining Inheritance performed insurance fraud, kicked her stepchildren out into the cold, abandoned her stepson out in the sticks, and lied to her friends and employees about her personal circumstances.
  • Smallville: Jennifer Small, the wife of Lana's biological father Henry, threatens to divorce her husband due to his trying to forge a relationship with his daughter, and not to Henry himself but to Lana, attempting to guilt the poor girl for the simple problem that Jennifer is envious that she is no longer the only important woman in her husband's life, causing Lana to cut ties with her father, whom the two realize now fully embrace and love each other as Father and Daughter, so he may preserve his marriage and his family.
  • Step by Step: Somewhat averted, in that there are no major issues between the stepparents and their stepkids, even if the transition is not as smooth as The Brady Bunch. However, there are some major points of contention:
    • Frank's only daughter Al has a difficult relationship with stepmother Carol in the beginning when Al objects to Carol's obsessive orderliness. It gets to the point where (in an early episode) she threatens to move in with her grandmother or find her biological mother. Al relents by episode's end and realizes Carol will do fine filling the void left behind when her biological mother chose to leave.
    • Dana, Carol's eldest, has issues with both stepbrother J.T. and stepfather Frank. Dana and J.T. rarely get along, especially in the early years, and freely trade insults; this is due in part to being schoolmates, and already disliking each other even before their parents married. As the series continues, they develop a grudging mutual respect and willingness to help each other. As for Frank, Dana initially regards him as an oaf, but gradually comes to appreciate him.
  • The Storyteller episode "The Three Ravens" (based on "The Six Swans" by the Brothers Grimm) makes the common fairy tale trope even worse for the princess, as her father is finally poisoned by his second wife, who then remarries another king, a prince's father. The poor princess marries said prince, and discovers that her former stepmother is now her mother-in-law.
  • The Supernatural episode "Bedtime Stories" involves the Winchester brothers investigating a series of murders that resemble fairy tales. Fittingly, the spirit causing the murders is that of a comatose girl who'd been poisoned by her stepmother.

  • Finnish rock band Leevi and the Leavings song Älä itke Baby Jane ("Don't Cry Baby Jane"), where the protagonist Baby Jane contemplates suicide for being severely abused by her wicked stepmother.
  • The band Spin Doctors has a song called "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong", which is about being free from an abusive stepmother, according to Word of God (even though several have assumed that it's a Break Up Song). There's some Reality Subtext in that it was written about lead singer Chris Barron's late stepmother, who he described as a "raging narcissist".

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Averted with Jesus, who had a kind, pious, and all-around good stepfather in Joseph the carpenter. Joseph is deserving of extra praise since he was Mary's first husband, and Jesus was conceived (virginally by God) while Joseph and Mary were engaged. (Even worse: in that time and culture, "engaged" was "married but not living together yet.")
    • In Jewish custom of the time, marriages were consummated a year later. So, when Mary turned up pregnant, Joseph had every right to consider divorcing her. Fortunately, they both got the news of Who had fathered the child.
    • Emphasizing Joseph's kindly character, before Gabriel told him how Mary got pregnant, he was planning to hush everything up, and not, for example, to denounce her publicly. This was very generous of him because, in that time and place, she could have been found guilty of adultery (see above), the punishment for which was execution.
  • In Ramayana, Rama is exiled from the kingdom as a result of plotting by Kaikeyi, who's not his mother but another one of his father's wives.
    • Sort of subverted, though. Kaikeyi was under a spell, and after Rama is exiled she spends the next five years fasting, praying and repenting for her actions, so when Rama returns, she is nearly unrecognizable.
  • Medea, when she goes to live with Aegeus, tries to have him kill his son Theseus (before Aegeus realized that Theseus was his son). He fared better than her own children with Jason, though.
  • Svipdag, in Norse Mythology, was sent on a quest by his wicked stepmother.
  • Hera sort of personified this trope. Hercules/Heracles is already mentioned, but Zeus's other godly and demi-god offspring, who were quite numerous, tended to face similar treatment. Her actions ranged from simple murder to transforming the children into mindless beasts and driving them and those around them into madness. The fact that Zeus is Hera's brother also makes her an Evil Aunt to all these children.
    • A notable example was Hera's harassment of Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis. While Leto was still pregnant with Zeus' progeny, Hera cursed Leto so that no land would accept her and set a serpent to stalk her in the oceans. Zeus had to set an island adrift so the serpent would finally stop chasing her.
    • It should be noted however that Hera usually did not actually fulfill the part of step-mother since the mothers of the children in question in most cases stayed alive long enough to raise their children or they were given away to other people to raise. Only in two or three cases did Hera actually act as a stepmother proper: When Alcmene abandoned the infant Heracles to placate Hera's wrath, Hera ended up nursing the baby (it's usually described as by deceit and trickery). And before that, she had also nursed the infant Hermes, with whom she got along fairly well afterwards. Hermes' birth mother, the minor goddess Maia, was also one of the few of her husband's paramours whom Hera did not give trouble and who even was able to protect Arkas, Zeus' son by Callisto, from Hera's wrath. Hera also teamed up with Athena in aiding the Achaeans against the Trojans during the Trojan War in The Iliad (though Athena has the advantage of generally being born to Zeus's wife before Hera, and was not the result of Zeus having an affair). Finally, Hera also raised Thetis as a kind of adoptive daughter.
  • In Greek mythology, Ino hates her stepchildren, the twins Phrixus and Helle, so she pushes farmers to demand the sacrifice of Phrixus to avert famine. The twins have to flee on the back of a flying golden ram, but Helle falls from the fabulous animal into the sea.
  • Chinese exemplary tales of filial piety feature many wicked stepmothers.
    • The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars included Shun, who was protected by Heaven from the usual abuse; Min Sun, who pled with his father to not divorce the stepmother who had failed to dress him warmly, because if he did so, his brothers would also be neglected; Wang Xiang, who melted ice in winter with his own body in order to catch a carp for the stepmother who had abused him to his father and caused his father to stop loving him; and Zhu Shouchang, whose mother was driven off by his stepmother.
    • Another such tale includes the righteous stepmother of Qi. When her son and stepson were found by a murdered man, and both confessed in an obvious attempt to shield each other, she said they should execute her son — both because her husband had particularly put her stepson in her care and because it was the place of her son, who was the junior and therefore inferior. (For this devotion to duty, both men were pardoned.)
  • A few Korean folktales feature this trope. "The Tale of Janghwa Hongryeon" is notable for being the basis of A Tale of Two Sisters mentioned above. Unlike the film, in the tale, both sisters were killed by the stepmother, though, paradoxically, it had a happy ending (courtesy of reincarnation).

  • In Rudyard Kipling's The Love Song of Har Dyal, one of the narrator's pleas is that she is suffering from this.

  • Gioacchino Rossini subverts it in La Cenerentola, a retelling of "Cinderella" casting a stepfather, Don Magnifico, as the villain. His motives are economic as with so many fairy tale stepmothers; if the heroine does not marry, he can afford larger dowries for his own daughters. The Gender Flip lets him fill the standard comic opera role of "the pompous bass-voiced buffoon who stands in the way of the young lovers' happiness but gets his comeuppance in the end" (a la Bartolo in The Barber of Seville).
  • Zig-zagged in Janacek's Jenufa. The Kostelnička is very strict with Jenufa, but she loves her dearly and ultimately has her best interests in mind. Then Jenufa becomes pregnant and the baby's father abandons her, while another suitor is ready to marry the girl and save her honor but is horrified at the prospect of raising his rival's child. For the best, as she tries to convince herself, Kostelnička drowns the baby and tells Jenufa that the boy died, but she is plagued with conscience and half-mad ever since. After the body is discovered, she breaks down, gives herself up for murder, and begs Jenufa's forgiveness, and Jenufa prays to God to bring peace to her stepmother.

  • In Euripides's Alcestis, Alcestis references this when pleading with her husband not to remarry after her death; he must spare her children any possible stepmother.
  • In "The Black Crook," believed to be the first musical, the heroine Amina is abused by her foster mother.
  • Originally, Odette in Swan Lake was enchanted so that her stepmother would not kill her; von Rothbart was just a demonic minion of the stepmother. Later productions avert this and make Rothbart the lone villain.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' The Emperor Constantine, Constantine's wife tricks him into killing his son by his first wife.
  • In Hamlet, Claudius is technically this to Hamlet due to marrying his mother, though he is primarily his Evil Uncle.
  • In John Milton's Comus, this is the Back Story of a magical herb, created for a girl fleeing this.
    She, guiltless damsel, flying the mad pursuit
    Of her enragéd stepdame, Guendolen,
    Commended her fair innocence to the flood
    That stayed her flight with his cross-flowing course.
  • Naturally, Evil Stepmother from Big Bad is implied to be this. Although it seems she's decided to change for the better since she tells Wolf she needs to talk to her stepdaughter before the final verdict is delivered.
  • Lampshaded in Cymbeline, where the Queen tells her step-daughter Imogen, 'No, be assured you shall not find me, daughter, After the slander of most stepmothers, Evil-eyed unto you.'
  • Cinderella (Lloyd Webber): Cinderella' Stepmother, as usual, doesn't care about her beyond her servant status. In her introductory song "Unfair" she berates Cinderella, insults her looks and sense of fashion, and orders her to clean the chamber pot.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Quest V has the Queen Consort of Coburg, who plots to put her own son on the throne over his stepbrother, Prince Harry. She is entirely transparent about planning this.
  • Inverted in BioShock 2: Eleanor Lamb much more favors her monstrous, but kind to her, adopted father over her own uncaring, emotionally detached mother and resurrects him to save her from her mother's imprisonment and becoming a tool in her mother's mad plan.
  • Otacon's stepmother Julie in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was revealed to have seduced him, causing his birth father Huey to commit suicide and mentally scarring his stepsister Emma, who nearly drowned that day from his father's Taking You with Me attempt when he was supposed to be watching her. It's not known if Julie regrets these actions, but she sure didn't mind seducing him and did little to try and alleviate Emma's resentment towards Otacon for the incident she caused. Not to mention that Hal was 17 at the time, and it's strongly suggested she did it to get back at Huey for neglecting her. The guilt from the whole disaster led Otacon to run away from home and continue his education away from his family, although he and Julie kept in touch through letters.
  • Umineko: When They Cry plays with this. Battler gets along with his stepmother Kyrie and his half-sister Ange despite leaving home for six years due to his father remarrying soon after his mother's death. Then later arcs reveal that Kyrie hated his mother, Asumu. A lot. To the point where she flat-out states that if Asumu hadn't died on her own, she would have killed her. Then the penultimate arc reveals that she doesn't even care for her own daughter. Oh, and it turns out that Kyrie is actually Battler's real mother. How much of this is true is... Debatable.
  • Gender-Inverted in The Spellcasting Series, where the main character, Ernie Eaglebeak, has a downright adversarial relationship with his Obviously Evil stepfather, Joey Rottenwood, so much so that Ernie describes him as his Arch-Enemy. Bonus points for Joey being revealed to be the game's Big Bad Evil Sorcerer.
  • Zig-Zagged by the Dark Jedi Sariss in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, and her complicated relationship with her apprentice and stepson Yun. She seduced Yun's father into marrying her after he joined her Dark Side cult, and after learning Yun was Force-sensitive seduced him as well, using his feelings for her to manipulate him into killing his father (and potentially the rest of his family as well) before taking him on as an apprentice. She used Yun's feelings for her to continually manipulate him over the years but never reciprocated as she genuinely saw him as a son and friend rather than a lover and was enraged by his Heroic Sacrifice to protect Kyle Katarn, even honoring his Last Request to give Kyle a proper duel. Despite this, in the non-canon Dark Side ending to the game she willingly becomes The Dragon to Kyle after he kills Yun himself.
  • In Rise of the Snow Queen, the third installment of the Dark Parables games, an in-game storytelling device talks about how Snow White's father was riddled with guilt over having been unable to protect her from her evil stepmother. Said stepmother is a Posthumous Character during the game itself. A later installment, The Thief and the Tinderbox, further reveals that the stepmother had arranged for Snow White and her twin brother Ross Red to be executed, but they were rescued by the man who later became Snow's husband.
  • In Crusader Kings II, expect stepmothers (and other wives or concubines of the same husband) to try to get rid of their husband's children by other women to make room for their own. Family politics can get very messy in this game.
  • Persona 4 plays with this trope. The protagonist's Temperance Social Link centers around a stepmother named Eri Minami, who is having trouble with her young stepson, Yuuta, a kid that The Protagonist watches over in the daycare where he works. Yuuta is convinced that his stepmother hates him, while in turn, Eri is convinced that Yuuta hates her. Both of them do care for each other, but it takes some help from the protagonist to get them to express it.
  • Fire Emblem doesn't lack examples:
    • Emperor Arvis of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War is both Seliph's evil stepfather and Evil Uncle, because he married his half-sister, Seliph's mother. Bonus points for murdering his wife's first husband, though, unlike most examples, they don't interact as family members. In fact, the only time they meet is when Seliph confronts Arvis towards the end of the game, in what is implied to be Arvis’s Suicide by Cop.
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade features Sonia, a wicked stepmother to Lloyd and Linus. Oddly enough or not, given Nino is adopted, she doesn't treat her daughter Nino any better than she treats her stepsons. They, along with their father, seem to treat Nino better than Sonia herself ever has.
    • Zig-Zagged in Fire Emblem Fates:
      • On the Hoshidan side, Queen Mikoto averts this as she loves her four stepchildren just as much as her biological child, the Avatar, and they love her back and even refer to her as "Mother," since she raised all of them. The only time their relationship becomes strained is when Mikoto tries to dissuade Hinoka from recklessly trying to save Corrin(Mikoto's own child) from Nohr, prompting Hinoka to claim Mikoto wasn't really her mother. Mikoto forgave Hinoka, but Hinoka tells Corrin she'll always regret saying something so cruel.
      • However, in Nohr, Garon is the stepfather of Azura, one of the game's main characters. He's Obviously Evil - and even on Conquest (which features Azura returning to Nohr), he doesn't seem to care that much. This may actually be justified - Garon is revealed to have been a construct created by Anankos. The real Garon might actually have been much nicer in the past since the characters reveal that the true Garon was stern but still a loving father. Given that Garon is in many ways a product of Nohr's Decadent Court and Azura spent most of her life as a hostage in Hoshido (with her aunt), it's hard to say just how Garon was during the brief moments when he was with Azura as his stepdaughter.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
      • Zig-zagged with Patricia, Dimitri's stepmother. He recalls her with fondness and laments her death at The Tragedy of Duscur, but late in the Azure Moon route Cornelia reveals with her dying words that Patricia was complicit in the plot and never actually loved Dimitri, instead arranging the death of the King so she could be with her biological daughter Edelgard. Where it gets ambiguous is that the one saying this definitely had an agenda and while certain aspects seem to be true and were confirmed by an outside party, the real truth is likely somewhat between the two.
      • A straighter example from the same game would be the stepmother of DLC character Balthus. After his father remarried, his stepmother went to great lengths to ensure that her son would be named heir of the house and a lot of Balthus’s problems are because of her. Despite the fact that Balthus himself feels that his half-brother makes a better heir and that life as a noble doesn’t suit him, she continues to target him out of paranoia that one day he’ll return and try to take his place in the house back. Balthus, for his part, chooses to accept being the target of her wrath (albeit on the run) out of fear that she’ll end up turning her attention toward his mother (and by extension the Hidden Elf Village she came from), his father, or even his half-brother otherwise.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Isolde Guerrin was one to Alistair, her husband's ward, in his childhood. According to him, it's because she thought that there was some truth to the rumors that he was her husband's bastard. There was not. Eamon had guardianship of Alistair at the request of Alistair's actual father, but he was sworn to keep the boy's parentage a complete secret from everyone except his brother Teagan and Duncan, the Warden-Commander of the Grey Wardens, who already knew.
  • In Nancy Drew Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor, it turns out that Jane Penvellyn sees her stepmother Linda as this. However, this seems to be an instance of the jealous Daddy's Girl variation mentioned above, rather than a straight example of the trope.
  • Inverted in Castlevania 64 with Carrie and Actrise. Actrise proudly brags that, amongst the 100 children she slew to obtain immortality, the very first was her own biological daughter. Carrie calls her out as pathetic for this, after remembering how her step-mother loved her dearly and even gave her life to save Carrie's.
  • Inverted in Digital Devil Saga, where Sera's mother, Jenna Angel, tries to destroy what Sera wants to protect. Gale, the reincarnation of Sera's stepfather, is initially hostile towards her but supports her enough to entrust the leadership of the Embryon after Serph's death.
  • Played with in Long Live the Queen. When the father of the young Duke of Elath dies, Elodie determines whether the boy goes to live with his stepmother, the Duchess of Lillah (who is implicated to have had a hand in the deaths of a number of people, including a previous stepson), or with his grandfather. The Duchess of Lillah wants custody of her stepson because she has a better chance of keeping him alive than his grandfather does. And while it turns out that she did arrange for the death of her previous stepson, he had it coming. Meanwhile, her previous husband, Jael counts as a Wicked Stepfather, given what he did to her son. She also arranged for his death.
  • In Shining Song Starnova, Nemu Akimoto’s adoptive mother Haruna hates her for being her husband’s bastard daughter, and only keeps her around to serve as a potential asset for the family company. She also hated Nemu’s birth mother, Sena, and had her murdered. Or so Nemu thinks. In reality, it’s a subversion: Haruna never hated Nemu or Sena, and she adopted Nemu because Sena could no longer take care of her following a psychotic breakdown.
  • Subverted in Cinderella Phenomenon. Lucette initially views and treats her stepmother Ophelia as one, but it's clear that this is just a product of Lucette missing her late mother and feeling bitter that her father remarried after her death and that Ophelia is a genuinely lovely person who's doing her best to be friendly towards her stepdaughter. In fact, Lucette's birth mother turns out to be far more wicked than her stepmother.
  • The trope is lampshaded in A Little Lily Princess, when Becky compares Miss Minchin, headmistress of the boarding school and her employer, to a wicked stepmother. While Miss Minchin is no one's stepmother, she ends up becoming eerily similar to many of the most famous examples of this trope when after Sara's father dies deep in debt, she forces Sara to work as an indentured servant to pay off the debt, sells most of Sara's possessions and forces her to sleep in an attic.
  • In Final Fantasy XVI, after the prologue, Clive's Abusive Mom Anabella marries the Emperor of Sanbreque, and proves no better of a parent to her stepson Dion Lesage. When she's not planning to swipe the throne out from under him and hand it to her son Olivier, she's making nakedly classist remarks to his face and insinuating that he has no worth as a human being beyond being the Dominant of Bahamut.

    Web Animation 
  • Manga Angel Neko Oka: Aoi's stepmother and stepsisters treated her like garbage and physically abused her. The stepmother also sets her up to meet Eiji from the Kibishin family with the intention to marry him, with her thinking they would reject Aoi for being lame due to their strictness. This eventually bites them in the ass after Aoi told the Kibishin about her abusive family, causing them to cut all of their connections with her father's company.
  • Manga-Waido:
    • Rena became abusive towards her stepdaughter Yuuka after marrying Shinichi, even to the point of locking her out of the house whenever her lover showed up.
    • Maria bullied Haruto when they were in elementary and middle school. When Haruto's father marries Maria's mother, Reiko, she resumes bullying Haruto verbally with her mother joining in tormenting him. Reiko also only married him to get their family inheritance when he dies. It's later revealed that Haruto and his step-family were never officially family in the first place, because his father never turned in the marriage papers.
    • Yuki's stepfather treated Yuki coldly throughout her childhood, he eventually crosses the line by forcing her to get married with a man without her consent to pay Haruka's debt.
  • Revenge Films: Sarah was mistreated by her stepmother along with her son when her father is away for work. The son's girlfriend called the police when she found out about the abuse.

  • Chui-Bi is this to Hong-Ryeong in Divine Bells.
  • YU+ME: dream : Fiona has one, whom we realize is rather wicked once we learn that her affair with her now-husband is what caused Fiona's real mother to be Driven to Suicide. However, it is subverted as in the real world, Elizabeth is extremely kind and Fiona is the evil stepdaughter.
  • Erika and the Princes in Distress: When it started becoming apparent that his step-son Egg-White was becoming a better chef than him, King Parfait became extremely bitter towards him, refusing to taste any of his deserts and making him feel he was being rejected for underperforming. Later, his jealousy leads him to plot Egg-White's assassination, and he expresses utter delight when the deed is finally done. It eventually turns out that this was mostly due to him being under the influence of Glucose, who had been hypnotising him.
  • Subverted with Kevin & Kell. Lindesfarne considers her stepmother Kell to be her mother, and Kell considers Lindesfarne her daughter, rather than a stepdaughter. Lindesfarne's original adoptive mother, however, is a Jerkass who largely ignored her during her childhood, and desperately tries to win her over, at one point making Lindesfarne allergic to Kell, partly motivated by wanting to get back at Kevin. At Lindesfarne's graduation, she gives her a hug- albeit with a blood transfer bag on hand- and a document saying that she waives all claims to custody of Lindesfarne as she has now come of age.
  • Men Of The Harem: Since it is tradition for the Emperor of Tarium to have a Royal Harem in addition to his legal wife and Empress, Latil has had many stepmothers, but her father’s favorite, Anachktha, made the worst impression, abusing her as a child both physically and verbally, while favoring her own son Thula, even helping Thula plot to overthrow her when her father names her heir over Thula.
  • Subverted in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, Alexsi (Dan's half-sister) considers her stepmother Dee to be her mother, and Dee considers Alexi to be her daughter. However, the wicked part still seems present before Dan's birth at least.
    • The wicked part comes back later, as Destania (Dee's original Cubi name) is plotting war with the dragons, and when Alexsi starts a relationship with one, Destania sees her as a traitor and expendable.
  • In Alice, Alice hates her father's new girlfriend, who ends up in this role in Alice's Calvin and Hobbes-esque fantasy sequences. In actuality, the girlfriend is a fine woman (if soppy), while the normally amiable Alice is being a complete dick to her. Alice does have a Freudian Excuse for reacting in such a way; Alice's birth mother divorced her father when she was young and her first stepmother, a Good Stepmother, died in a car crash, so Alice lost not one but two mothers. Learning to accept that Joan is not a Wicked Stepmother is part of Alice's Character Development.
  • Homestuck: With the death of Colonel Sassacre, his adoptive children Nanna and Grandpa were left in the care of Betty Crocker. Initially, it just seems to be the typical negative opinion one would expect children to have in such a situation, but it turns out that Crocker was/is an inhuman Chessmaster who had a hand in Gamzee's swan-dive off the deep end, and is later revealed to be Her Imperious Condescension herself, the tyrannical troll Empress. And now she's gone and taken over the Alpha Derse on the orders of Lord English.
  • Off-White: Jera and her love for singling out Iki call to mind this trope, though she is not evil.
  • Perfect Marriage Revenge: After Iju’s adopted mother dies, her adopted father marries another woman with a daughter of her own mere months after. Not only did Jeonghye attempt to poison Iju as a child, leaving her with trauma over food, she tries to sabotage Iju’s engagement because her own daughter, Iju’s stepsister Yura, wants the fiancé for herself.
  • Realmwalker: Lorelei regularly hurts Gunhild, physically and emotionally, even breaking her arm. She's not much better with Sigrun, forcing her into an arranged marriage and eventually stabbing her. And as if she couldn't get any worse, she's also a pageant mum.

    Web Original 
  • Rare Male Example from Welcome to Night Vale. It's eventually revealed that Cecil's hatred of Steve Carlsberg stems from him being one of these to Cecil's niece Janice, citing too much drinking and gambling. Potentially subverted, however; Steve genuinely seems to love his stepdaughter, shows up to every PTA meeting, and angrily explodes when a villain threatens to 'fix' her.
  • In Ash & Cinders, Phira treats Cinder and Azoc like workers and threatens to kill Cinder after her own child is abducted.
  • This essay puts the blame for the creation of one of these (in the eyes of the kids) on the birth parent who gets involved with them.
  • In The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air), protagonist Julian the Janitor tells his personal Interactive Narrator of times when his stepfather would discover him hiding in the basement and pretending to record a radio show on a tape machine rather than cleaning, and lift him by the hair, or box his ear until it bled and rang. It's strongly implied that Julian was otherwise expected to spend all his time cleaning house.
  • The Cry of Mann: Courtney is introduced as a catty, rude, spoiled woman, who only got into the family because she made Tank Mann happy as his wife. This is later explored, as though Berry claims Courtney was the problem, Courtney herself argued that she was always seen as an outsider anyway because she wasn't born rich like the Mann children were, making it ambiguous as to where the conflict started and how evil Courtney initially was.

    Western Animation 
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): The character of Ima Goodelady, is played as one even though she doesn't marry the Professor; however, her reign of terror is short-lived after the girls realize she is Sedusa after she steals the Mayor's jewels. They remove her disguise, then fight her; when the Professor appears, Sedusa uses the Ima voice without the disguise and the Professor gets the girls to phone the police.
  • Pound Puppies (1980s):
    • Katrina was evil to Holly, despite being her aunt. "Aunt" or "uncle" can be used as a term of endearment to an adoptive parent, which may be what the show meant; the specifics of their relationship are never defined, only that Holly is an orphan and "Auntie Katrina" has custody of her. Holly is the rightful owner of the pound, which she apparently inherited from her real parents, so part of the ongoing conflict is Katrina's efforts to gain control of the property and evict the dogs in favor of a more lucrative venture. Even without that, however, Katrina is very open about the fact that she just plain dislikes the child.
      Katrina: Holly's so cute. I hate cute.
    • The cartoon even has a "Cinderella" parody featuring a Fairy Dogmother.
  • Rugrats:
    • Chuckie imagines that Kira will be evil, complete with a Cinderella-esque Dream Sequence. Kira subverts the trope not only by being very nice but also by legally adopting Chuckie in the same episode.
    • But almost played straight with Coco LaBouche. Fortunately, Chuckie's dad noticed how "wicked" she was just in time to dump her at the altar. It took the babies escaping from being locked up in a storage room, piloting a Mecha-Reptar Stu had built, and Angelica spilling the beans as payback for a The Cake Is a Lie incident that pressured Coco into confessing that she's only doing it to keep being a Reptar franchisee. It gets worse for her naturally; the creator of Reptar was discreetly attending the wedding.
  • Used in Winx Club's season 3 arc about Stella's dad planning to marry an evil countess, who was evil even before she made the deal with Valtor.
  • Referenced in Drawn Together, where Clara (being based on the Disney Princesses) has an evil stepmother who cursed her privates, turning them into a hideous tentacled monster.
    • And then, of course, Clara has a heartfelt discussion with her stepmother where it's revealed Clara rejected her first because she thought she was trying to replace her dead mom, and the stepmother cursed her because Clara never gave her a chance. They air their grievances, her stepmom tells her how to break the curse, Clara moves on past her mom's death, and their relationship is mended. Naturally, this is all Played for Laughs because it's Drawn Together.
  • Subverted on Wheel Squad, where Mr. Rotter, the only character who qualifies as somebody's stepparent, treats his stepdaughter Emilie like a real daughter. Even in the Cinderella parody, he was just strict and punishing her for a prank that could have gotten herself and her victim seriously hurt (and for not keeping satisfactory grades).
  • Bart's teacher, Edna Krabappel, was dating Ned Flanders in one episode of The Simpsons. Not liking the idea of having her as a neighbor, Bart tried to make Ned's sons, Rodd and Todd, afraid she'd be a wicked stepmother who'd force them to do all the household chores. It backfired because Rodd and Todd enjoy doing them.
  • Sofia the First: Queen Miranda lampshades the trope by acknowledging there aren't many fairy tales with the good and loving kind of stepmothers. However, she strives to be one to her stepchildren.
  • In Daria's TV movie "Is It Fall Yet?", Daria, having been forced to work at a summer day camp, mentors a Mouthy Kid named Link. At one point he quips that his mother "threw his father out for being a jerk, and then went and married a bigger one". We never actually see any of the adults involved, though.
  • Played With in Disenchantment. Bean's mother, Queen Dagmar, died when she was a kid, and her father is now in a loveless political marriage with Oona. She's less "wicked" than austere and weird, but Bean thinks that her father favors his "new family" over her. This trope really comes into play with the season one finale, when Dagmar gets revived and comes in conflict with Oona, who is pissed at being replaced. It seems like Oona is plotting against the rest of the family, only for it to be revealed that Dagmar was Evil All Along and Oona's the good guy. This even gets some Conversational Troping by Oona, who notes that "oh, yes, evil stepmother trope is very problematic."
  • As of the Grand Finale of OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes, Lord Boxman is this to K.O., as in some of the future episodes portrayed in the finale, he and Professor Venomous, K.O.'s father, are wearing wedding bands.
  • Played With in Over the Garden Wall. It's clear that Wirt has some issues with his unseen stepfather. However, his only specific complaint is that his stepdad pushes him to be more social, so it's likely that Wirt is just lashing out about his own insecurities, just like he does with his half-brother, Greg.
  • Strawberry Shortcake: Blueberry Muffin takes on this role during the events of "The Play's The Thing". Subverted the first time when she, Ginger Snap, and Orange Blossom reveal that they were not really meaning it when they said that Cinderellanote  can go to the Ball. Then Angel Cake reveals that they violated their characters and hands them the Jerkass Ball in order to set the play right.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Evil Stepmother, Wicked Stepfather


Lady Tremaine

Lady Tremaine is Cinderella's abusive stepmother and is the antagonist of the story.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / BigBad

Media sources: