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Ogress Queen Mother

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Ogress queen

Illustration from a picture book by French artist Olivier Desvaux.

The ogress queen mother is the main antagonist of the second part of the fairy tale "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood", written in 1697 by Charles Perrault - the much more famous wicked fairy godmother is the antagonist of the first part.

The queen mother is absent from the Grimms' version of the fairy tale - the Brothers Grimm incorporated the second part into a separate story called "The Evil Mother-in-Law". This story (which was never finished) only appears in the earliest edition, and was expunged from later editions. She also does not appear in most modern versions of the story.

Background

The queen mother is the mother of the prince who marries Sleeping Beauty. She is the wife of the king, who rules the kingdom that once was ruled by Sleeping Beauty's father (him and his wife having left the old castle after everyone else there was put to sleep along with the princess).

She is a rather unlikable person, and not very trustworthy. She does not seem to be very close with her husband, who only seems to have married her for her wealth. Though she appears to be a normal-looking woman, she has ogreish heritage, and with it a desire to eat small children, which is why the prince fears her and hides his wife and children from her while his father is still alive. Still, the prince seems to love her despite her serious flaws.

Role in the story

When the prince rescues Sleeping Beauty from her enchanted slumber, he dwells with her for a few days in her castle. He soon realizes that his parents are wondering where he is. He rides back to his parents and tells them he spent the night in a hovel with a charcoal burner. The king believes him, but the queen does not. She soon notices that her son is constantly leaving his castle, and is sometimes gone for days on end. She begins to suspect him of having a love affair.

In due course the prince and Sleeping Beauty have two children, a daughter Aurore (also known as Dawn or Morning) and a son Jour (also known as Day). Sleeping Beauty and her children continue to live in the old castle until the prince's father dies. Feeling that he has to reveal his wife and children, the prince brings them to his castle.

Not long after, the prince (now king) is called away to war, and he appoints his mother as regent. The queen mother, now able to do what she wants with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren, sends them to a cottage in the woods. There she can execute her nefarious plans.

The queen mother announces that she will eat Aurore and orders her steward to kill and cook her. The steward finds Aurore, but cannot bring himself to kill her, so he hides her in the cellar. He decides to slaughter a lamb and serves it to the queen mother, who eats it and thinks it is Aurore. Soon after, the queen mother decides to eat Jour. The steward finds Jour and hides him with his sister. He proceeds to slaughter a young goat and serves it to the queen mother, who thinks she has eaten Jour.

Then, the queen mother decides that she will eat Sleeping Beauty. The steward has trouble finding a suitable substitute, but after seeing Sleeping Beauty beg him to kill her (at the moment she thinks her children are dead), he decides to spare her. So he cooks up a young hind (a female deer). The queen mother gobbles it up, thinking she has eaten Sleeping Beauty.

But the queen mother still prowls around for raw meat, and surely enough she discovers where Sleeping Beauty and her children are hiding. The furious queen mother sentences Sleeping Beauty and her children to death, and also the steward, his wife, and his servant girl.

A vat of snakes and toads is prepared, and the queen mother comes close to having her victims devoured when she sees her son returning. He demands an explanation for the barbaric situation. The queen mother says nothing and commits suicide by jumping into the vat, where the snakes and toads devour her.

The king feels sad about the loss of his mother - even though she tried to eat his wife and children - but he finds comfort in knowing that his wife and children are now safe from harm.

Trivia

  • The ogress queen mother has mistakenly been referred to as the prince's stepmother by some sources. This may be due to the queen mother's position as a villain in a fairy tale, and also due to the prevalence of wicked stepmothers in fairy tales (Perrault also wrote the most famous version of Cinderella, which was actually the only one of his fairy tales with a wicked stepmother). Nevertheless, Perrault's fairy tale makes it clear that she is indeed the prince's biological mother.

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