Faculty Mentor

Elizabeth E. Tavares

Subject Area

English, Other


What larger social concern could the continued popularity of the nineteenth-century cannibal stepmother narrative in twenty-first century crime and news reporting be indicating? In this paper, I compare a fictional episode of cannibalism in the non-canonical Brothers Grimms’ tale, “The Juniper Tree,” with the true story of the 2010 murder and subsequent dismemberment of Zahra Baker in Hickory, North Carolina to consider the larger cultural implications of cannibalistic stepmothers. In doing so I argue that, despite the half-hearted attempt by mainstream animation studios to try to create semi-Feminist adaptations of the canonical fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Charles Perrault, narratives similar to “The Juniper Tree” in fact reinforce a pro-male model of inheritance at the sacrifice of both wives and their girl children. These adaptations also communicate modern social anxieties surrounding blended families, especially regarding heteronormative visions of childhood, savior narratives around adoption, and easy answers about inheritance.


Brothers Grimm, cannibalism, The Juniper Tree, Feminism, gender, adaptation