Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > Entertainment

How “The New Mother” by Lucy Clifford (1882) Influenced Modern-Day Children’s Stories

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Texas chapter.

The New Mother reminds me more of a horror story than a children’s fable.  In a strange way, this story reminded me of a movie from my childhood called “Coraline”. Coraline is meant to be a children’s story, but it gets quite scary at parts because of the threatening presents of the ‘new parents’. In the case of Coraline, her original parents treated her in a way she didn’t like and her new parents were kind at first. This then turns when they want her to become one of them and sow her button eyes. It gets scarier and more ominous as the movie progresses. This is seen in The New Mother when the kids don’t seem to “appreciate” their life and their original mother. The beginning of the story talks about how the mother works extremely hard and the children ‘disrespect’ her by denying her. Eventually, the story progresses and the New Mother comes along later on. In the story it says:

“Your new mother is coming. She is already on her way; but she only walks slowly, for her tail is rather long, and her spectacles are left behind; but she is coming, she is coming — coming — coming. The last word died away; it was the last one they ever heard the village girl utter.”

The description of the New Mother is scary and terrifying. She is supposed to be a punishment I believe to these children, although they are good children who just made a mistake (in my eyes at least) and don’t deserve this. 

I think this also has a commentary on socioeconomic classism because in the Victorian era, and still today, children are treated differently and have different expectations of them based on status. However, although the children in the story came from lower class backgrounds, they had good manners at first and yet fell victim to the ‘evil’ girl. This may be a commentary that the lower class is perceived as mere followers of others in this era. It is a very interesting dynamic. I liked the story overall as I enjoy horror stories and psychological thrillers, even when they are disguised as children’s tales.

Kirsten Corrigan (she/her) is serving her second year as Campus Correspondents with Her Campus at Texas. She is a Junior Government major at The University of Texas at Austin. She intends to pursue law school after her undergraduate degree. She enjoys writing, being outdoors, traveling, and watching movies in her free time.