The purpose of the women's existence also varies, depending on the combination of elements that are driving their legend and the time and place in which the story is being told. Some are looking to rescue or replace the children that have been lost to them. Some appear to herald the deaths of others. And some find themselves stuck in a recursive loop, repeating their deaths over and over again, never resting and affecting nothing.
Before we understood the nature of sleep, and how our brain and body interact while we're sleeping, it was believed that this paralysis was caused by a literal demon, or night hag, sitting on the sleeper's chest. These night hags, or night mares, would ride the sleeper, leaving them terrified and exhausted come morning.
The younger brother was surprised that the cat could talk but apparently got over that pretty fast and did what the cat asked. After the cat donned his fancy new boots, he gathered up a burlap sack of wheat and went walking away on his back feet. Using the wheat to trap some fat partridges, the cat then went off in search of a king.
The general idea--which I think arises from the fact that so many poor women were accused of witchcraft--is that these women were often illiterate. As such, written spells and incantations would be useless.
There are several stories that attempt to explain the loss of the Library of Alexandria. Some stories are very romantic and would have us believe that the library is intact but hidden beneath the sands, waiting for an intrepid librarian/explorer to find it and reveal its knowledge to the modern world.
The basic theme of all of these stories, however, is that little girls that stray from the path will find themselves at the mercy of a Big Bad Wolf (or another vicious beastie). And no, in the Western versions we're not talking about actual wolves. IT'S A METAPHOR, PEOPLE!
Cinderella has got to be the most well-known fairytale in the world. It is also incredibly old and has thousands of variations...That being said, there is no way that I can possibly do full justice to the rich and fascinating history of this tale type. But I'll do my best to give a suitable overview of the Grimm version.
It was Hekate and her torch that assisted Demeter in her search for Persephone, and it is Hekate who leads Persephone back and forth on her yearly journey between life and death. Hekate's transformation into the patron of witches arose out of this chthonic and nocturnal nature and she became heavily associated with herb-lore and the use of poisonous plants. It was written that Hekate was the patron of the witch Medea, which helped to further her reputation as the Goddess of Witches.
The fact that the woman who willingly marries the widowed father was most likely doing so because she literally had no other options--due to poverty, age, or suspected infertility--is never considered because her feelings are of little value. The potential for being resentful at having a husband and children forced upon her for reasons out of her control is is great, but it doesn't matter, given that women are expected to be motherly, no matter the situation.
When the fields are full, they stand as protector to the crops. Once harvest comes, once the fields have been reaped, when everything is turning brown and decaying, the figure of the scarecrow stands in the fields alone, forever immobile (we hope!), watching over the land with hollow eyes, waiting for life to return.