Source and activity 3

Fairy tale characters: The villain

1921 illustration of witch
1921 illustration from
'My book of fairy tales'.

This illustration is from the story 'Tufty riquet' in 'My book of fairy tales' by Jennie Harbour published in 1921. Download witch illustration (PDF: 1.31 MB; 1 page).

Good and evil

The villain is the evil character in the story. Their main intention is to harm or kill the main character, or to prevent them from achieving success, love, and happiness. Examples include:

  • The wolf in 'Little Red Riding Hood'
  • The stepmother and ugly sisters in 'Cinderella'
  • The queen in 'Snow White'.

The struggle between the hero and the villain — good and evil — is often at the centre of the fairy tale and drives the action in the story. The hero and the villain are at odds with each other. They each want a different outcome, and this produces conflict and competition.

Suggested activities

Witch's silhouette
  • Read the following stories:
  • Ask the pupils to decide:
    • Who is the villain in the story?
    • What words are used to describe the villain? What do they look like?
    • Does the villain have any magic powers, or do they rely on natural cunning and cleverness?
    • What happens to the villain at the end of the story?
  • Compare the villains in the stories. What do they have in common, and how are they different?

    Literacy and English experiences and outcomes: [ENG 1-19a; ENG 2-19a; LIT 1-16a; LIT 2-16a; ENG 1-17a; ENG 2-17a; LIT 1-09a; LIT 2-09a; LIT 1-07a; LIT 2-07a]
  • Ask the pupils to choose one of the above stories, and to re-tell it from the villain's point of view. What does the villain think of the main character or hero, and why? What feelings and thoughts do they have? You might want to use 'Troll's-eye view: A book of villanous tales' by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (Firebird, 2010) to spark off some ideas.

    [ENG 1-31a; ENG 2-31a; LIT 1-14a; LIT 2-14a; ENG 1-31a; ENG 2-31a]
  • Work with the class to create some 'wanted' posters for some of the most notorious fairy tale villains, such as the wolf in 'Little Red Riding Hood', the queen in 'Snow White', or the witch in 'Hansel and Gretel'. Each poster should feature a portrait of the villain, a description of their personality and what they look like, and details of why they are wanted by the police.

    Expressive Arts experiences and outcomes: [EXA 1-05a; EXA 2-05a; EXA 1-04a; EXA 2-04a]
  • Use the silhouette of the witch on this page to create the template for a shadow puppet. Choose a fairy tale which features a witch, and work with the class to create shadow puppets based on the other characters. Re-tell the fairy tale using the puppets.

    [EXA 1-13a; EXA 2-13a]
  • Look at the image of the witch at the top of this page. What is happening in the picture? What is the witch doing? What might be her relationship with the baby? What might happen next in the story?.

    [LIT 1-07a; LIT 2-07a]
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Download character comparison activity (PDF: 47KB; 2 pages)

Source and activity 4



Themes in focus — Fairy tales


Related material at the Library

Find out more about fairy tales and the Brothers Grimm in our collections:


Search our main catalogue for books about fairy tales and the Brothers Grimm.


Discover more about the Brothers Grimm in our past treasures display.


Hansel and Gretel creative writing competition winners.


Read a news story about the Grimms' Scottish connections in a letter that Jacob Grimm wrote to Sir Walter Scott.


Elsewhere on the web

Find out more about storytelling duo Macastory.


Learn more about traditional tales and stories with the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

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