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Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
who is the fairest one of all?
Every villain does what they do for a reason. The Card-Carrying Villain wants to be evil and cool. The Diabolical Mastermind wants money... more money, most likely. The Stalker with a Crush "wants" The Hero. The Evil Overlord wants to Take Over the World ( Of Course! ).
The Vain Sorceress? She wants to be beautiful.
But she doesn't stop at wanting herself to be beautiful. She has to be more beautiful than any other woman in the kingdom, on the planet, or in the universe. How can she achieve this? By taking out the competition. There are two ways to do this:
- Supernatural Means: Essentially suck the beauty or youth out of every woman and girl within your scope. The side effects for the victims can range from simply becoming unattractive to aging rapidly to inhuman mutation.
- Traditional Means: Good old-fashioned murder. Recommended if you only consider one person as a threat to your beauty.
A Sub-Trope of Driven by Envy, this plot is Older Than Feudalism. Long before the days of The Brothers Grimm's jealous Wicked Stepmothers, Classical goddesses had a habit of getting very jealous if a mortal was considered more beautiful than them. Psyche, for one, became a target of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty herself, but, as usual, was saved by The Power of Love.
Very rarely will you find this situation Gender Flipped.
May actually entail So Beautiful It's a Curse for the person who is deemed a threat. She seldom whines about it, though; perhaps because she is too busy trying to stay alive.
The Blood Bath is often a method a character may use to attain this.
A modern and mundane equivalent may involve cosmetic surgery. If Frozen Face ensues, the character will get no sympathy; then, since she has her looks, she doesn't want any.
- In The Twelve Kingdoms, the former Queen of Kei banished all the other women from her kingdom so that she would be the most beautiful and there would be no chance of Keiki paying more attention to them than to her. Those that would not or could not leave were executed.
- In Zenescope's Grimm Fairy Tales, one story focuses on a cheerleader's step-mother who is told a darker, more violent version of Snow White. It turns out that the step-mother has been poisoning her daughter because she's jealous of both her beauty and her fame on the school's cheerleading squad (back in her youth, the step-mother was the best cheerleader).
- Doctor Doom is a rare male example of this trope (Type 2), although it's only one aspect of the many-layered Green-Eyed Monster that drives his hatred for Reed Richards.
- Snow White's Wicked Stepmother, of course. Modus operandi: Hit man; when that didn't work, strangulation; when that didn't work, poisoned comb; and last but not least, poisoned apple. In the Grimms' first edition, she was a wicked mother instead.
- In "The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh", the stepmother, out of jealousy at her beauty, turns her stepdaughter into a dragon; she is disenchanted by her brother.
- In "Gold Tree and Silver Tree", the mother, Silver Tree, feigned illness and pretended to need to eat her daughter's heart and liver to get well; then she tried, twice, to poison her.
- In "The Twelve Wild Ducks", the stepmother is jealous of her stepson's bride's beauty and tries to have her killed.
- In "Katie Crackernuts", the stepmother has her stepdaughter's head turned into a sheep's head, because she was more beautiful than her own daughter.
- Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother was determined to prove her daughters were the Fairest Of Them All.
- A Gender Flip occurs in the Armenian folktale "Ara the Handsome", which is about a king of Armenia who is the most handsome man in the land, and the Queen of Assyria goes to war with Armenia just to have him, after he declines to marry her because he was already married.
- In the Beethoven Was an Alien Spy fantasy The Brothers Grimm, the Big Bad responsible for the disappearances of village girls by various means is a Vain Sorceress who cast a spell on herself hundreds of years ago to live forever when plague ravaged her kingdom — not realizing that the spell couldn't prevent her from aging and rotting. She needs the girls so she can enact a complex ritual involving an eclipse, a mixture of blood samples from each, etc. to steal their beauty and restore her own. Her first words once she's lovely again are "Who is the fairest of them all now?" The poor, "sleeping" beauties are saved first by her defeat and second by True Love's Kiss.
- Shrek parodies this with Lord Faarquad asking a Magic Mirror, "Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, is this not the most perfect kingdom of them all?"
- Subverted in Snow White a Tale of Terror. Claudia isn't so much wanting to be fairest in the land as to be more beautiful than Lilli for two reasons: first, because she can surpass the shadow of Frederich's first wife, second, because her beauty is all she has left as a wife after a stillbirth leaves her barren.
Legends & Mythology
- In the The Judgement of Paris, Eris (goddess of chaos) throws a golden apple with 'For the Fairest' on it into a wedding party. After years of fighting (as in, the son of the bride and groom has grown up into the world's greatest fighter), Zeus finally picks a very handsome mortal to act as the judge between the three finalists - Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Long story short, the Trojan War happened.
- Psyche was so beautiful that people started worshipping her instead of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty herself, who naturally became extremely jealous. She sent her son, the god of love, to make her fall in love with a horrible person or creature. Instead, her son fell in love with Psyche. Oops.
- Countess Elizabeth Bathory reputedly bathed in the blood of young women to gain their beauty.
- Dorian Gray wished he would remain young and beautiful forever while his new portrait aged instead. Be Careful What You Wish For...
- There's a short story by Matthew Hughes, IIRC, in which a man wishes to be the richest, most intelligent, and most attractive person around and the being granting the wish responds by making everyone else poorer, stupider, and uglier.
- An interesting variant in Gail Carson Levine's Fairest, with voice being the desirable quality.
- In CS Lewis's Till We Have Faces, it's implied that some of the misfortune in the story is caused by the goddess Ungit being jealous of the princess Istra's beauty.
- Done twice on Are You Afraid of the Dark??: First, by a witch who ran a beauty salon and had to kill 3 of her young female employees every so often in a ritual to keep herself young and beautiful. The second woman just stole girls' faces and enslaved them.
- Smallville: A girl who was ugly until she got plastic surgery, and then her mother — like Cinderella's WS — went around attacking girls at her high school who were naturally good-looking.
- Power Rangers Lost Galaxy: Trakeena had a monster go around stealing girls' beauty and putting it in a jar in the form of gold dust, which left their skin covered in purple and yellow squares.
- Partly gender-flipped in an episode of Tales from the Crypt, in which a man stole women's beauty by taking molds of their faces, to transfer to his dead and decaying wife.
- Used by Friday the 13th: The Series, in which a cursed mirror could steal a person's beauty, killing them in an accident shortly thereafter.
- GURPS 4th Edition Magic supplement has a spell called "Steal Beauty".
- The Fairest from Changeling: The Lost — come on, it's right there in the name — aren't all like this. However, the special attentions visited on them by the Gentry have left them more prone to losing touch with reality in the face of a crisis, and a sidebar in one book hints that some Fairest stoop to rather desperate measures once age starts to catch up with them...
- Banjo-Kazooie: Gruntilda the witch sought to be the most beautiful person in the world, and created a "beauty extractor" to that end. She then set off to kidnap the fairest maiden in the land--who turned out to be the hero's little sister: a cross between Goldilocks and a bear.
- One of the quests in Darkstone features Mika the witch, who placed a curse on a nearby village. If any of the women in the village ever became more beautiful than Mika, she would be turned to stone. Although Mika was very beautiful in her youth, by the time of the game she's about a million years old, so all of the women are stone. The player character must locate the Mirror of Lies, which will convince her that she's still beautiful; once she believes that, she'll undo the curse.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: "Did Ozai scar his son so he wouldn't be a threat to his good looks? No one can be sure what goes on in the twisted mind of the Firelord."
- Totally Spies: The girls uncover a modeling agency that steals the most beautiful parts of other girls to make their models perfect, including Clover's legs, Sam's teeth, and Alex's hair.
- Spectra from Danny Phantom. In her first episode, she feeds off children's misery so that she'll remain looking youthful. Her second apperance is similar to the Totally Spies example above, except she used the parts for a body for herself.