The Terrible Mother

The Terrible Mother is the questing heroine's traditional adversary: Lilith, devourer of newborns. The Llorona, eternal wailer. Kalwadi and Baba Yaga, the cannibals. She is the evil stepmother thwarting the heroine's growth or the cannibal, absorbing the children's power by destroying them. But her power sends questors to the underworld and her power strengthens them when they return. This savage mentor offers the ultimate wisdom—the insight that darkness, mysticism, and even death are a woman’s ultimate source of power, far different than a hero’s outward force of arms.

Kalwadi, busy babysitting, laid the sleeping children to rest in the shade. She pretended to look for lice in one child's hair and swallowed her whole. Then she swallowed the other nine children. The horrified parents gave chase until they came to the river. When they saw her big eyes surface, they hurled spears and killed her. But when they cut her body open, they found their children there, alive and whole.