Fairy Tale Friday

Wooohoo! It’s Friday, you know what that means? Fairy Tale Friday is finally here. ūüėÄ Today we’re gonna talk about Hansel and Gretel. You would have to have lived underneath a rock to not know this fairy tale. I’ve always been intrigued with this story, it’s not a personal favorite of mine but it’s definitely one of the stories that scared me when I first read it when I was a little girl.

I mean, who ditches their kids in the middle of the forest?! And the whole house made out of candy thing just freaked me out. It’s one of the reasons I don’t really like gingerbread houses during the holidays. They just creep me out. LOL. But that’s just me.¬†

Anyway here’s the version I found on¬†wikipedia:

Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1909

(The following summary is based on an 1853 translation by Iona and Peter Opie in 1972.)

Hansel and Gretel are the young children of a poor¬†woodcutter. When a great famine settles over the land, the woodcutter’s second,¬†abusive¬†wife decides to take the children into the woods and leave them there to be by themselves, so that she and her husband will not starve to death, because the children eat too much. The woodcutter opposes the plan but finally, and reluctantly, submits to his wife’s scheme. They are unaware that in the children’s bedroom, Hansel and Gretel have overheard them. After the parents have gone to bed, Hansel sneaks out of the house and gathers as many white¬†pebbles¬†as he can, then returns to his room, reassuring Gretel that God will not forsake them.

The next day, the family walk deep into the woods and Hansel lays a trail of white pebbles. After their parents abandon them, the children wait for the moon to rise and then they follow the pebbles back home. They return home safely, much to their stepmother’s horror. Once again provisions become scarce, and the stepmother angrily orders her husband to take the children further into the woods and leave them there to die. Hansel and Gretel attempt to gather more pebbles, but find the doors locked and find it impossible to escape from their parents’ house.

Illustration by Ludwig Richter, 1842

The following morning, the family treks into the woods. Hansel takes a slice of bread and leaves a trail of¬†bread crumbs¬†to follow home. However, after they are once again abandoned, the children find that birds have eaten the crumbs and they are lost in the woods. After days of wandering, they follow a beautiful white bird to a clearing in the woods and discover a large¬†cottage¬†built ofgingerbread¬†and¬†cakes, with window panes of clear¬†sugar. Hungry and tired, the children begin to eat the rooftop of the¬†candy¬†house, when the door opens and a “very old woman” emerges and lures them inside, with the promise of soft beds and delicious food. They comply, unaware that their hostess is awicked witch¬†who waylays children to cook and eat them.

The next morning, the witch locks Hansel in an iron cage in the garden and forces Gretel into becoming a slave. The witch feeds Hansel regularly to fatten him up, but Hansel cleverly offers a bone he found in the cage (presumably a bone from the witch’s previous captive) and the witch feels it, thinking it is his finger. Due to her¬†blindness, she is fooled into thinking Hansel is still too thin to eat. After weeks of this, the witch grows impatient and decides to eat Hansel, “be he fat or lean.”

She prepares the oven for Hansel, but decides she is hungry enough to eat Gretel, too. She coaxes Gretel to open the oven and prods her to lean over in front of it to see if the fire is hot enough. Gretel, sensing the witch’s intent, pretends she does not understand what she means. Infuriated, the witch demonstrates, and Gretel instantly shoves the witch into the oven and slams and bolts the door shut, leaving “The ungodly witch to beburned to ashes“, with the witch screaming in pain until she dies. Gretel frees Hansel from the cage, and the pair discover a¬†vase¬†full of¬†treasure¬†and¬†precious stones. Putting the¬†jewels¬†into their clothing, the children set off for home. A swan ferries them across an expanse of water, and at home they find only their father; his wife died from unknown causes. Their father had spent all his days lamenting the loss of his children, and is delighted to see them safe and sound. With the witch’s¬†wealth, they all live happily ever after.



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