Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Hansel and Gretel

At the coffee counter downstairs this morning, someone joked about the breadcrumbs leading back to the shop having been eaten, and it put me in mind of Hansel and Gretel.

(This is the closest image I could find to the pop-up book my brother Paul gave me on the occasion of the removal of my tonsils in second grade. It was gratifying to pull the little tab and see the old witch tumble into the oven again and again.)

As an adult, I'm fascinted by some of the scary-ass tales we tell children, the Grimms' being, well, among the grimmest, along with those of Hans Christian Andersen.

I started thinking about Hansel and Gretel, and what a bummer it was that such a good idea (leaving the breadcrumb trail) had been thwarted by hungry birds. So I decided to take another look at the fairy tale. Oh my god, it's worse than I remembered! First of all, where are the goshdang mothers in all of these tales? It's always the greedy wicked stepmothers who are populating them.

Secondly, I had forgotten that Hansel had first had the bright idea of laying a path of white pebbles, and it wasn't until the stepmother locked the door the next night that he was forced to use the breadcrumbs (props to Gretel, by the way, for sharing her measly piece of bread after her brother had crumbled his).

I can only imagine the amount of psycotherapy these kids would need after burning the witch in the oven. (A feat that some family out there apparently acted out with their children. No, I don't know these children):

Clearly, these children already have issues with their parents and/or enclosed spaces:

And I love how people get offed in these things: It must not have taken more than a couple of weeks for the a) witch to try to fatten up Hansel, b) Gretel to push the old crone into the oven and c) kids to find their way back home. And when they do, we find that: "The man had not known one happy hour since he had left the children in the forest; the woman, however, was dead."


By the way, apologies to the parents of these cute children. I'm sure they will not need psycotherapy.

1 comment:

Cakesy's Mama said...

I had a professor who theorized that the witch was the once-removed symbol of the stepmother. The kids REALLY wanted to kill their stepmother, but it was only appropriate once she was transmogrified into a WITCH. That is why she disappears simultaneously with the witch. Because for the sake of psychic economy, she WAS the witch.