Monday, October 22, 2007

The Grimm Version of Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Ok, so here is a quick catch up on the story:

Two children, Hansel and Gretel, live with their father and stepmother. They are in great debt, and have trouble affording simple things like bread. Their debt starts growing worse and worse to the point that the stepmother tells her husband they must leave the kids in the forest becuase they cannot afford to feed four mouths. The children, who are still awake out of hunger, over hear their parents conversation. Hansel, the older brother, tells his sister not to worry and he goes outside and picks up a bunch of pebbles. The next day their parents take them to the woods, along the way Hansel drops the pebbles that way the two will be able to find their way home. The parets build the children a fire and tell them to stay put and that they'll come and get them when they are done chopping trees for fire wood. They children fall asleep by the fire from fatigue and wake up during the night. The moons light makes the pebbles shine allowing the kids to get home safely. Again, the family is in great debt and the children overhear the stepmother telling her husband that they have to lead the children deeper into the forest and leave them there (the father doesn't want to do this either time by the way) however this time Hansel cannot get out of the house to get pebbles. The next morning the children are given bread like the last time and Hansel uses this for a trail. Unfortunately, the children fall asleep by the fire again and by the time they wake up the crumbs from the bread have been eaten by birds. They wander and stumble across a house entirely made out of sweets and gingerbread. The two begin to feast and the owner, a witch, greets them and invites them in. The witch then locks Hansel in a barn and forces Gretel to fatten the boy up so the witch can eat him. When the time comes around for Hansel to be cooked Gretel heats the oven and then kicks the witch in and shuts the oven. She frees her brother from the barn and return home safely with diamonds and pearls they had stolen from the witch's house.

Ok, so where to start this tale has so much....

Well, like Little Briar-RoseHansel and Gretel has a doubling factor. Maybe it was evident in my summary and then again maybe not. But, the stepmother is doubled by the witch. The wickedness, jealousy, and cruel intentions are traits of both characters. While reading, I began to wonder why authors use a stepmother instead of a mother in the tales that involve a jealous character and the only reasoning I could come up with was that a real mother is attached and has a bond with her children and therefore couldn't truly have that much hate to do such a thing to her child. However, in stories the wicked cruel stepmother has an important role as the antogonist and the one who helps to develop the protagonist. It is because of the stepmother that Hansel and Gretel become so independent and brave. Also, while reading I noticed that the stepmother refers to Hansel and Gretel as, "Naughty children" after they have returned home from the first visit from the forest claiming that they slept for too long and that she and their father was worried about them. This language is used by the Grimm brothers to add to her nasty character because by blaming the children she isn avoiding her own incrimination. The stepmother is an important character that is used in many tales such as Snow White, Cinderella, and this one, Hansel and Gretel.

The forest is significant in the tale. The Grimm brothers often set their stories in the forest becuase to them it is a place where anything can happen and when lost in the forest it is a loss of security which Hansel and Gretel felt when they find out their trail of bread is gone.

The bread is symbolic for the transition between childhood and adulthood. It is because of the eaten bread crumbs that the children have to find their own way home and fend for themselves. Also, the gingerBREAD house is where Gretel's growth as a person/character is first displayed.

When I started reading this tale all I could think was, "what a sexist view". Hansel is the older of the two and the one who thought of using the pebbles as a trail and then the chinken finger bone when the witch checked on his weight everyday postponing him from being eaten by the wich. Also, the fact that he had to console and comfort Gretel when she is upset about being left in the woods. However, when I continued to read I realized how much Gretel grows as a character. In the begining she needs her older brother's comfort, however by the end of the tale she is the one who kills the witch and tells Hansel, "...she shall take us across one the other" when the duck is to small to carry both their weight. The Gretel in the begining would never be able to kill someone showing that she has really developed. So it really wasn't as sexist as I thought it was.

Lastly, the Grimm brothers are trying to convey this idea of lostness and loss of security through the story as well as the idea that a person may suffer from a cause that wasn't of his/her own.


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