Hänsel and Gretel --- German Fairy Tales (2)

Hänsel and Gretel
@MALUSE (32662)
Denmark
November 29, 2017 1:57pm CST
The story in a nutshell: Hänsel overhears his parents who decide to lead him and his sister into the forest and leave them there because they haven’t go enough to eat for them. He takes pebbles with him which he drops on the way, so the children find their way back home. The next day he only has a slice of bread, the crumbs are eaten by birds and the children have to stay in the forest. They get to the house of a witch who invites them to eat the gingerbread her house is made of. She then makes Gretel her maid and imprisons Hänsel. She fattens him and wants to roast and eat him when he’s fat enough. However, the children trick her into believing that he doesn’t become fat. When she finally heats the oven to eat him nevertheless, Gretel pushes her in. The children return home to their parents taking precious stones from the witch‘s house with them. Some people think this fairy tale is one of the cruellest. Parents who abandon their children in the forest! When the Brothers Grimm collected this fairy tale together with many others at the end of the 18th/beginning of the 19th century, there was a lot of misery among the poor people in Germany. Abandoning children may not have been such a rare occurrence then. Nowadays we know that things like that can still happen in poor countries. For example, parents sell their children into slavery because they can’t feed them. In the first version, the children’s mother is their real mother, in the later version their step-mother. According to the psychologist and psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim (1903 - 1990), author of the book ‘The Uses of Enchantment’ the main idea of Hänsel and Gretel is the loosening of the bond between parents and children. The stepmother motif isn’t as important here as in other fairy tales. Gretel has a brother, so the competition between the girl turning woman and the grown-up woman isn’t in the foreground. The witch with her cannibalistic wishes symbolises evil, deception, allure. Transferred to our reality she could be the charismatic leader of an obscure sect baiting children with what they crave for. The gingerbread house and the children’s eating frenzy symbolise greed and the urge to surrender to this vice. But Hänsel and Gretel have to learn that when they take, they also have to give. They learn it the hard way which nearly costs Hänsel his life. Hänsel is the simpleton here, easy to be persuaded and caught. Gretel incorporates attention, intelligence, cleverness. Thanks to her craftiness they can escape. The burning of the witch usually doesn’t bother children, they find it fair in the Old Testament ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ way. They aren’t capable yet of weighing the pros and cons of the death penalty. They simply see that after injustice justice is done. When the children return home with the precious stones, they show that they’ve grown up. They’re no longer dependent on their parents. They can even support them now.
20 people like this
20 responses
@CoralLevang (40639)
• United States
29 Nov
I used to enjoy the stories, but they never scared me. I love this explanation! Even though retired, you continue to teach! Thank you!
8 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
29 Nov
Children aren't as easily scared as many adults think. Fairy tales don't exist to scare children but to teach them about life. --- As you've written the first comment, you may choose the next fairy tale post: -Rumpelstiltskin -Little Red Riding Hood -The Bremen Town Musicians -The Fisherman and his Wife
4 people like this
@CoralLevang (40639)
• United States
29 Nov
@MALUSE exactly... To teach them about life. Unfortunately, some of those stories that have been told over the years were adopted by religions and churches and told in a way to try to shame and guilt others into doing something differently.
3 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
29 Nov
@CoralLevang Adopted by religion and churches? I don't know what you mean by that. Maybe this is an American thing which hasn't crossed the Atlantic. I only know about the silly Disney films which eliminate all dark forces and offer a sugary version of the events.
4 people like this
@topffer (30521)
• France
29 Nov
Pushing the witch in the oven looks like legitimate defense here. A court would acquit Gretel for this murder.
7 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
29 Nov
This is a completely different field: Reading fairy tales from a prosecutor's point of view. Maybe someone has done this and there is a book about it.
5 people like this
@topffer (30521)
• France
29 Nov
@MALUSE It would be something funny to read, if it has already been written.
3 people like this
@Kandae11 (26790)
29 Nov
I simply enjoyed fairy tales as a child, but your review has given Hansel and Gretel deeper meaning. I must look for number 1. Dare I suggest Little red Riding Hood next?
3 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
29 Nov
Watch this space!
3 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
1 Dec
@Kandae11 I posted Little Red Riding Hood yesterday. I must say that I'm a bit disappointed about the reception of my fairy tale posts. I don't know if I should go on with another one today or take a break and post something different.
2 people like this
@Kandae11 (26790)
1 Dec
@MALUSE I think these posts are a refreshing change , but I can only suggest that you continue. Maybe you could post something else today - and another tale tomorrow.
1 person likes this
@Corbin5 (81315)
• United States
29 Nov
It is interesting that as children, we were riveted by fairy tales that were downright scary, but in no way did those fair tales leave us shaking in our little shoes. We always wanted an adult to read those fairy tales to us over and over. Talk of banning Hansel and Gretal came about in 1992. Two self-proclaimed witches claimed tale gives witches a bad name. Oh, my.
3 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
29 Nov
There was a time when fairy tales were attacked. But they were rehabilitated. The most famous fighter for them was the American Bruno Bettelheim.
https://www.ucy.ac.cy/nursery/documents/children_need_fairytales.pdf
3 people like this
@Corbin5 (81315)
• United States
29 Nov
@MALUSE Thank goodness for Mr. Bettelheim!
1 person likes this
@Marty1 (26616)
• Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
29 Nov
As usual a great review!!! My mom read my all kinds of fairy tales when I was young, and I don't ever remember thinking them cruel at the time. I think they are cruel as an adult. But understand the better from your explanation. It says number 2, so I am going to look for number one as you are my favorite book reviewer! please post more reviews!
3 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
29 Nov
Thank you for this friendly comment!
2 people like this
@Marty1 (26616)
• Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
29 Nov
@MALUSE you are welcome!
1 person likes this
@RasmaSandra (13379)
• Riga, Latvia
29 Nov
You've explained this very well. I find your posts of the fairy tales interesting looking forward to more. Anyway you look at it I think this story sounds more like it could be for adults than children. I have a video of an opera done about Hansel and Gretel and with the singing and all it turns out to be a fairly entertaining story. The father himself goes off into the woods and find the children and brings them home. Here us the witch's ride.
Excerpt from Act II of Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel." Robert Brubaker (Witch). Conductor: Robin Ticciati. Production: Richard Jones (2007). 2011-12 season.
2 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
29 Nov
Thanks for the link but I won't listen to the excerpt. I know about the existence of the opera. But I'm not attracted to opera singing. Why the original text had to be changed so that the story becomes entertaining is beyond me.
2 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
29 Nov
Children can understand fairy tales on their level. Of course, what they get from them is not as profound as what an adult can get from them.
2 people like this
@m_audrey6788 (11601)
• Germany
30 Nov
I love the way you explained everything here! Thanks for posting a good discussion about this child story tales. It`s one of my favorite
2 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
30 Nov
Thank you. The next will be Little Red Riding Hood.
2 people like this
• Derby, England
29 Nov
I have never found that any children I have read these stories to have ever been upset by the cruel events - they seem to just accept it as just punshment!
2 people like this
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
29 Nov
That's correct. Only adults think about the cruelty.
2 people like this
@YrNemo (8433)
29 Nov
I never cared for that story as a child. My kids cried when they heard briefly about the case and refused to have anything to do with that story even when I pointed out that it was just a story, perhaps to teach kids not to eat too much of sweets.
2 people like this
@much2say (35391)
• United States
29 Nov
As a kid, I remember reading these fairy tales . . . I never really thought anything more of it other than something bad happens, but then the situation gets fixed and everyone lives happily ever after (except for the villain of the stories). It wasn't until I was much older that I scrutinized the details and thought wow, the themes are a bit morbid - oh but what an impact that had . . . we all remember the stories quite vividly, don't we? I figured the abandonment was just a sign of the times . . . my parents used to tell me about how in older Japan, the very elderly were dumped into the mountains when their families could no longer take care of them - surely it would happen to children too. What I like about "old stories" is that it is often not sugar coated. The ways of the world are not always pleasant nor kind, and this fairy tale sure illustrates that. Although the consequences in the story are severe, at least it makes the point that one could/will suffer the consequences - what a lesson to be learned - it makes the reader "think". I appreciate the children in the story are resourceful . . . they see a problem and they actually try to problem solve for themselves.
1 person likes this
@much2say (35391)
• United States
30 Nov
@MALUSE Profound - well thank you for saying that! Oh my about the oldies on the ice flows . . . can you imagine that? It's hard to believe that anyone with a heart would do such a thing, but perhaps that was a cultural norm in the past - to get rid of the old folks anyway.
1 person likes this
@valmnz (13137)
• New Zealand
1 Dec
These stories can be read on so many levels. Thank you for giving us more depth to the story.
1 person likes this
@JudyEv (100439)
• Bunbury, Australia
30 Nov
I've enjoyed the indepth explanations you've given with these series. There seems a lot more to them than I was aware of.
1 person likes this
@pgntwo (21696)
• Derry, Northern Ireland
1 Dec
Congrats on reaching your 3rd century post, @MALUSE :) On the topic of this one, you may like some of the dark images from a book by one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, in his retell of this tale...
https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/10/28/neil-gaiman-hansel-gretel-lorenzo-mattotti/
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
1 Dec
How come you've noticed the number of posts I've written? I've just seen it myself by chance. We're not allowed to mention such a feat openly so let's keep it between us (or is it 'ourselves'?)
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
1 Dec
I know the name Neil Gaiman. I think I've read a novel by this author but can't remember the title.
1 person likes this
@pgntwo (21696)
• Derry, Northern Ireland
1 Dec
@MALUSE Coraline, Stardust, Good Omens (co-authored with Terry Pratchett), American Gods, Anansi Boys... Neverwhere, The Ocean at the end of the lane... Oh, not to mention the graphic "novels" (illustrated) that he has written.
London Below. Richard Mayhew finds himself in a mysterious subterranean world
@mohit459 (2830)
• Haldwani, India
3 Dec
I have watched the Hansel and Gretel movie, the witch hunter one
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
3 Dec
From what I hear the film doesn't tell the same story as the original fairy tale.
1 person likes this
@mohit459 (2830)
• Haldwani, India
4 Dec
@MALUSE ohh!.... So do you read fairy tale mam?..
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
4 Dec
@mohit459 I did as a child and now I know them.
1 person likes this
@Fleura (6159)
• United Kingdom
30 Nov
Quite recently I read stories of refugees who had to abandon their children on their flight over the mountains, and how they were haunted by it - and so am I after reading it! One killed their sick child with a rock; another left their baby in the woods with a toy because the child's crying was putting the whole group in danger.
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
30 Nov
Fairy tales live on because the basic problems they deal with remain. In this case, rather a bleak outlook.
1 person likes this
@Fleura (6159)
• United Kingdom
30 Nov
@MALUSE Human nature is not very nice and certainly hasn't changed much over centuries if not millennia!
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
30 Nov
@Fleura Sadly, this is the case. Everybody knows everything concerning the prevention of war and yet, there will always be wars.
1 person likes this
@allen0187 (27400)
• Philippines
2 Dec
The witch got what she deserved. I do not see Hansel as a simpleton since he was the one who thought of using pebbles as a means to trace their way back to their home. In the Western version, he was the protector of Gretel. I particularly like the modernized MTV version of the movie, both Hansel and Gretel are witch hunters not knowing that hey are part witch as their mother was a witch as well who turned her back away from evil and was then hunted down by other witches.
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
3 Dec
Why the need for a modern version?
1 person likes this
@allen0187 (27400)
• Philippines
3 Dec
@MALUSE it was remade during the time when Hollywood was churning movie adaptations of fairy tales. To answer your question, I cannot think of any plausible answer except for a means to earn more for these studios and actors/actresses.
@marguicha (81572)
• Chile
1 Dec
Again here, as in Little red riding hood, there is the symbol of the loosening of the bond that has to occur in order to grow up. In this age, unfortunately, many young men stay as Peter Pan, always a child and always in charge of their parents. I´ve seen too many of those, specially in the so called civilized countries.
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
1 Dec
Indeed, this is a strange new phenomenon. In former times, young people couldn't wait to get away from their parents. Now they don't want to leave home. Especially young men like to stay as long as possible. Clever books have been written on this topic. One has the title "Hotel Mama".
1 person likes this
@marguicha (81572)
• Chile
1 Dec
@MALUSE I´d love to read it. I was a young woman and studying at the university when I got married. Still I was 18. But not a girlish 18. Now there are some teens who expect their parents to do everything for them.
@Platespinner (18472)
• Winston Salem, North Carolina
1 Dec
When I read Hansel and Gretel with my children many years ago we discussed how it gave a rather dim view of stepmothers and that the father was a bit of a wimp for going along with the stepmother's plan. It was also a great opportunity to make sure my children knew that not all adults have their best interests at heart and that you should never, NEVER take candy from a stranger .
@MALUSE (32662)
• Denmark
1 Dec
Stepparents don't have a good press in fairy tales, do they?
@JESSY3236 (5020)
• United States
1 Dec
I took a creative writing class once and the teacher had gave us some papers on the meaning behind some fairy tales. It is really interesting what the meaning is for them.
@Fleura (6159)
• United Kingdom
30 Nov
The treatment the witch receives at the end seems fair, just as the wolf falling into the stewpot at the end of the three little pigs does. And it avoids the endless blood-lust which results from retribution like this in real life, because neither the witch nor the wolf have relatives who are out for revenge!