Interview with Hansel and Gretel
Grimm’s Grimmest Fairy Tale – Hansel and Gretel
I first heard the fairy tale, ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ when I was about 4 or 5 years old. It was VERY scary! It made me believe that witches were child-eating monsters and gingerbread – in any form – was dangerous to my health.
Now that I am older – older than soil – I find that childish belief even more difficult to dispel since I have recently read the original Grimm’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’ fairy tale. Here is a quick synopsis of that monstrous story:
A woodcutter and his wife lived in a forest with their two children – Hansel, a boy, and Gretel, a girl. There was a famine and no food was available. The mother convinced the father to send the children deep into the forest with one small piece of bread where they would get LOST and never return, and the parents would then have enough food to survive. Hansel left bread crumbs along the way so they could find their way back. But hungry birds ate the crumbs.
The children discovered a house made of bread and cake and sugar and started eating it. An old woman invited them inside. She was an EVIL witch who intended to fatten them up and EAT them! Gretel managed to push the witch into the oven where she was baked to a crisp. She freed Hansel from the cage in which the witch had placed him. They filled their pockets with pearls and jewels they found in the house and made their way home. A white duck carried them over a stream. Their mother had died and their father was overjoyed to see them again. “All anxiety was at an end, and they lived together in perfect happiness.” (Grimm’s words)
Can you believe that is a story we tell our sweet little children? It is so evil and terrifying I could not believe it so I searched for Hansel and Gretel to get the real story. With my supernatural talent for interviewing long dead celebrities and fairy tale protagonists, it was not long before I found them.
me – Good morning, Gretel, Hansel. Or should I say, Guten Morgen? Would you mind if I asked you a few questions?
Hansel – Whatever!
Gretel – Now be polite, Hansel. We would be delighted.
me – I have read Grimm’s original fairy tale of your travails and it is so devastating I cannot believe that parents would tell it to their children.
Gretel – In those days when the Brothers Grimm wrote their stories, people believed in witches and dragons and such.
Hansel – They still do. Look at the video game, Dungeons and Dragons .
me – How do you know about that game, Hansel?
Hansel – I have studied video gaming. Doesn’t everyone?
'Hansel and Gretel' is one of the scariest stories ever written! Psychotic mother; stupid, inane father.” – Maurice Sendak
me – Can you tell me what really happened to you both?
Gretel – No sweat. There really was a famine and we were all starving with hardly enough bread to feed us. Our mother . . .
Hansel – She was not our mother. She was our evil stepmother.
Gretel – Yes, and she was heartless. She convinced our father to send us deep into the forest. Now that I think about it, how could she have swayed him?
Hansel – Dope, Gretel, dope!
Gretel – You don’t have to call me names, Hansel.
Hansel – I’m not. Dope – she used a drug. Probably hemlock from her garden.
me – How do you know about hemlock, Hansel?
Hansel – I have studied the lives of the ancient Greek philosophers, and I remember reading that Socrates may have been poisoned by hemlock.
Gretel – Did you know that our loving parents sent us into the forest to get lost twice?
Hansel – The first time I used small round stones to mark our path into the forest.
Gretel – And I can remember now how surprised our ‘dear’ stepmother was to see us return.
Hansel – I have to admit I wasn’t so smart to use bread crumbs the second time. I guess I didn’t realize that the birds were as hungry as we were.
me – How long were you lost in the forest?
Gretel – For three mornings we wandered around eating berries and getting weaker and weaker.
Hansel – When we saw the gingerbread house, I thought it was a garage.
me – Mirage?
Hansel – Right! It was such an ‘attractive nuisance.’
me – That’s a legal term.
Hansel – I studied law as well as philosophy.
Gretel – The walls of the small house were made of gingerbread and cake and the windows were sugar.
Hansel – I told Gretel not to eat too much of the windows – she could become diabetic.
me – That’s a medical term.
Hansel – I studied medicine, too.
Gretel – A very old woman came to the door and appeared to be sweet and pleasant.
Hansel – She looked a little like a wizened Betty White.
me – That’s the name of a much loved American actress.
Hansel – I study ‘People’ magazine.
Gretel – Hansel is a voracious reader. Before you ask, I study semantics.
Hansel – Not only voracious, but ravenous as well. I study semantics, too.
me – What did the witch, I mean, old woman say to you?
Gretel – She said, and I have memorized this: "Oh, you dear children, who has brought you here? Do come in, and stay with me. No harm shall happen to you." Can you believe it?
Hansel – She led us into her little house and fed us ‘milk and pancakes, with sugar, apples, and nuts.’ Then she showed us to small beds where we laid down, and thought we were in heaven. We were so Gulliver.
me – Gullible!
Gretel – Right! In the morning we came to a rude awakening.
Hansel – You got that right! The old woman revealed herself as a horrible-looking, red-eyed witch, and put me in a cage in the stable to fatten me up before eating.
Gretel – And she forced me to cook for him and feed him the food I made. I got only crab shells to eat.
me – What a terrible predicament. Then what happened?
Gretel – Every morning the witch would ask Hansel to stretch out his finger so she could feel if he was getting fatter.
Hansel – But I stretched out a thin little bone to her and it was so dim in the stable she thought it was my finger.
Gretel – Four weeks went by and she grew impatient. I was the one who grew thin.
Hansel – The witch was getting hungry for baked kids and I do not mean goats!
me – What did the witch do next?
Gretel – She heated the oven and told me to creep in to see if it was properly heated for the bread she would bake.
Hansel – Gretel is no fool. She knew the witch meant to bake her first as the appetizer and then me as the entrée.
Gretel – I realized what the witch had in mind so pretended I didn’t know how to climb into the oven, and asked her to show me.
Hansel – When the witch thrust her head into the flaming oven, Gretel gave her a mighty push, shut the iron door and fastened the bolt. End of witch. End of story.
me – A fitting end for an evil witch.
Gretel – I freed Hansel from his cage and we found priceless pearls and genuine jewels in chests in the witch’s house. We filled our pockets with them.
Hansel – We hurried to leave the witch’s forest and walked until we came to a large river.
Gretel – There was no bridge nor ferry – just a small white duck who took us across the water.
Hansel – A duck is what the Brothers Grimm wrote but they must have meant dock!
me – That does make more sense.
Gretel – We soon found our way home and our father was overjoyed to see us. He said ‘he had not had one happy hour since he left us in the forest.’
Hansel – Our evil stepmother had died while we were gone – that should have made him happy.
me – So, as Grimm wrote, ‘All anxiety was at an end, and you lived together in perfect happiness.’
Gretel – Are you kidding? Hansel and I packed up our meager clothing and our jewels …
Hansel – ... and took the first stagecoach outta there.
Footnote: It has been reported that Hansel and Gretel were so influenced by this life-changing early episode that years later, they immigrated to America and invested their money in a chain of bakeries: the Gingerbread Woman. Their company became bankrupt when a rival established a new bakery franchise: the Gingerbread Man.
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© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2012. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." Learn how to write a dynamic resume and cover letter, network effectively, interview, and negotiate salary successfully. Includes chapter for older workers.
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