Hansel and Gretel in Grimms' Fairy Tales
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Hansel and Gretel
It's a Hard Knock Life
Hansel and Gretel come as a package deal. When your mother wants to ditch you in the woods to avoid starvation (well, for her at least), you need to stick together. We don't learn their ages, but we're guessing they're in or under the 7-10 years old range, since if they were any older, this tale would probably also be about snagging a spouse.
Hansel the Handy
Despite being on the brink of starvation, Hansel is pretty chill throughout the tale. Every time Gretel cries, he comforts her with something like: "Don't worry, my dear little sister. Just sleep in peace. God will not forsake us" (Hansel and Gretel.54). Even when captured by the witch, he's clever enough to stick out "a little bone" (Hansel and Gretel.57) instead of his finger, in order to seem like he's not fattening up enough to eat.
Hansel is a quick thinker, but he's still just a kid. So when he first hears his parents talking about the ditch-'em plan, he goes outside and gathers white stones that they can use to find their way home. The second time this happens, the door is locked at night, so all he can leave on the path in the forest are breadcrumbs. This was not, obviously, a plan that was thought through enough. The birds loved it, though, so at least someone's happy.
Go, Gretel, Go
When the kids end up in the witch's clutches, Hansel's put in a cage to fatten up, so his active role in the story pretty much ends there. Sad for him, but we're pumped because we finally get to see Gretel shine—somewhat unexpectedly, as all she did before was cry. Like, all the time. But now that her bro's out of the picture, she manages to trick the witch into getting close enough to the oven to push in, and then she frees Hansel, all on her own. You go girl.
Both kids are canny enough to scoop up the witch's jewels before heading home. Gretel accomplishes one more thing when she asks a duck to bring them across a river so they can get home. We hope her duck-whispering skills come in handy in the future, because otherwise that would just be a waste of one awesome talent.
Luckily for them, their heartless mother has died while they're away from home, so they get to share their loot with their dad, who was an all right guy all along. Hansel and Gretel both act in accordance with a sense of family values…assuming you get to off any family members who don't love you or are drains on the household.
Hansel and Gretel in Grimms' Fairy Tales Study Group
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