Enjoying ‘Hansel and Gretel‘ With Your Children This Year
The story ‘Hansel and Gretel‘ is a fairy tale of German origin, first published in 1812. It is a rather scary story of two children being abandoned in the woods and taken in by a cannibalistic witch, and one that is not always the best for smaller children. For older children and teens, the story can be a fun scare and one to enjoy during the cold winter months when the family may enjoy a good read together.
In the story, a poor woodcutter is facing something of a famine and very rough economic times. His second wife says that they must take his two children out into the woods and abandon them. The woodcutter is reluctant but then agrees, however, his son Hansel has heard his plan and gathers white pebbles for them to follow home. The wife is angered and orders her husband to take them deeper into the woods and Hansel this time scatters breadcrumbs as they go, hoping to follow them home, but birds eat them and they are lost. The children soon come upon a home made of gingerbread and candy with a woman inside who is kindly at first, but after luring the children in with sweets it is revealed that she is a witch; she locks Hansel in a cage, hoping to fatten him up to eat him. The children outsmart the witch and shove her in an oven and eventually make their way home.
If the story seems a bit harsh and macabre, it certainly is; the story was written by the brothers Grimm who specialized in very dark fairy tales that were a bit on the scary side. The story of two children being abandoned by their own father in the woods and coming upon a witch who wants to eat them is not one for small children, but older children may enjoy hearing how the children take revenge on the witch. Even adults love the story as it unfolds and may appreciate hearing details they’ve forgotten about since first reading the story as a child.
It is also interesting that the phrase ‘a trail of breadcrumbs’ originated from this fairy tale, meaning a certain number of small clues you might follow to get out of a situation just as Hansel had planned to get him and his sister out of the woods. You might ask your children how they would have handled the same situation and what they think would happen today.
‘Hansel and Gretel’ can be a great scary story for those who enjoy some chills, as the witch and the stepmother are both portrayed as heartless and somewhat evil. It is a story that the entire family might enjoy over the holidays and one you can rediscover with your older children.