The Dynamic and Ever-changing Hansel and Gretel
Most fairy-tale aficionados have a static view of their favorite stories. That is, indeed, part of the glory which these tales hold…the fact that they are timeless, forever remaining fond memories of unforgettable stories that had been repeated to them from a young age. In both the oral and written traditions, these stories perpetuated themselves and became fixtures upon the cultures of which they have taken hold. For most people, the idea of these classics ever having been different not only seems odd, but also shakes the foundations of their childhood memories.
However, stories are dynamic and ever-changing. What a follower of the aforementioned school-of-though fails to think about is why these stories would have been changed. Sometimes fairy tales change because the person recalling the story has a bad memory, while other times they are deliberately altered by a rewriter. Often times with rewrites, the story is changed so that it is relevant to both the modern times and the life history of the new author. Hansel and Gretel, the classic German fairy tale, is certainly no exception to this trend of changing fairy tales.
One of the most famous written versions of Hansel and Gretel (although not the original) is from the early 19th century. This edition was written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the German fairy-tale-writing duo more commonly known as “Brothers Grimm” (Ashliman). The story is about a young boy and girl, brother and sister, named Hansel and Gretel respectively. They lived at the edge of a great forest under the supervision of their father (a poor woodcutter) and their stepmother. The family was very poor and running low on food…soon, they would starve to death. The evil stepmother convinces the reluctant father that the only way for them to survive would be to get rid of the children. So, she plots to take the children into the darkest part of the woods the next day, make a fire for them, then leave them with nothing and no way of getting home. Hansel and Gretel overhear the conversation, and witty Hansel grabs a pocketful of stones as there parents take them out the next day. All along the way, Hansel drops stone after stone (which shone brightly in the moonlight), therefore marking the path that they had taken deep into the heart of the woods. The plan worked, and the children were able to find their way home by the moonlight. Their stepmother was furious, but their father was overjoyed that the plan did not work.
Not much longer after that, Hansel and Gretel overheard their stepmother, once again, plotting against them, convincing their father that the only option was try to take the kids into the woods once again. This time, however, Hansel was only able to get his hands on a small piece of bread, and he used its crumbs to leave the trail as he had done before. When he tried to lead him and his sister home, he realized that...