Today’s Fortune: It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.
Confucious is sure right about that. I have been helping Mom with her project for school, and I am learning that back in the days when fairy tales were first written, it took courage just to get out of bed in the morning. Mom is in a class called “Folklore” at high-college, and it is very interesting. I do not like most of her school work, because it is stuff like Statistics (which is boring old math) and Social Problems (which is studying about stuff nobody knows how to fix.) But Folklore is different, because it is fairy tales and urban legends, and it’s lots of fun!
Folklore class has been more than just reading good stories; I have learned lots of interesting history. “Hansel and Gretel” was one of Mom’s favorite stories when she was little, so she suggested that I reenact the story for my blog. She even bought me my very own copy of Best-Loved Fairy Tales, so I could read all of the good stories.
My book was not nearly as good as Mom’s book for class, though. Mom’s book told the stories differently. The stories in her book were much scarier and better. I learned all kinds of stuff doing research about Hansel and Gretel. For example, I learned that a long time ago, it was not unusual for parents to abandon their kids. (Kind of like the people who abandoned me to the flea market.) And there was not a lot of food to eat, which is called a “famine.” And people were starving so much they sometimes turned into “cannibals.” Cannibals are people who eat other people, which is really icky, but you see it a lot in fairy tales.
Before I get started telling the story, I should probably introduce my “cast.” (Those are the people who are in the play.) I chose Matilda to play Gretel, because she has good braids. Calvin Klein wanted to be Hansel, but since that was my part, he had to settle for being the dad. I chose Dottie to be the stepmother, because she just looks like a creepy wicked stepmother.
Our Boston witch agreed to be the “special guest star.” Here is my reenactment of “Hansel and Gretel” – The parts in italics are taken from my Best-Loved Fairy Tales and the rest of it is my own commentary. I hope you like it!
Hansel and Gretel
There was once a woodcutter whose beloved wife died, leaving him to bring up two little children. After a while, the woodcutter married again, but soon after that times became hard and there was often not enough to eat in the woodcutter’s cottage. The new wife tried to make ends meet, but she soon became tired and sad. One evening, when the children were in bed, she spoke to the woodcutter. “We do not have enough food for all four of us. Let’s take the children into the forest and leave them there. Who knows, someone who will be able to take care of them better than we can may find them.”
(This book tries to make the stepmother seem very nice and like she is looking out for the best interests of the children, but we are pretty sure that is not true, because in the other versions we have read she is just selfish and does not want to have to share food with the children. And besides… look how creepy she looks up close.)
Okay. Back to the story….
The woodcutter did not want to agree, but he could not think of another solution. Meanwhile, the woodcutter’s children had been listening at the door. “Don’t worry, Gretel,” said the little boy, whose name was Hansel. “I know how we can find our way home again.” The next day, the family went deep into the forest. As they walked, Hansel dropped crumbs from the crust of bread that he had saved for his lunch, hoping to follow them back home again.
(I am starting to think that this whole family was not very smart. Dad could not think of another solution besides abandoning his kids, when the easiest solution would have been to get rid of his evil mean wife, and then Hansel dropped bread crumbs to mark the path home… which was a bad idea, as you will soon see.)
The birds soon ate the crumbs (see? I told you!) and when the children were left all alone in the forest, they were completely lost.
So they climbed up a tree to see if they could spot a nice hotel they could stay in for the night. (Okay. That part didn’t really happen. But it should have. Because you can see all kinds of good stuff from up in a tree, and besides, climbing trees is fun.)
Hungry and afraid, Hansel and Gretel wandered through the trees. Suddenly, they saw a wonderful sight! A cottage made of candy and gingerbread!
But no sooner had the children munched into the house than a sharp voice shouted from the window, “Eat your fill, dear children, but you will pay for every bite. Ha, ha, ha!”
(Here is where there should be lots of applause for our special guest star…)
Before they knew what was happening, the children were bundled into the house by the witch who lived there. “You will work for me, sweetheart,” she said to Gretel, “but your dear brother will be a tasty dinner when he is a little fatter.” Every day, the witch asked Hansel to poke his finger out of the cage where she kept him, so that she could see if he was fat enough to eat, but Hansel held out a chicken bone to make her think that he was still just skin and bones himself.
(Just so you know, no chickens died in the filming of this blog post. We did not have any chicken bones, so I just used a stick instead. The special-guest-star is nearly blind and did not know the difference.)
At last the day came when the witch could wait no longer. “Stoke up the fire, sweetheart,” she said to Gretel, “and put your head in the oven to see if it is hot enough.” But Gretel did not trust the old witch. “I don’t know,” she said, “You’d better check yourself.” No sooner had the witch poked her head in the oven than Gretel gave her a huge push and slammed the door shut.
(Just so you know, no witches were hurt in the filming of this blog post either. We did not want to make her mad, because we might need her to be a special guest star again someday.)
Gretel hurried to free Hansel. Gathering up the witch’s treasures the children ran from the house, but did not know which way to turn. “Oh look,” said Hansel, suddenly, “It’s one of the little birds that ate my crumbs. She is going to show us the way.”
The woodcutter could hardly believe his eyes when he saw his children returning. His wife had left and he was all alone. When he saw the treasure that Hansel and Gretel had taken from the witch’s house, the woodcutter laughed. “This will make us comfortable for the rest of our lives,” he said. “But you two are my real treasure and I will never lose you again.”
We had a very good time reenacting “Hansel and Gretel,” and I hope we get to do some more stuff like this soon. I learned several other things about fairy tales while I was studying about Hansel and Gretel. For example, I learned that in fairy tales, brothers and sisters usually cooperate and help each other, which is very nice. But sisters usually compete with their sisters, and brothers usually compete with each other, too.
Mostly “Hansel and Gretel” is about teaching kids how to overcome obstacles and learn how to become grownups. Those are good lessons to learn.
Now I am hungry. I’m going to find a recipe for a gingerbread house.
Today’s Vocabulary Words: Folklore, famine, cannibals, cast, special guest star,