I wish to apologize to my loyal readers. I know it’s been awhile since my last post, but life and work have been getting in the way of writing, lately. My baby girl just hit her seventh month mark, and she is getting more vocal, mobile (she now rolls across the floor) and demanding of my time. But I suppose that’s part of fatherhood, though. Your priorities change. The time you once spent watching TV, or reading in the evening, is now occupied by patty cake and chunky board books with their thick pages; and the hours and days seem to roll away like so many marbles spilled across the floor-- but the truth is, you wouldn’t have it any other way. But I digress.
Since my daughter is now showing a greater interest in the books and stories I read her (shrilling in delight at the mere sight of a book), I decided to make this post of the literary sort and focus on one of my favorite childhood books; The Little Golden Book classic, Hansel and Gretel. As far as I can tell this book is out of print and if I had to guess one reason why, I would have to say it had something to do with the books dark nature. Which is a real shame considering it has some beautiful art work by renowned children’s artist Eloise Wilkin, not to mention the story just kicks ass.
It’s one of those old-school stories that isn’t worried about scarring children. As far as I’m concerned, children have it way too easy these days. They live in a hermetically sealed bubble that doesn’t prepare them for the real world. We didn’t have plastic safety scissors when I was a kid, or car safety seats for fucking school-aged children, or the v-chip, or any other of the crap that is turning America’s children into a ineffective group of plump vaginas, but somehow we all survived.
The story of Hansel and Gretel is one of those rare books that give children an unapologetic glimpse of the world. It’s a story that lets children know the world is full of evil, and you better be on your toes if you expect to make it out in one piece. I’m not advocating we leave our children to the wolves, by any means, but the sooner you show them our society isn’t all Elmo and apricots; the better off they’ll be. But once again, I digress.
Hansel and Gretel is a medieval fairytale, recorded by the Brothers Grimm, about two young children who out smart a witch. The story starts in the cottage of a dirt-poor woodcutter, as his evil-bitch of a wife convinces him to abandon his children in the woods, as there is not enough food to feed the whole family. Proving once again, some simple motherfuckers will do anything for the pussy.
The next day the evil stepmother leads the to children out into the woods to die, but Hansel, being smarter than the average German boy, leaves a trail of pebbles back to the house enabling him and his sister to find their way home. The stepmother, being dumb as shit and angry as hell, attempts the same plan again This time Hansel (being fresh out of rocks) leaves a trail of bread-crumbs that get eaten by birds, leaving the two children lost in the woods.
Unable to find their way home, Hansel and Gretel wander around the forest (hungrier than hostages) until they stumble across a candied gingerbread house, which they begin to eat . Unbeknown to them it is the house of an evil old witch who eats children. She lures them inside, only to throw Hansel in a cage and force Gretel to do housework. The witch feeds Hansel the “best kind of food” with the intention of fattening him up, while Gretel is left to do housework all day. Seeing how the witch’s eyesight is pretty bad, she feels Hansel’s finger daily to see if he is fat enough to eat yet, but Hansel (showing his ingenuity again) holds out a chicken bone instead of his real finger, and buys himself some time. Eventually the witch gets tired of waiting and says fuck it, and has Gretel light the oven to cook her brother. After a while, the witch tells Gretel to check if the fire is hot enough and Gretel replies she doesn’t know how. The witch calls her stupid and puts her own head in the oven (not one of her better ideas) in an attempt to show Gretel how. But wouldn’t you know it, quicker than flies Gretel comes up behind her, kicks her in, and slams the door shut; burning the old bitch to a crisp. After Gretel lets her brother out of his cage, they fill their pockets with jewels from the witch’s hoard and decide to find their way home. Coincidentally, as they wonder through the forest, they happen to meet their ecstatic father who has been searching for them tirelessly. They are informed that their evil stepmother has gone away forever (one gets the feeling she was actually the witch, but it is never stated outright), and seeing how they are now rich they can all live happily ever after.
According to Wikipedia Hansel and Gretel is one of the first cases of industrial espionage. Supposedly, “during medieval times when the story happened, the patent system was not in place yet and all trade secrets were handed down as family lore. Allegedly, the recipe for gingerbread was one such trade/family secret and the villagers sent out two children, i.e. Hansel and Gretel, to spy on the woman who owned the recipe. The children were caught by the woman and incarcerated but well fed. The villagers, however, came to their rescue and in the process killed and burned the baker. The tale was spun as a cover-up for the crime.” I don’t know whether this story is true or not, but its interesting none the least, and a perfect ending to this post. Five out of five beers.