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Grimm Fairytales: Hansel and Gretel

Grimm Fairytales: Hansel and Gretel

As part of our countdown to Halloween series, we recently shared the Grimm Fairytale of Hansel and Gretel. For those who don't know the story, check out our recap on Tiktok:


@jointhecovn hansel and gretel core come thru #hanselandgretel #daystillhalloween #halloween #brothersgrimm #witches ♬ original sound - Covn


In exploring the story we wonder what the moral message was: Was it warning children not to trust strangers or go into their houses? Showing children how being smart can get you out of tricky situations? Or is it simply a message in not eating random candy you find on the floor? 

Written all the way back in 1812 by brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, Hansel and Gretel was written as a Germanic folklore tale; not something initially written solely for children, however they were encompassed in the intended audience. There are suggestions that the tale (and many of the other mayhem and murder filled Grimm tales) were not simply children's fairytales, but stories reflecting the suffering of the time. For example, the witch in this story intending to bake the children in a pie and eat them could be a somewhat sugar-coated (no pun intended) way of explaining how the Great Famine of 1314 - 1322 did lead some to cannibalism. Many parents at the time were also abandoning their children in order to prioritise their own hunger, so perhaps this explains the parents actions in the story. The Grimm fairytales did often have much darker themes than other typical fairytales. 

Whatever the original intended message, we think one thing can definitely be taken from it, and that is the underestimation of children's abilities. Both the parents and the witch in the story don't think Hansel and Gretel are intelligent enough to get themselves out of the difficult situations that they face throughout the tale. However, the children (especially Hansel) are able to resolve their issues with inventive solutions such as the moon reflective pebbles. This shows that belittling their abilities is a mistake, and perhaps it is this message of intelligence used as power that is the reason children are still told the story to this day.

What do you think is the key message of Hansel and Gretel? 

For further reading see below:

The Dark History Behind Hansel and Gretel

The Truly Grim History of Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel: Exploring the Real-Life History of the Fairytale



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