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Fairy Tales Comparison Essay

Fairy tales have remained popular in various cultures. They are often regarded as stories meant for children, but adults still enjoy them. Recently, fairy tales have been incorporated in shows such as Supernatural, or completely reimagined and revamped into shows based entirely on the fairy tales, such as Once Upon a Time and Grimm. These tales are timeless and have served as teachers of morality and givers of hope. The fairy tale Hansel and Gretel has not been left out. It has likewise recently been adapted and incorporated in television shows and film, including the 2013 film Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

The fairy tale relates the story of Hansel and Gretel, two siblings who are abandoned by their parents. Lost in a forest, the pair come across a witch who seeks to make them her next meal. As Willem de Blecourt notes in his essay, “On the Origin of Hansel Und Gretel”, not much is known about the fairy tale’s history prior to its publication as one of the tales in Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s collection of fairy tales. He states that, “According to expert opinion, the ancestry of the tale is ‘unclear’.

Only the ‘core theme’ of its beginning, when the children are abandoned n the wood and leave a trail so as to find their way home, can be traced back to Perrault’s story Le Petit Poucet… And only the children’s answer to the question of the witch who is at the door can be positively ascribed to one of the Grimms’ informants, namely Dortchen Wild” (Blecourt 30). He concludes that finding a complete, earlier version of Hansel and Gretel is impossible, and “that there is no eighteenth-century history of the tale as such, only of its constitutive parts” (Blecourt 30).

This is in part because there is very little information regarding the way the Grimm Brothers collected the tales, and there is even ess information on how the Grimms’ informants learned their information. In the seventh edition of the Grimm Brothers’ collection of fairy tales, published in 1857, Hansel and Gretel are led out into the woods by their parents under the guise of collecting firewood. The family is running low on food, and the mother decides they should get rid of the children. The father is against the idea, but she convinces him to follow her plan.

Hansel and Gretel overhear the plan and Hansel goes outside to collect pebbles in order to leave a trail they can follow back to the house. The next orning they follow their parents out into the woods. The parents leave them next to a fire the father built to rest while they collect the firewood, and then sneak back to their house. The children take a nap and when they wake up, it is night and they are alone. They follow the pebble trail and arrive home the next morning, where their father is happy to see them. The family is together again, and things are good until the food supply is running low again.

The mother convinces the father to again abandon the kids in the woods, but this time they will take them much further. The next day the family sets out into the woods again. Hansel and Gretel are aware of the plan and Hansel leaves a trail of bread crumbs behind them; the mother had locked the door the night before to prevent him from gathering pebbles again. The children are again left by a fire and fall asleep, waking in the middle of the night alone to find that the bread crumb trail has been eaten by birds. They wander the forest, trying to find their way home.

Instead they come across a house on the third day made out of bread, with a cake roof and clear sugar windows. They start eating ieces of the house, and while they are eating a woman calls out to them: “Nibble, nibble, little mouse, / Who is nibbling at my house? ” Hansel and Gretel respond with, “The wind, the wind, / The heavenly child” (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm). The woman invites the children into her home, fussing over them and giving them a nice meal. That night, while the children are asleep, the woman takes Hansel and locks him in a stall, revealing her plan to fatten him up and eat him.

She reveals her true self as witch, who built her house out of food in order to lure children there for her to eat. She forces Gretel to help her fatten Hansel up, and every day when she checks to see if he is fat he tricks her with a thin bone. After four weeks she gives up, deciding to eat him as is. She forces Gretel to help her bake some dough and tries to convince her to climb into the oven to place the bread inside. Gretel senses her intention to lock Gretel inside in order to bake her and eat her as well, and plays dumb, asking how she could possibly fit inside the oven.

The witch sticks her head inside to show her that even she can fit, and Gretel pushes her inside, locking the door. The witch burns, and Gretel frees Hansel. The siblings search the house, finding precious jewels and stones inside. They fill their pockets and leave the house behind, heading for home. They come across a large body of water without a walkway or a bridge across it, and Gretel calls upon a duckling to help them: “Duckling, duckling, / Here stand Gretel and Hansel. / Neither a walkway nor a bridge, / Take us onto your white back” (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

The duck complies and carries them across the water on its back one at time. The two continue on their way and finally arrive home. Once there, they find their father, who has been miserable since abandoning the children. The mother is dead, and their father welcomes them home with open arms. The children show him the jewels and stones they found in the witch’s house, and they live happily ever after. The tale concludes with the lines: “My tale is done, / A mouse has run. / And whoever catches it can make for himself from it a large, large fur cap” (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

Jack Zipes argues that while we may refer to fairy tales as ‘just a fairy tale’ or as a story for children, the opposite is actually rue, even though we refuse to acknowledge it; we all want to believe in fairy tales and we all know we want to. Zipes states that “We all know that fairy tales are tied to real life experiences more than we pretend they are not. We ward off fairy tales and pretend that they are intended mainly for children because they tell more truth than we want to know, and we absorb fairy tales because they tell us more truth than we want to know” (114).

Fairy tales are full of “desire and optimism”, they “drip with brutality, bluntness, violence and perversity,” and they “expose untruth” (Zipes 114). Fairy tales are chances to escape to other worlds “in which social justice is more readily attainable than in our actual world, where hypocrisy, corruption, hyping, exploitation and competition determine the outcome of social and political interactions and the degraded state of social relations…

Fairy tales are informed by a human disposition to action – to transform the world and make it more adaptable to human needs while we try to change and make ourselves fit for the world” (Zipes 114). Fairy tales have survived and risen in popularity thanks to adults. There objections to fairy tales due to their almost evolutionary nature, but they continued to flourish. Fairy tales were not directed specifically at children, however, until the publication of Edgar Taylor’s German Popular Stories, the first volume in 1823 and the second volume in 1826.

The tales were edited and censored in order to be considered more appropriate for children. Taylor “artfully made the tales more succinct, changed titles, characters and incidents, mistranslated rhymes, deleted references to God and Christianity, downplayed brutality, and eliminated sexual innuendoes” (Zipes 118). His version of the fairy tales became popular in Great Britain and America, and are still published today. Zipes cites Taylor as being “primarily responsible for the sanitization and infantilization of fairy tales” and “perhaps even responsible for the remark, ‘that’s just a fairy tale” (Zipes 118).

Zipes conclusions regarding fairy tales also apply to Hansel and Gretel. Hansel and Gretel begins like all fairy tales, with a “conflict or a situation that leads to conflict” (Zipes 114). In Hansel and Gretel, the conflict arises from the family’s lack of food. This leads to the parents’ decision to abandon the children, which then leads to the children being captured by the itch and trying to escape. Zipes states that fairy tales begin with conflict because “we all begin our lives with conflict” (Zipes 114).

All fairy tales have a moral or a lesson that they leave behind in the minds of the listeners and readers, a lesson that it is their purpose to teach. Hansel and Gretel has a few morals. The first one is a little outdated and would have been more applicable a few decades ago. This moral states that a husband should not allow his wife to dominate him. If the father in this story had not listened to his wife, the children would not have been left alone n the woods and they would not have been captured by the witch. The second moral is that siblings should stick together and help each other.

Hansel and Gretel survive and find their way home again by working together. Hansel leaves the trails and is able to remain calm and approach their next step logically. Gretel follows her brother’s lead, and she is the one who kills the witch and convince the duck to carry them across the water. The third moral would be to approach a situation calmly and logically. Hansel makes multiple, smart decisions throughout the tale: he leaves the trail that leads them back to he house, he tricks the witch into believing he is not getting fatter, and he comes up with the idea to carry the precious jewels and stones home with them.

Gretel is also smart. When the witch tries to convince her to climb in the oven, Gretel correctly deduces the witch’s true intentions and tricks her into sticking her head inside. She is the one who defeats the witch, seizing the opportunity to strike back at the woman at the first chance she gets. She also figures out how to safely cross the water, and she is the one who insists on going across separately because she knows that they will be too heavy for the bird to arry together. The fourth moral is especially geared towards children.

It states to be careful and to not trust strangers, especially if candy is involved. The witch lures children to her home by constructing it out of bread, cake, and sugar. She then lulls them into a false sense of security by feeding them and taking care of them before turning on them when they are asleep. She has successfully captured several children, including Hansel and Gretel, using this method. The fairy tale also advocates for several virtues: wisdom, family, forgiveness, compassion, courage, determination, and hope.

Fairy tales, as stated previously, have remained popular today, venturing from oral and literary traditions to television and film mediums. Fairy tales are, above all else, about hope. This is the take on the purpose of fairy tales in the television show, Once Upon a Time. Once Upon a Time tells the story of several fairy tale characters who have been transported from the Enchanted Forest to Storybrooke, Maine by a curse cast by Regina, the evil queen. Only Regina remembers the Enchanted Forest and her true identity. Emma Swan, a bounty hunter, is the savior; her purpose is to bring back the characters’ happy endings.

Mary Margaret, who is really Snow White, explains clearly to Emma and viewers what the true purpose of fairy tales is when she explains her reasoning for giving Emma’s son Henry a book of fairy tales: Mary Margaret: What do you think stories are for? These stories? The classics? There’s a reason we all know them. They’re a way for us to deal with our world. A world that doesn’t always make sense. See, Henry hasn’t had the easiest life. Look, I gave the book to him because I wanted Henry to have the most important thing anyone can have; hope. Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing. (“Pilot”)

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