My little retelling of the story of Hansel and Gretel. Yes, I prefer a slightly less virulent interpretation of the tale than the early versions focusing on the stereotype of the ‘Wicked Stepmother’ and a father cruel enough to go along with her determination to abandon the children. After all, there’s still plenty of blame to go around when ordinary and seemingly decent people do thoughtless and stupid and even horrible things without considering the ultimate consequences, and even a fairly charitable interpretation of the story seems to me to illustrate that quite handily. And, lest I be accused of excessive softening of what is, after all, a pretty grim [!] tale, I left off the traditional cozy ending, to keep the pointy parts more firmly entrenched in any conscience that will allow them. Wink, wink.
Late, when the children want to play, When chores are a burden at end of day, Why, what harm can come of it, anyway?
Who would begrudge their choice, this chance To lay down the work and pick up a dance? Who would look on this sweet play askance?
What if their Schottische, when lightning flashed, Upset the pitcher and milk was splashed? Ah, suddenly, their mother’s lashed
At them with her anger in surprise At such wild waste of the poor folk’s prize, And tears are smarting in all their eyes!
The rich folk scarcely would give a fig At spilling milk over one swift jig, But their consequence never did loom so big.
No innocent children ever guess That a tiny slip and a modest mess Will afford their mother such deep distress,
Nor mother foresee that her sorrowed scold Will send, heavy-hearted, into the cold Her little ones, lost to the family fold.
And how could their father know what would fall If they failed to answer his panicked call And foraged instead far from safety’s wall?
Too distant from hearth and garden run, Could the children know that their crimeless fun Would lead to endangering anyone?
So off to the forest’s gloom, replete With wild strawberries, so good to eat, They skip unconcerned, when a wilder sweet
Appears before their young, hungry eyes In the most appealingly false disguise Of a gingerbread palace, whose luring lies
Present irresistibly tempting charms To lead them directly into the arms Of the wicked witch whose most horrid harm’s
The deceptive sweetness her cottage seems To hold in its sugary halls of dreams–What covers in icing the children’s screams!
(How could these tender young cherubs guess That under the sparkling prettiness Was a ravening monster intent to fress On their flesh and bones in a gory mess!)
But the most nefarious in the tale Was also most ignorant that such frail And tender tidbits might possibly fail
To end up feeding her heart’s desire, Instead being fueled by fear and ire To shove her into her own oven’s fire!
The story is old, that in unformed youth We may lack the wisdom to see in truth, That apparent delights may be foul, forsooth–
But we still hold on to our foolish ways Of dreaming and hoping in wishful haze And never considering that this daze
Can blind us to sanity–in its mire, Can lead to such unexpected, dire Results–unintentionally, Desire Makes us leap from the frying pan into the fire.