February 01, 2005

Fractured Fairy-Tales

My six year old and her class are off to the Kennedy Center today to see a production of Hansel and Gretel. As we were talking about it this morning, she disclosed her opinion that the wicked step-mother and the witch were, in fact, the same person. When I pointed out to her that the step-mother wanted to abandon the children because of lack of food, whereas the witch -with her house made of candy - seemed to have plenty of it, she responded by opining that the whole lack-of-food thing was simply a set-up in order to get the kids out in the open where they could be caught and eaten. Her main evidence for this reading is the fact that both the step-mother and the witch are dead by the end of the story. I must say that at least from a psychological point of view, this makes rather a lot of sense.

As the Llama-ette mulled over the childrens' fate, she suddenly cocked an eye at me and said, "You'd never do something like that to us, would you?" Resisting the urge to say, "Well, not if you're good, anyway," I quickly assured her that we had no such plans.

UPDATE: This is what happens when I rely on the word of a six-year-old. In fact, they went to the local auditorium, not the Kennedy Center. (She must have been confused because she went there a few weeks ago to see a puppet show.) Also, it turns out what they saw was the Virginia Opera's touring company doing Englebert Humperdink's opera version of the story. There is no wicked step-mother in this version. I'll have to ask the Llama-ette what this does to her theory this evening.

Posted by Robert at February 1, 2005 10:34 AM

Not bad thinking really when you consider that very often in other fairy tales the stepmother and wicked witch are, in fact, the same person - Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are two I can think of off hand.

What I love is the oddness of fairy tales actually being rather macabre.

Posted by: jen at February 1, 2005 10:51 AM

Off the top of my head, I think that is a characteristic of a lot of tales with their roots in the Dark and Middle Ages of Northern Europe. And you can see why - it was a nasty, violent time. Everyone lived (or often didn't) at or below subsistance levels. And Nature was hardly cute n' cuddly - getting caught and killed by bears or wolves in the forest was a very real proposition. Given that, I often think that the traditional tension between step-mothers and step-children in these stories has a kind of Darwinian motivation.

Posted by: Robert the LB at February 1, 2005 11:06 AM

Geeze... I fear for the Llama-ettes. They will grow up warped!

Posted by: babs at February 1, 2005 11:34 AM

sounds like a lit/soc double major in the making...

Posted by: tee bee at February 1, 2005 11:59 AM

I'm rather certain I've seen the Hansel & Gretel witch/stepmother/same-person-theory put forward in a serious lit journal article somewhere -- maybe you should give the girl some Derrida and see what happens (just kidding -- wouldn't wish that stuff on a stray dog...)

Posted by: LDH at February 1, 2005 12:01 PM

Gah! If she becomes a Derrida fan, I'll throw HER into the oven! My work here will have been a failure.

Posted by: Robert the LB at February 1, 2005 02:07 PM

The production was rather PC. There was no wicked stepmother or dad for that matter. (Reminds me of when I gave birth to lamette #1. When signing hospital papers they couldn't care less who the father was and no sinature needed from him. ) I
remember the LMC telling me after his future ROTC receipiant was born that he signed all the soc. sec. papers etc. if they wanted him to or not.
Anyways, back to the play, the witch was bad, but
the kids were not ditched in the forest. They went off strawberry paicking and got lost. Mother dear found them after the kids shoved the witch in the oven. They told the kids the morale was to be greatful for your siblings (how uncaring of all those only children) and don't talk to strangers. I am glad my girls and I read the original Grimm brother story last night and they really couldn't understand the singing so all the PC stuff was lost on them.

Posted by: Butcher's wife at February 1, 2005 05:01 PM

Why, HELLO, Dear....What are YOU doing here?

Posted by: Robert the LB at February 1, 2005 05:37 PM
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