Dark Original Version of Classic Fairytale : Hansel and Gretel : Infanticidal Parents & Violent Death of The Devil

The original versions of many classic fairytales are not as what we are familiar with today. Most of them are dark and cruel with lots of violence and gruesome endings.

Fairy tales in the past were not intended solely for children but for adults as well. The moral lessons are still there, but the method of telling it is in no way beautiful. Nowadays, these fairy tales had been re-told and sanitized as to make it more acceptable and off course with more happy endings.

I will begin the series of discussion with my most-cherished survival story of Hansel and Gretel. Other fairy tales will be discussed in my next articles.

Popular Version

In the popular version collected by Brother Grim in 19th century, Hansel and Gretel get lost in the forest after the birds eat their trail of bread crumbs. They finally find their way to a gingerbread house. The wicked witch who owns the house enslaves them while preparing to eat them. The children manage to escape after Gretel, the clever character, throws the witch in a fire and free her brother. The story ends with Hansel and Gretel happily reunited with their family.

Meeting the witch. Image via Wikipedia

Earlier Versions

Infanticide

In the earlier French version, Hansel and Gretel do not become lost. They are led into the forest by their parents who cannot afford to feed them. The father doesn’t really want to abandon the children but the mother talks him into it and he finally gives in to his wife’s desire. This idea of infanticide is horrifying. The children have to deal with resentment from adults who supposed to be their caregivers.

Image source

has a historical reality. This original story of Hansel and Gretel is a reflection of the hardship of life in the middle ages. It is a common practice in the medieval era to let children die or disappear because of shortages of food.

In a newer version, there is an effort to sanitize this cruelty by saying that the wicked mother is not the children’s biological mother; she is a stepmother, a stranger, not a real mother. Stepmother becomes the scapegoat. Everything is her fault.  In the end of the story, the mother, is dead. Hansel and Gretel re-united with their father and they live together in a perfect joy.

Violent death

In the earlier version, there is no witch but a devil. The devil does not use oven to cook the children but he puts together a sawhorse and plans to put the children on to slowly bleed to death. The children pretend they do not know how to get on to the sawhorse. The devil’s wife demonstrates and while she is lying on the saw horse, Hansel and Gretel tied her up and quickly slash her throat. A cruel death indeed, but torture of bad guys is common in the middle ages.

Image source

In its historical context, this story reflects the fears, condition and value of society of the times of its origin which might appear too barbaric to modern society. However, the moral lesson in the newer and original version is still the same. Hansel and Gretel teach us, children and adults, the struggle for survival in the tempting dangerous world.

For my young daughter, though, I still prefer to read her the less violent version, but when she grows older, I would surely love to introduce her to the original version.

More of mine :

Tragic Characters in Children’s Storybook

Bad Lessons from Cinderella Story

How to Make Your Kids Fall in Love with Books

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28 Comments
  1. Posted December 3, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Thank you for a new twist on an old story. First I knew.

  2. Posted December 3, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Hi.

    That was very interesting. I knew that the newer version vastly differed from the old, but I never realized how much.

  3. Posted December 3, 2009 at 9:40 am

    nice post here.

  4. Posted December 3, 2009 at 10:34 am

    This is an extremely good book to share. Thanks for sharing your review here.

  5. Posted December 3, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Nice post…Thanks for sharing this..

  6. Posted December 3, 2009 at 10:45 am

    good researched and very interesting.

  7. Posted December 3, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Ohh, well done, interesting.

  8. Posted December 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Very good research, you’ve shared something new to an old fable. I appreciate very much acquiring knowledge whether it is considered to be trivial or not. Thanks :)

  9. Posted December 3, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    This is very interesting. I never thought about Hansel and Gretel this way. It does seem like it’s not necessarily for children. It does teach you how to survive when faced with tough situations.

  10. Posted December 3, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    I first read the old versions of all the fairy tales and the new versions take all the startch out of the stories. I agree they are better for young children,maybe, but I perfer the old stories.

  11. Posted December 4, 2009 at 12:04 am

    It is new to me. I have never known the original version. Both are creative works. Thanks for this good article.

  12. Posted December 4, 2009 at 12:47 am

    interesting story….u have spin it very well…

  13. Posted December 4, 2009 at 3:51 am

    I know these original fairy tale versions. These were my bedtime stories when I was 8. I still read these online up to now. Nice share!

  14. Posted December 4, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Good Review.

  15. Juancav
    Posted December 4, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Another early version,nice comment.

  16. Posted December 4, 2009 at 11:45 am

    I knew that the original tales were more gruesome, but didn’t know about the details. Can’t wait for your next installment, Yovita.

  17. Posted December 4, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Interesting, did not know the earlier versions were so different but now I’m intrigued enough to look them up.

  18. Posted December 5, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I love the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales. My favorite was the Cinderella story where they chopped off the horse’s head, the evil stepsisters’ feet, and the chopped horse head gave them away. Amazing!

  19. Posted December 6, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    That’s really interesting. I’ve always heard the wicked step mother version. I didn’t know the others. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Posted December 7, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    I knew about the original tales, but never read them. I am looking forward to your next article!

  21. Posted December 9, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Great article

  22. Posted December 10, 2009 at 3:32 am

    I didn’t know there’s a cruel version of this story. Well the “softer” version isn’t really better anyway, making children into ginger bread is still horrifying.

    Nice article!

  23. Posted December 17, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I was told a version that Hansel and Gretel were left in the forest by their parents, out of poverty, since they could not feed them and they knew and used the last crust of bread as a guide home, but the birds had eaten it. And in the house of the witch they find a pot of gold, so their family can florish again in the end.

  24. gHaDE
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    where can i find the original version? the one with the devil and slicing throat part? who is the author?

  25. Jewdithetta Young
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    I’m sooooooo excited reading this. I could poop. Really I could! OMG!!! What fun!!! Love it. Love it, love it, love it, love it, love it. I MUST read these to my children. Oooh, I can’t wait!

  26. Posted December 22, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Another of your interesting stories. good one.

  27. Katie
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Hi

    I got the brother’s grim fairly tales on my kindle for my birthday. I’m 16 this story creeped me put even before I knew about the whole devil thing but I guess this is something that teaches people not to take candy or trust strangers

  28. Posted December 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Hi

    I got the brother\’s grim fairly tales on my kindle for my birthday. I\’m 16 this story creeped me put even before I knew about the whole devil thing but I guess this is something that teaches people not to take candy or trust strangers

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