Monday, June 17, 2013

Fairy Tales

“Hansel and Gretel” is a very renowned fairytale wit its origins in Germany. According to Zipes (p. 39) this is a favorite tale in whole world but particularly in Germany where it was voted number one amongst all other tales in the nation. This fairytale was later recorded and published by the Grimm Brothers in the year 1812 (Zipes, p. 41). The story revolves around two major characters-Hansel and his sister Gretel. Bottigheimer (p. 35) points out that the two children are abandoned by their step-mother in the forest and when they are on the verge of starvation they decide to visit a confectionery owned by a mean witch so as to get some food. When caught, the witch fattens up Hansel with the intention of eating him but the children use their wit to kill the witch and make away with her treasure. “Hansel and Gretel” is a very renowned fairytale wit its origins in Germany. This fairytale was later recorded and published by the Grimm Brothers in the year 1812. The story revolves around two major characters-Hansel and his sister Gretel. The two children are abandoned by their step-mother in the forest and when they are on the verge of starvation they decide to visit a confectionery owned by a mean witch so as to get some food. According to Zipes (p. 42) when caught, the witch fattens up Hansel with the intention of eating him but the children use their wit to kill the witch and make away with her treasure. Fairytales have a propensity towards addressing issues such as self worth, sibling rivalry or dilemmas that are oedipal in character. Bottigheimer (p. 32) claims that there are a number of features that typify fairytales; firstly fairytales tend to be very polarized and simplified (Bettelheim, p. 9). In addition to this, the internal feelings of human beings are also externalized and extraordinary events or occurrences are depicted as being ordinary. The different characters in fairytale depict different aspects of human individuality. In “Hansel and Gretel” the asocial part of human personality is portrayed by the witch and the ego is portrayed by Gretel who offers her help to Hansel so that he is not eaten by the witch. In addition to this, fairy tales have a tendency to favor the characters that are most young or weak. Hansel and Gretel in this tale are not only the youngest, but also the most vulnerable and weak. Many fairytales share the mythical character of involving cannibalism; in Hansel and Gretel for instance, the witch wants to feed on Hansel. Bettelheim (p. 3) claims that folk tales are very significant in enabling children to find the meaning of or in their lives. There are several lessons that children can learn from “Hansel and Gretel”. The first important lesson in this fairytale is the fact that despite life being cruel and unfair a good life can still be achieved Bettelheim, p. 3). Secondly, children learn that they ought not to give their full trust to strangers. The tale also emphasizes the dangers that one may get into when they engage in vices such as stealing (Bettelheim, p. 9). Bettelheim (p. 5) further points out that fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel are significant in that they serve the purposes of entertaining the children and awakening their inquisitiveness and interest. This enhances their sense of imagination, creativity and intellect. The children are also able to define their emotions more clearly and are aware of their fears and aspirations (Bettelheim, p. 5). Despite making children aware of their problems, fairy tales also pass across the message that solutions can always be formulated. Cunningham (p. 41) asserts that fairy tales can also be used to teach children about God. “Hansel and Gretel” is a very controversial fairytale; that fact that Hansel and Gretel use their wit to kill the witch and make away with her treasure even after stealing from the witch may be misinterpreted by children to mean that it is okay to steal and even cause grave bodily harm to the person whose property they steal. This fairly tale addresses issues that are very relevant in the present day for instance fear, poverty, betrayal by adults and abandonment (Zipes, p. 42); although these are important issues, they are not issues that should be enforced on children of a young age (Zipes, p. 52). As if this is not enough, Bottigheimer (p. 35) points out that the children are abandoned in the forest by their step mother; the portrayal of the children’s step mother as evil is very worrying, more so in the present day when the family institution is very dynamic (Bettelheim, p. 11). Zipes (p. 50) claims that in this fairy tale the father is depicted as being “more benevolent than the mother”. Children need to be taught that mothers are not only loving but very caring towards their children. Zipes (p.57) also reveals that a great number of educators and parents find it very appalling that Gretel pushes the witch into the fiery oven; this is not only very disturbing for young readers, it may also influence them negatively. Nevertheless, there are several reasons why children should be encouraged to read the fairytale of “Hansel and Gretel”. Firstly, the tale story has developed greatly on the theme of eating. From a very young age eating plays a very important role in the lives of children. Firstly, in the story, Hansel and Gretel are left in the forest by their stepmother due to lack of enough food at home. Secondly, when the children leave trails of bread so as to find their way back, birds eat the crumbs. More over, when the witch catches the children she intends to eat Hansel. By reading this tale the child can be socialized from a very early age to work hard so as to have enough food and avoid poverty. It is due to lack of food and poverty that Hansel and Gretel break into the witch’s gingerbread house and get caught. Another reason why children should read this tale is so that they can overcome the fear of abandonment that many children have as well learn that despite it being inevitable that they will encounter bad or difficult situations in life, these challenges can be overcome and survived if only they are hopeful, brave and patient (Tatar, p. 39). In conclusion, fairytales serve a number of different purposes in the society where they are developed. This essay has depicted the different lessons that can be learnt from the fairytale “Hansel and Gretel” as well as its appropriateness, and lack of it, for children. Work Cited Bettelheim, Bruno: The Uses of Enchantments: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, New York: Vintage Books Bottigheimer, B. Ruth: Fairy Tales: A New History, Albany, New York: State University of New York Press Cunningham, Hugh: Children and Childhood in Western Society Since 1500, Pearson Longman Tatar, Maria: Off with their Heads: Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press Zipes, Jack: Happily Ever After: Fairy tales, Children and the Culture Industry, New York and London: Routledge