Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Fairy Tales with Dubious Morals: Part I

If you’re from a first world country, there’s a good chance you were raised on a diet of television,  junk food, baffling euphemisms for the genital area, and fairy tales. The lasting appeal of fairy tales can be explained by their engagement with universal dilemmas such as good versus evil, in a way that’s straightforward and easy to grasp, and their handy knack of imparting moral lessons, while allowing ankle-biters to face their fears in a safe space. Disney became a cornerstone of western culture simply by being good at them.

Sounds good, right? You get to hear a fun story, while working out your unconscious anxieties by seeing them defeated in the form of frequently awesome monsters.

Come on, how many of you can honestly claim to be as comfortable with your own sexuality as this guy?

And if all goes to plan, you get to resolve those anxieties, while learning valuable morals which will stay with you for life. On the face of it, it’s a pretty good deal.

The problem is that sometimes, when you look closer, these morals are either so low they’d make the inhabitants of a Mexican whorehouse blush, or so baffling they make George W. Bush and Boris Johnson look like eloquent, well-informed speakers.

So if you’re reading this from jail, juvie, or the internet cafe you’re hanging out in to keep warm because you’ve been robbed by hookers so many times your home’s been repossessed, don’t hate yourself too much: there’s a chance the Brothers Grimm bear some part of the blame. 

Thanks for the crack habit, dickholes.


According to folklore scholar Maria Tatar, this story is all about the two kids working out their independence and general coming-of-age shit via the metaphor of food. During a harsh famine, their wicked stepmother convinces their father to abandon the children in the woods so they won’t suck up any more of the limited harvest supply. The father inexplicably consents to her plan, despite the fact that this gives him “great sorrow”.

Pictured: great sorrow. 

( David Castillo Dominici)

The kids overhear them planning whole thing, decide “Fuck that”, and lay a trail of breadcrumbs to help them find their way home. But their plan is ruined when the trail is eaten by birds; lost in the woods, they stumble upon a house made of gingerbread, with sugar window lattices, and are so hungry they fall upon it and literally begin eating the walls. 

Inside the house lives an old woman, who invites them in and feeds them as many sweets and good things as they can eat. However, it turns out that she does this because she is in fact a witch who wants to eat them, and the cookie-fest is her way of fattening them up for this purpose. 

However, Gretel manages to shove the witch into her own giant oven, burning her to death. She and Hansel then steal the witch’s jewels in lieu of leaving a dump in the middle of her carpet, and hightail it out of there. By the time they make it home, stepmum’s obligingly kicked off, their father is overjoyed to see them, and the three of them live happily ever after on the booty-money from the jewels. 


Apparently this story is about independence; the children must break the first and most primal dependence the infant has – on the mother, for food – and learn to fend for themselves, kicking some evil witch ass along the way. One symbolic mother figure won’t feed them at all, the other will literally feed them to death, and the only way they can resolve the circle jerk is to become independent entities capable of feeding themselves and their surviving parent, as per the circle of life. All’s well that ends well, right?


If you want something, just help yourself. And if anybody gets in your way, kill them and steal their shit.

It’s time to look at things from the witch’s point of view for a moment. So you worked hard at the dark arts all your life, poured the results into getting a foot on the property ladder, and you’ve finally swung yourself a nice place. Okay, so it’s made of gingerbread because you’re eccentric that way, but it’s yours and you love it.

Then one day, you go home, and what do you find? You’re missing a fucking wall, because two passing kids just decided on a whim to literally eat your house. It’s probably at this point that you decide to detain them pending punishment. 

Granted, in this case “punishment” involves murdering them and devouring their corpses, rather than having a police officer give them a stern talking-to. But just imagine for a second that Hansel and Gretel had used a petrol bomb instead of the power of gluttony to take out that wall, and the witch had retaliated with a shotgun rather than attempted cannibalism. I’m not saying any of this would be justified; I’m just saying, there’d be at least ten websites lionizing her over the right to defend one’s property by now.

“Ain’t no guvvamint gon' tell ME how to mind my own yard.”

So in less than 24 hours, Hansel and Gretel manage to vandalize the house of an old woman who lives alone (oh yeah, did I mention that she’s also blind?), murder her horribly by burning her to death in an oven, and jack her jewels as a final “fuck you” to pension rights and general human decency. 

“Wow... gotta say, I’m starting to understand why your mother was emotionally distant towards you.”

Nice work, kids. Stay classy.

No comments:

Post a Comment