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Pickle Me This

September 21, 2018

Hansel & Gretel, by Bethan Woollen

Things get a bit weird in Bethan Woollen’s Hansel & Gretel, which is a book you’ve probably got to get if you’ve read her Little Red and Repunzel and you have completist tendencies. See photo below for what I’m talking about:

Once again, Woollvin is revising a fairy tale we think we know, but this time she’s telling it from a different point of view. Yes, a house made out of gingerbread might turn out to be all too tempting for a brother and sister who are lost in the woods, but luring children wasn’t what the good witch Willow had in mind when she conjured the spell to build her house. A miscalculation, maybe, but when Hansel and Gretel come tramping through the woods scattering breadcrumbs, which are sure to lure mice and other pests and therefore put Willows gingerbread house at risk, she  politely asks them to clean up the crumbs, which they refuse. And when she has her back turned cleaning up the crumbs herself, the recalcitrant pair begin snacking on the house, which might be the final straw for some witches, but not this witch, who determines Hansel and Gretel must be hungry and invites them to come in for dinner.

It turns out that Hanesel and Gretel have no manners at all, however, and they gobble up all of Willow’s food, then start messing with her spells and wands, turn the black cat gigantic, and then Gretel stuffs Willow into the oven so she and her brother can continue to make trouble—but then the house is so full over magic, it explodes: “It was only made out of gingerbread after all.”

And so it is here that Willow finally decides to get her comeuppance, concocting a nasty bit of revenge that Hansel and Gretel completely had coming, and which hearkens back to a bit of fairy tale darkness worthy of Grimm’s.

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