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"Hansel and Gretel" (pronounced /ˈhænsəl/ [or /ˈhɑːnsəl/] and /ˈɡrɛtəl/; German: Hänsel und Gretel, "Little John and Little Margaret") is a well-known fairy tale of German origin, recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812. Hansel and Gretel are a young brother and sister threatened by a cannibalistic witch living deep in the forest in a house constructed of cake and confectionery. The two children save their lives by outwitting her.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm heard "Hansel and Gretel" from Dortchen Wild, and published it in Kinder- und Hausmärchen in 1812. In the Grimm tale, the woodcutter and his wife are the biological parents of the children and share the blame for abandoning them. In later editions, some slight revisions were made: the wife is stepmother to the children, the woodcutter opposes his wife's scheme to abandon the children, and religious references are made.

Folklorists Iona and Peter Opie indicate in The Classic Fairy Tales (1974) that "Hansel and Gretel" belongs to a group of European tales especially popular in the Baltic regions about children outwitting ogres into whose hands they have involuntarily fallen. The tale bears resemblances to the first half of Charles Perrault's "Hop-o'-My-Thumb" (1697) and Madame d'Aulnoy's "Clever Cinders" (1721). In both tales, the Opies note, abandoned children find their way home by following a trail. In "Clever Cinders", the Opies observe that the heroine incinerates a giant by shoving him into an oven in a manner similar to Gretel, and point out that a ruse involving a twig in a Swedish tale resembles Hansel's trick of the dry bone. Linguist and folklorist Edward Vajda has proposed that these stories represent the remnant a coming of age rite of passage extant in Proto-Indo-European society. A house made of confectionery is found in a 14th-century manuscript about the Land of Cockaigne .

In The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, Maria Tatar observes that the witch's end in the oven has been read as portending "the horrors of the Third Reich". Because the witch is often depicted with "stereotypical Jewish features, particularly in twentieth century illustration", the scene of her death becomes "all the more ominous".

Max Lüthi observes that the mother or stepmother happens to die when the children have killed the witch has suggested to many commentators that the mother or stepmother and the witch are, in fact, the same woman, or at least that an identity between them is strongly hinted at. A Russian folk tale exists in which the evil stepmother (also the wife of a poor woodcutter) asks her hated stepdaughter to go into the forest to borrow a light from her sister, who turns out to be Baba Yaga, who is also a cannibalistic witch. Besides highlighting the endangerment of children (as well as their own cleverness), the tales have in common a preoccupation with food and with hurting children: the mother or stepmother wants to avoid hunger, while the witch lures children to eat her house of candy so that she can then eat them. Another tale of this type is The Lost Children. The Brothers Grimm identified the French Finette Cendron and Hop o' My Thumb as parallel stories.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hansel_and_Gretel




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