Literary Analysis of The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

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Set in Poland during the German occupation, “The True Story of Hansel and Gretel” is told as a fairy tale, utilizing many of the elements that are common to fairy tales. This book reflects the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel.” However, in Murphy’s parable, Hansel and Gretel are two Jewish children who are abandoned by their father and stepmother in order to save them from the Nazis. Setting the tale in Nazi Germany creates an atmosphere of fear and anxiety, and establishes a set of circumstances in which it is possible for people to act in ways that would be unacceptable under other circumstances. The stepmother is a good example of this. She is the force in the family – it is she who decides that everyone in the family will have a better chance of survival, if they split up – the children going off alone together and the parents going in another direction. Unlike the portrayal of the stepmother in the Grimm fairy tale, this stepmother is not wicked. She is strong willed and determined, but not evil, although she is protecting herself and her husband by abandoning the children. Using the stepmother as the villain is common in fairy tales, according to Stone in her article “Things Walt Disney Didn’t Tell Us.” She suggests that the woman of the family is nearly always chosen for the part of the villain. But in Murphy’s story, the stepmother’s actions, while they may appear villainous at the outset, may be construed as heroic in the end, because she only abandons the children in order to save them. She also cares deeply about the children’s welfare, enough that she loses her life as a result of attempting to find them. In this instance, Murphy is reminding us that the horrors of the time were so great th... ... middle of paper ... ...s not asked to use logic and hence the emotional impact of the story is more direct and perhaps more potent. This book left me with a deeper sense of the horrors experienced by the Polish people, especially the Jews and the gypsies, at the hands of the Germans, while illustrating the combination of hope and incredible resilience that kept them going. Works Cited Murphy, Louise, (2013). The Real Story of Hansel and Gretel. Penguin Books. Stone, Kay (1975). Things Walt Disney Never Told Us. The Journal of American Folklore, Vol 88, No 347, Women and Folklore pp42-50, University of Illinois Press. Hansjorg, Hohr, (2000). Dynamic Aspects of Fairy Tales: social and emotional competence through fairy tales. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, Vol 44, No 1, Department of Education, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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