Monday, April 23, 2012

Hansel and Gretel

Jessica Hishman

English 331-01

Symbolic and Literal roles of Food in Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel”

The tale of Hansel and Gretel is a German folktale that portrays food in both a literal and symbolic role. The tale begins with a family of four, the poor woodcutter, his wife and their two children, Hansel and Gretel. This family has come upon hard times and we can exactly how food plays a factor in the way this story turns out.

Hard times came upon this family and it was beginning to take a toll having to feed all four of them. Food was scare and splitting what the family had, between four people, was no longer an option. The absence of food, fear of starvation, is what drove the mother to force the woodcutter to leave the children in the woods.

When the children were forced out of their home (twice), they were given bread to help them along the way. Bread is a staple and is shown as a poor family’s food as it is not that expensive and can be easily made. Bread, being a staple, is also a life-sustaining food and in the case of Hansel and Gretel was a hope to return home. “On the way, Hansel crumbled his piece in his pocket, then often stood still, and threw crumbs onto the ground.” (Grimm) Hansel believed that this would lead them home but during the night, the birds had eaten the breadcrumbs leaving no path.

The next example of food playing a literal and symbolic role is when the children find the house “built entirely from bread with a roof made of cake, and the windows were made of clear sugar.” (Grimm) This house is made of both bread and cake. If you look at bread and cake side by side, bread is quite plain and cake is much more elaborate. Cake, being more expensive, is not a normal staple in poor family’s diets. Cake is a symbol of feasting and celebration. Sugar, is just as much of a luxury as cake to a poor family. Using these types of food, the witch can easily lure children in, as sugar is a temptation to anyone who does not get to experience it often.

Once the witch is able to lure the children into her home using the house made of sweets, she provides them with a full meal. Giving the children a full meal is a symbol of generosity and comfort to Hansel and Gretel, who had been thrown out of their own home for not having enough food. Unfortunately, the witch threw Hansel into a cage and food was given to Hansel to fatten him up.

Food was given an extensive role both symbolically and literally in Hansel and Gretel. Food was used in Hansel and Gretel to represent an idea of comfort and hope. Food as also used to represent ideas of cannibalism (the witch) as well as fear (of starvation with the mother). Many Fairytales give food a symbolic and literal role and Hansel and Gretel is no exception.

Works Cited Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Hansel and Grettel. 2000-2002. 20 04 2011 .

No comments:

Post a Comment