Fair(L)Y Scary

I wonder what makes ‘Hänsel and Gretel” so appealing particularly around this time – yes, it has a ‘good ending’ but it means the cannibalistic witch burns to death – not very Christian is it?

There is, of course, the Opera – a Holiday season standard in most places. Written by:

The opera started of with a small set of songs to lyrics by Humperdinck’s sister (she wanted them as a gift to her her children). His nieces loved them, and it made sense to expand. The opera premiered a few days before Christmas in 1893 (conducted by Richard Strauss, no less!) and was an immediate success

A year later, on Boxing Day, it premiered in London, and that ‘was it’ – it became an international hit. If you find time over the Christmas season I recommend watching this:

For me the best part of the tale has always been the candy house in which the witch lives – had I been Gretel I wouldn’t have been able to resist ‘a taste’ either. I only once managed to bake a half-way edible version that didn’t collapse immediately – so instead this porcelain version (by Villeroy & Boch) comes out every December. It has everything , including a great oven.

The original Brother Grimm version of the tale is, like the opera, quite scary. And some illustrations reflect that but others seem to want to sugar-coat (excuse the pun) and go all cute. Here are some examples:

from “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” Illustrated by Anne Anderson (London; Glasgow: W. Collins Sons & Co., 1922)
A cut-out – I don’t know the maker – if you do, please let me know!
A set of ‘Oblaten’ – scraps, 1970s
From ‘le favole di Grimm’, Europea Editrice, 1964, illustrator: Giu-Pin

There is (of course!) a German nursery rhyme/song about Hänsel & Gretel , too –

Here is my translation – you could sing along!

Hansel and Gretel got lost in the wood
Where it was gloomy and oh, so bitter cold.
They came to a small house, made of gingerbread so fine
Who might the owner be of this little shrine.
Hoo-hoo! An old witch appears and looks out!
She lures the children into the little house.
She pretends to be so friendly, but oh Hansel, what on earth?
She wants to bake him as brown as bread in the hearth.
But when the witch peers into the oven super hot,
Hansel and Gretel push her in – what a shock!
The witch she needed roasting, the children they go home.
Thus ends the tale – Hansel and Gretel no longer need to roam

from: “Das große Hausbuch der Volkslieder”. print of an etching by Ludwig Richer

I hope you enjoyed this little selection – have a lovely 2nd Advent on Sunday


  1. Ah nice, thanks for this! Your pictures are amazing. This time of year, the fairy tales on German TV just go bonkers! While we don’t watch proper telly, you can stream anything that aired on ZDF Mediathek! We’re 6 movies down so far! Happy advent time for you. You must love this season?!

  2. Superb images and post, Wibi. Hansel and Gretel for me is one of the most enchanting of the fairy tales. Love the porcelain house with all its details and the coloured glaze – must be a treat to bring it out each year.

  3. Thanks for another fabulous post Wibi !

    One of my (many) dreams of child-naming was to have a boy & girl and call them Hansel & Gretel …. how lovely that would have been (maybe more for me than for them ha ha !)

    Looking forward to watching the opera (and hoping to hear you sing the hansel & Gretel song one day Wibi… maybe in 2021 ??)

  4. Thank you Wibi, I love that travel through time in that concern. And I especially love that fairy tale. Every year I’m dying to create a new house. My best wishes are with you. Love, Sovely

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