Hansel and Gretel and Sex

Just recently I was to find a fairy tale to analyze and present in my English class. I wasn’t really creative in choosing my fairy tale topic, so I just chose the first fairy tale that came into my mind: Hansel and Gretel. Before my research, I just saw this tale as somewhat fascinating and creepy. After I did my research, now whenever I think of this tale, I just think of sex. Below is my Freudian analysis/ speech text:

I remember when I was in sixth grade, my class was watching a movie, when suddenly popped a nude female. Before the teacher could cover it, all the boys just stood up from their seats with wide eyes and hanging tongues and started panting.  Well, almost all the boys, because I was smart. I didn’t just stand up- I went up to the screen and got the HD view. Oh, baby, the view was good! Of course, the teacher came up to me and told me to sit my butt down, but it was after that moment that I realized something- I used my brain! The only problem is that like all boys, my high-IQ, biologically advanced, super large brain is not up in my head, but down in my genitals.   So do we see this in the short story ‘Hansel and Gretel’, where through the many sexual references throughout the story, the Grimm Brothers reveal the belief that women have power, particularly when it comes to the domain of sex.

The witch’s house symbolizes sex itself.

The story of “Hansel and Gretel” involves a poor woodcutter, his wife, and his two children named Hansel and Gretel. Since the family is poor and have barely anything to eat, the wife plans on ditching the children in the woods, and the husband reluctantly agrees. The first time, they bring the children out to the woods to ditch them, but the children still come back because Hansel, who overheard the wife’s plan, put some rocks the night before in his pockets and thus left the rocks out to form a trail back. The second time, the wife leads the children deeper into the forest, and Hansel uses bread crumbs. The problem is the crumbs are eaten by the birds, and thus they are lost. They later stumble upon a candy house, and start eating to their delight. Then, a witch comes out and entices them to come in. However, the witch is a cannibal and seizes Hansel and locks him up. She tells Gretel to start feeding Hansel so once he gets fat, she can eat him. However, the witch has poor eyesight, so whenever she checks upon him, Hansel just offers a bone to feel and thus the witch thinks Hansel is still thin. The witch after a few days gets irritated and decides to eat him anyway. She tells Gretel to go inside an oven to see if it’s hot, but Gretel plays dumb and says she doesn’t know how. The witch then demonstrates how to do it, but right then Gretel kicks the witch in and cooks her in the oven. She frees Hansel, gathers up the rich gems in the witch’s house, and they go back to the woodcutter’s house after crossing a river on a duck’s back. Thus, they live happily ever after, now rich with the gems. So one might ask, where is the sex?

FYI, analysts have said that the bread crumb trail is actually Hansel’s trail of sperm

The archetypes in ‘Hansel and Gretel’ present the children’s sexual awakening and the role women play in it. The biggest archetype occurs when it is mentioned that the family had “very little to bite or sup” (Grimm 1), and when Hansel and Gretel devour freely from the witch’s house “built of bread… [decorated with] sugar” (Grimm 2). Eating is the archetype of having sex; thus, the family is actually not hungry for food, but hungry for sex. The fact that the stepmother is dominant over the male in this sex-needy situation indicates that females are in control when the drive for sex takes over. The witch’s house is made of bread, which symbolizes the body, and thus when the children are having the time of their lives eating this bread house, they are in essence going to an all-you-can-have-sex buffet. However, behind the beauty of the house, behind the beauty of sex, lives a witch, or the evil female. Just as the witch owns the house, so do women own sexuality. In the stepmother’s second attempt to rid the children, something the husband does not want to do, the “woman [who is the sole mastermind behind this plan] led the children far into the woods” (Grimm 2), to which the children this time get lost because “the birds of the woods” (Grimm 2) ate the bread crumb trail that Hansel had left on the ground to follow back. In contrast to the woodcutter’s house, which represents society and its constraints and the lack of food or sex, the woods is an archetype of a newer, darker place of their sexual awakening in which the laws of society do not follow. By venturing deeper into the woods, the children are venturing deeper into the new realm of sex. The bread crumb trail is in a sense their only way back to society, but since the birds- an archetype of sexual freedom because of their ability to fly- eats the trail up, they are now lost, and free, in this forest of sexuality.  Since it is only the wife not the husband who can bear herself to get the children lost into sex, it shows the author’s belief that only females have the power to do such an evil deed of sexual corruption.

The Great Famine

Not just the archetypes but also the alluded historical events help emphasize the power that women have. We see a class conflict, in which Gretel, who lacks bread, kills the witch, who owns tons of bread, and proclaims, “The old witch is dead!” (Grimm 3) The witch represents the rich, and Gretel represents the poor, as seen in the amount of bread, and thus sex, that each has. Rich people have more time for sex; poor people don’t. The event that is alluded here is the many revolutions that have occurred throughout history, most notably the French revolution, in which it was a mob of angry poor women who were the ones who marched into the king’s palace and took both the king and the bread that he owned. This was a turning point in the revolution; thus, it implies the political power that women can yield against the evil rich. However, by associating this with the fact that bread equals body and sex, the Grimm brothers show that it is not just political power, but sexual power that women such as Gretel can yield. Another historical event emphasizes not Gretel’s power, but the witch’s power, which can be seen when the family has nothing to eat and when the witch plans to “kill and cook [Hansel]” (Grimm 3). The whole story originates from a great famine in medieval history called the Great Famine. During this famine, there were cannibalism, families giving up children, and of course hunger. Hansel and Gretel’s family are living in this time period, yet the only person who seems to be not affected is the witch. Whereas everybody else is lacking bread and suffering to the extent of cannibalism, the witch stands out by having tons of bread and living a wealthy life. Thus, because of this stark contrast, the witch is ever more enticing to the many hungry people out there; she is like ice-cold soda in the middle of a desert. Of course, taking in the fact that bread symbolizes sex, one Great Famine can say the witch is ever more seductive, and thus her sexual powers are ever stronger.

Men trapped by women in the domain of sex

By having men be in helpless situations, the Grimm brothers show how dependent men must rely on women in the domain of sex. When Hansel and Gretel are in the witch’s house, the witch locks Hansel up “behind a grating” (Grimm 3), and when she checks on how fat Hansel has become after feeding him “the best kind of victuals” (Grimm 3), Hansel tricks her in offering her a bone, a symbol of excitement; all the while, “Gretel got nothing but crab-shells” (Grimm 3). The bone reveals that Hansel is enjoying sex, which is further proven by the fact that he is getting fatter and fatter. However, he is in a cage, unable to grapple free and lost in the evil lust of sex, just like any man could be. This is in contrast to Gretel, who remains thin, symbolizing that she has lost enjoyment of this kind of sex. All of this shows that the witch, or sex, only serves to fulfill a man’s sexual needs, not a woman’s. Thus, the women, or Gretel, does not fall prey to sex, serving to emphasize women’s control, whereas men are all dependent on whatever the sex does to them since they are now ‘trapped’. Later, Gretel intelligently kills the witch, frees Hansel, and when going back home, she shouts out to the duck to help them cross “over its nice white back” (Grimm 3). By killing the witch, Gretel in essence frees Hansel from the lust of sex, showing yet again the helplessness of men. By killing the witch intelligently however, it shows how women know their way around sex, whereas men like Hansel have no clue and are hopelessly trapped. Just as the witch has power to trap men like Hansel in the cage of sex, so do women have the power to free them from sex, and transform them back to society, as when it was Gretel who called the duck to help transport both of them across the river, signifying renewal. Again, note that Hansel is dependent on Gretel, a woman, for saving him.

Ladies and gentlemen, once in your life I can guarantee that you will enter the realm of sex. You will enter into a new world, full of new pleasures, new excitements, and new knowledge. However good they may seem, please be aware that behind it all is a dirty little witch. And men, if you don’t watch out, this witch will come after you and eat you, and he will find it very delicious. So you better watch out.

Works Cited

“A Walk Through the Forest: A Recipe for Resilience.” Fairy Tale Channel. Blogger, 28 Sept.

2009. Web. 06 Oct. 2013.

Brothers, Grimm. “Hansel and Gretel.” Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Grimmstories.com, n.d.

Web. 01 Oct. 2013.

“Gingerbread Temptations: Analysis of the Grimm Brothers’ Hansel & Gretel.” The Fine Art

Diner. Blogger, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 01 Oct. 2013.

Check out the last work cited. It has a very good Freudian analysis. Anyway, have fun reading Hansel and Gretel again! This time, when you read it, you will look at it more differently ever than before.

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

Sometimes, I muse about being a Pixar storyteller. You know, it would be pretty fun creating short films  and watching them. Or perhaps making short stories would be pretty cool. There’s one problem: I’m not an expert at this kind of stuff. That’s why then I would have to go to an expert for advice. Just yesterday,  I stumbled on a post on aerogrammestudio.com, which posted up 22 rules of storytelling by Emma Coate, a Pixar Producer. Check the list below:

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Man, whoever thought of these rules is a storytelling genius. Apparently, Pixar is. Well, thought this was interesting.

Analyzing “After The Dance”

In my last post, I introduced to you the short story “After the Dance” and gave you some discussion questions to think about. Today, I will attempt to uncover the true message that lies within this story.

Leo Tolstoy

Before I start, I will give a brief summary of author Leo Tolstoy’s life. Leo Tolstoy was born into a rich Russian family. He drank, made love, and was like a typical Russian noble. However, he loved to write books and think about human life. Eventually, he came to despise the rich and purposely became poor himself.

Now, some historical context that will be relevant to our analysis. Russia has since perhaps its existence been an autocracy, where all the power was contained by the tsar, or ruler of Russia. Many people, after tired of having the tsar yelling orders around, started the Russian Revolution and overthrew the tsar. Some notable tsars or tsarinas in Russian history include Tsar Nicholas I and Tsarina Catherine the Great. Nicholas I was not that much of a fan-magnet. He carried out many repressive policies and tried to make Russia a backward nation. Catherine, however, represented the glorious times of the autocracy and was liked by many Russian citizens.

I will start off the analysis by answering a discussion question: In the beginning Ivan loved Varinka. Later, he dislikes her. What does this symbolize? Again, as I said in my last post, we must take this story in the context of the author’s life. We know that Tolstoy was born a noble himself and indulged in this life when he was young, but later resented this lifestyle and became poor. Similarly, in this story, Ivan had always been in love with Varinka but later in the end began to forget about her. Form this comparison, one can make out that Ivan symbolizes Tolstoy himself and Varinka symbolizes the aristocracy or nobility.

Further proof of this can be seen in the description of  Varinka, in which she is described as “bony.” This symbolizes that during the story’s time, which was around the Russian Revolution time period, the aristocracy, represented by Varinka, was frail and on the brink of collapse. In other words, the aristocracy was about to die off, as symbolized by the boniness. Ivan also later comments on his early lifestyle, in which he was a “gay, lively, carless fellow,” reminiscent of Leo Tolstoy’s earlier life.

Tsar Nicholas I

Another important character was Varinka’s father. The description of him shows that he represents the strict disciplinary type of soldier under Nicholas I’s rule. He in a sense embodies the fact of military/civil service to the autocratic government. For instance, Ivan tells how he was impressed by the fact that the father wore poor boots so as to allow the daughter to wear beautiful splendid clothing. The message here is that the Russian people sacrificed their time and lives by participating in the military so to make the Tsar and his autocratic government seem more grander and wonderful. To Ivan, this sacrifice the father makes seems wonderful. One can compare this to history, in which by the influence of propaganda, people thought that their sacrifices were also justified and right for they thought they were doing it for the motherland. However, upon seeing Varinka’s father beat up the poor man, Ivan realizes that it was not as wonderful as he thought; similarly, people later realized that they actually hated they were doing this all for the Tsar and thus, the Russian Revolution.

We should also go back to the question that appeared in the beginning of the story: is it all by chance or by environment? It seems as if Ivan had proved the opposite of what he intended to prove: that it is all by environment. However, it does in a sense result from chance. For a noble Russian (aka Ivan or Tolstoy) to see the cruelty of the aristocracy is indeed rare, for the rich people are being constantly blinded by the happiness and grandeur of their aristocratic lives (aka the ball in this story). They do not simply sympathize with the downtrodden  because they see the aristocracy as something pleasant.  This is as opposed to the blacksmith mentioned in the story. The blacksmith symbolizes the common Russian, and the only time that he appears in the story was during the beating of the deserter. One obviously sees that the common man rarely sees balls and the wonderful life of the nobility; rather the only thing he sees is the suffering the Tsar and the upper class has caused on the downtrodden class. By seeing the same event with the blacksmith, Ivan, a noble, has looked from the common man’s perspective and sees the true cruelty of the aristocracy. For a noble to experience this is truly one by chance, and perhaps Ivan felt lucky in that he has seen the truth. This can again be applied to Tolstoy’s life, in which he might have considered himself lucky in that the didn’t fall to the sway of a rich life.

These are the basic elements of the story’s message. I will leave the rest to the reader to answer all the discussion questions form last time’s posts that haven’t been answered. (The answer to number four I will give. It is that they try to hide the aristocracy’s corruptness.) Hopefully, you will be able to use what I told today to answer those unanswered questions. But overall, the big message is to express Tolstoy’s experience from liking being rich to despising the rich in one symbolic story.

Leo Tolstoy’s After The Dance

One of my most favorite short stories that I consider the deepest of them all is After The Dance, by Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy is a famous Russian author who influenced the writings of many later Russian authors, including Boris Pasternak, who won the Nobel Literature Prize. Leo grew up wealthy and rich, but ended up living poor, not because he had to, but because he chose to.

In this short story, in order for one to be able to get the author’s message, one must analyze in the context of the author’s life and in the context of the Russian history at the story’s time. So just keep that in mind. Here is the story (click link): After The Dance.

After reading it, here are some questions to get you thinking:

1) In the beginning, Ivan sets out to prove that it is all by chance. Yet in the end, he seems to prove that it is by environment. What do you think the author is trying to say?

2) In the beginning Ivan loved Varinka. Later, he dislikes it. What does this symbolize? And why not mention her surname?

3) Who do the engineer and the blacksmith symbolize?

4) In one part of the story, Ivan describes that the more he is in love, the less corporeal Varinka was. Someone objects to Ivan that he should have felt Varinka since he was dancing with her, but Ivan responds: “Nowadays… you undress the women you are in love with… we never thought of doing so; we tried to veil her nakedness.” What is important about this?

5) Read the descriptions of Varinka, her father, and the hostess. What do these tell you?

6) One memory that was stuck in Ivan’s mind was the seemingly harmonious relationship between Varinka and her father, when they danced. Any symbolism?

7) Near the story’s end, Ivan tries to convince himself that there must have been a reason for the beating. Why does Ivan do this?

8) What scene is alluded when the beating of the deserter is described?

9) What do the gifts of the feather and glove symbolize?

10) Ivan admires the father’s boots because he thinks the father sacrifices it so Varinka could dress pretty. What does this represent in the historical context?

11) If Ivan had attended the dance after seeing the beating, how would he view Varinka and everything about her?

12) What is the overarching theme?

A Christmas Memory

Hello everybody! It’s Christmas Eve! Are you guys going to wait for Santa, or anything? 🙂

Speaking of Christmas, download this short story called A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. I guarantee you that it is one of the most touching stories that you will ever read. I nearly cried at the end.

After you read the story, answer some of these discussion questions:

1) What does the gift of fruitcake symbolize, and what things can you infer from this fact?

2) Why does the narrator’s cousin call the narrator Buddy, after her long-ago friend?

3) In one part of the story, it talks about Buddy and his cousin trying to make as much money as possible. What is the significance of this?

4) Mr. Haha turns out to be nice. What is your interpretation of this?

5) Buddy is later sent off to military school and is separated from his cousin. His cousin then later dies. Also notice the age difference. What does all of this say to you?

6) Why do you think the author Truman Capote decided to write this?

7) What is the major overlying theme in the short story?

For tomorrow, I will discuss these question and do some more things. Sleep tight for Santa!