As ‘commercial storytellers’, we’re always up for a magical tale with hidden meaning…so what can we learn from Hansel and Gretel…

Hansel and Gretel are two very resourceful and clever little kids. They manage to thwart their stepmother’s plans to get rid of them, and they escape the clutches of the wicked witch.

We admire some of the lesson hidden in this fanciful tale…most of all how a clever plan to use breadcrumbs to navigate home went south. Our outtake – there are some things you cannot control and the universe may have other plans! Here are a few more learnings from the Brothers’ Grimm…

Take care of one another – One of the things that stand out in this story is the bond between brother and sister. Gretel is distraught when she hears of her stepmother’s plans, yet Hansel is very comforting and reassures his sister that everything will be okay.

  • Plan ahead – Hansel makes a plan when he discovers what is in store for them. Rather than wait to figure out how to get out of the bad situation, he comes up with a solution before they even journey towards woods.
  • Sometimes parents make mistakes – Considering the context of the story, this is probably a bit of an understatement, but the truth is parents do occasionally make mistakes. Hansel and Gretel’s father did not want to leave them alone in the woods. He was very remorseful and miserable over what he had done, yet, his wife convinced him it was the best thing to do.
  • People can do the wrong thing for the right reason – In this case, the question was a matter of survival. Perhaps the stepmother would have been wise to ask Hansel if he had any ideas about how to bring extra income into the house rather than send him and Gretel out in the woods and hope for their demise.
  • Occasionally the best plans will go awry – The second time going out to the woods Hansel used what he had to mark the trail back home. Unfortunately it was bread and the birds ate it all.
    If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not good – Finding a gingerbread house in the middle of the woods is such a treat; especially when you’re near starving! But, of course it was just a trap! Sometimes things will look good and enticing but the bottom line is that they may not be good for you.
  • Don’t trust strangers, even when they are nice – Strangers who prey upon children are not going to come across as mean or evil at first. Hansel and Gretel were, of course, taken in because they believed they were unwanted at home, and they had no other choice than to go with the wicked witch who first appeared to be a nice person.
  • Learn to think fast – Gretel was the younger of the two and grew by a quantum leap in a few days. In the beginning of the story she was so fearful about being left in the woods, but later in the story she handles a major situation and kills the wicked witch by thinking fast. Being able to think quickly on your feet can save you in a tough spot.
  • Never give up hope – From the moment they find out they are going to be left in the woods, Hansel (and later Gretel) never give up the hope that they will find their way home. Even when faced with one difficult or near impossible situation after another, they both stayed focused on the goal of getting home.
  • Somebody’s always watching over you – In the original version, Gretel prays at each juncture that they will receive divine help and that help is always forthcoming and finally sees them all the way back to their misguided, but loving father.

Wishing you a joyful Christmas and holiday season. May you love a lot, laugh out loud and eat too much gingerbread.