The original Grimm tale and the MGM film version exhibit a lot of differences but also similarities. The basic, core plot is mainly the same, while a lot of the little details vary.
-Poor, starving family
-Mother’s idea to send them away
-Hansel and Gretel use crumbs to mark their path which are eaten by birds
-Evil witch in an edible home
-Witch deceives and feeds them to get their trust
-Witch has bad eyesight
-Gretel forced to cook and Hansel forced to eat
-Hansel sticks out a bone instead of finger
-Husband is the good guy
-Family no longer poor in the end
|-Wife orders husband to agree with her to abandon the children in the forest; he is reluctant but does so
-Children overhear this plan and prepare by gathering pebbles and using them to find their way back home the first time
-Once again no food is at home when they return and they are abandoned the second time, with no opportunity to hoard pebbles
–After 3 days lost they stumble upon a house of bread and cake and sugar
-Witch arrives, deceives the children that she is kind. She wants to kill, cook, and eat them.
-They eat well that evening and sleep; the next morning the Witch reveals herself and captures Hansel in a small coop
-References to God protecting them
-Gretel tricks Witch and she burns to death in the oven
-Find jewels and pearls
-Find their way home alone easily
-Father is happy to see them, mother is dead
|– Mother not openly cruel, sends them out of her sight to get berries as they knocked over the gifts of milk and custard
-The Witch’s house has a gingerbread fence; which is actually the other missing children
–Witch is discovered to be evil from Gretal overhearing and spying on her that night
-Hansel captured in a cage
-All of this only happens within a day or two
-Father goes into the forest to search for them
-Lots of singing
–Witch killed by Gretel getting ahold of her magic staff, rope tieing her up, and dipping her in batter then in the oven.
-Magic is reversed, and the cooked duck comes back alive
-Missing children break out of the gingerbread (Meaning the Witch never planned to eat them??)
-Magic Staff dissolves into gold coins
-Father finds them in the forest and they all go home
–Mother is alive and well at home
I believe the differences exist in the movie to appeal to the viewers. Movies are all about pleasing the viewers and making money. The little twists add more interesting detail, like with the missing children trapped in the gingerbread people. This is nowhere to be found in the Grimm tale but it adds a bit more detail and plot points for the viewer to be interested in. Also, the movie is less graphic, as the Witch is not horribly burned to death like in the Grimm tale. This is probably to ensure the film appeals to children. Another big difference is the mother is not as cruel as she is in the Grimm tale; in the movie she is harsh, but she is not blatantly evil. She does not want to abandon her kids so she can eat, she just gets mad at them and sends them away. Overall, all the changes are to appeal to a wider range of viewers and to add more interesting detail.
One can analyze fairy tales ( or “Märchen”) from a million different perspectives, but it all boils down to one important aspect: Fairy tales are “narratives of magic and fantasy, which are understood to be fictional” (Zipes, 167). In addition to the overall theme of magic, all fairy tales share many common traits that make them what they are.
- They will begin with “Once upon a time”, which sets the scene in a world with “no if and no perhaps” (Lüthi, 47). This phrase is ambiguous in exact time settings, yet it gives off a sense of certainty that these events have occurred, and could occur once more (Lüthi, 47).
- The fairy tale world is also one of timelessness. As seen in “Sleeping Beauty,” the princess falls asleep for 100 years, and wakes up the same age she was when she fell asleep. This shows the blocks of time passed in fairy tales are merely numbers, not actual impacting truths. Fairy tales “conquer time by ignoring it” (Lüthi, 44).
- Another element is characters in isolation; like Sleeping Beauty in her long sleep. But, “after the isolation, a new form of contact and community will follow” (Lüthi, 24).
- There are no detailed descriptions. Fairy tales stick with illustrating the essential actions to the plot and do not get sidetracked with complicated detail (Lüthi, 50).
- They are (or can be) forms of myths, as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm “saw in fairy tales remnants of ancient myths” (Lüthi, 23).
All these common characteristics strew hundreds of stories together and connect them under the label of Fairy Tales; plot-driven, magical, fictional tales we’ve all come to know and love.
Lüthi, Max. Once upon a Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales. Trans. Lee Chadeayne and Paul Gottwald. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1976. Print.
Zipes, Jack. The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World. 2nd ed. N.p.: Mac Higher, n.d. Print.
Picture 1 (MAGIC):
In my high school, we have a program called the Ulysses Program where students immerse themselves in research strategies and eventually create their own research project their senior year. Seniors would give presentations to a class as part of the requirement. Interestingly enough, one of the senior girls did their project about the Grimm fairy tales and how they compare to Disney adaptations. I was lucky enough to be in the class she presented to, and I found the whole topic very interesting! I’ve always been interested in the darker nature and backstories to things, and this goes hand in hand with Grimm fairytales. So when I saw the class as an option here at McDaniel, I was very happy and rated it very high. I’m so pleased to be placed in this class, and am very excited to learn.
Throughout the class, I hope I can learn more about the history of the Grimm brothers, as well as read their fairy tales. I hope I can learn about the differences between the Grimm tales and Disney, and more importantly why those differences (or similarities) exist in the first place.
Of all fairytales, I would say my favorite is The Little Mermaid. I liked mermaids a lot as a kid, and I have always loved the music in it as well. My sister actually played Ariel in our high school musical, so having a personal connection to that is impacting for me. I loved seeing the story come alive in vibrant colors and sounds. Also, another fun fact is me and my sister named our second dog Melody after Ariel and Prince Eric’s daughter in The Little Mermaid 2. Looking at the plot though, I generally just liked how Ariel longed for new adventure in her life, and had to face the repercussions of her actions; even though Disney does give her a happy ending of course.
My sister as Ariel (Photo Credits to DT Photography)