H and G


I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me twice. I get it. And it takes a big man to admit when he makes a blunder. Okay, I’ll come clean. What I did was read “Hansel and Gretel” to my young nieces and nephews.


Sitting on the floor around me, they have the courtesy to listen as I begin the classic fairy tale. For my part, I have not read the story in many years, so the experience is going to be a heartfelt trip back to my own youth.


The little tykes are wide-eyed before I finish the first paragraph. You remember, it’s the one that mentions how H and G have a stepmother who does not love the two kids.


Next, my kin learn that the stepmother talks H and G’s father into abandoning them in a forest. They’re crying now. My nieces and nephews. I persist and read on. Hansel uses a clever plan to find their way home. The crying reverts to just a sob or two as the kids recognize there is hope.


The plot thickens. That trip into the forest is repeated at the stepmother’s insistence, and Mr. Dad takes the kids even deeper into the woods. This time Hansel’s cleverness is trumped by some birds, and the kids are crying once more and are very sad.


This is a “fairy tale.” Through their tears, the kids are looking around the room to see where their dads are. One of the nieces runs to her mother, dodging around her father.


The crying turns to hysteria when the kids learn that Hansel and Gretel are grabbed by – big surprise here – a  witch. A witch who plans to fatten Hansel so she can eat him. A couple of the nieces and nephews are now prostrated on the floor, their senses numbed.


I persist again. I can’t stop. It’s irresistible. What in heaven’s name is going to happen next? How can I stomp all over the youthful innocence of these relatives of mine? It happens that it becomes Gretel’s turn to display some cleverness. This she does by pushing the witch into a large flaming oven and slamming the door shut with a consequence the author does not enlarge upon knowing we get the idea. The kids sure do. They’d be screaming at this point if they had any strength left.


I quickly go on to the part when H and G discover a treasure trove at the witch’s cottage (are you kidding me?) and take it home to daddy whose harpy of a wife is no longer there. Happiness reigns. My young kinfolk don’t seem to care. They are almost catatonic.


I am not invited back to that house, I don’t get birthday cards from them that year, the annual summer family reunion is held without me, and somebody toilet papers my magnolia tree.