You know the story of “Hansel and Gretel,” right? Think again! What we’re all familiar with has been so modified throughout the years that it is almost unrecognizable from the original. This is true of almost every folk tale you’ve ever heard. They have been stripped of all the good stuff (violence and gore) so that they would be less scary and appeal to children.
Adam Gidwitz is here to tell you what really happened. These stories are much closer to what was compiled by the Brothers Grimm two hundred years ago and let me tell you, these folk tales are much more disturbing than what you heard growing up. Decapitations, cannibalism and other forms of violence are the norm and all the fairies, candy and “happily ever afters” are gone. Although, Gidwitz has done some modifications of his own. He has mashed up a bunch of folk tales into one continuous story, using the characters Hansel and Gretel in all of them. You’ll read why Hansel and Gretel ran away from home after their father decapitated them (a pretty good reason to not stick around), how Hansel goes to hell after his foster parent loses him over a bet with the Devil, and how Gretel is lured in by a charming boy who is only interested in devouring her whole. And while all these stories have plenty of blood and guts, they are all told with a dash of humor, including commentary by Gidwitz warning the reader of the horrors that await.
I found this book to be both funny and really interesting. Except for “Hansel and Gretel,” I hadn’t heard of any of the other folk tales in this book, and though Gidwitz did modify them some he assures the reader that he has stayed truer to the original than what we’re used to. Because of this, some parts of the stories aren’t only violent but are truly bizarre (like the moon which has a taste for human flesh). I think the best part of this book is it has spurred me into reading the original Brothers Grimm versions of these folk tales, which the library of course has many copies of! Also, check out Gidwitz’s new book “In a Glass Grimmly” which tells the true tale of what happened to Jack and Jill and a certain beanstalk.
Review by Simon, CLP-Knoxville