Modern movies, TV and children’s books abound with freshly re-imagined versions of classic Fairy Tales. I’d like to offer a spiritual lens for a fresh look at a particularly disturbing fairy tale: Hansel and Gretel. That story has never been one I particularly enjoyed curling up and reading to my children. A young boy and girl are abandoned by their parents in the woods, who then find the relief of a candy house to eat, that is actually a trap set by an evil hag who eats unsuspecting children. That is not a warm and fuzzy story. Even their daring escape in which Gretel shoves the hag in the oven smacks with a bit too much violence for bedtime.
Now that I am older and perhaps a little wiser, I see something far deeper in this story. A hidden spiritual hieroglyph that perhaps is best read by the soul. G.K Chesterton seemed to understand the deeper wonder at work in classic fairy tales.
“Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” ~ G. K. Chesterton
Surprisingly, Hansel and Gretel’s difficult adventure gives some vivid glimpses of the eternal quest for good to vanquish evil. Imagine for a moment Jesus is the boy sent into the wilderness by his grieving father. Along with his sister, he takes a path that leads straight to a trap. The vile creature that created the enticingly tasty edible house, offers a counterfeit for what each child longs for: the sweet delight of our forever home with our Father. Before Hansel, our Christ-like figure, is ensnared temporarily by the evil one, he has a plan for how they can find the way back home. He leaves breadcrumbs for them to follow. Years ago, I’d read this story and have a mental argument with the author about those breadcrumbs. That was such a silly plan. Breadcrumbs? What didn’t get eaten by birds, would disintegrate in a few nights of evening dew. Marking the path with rocks was the way to go. But Hansel chose breadcrumbs. Hmmm. Now I see the Eucharist in this story. Maybe the truth hidden in this tale is that bits of bread do lead us to our true home.
And that’s not all. Gretel has a role in this faith filled tableau. In a strange time warp kind of twist, Mary was Jesus’ sister in grace before she was His mother. So it’s not too much of a stretch to see hints of the prophecy of Blessed Virgin Mary, dealing a death blow to the serpent, in the actions of tiny Gretel casting the Hag into the fiery furnace. It’s definitely a moment of courageous girl power.
I don’t know about you, but considering this story in these terms gives me a renewed appreciation of the faith that I believe had to have been the deeper font from which these stories flowed. The renewed interest in modern times in the “once upon a times” of long ago, may rather be a longing for the ancient truth expressed in certain archetypes, that can lead us to God. With darkness and death dominating so much of modern entertainment, perhaps that longing is the hunger for the breadcrumbs that will lead us to our heavenly home.
I find that encouraging, indeed.
Blog posted by Cathy Gilmore, inspirational blogger, author, speaker and saint wanna-be, who cultivates spiritual imagination because our imagination is the place where we can see the unseen, and perhaps…discover God.
Follow Cathy @PowerOfParable on Twitter.
Check out Cathy’s books: The picture book that shows love casts out fear and makes the Easter Bunny a beloved disciple of Jesus: Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day, and the award winning Christmas parable of the Peaceable Kingdom at the Bethlehem stable: Little Lamb Finds Christmas.
You can contact Cathy to invite her to inspire your group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
God tucks great power in parables.