You guys have heard of Hansel and Gretel. “How adorable they are,” you all shriek, clutching at your cheeks and rolling your eyes at each other, “Hansel and Gretel and the witch with the cookie house! The oven and the tricks and the breadcrumbs, oh my!”
Well, yeah, maybe. But there are other tales with Hansel and Gretel in this big book, and a bunch of them are of a decidedly morbid bend (though if you ask me, any story about fattening kids up to eat them is pretty frickin’ morbid. I mean, just think about it.)
This one tale is called ‘Clever Hans’, and figures a Hans that might have made good company for Ed Geins. The plot is simple: Hans lives with his mother, and frequently goes to pay his bride, Gretel, a visit. Once he arrives, he demands a present, which she then gives him. Hans, in true comical form, then carries this gift home in an inappropriate manner. For example, when he first goes, he receives a needle, which he takes home by sticking in a hay cart. His mother chides him and tells him to next time stick the needle in his sleeve. But Hans is a psychopathic idiot, and doesn’t understand. So when he goes back, and Gretel gives him a knife, he sticks that in his sleeve. His mother chides him, tells him that knives should go in his pocket. Where he then places his next gift, a goat, which arrives home suffocated.
And so it goes, Hans cheerful, the tale told in a mesmerizing series of repetitive verses that are all dialogue, until finally at the very end Hans pays Gretel a visit and asks for his gift. And she, being a complete and utter masochist with a death wish, gives herself to him. Since his last gift had been a calf, and his mother had bid him bring it home on a rope, that is what he does to Gretel. Ties a rope to her neck, drags her home and binds her to the rack in the barn.
I’ll quote the end in full for you to get the full hypnotic horror that is this tale:
Then Hans goes to his mother. “Good evening, mother.” “Good evening, Hans. Where have you been?” “With Gretel.” “What did you take her?” “I took her nothing.” “What did Gretel give you?” “She gave me nothing, she came with me.” “Where have you left Gretel?” “I led her by the rope, tied her to the rack, and scattered some grass for her.” “That was ill done, Hans, you should have cast friendly eyes on her. ” “Never mind, will do better.”
(Now this is where it gets really good, so pay attention. Read the following out loud and slowly to yourself to get the full effect.)
Hans went into the stable, cut out all the calves’ and sheep’s eyes, and threw them in Gretel’s face. Then Gretel became angry, tore herself loose and ran away, and was no longer the bride of Hans.
THE END. That’s how the story ends, Hans gorey handed with lowing and screaming cattle and sheep bloody socketed around him, eyes littering the barn floor, and Gretel sprinting as far as she can from her psycho ex-fiance. The end. There is no moral to this tale, no lesson to be learned, except perhaps don’t date an absolutely psychotic maniac with an inability to understanding anything beyond the literal. Let’s see Disney make something out of that.