"Gretel and Hansel": New Feminist Spin for an Old Tale

The movie Gretel and Hansel, now streaming on Hulu, is a retelling of the Grimm fairy tale with a very modern emphasis on female empowerment.

While I found the movie’s pacing a little slow, it did a good job in capturing a fairy tale’s dreamlike and horrific quality. It has all the prerequisites—a dark wood filled with mists and mysterious figures. An evil villain. Innocent protagonists who are plunged into a nightmare through no fault of their own. A lesson to be learned.

Photo: Hulu.com
In case you don’t already know this, the original fairy tale involved two siblings—Hansel and Gretel—who are lost in the woods. They stumble upon a house made from gingerbread and other goodies and start eating it because they are so hungry. It turns out that a witch lives inside. After capturing the children, she puts Hansel in a cage to fatten him up for eating (yep—the Grimm tales were … grim). She forces Gretel to work for her. The children ultimately escape and the witch gets her comeuppance.

I liked the movie’s feminist message, which the title alludes to by reversing the names of the main characters. The Gretel here is older and wiser. Through her, the movie drives home its two morals: Be careful what you wish for, and gifts always come with a price. The movie also gives Gretel the agency to make her own choices and sacrifices, and to walk her own path. Not all women have that luxury, even today.

On a minor point—I thought the movie could have made more of a few characters, such as the hunter and the Beautiful Child. Also, I was a little puzzled by how often Hansel was shown with an ax. I thought it would lead somewhere, but it didn’t. Was it merely a reference to the children’s deceased father, who was a woodcutter?

I’ll end on a warning: this is not a movie for young children. There is violence and gore, and one scene depicting cannibalism and body parts.

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