Hansel and Gretel

- Bruno Bettelheim


            This text, written by Bruno, is an essay about the hidden meanings of the story 'Hansel and Gretel'. It gives us different messages. One message is that poverty makes people selfish. According to Bruno Bettelheim, the story is really about the things that go on in children's mind.

            Enough food is necessary for the happiness of children. The mother is the source of all food for them. When they grow up, they cannot live with their mother like in childhood, so they must learn to live separately from their mother. Because of the poverty, the parents leave them in the forest, but the children return home in spite of difficulty, because they are not yet old enough to live in the absence of their mother.

            Because of the shortage of food, selfishness occurred in the parents' mind and the children are left in the forest a second time. At that time, they try to solve their problems by concentrating only on food. Luckily they find a house made of sweet food, so they don't act like human beings. When they find the house, they act like hungry animals. This is why, they start eating the gingerbread house instead of using for shelter. The gingerbread house is a relief for children. It is also a symbol for the mother because the mother gives food to the children.

            The story of 'Hansel and Gretel' gives another message that greed leads to destruction. The witch becomes so greedy and a bad intention takes a place in her mind. The witch wants to eat the children, who acted like greedy animals. It is only when they think and act like human beings that they manage to escape from the witch. The witch is also the symbol for the mother. At the beginning, children get food from their mother. In the story the witch has provided food for the children. Then the witch's behavior forces the children to start growing up and acting like adults. Gretel kills the witch by pushing her into the oven. It is because of the witch's greed and bad intention.

            While the children are coming back from the forest, they are helped by a white duck to cross the water. This is a symbol of a new beginning. The duck can only carry one child at a time and this shows that children must learn to live without their brothers and sisters.

The pieces of bread dropped by Hansel are eaten by birds. The birds play an important part in the story. Children who read the story will believe that birds were controlling their behavior. Because of the act of the birds, the children had to think of a new idea for their life and they got experience. When they return home they are grown up. They can now help their father. The help they give is symbolized by the jewels. The family isn't rich. Hansel and Gretel have learnt to think and act like adults.

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