It is bedtime. The boys are begging for Mommy to put them to bed tonight because it is her turn. Who are they kidding? Daddy would be putting them to bed for the rest of their childhood to even the score, if that game was played. They want Mommy because she reads stories. LONG stories. WHATEVER they choose. She gets into it more than they do. She takes on accents. She changes her voice pitch for different characters. She reads the end of the story on her own if they misbehave in the middle of the narration and are sent to bed without hearing the remainder. Mom loves this story-time as much as they do, especially since they have started choosing classic fairy tales from a Bedtime Stories collection.
Switching from third to first person. Sorry.
This particular night, the boys cannot agree upon the story. It is Grant’s turn to choose but only due to a technicality that was arguable at best. I tell them to agree. Grant wants Jack and the Beanstalk. “Too scary,” Gavin retorts. We have read this about 10 times in the last 3 weeks, so I encourage another story, anyway. Grant insists. Gavin insists on The Three Bears. Finally, I intercede and choose Hansel and Gretel. Neither of them wins this way and I feel empowered for the only time in 24 hours. Gavin is not enthused and refers to its scariness, as well. Brian walks by and tells him to “toughen up; it’s just a story.” I give Brian a lighten-up look because, like Mommo and Poppos's bathroom, I can see what could possibly be scary to a kid in this story. By the end of the story, Brian agrees as he waits around and listens to the UN-sugar-coated fairy tale.
- Hansel and Gretel live with Dad and Stepmother.
- Not enough money.
- Stepmother hates Hansel and Gretel and insists her husband leave them in the woods the next day to die.
- Gretel overhears evil plot. Tells Hansel. Hansel gathers pebbles and leaves a trail.
- Dad, while sad about it, obeys evil stepmother and leaves his kids to die in the forest.
- Hansel and Gretel follow trail back to house.
- Dad happy to see them. Stepmother pretends she is angry because they took so long to come back, but really just angry they are still alive.
- Dad, still distraught, and evil stepmother go deeper into forest the next day leaving the children again.
- Hansel has no rocks this time, but tried to leave a bread crumb trail. Birds ate it.
- Hansel and Gretel roam through woods and stumble upon a gingerbread house with icing roof and sugar-pane windows and start eating due to near starvation condition.
- Little old woman of the house offers them pancakes and invites them inside.
(Gavin covers head with blanket)
- Little old woman is witch in disguise. Wants to eat the boy. Locks him in a cage to fatten him. Feeds him daily with Gretel doing all the work.
- Gretel gives Hansel a bone to use when the Little old witch woman, who is conveniently poor in sight, checks his plumpness level each day.
- Little old nearly-blind witch woman decides to eat Hansel anyway and has Gretel stoke the fire.
- Gretel claims she doesn’t know how, so when Little old nearly-blind impatient witch woman shows Gretel how, Gretel shoves her into the blazing inferno and she is never to kidnap, imprison, enslave, and feast on young human prey again!
(Gavin resurfaces from blanket)
- Gretel lets out Hansel and they find jewels in every corner of the house.
- To get home, a swan carries them across a lake where they find the path to their house.
- Their Dad, who has been overcome with grief since he abandoned his offspring that one fateful day is happy to see them and the jewels so they can buy food.
- And the happy ending concludes with the discovery of the death of their stepmother while they were away.
I make light of the story asking periodically as I read,
“Is this story real or imaginary?” …
…“Right. This could never happen.”
“Mommies and Daddies don’t REALLY leave their kids in the forest or anywhere on purpose.” (unless you are these sickos in our town)
“What is a stepmother, anyway?” …
“Someone who is mean and bad.”
…“No, just this one... and Cinderella's...”
“I wonder what kind of birds ate the path.”
“Do you think that gingerbread house was as beautiful or tasted as good as the one you made with Mommo and Poppo?”
O.K. So as grown adults, we can distinguish between reality and fantasy, but even things that are too disturbing for our normal limits torment us in fictional works. The sheer possibility of the unimaginable makes us shudder regardless of the actuality. Hansel and Gretel IS ATE-UP! I have never watched a Friday the 13th movie due to my own horror tolerance. I think I need to be a little more sensitive to Gavin’s.