Hansel and Gretel

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  • Hansel & Gretel
  • written/adapted by Neil Gaiman
  • illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti
  • published by Toon Books (Candlewick Press) (2014)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

They reached a river, and their father showed them where to ford it, where the river was shallow and the rocks stuck up from the water. They shook off their shoes, and they carried them until they reached the far bank, where the trees were thick, and old, and gnarled into shapes that looked like angry giants, frozen in time.

“Hansel and Gretel” is one of those stories that seems older than time. It is one of the most recognized of the Grimms’ fairy tales, yet it still remains unfamiliar. Elusive. Intangible.

Perhaps that’s because there have been so many different versions over the years. Tamer versions that smooth over some of the “unpleasant” aspects of the original. Children’s versions that soften the witch into someone more likable or change the parents’ roles entirely. Modern Hollywood versions that imagine the title characters as badass monster hunters.

Ask most kids nowadays, and their impression of the story more than likely centers on the witch’s candy house. “Hansel and Gretel” has, through the years, become known as a lighthearted romp through the woods to a Willy Wonka-style candy house.

Leave it to master storyteller Neil Gaiman, then, to bring us back to the story’s dark, gruesome, and haunting roots.

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