A Comparison of Two Narratives
Traditional fairytales including “Rumpelstiltskin” and “Hansel and Gretel” are passed
down to children from preceding generations‟ primarily as cautionary tales aimed at deterring
bad behaviour. However, while a comparison of these two narratives will reveal that both belong
to the fairytale genre, and thus are told mainly to children, a comparison will also reveal that
within this genre exists a disparate range of complexity. To illustrate, “Rumpelstiltskin” is
overladen with dialectic allegory, the physical attributes of its characters are scarcely described,
and its moral is not easily established. In contrast, the detailed yet simplistic narrative of “Hansel
and Gretel” makes it an easy read, especially for children. In addition, as a result of its
simplicity, unlike “Rumpelstiltskin”, the moral “Hansel and Gretel” is very easily ascertained.
The difference in the level of analysis required from each text suggests to me that fairytales are
suitable not only for children but for older analytical minds as well. Furthermore, I would argue
that because children are more likely to respond to detailed straightforward narratives, “Hansel
and Gretel” is more suitable for a younger audience, whereas “Rumpelstiltskin”, a tale that
requires some analytical tact, is fitted towards an older audience.
Both “Hansel and Gretel” and “Rumpelstiltskin” begin near a forest. The use of the forest
as an opening setting for a fairytale is advantageous for the reason that, despite their familiarity,
forests are mysterious to an extent that permits a suspension of disbelief in the reader. The
mystery of the forest comes from the fact that while we realize that they are not something
outside of this world they are disconnected from civilization. For example, forests are
unexplored and uninhabited by man. Both texts demonstrated this point by indicating that neither
Hansel nor Gretel nor the millers‟ daughter, the two tales „natural‟ human characters, lived
directly within the forest. Rather, these characters lived on the outskirts of its borders. To
illustrate, Hansel and Gretel “dwelt nearby a forest” (“Hansel and Gretel” 1) and the millers daughter resided “by the side of a wood” (“Rumpelstiltskin”). Thus, in the absence of a civilized
populace, forests are rendered into a kind of mystical reality in that we know that they exist but
yet we don‟t know what exists in them.
This ambiguity opens up a realm of possibility favourable to the idea that supernatural
creatures, such as witches and hobgoblins, could in fact dwell within forests. Furthermore, this
ambiguity helps to ease the reader‟s access into the narratives storyworld for it makes the
improbable appear probable. Thus, “Rumpelstiltskin” and “Hansel and Gretel” are alike in that
they both begin by immediately inviting the reader into their fantasy. Unfortunately however,
while the narrative of “Hansel and Gretel” continues to unfold deeper and deeper into the forest,
the narrative of “Rumpelstiltskin” shifts its setting to a kingdom. By removing the reader from a
mysterious yet realistic setting to a setting that, while realistic is so unfamiliar, “Rumpelstiltskin”
loses its previously established sense of captivation. Thus, by having its setting remain constant,
“Hansel and Gretel” setting may appeal more to younger readers.
It was briefly alluded to earlier that, seeing as no natural population lives within it, the
forest is the residence of unnatural creatures. In respect to both “Hansel and Gretel” and
“Rumpelstiltskin,” this is indeed the case. Rumpelstiltskin‟s woodland hut is exposed by one of
the queens‟ messengers who while “climbing a high hill, among the trees of the forest... saw a
little hut and before the hut... a fire, and round about the fire a funny little dwarf”
(“Rumpelstiltskin”). Likewise, Hansel and Gretel came upon the witches‟ residence upon having
ventured “deeper into the forest” (“Hansel and Gretel” 2). Thus, given that only unnatural beings
inhabit the forest the reader is guided to immediately repudiate those who dwell within it.
However the two tales differ at the timing in which their villain‟s woodland residences
are revealed. This is an important point because the earlier a reader is able repudiate a villain the
longer that reader has to firmly ground his or her repudiation of that villain in evidence.
Furthermore, when such opinions are resolutely and justly grounded, the ill-fate encountered by
the villain upon their demise is considerably more understandable. By being able to comprehend
not only why a villain was punished but also by being able to understand why such punishments
are acceptable, readers, especially young readers, come to internalize a stronger moral message.
Given this, the difference in the moment at which the reader comes to discover the woodland
residence of the witch and Rumpelstiltskin is a notable feature.
The witch in “Hansel and Gretel” is immediately introduced as a character to be
repudiated. This is so for the reason that the reader is first introduced to her while in the deepest
part of the woods. To illustrate, upon having been lost „deep within the forest‟, Hansel and Gretel
are guided by a bird to a house made of candy (“Hansel and Gretel” 2). In lieu of their hunger,
the children begin to eat the house whereupon, “the door opened, and a woman as old as the
hills... came creeping out” (“Hansel and Gretel” 2). Although the witch is not immediately
portrayed to be wicked, the narrative instantly leads the reader to repudiate her based on the fact
that she lives in the woods and creeps around.
In contrast, it is not until the end of “Rumpelstiltskin” that we discover that, despite his
visits to the palace, he does not actually reside within the kingdom, but like the witch, resides in
the deepest part of the woods. Thus, in terms of location, whereas the reader is guided to an
immediate repudiation of the witch, it is not until the end of “Rumpelstiltskin” that the reader
comes to repudiate his character. Therefore, because readers have had less time to acquaint
themselves with his malevolence, it is especially difficult for them to develop a full repudiation
of his character and hence to understand the justifiability in his punishment. This is again one
more reason why “Hansel and Gretel” is a more suitable read for younger audiences. Another way in which the narrative of “Hansel and Gretel” helps to guide the reader to an
early repudiation of the witch is by quickly and expl