Get this: a new movie comes out that is based off of a book. Everyone who has read the book flocks to see the movie, hoping it fully captures the plots and ideals in the book exactly. Of course, it never does, hence the horrible reviews claiming the movie was grossly underdone and overall awful. However, what most of these critics do not realize is there was a thought process behind every single deviation from the book. Perhaps money was too tight to film a certain scene, or the director had a certain direction for the movie and some aspects of the book did not fit into his or her vision. This is potentially why the MGM movie “Hansel and Gretel” varies from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
The primary difference between the movie and the story is that, in the first edition of the fairy tale, the mother realizes that she and her husband will starve if they keep taking care of her children. Thus, it is she who initiates the entire plot by attempting to leave her children alone in the forest to die twice. This cruelty, however, is not visible in the MGM version. In the movie, though the mother is upset at her children, when they are lost in the forest, she feels the same pain any mother who has lost her children feels. She insists on going after them, only to be stopped by her level-headed husband, who explains that it will be impossible to find their children in the witch’s forest at night. This reasonable father figure is another contrast from the fairy tale. In the Brothers Grimm story, the father is passive and easily manipulated by his wife. Although he, as is seen in the movie, loves his children, he still does the mother’s bidding even though it means him losing his children. These differences occurred for various reasons, the main reason being that the fairy tale was written over a century before the movie was produced. Therefore, the ideals of the time affected both parties. In the fairy tale version, the mother is portrayed as the instigator, the one in the wrong who takes advantage of the poor father. Keep in mind that this was a time in which patriarchy was sovereign. However, the MGM movie debuted in 1987, so the ideals of the time had changed drastically from the Brothers Grimm era. In the movie, the mother is more loving and the dad is stronger, unable to be used selfishly by the mother.
Another contrast between the movie and the fairy tale is that the movie is significantly more involved and takes longer to tell the story of Hansel and Gretel than the fairy tale. There is evidently more of a lead up to the children getting lost in the forest; the family dynamic is set up as well as the struggles that the family faces being poor. Also, the rescue mission that Gretel heads in order to save Hansel is much more involved and takes longer. These plot differences were incorporated into the movie primarily to make the story longer. Virtually no one wants to watch a boring, ten-minute movie. The director of the MGM movie had to embellish the story and give it more detail in order to make it more interesting and involved. The director’s aim was to capture the audience’s attention because that makes money. Whereas the Brothers Grimm aimed not to make money, but to recount the history of Germany through their fairytales, the produces of the movie were in it for profit. As the saying goes, money makes the world go round.
Though there is a myriad of differences between “Hansel and Gretel” the movie and “Hansel and Gretel” the fairy tale, some similarities are still visible. For example, the character of Gretel is strong in both versions. In contrast to many fairy tales of the nineteenth century, there is a strong female lead in “Hansel and Gretel.” Though seemingly weak and reliant upon her brother at first, Gretel becomes clever and strong when Hansel is in danger. In both the story and the movie, it is she who orchestrates and subsequently causes the witch’s death. She is more mature than her brother and, in both versions, represents a transition into adulthood when in danger. The writers of the movie kept Gretel a leader mostly to show female empowerment; women can do anything when the need to act arises.
Though there are differences between the MGM version of “Hansel and Gretel” and the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the alterations do not take away from the plot or the overarching morals of the story. Though the parental dynamic differs, both variations still glorify the bond between siblings and their never-ending love for each other, as well as humankind’s need to survive.