In many fairy tales, the main character(s) are rewarded because of their faith in God, or a higher power, during their trials and suffering. After a quick read through, it would seem that the story of “Hansel and Gretel” by the Brothers Grimm, falls along these same lines. Before and during their abandonment from their parents and their imprisonment by the witch, Hansel and Gretel appeal to God and are rewarded with a safe return home at the end of the story. To the casual reader it would appear that God is rewarding the children for believing in him, but when we take a closer look we realize that Hansel and Gretel do not have a strong belief in God and are actually rewarded through their own courage and ingenuity.
Although Hansel and Gretel do appeal to God several times in the story, they are not rewarded because of this. In fact, their faith in God does not seem to be particularly strong. While Hansel does reassure Gretel that “God will take care of us” (Tatar 185) we must note that he makes this assurance after he has gone outside to retrieve the white pebbles from the garden. Prior to retrieving the pebbles, Hansel tells Gretel “…stop worrying. I’ll figure something out.” (Tatar 184) Hansel has already formed a plan as to how he and his sister will return home after being abandoned in the woods. No divine intervention came and told Hansel what to do; he figured it out himself. The mention of God after forming this plan shows us that either Hansel’s faith is shaky in God’s ability to protect them or he simply wants to reassure Gretel that everything will be alright, without having to tell her the plan and risk their parents overhearing. The children return home from the woods safely, by following the path of white stones that Hansel had laid out.
Later, the children overhear their parents planning to abandon them in the woods again; Hansel attempts to use his previous plan, but is thwarted by the stepmother, who has locked the door so he can’t get the stones. Hansel quickly comes up with a new plan, and then reassures Gretel that “The Lord will protect us.” (Tatar 186) Again, Hansel does not say God will watch over them until after he has come up with a plan, which still indicates a disbelief that God will take care of them, or is simply said to reassure Gretel.
The last time God is appealed to, occurs when the witch demands that Gretel get water in order to boil Hansel. Gretel cries out “Dear God, help us!” (Tatar 188), but then proceeds to formulate a plan of her own. Whether Gretel forms her plan because of mistrust in God or because she can’t wait for God’s help is unclear. It is clear, however, that Gretel formed and carried out her plan with her own courage and ingenuity, without help from God or anyone else. When the witch tries to trick Gretel into getting into the oven, she outsmarts the witch and ends up shoving her into the oven. The children escape and return home safely thanks to Gretel’s courageous plan.
Although God was called upon several times throughout the story, there was no divine intervention in the planning to get home or the escape from the witch. The children become free and return safely through their own courage and ingenuity.