Sometimes Evil Does Overcome Good

It is common belief that in children’s literature if the character or characters have faith in God then in the end God will help them and there will be a happy ending to the story. In the story of Hansel and Gretel it is obvious that both of the children believe that as long as they have faith that God will help them and nothing will go wrong. Their faith is shown every time Hansel tries to comfort Gretel. (185, 186) The first time Hansel puts his faith in God he is immediately rewarded with white pebbles that glittered “…like silver coins.” (185) White is a color that is often associated with the forces of good and with God. The funny thing is that the second time Hansel comforts Gretel by telling her “The Lord will protect us.” (186) Hansel is not able to gather any pebbles because his evil stepmother has locked the door. Now the children are brought out into the woods with no way of marking their way back except for Hansel’s bread crumbs which are eaten by birds.

The children spend several days in the woods searching for a way back. After a white bird (another symbol of God) leads them to the witch’s house it seems that God abandons the children at this time. Before this point white has always been a good symbol. While the bird has led them to food it has also led them to a trap. The witch makes up two beds for the children using white sheets and the children “…felt as if they were in heaven.” (188) It now seems that the witch is using white to trick the children into feeling as if they are safe. Now it is unclear whether the white bird was God leading the children to food or the witch luring the children to her house. It is like as soon as they enter the evil witch’s territory God has no power.

Hansel (who seemed to have the most faith in God at the beginning of the story) is locked in a shed so that the witch may fatten him up to be eaten. Gretel cries out for God’s help but nothing happens until she acts on her own. She tricks the witch and pushes her into the oven. It is only after the witch is dead that they are able to find their way out of the woods. They even meet a white duck that helps them across a large body of water on their way back to the house. This suggests that God is in power again.

As for the question of whether the children’s faith or cleverness was rewarded, it is a draw. When the children were outside of evil’s grasp their faith was rewarded. Whenever evil had an influence in the story (The children’s stepmother or the witch) the children’s faith in God was ignored and they had to rely on their wits to get them home safely.

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