Lost in the Woods Fairy Tales

Wise Women: "Hansel and Gretel" - My Brother's Keeper

November 17, 2023 Autumn Woods Season 5 Episode 2
Wise Women: "Hansel and Gretel" - My Brother's Keeper
Lost in the Woods Fairy Tales
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Lost in the Woods Fairy Tales
Wise Women: "Hansel and Gretel" - My Brother's Keeper
Nov 17, 2023 Season 5 Episode 2
Autumn Woods

How can you be anything but evil when evil is all you know? Only by the grace of God. Join Hansel and Gretel as they plunge into the dark forest to face off with evil incarnate, armed with faith, determination, and hard-won wisdom.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

How can you be anything but evil when evil is all you know? Only by the grace of God. Join Hansel and Gretel as they plunge into the dark forest to face off with evil incarnate, armed with faith, determination, and hard-won wisdom.

Love this story? Let Autumn know!

Support the Show.

Wise Women: Episode 2


“Hansel and Gretel”: My Brother’s Keeper


Welcome to Lost in the Woods Fairy Tales ™. I’m your host, Autumn Woods, and I’m so excited you’re here. We’re continuing our adventures in Wise Women, stories of women who wield their wisdom against adversity. Women who are smart, discerning, creative, cunning, and skilled. Women who use those gifts and talents in a godly way to guard themselves and others against evil. But we don’t become that way by ourselves overnight. The Holy Spirit is our ultimate teacher. Often, He’ll recruit people who are godly influences to help you develop wisdom, knowledge and skills and teach you to use them correctly. And your teacher might not always be the person you’d expect. But listen to them. Eventually, you may even need to come to that person’s rescue. If you’ve followed their example and developed your own relationship with God and are submitted to Him, you’ll be able to stand firm against the devil and intercede for both of you when disaster strikes. 


Hansel and Gretel is a story I’ve waited to do for quite some time because I didn’t know where it fit. The heroine hides in her brother’s shadow for most of the story only to emerge victorious at the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute. But it dawned on me later that she was able to step up and save the day because she wisely learned from her brother’s strong example. And if last minute rescues are God’s specialty, it makes sense that an ezer created in His image would get to do the same.


So, let’s get lost, as we read the story of (Hansel and Gretel).

Very near by a great forest dwelt a poor woodcutter with his wife and his two children. The boy was called Hansel and the girl Gretel. He had little to bite and to break, and once when great scarcity fell on the land, he could no longer procure daily bread. Now when he thought over this by night in his bed, and tossed about in his anxiety, he groaned and said to his wife, “What is to become of us? How are we to feed our poor children, when we no longer have anything even for ourselves?” 

“I’ll tell you what, husband,” answered the woman, “Early tomorrow morning we will take the children out into the forest to where it is the thickest, there we will light a fire for them, and give each of them one piece of bread more, and then we will go to our work and leave them alone. They will not find the way home again, and we shall be rid of them.” 

“No, wife,” said the man, “I will not do that; how can I bear to leave my children alone in the forest? The wild animals would soon come and tear them to pieces.” 

“O, you fool!” said she, “Then we must all four die of hunger, you may as well plane the planks for our coffins,” and she left him no peace until he consented. 

“But I feel very sorry for the poor children, all the same,” said the man.

The two children had also not been able to sleep because of hunger, and had heard what their stepmother had said to their father. Gretel wept bitter tears, and said to Hansel, “Now all is over with us.” 

“Be quiet, Gretel,” said Hansel, “do not distress yourself, I will soon find a way to help us.” 

And when the old folks had fallen asleep, he got up, put on his little coat, opened the door below, and crept outside. The moon shone brightly, and the white pebbles which lay in front of the house glittered like real silver pennies. Hansel stooped and put as many of them in the little pocket of his coat as he could possibly get in. 

Then he went back and said to Gretel, “Be comforted, dear little sister, and sleep in peace, God will not forsake us,” and he lay down again in his bed. 

When day dawned, but before the sun had risen, the woman came and awoke the two children, saying, “Get up, you sluggards! we are going into the forest to fetch wood.” 

She gave each a little piece of bread, and said, “There is something for your dinner, but do not eat it up before then, for you will get nothing else.” 

Gretel took the bread under her apron, as Hansel had the stones in his pocket. Then they all set out together on the way to the forest. When they had walked a short time, Hansel stood still and peeped back at the house, and did so again and again. 

His father said, “Hansel, what are you looking at there and staying behind for? Mind what you’re doing, and do not forget how to use your legs.” “Ah, father,” said Hansel, “I am looking at my little white cat, which is sitting up on the roof, and wants to say good-bye to me.” 

The wife said, “Fool, that is not your little cat, that is the morning sun which is shining on the chimneys.” Hansel, however, had not been looking back at the cat, but had been constantly throwing one of the white pebble-stones out of his pocket on the road.

When they had reached the middle of the forest, the father said, “Now, children, pile up some wood, and I will light a fire that you may not be cold.” 

Hansel and Gretel gathered brushwood together, as high as a little hill. The brushwood was lighted, and when the flames were burning very high the woman said, “Now, children, lay yourselves down by the fire and rest, we will go into the forest and cut some wood. When we have done, we will come back and fetch you away.”

Hansel and Gretel sat by the fire, and when noon came, each ate a little piece of bread, and as they heard the strokes of the wood-axe they believed that their father was near. It was, however, not the axe, it was a branch which he had fastened to a withered tree which the wind was blowing backwards and forwards. And as they had been sitting such a long time, their eyes shut with fatigue, and they fell fast asleep. 

When at last they awoke, it was already dark night. Gretel began to cry and said, “How are we to get out of the forest now?” 

But Hansel comforted her and said, “Just wait a little, until the moon has risen, and then we will soon find the way.” And when the full moon had risen, Hansel took his little sister by the hand, and followed the pebbles which shone like newly coined silver pieces, and showed them the way.

They walked the whole night long, and by break of day, came once more to their father’s house. They knocked at the door, and when the woman opened it and saw that it was Hansel and Gretel, she said, “You naughty children, why have you slept so long in the forest? We thought you were never coming back at all!” 

The father, however, rejoiced, for it had cut him to the heart to leave them behind alone.

Not long afterwards, there was once more great scarcity in all parts, and the children heard their stepmother saying at night to their father, 

“Everything is eaten again, we have one half loaf left, and after that there is an end. The children must go, we will take them farther into the wood, so that they will not find their way out again; there is no other means of saving ourselves!” 

The man’s heart was heavy, and he thought, “It would be better for me to share the last mouthful with my children.” The woman, however, would listen to nothing that he had to say, but scolded and reproached him. He who says A must say B, likewise, and as he had yielded the first time, he had to do so a second time also.

The children were, however, still awake and had heard the conversation. When the old folks were asleep, Hansel again got up, and wanted to go out and pick up pebbles, but the woman had locked the door, and Hansel could not get out. Nevertheless, he comforted his little sister, and said, “Do not cry, Gretel, go to sleep quietly, the good God will help us.”

Early in the morning came the woman, and took the children out of their beds. Their bit of bread was given to them, but it was still smaller than the time before. 

On the way into the forest Hansel crumbled his in his pocket, and often stood still and threw a morsel on the ground. 

“Hansel, why do you stop and look round?” said the father, “go on.” 

“I am looking back at my little pigeon which is sitting on the roof, and wants to say good-bye to me,” answered Hansel. 

“Simpleton!” said the woman, “that is not your little pigeon, that is the morning sun that is shining on the chimney.” Hansel, however, little by little, threw all the crumbs on the path.

The woman led the children still deeper into the forest, where they had never in their lives been before. Then a great fire was again made, and the mother said, “Just sit there, you children, and when you are tired you may sleep a little; we are going into the forest to cut wood, and in the evening when we are done, we will come and fetch you away.” 

When it was noon, Gretel shared her piece of bread with Hansel, who had scattered his by the way. Then they fell asleep and evening came and went, but no one came to the poor children. They did not awake until it was dark night, and Hansel comforted his little sister and said, “Just wait, Gretel, until the moon rises, and then we shall see the crumbs of bread which I have strewn about, they will show us our way home again.” 

When the moon came they set out, but they found no crumbs, for the many thousands of birds which fly about in the woods and fields, had picked them all up. Hansel said to Gretel, “We shall soon find the way,” but they did not find it. 

They walked the whole night and all the next day too from morning till evening, but they did not get out of the forest, and were very hungry, for they had nothing to eat but two or three berries, which grew on the ground. And as they were so weary that their legs would carry them no longer, they lay down beneath a tree and fell asleep.

It was now three mornings since they had left their father’s house. They began to walk again, but they always got deeper into the forest, and if help did not come soon, they must die of hunger and weariness. When it was mid-day, they saw a beautiful snow-white bird sitting on a bough, which sang so delightfully that they stood still and listened to it. And when it had finished its song, it spread its wings and flew away before them, and they followed it until they reached a little house, on the roof of which it alighted; and when they came quite up to little house they saw that it was built of bread and covered with cakes, but that the windows were of clear sugar. 

“We will set to work on that,” said Hansel, “and have a good meal. I will eat a bit of the roof, and you, Gretel, can eat some of the window, it will taste sweet.” 

Hansel reached up above, and broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, and Gretel leant against the window and nibbled at the panes. Then a soft voice cried from the room,

“Nibble, nibble, gnaw,
 Who is nibbling at my little house?”

The children answered,
 “The wind, the wind,
 The heaven-born wind,”
 and went on eating without disturbing themselves. 

Hansel, who thought the roof tasted very nice, tore down a great piece of it, and Gretel pushed out the whole of one round windowpane, sat down, and enjoyed herself with it. Suddenly the door opened, and a very, very old woman, who supported herself on crutches, came creeping out. Hansel and Gretel were so terribly frightened that they let fall what they had in their hands. 

The old woman, however, nodded her head, and said, “Oh, you dear children, who has brought you here? Do come in, and stay with me. No harm shall happen to you.” 

She took them both by the hand, and led them into her little house. Then good food was set before them, milk and pancakes, with sugar, apples, and nuts. Afterwards two pretty little beds were covered with clean white linen, and Hansel and Gretel lay down in them, and thought they were in heaven.

The old woman had only pretended to be so kind; she was in reality a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the little bread house in order to entice them there. When a child fell into her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it, and that was a feast day with her. Witches have red eyes, and cannot see far, but they have a keen scent like the beasts, and are aware when human beings draw near. 

When Hansel and Gretel came into her neighborhood, she laughed maliciously, and said mockingly, “I have them, they shall not escape me again!” 

Early in the morning before the children were awake, she was already up, and when she saw both of them sleeping and looking so pretty, with their plump red cheeks, she muttered to herself, “That will be a dainty mouthful!” 

Then she seized Hansel with her shriveled hand, carried him into a little stable, and shut him in with a grated door. He might scream as he liked, that was of no use.

Then she went to Gretel, shook her till she awoke, and cried, “Get up, lazy thing, fetch some water, and cook something good for your brother, he is in the stable outside, and is to be made fat. When he is fat, I will eat him.” 

Gretel began to weep bitterly, but it was all in vain, she was forced to do what the wicked witch ordered her. And now the best food was cooked for poor Hansel, but Gretel got nothing but crab-shells. Every morning the woman crept to the little stable, and cried, “Hansel, stretch out your finger that I may feel if you will soon be fat.” 

Hansel, however, stretched out a little bone to her, and the old woman, who had dim eyes, could not see it, and thought it was Hansel’s finger, and was astonished that there was no way of fattening him. When four weeks had gone by, and Hansel still continued thin, she was seized with impatience and would not wait any longer, “Hola, Gretel,” she cried to the girl, “be active, and bring some water. Let Hansel be fat or lean, tomorrow I will kill him, and cook him.” 

Ah, how the poor little sister did lament when she had to fetch the water, and how her tears did flow down over her cheeks! “Dear God, do help us,” she cried. “If the wild beasts in the forest had but devoured us, we should at any rate have died together.” 

“Just keep your noise to yourself,” said the old woman, “all that won’t help you at all.”

Early in the morning, Gretel had to go out and hang up the cauldron with the water, and light the fire. “We will bake first,” said the old woman, “I have already heated the oven, and kneaded the dough.” 

She pushed poor Gretel out to the oven, from which flames of fire were already darting. “Creep in,” said the witch, “and see if it is properly heated, so that we can shut the bread in.” 

And when once Gretel was inside, she intended to shut the oven and let her bake in it, and then she would eat her, too. But Gretel saw what she had in her mind, and said, “I do not know how I am to do it; how do you get in?” 

“Silly goose,” said the old woman. “The door is big enough; just look, I can get in myself!” and she crept up and thrust her head into the oven. Then Gretel gave her a push that drove her far into it, and shut the iron door, and fastened the bolt. Oh! then she began to howl quite horribly, but Gretel ran away, and the godless witch was miserably burnt to death.

Gretel, however, ran like lightning to Hansel, opened his little stable, and cried, “Hansel, we are saved! The old witch is dead!” Then Hansel sprang out like a bird from its cage when the door is opened for it. 

How they did rejoice and embrace each other, and dance about and kiss each other! And as they had no longer any need to fear her, they went into the witch’s house, and in every corner there stood chests full of pearls and jewels. 

“These are far better than pebbles!” said Hansel, and thrust into his pockets whatever could be got in, and Gretel said, “I, too, will take something home with me,” and filled her pinafore full. 

“But now we will go away.” said Hansel, “that we may get out of the witch’s forest.”

When they had walked for two hours, they came to a great piece of water. 

“We cannot get over,” said Hansel, “I see no foot-plank, and no bridge.” “And no boat crosses either,” answered Gretel, “but a white duck is swimming there; if I ask her, she will help us over.” Then she cried,

“Little duck, little duck, dost thou see,
 Hansel and Gretel are waiting for thee?
 There’s never a plank, or bridge in sight,
 Take us across on your back so white.”

The duck came to them, and Hansel seated himself on its back, and told his sister to sit by him. “No,” replied Gretel, “that will be too heavy for the little duck; she shall take us across, one after the other.” 

The good little duck did so, and when they were once safely across and had walked for a short time, the forest seemed to be more and more familiar to them, and at length they saw from afar their father’s house. 

Then they began to run, rushed into the parlor, and threw themselves into their father’s arms. The man had not known one happy hour since he had left the children in the forest; the woman, however, was dead.

Gretel emptied her pinafore until pearls and precious stones ran about the room, and Hansel threw one handful after another out of his pocket to add to them. Then all anxiety was at an end, and they lived together in perfect happiness. 

The End.

Don’t wander away from the campfire. We’re about to shed some light on the incredible treasure hidden in this story.

We begin with a dysfunctional family. The father is a good man who loves his family, but times are hard, and he’s trying to make the right call to keep everyone alive. His wife is a selfish chore of a woman willing to sacrifice his children to save herself. Hansel is now the spiritual head of the house because his father has abdicated to placate the evil wife, and Gretel looks to her brother to help them survive their terrible circumstances. No pressure, Hansel. 

            When the children hear that their stepmother plans to give them a last meal and then abandon them in the woods, and it doesn’t sound like their father is going to stop her, Gretel breaks down crying immediately. The people who are supposed to be looking out for her and her brother are throwing them to the wolves. Her foundation is totally wrecked and she doesn’t see any way out of the rubble. But Hansel refuses to give in to despair. God gave him a resourceful mind, and he plans to use it. Slipping outside in his coat, Hansel finds as many white stones as he can in the moonlight and shoves them into his pockets, knowing that when he strews them along the path tomorrow, the light will shine on them in the darkness and lead them home the next night. 

            We can liken this to Hansel fortifying himself with the word of God in order to stand firm and endure his trials. David refers to God as our rock. In fact, when God used David to defeat Goliath, His weapon of choice was a smooth stone. Jesus is the stone that the builders rejected who has become the chief cornerstone. He is adamant and does not change even when people’s affections and loyalties do. If our foundation is built on Him, we will not be shaken when trouble comes. His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, like the moonlight on the stones that will lead the children home. Hansel also knows that when your father and mother forsake you, then the Lord will take care of you (Psalm 27:10). He comforts his sister with this thought and they are finally able to fall asleep.

            The next morning, the children are rudely awakened by their stepmother, who gives them each a piece of bread for dinner and warns them that they’ll be given nothing else. We’re told that Gretel stores the bread in her apron, because Hansel’s pockets are full of rocks. What’s so fascinating about this is that both bread and stone are used to represent Jesus, the Living Word of God. Gretel holds the image of the word we need in order to get through the day. Our daily bread, which we are to ask God for. Jesus is the bread of life, and whoever comes to Him will never go hungry (John 6:35). But Jesus is also our rock and cornerstone, and reminds us that “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Interestingly enough, He said this when the devil was tempting Him to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger immediately instead of waiting on God in long term obedience. Gretel’s bread is not invalid compared to Hansel’s stones, but she is holding the temporal and he is holding the permanent, to demonstrate that Hansel is more mature in his faith in God at the moment, and his sister is wisely learning from his example. You need both daily bread and foundational word that you’ve memorized and hidden in your heart in order to survive and thrive. 

            We see this proven true when the children are led deep into the forest. Every so often, Hansel stops to look back at the house and drop a stone as a marker to lead him and his sister back home after dark. When his parents question him about why he’s stopping so much, he says that he’s looking back at his little white cat on the roof. As we’ve never met his white cat, we have to assume that this is a clearly symbolic ruse meant to clue us in on Hansel’s state of mind while he’s laying out his rescue plan. He says it is a cat on the roof because cats represent guardianship, home, and sometimes, deception. White represents purity, righteousness, and innocence. Hansel honors his parents except where they are behaving unjustly. He will obey all they ask throughout the day, but he will not allow them to fully carry out their deception and abandon their children. Hansel has become the guardian of himself and his sister in place of his parents, and he will omit part of the truth for their greater good. After the stones are laid and Hansel and Gretel gather wood, their father, the woodcutter, lights their fire, and the children eat their daily bread and rest so that they are strong enough to find their way back home after dark. They consume what they need for the day, and rely on what is already established to lead them home.

            Once again, Gretel becomes frightened at their circumstances, but Hansel reminds her not to fear, because a way has been made for them to return safely home. This pattern is repeated throughout the story to strengthen Gretel’s faith in God. Disaster strikes, but God will make a way. Don’t look at the waves; you’ll drown. Keep your eyes on Him. By the end of the story, we see how Hansel’s encouragement and good, godly example impact his sister’s thinking, and transform her from a frightened child into a wise and courageous young woman capable of overthrowing evil in both the natural and supernatural. 

            Hansel takes Gretel by the hand, and shows her the pebbles shining “like newly coined silver pieces,” pointing the way home. Silver represents wisdom, purification, and righteousness.  Proverbs 2:3-4 says, “if you truly call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search it out like hidden treasure, then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God.” Hansel has sought wisdom and understanding to protect his family from the enemy, who has invaded through the stepmother, and has been rewarded with good knowledge of how to rescue himself and his sister.

            When Hansel and Gretel arrive home the next day, the stepmother is furious and tries to gaslight them into thinking she was worried about them because they stayed out so late. The wicked woman puts on a show, but the woodcutter is truly thankful that they’re home. He didn’t want to go along with this scheme, even though he did it anyway, and he’s grateful that his mistake didn’t cost him his family. Remember that he’s the one who lit the fire for the children to make sure they had some comfort before he left them. Unfortunately, he also rigged up branches to steadily strike a tree and fool the children into thinking their father was nearby. “[He] is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). He wants to protect his children but doesn’t know how to stand up to his wife. So, he allows this manipulative woman to run his house and cause a marked division between blood and loyalty. This sounds a lot like the king who married the witch in The Six Swans. Both fathers put their momentary relief before the security of their young children. Although they are both remorseful afterward, the fathers’ decisions opened the door for occult influence in their homes and put their children at risk. The difference here is that while the queen in The Six Swans was a full-on practitioner of the occult, the stepmother is into manipulation and rebellion, which is as the sin of witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23). Like Lucifer before her, she is shirking her assigned duties and twisting circumstances to be the way she wants them to serve her own selfish needs at the expense of others. She’s doing the opposite of her stepson and trusting in her own nefarious means and schemes to secure herself rather than trusting in God to preserve her. 

            Clearly, the biggest problems in this family are not resolved simply by the children thwarting their stepmother and finding their way home. There is still a famine. The stepmother is still bent on getting rid of the children, and the father is still powerless to stop her. Hansel and Gretel can only do so much because they don’t have authority in the house, either. It’s going to take a major catastrophe to shake things up and restore godly order in this house. Believe it or not, like Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery, the stepmother has the right idea by leaving the children in the forest. The trials they endure there will perfect their characters and cause Hansel and Gretel to grow into the people they are meant to be. Remember that forests are places for transition and transformation. The woods show us what we’re really made of. The forest has proven that the father is a coward and that the Lord will provide for and protect His little ones when their parents forsake them. It has revealed that the children are capable of squaring off against a spirit of witchcraft and overcoming it. But, as demonstrated by the second time Hansel attempts to rescue them, they need to learn that they cannot do it in their own strength, even in an emergency. Gretel also needs to endure trial and be strengthened like her brother so that when trouble comes, she does not buckle, but stands firm, submitting to God, resisting the devil, and forcing him to flee. 

 One of my favorite visual interpretations of this story has the same actress playing both the stepmother and the witch. That opens up a lot of questions plot-wise, but it’s effective at demonstrating that the children are dealing with the same demonic spirit in two different settings. The siblings are not able to oust this spirit from familiar territory even with what should be a capable adult standing by. Now, they will be forced to contend with it on a stronger, more animalistic level in an isolated wilderness, where it will become even more apparent that God is the only one they can rely on for refuge, strength, and rescue.   

            Time passes, and once again, the cupboard is bare, and the stepmother begins scheming and plotting the demise of her stepchildren, insisting that they be taken deeper into the forest so that they cannot possibly return home. Because their father has set the precedent that he will sacrifice his children to appease his wife, he gives in faster than before. The siblings having overheard this conversation, Hansel tries to slip outside to gather more pebbles, only to discover that the stepmother has locked the door against his efforts. Determined not to be overtaken by despair, Hansel goes back to bed, encouraging Gretel not to cry and to go to sleep, because “the good God will help [them].” He’s so right, even though the help won’t look like help at first. Hansel has learned a lesson that most adults struggle to retain—God is good, even when circumstances are not. Hansel could have thrown a fit and cried and bemoaned their fates in despair and rage. Instead, he chooses to trust God to provide, and teaches his sister to do the same. Psalm 27:13 says, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” That’s not just when we get to heaven or when we’re living in all things new. That’s right now. Even in the midst of tragedy, horror, and uncertainty. 

            The next day, the four of them set off for a deeper part of the forest. With nothing left to throw, Hansel crumbles up his daily bread and strews the crumbs along the path, hoping they’ll be enough to help him and his sister navigate back home. This is a mistake. Without the bread, Hansel won’t have enough energy and fortitude to fight his way back through the forest. Spiritually, this is Hansel not retaining his daily bread and therefore being less prepared to deal wisely with any challenges he may face throughout the day. Essentially, this is one of the few times we see Hansel relying on his own strength. 

This time, when his father asks him why he’s stopping to look back, Hansel says that he’s looking at his little pigeon up on the roof. Here’s the interesting thing about pigeons. They are basically the same as doves. Location, looks, and social stigma have caused people to categorize doves as pure and clean and pigeons as dirty and feral.  However, scientifically, they are classified as the same species of bird. Pigeons specifically can symbolize resilience, as the mottled gray varieties are often found living in so-called, concrete jungles, struggling for survival as palpably as the people around them. Here, the pigeon serves the same function as the fictitious cat earlier. Hansel is revealing that he intends to survive this ordeal, and that even though his stepmother sees him as a nuisance, his earthly father and his Father in Heaven see him as precious. 

Again, the charade with the fire and false promises to return is performed, and the children are left to eat their lunch alone. Gretel shares her bread with Hansel since he sacrificed his. This is the first time we see Gretel begin to take wise action to step up and protect her family. In fact, we are instructed to share the word with each other, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:19-21). We’re also meant to comfort and edify each other, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Hansel has been such a good example of this that Gretel is starting to follow in his footsteps. This is important, because they are about to become even more dependent on each other when the next disaster strikes. 

The children awake alone, shrouded in darkness. They discover that the birds of the forest have devoured the trail of breadcrumbs, like the devil snatching the word of God from the wayside in the parable of the sower. They have no resources. No guide. They are truly lost in the woods. Like the stepmother barring the door against Hansel, there will be times when the enemy will try to stop you from seeking God and reminding yourself of your sure foundation. His goal is to wear you out and leave you running on fumes so that you miss the mark and act out of your godly character, giving him legal ground to run things in your life. That’s why we’re told, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and…put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” in Ephesians 4:22-23. And in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” You renew your mind with the word of God, and by reminding yourself of God’s character and mighty works. In doing so, you can maintain joy and hope even in horrible situations. 

Despite their circumstances, Hansel does not give up hope. He rallies himself and his sister, and they plunge deeper into the forest, searching for the road home. After three days, they collapse under a tree, weary with hunger. Three is meant to signal to us that they are in a new phase. They are no longer unwelcome prisoners in their father’s house. They are a young man and woman capable of accounting for themselves. Unprotected in this wilderness setting, they will be tested and tried as individuals and proven true. They are dying to their old bondage and being prepared to rise on the other side of this season of testing. We know that Hansel and Gretel are exactly where they are supposed to be, even though it seems horribly wrong, because they are guided to their testing ground by a dove. The Holy Spirit is not a dove, but they have come to represent Him because of the way He descended on Jesus during His baptism. They represent the peace that passes all understanding that only God can give us. Even though we know the siblings are going to a horrible place, the dove is like a guide letting us know that God works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and that everything will turn out right in the end.  

            Now we come to the infamous gingerbread house, this story’s stand-in for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Basically, hidden knowledge that people are not supposed to have. At the sight of it, the children quickly begin to act out of character. They get a taste of the sweets and then turn violent, tearing off shingles, smashing windows, consuming greedily, and then lying about doing it. Have we checked off all the Eden boxes? Just about. Except that they lied to the snake instead of God. Just like Adam and Eve failed in different ways in the Garden, Hansel and Gretel’s choices of what they consume indicate their weaknesses that have to be bolstered during this time of testing. Hansel tearing off the roof is a reflection of the lack of stability in his thought life. He’s been solid as a rock until he was prevented from getting the stones. The trauma he’s experienced with a passive father and manipulative mother are beginning to weigh on him and cause him to become selfish in order to survive. In fact, like his father, he’s about to be locked in a cage of passivity by a witchy woman, and have to choose whether or not to be free in his own heart and mind. Gretel, unfortunately, breaks off a piece of the window. Eyes are the window to the soul. We know that the third eye has become a symbol of occult knowledge. Gretel has been a victim of circumstances let down by everyone who was meant to protect her. The only women she encounters are manipulative and cruel. In a sense, she will be tempted to turn to witchcraft to regain control and ensure her survival. I know that the trend for the last 30 years or so has been to mold Gretel to take the witch’s archetypal place, but that’s not what’s really happening here. The point of Gretel’s story arc is that she is a curse breaker, like her brother. She is strong enough to resist becoming what was done to her, and keep her godly character intact. She’s even able to be for others what no one has been to her. When you find the strength to be for others what no one has been for you, you become a powerful threat to the enemy, because you are operating in God’s perfect love, which casts out fear. You are becoming a curse breaker. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 The children were not wrong for going to the house. This is their appointed testing ground. They were not wrong to try to satisfy their hunger. The trouble is that they got their nourishment from the wrong source. Not only are they basically eating candy after having almost no nutritious food for three days, but they are getting what they need from a witch. They’re trying to get bread, life, from a source of death; from someone in league with the enemy, who twists circumstances and people to get what she wants and isn’t afraid to commit child sacrifices to satisfy her hunger. She tricks the children into seeing past her alarming appearance and ensnares them with promises of comfort before stripping them of their freedom. 

The enemy offers to give you what you want, takes everything from you in exchange, and destroys your future so that you have nothing left. When you give everything to God, He doesn’t promise an easy life, but a victorious, abundant, and eternal one. Even if you lived on crumbs here on earth, your eternity is full of rich rewards in God if you keep your eyes on Him. God says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). God wants to be Jehovah Jireh to you, your Provider. He will meet your basic needs, and often, your wants, and answer your questions if you seek Him. He encourages us to chase after Him and pursue His wisdom. He will give us the knowledge and wisdom we need through the Holy Spirit if we fear and honor Him above everything else, including our own ambitions and self-determination. No human sacrifice required. Jesus already took care of that and came back to life so that we don’t have to bow and scrape to sin and death to get our answers. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We can come boldly to our Father in Jesus name and ask Him directly! When we look for our answers outside of God, we repeat the same mistake as our first parents. The same mistake made by Lucifer. He tried to elevate himself without God, above God. To hold glory that is forbidden to everyone but God because only He is perfect and holy and worthy enough to house it. You know what that mistake was called? Rebellion. Which is what? As the sin of witchcraft

            I know your life may seem out of control, but you cannot, I repeat, cannot, turn to witchcraft and rebellion to try to set things right for yourself. There’s a high price to pay for playing with hidden knowledge and trafficking with the kingdom of darkness. It will ultimately cost you your life here and your eternity if you don’t repent of it and turn to Jesus. I don’t care if it’s tarot, crystals, setting intentions, saying incantations, or anything lighter, more extreme or in between. You’ve got to stop. All of those things lead to death. God sets before you this day life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose life.

             Okay, back to the story. Before the witch springs the trap on the children, she says in an aside that she has them and they won’t escape her again. That “again” should give us pause. It indicates that she’s tried to ensnare them before. Could it be that she sent the birds to eat the breadcrumbs? That she’s in league with the stepmother to secure her next meal? That she saw them the first night they came to the woods and planned to capture them but failed? Or are she and the stepmother in fact the same woman in disguise? All of these are possible. What this comment does, is cement to us how much the witch is like Satan, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). She has set her house up to be enticing to children so that they will fall into her power. I’m pretty sure this would be a different story if she’d built a house of broccoli or kale. The enemy often comes as an angel of light, presenting something that looks good, safe, and comforting to you in order to gain access to you. That’s why we’re told not to be ignorant of his schemes. Ask the Holy Spirit for discernment so that you aren’t fooled.

            The witch pretends to be an angel of light, but she certainly doesn’t look like one. She’s crippled with weak, red eyes, no doubt as a result of her cannibalistic diet. But her sense of smell is sharp. This indicates that while what is immediately seen may go unnoticed by her, she is attuned to what is unseen, as befits her occupation. Honestly, Christians should be attuned to the unseen as well, but from a godly perspective. We’re meant to put our faith in God, fear Him, and consequently, develop deep friendship and intimate communication with Him, learning about His will and character and what our assignments are for the Kingdom of Heaven, which often involve engaging in spiritual warfare against the unseen principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). 

Her shriveled appearance belies her unholy power. Even though she is crippled, the witch is strong enough drag a sleepy Hansel outside and hurl him into a caged stable and then press Gretel into slavery. Make no mistake, the enemy of your soul has been defeated, but he does have power. Satan is allowed to run amok for a time, but his time is running short, and all things are subject to the Name of Jesus, including him. “Greater is He Who is in you, than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). 

Satan loves division. He will turn believers against each other if he can because it mocks Jesus’ desire that we would be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:21). The witch seeks to sow division between Hansel and Gretel by emasculating Hansel, reducing him to a passive, caged animal, and inciting Gretel to act against him and partner in his destruction to ensure her survival. This way, the witch can effectively destroy them both. Sound familiar? It’s the battle of the sexes! It’s the Garden lie all over again. Passive man, manipulative woman. Everyone acting outside of the character God designed for them in the name of self-preservation. 

The witch stokes the potential for division by making rich food for Hansel, which Gretel is forced to bring to him in the stable, while giving the girl only crab shells. Hansel has everything handed to him, even though it means his doom, and Gretel has to fight and dig for any scrap of meat that may be left in the shells. If you’ve ever eaten crabs, you know how much work it is to dig out the meat, and you’re not always guaranteed to get good pieces. What you get is usually delicious, but it takes a long time to get results versus having everything given to you hot and ready. We see this in our culture with women having to work twice as hard as men to survive and be taken seriously. To us, it looks like guys get handed a lot of things simply by being male. At the moment, at least in visual mediums, people are trying to overcorrect the narrative by intimating that a female character is a winner to begin with and doesn’t have to struggle for anything, and that’s not right either. Both men and women are to be active and help each other as we learn, grow, fight, struggle, and transform into the men and women God means us to be. Fortunately, Gretel is able to resist the temptation to be bitter toward her brother, remembering who the real enemy is. And Hansel is able to resist the trap of passivity. He retains his sound mind even though his body is imprisoned, and fools the witch when she comes to see the progress of his ruination by sticking a chicken bone through the bars of his cage instead of his finger. Based on the wisdom he’s shown in the past, we can assume that he’s also rationing whatever he gets instead of complying with the witch’s plan. Because the old crone can’t see well, she takes the test results at face value, completely missing the genius of Hansel’s wisdom. Seeing, she does not see. 

In this story, birds signal that the children are reaching new levels of growth, and they also represent protection. Even the bone of a dead bird daily saves Hansel’s life in captivity. Death saves him from death. Jesus’ death saved us from eternal death. Because of this, we’re instructed not to live for the flesh, but to subject it to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13). Even though Hansel may be tempted to gorge himself on the witch’s food, he understands that to do so means certain death. Better to obey his conscience and steward himself well than to give in and seal his doom. In choosing to daily deny himself and take up his cross, he is able to survive unscathed. 

 The children’s choice to stand firm and resist temptation drives the witch crazy. Even after a month of being trapped in her house, Hansel and Gretel will not succumb to the tricks of the devourer. Because these little Mordecais will not bow, our story’s Haman accelerates her plans for their destruction.   

A month into their captivity, the witch announces that the next day, she’s going to cook and eat Hansel, no matter what size he is. Cruelly, she forces Gretel to go draw the water that will be used tomorrow to cook her brother. You’ve heard me say “follow the water” before. Amazing things always happen in scripture when a woman must go to the well. It’s a place where divine encounters happen and lives change forever. We know that water represents spirit, so it’s fitting that Gretel chooses to pray at the well. Just like Esther, Gretel hits her knees when she hears the terrible news and cries out to God for help. In true queenly fashion, she’s not afraid of death, but laments the thought of division. She could’ve born being torn apart by the wild animals with her brother because they would have died together and such a death would not defy the natural order. But for them to be driven apart and separately devoured by a selfish woman who was originally made to be ferociously caring and nurturing, who should be cultivating the lives around her instead of destroying them, is too much to bear. 

Gretel’s simple prayer expresses so much. In it, we come to understand that her spirit will never be broken by the poor role models she’s been exposed to because she fears the Lord. She seeks to preserve life, strengthen those in her charge, and maintain community. She will not become twisted like the witch, who consumes people instead of cultivating them, nurturing herself at the cost of those around her. The reason we become fascinated by characters like the witch, whom scholars call “the monstrous feminine,” is because they are acting out of their God-designed natures. This isn’t about having kids, although that fits under this, too, whether they’re your blood, your made family, or your projects, legacies, and ministries. This is about an innate desire God puts in His ezer kenegdo daughters to improve the world around them and steward it well. To give beauty for ashes and turn a giant mess into a fully functioning operation for the Kingdom. To make connections that are strong and fortified like a well-trained army so that when one falls, the others can help them stand back up. Gretel has had no positive female role model to show her how to be an effective ezer. But she has had the godly example of her brother. Like Mordecai trained his cousin, Esther, Hansel taught Gretel how to revere and depend on God. She’s been watching him face obstacles with joy and stored away the wisdom gleaned from those instances. Now, for such a time as this, Hansel’s hands are tied, but Gretel is able to roam free, and seize her chance to strike out against injustice for the sake of her family and everyone who would come after her to this horrible place. 

The witch mocks Gretel’s prayers, but the young woman holds her tongue, waiting, like Jael, for her God-given opportunity to strike and secure freedom for her brother and herself. It comes the next day, when Gretel realizes that the witch is trying to trick her into committing suicide by crawling into the burning hot oven. Often, when you’re seeking God for wisdom, He will allow the enemy to blatantly reveal what he is doing, so that you can discover the scheme and thwart it. Cleverly, Gretel feigns ignorance, pretending that she has no idea how to get into an oven. Exasperated, the witch pridefully says that even she can can do it. As soon as the wicked woman sticks her head in the oven, Gretel gives her a powerful shove and slams the door shut, ending the witch’s reign of terror once and for all. One day, Satan and all the enemies of God will be hurled into a lake of fire by our Deliverer, and once that’s done, Jesus will make all things new (Revelation 20-21). As soon as Gretel dispatches the witch, she flies to Hansel’s cage and releases him. He springs out and embraces his sister and they dance in celebration of their freedom. This shows us that Hansel rejects his imprisonment wholeheartedly and did not give in physically or mentally to the witch’s demands. One, because he's so physically active, and two, because he doesn’t sit hesitantly in the cage like an overgrown boy lurking in a basement, waiting to be taken care of. He embraces liberation with a grateful heart and his strong character intact. Gretel, too, has blossomed under pressure. She’s developed her own faith in God, begun to grow wise and strong, and has gained the ability to discern and avoid the snares of the enemy. “… [But] we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). This catastrophic event is now part of their testimony, and they will reap the rewards of endurance as a result of the way they’ve handled themselves.  

   Liberated from the witch’s cruelty, Hansel and Gretel are able to see her property with new eyes. Inside the house, riches that they missed before are stuffed into every corner for them to take home. “The wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22). Sensibly, they take only what they can put in their pockets, and leave the witch’s territory as quickly as possible. Soon, they come to a river that they must cross in order to get home. There is no bridge to help them over, but a little white duck volunteers to carry them across.  It’s interesting that they didn’t have to cross a river to get to their testing ground, but they do have to go over one now to get home, like the children of Israel crossing over the Jordan to the Promised Land. Like baptism, crossing this river is an outward sign of an inward choice. The children are leaving behind an old phase of life and embracing a new one. The have passed their tests and been proven true. No longer are they helpless or frightened. If they have to deal with this rebellious spirit of witchcraft again, they will be able to do it with God’s help, and whatever happens will roll off of them like water off of a duck’s back. 

Gretel once again demonstrates wisdom and the ability to put others above herself when she suggests that she and Hansel should cross individually so that they don’t overwhelm the kind duck. This is a confirmation to us that Gretel will not turn into a replica of the selfish, twisted women she’s encountered on this journey. She retains good character, love, and the will to accomplish her original functions and assignments as a true daughter of God. It’s also important that each child crossed over on their own because it represents their individual choices to follow the Lord and walk out their God-given destinies. Gretel’s faith is distinct from her brother’s, and no one is riding on anyone’s coat tails or holding the other back. Because each one is strong in their own way, they are able to help each other effectively in partnership from now on. The duck answering their summons is also symbolic of the restoration of all things, with creation being subject to mankind in a fair and just manner, like God intended in Eden.

 Not long after crossing the river, the siblings come to a familiar part of the forest, and finally, their house, where their father is waiting for them with open arms. We learn that even though he went along with his wife’s plan, the father missed his children terribly and has been unhappy ever since he abandoned them. Having broken the generational curse during their trial, the children readily forgive him and share their wealth with him. Fortunately, even though they are more prepared to deal with her now, their stepmother is dead. We don’t know how, but we do know that she reaped what she sowed, because of her attempts to leave the children for dead in the forest. Sometimes, when you learn a lesson, God still reaches in and takes care of the things in earlier phases of your life without you having to lift a finger. All we have to do is “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13), and be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). No one can take away the treasure of wisdom you’ve earned through perseverance, and when the time comes, you’ll be ready to use it. 

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Hansel and Gretel
Analysis Intro