"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hansel & Gretel and Their Other "Homes"

While listening to the Hansel and Gretel opera created by Engelbert Humperdinck, my mind wandered into the story and then back to the "Family Famine: Hunger for Love" narrative production.

Though the opera was sung in German, I was familiar with the tale and imagined what was happening. I realized that the Hansel and Gretel story had two elements: family abuse/abandonment and the lack/excess of food. Interestingly, the lady who sings for the Mother is often the same one to sing for the Gingerbread Witch.

Some people may think that the story involves a stepmother, though originally the mother was the one who sent the sent the two children into the forest to die. As this story was based on the Medieval times, it was not uncommon for parents to leave their children in the forest so there were less mouths to feed. Storytellers are aware that fairy tales have many elements of truth to them.

Though the Hansel and Gretel story intrigued me, I was not interested in telling the German version. I wanted to find a story with similar motifs and themes from another culture. The trick was to find a version that was authentic to the culture rather than being an adaptation of Hansel and Gretel that used another name.

Then "The Storyteller's Sourcebook: A Subject, Title, and Motif Index to Folklore Collections for Children 1983-1999" edited by Margaret Read MacDonald and Brian W. Sturm flashed to mind. At the time, only "The Storyteller's Sourcebook" was the title I remembered and the connection to MacDonald. When I arrived at the library, this book was in the Reference Juvenile Literature section.

The book used the Stith Thompson Motif Index, the enlarged version of classification of fairy tales, rather than the original Aarne Thompson Motif Index.

Since the Hansel and Gretel story was so common, I knew I could look up the title and see what motifs were listed. Then I noticed other categories where I may find other stories appropriate for the "Family Famine: Hunger for Love" narrative production.

These were the codes found for Hansel and Gretel:
  • G412.1.1
  • Type 327A
  • R135
  • G526
  • G512.3.2
  • B469.4
These categories caught my attention:
  • G400-G499 = Falling into Ogre's Power
  • G500-G599 = Ogre Defeated
  • C200-C299 = Eating and Drinking Tabu/Taboo
  • T0-T699 = Family Life, which includes: Love (T0-T99), Marriage (T100-T199), Married Life (T200-T299), Chastity and Celibacy (T300-T399), Illicit Sexual Relation (T400-T499), Conception and Birth (T500-T599), and Care of Children (T600-T699)
Any combination of C200-299 with T0-T699 will likely be stories to pursue for the "Family Famine: Hunger for Love" narrative production.

These codes and categories will act as my compass to find the other "homes" where stories like Hansel and Gretel may appear.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Former Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance (2005-2008)
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

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