Hi everyone, haven’t had anything to talk about recently so I thought I’d post my version of Hansel and Gretel, which I wrote based on my processing I did to overcome eating for comfort (you can find my posts about that topic here and here). You can also read the original Hansel and Gretel, and other stories like it, here.
For all those who have ever eaten out of panic or to console themselves, for anyone who has tried tons of diets, or anyone who just likes fairy tales – enjoy : )
NCE upon a time, since stories like this seem to begin that way, there was a girl named Gretel, who was princess of a kingdom, and happened to eat a lot. Gretel had an inordinate love of sweets, and was always happiest when she was gorging herself on cakes, candies, cookies, and the like. This wouldn’t have been a problem if not for the fact that she requested that the rest of the kingdom also eat an unbalanced diet, so that there would be more sweets wherever she traveled within the kingdom, and also she wouldn’t feel like she was so odd for living as she did. Her father, who loved his daughter very much, granted her request, and the rest of the kingdom’s budget was closely controlled so that more money was spent on sweets than healthy food.
It just so happened that in one of the towns in the kingdom, a boy, named Hansel, saw his family and friends getting sick on this diet of sweets, and, distraught by this, one day packed up his things, and told his parents he was going to request that the king take back his mandate. His parents warned him that many other brave men had tried to change the king’s mind, but none had been able to stop the king or change the princess’ ways. Hansel, sure of himself, said that he would be the one to do it, and set off on his way.
For you see, even though the king loved his daughter, and wanted to let her have her way, he was deeply saddened by the way in which her health deteriorated, and even worse, how she never seemed truly happy, no matter how many sweets she had.
Upon reaching the castle, Hansel went straight to the king and asked that he abolish the law stating that everyone eat so many sweets. With a sigh, the king said that he would obey his daughter’s wishes, and as long as she wished for it, he would do nothing. But if the boy wanted to, he could try to convince his sweets-loving daughter.
Hansel immediately went to Gretel, who was busy eating cake. His enthusiasm dimmed a little when he saw her obese figure, and a sense of sadness around her. But once again he plucked up his courage.
“All right! Time to stop eating for comfort!” he said.
The princess frowned. “Really? Why would I want to bother doing that?”
“Because – I want the people of the kingdom to be healthy, and all they get now are sweets!”
“I know… but eating that way… it sounds like such a pain.”
“Why? Because I wouldn’t be able to eat the food I like, like sweets.”
“Yeah but… sweets aren’t necessary to live.”
At this, the princess burst into tears, taking Hansel by surprise.
“I don’t care!” She sobbed, putting more cake in her mouth, “I like them, and you can’t force me to not like them!”
“Okay okay!” said Hansel, “But then how can you, or the people, live healthy lives? What about finding stuff that tastes good, and is good for you?”
“Okay… but you’re still asking me to give up things I like, specific things that are obviously bad for me…”
“Well,” said Hansel thoughtfully, “if something is tasty, but poisonous, do you still want to eat it?”
“No…” said the princess, looking very uncomfortable, “But… why not just ignore the its bad effects…?”
Just then, one of the maids burst into the room.
“My lady!” she cried, “One of them just broke out of the dungeon!”
“No! The counselors!?! Please excuse me!” The princess, with astounding swiftness, stumbled out the door. Hansel followed after her, curious.
Half way on the way to the dungeon, a strange man with glasses was hopping up the stairs in a straight jacket, a big bandage covering his mouth. He was trying to shout something. The princess and maid looked so distressed they didn’t know what to do, but Hansel, curious about what the man wanted to say, walked up and pulled the bandage off his mouth.
“Finally!” said the man, fuming with rage. He rounded on the princess. “Why you lousy, good for nothing, weak, addicted, big-mouth freak! Throwing me in the dungeon, taping my mouth shut! Of all the…”
The maid ran off to find the king, leaving the three of them. The counselor continued.
“So much of the stuff you eat, that you make everyone else eat too – IS poisonous! Salt, sugar, not to maintion the fat you gain.”
Hansel was up on the latest nutritional information, however, having seen what affected his family.
“Hey, hold up!” he said, “We don’t know for sure! Plus, if you only eat a little, it won’t have as big an impact!”
The counselor turned an imperious gaze on Hansel. “Do you really want to eat a little bit of dog shit?”
Hansel was unconvinced. “It’s not as bad as all that.”
“You would have this girl run around, literally destroying her body, forcing unreasonable laws on the rest of us, just for a bit of cheap happiness?!”
“It’s better than her having to be beaten down by your crap.”
“Oh really?” said the counselor menacingly, “Did it ever occur to you that it might be dangerous to trust her and care for her? To placate her with food as this lazy king does?”
“Hey miss frown-face.” Gretel looked up. “What would you do if you were allowed to do, and eat, what you liked?”
“Well… I would be… happy. Though I’d still be scared…”
“Scared? Because of the counselor?”
“No, not him…”
“There are many who are like you, who have come before you. But they’re not always so nice and considerate. Ever since that law was made that others also eat a lot of sweets, these people, who are now a rebel group in the country, have come periodically to try and change the law.”
“So?” asked Hansel. Gretel shivered.
“You don’t understand what they’re like! On multiple occasions, they’ve stormed the castle, armed for war. They’d… kidnapped me many times. They claim that because they are feeling unhealthy or under-appreciated because they’re fat like me, or even just because they feel like it – that I’m to blame. You don’t understand! They torture me, hate me for liking sweets.”
Hansel sat down on the stairs in astonishment. He’d heard of the rebel groups, but never knew their tactics.
“Every time I get away by promising to go on a diet, to try and learn a new way of life, to follow their commands – but once they leave, it goes back to the way it was before…”
“Utterly ridiculous…” muttered the counselor. “If you’d just change, we wouldn’t have to deal with those ruffians in the first place, curse them. And yes, curse you too!”
“And then, even if I get happy for a little while, they always come back…”
“Excuse me for a moment.” Hansel was flowing with indignation.
“Wait!” said Gretel, “Where are you going?”
“To talk to the rebel leaders.”
“Oh, then – I’ll go too!”
“You sure? Well, okay then.”
And the two of them boarded the royal carriage-in-reserve (they didn’t want to be too conspicuous), and left for the rebel camp just outside of the capital. In the mean time, the king, who had been taking a nice long bath, inquired where Gretel was, but the counselor lied and said she’d gone out to play, and the King, none the wiser, enjoyed a second bath in the mean time.
When Hansel and Gretel got to the rebel camp, Hansel jumped out of the carriage, marched straight into the main tent, and shouted loudly:
“YO! Who’s the one in charge here?!”
The rebels were a bunch of disgruntled, fat, unshaven fellows who all wore viking hats slightly askew. The largest, most disgruntled one stood up.
“Why are you hurting Gretel?”
By this time, Gretel, in her traveling cloak, had entered the tent, and the rebels started murmuring to each other, “It’s her! Damn it, what’s she doing here?”
“Isn’t it obvious,” said the leader, “When she eats bad food, the law of the land guarantees that everyone gets unhealthy.”
“Yeah, and we could break the law!” One pipsqueak of a rebel said, “But the royal guards would attack us…”
“Precisely – we have to eat healthy only when no one’s looking! And so… We must destroy her!!”
At this, the rebels started shaking their spears threateningly towards Gretel, but Hansel stood in their way.
“Did you ever bother to ask why she eats unhealthy food?”
“Um… no.” said the rebel leader stupidly.
“To make her feel happy! And you are making her unhappy.”
Hansel did his best to contain himself. “Your abuse is making her unhappy, thus worsening the problem!”
“That’s just fraternizing with the enemy!” said the leader, regaining his gusto, “Her gluttonous ways are hurting us, so we must put a stop to it.”
“Stop trying to avoid responsibility!” shouted Hansel, “It’s her nature to want to be happy.”
“Well she needs to find something else to be happy about!”
Hansel turned to Gretel. She looked up, looking very uncomfortable. “What do you say to that?” he asked.
“Well, I guess if I felt happy I’d feel more able to look for other ways to be happy.”
The rebel leader stamped his foot. “That doesn’t solve the problems eating unhealthy things has created!”
“Yeah but there are other ways to solve this.” said Hansel.
“Some problems can’t be solved without stopping those who are practicing dangerous behaviors.”
“Yeah but do you have any better suggestions??”
He immediately reached into a desk drawer, pulled something out, and forced it into Gretel’s hand. “Here eat this celery stick.”
“Okay, fine…” said Gretel, starting to chew on it.
“Such low fighting spirit!!” said Hansel, astonished. He turned back to the rebels. “The thing is, that isn’t the solution. You may think the problem is unhealthiness, but the real problem is unhappiness.”
Gretel stopped chewing her celery and looked up with a half-hearted smile. The rebel leader was unimpressed.
“Yeah yeah, whatever.”
“Then leave Gretel out of this, unless unhappiness is the issue!”
“So you want to be fat? You WANT to be unhealthy??”
“No,” said Hansel, “But I know that those things aren’t worth it if they come at the cost of happiness.”
“But what if those things are making you unhappy?!?”
Hansel smiled. “Then I’ll solve those issues separately!”
“I am doubtful of this approach!” cried the rebel leader.
“Because what if you can be happy AND eat unhealthy foods?”
“Well, someone like Gretel, and everyone really, is free to choose. And who’s to say that someone who eats unhealthy food is completely happy?”
“Yeah but… who’s to say they aren’t? Then happiness is a danger!”
“Regardless, I, personally, want to be healthy – but I value happiness more!”
“With that attitude, you’ll end up living a hedonistic life, and die from it!”
“No,” said Hansel, “I already told you I want to be healthy. And also, I will never attempt a permanent solution to my emotional issues with food.”
The rebel leader paused for a while, mulling this over. “Fine.” he said, looking at Gretel, “I’ll back off for now, but, beware my return.”
“Wait wait wait – why would you return?” asked Hansel.
“Because… if there’s something wrong – I will attack and beat up the wrong-doer!”
“That’s just abusive! Whenever I fought for something, it’s to solve a problem, not to just punish the wrong-doer!”
“So? I can do damage to my enemies, so I do,” he said, still staring at Gretel with his beady eyes, “Maybe they’ll learn and just give up.”
“But when I address a problem, I do it with fairness! Heck… maybe my perspective going into a fight is limited. Just like I’m being fair and patient with you right now.”
“Yeah seriously, shouldn’t you be punching me or something right now? This is hardly a fight!”
“My disagreements are my punches.” said Hansel resolutely.
“Oh. Okay. Well what can I do otherwise?”
This was rich – now the rebel leader was asking for suggestions from Hansel! He felt courage flowing through him.
“Trust in my ability to solve problems.” he said.
“No way!” said the rebel leader – for a moment it looked like Hansel was in trouble. “But… I will attempt to solve problems in a non-abusive way.”
One of the other rebels spoke up. “But leader, what if that takes too long!?”
“Idiot! Have our methods worked?!”
“Some changes were made…”
“But true happiness, via Operation NoSweets – for anyone in the kingdom?!”
“No… more like a state of desperation, for us and them…”
“Then,” shouted the rebel leader, “We will try this new way!”
“Now let me hear you, men! We will try this new way!”
“We will try this new way! We will try this new way!”
Hansel nodded to Gretel, and the both left the tent together, and so relieved was Gretel that she slept for three days, then ate healthy for three days afterward. But once again, she began to eat sweets. The rebels were no longer a problem, but the counselor still paced back and forth, unsatisfied with the behavior of the princess. He and the king would argue often about the decision to feed her sweets, with the counselor occasionally needing to find his way out of the dungeons all over again.
With the rebels no longer keeping Gretel’s eating habits in check, the royal budget ran out, spent on sweets, and the princess and everyone else in the castle had to move to a small house in the forest. Hansel, who had grown to like the princess, also moved to the little house. All of them were pretty cramped for space, and suffice it to say the princess didn’t get her desired share of sweets, and she was still fairly despondent without something delicious to eat.
One day, the rebel leader knocked viciously on the royal family’s door. The king answered, in a sweaty t-shirt and overalls.
“Call up sweets-eater! I found some info!”
Gretel wandered over to the door, wishing she had some cake in hand. “What is it?” she said.
The rebel leader tossed a book at her. “This might help you. C’ya.” he said, and rushed off.
Gretel picked up the book, which was called “Hansel and Gretel”, and turned through its pages with curiosity, but could find no way in which the story inside might help her in any way.
However, she did have a friend who might have something wise to say about the book. When she’d arrived in the forest, she’d met a friend of Hansel’s who lived there, a snow-white bird who you could talk to about anything, and its feathers would never get ruffled. Gretel called the bird to her, and soon he was perched in a nearby tree.
“Mr. Bird, how do you think this will help?” she said, pointing at the book.
The bird fluttered down, and with Gretel’s help looked through the pages.
“It may have a way to solve your need to eat for comfort, once and for all.”
Even though she didn’t much like the subject, Gretel’s curiosity was piqued. “How can I tell for sure?” she asked.
“Well, what about greediness?”
“When you see food, what happens?”
“Well…” she was about to answer, when Hansel came walking through the forest with a box under his arm.
“Hey Gretel! Hey bird! Guess what I got??”
The bird nodded and flew off.
“I don’t know,” said Gretel, smiling, hoping for what she wanted to be in the box.
Even though Hansel was charged with getting the groceries, he mostly followed the king’s commands. And today, the king had commanded cake, which was now on the breakfast table, with “For Gretel” written in green icing.
“Yay! Food I like! Tasty food! Gimme!” she said with glee.
“It’s good to see her happy,” said the king, leaning back in his chair contentedly.
The counselor burst into the room, having heard what was going on, and began shouting at the king.
“Are you kidding me?! Do you know how unhealthy that is?! I know you want her to be happy, but she is a threat to our well-being! You spend most of our budget on this…. crud!”
“I guess you’re right…” admitted the king sadly.
Hansel spoke up. “No, he is not right! Heck with that, she’s your daughter, protect her with your life!”
“That’s fine in theory,” said the king with a sigh, “But what if she gets cancer and dies? When is the end of sweets?”
“Dude,” said Hansel, “So she, and we, die a little – so what? At least we all die happy.”
“And I don’t want to deprive her of food either,” said the king miserably, “But it would be nice if she could learn to love healthy food…”
“Yeah but how are you going to do that without attacking her? Like the rebels did – which doesn’t work,” said Hansel, eying the counselor, who was pacing angrily.
“Well,” said the king, “Maybe if there’s a conflict within her over sweets, she’ll see they make her ultimately unhappy.”
“Does she look conflicted?” said Hansel.
The king sighed. “No, so I don’t know where to start.”
Gretel, who had started to hear what they were saying, spoke up with half a mouthful of cake.
“What, am I a problum to you or something?? Just spit it oot!”
“No, sweetheart,” said the king anxiously, “I just want everyone here to live in peace and harmony.”
“So you think I’m a threat to that harmony! I see!”
“No, of course not dear… you are a part of it.”
“Oh okay, see ya!” and Gretel, who had already finished the cake, went outside, content.
“Ugh,” said the king, “This still doesn’t solve her unhealthy eating habits….”
Just then, Hansel got an idea.
“Well, what if she went on an adventure with me? I always have exciting ones.” It was true, Hansel had recently explored many fascinating places all around the kingdom.
“What will that help?” said the king cynically.
“She might discover a greater happiness, somewhere out there.”
“Yeah, but you might just derp around for a long time.”
“Wait! I have an idea!”
Hansel remembered something the bird had told him – that in a land far to the east, was a place where there was an infinite supply of sweets. He’d hid this from Gretel thinking she would insist on going, and might even never leave – but now he thought differently.
“We’ll go to the place where she’d be happiest, a place with endless supplies of cake and no one to tell her it’s wrong!”
“And that will help… how, exactly?”
“She might realize the absurdity of the extreme!”
The king paused for a while, but suddenly it made sense to him too, and with a nod, gave his approval.
Hansel burst outside.
“Pack up Gretel, we’re heading out!”
“Oh really, where?” she asked.
“To the land of cake!”
After traveling for a long time, their friend the bird guiding them, they eventually found it. A giant mountain of cake stood, impressive, freshly baked but ancient as hunger, impressively framed against the sky. Smaller cakes were everywhere, and there was candy, and pies of every kind. There were chocolate bars the size of trees, and a river of pure honey running by. Gretel stared, awe-struck.
“Alright, we’re here!” said Hansel.
Gretel broke into a sprint and dove into a cake hillock, filling her large mouth to the brim delicious confectionery delights.
“Oh my GOSH!!!!”, she cried through a mouth full of food, “It’s so delicious! Have some, have some!” She handed him a miniature cake, one of thousands, perhaps millions.
Hansel took the cake. “Well… maybe a little…” He watched, somewhat concerned, somewhat glad, as Gretel tunneled her way through a giant cake with her teeth.
Just then, a voice caught both of their attention.
“Ah, yes… life’s greatest joy. No? To engorge one’s self on sweetness.” The voice came from an eyeless old hag sitting on a nearby, half-eaten cake, her large red tongue hanging out.
Gretel nodded vigorously. Hansel started to feel uneasy.
“Aren’t you full yet?” he said.
“Not yet! Hold on, I haven’t had this much fun in ages!”
“Beautiful, luscious scrumptious cake…” said the hag, hopping down to where Hansel was.
“Here, have some,” she said, and stuffed cake in Hansel’s mouth. He spat most of it out, and, turning to Gretel, tried to ignore the hag.
“Come on, you’ve had your fill, let’s go back,” he said.
“Okay, I guess you’re right,” she said. Then, sticking her tongue out mischievously, said, “Just one more bite.”
Watching this is making me hungry. Hansel thought to himself, Even though I’ve eaten.
Just then he noticed Gretel had struck up a conversation with the hag.
“So you love food too, then.”
“Oh yes,” said the hag, “simply amazing.”
“Those other people,” said Gretel, frowning, “they didn’t understand. They beat me up for just liking food.”
“Oh… you poor thing,” said the hag, her tongue still hanging out, “Those mean, mean people.
“Well, they learned better.”
“Ah, so now you can eat all the sweets you want – how simply delightful.” said the hag. Something about her tone, Hansel didn’t like.
“Yeah but she can’t eat sweets all the time.” he said.
“Who says I can’t?!” said Gretel, indignant.
“Oh yes,” said the hag. “Such a horrible limitation, what a poor imagination you have, little boy.”
“Okay, she can, but it would be unhealthy.”
“So what??” said Gretel, “No one will stop me now!”
“That’s the spirit, my dear…” said the hag.
Then suddenly, before Hansel could say another word, the hag had grabbed Gretel forceably by the neck, and began shoving food down her gullet. A dumptruck, hidden under a pile of cake, suddenly sprang to life, and it poured its contents on top of Gretel.
“Now eat!” cried the hag, “Eat like there’s no tomorrow, eat like your life depended on it!”
Hansel pushed the hag away and dragged Gretel to safety.
“Hey, that’s mean!” he shouted.
“But,” said Gretel, shocked by this betrayal, “What if I don’t want to eat?! What if I’m full??”
The hag grinned insanely, her tongue wagging.
“I thought you liked sweets!” she said, “Eat it all! Eat all of them – for ME!”
“Why do you need me to eat so bad?” said Gretel.
“So that I can drown in pleasure…” the hag shivered with delight, “the pleasure of that that beautiful comfort that also keeps me alive. The tastes! The smells! I want them all! So give them to me!”
Apparently, the hag could only experience taste if someone else ate for her.
“No.” said Gretel.
“NO?!” cried the hag, “Then suffer! Suffer till you feed me, till you dull my yearning for foooooooooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODDDD” At this the sky grew dark, and sparks flew from the hag’s eye sockets.
Gretel stood her ground. “Why do you need food in excess so bad – aren’t there better things in this world?
“Better than food mashing in my mouth, sliding down? The sweet delicious goodness?! Do you know what life is like without such pleasures?! Boring! Dumb! Repetitive! Soul-crushing!”
“Then don’t cover it over with fricking food!” said Gretel, “You need to find out WHY you’re unhappy during non-food times!”
“I know why!!” cried the hag, “Because I’m not indulging in food!!”
“No way! There’s something about the way you’re living that’s making you unhappy! What you are, that has made me unhappy! The desire to eat without end! You! It’s abuse!”
“So what?!” said the hag.
“Don’t solve it by forcing me to eat for you! That’s mean and just prolongs distractions. Go look for the root cause instead!”
The hag, who had been without the taste of food for a long time, was both confused and distraught. Gretel turned to Hansel.
“Come on, we’re leaving.” she said.
“No!!” cried the hag, springing on Gretel, clawing at her, grabbing nearby cakes and throwing them in her face, “ Wait!! I want those sweets!!”
Just then, Gretel’s mouth seemed to… unhinge. In one gulp of fury and passion, she swallowed the hag whole. Hansel stared.
“My appetite is bigger than yours.” she said. Soon the sky cleared, and the sounds of birds could be heard, which had been silent before.
“That was nuts,” said Hansel.
Gretel smiled. “I think I understand now. Let’s go home.”
And the two of them set off back to the royal cabin the woods. As soon as they arrived, Gretel burst in.
“I’m back!!” she shouted happily. The king looked up, and joyfully hugged his daughter.
“Welcome back, dearest one. Did you learn anything?”
“Hell yeah I did,” said Gretel.
“She better have,” said the counselor, who was hovering nearby, “the slimy, gluttonous witch.”
“I learned that using food to cover over unhappiness, without the willingness to look inward to solve unhappiness at its source, is self-abusive.”
“Yada yada,” said the counselor, “Well what about the healthy eating?”
“Well I’m sure it’ll be fun to try some new foods, but I’ll only stick with them if they’re tasty!” she replied, smiling, and astonished at how easily the words came now.
“Somewhat weakly said, but fine,” said the counselor. Then, turning to the king, “In that case, I’m off to go annoy other people, if you don’t mind. I mean- you know, point out people’s bad ways.”
“Of course,” said the king, silently glad to be rid of him.
“Oh, okay, bye!” said Gretel.
“So that worked out well,” said the king to Hansel.
“Surprisingly so! But let’s keep on the lookout for any other nastiness and abuse.”
“Right!” said the king, “Always vigilant!”
And from then on, everyone in the royal cabin lived in contentment, and Gretel was never made to eat anything she didn’t like, ever again.