German Fairy Tale “Hansel and Gretel” is less about breadcrumbs and more about desperation

Hey-ya! Gotcha on that title, hey?  Sounds bleak and definitely un-fairytale-like, but that’s because, like most folk stories and fables, they have their origins in tumultuous events, and serve as cautionary tales for the generations that follow.

This is how the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel came about, and is now best remembered as a “never take candy from strangers” fable.  It’s become a classic story, printed in more than 100 languages.  Get a person from Portugal, Peru, Perth and Panania in a room and they’ll all be familiar with the brother and sister duo who defeated the evil witch by – shock horror – pushing her crazy ass into an oven.

But Hansel and Gretel‘s history goes a little deeper than that

Although German in Origin, the Hansel and Gretel fable has kind of been floating around in different forms since medieval times.  Elements of the story exist in the French fairytale Hop-o’-My-Thumb (lil’ dude has to fend for himself due to family poverty), and in a Russian folk tale, a little girl is asked to head into the dangerous forest (again to help out her poverty-stricken family) where she is met with the evil Baba Yaga.  The running theme here is poverty – during the Great Famine (1315–1321), people were forced to abandon their young children so they could feed themselves.  Historical reports cite heavy rain during the spring of 1315, causing crops to fail, which then caused a food shortage. People ate whatever they could stomach; edible roots, plants, and tree bark.  Domestic animals were butchered, seed grain was consumed, children were abandoned to fend for themselves and many elderly people refused to eat so that their grandchildren might survive. Many incidents of cannibalism were reported.

It’s this world that developed and created the Hansel and Gretel fairytale.

The story re-imagined, this time at the Sydney Opera House

Turn on any news bulletin and you will see reports of famine and hardship all over the world.  The strife found inHansel and Gretel is alive today.

Now, Amanda Muggleton tells the story of Hansel and Gretel for a live audience at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday, 6th December.  The play has been re-imagined and adapted by Rodney Fisher AM, the performance features musical accompaniment from violinist Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich and pianist John Martin, from the work of brilliant Australian composer, Elena Kats-Chernin.

Hansel and Gretel is a dark tale of hardship and hunger, of children abandoned by their parents and of an evil old woman who preys on the young. But, as writer Neil Gaiman says, “If you are protected from dark things, then you are unprepared to deal with dark things if ever they show up. I think it’s important to show dark things to kids—and in the showing of them, to also demonstrate that dark things can be beaten, that you have the power to fight back, that you can win.”

This unsettling story – collected by the Grimm brothers in 1812 – was never designed as a moral tale, but rather as a reflection on the fact that in medieval times – during periods of famine – many families were forced to abandon their children.



Prices correct at the time of publication and subject to change without notice. Exact prices will be displayed with seat selection. Children aged 15 and under must be accompanied at all times.

Standard $35
Concession* $25
Group 10+ $25
Booking fee applies per transaction

$8.50 – Contact Centre
$8.50 – Internet
$5.00 – Box Office Counter


Running Time: Approximately 45-55 minutes
Doors open 20 minutes prior

For more information on tickets and booking visit


Amanda Muggleton, John Martin and Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich.


Featured image taken from Usplash via Creative Commons Zero.  All other images via Hansel and Gretel promoters.



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