Monday, December 01, 2014

This Tale of Hansel & Gretel

Was reading a couple of books that week, and picked out the collection of the original Grimms fairy tales translated and edited by Jack Zipes.

littlebluebottle mentioned about another book. Since I also read it that week, thought I'd write about it too. That would be Neil Gaiman's 'Hansel & Gretel', illustrated by graphic artist Lorenzo Mattotti, and published by Toon Books. (Reviews here, here, and here.)

Am this crazy fan of Neil Gaiman, so I'm not objective about his writing. His re-imagining of the fairy tale can do no wrong. There's a not-so-subtle criticism of war and how violence changes humans. He created a different witch from other adaptations. You gotta read it. Words are sparse, sentences are short; each word counts towards envisioning the woods, the characters, and their situations.

Not sure if the words match the illustrations or the illustrations amplify the powerful meanings behind the words, firing the imagination to the maximum. I'm completely mesmerized by Lorenzo Mattotti's illustrations done in black and white. They comprise half the book and each illustration is spread across two full pages. His ink swirls are evocative of the welcomed nightmares as I sink into sleep and the chance to dream and immerse in those worlds.

Gretel had learned more from her than the old woman suspected. The girl pushed the old woman forward, hard and sudden, making her topple all the way into the oven. The girl closed the door, and held it closed, and listened while the old woman's screams died away.

"The old woman is dead," Gretel told her brother, as she let him out of the cage. "I killed her." 
She helped him out of the cage, and out into the daylight, marveling at the plump young man her brother had transformed into, wondering about his refusal to let go of the bone he held as firmly as if his life might have depended on it. 
They clung to each other tightly, in the sunshine, the brother an the sister. 
The kitchen smelled of burning flesh, but when the oven cooled, and they opened the door, there was nothing inside but a blackened husk, now crisped and turned to carbon, and a small iron key.


L Lee said...

I am still mildly traumatised by one version of the Coraline illustrations - my kindle is haunted by them.

These sooty black ones with specks of white are very different though. Conveys the oppression without too much horror. :)

Have been thinking about Sendek's and Gaiman's words on darkness in children's literature, and how it's important to expose children to them in literature since it can function like an innoculation... so interesting.

Unknown said...

MUST go find that Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman!


imp said...

L: of shadows and men. literally. go think! i grew up without Disney and on horror and darkness. So i'm not too sure what to think of children's literature now which can be rather sanitized.

bmuse: should be in all the bookshops by now....

L Lee said...

Growing up I thought The Little Mermaid and The Little Matchgirl really sad! But yes, good to innoculate them well since our world has gotten more horrid since, shootings and all.

imp said...

L: Little Match Girl! I think I cried buckets over that!