The True Story of Hansel and Gretel
A Novel of War and Survival
by Louise Murphy
In this fractured fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, it is not difficult to notice the underlying original tale as the story unfolds. The original tale is scary, but The True Story of Hansel and Gretel is terrifying. The characters of the witch and stepmother, pulled from the strong females in the original are anything but evil. In this story the evil “witch” is portrayed by the Oberfurher one of the feared SS who has piercing eyes of ice and a heart of impenetrable granite. There is no gingerbread house in this story, but the Oberfurher will lure children with candy, in the hopes of a careless slip-up.
As the story unfolds, Hansel and Gretel are pushed out into the woods by their stepmother and father, a dire decision, but necessary to survive. The two young children drift without direction, sprinkling breadcrumbs hoping their parents will be able to find them later.
They stumble upon a cottage in the woods where Magda, the village witch lives. She is a strange old woman and although reluctant at first, she acquiesces and agrees to help the children. Magda must present the two for inspection. She creates false papers, altered photographs and must change the color of Hansel’s hair. With daring courage, knowing she and the children could be shot if her subterfuge is detected she presents the children for review.
Murphy’s strength is in her passionate writing that is edgy and realistic. With tension and suspense she chillingly tells about a rape, the psychopathic behavior of the Oberfurer and desperate measures the villages take to save their children.
The reading is slow at first, then suddenly as details unfold you will be flipping furiously to the next page. Set in two locations, the story eventually merges together and quickly like a force in motion builds to a breathtaking end.
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel is a story of hope and survival, where despite the harshness of war, the love and memories that bond families together can never be stolen.
On a personal note: When I finished this book, I held it in my hand, my body stunned. I sat for some time in my cozy chair savoring the moment, unable to move but reflecting on the message and this wonderful book.