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The Witch is the unnamed main antagonist in the fairytale of Hansel & Gretel (though in some versions, she is known as the Gingerbread Hag and in Engelbert Humperdink's 1892 opera she is called Rosina Leckermaul - the German translation of the name being "Raisin Sweet-tooth"). She is portrayed as an evil and cannibalistic witch who resides in a home made out of gingerbread and other assorted sweets, which she uses to lure the two protagonists into her home with the intention of eating them. She is one of folklore's best known characters, and the idea of a gingerbread house and witch has been recycled countless times in many movies, cartoons and comic books.

Biography

Hansel and Gretel were two unfortunate children who had been abandoned in the forest by their father on the request of their wicked stepmother, despite Hansel's clever attempt to find his way home using bread crumbs the two children end up lost in the forest due to birds eating the aforementioned bread crumb trail.

The Gingerbread House

The Gingerbread House

Lost and hungry, the two children stumble across a house made of gingerbread and decorated with all manner of sweets. Unable to contain themselves the two children begin to eat the house only to find out it is occupied by an evil witch who proceeds to lock Hansel in a cage while forcing Gretel to do housework - all the while the witch feeds Hansel food to fatten him up in preparation for roasting in an oven: however as the witch tends to the oven Gretel manages to sneak up behind her and tosses her into the oven - padlocking it behind her and killing the witch.

Hansel and Gretel proceeded to stay at the now deceased witch's home for a couple of days, getting food and finding a few valuable gold coins, which they used to "live happily ever after".

Moral

The likely moral of this fairytale is to be wary of strangers. In many ways, it was the first "don't take candy from strangers" type tale - though in sad reality the story was likely not so much designed as a moral one but rather a reflection on the fact that in medieval times many families were forced to abandon their children during times of famine, this is reflected in the fact that the original fairytale had no stepmother in it but rather had the children's true mother convince her husband to abandon her children so they could be adopted by someone who could give them a better life.

In Other Media

  • The Candy Witch

    The Candy Witch from Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

    The unidentified Witch, under the name "Candy Witch", serves as both the owner of the "Candy House as well as of her ineffectual magic wand and a minor antagonist in the beginning of the 2013 supernatural dark fantasy movie Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
  • The Witch appears in Once Upon a Time named as the Blind Witch and she lives in a colorful Gingerbread House. She is the main flashback antagonist of True North and returns in the fifth season as a resident of the Underworld. A second version appears in the seventh season as a member of the Coven of the Eight.
  • The Witch has a counterpart who appears in the Disney short Babes in the Woods, once again as the main antagonist. She is turned into a statue in the end of the short.
  • Holda the Witch

    Holda the Witch from Gretel & Hansel.

    The Witch, yet her name is "Holda", serves as the main antagonist of the 2020 grim supernatural horror movie Gretel & Hansel. Her house in the film is not made out of gingerbread nor decorated with all manners of other confectionery treats like in the original fairytale, but rather it is constructed out of wood and with a triangular roof above the main entrance door within the perimeter of it's iron bar gate within her woods, most importantly, her house does contain all sorts of food including some cookies and cake as well as "milk" (yet strangely there was nothing in her forest for anyone to draw milk, not even a cow) used to charm and entice children "invited" in.

Trivia

  • Though Gretel pushes the Witch into the oven in most versions of the story, some other versions, especially those for younger children, have Gretel not doing anything and the Witch falling into the oven by accidentally tripping into it. This is likely done to not make Gretel look like a murderess.
  • In the stage play "Hansel and Gretel" by Franz von Pocci, the Witch is replaced by a cannibalistic naturalist called Professor Fleischmann.
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