There’s Always a Backstory

Kaatsheuvel / The Netherlands - March 29 2018: The sweet house of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel in Theme Park Efteling.

This week’s prompt: You’re asked to reimagine a fairytale. What fairytale would you choose and what genre would you write it in? Why?

I remember listening to and then reading many fairy tales, both European and Japanese. At the time, I wondered why the Japanese stories had such sad endings compared to the ones I saw in Disney movies. Later on, I learned that the familiar Disney version of the Brothers’ Grimm stories are much more kid-friendly than the original publications. For example, in the original versions, The Little Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty did not end up with their princes, and actually met an untimely end! I’m really okay with the white-washed version. Yes, I understand that the darker versions were meant to teach moral lessons, but I don’t think it should be done with a story that’s read as a child is put to bed. If my parents had read me some of those original tales, I would have been awake all night!

Anyway, the story I chose for today’s topic is Hansel and Gretel. If you’re not familiar with the original story, you can read it HERE. It always bothered me that the tale ends with the kids tricking the witch into the oven and shutting her in. I think there’ a nicer way to handle this. And since I write sweet romance, I’ll lay it out that way. Well, sort of.

Let’s start with the witch. She isn’t really a mean old lady. Let’s call her Miss Guided. She’s a woman in her mid-thirties who has suffered tragedy, and as a result she isn’t thinking clearly. She had been engaged to a handsome woodcutter named Gustav, a widower with two small children. She and her fiancé had plans to marry and add to their family, when one evening she was lured out into the forest by an evil magician. She was blindfolded and taken to a cottage deep in the woods. The magician put a spell on the cottage so that it became invisible to passers-by, and Gustav was unable to find her.

Finally, the evil magician died, and the cottage was no longer invisible. But poor Miss Guided was unable to return home, because she’d been blindfolded when taken there and she had no idea which way to go. She remained in the cottage, stewing about all that she’d lost, and growing more bitter as time went on, and losing touch with reality.

One day, Hansel and Gretel came upon her cottage when they were out for a hike and took a wrong turn (I don’t like the original version that has their stepmother wanting to get rid of them and abandoning them deep in the woods). Miss Guided sees them and in her diminished mental capacity, imagines them to be her children. She entices them into the cottage with treats and games. But when they prepare to leave she tells them that it’s not safe to leave, since it will be dark soon. She locks the doors and puts them to bed, telling them stories about wonderful adventures to exotic locations, all places she’d planned to visit on her honeymoon.

The children realize they’re going to need help getting back home. Fortunately, Hansel has his cell phone in his backpack and he surreptitiously sends his father a text, along with a screen shot of their exact location generated from his maps app. The father asks his friends to help him track down the children. Together, they locate the cottage and force their way in. Amazingly, the children’s father is the long-suffering Gustav, and even more amazingly has never moved on and married someone else. Gustav and Miss Guided rejoice at their reunion, and everyone lives happily ever after – after Miss Guided has spent many hours with her therapist, of course.

I realize this isn’t a true romance. The couple has already fallen in love, and there’s no emotional growth,  and no internal conflict to solve. The couple involved in the romance aren’t even the main characters! There would have to be a lot of layers added to make it a viable story, and maybe a change in point-of-view, but it’s a start. If Disney were to tell this story, they’d probably have Miss Guided look unattractive when the children arrive at her cottage, and then magically transform into her beautiful self when the rescuers get there. Or maybe Sleeping Beauty’s fairies can join this story and do the transforming. Anyway, I’m not sure what the moral of this story would be. Maybe something like “Never go in a stranger’s home” or “Never wander into the woods alone.”

Or maybe “Always keep your phone charged up.”

About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page:
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11 Responses to There’s Always a Backstory

  1. Oh, the Grimm Brothers traveled around to gather folk stories and man, the people around them were well, YIKES!
    The only good thing about the original Hansel and Gretel story is that the father finally becomes a man and drives away h is hateful second wife.I see too many children being cast aside for new wives/husbands/partners, and it has gotten worse and worse in society.
    You put a LOT of thought into your version of H&G,Patty! The modernized movie from a few years back was a waste of acting talent and ridiculous writing.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thanks, Tonette. This topic was a challenge. I think I started outlining my thoughts as soon as my post from last week went live. I hadn’t read about the stepmother being tossed out, but that’s a good thing.


  2. Jeff Salter says:

    I love your version — it would make a terrific Hallmark Channel movie.
    Great name for the “witch” — Miss Guided.
    I was still in high school when my older brother told me that the original Grimm’s tales were quite “grim”. One example he mentioned was than in the cinderella story, those wicked stepsisters actually cut off their own toes … in order to try to fit into the glass slipper. I can see why Disney tidied that up a bit.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Ack! I’d never heard that detail about the stepsisters. That would definitely have kept me awake at night. Glad you like my attempt at retelling!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In my book about to be published, Treasure in a Field, the story revolves around a couple of legends. Close to fairy tales in some cases. LOL But if I had to pick a fairy tale to change into a book it would not be Cinderella. It’s been done too many times already, and done very well in some cases, I might add. Everafter is a prime example of the story well done.

    The fairytale I’d probably redo would be Beauty and the Beast. This is one that hasn’t been done believably. Not that I’ve seen anyway. Christian Romance Suspense would be my genre like my other stories. The beast would be someone who is a terrible person but changes through the story because of the heroine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I haven’t seen Everafter, but I’ll keep that in mind. I remember when Gail Gaymer Martin, an inspirational romance author who belonged to my RWA chapter, wrote a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It’s called Better to See You, and it’s a lovely story. I like your idea for Beauty and the Beast! Thanks for chiming in!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Elaine Cantrell says:

    Good fairy tale. I like the Disney versions better myself.


    • Anonymous says:

      Hi, and happy you read Better to See You. I had fun writing that story and creating another version of that theme. It’s nice to hear from readers and writers too who enjoyed a story. Since you mentioned this, maybe I give thought to another novel based on a child’s story. It might be fun. 😊


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Me too, Elaine!


  5. Your version is certainly happier than the original! Always keep your phone charged, love that moral.


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