The Hansel & Gretel Solution
February 20, 2012 1 Comment
What lessons do the story of Hansel and Gretel hold for our current fiscal troubles? Glad you asked.
As you recall, Hansel and Gretel tells the story of a troubled family (allegorically, a nation) that is starving, due to a ‘famine’. We are told the father is a woodcutter, clearly indicating a misallocation of resources (who needs woodcutting during a famine?). He has no explicit ideas to deal with the famine; they will all just eat less. The stepmother, meanwhile, obsesses on one idea – let’s kill the children, then there will be more food for the rest of us.
Allegorically, the father and stepmother represent two factions of a divided government. The father, who clearly had been shunted into a bubble logging/woodcutting industry (presumably due to government ‘stimulus’ and loose money policies), even to the point of moving his whole family into the middle of a forest, is now implicitly, and impotently, advocating austerity. The stepmother (usurper government?) meanwhile is focused on Malthusian population control and, allegorically, contraception. That the children first escape her attempt to strand them in the woods by laying a trail of ‘white pebbles’ that shine in the ‘moonlight’ may hint at the reproductive symbolism at play here.
Predictably, the step-mother’s easy-way-out left-wing policies initially win the day as the second attempt to get rid of the children is successful, with the help of forest birds who eat their bread-crumb trail. Subtextually, some of the blame for their exile here is now their own: failing to plan for and preserve their trail home (e.g., straying from the constitutional path). Cast out like Noah, they are shown the way by the white bird of peace to their next test: the candy house in the woods.
This is the witch’s house. And although it is disavowed in the text, the is clearly meant to be their grandmother, who not only has wastefully stored and saved up the family’s (nation’s) wealth in the construction and maintenance of a frivolous candy house, but – we later learn – has all manner of jewels and riches stored up inside. And is she done? No, for she wants to fatten and eat Hansel as well. Other readings suggest the witch is the stepmother herself; perhaps she represents the stepmother at a later phase of life. Either way, she represents the elderly generation, plump with savings, still wanting to live off the young. The parallels with Social Security here are undeniable.
Despite the sinister light it casts upon the left, however, right-wingers looking for solace in this story will be disappointed. For what is the ultimate salvation for Hansel and Gretel? They trick the witch into thinking Hansel isn’t plump enough to eat (tax avoidance), kill her and take her treasure (savings). This is euthanasia, but on a lesser scale it is, perhaps, inflation, as the nation’s salvation. We are clearly meant to think of the witch’s (grandmother’s) savings as entirely ill-gotten and fair game for Hansel and Gretel (the nation) to re-appropriate and bring back home. This they do, riding back across the lake on a white swan (love? transcendence?), back home to discover their stepmother had died – lending credence to the stepmother=witch theory, and their father had been lost with sorrow at succumbing to the stepmother’s advice. With the witch’s treasure, they go on to live happily ever after.
This story therefore clearly illustrates that prior societies have already grappled with many of the same issues we now face. And the solution they hit upon was simply to stick it to the elderly. Now, I don’t necessarily advocate, mind you, I just analyze.