“There was once a cook called Gretel, who wore shoes with red heels, and when she went out in them she gave herself great airs, and thought herself very fine indeed.”
In this fairy tale, Gretel the cook is one of three characters and the only female character. Her master is character number two and the master’s guest is the third, and Gretel manages to trick the former male into thinking the guest stole the two roasting birds, and the latter into thinking the master is sharpening his knife to cut off the guest’s ears. It’s quite a clever arrangement indeed, and it is clear that Gretel enjoys getting the best of them (she is the one who ate both birds, during and after a good amount of drink).
There is no real lesson to learn from this fairy tale; Gretel doesn’t get caught and therefore doesn’t face any consequences for gluttony, enjoying a few drinks while neglecting her cooking duty, and lying. We can either take Gretel’s side and find her clever and humorous, or we can oppose her actions and feel sorry for the master who is outwitted by his cook. I’m going with the former – it’s a fairy tale, after all. And at this point, it’s refreshing to see a female character outwit those around her and go on with her life without being reprimanded by a male overlord.
You may be wondering if this Gretel is the same one in the story Hansel and Gretel (just fifteen stories away). I wondered this too when I read the title. However, I am not finding a link, so for now I’m assuming that the commonality of the name Margaret – which Gretel is short for (German) – is responsible for the overlap.
I have a minor update about my research on the history of the Grimm’s brothers. I have placed a hold on two books available at my library that focus on the brothers – I’ll be heading to the library sometime this week so I’ll include some new things I learn in my May fairy tale posts.