“Hansel and Gretel” is a well-known fairy-tale. Among all the fairy-stories, it is one that most children and adults are familiar with, even if they have never read it. Can you picture the witch’s house, covered in sweets?
“It was now three mornings since they had left their father’s house. They began to walk again, but they always got deeper into the forest. If help did not come soon, they must die of hunger and weariness!
When it was midday, they saw a beautiful Snow-White Bird sitting on a bough, which sang so delightfully that they stood still and listened to it. And when it had finished its song, it spread its wings and flew away before them. They followed it until they reached a little house, on the roof of which it alighted.
When they came quite up to the little House they saw that it was built of bread and covered with cakes, but that the windows were of clear sugar.”from “Hansel and Gretel” Grimm’s Fairy Tales
A Lasting Fascination With The Witch’s House
A person may read this scene, and, though it has little description, get a very vivid picture in their mind of the witch’s house. “What a dream come true!” yells the child inside all of us.
From childhood to adulthood, the image stays with us. Indeed, if I pause from “real life” and picture the witch’s house, I am back to my childhood.
First, the feeling of wonder at following a “magical” bird, guiding them when they had lost hope.
Then, I picture the house covered in tempting cookies and frosting, how it would have smelled! Then, the image evokes the thrill that hungry Hansel and Gretel would have felt at the discovery of so much food.
The sweet treats were on the outside of the house, tempting them to “eat their fill”.
I can easily feel their fear and desperation, followed by sudden hope of a cozy, safe refuge.
Finally, following all of the joy, ALARM, at falling into a witch’s evil plans!
You can read about the importance of Fairy Stories here.
The First Gingerbread House
Gingerbread, as a confection, has been around for hundreds of years, as far back as the Middle Ages. Bakers throughout Europe made gingerbread into shapes, like animals and people, then decorated them with gold leaf. Due to the costliness of the spices, they treated the sweet treat with great significance, like edible art.
The inspiration for the first house to be made from gingerbread was, more than likely, the witch’s house from “Hansel and Gretel”.
The book, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, was published in 1812. After it’s publication, the book became wildly popular. As the fairy tale became well-known, could it have combined the much-loved Christmas tradition of gingerbread with the new form of a house?
During the 19th century, gingerbread houses became a widespread symbol of Christmas festivities.
Did “Hansel and Gretel’ inspire the gingerbread house? Or did the gingerbread house inspire the element of the witch’s house? I am unsure which was the influence, but I believe there is a connection between them.
How “Hansel And Gretel” Inspired Me
After reading the Fairy Tale, I felt like putting my hands to creating the witch’s house from my own imagination. Creating the house made me feel more involved in the story, picturing the scenes and thinking of how Hansel and Gretel felt.
By slowing down and spending time creating a scene from the Fairy Tale I wondered about the snow-white bird that led the children to the witch’s house. I pictured the good duck that helped Hansel and Gretel across the water.
For this version, I did not add the windows, though the story clearly points them out. So, maybe I will add them to the next house I make!
‘We will set to work on that,’ said Hansel, ‘and have a good meal. I will eat a bit of the roof, and you Gretel, can eat some of the window, it will taste sweet.’ Hansel reached up above, and broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, and Gretel leant against the window and nibbled at the panes.from “Hansel and Gretel” Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Papier-Mache For The Witch’s House
Papier-mache is perfect for making the witch’s house into art. It is one of my favorite ways to bring my imaginings to life.
I love how it has added texture, and has solidified the structure of the house.
My goal is always to use as many recycled or found materials when practicing my papier-mache art.
For this house, I made the structure out of chipboard from the backs of drawing paper and watercolor paper pads. The sides of the house, and the roof, needed to be very thick. Because of the moisture in papier-mache clay, thinner cardstock would warp and buckle.
This is the papier-mache clay recipe that I have used for years, and I love it! However, I have changed it slightly to further suit my needs.
I have substituted olive oil, for the mineral oil, in the original recipe. Mostly, because it is an extra thing to have around, and I always have olive oil on hand. And an addition I have made for my use, is to add 5-7 drops of one of these essential oils: rosemary, lavender, or tea-tree. I have had great success with this inhibiting mold growth, and extending the life of my clay, so that I can work with it longer.
Vintage Charm Of Papier-Mache
Papier-mache art is full of vintage charm, made perfect by covering in German glass glitter!
Muted colors are always what I prefer, so I washed all my surfaces with a watered down white as a final coat of paint. This wash has given the house an “iced” or “frosted” appearance, which works well with a house covered in gingerbread!
Once the colors were right, I coated all the surfaces with a matte varnish and sprinkled almost everything with clear German glass glitter. I kept the door glitter-free, so the witch, along with Hansel and Gretel, could easily enter! ( I’m using my imagination! The door does not really open.)
Displaying The Witch’s House
Having an art adaptation of a Fairy Tale to display extends the time spent pondering the story. The witch’s house reminds me of the story every time my eyes sweep past it.
Children especially enjoy having a piece of art to look at, showing a scene from a Fairy Tale or other story they may be reading. I think vintage style papier-mache art objects are particularly beautiful as decorations for a child’s bedroom. Something like this witch’s house would be perfect for gazing at, and daydreaming away the hours!
Although Fairy Tales and the art that accompanies them are so naturally fitting for children, don’t forget the benefits to the adults! We grown-ups need regular reminders to dream and imagine.
The witch’s house is on a table in my living room, and it is good for my imagination, as well as my children’s.
More To Come
There are more elements from “Hansel and Gretel” coming, so be sure to look for additions to further illustrate this delightful Fairy Tale!
If you have children, try reading this Fairy Tale to them, showing the pictures of the witch’s house art here.
Why not encourage them, and yourself, to try your hands at drawing pictures of the house from your own imagination?
Please let me know what other ways you think of to extend your wonder of this cherished Fairy Tale!
What other Fairy Stories would you like to see as an art adaptation? Tell me in the comments below
Thanks for stopped by!