Compare the original Grimm tale with the MGM version. What is different in the film? What is similar? Why did the movie directors make those changes?
The first similarity between the two stories is in the opening characterization of the mother and father. The mother is explicated as a disdainful, narcissistic woman, who plots against her own children. Readers can sympathize with the father, because they can feel how painful it would be to have to lead your children into certain death. One difference that the MGM version delineates is some background on why the family is in poverty. The mother remarks to the father that “you better not let that baker fool you again!”. Hansel and Gretel and their father then venture into town, where the children learn a song and dance from the town entertainers. Another similarity between the two stories is Hansel’s nurturing demeanor. When Gretel grouses about her hunger, Hansel consoles her and tells her that God will help them. This also explains the christian motifs, because faith will overcome evil.
Journeying into the forest is when another difference arises. In the Grimm’s book, Hansel and Gretel go into the forest twice, the first time Hansel has stones that leads him home. The final difference which I will explain is the resolution of the tale. In the MGM version, once the witch is defeated, Hansel and Gretel find a dozen or so other children trapped in Gingerbread Men and rescue them. The ending scene is Hansel and Gretel, their father, and the other children walking back out of the forest. The resolution of the Grimm’s book version tells that Gretel opened the cage for Hansel and then found pearls and jewels, so their family was now rich. The MGM version’s ending characterizes Hansel and Gretel as heroes, not only for themselves, but for the whole town.
I believe that the movie directors added in the baker as an explanation of the families poverty, because we, as viewers, want to know who the villain and who the hero is. In the book, we do not know why the family is impoverished, and therefore the mother(witch) is the sole villain. When we hear the father return from town with great news that the baker has finally repaid, we rejoice because we have defeated a small villain. The movie directors also changed the number of journeys into the forest, because of the characterization of Hansel. In the book, Hansel can be characterized as overtly confident in his abilities to find his way out of the forest the second time, because he already did it a short time ago. Therefore in the film Hansel seems more heroic, because he is able to adapt and thrive in his unfortunate circumstances.