Hansel & Gre­tel

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Rated / Books -

Can­ni­bal­ism for kids

Re­lease Date: OUT NOW!

56 pages | Hard­back Au­thor: Neil Gaiman Pub­lisher: Blooms­bury Chil­dren’s

Ear­lier this year, Neil

Gaiman vis­ited the Syr­ian refugee camps in Jor­dan and wrote about his ex­pe­ri­ences there. His vis­its cre­ated aware­ness, raised money and ob­vi­ously af­fected him a great deal – and also helped in­spire his lat­est il­lus­trated story. Be­cause wars and famine and ter­ri­ble choices aren’t just con­fined to fairy­tales. “Talk­ing to the Syr­ian refugees who ran out of food… get­ting per­mis­sion from their Imams to eat cats and dogs be­cause all the other an­i­mals had gone, eat­ing grass, drink­ing swamp wa­ter, and I’m go­ing, this, this is Hansel and Gre­tel now.”

You know the story: a wood­cut­ter and his wife aban­don their chil­dren in the woods rather than see the whole fam­ily starve. With their trail of bread­crumbs eaten by birds, Hansel and Gre­tel stum­ble upon a ginger­bread house where they’re greeted by a friendly old woman…

So noth­ing new here – this is Gaiman’s telling of the clas­sic story, not a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of it. But it’s the lit­tle things that set the tone for a com­pelling, dev­as­tat­ing edi­tion. The rea­sons be­hind the sit­u­a­tion, the war that led to famine and such dread­ful choices. The fact that it’s not an evil step­mother, but the chil­dren’s own mother who in­sists the sib­lings must be aban­doned. The dra­matic il­lus­tra­tions by Lorenzo Mat­totti, some­where be­tween wood­cuts and shad­ows in the fire. They all com­bine to make an ab­sorb­ing, terrifying fairy­tale that’s still rel­e­vant to­day. Rhian Drinkwa­ter The orig­i­nal tale is be­lieved to have come from the Great Famine of 1315, which killed mil­lions and led to re­ports of can­ni­bal­ism.

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