161mc: Web 2.0 Narratives – tell me a story

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I absolutely loved this idea of web narratives. Taking a classic, well loved story and retelling it with 21st century technology. Christmas 2012 – The Digital Story of Nativity was brilliant. Excellent choice of music and a good dollop of humor. These were the things I wanted to ensure I got into my film.

I choose the idea of Hansel and Gretel as it is a story I think most people are familiar with. I started to look into it’s history to ensure I stuck to the story’s ideals and got it’s morals across to my audience.

Hansel and Gretel was first published in 1812 by The Brothers Grimm. But it is a German fairy tale that is believed to originally date back to the 14th century. The story depicts a young brother and sister who are taken into the woods by their father and evil step mother and abandoned there as they can no longer afford to feed them. The two children are then lured to a huge candy house where they are kidnapped by an evil witch who starts to fatten them up so she can eat them! These obsessions with food and cannibalism make historians believe that the original folk tale was imagined during The Great Famine (1315-1317) Times were so hard during this period that many children were abandoned to fend for themselves and there were stories of parents eating their own children to survive.

But back to Grimm’s fairy tale. Ultimately the children prevail. Managing to trick the witch into leaning into the oven to see if it is hot enough. As soon as she is far enough in they slam the door and proceed to roast her alive! The very stuff of bedtime stories; and we wonder why children often have such dark imaginations.

Although the moral of the story seems to be if you eat too much candy it leads to any early grave, many more themes are also hinted at. There seems to be the classic don’t take candy from strangers, along with don’t stray from the path and don’t judge a book by it’s cover. the beautiful candy covered house on the outside hiding a cramped prison and a child eating witch inside. But more so than any of these, I think the real issues being highlighted are that of greed and selfishness.

Keeping these ideals in mind I also realized that a 21st century Hansel and Gretel needed a twist. In reality the parents in the original story are very guilty, yet the father is ultimately forgiven and the step mother conveniently passes away. I wanted them to receive a proper villian’s punishment for their crimes so in my story we eventually see them getting their comeuppance and going to jail for their abandonment of Hansel and Gretel. I also always had a soft spot for the witch, however wicked, she was just after a good meal so I made her the hero of the piece. Although at the end we begin to have our doubts as we see her putting on a huge feast for the children. Celebration banquet or fattening up pre-witch dinner?

digital storytelling – hansel and gretel (extended edit) from tara rutledge on Vimeo.

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