Fairy Tales were composed to express eternal joys, sorrows, hopes, and dreams of human kind. Although these folk tales may be aimed at children, but they surely reflect the values, assumptions, and concerns of our cultural traditions. They always portrayed one moral that obedience, good manners, beauty, and hard work always lead to rewards while opposing characteristics are consistently punished.
The two tales, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel , are revolving around a female center character. Both characters seem to be different in some ways and yet very alike. Many females usually portrayed as the main character in fairy tales are faced with tasks of demonstrating their domestic competence.
Cinderella is described as a very understanding and tolerant female. She is burdened with her inordinate amount of what is deemed domestic challenges put forth by her cruel stepmother and stepsisters. She is shown as a person who strongly believes in fate. She does nothing to protest against any of the injustice happening with her. She had left everything to the fate being patient and forgiving. She was going along with the flow of life. In the end it was her good luck that instantaneously changed her life and paid off for the good behavior she had maintained through out.
Gretel on the other hand has been portrayed as a very intelligent girl. She brings her own solutions to her problems and solves them. She appears as a very confident character unlike Cinderella. She is quick enough to make appropriate decision when the situation asks for it.
Not only do these fairy tales show conflict between good and evil, but also they all dwell on the beauty of the main character. Almost all of the fairy tales reinforce to some degree the association between beauty and goodness.
This may possibly lead people to believe that a supernatural realm exists to award those characters with positive characteristics such as beauty, patience, kindness, obedience, or perhaps hard-work ethics. At the same time, those with characteristics that are viewed as negative such as ugliness, cruelty, disobedience, and laziness will be punished. For example, in Cinderella the main character is portrayed as beautiful, good, hard working, and abused. Her magical agent, the fairy godmother, dispensed her reward by giving her the means to attend the ball.
The image of the evil stepmother occurs frequently in fairy tales. She is associated with jealousy and cruelty. “In masculine psychology, the stepmother is a symbol of the unconscious in a destructive role” (Franz). The stepmother figure is actually two sided, in that while she has destructive intentions, her actions often lead the protagonist into situations that identify and strengthen his or her best qualities. In the story of Cinderella, her stepmother along with her daughters mistreats the poor girl, Cinderella, and brings bad luck for her in everyway they can. The same is the case with the story of Hansel and Gretel. When a famine devastates the area, the evil step mom decides to abandon the poor children, Hansel and Gretel, by leaving them in the forest.
The folk tales, in the end, automatically change considerably to try to justify the negligent father’s redemption and ability to live “happily ever after.” However, such ending seems disturbing and even unethical. The father in Cinderella feels happy for his child when she marry s the prince. In Hansel and Gretel, the father, who was too weak to resist the evil suggestion of his wife and with her abandoned the children in the forest, is not only not punished for his highly immoral way of acting but even gets to enjoy the treasures the children bring back.