Hansel and Gretel retold and illustrated by Jane Ray, 1997.
Continuing on with the theme I began in Picture Books: Hansel and Gretel , we now look at Jane Ray's version of the tale.
- Does not mention God
- Hansel drops pebbles but says he is turning back to look at a white cat on the roof
- Hansel drops breadcrumbs but says he is turning back to look at a pigeon on the roof
- Children follow a white bird to the witch's house
- House is "made of gingerbread, iced with pink and white sugar and covered all over with sweets and sugarplums. The windowpanes were of clear sugar and a fence made of gingerbread figures ran around the house."
- Witch is an old woman "dressed in tatters with cobwebs and spiders clinging to her skirts."
- Witch promises no harm will come to them
- Gives detail on the witch, including her keen sense of smell
- Children ride a white duck across the water to get home
- Stepmother has gone, no mention of her death
"Nibble, nibble little mouse, who's that nibbling at my house?"
"Just the winds, the winds that blow, from the sky to the earth below."
"Little duck, little duck, duckling dear,
Hansel and Gretel are standing here.
A bridge they lack and a boat they lack,
Please carry them over on your back."
Ray's spectacular art makes this book really special (full disclosure: I already own it). She used watercolor, gouache, ink, pencil, collage and varnish to produce it. It is very detailed, with background patterns of branches, vines and stars on pages before and after the visit to the witch's house, and skulls, lizards and feathers when the children are with her. Ray uses motifs of hearts, stars, eyes and hands throughout the book.
Interestingly, the cruel stepmother's face is never shown. Ray's gingerbread house is less readily identifiable as made from sweets and her fence of gingerbread people with skull-like faces is downright creepy.
The witch is scarily dramatic, with red eyes, fang like teeth and blood red lipstick that creeps beyond her lip line. She is suggestive of a demented Marie Antoinette with chalk white skin and black beauty marks. Her hat carries a black bird, a butterfly and a flopping fish of bones. Her clothes appear to be dripping feathers, spiders, snakes and a toad. Her red taloned hands are decorated with a mendhi pattern and her shoes have eyes.