Felony tales and nursery crimes

An old sketch of a moment in Hansel and Gretel with a speech bubble saying: "pull my finger" superimposed.

Xander got a book of fairy tales for Christmas. As he’s so obsessed with anything screen related, we were somewhat surprised when he asked for it. We were happy that he did, of course, and have been reading them regularly since.

I’d forgotten how fire and brimstone some of them are. In the compendium we got him, they have been viciously abbreviated and this adds to the abruptness of key plot details. The death of Hansel and Gretel’s horrible stepmother for instance. I have to confess that I laughed out loud when it was casually dropped in to the penultimate line.

I can’t help but feel that a good number of them glorify crime. Here are a few examples of felony tales and nursery crimes…

Jack and the Beanstalk

Ignoring the far-fetched notion of a big guy living in the clouds, there are some other plot details that leave me incredulous. The beans are clearly banned substances that the little git wilfully swaps his family’s livelihood for. Then there are the small matters of breaking and entering, theft and murder.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

This is an open and shut case. Breaking and entering, theft and criminal damage. Any pleas that the acts were carried out on non-human protagonists should be dismissed on the grounds that the victims were highly advanced and civilised. These are three bears who don’t shit in the woods.

Hansel and Gretel

This sibling duo gets away with the same set of offences as well as murder. And a pretty grisly one at that. I almost feel sorry for the witch being burned in an unconventional way. In a conventional oven. True, the kids were falsely imprisoned by the witch but they did start eating her house first and that’s just not cool.


As well as a crime against the laws of science – namely that of the load-bearing ability of human hair – there are plenty of real ones. There are acts of trespass, theft, false imprisonment, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm in this one. Plus I would argue that cutting someone’s hair against their will is assault.


Okay, so there are no real crimes here, but this tale suggests that telling lies pays off. Although the eponymous fire hopper is ultimately to blame for his own demise – classic Bond villain mistake there, Rumps – he ends up in an untenable situation thanks to the fibs of others. The biggest of which is when the miller claims his daughter can turn straw into gold. Chinny reckon!

But of course, all of these stories have happy endings. Well, unless you’re a witch, giant or anthropomorphic bear. I may as well have read Xander my Walking Dead comics!


  1. John Adams

    Some nursery rhymes and those traditional stories, especially the Brothers Grimme collections are very dark indeed. I’ve often shared your thoughts as it happens. Clearly it was quite acceptable a couple of centuries ago to absolutely terrify your kids.

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