First Lines: Hansel & Gretel

In the case of Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti’s Hansel & Gretel, the pictures came first. They were created in 2007 for an exhibition to celebrate the opening of the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of the opera of the same name. Later, Gaiman was shown Mattotti’s stark, black ink art, and asked to retell the story.

And that is it, I guess. Unlike Gaiman’s adaptations of Snow White (“Snow, Glass, Apples”) and Sleeping Beauty (“The Sleeper and the Spindle”), this is a straight-forward retelling of the Grimm version. It’s done very well, with some humorous passages like how the kids got their names (The child was named Margaret, which they shortened to Greta, and then to Gretel. Two years later the woodcutter’s wife gave birth to a boy, and they called him Hans, which, because they could make it no shorter, they made longer and changed to Hansel.), but it’s the story you know about two kids lost in the woods and an evil old woman in a gingerbread house.

Book read
Neil Gaiman & Lorenzo Mattotti — Hansel & Gretel
First line
This all happened a long time ago, in your grandmother’s time, or in her grandfather’s.