The use of mythology, symbols, and archetypes in Engelbert Humperdinck's "Hansel und Gretel"
Klimek, Elisabeth Anne
MetadataShow full item record
My goal in this paper is to apply Joseph Campbell's study of mythology to Engelbert Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel , its success, and the contemporary implications of the opera. Through examination of the opera's relationship to German Romanticism and Nationalism, as well as the symbolism and archetypes as they relate to the characters and setting, I will seek to reassess Hänsel und Gretel 's position within the operatic canon. For Campbell, mythology is how we connect to the world around us and within us. Through fairytales, such as those set by the Brothers Grimm, we are taught values and lessons disguised by a shroud of monstrous extremes. In fairytales, we find characters that are either good or bad, bright or foolish, greedy or humble; they lack multifaceted personalities. The same can be said of characters in classic horror films; they are archetypes that can be traced back to ancient times The societal fear of an all-consuming witch resonates with modern audiences whether they realize it or not. History is full of examples of the aftermath of over-indulgence. From the body's physical reaction to over exerting, over eating, etc. to the mind's psychological reaction to over thinking and over analyzing, part of the human experience is avoiding the `over'. Sociologically, over doing it separates one from the community, which makes them vulnerable; the vulnerable do not last very long. While the fantastical nature of Hänsel und Gretel may make it seem outdated or superfluous, the societal implications within it are timeless.