Once Upon a More
Enlightened Time:

More Politically Correct
Bedtime Stories

(Hansel and Gretel)
(James Finn Garner)
At a clearing deep in the woods, the forester finally stopped and said to Hansel and Gretel, "You pre-adults wait here. I'm going to look for some trees to harvest, and maybe I'll explore my primitive masculine psyche against the backdrop of nature, if I have time. I'll be back before too long." He handed the children their lunches and walked off.

After morning had turned into afternoon and afternoon into evening, Hansel told his sister about their father's plan to abandon them. Gretel, always level-headed and practical in such situations, suggest they collect material for a lean-to-shelter, as they had learned in their Outward Bound Aboriginal Survival Techniques class.

"No need," said Hansel. "I've left us a trail of granola to follow back, without even littering or defacing a single tree." But when they went to find the trail, they discovered a cadre of survivalists busily eating up the granola.

The survivalists screamed at the children to get away from their newfound rations and, after firing a few warning shots in the air, disappeared into the woods.

Hansel and Gretel wandered along different trails, but after some time they became hopelessly lost and very hungry. Then, around a sharp bend in their path, they came upon a wondrous cottage made of carob brownies, sugarless gingerbread, and carrot cake. Even without a reassuring FDA label, the cottage looked so good that the children dived at it and began to devour it.

Suddenly, a wommon in her golden years (actually quite past them) emerged from the cottage. The many bangles on her wrists and ankles clattered as she moved, and she gave off the aroma of patchouli, burnt sage, and clove cigarettes. The children were startled. Hansel asked, "Please forgive my bluntness, but are you a wicked witch?"

The woman laughed. "No, no, my dear. I'm not a witch. I'm a Wiccan. I'm no more evil than anyone else, and I certainly don't eat little pre-adults, like all the rumours would have you believe. I worship nature and the Goddess, and mix herbs and natural potions to help people. Really. Now why don't you both come in for a nice cup of coltsfoot tea?"

Inside the functional yet edible cottage, the Wiccan advised the children to forget the propaganda and slander that had been spread about persons like her. She told them stories about her life in the forest, making potions, casting spells, communing with non-human animals, and healing the many wounds inflicted on Mother Earth. It took some time for Hansel and Gretel to free their minds from the stereotype of a green-skinned, temporally advanced crone in a pointy black hat.

They were finally convinced of the Wiccan's sincerity when they met her neighbors and kinfolk. To welcome the children, these gentle people held a gathering that night in the moonlight, in which they stripped off all their clothes, rubbed mud on each other, and danced in a circle to the sound of ocarinas and panpipes. It was an inspiring sight, and it felt so right and natural that Hansel and Gretel decided then and there to give up their old lives and join the forest people.

Over time, Hansel and Gretel came to love the Wiccan and their lives in the forest. As they grew older and more empowered, they began to assert their bonds with Mother Earth in more direct and tangible ways. With courage and vigor, they planned and carried out many deep ecology actions to protect their arboreal home. Hansel and Gretel merrily spiked trees, monkey-wrenched mining and bull-dozing equipment, and blew up power plants and electrical lines with explosives made from all-natural ingredients.

They were very content and self-fulfilled protecting their adopted habitat until one day terrible news came. A huge multinational paper conglomerate had purchased their entire forest, intent on turning it all into wood pulp. Hansel, Gretel, the Wiccan, and all their compadres and compadres geared up for the confrontation of their lives. The eco-defenders gathered up their wrenches and their plastique, their picket signs and their panpipes, and started off for the headquarters of the conglomerate, alerting the media along the way.

Hansel, Gretel, and the Wiccan marched at the head of the crowd, chanting and swaying and itching for a fight. As the headquarters of the paper conglomerate came into view, the two siblings saw something about it that was very familiar. The huge plant and building complex took up nearly four acres of land, but on the circular driveway, smack in the middle of the main entrance, sat a small, humble chalet. It was in fact their childhood home, squatting like a hermit's shack in front of the sleek steel and glass facade of the HQ.

Just as the brother and sister were beginning to digest this, the small wooden door of the shack opened and out stepped their father, the forester. He was dressed in an Armani suit with Italian loafers, and on either side of him crowded a phalanx of lawyers. It was obvious that the woodspersun had done OK for himself.

"Well, well," said their father, "the wheel of fate spins round again. Good to see you again, Hansel and Gretel."

"Please don't call us that," said his biological but not spiritual son. "We have changed our names to symbolize the birth of our new consciousness and to separate ourselves from our heartless, exploitative upbringing. From now on, you may call me Heathdweller."

"And my name is Gaia," said his sister.

"Change your names to Thumper and Bambi, for all I care," their father laughed. "You people are still going to have to relocate from the forest. We've made a deal with a nice trailer park down by the Interstate for you, and hired a relocation counseling firm to help..."

The Wiccan cut him off. "Death to the rapers of the Earth!" she screamed, and the rest of the crowd picked up her chant.

"No need to get personal," the father muttered. He moved to calm the crowd. "All right, all right. We'd like to meet with your spokesman..."

"Spokeswommon!" insisted one protester.

"Spokespersun!" shouted another.

A lawyer whispered into the father's ear. "We'd like to meet with your person of spoke," the father said finally, "the Wiccan."

Amid shouts of encouragement the Wiccan raised her fist and walked into the building with the suits. The ecoteurs were very happy and confident because they placed their complete trust in the Wiccan. She would never back down in the face of these planet ravishers. To celebrate, they formed a prayer circle in the parking lot and began to dance.

The sound of ocarinas and panpipes was still in the air when the negotiators reemerged from the building. The father and the lawyers were smiling, while the Wiccan had a more sheepish expression, although it is an insult to sheep to imply that they could ever look so guilty.

Gaia, née Gretel, immediately sensed that something in the established order of things had changed. "What's happened?" she shouted. "What went on in there?"

"A prominent member of your group has decided to wake up and face reality," said her father. "The Wiccan has agreed to join our senior staff, as our new Vice President of Holistic and Spiritual Wellness, Mother Earth Division."

An involuntary gasp escaped from the eco-warriors. "How could you?" screamed Gaia.

"Child, I had no choice," the Wiccan said in a pleading manner. "They gave me a complete medical and dental, including experimental cures that most policies won't cover."

A confused murmur went up from the eco-squadron. This was indeed a stunning blow. If their wisest and most earth-conscious persun-in-arms could be so easily bought, what chance did the rest of them have? Along with the lawyers around him, the woodspersun wore a grin like the cat that had satisfied its nutritional needs at the expense of the canary.

--- James Finn Garner
©1995, Simon and Schuster/MacMillan
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