All that glitters is gingerbread

Back from the AJS where I delivered my rousing defense of idolatry. I was told later that no one understood it. That’s a first for all-too-lucid Oo. Where can I write for my pomo-unintelligibility Brownie badge? I’ve passed the test.

For the last two weeks Eila’s class has been reading versions of the story of the Gingerbread Man (ahem, Gingerbread Person: see these Gingeyfolks and this book), and I’ve been trying to figure it out.

Remember the story? An old couple painstakingly bakes a gingerbread man. As he comes out of the oven he leaps up and runs away, singing “Run, run/ As fast as you can./ You can’t catch me,/ I’m the Gingerbread Man!” The old couple takes up the chase and are joined, one by one, by several animals: everybody wants to eat this guy. Finally he comes to a river and accepts a fox’s offer of a ride. The fox asks him to sit on his tail; then, as the water gets deeper, on his back, on his head, and on his nose — at which point the fox eats him.

What’s this nasty little tale about? Z suggests maybe it’s a bit of crudery directed at slaves considering escape.

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5 thoughts on “All that glitters is gingerbread

  1. This reminds me, as I am reading your blog while I should be writing my paper, of that tape that I used to listen to when I was younger of the horrible man with the chickens (I think it was chickens), and the other man hears him sharpening a knife, thinks the chicken man wants to eat his ear, and proceeds to runs away with the chicken man running and bellowing behind him (weilding the knife): “Just One!” What was that? Do you recall what the chicken/ear confusion was? And what was the point of that horrible tale that has clearly engrained itself into my memory? Sounds just as bad/worse than the gingerbread man.

  2. Clever Gretel by the Grimm Bros, retold by Danny Kaye. Fantastic retelling; very funny. I’ll play it for you when you’re here. Eila listened to it last week.

    Gretel, the servant, eats the two chickens she’s supposed to be cooking, so she has to get rid of the guest and the master. Master is sharpening the carving knife for the chickens. Gretel tells the guest that the master is sharpening the knife to cut off his ears. The guest runs. Then she tells the master that the guest has stolen both chickens and run. The master runs out after the guest, still clutching the knife and shouting: “not both, just one!” Meaning chickens to the master, and ears to the guest.

    No idea what the point is, but the servant gets the better of the bourgeois masters and gets to eat two chickens. Can’t be all bad.

    But why am I blogging when I should be buying you presents? Write your paper!

  3. Isn’t the gingerbread-man story about the necessity of idolatry? The gingerbread man wants to escape finitude to some pure land, and gets eaten by desire/power/imagination/fakery and other symptoms of Hobbes.

  4. Aha! Very good! Or maybe it’s the other way around. His desire to escape death is the idolatrous desire par excellence — he runs, sure, but his running is actually a manifestation of the desire for stasis, for permanence, for the cycle of life to be halted, for immortality. And this idolatrous desire always proves illusory.

    But your interpretation is already one step beyond this — the reversal of the drash I’ve just offered into sod.

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