Hansel and Gretel got lost in the dark forest representing the unconscious; everything appears dark, difficult, threatening and uncertain. But eventually a light is kindled in the darkness, and out of the shadow other archetype emerge (Le Grice 3477).
Gretel is a naïve child and dependent to everyone, during her descent into the underworld (dark forest) it gave her the opportunity to face the weak side of herself. Dr. Young posited that she had a great apprenticeship to a masterful sorceress. It is a valuable mentoring for Gretel who has no power and now she has some (Young, Lecture 7). After many days of laboring for the witch she activated the animus function by pushing the witch inside the big oven, it relates to the tendency in each of us to project our own capacity for self-assertion, independence of thought, and decisive action into powerful external figures who embody those qualities one might recognize and cultivate in oneself (Le Grice 3500).
I was once like the naive Gretel, dependent and like to please everyone around me because I thought that I might hurt their feelings, and I want to see everyone happy. But in the process, I was doing more damage to myself. In any relationship, it is important that we learn how to assert our feelings. The goal in assertiveness is not to please everybody, but to be fair to yourself and to other people. As a female, the anima is engraved within us but Individuation requires the development of both anima and animus.
Gretel is an example of a passive character discovering strength that was probably always there, but never claimed before. It is at a moment of danger, when there are no other options left, that she finally rises to her destiny. It is a startling moment in life when we start to use more of our inner resources. It may be out of desperation, or just a desire to be seen and heard. Suddenly, we stop playing it so safe. We take the risk of people getting mad at us. It is seldom as dangerous as we thought it might be. We were being far more cautious than was necessary. Of course, there are no guarantees. The risks do not always work out, but at least we tried.
Grice, Keiron Le. The rebirth of the hero: mythology as a guide to spiritual transformation. Muswell Hill Press, 2013.
Young, Jonathan. Lecture 7: The Dark Forest: Hansel and Gretel. Philosophical Research Society, 2004.