Run, Run as Fast as You Can
The Brothers Grimm, narrators of many incredible folk and fairy tales for children and adult, established the delicious tradition of making gingerbread men and women in Europe. The Grimms are most well-known storytellers of European folk tales, and their work popularized such stories as “Cinderella” (Aschenputtel), “The Frog Prince” (Der Froschkönig), “Hansel and Gretel” (Hänsel und Gretel), “Rapunzel”, “Rumpelstiltskin” (Rumpelstilzchen), and “Snow White” (Schneewittchen). Recurring themes in their folk tales were that of starvation, homelessness, poverty,tasks that had to be completed, deceptive women and always concluded with a moral. Food featured frequently in the tales since so many people went hungry, hence the reason for the candy house in Hansel and Gretel and the gingerbread man. As for settings, actual landscapes and geographic regions were used in the tales. For instance, the tale of Hansel and Gretel was set in a dense pine forest known as The Black Forest. The brothers’ believed that all the tales were of value and reflected inherent cultural qualities. Activities in daily life were continually featured in their tales, including using spinning wheels with flax. The Brothers featured characters who were of sound quality as spinners, and lazy, amoral characters had no interest. in it. The contrast between a fairy tale and a folk tale is that former typically features fantasy characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants, or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. Fairy tales may be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables. In cultures where demons and witches are perceived as real, fairy tales may merge into legends, where the narrative is perceived both by teller and hearers as being grounded in historical truth.
The tale of the Gingerbread Man of course is a fairy tale. The tradition of baking gingerbread began in the 11th century when Crusaders returning from the Middle East brought a new spice, ginger, with them. Catholic monks baked gingerbread for special religious celebrations. The cakes were constructed in specific designs depicting saints and religious motifs. The early carvings were made with a large and elaborately carved “cookie board” that impressed the pattern onto a stiff rolled dough. As the costs of exotic ingredients and spices dropped, gingerbreads slowly became more popular across Europe and Britain. The tradition of baking a Gingerbread house began in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their collection of German fairy tales in the early 1800s. Among the tales was the story of Hansel and Gretel,children left to starve in the forest, who came upon a house made of bread and sugar decorations. It is possible however that brothers Grimm were actually writing about something that may have already existed. If you’re looking for a gingerbread man template for a craft project, print the one below. There is also a template for a constructive craft or to build a simple gingerbread house.
Competition for impressive gingerbread houses is fierce the world over. Frankly, I’m astounded with the hobbyists’ creations. I couldn’t design those houses if I was paid. Many of the houses reflect actual houses that have significant meaning in various communities. I find these to be among the most historically impressive:
- Winchester Mystery House – Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, was a disturbed woman who believed in ghosts and evil spirits. It is rumoured that she was a paranoid schizophrenic. After visiting a Boston medium, she spent 38 years constructing and deconstructing a bizarre manor that was once an 8-room farmhouse. Hundreds of winding staircases that led to a wall. Twisting corridors that led nowhere and were so confusing servants needed a map to orient themselves or they would get lost, themes of the number 13, 7, and 11 appearing in stained glass windows and staircase design also featured in the house. Some of the staircases and rooms had names: there is a Switchback Staircase and a Seance Room, among many others. One staircase has 44 steps and is only 9 feet high since each step is only 2 inches in height. Another has 11 steps up and 7 steps down. There was once 500 – 600 rooms in the mansion but due to continuous construction and deconstruction, the house has only 160 rooms today. The actual house is featured on the left. The gingerbread replica is on the right..
- The Carson Mansion, Eureka, California. The Carson Mansion is “considered the most grand Victorian home in America.” It is one of the most written about and photographed Victorian houses in California, and perhaps, in the United States. William Carson arrived in San Francisco from New Brunswick, Canada in 1849. During one of the winters between forays into mining, Carson hauled logs from the Freshwater slough to the Pioneer Mill on the shores of Humboldt Bay. He claimed to be the first to fell a tree for commercial purposes on Humboldt Bay. By 1853 he was selling shiploads of Redwood lumber, bound for San Francisco. In 1863 Carson formed the Dolbeer and Carson Lumber Company, and in 1884, he began construction on his mansion. The mansion is a mix of every major style of Victorian architecture, including the following styles: Eastlake, Italianate, Queen Anne (primary), and Stick. The gingerbread house took two months to create. It is featured on the top left corner of the photograph on the left.
- Brothers Grimm Castle – based on various Grimm fairytales, a hobbyist designed this castle. The designer must have used as many descriptive details from the stories as possible, along with pictures of actual castles and a great imagination. That’s my guess.
4. The Whitehouse – The house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia Creek sandstone in the Neoclassical style. In 1814, during the War of 1812. the mansion was set ablaze by the British Army in the Burning of Washington destroying the interior and charring much of the exterior. Reconstruction began almost immediately, and President James Monroe moved into the partially reconstructed Executive Residence in October 1817. The Executive Residence is made up of six stories—the Ground Floor, State Floor, Second Floor, and Third Floor, as well as a two-story basement. This construction is included in the gingerbread version.
5. The Downtown Abbey – A British series is a British period drama television series created by Julian Fellowes. The series, set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era. Highclere Castle in Hampshire was used for exterior shots of Downton Abbey and most of the interior filming. The kitchen and servants’ quarters and working areas and several “upstairs” bedrooms were constructed and filmed at Ealing Studios. The gingerbread version is on the left.
7. Notre Dame Cathedral – in Paris, France, is a historic Roman Catholic Marian cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. Widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and among the largest and most well-known churches in the world ever built, Notre Dame de Paris is often reputed to be one of the most prominent examples of Gothic architecture in both France and in Europe as a whole, and the naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture.
If gingerbread house contests are your thing, use the above photographs as a measuring stick. If you simply enjoy spending 100s of hours on them, try not to eat the building materials. Enjoy!
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