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‘Hansel and Gretel’ Unfair to Witches, School Board Told

June 1, 1992 GMT

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (AP) _ Hansel and Gretel: Innocent, resourceful children, or messengers of hate?

To a witch, the answer is clear.

Add the Brothers Grimm classic to the long and varied list of stories that some want banned from schools. In this case, self-proclaimed witches say the fairy tale nurtures the same hatred that once led to witch burnings.

″We do not eat children,″ said Karlyn Straganana, who asked the Mount Diablo School District last week to stop using the story.

″No matter how irritating they get, I don’t do anything more than turn them into frogs,″ joked the mother of two.

Patricia Schuman Glass, president of the American Library Association, said the battle over what is appropriate for children rages as strongly as ever.

The association last year received 500 reports of censorship or requests for help on censorship issues. Officials said that’s probably about 15 percent of the total attempts at censorship.

Topping the list of challenged books is the classic ″Catcher in the Rye.″ Conservative groups object to its profanity and its independent teen-age hero, Glass said.

Other recent challenges documented by the library association show that the right doesn’t have a lock on book-banning.

Mark Twain’s ″Adventures of Huckleberry Finn″ was challenged in Texas and Arizona as racist. Rudyard Kipling’s ″Just So Stories″ was challenged in North Carolina because, like ″Huckleberry Finn,″ it contains the word ″nigger.″

The Mount Diablo controversy isn’t the first slap at the Brothers Grimm.

″Little Red Riding Hood″ was banned by two California districts in 1990 because the schools’ version had an illustration showing Red with a bottle of wine, according to the library association.

In the Mount Diablo District in the San Francisco Bay area, a fifth-grade teacher has been using Hansel and Gretel for a mock trial in which students decide whether the two were innocent babes or pint-sized pillagers.

According to the Grimms, brother and sister are abandoned by their wicked stepmother in the woods and take refuge with a witch. She locks Hansel up, fattening the boy for roasting, but Gretel tricks her and pushes her into the oven.

A few weeks ago, the fifth-graders, who read a version that ended with the children going home with the witch’s riches, found that Hansel and Gretel acted in self-defense, but ordered them to return the booty.

School officials, who are awaiting a formal, written objection from the witches, were taken aback by their complaint.

″What happened to common sense?″ school board member Dennis McCormac said. ″It’s getting to be if the kids tried the wolf from the Three Little Pigs, the animal rights people would be upset.″