I find it interesting how much we try to protect our children from the old fables and nursery rhymes. In this version of Hansel and Gretel, the witch isn’t interested in eating the children; she only wants to hold them hostage inside her house as punishment for trespassing. When we were kids, they trespassed, they ate the witch’s house, and the witch tried to fatten them up so she can eat them in return. She doesn’t succeed, but we are none the less left with the mental image of the witch burning to death inside her own oven. That’s one that will rock a child to sleep at night.
Sofia doesn’t feel a threat from this witch. She laughs and screams “THE WITCH!!!” with gleeful adoration, as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony announces her entrance with its all too familiar 4 notes. I confess a small part of me smiles inwardly as she displays a natural draw towards this character. And I like the kind portrayal that even though the witch is the adversary of the episode, she is not inherently evil.
The old Disney movies that we grew up with weren’t exactly kid friendly; there was no denying the existence of good and evil, and both were portrayed with gusto. The villains were down right scary. The old witch from Snow White with the apple is a perfect example. Damn! She still gives me the creeps. Cinderella’s wicked step mother wasn’t visually scary, but her demeanor did not exactly resonate warm fuzzies. Don’t even get me started on Sleeping Beauty’s villain. Maleficent gave me nightmares. And I was much older when it came out, but if I had been a child while watching the Hunchback of Notre Dame for the first time, and saw Judge Claude Frollo in front of the fire singing about Esmeralda burning, I would have been head under the covers that night.
And so it was against my better judgment, that Sofia has already been shown the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, and now it’s all she wants to see. While it is a much lighter story than the original by Hans Christian Anderson (the prince doesn’t marry the princess, the mermaid doesn’t try to murder the prince, only to fail and turn into sea foam), it still has some scary moments. Ursula the Sea Witch can definitely hold her own on my top 10 list of scary Disney villains.
The reaction is fairly similar in that upon Ursula’s entrance, Sofia screams, “THE SEA WITCH!!” But this time around, she’s a little more distressed. She knows this witch is up to no good. She knows that Ariel has a battle, and at times is very sad. But she also knows that in the end Ariel wins and the big bad Sea Witch (did they really have to show her face as a skull when she gets electrocuted at the end?) goes away. If I am going to say anything positive about these villains, it’s that they usually get it in the end. Good triumphs evil. I guess if my little girl has to know about the two, at this point I’d like there to think that good will always win.
Oh, I have a funny anecdote to add. To Sofia, it’s not the Sea Witch…it’s the “C” Witch. I found this out yesterday and she was going on and on about how Ursula’s not the Bee Witch. I was saying to myself, what the heck is she talking about? There are no bees in The Little Mermaid. Took a little while for me to catch on, but I got there.