When Hansel and Gretel are truly lost, have almost given up hope, they are saved not because they stumble unwittingly upon the house (as I’d remembered it), but because a bird sang. The bird, then, might be the poet, delivering the children toward what seems to be an answer, a miraculous solution to their suffering—a world beyond this one in which there is no more hunger. But of course, the poet in this tale is not the bird, for though the bird sings, it has no words. It’s the witch who speaks the first poem of the tale:
Nibble, nibble, little mouse,
Who is nibbling at my house?
The witch’s house is not “of the world.” It’s better than the world—a house made of food in which a poet lives. The children respond to the poet with a poem of their own:
The children answered:
The wind, the wind,
The heavenly child.
In this moment, this moment of poetry (because irony, metaphor, repetition), they recognize that in entering this new space they will become like wind, removed from the world, above the world. Like Plath’s rising vowels, their cries will not be those of hunger, but those of song: the song of the “heavenly child.”
Needless to say, the woman who feeds them is also the woman who will eat them. The poem might save us from the world, but if so it also removes us from the world. Which is not, in the end, what we, or the children, want.