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Author Topic: PC261: Oracle Gretel  (Read 3396 times)
Talia
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« on: May 22, 2013, 07:36:35 AM »

PodCastle 261: Oracle Gretel   

by Julia Rios.

Read by Marguerite Kenner, of Cast of Wonders.

Originally appeared in May of 2012 as a handbound chapbook with illustrations by Erik Amundsen.

Rated PG.

Teeth:

Gretel was in love with her boss. Ms. L. Thorne spoke in short, clipped sentences, and when she smiled, which was rare, it looked like the curved edge of a wicked blade.

At night, at home, while she attempted yet again to bind her flyaway curls into something more elegant, Gretel told Hansel all about what Ms. L. Thorne had done that day, and what she had worn. Hansel twitched his ginger tail, insouciant as only siblings and housecats could be. “Oh not Missilethorn again,” he said. “I hope you didn’t let that creature distract you so much that you forgot my food.”

“As if you need fattening,” Gretel said. “A witch will eat you if you don’t watch out.”

“You’re the only witch I know,” was Hansel’s rumbling reply.

“I am no witch,” Gretel said, but she was too much in the dreamy stage to be properly annoyed.


Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: June 12, 2013, 07:48:16 AM by Talia » Logged
Moritz
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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2013, 08:30:25 AM »

I generally love modern retellings of fairy tales. Tales used to be oral stories that were never set in stone, and Grimm's and Disney's versions have somewhat calcified the old stories. That being set, this Hänsel & Gretel story didn't quite work for me even though I enjoyed the final punchline. I guess it was the genre mix of modern office politics - Urban Fantasy -, flashbacks to seances and the like - Ghost Stories - , and a modified version of the old Grimm story - Fairy Tale - that made me feel confused.
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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2013, 10:21:36 AM »

I liked this one.  It was a bit strange jumping back and forth in time, but I was able to keep up.  There were lots of parts that seemed a bit out of place, but I'd imagine one would take many interesting paths over the course of centuries.  It left me wondering, especially as it was pointed out that Gretel's hair was grey at end, whether it was one Gretel living a long existence, or a line of Gretels, each one taking their place once the old witch dies.  It appeared as though the girl at the end was destined to be the new Gretel after she was given the shoes.

Also interesting that we've maintained a cat theme this week.  My favorite part was where Hansel-cat questions the safety of eating the chocolate cookie, does it anyway, then sicks up on the floor.  Cats just never grow tired of vomiting up things, do they?



 
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« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2013, 05:27:03 PM »

I didn't like this one. However, my reasons for disliking it - like the story itself, in my opinion - are obstinately refusing to resolve into a set of pithy comments, so I've decided to fall back on bullet points:

 • I took an immediate dislike to Ms. L. Thorn. I just don't like people who conflate the very ordinary seeking of dominance/avoidance of the dominance of others with some kind of extraordinary talent or drive. They're just jerks. I was gratified to discover that no, thankfully, I wasn't required to like Ms. Thorn. But, I still wanted something fairy tale bad to happen to her. What's the point of fairy tales if bad things don't happen to jerks?
 • I didn't like how all the male characters fell into one of the two most common negative male stereotypes (that is, that we're violent and dangerous or needy and incompetent. Hansel was such an annoying character who never graduated to anything more than a charicature.
 • Similarly, Gretel was... flat. I don't know. I feel like I was expected to see something romantic in her series of bad choices - choices that she, herself, didn't seem to care much about. I didn't. As a result, her sudden decision to start making good choices felt... well good for you, Gretel. I just didn't see much emotional tension to hang the story on.
 • As I mentioned above, I don't really feel like the story ever quite resolved. I didn't get where it was going. The parallel between the witch and Gretel in the end was just too thin.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2013, 08:33:17 PM »

This story didn't do all that much for me. It just sort of .... laid there. If Gretel was an oracle, shouldn't she ... I dunno, oraculate more?



 • Similarly, Gretel was... flat.

Yeah I would agree. Though I am glad that Gretel didn't spiral down become a new witch (who wasn't all that wicked after all... other then the presumed child eating...). I was afraid this would degenerate into the cycle of abuse, and given what seems to be Gretel's sexual preferences, this would not have made for a nice analogy. But thankfully this story was more light-hearted than that.
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« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2013, 07:09:30 PM »


I enjoyed this story, though I have to agree with those who didn't find the character of Gretel all that engaging.  I also agree that it seems like something fairytailish should have happened to Ms. L. Thorn. I kept expecting her to suffer something analagous to the fate of the witch, since that seemed to be the role she was playing initially -- the ruthless, older, powerful person who can attract and manipulate younger and less powerful people. 

I enjoyed the weaving back and forth in time, and the interplay between the different time periods. I didn't really see the end coming, but I liked it.   Hansel was pretty much the way I'd always envisioned his character when I've heard the story -- self-interested and clueless.   

The intro worked well for me, and added a lot of depth to the story as I heard it -- I'm embarrassed to say I was not familiar with all those variations on the tale.
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« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2013, 07:25:49 AM »

I didn't care for this at all.  It wasn't clear until most of the way through (to me anyway) how the stories related to each other.  I got sick of hearing about Gretel the doormat and Hansel the nincompoop and Miss L. Thorne the Devil-Wears-Prada Boss.  Seriously, gives her work orders via Farmville, what kind of brain-damaged system of dictating orders is that?  How can anyone possibly take her seriously with that kind of behavior?

The only one that I really cared for was the original witch.  Okay, yeah, she was planning to eat children but, well, Hansel was annoying enough it was hard to care that much, and she didn't go through with it.  All she wanted was a good meal.

I thought it interesting that Dorothy's seven-league silver slippers made an appearance.

Yeah I would agree. Though I am glad that Gretel didn't spiral down become a new witch (who wasn't all that wicked after all... other then the presumed child eating...). I was afraid this would degenerate into the cycle of abuse, and given what seems to be Gretel's sexual preferences, this would not have made for a nice analogy. But thankfully this story was more light-hearted than that.

Wait...  Did I miss something?  I thought she DID become the new witch when she started interacting with the kid.  Not that she wasn't a witch before, despite her denials but it seemed that that was the point where she admitted it.
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« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2013, 11:09:24 AM »

I loved this story! I liked the humor of it--the orders via social networking games were funny! And I loved all the different styles of future telling--the eggs, the song lyrics, the ouija.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2013, 07:33:22 PM »


Yeah I would agree. Though I am glad that Gretel didn't spiral down become a new witch (who wasn't all that wicked after all... other then the presumed child eating...). I was afraid this would degenerate into the cycle of abuse, and given what seems to be Gretel's sexual preferences, this would not have made for a nice analogy. But thankfully this story was more light-hearted than that.

Wait...  Did I miss something?  I thought she DID become the new witch when she started interacting with the kid.  Not that she wasn't a witch before, despite her denials but it seemed that that was the point where she admitted it.


To my ears, she wasn't as horrible to her new companion as the previous witch was to her. It's not quite so much a question of roles as treatment.
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« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2013, 09:13:55 AM »


Yeah I would agree. Though I am glad that Gretel didn't spiral down become a new witch (who wasn't all that wicked after all... other then the presumed child eating...). I was afraid this would degenerate into the cycle of abuse, and given what seems to be Gretel's sexual preferences, this would not have made for a nice analogy. But thankfully this story was more light-hearted than that.

Wait...  Did I miss something?  I thought she DID become the new witch when she started interacting with the kid.  Not that she wasn't a witch before, despite her denials but it seemed that that was the point where she admitted it.


To my ears, she wasn't as horrible to her new companion as the previous witch was to her. It's not quite so much a question of roles as treatment.

Not in the first moments of her admitted witch-hood, but she's apparently immortal so she has plenty of time to get nastier.
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« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2013, 12:56:50 PM »

This story frustrated the bejesus out of me. Because every little thing that didn't make sense, I interpreted as an allusion to a fairy tale or nursery rhyme or folk tale that I simply hadn't heard. I'd get so distracted trying to figure that out that I'd miss the next section and have to rewind. Eventually, I gave up rewinding and just let the story play out while I drove, paying it little attention.
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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2013, 06:57:02 AM »

Whew, glad to see I'm not the only one who didn't like this.
All the characters were just so... shallow. They only seemed to have one or two human traits, and always negative ones. Hansel was a whiny, needy idiot. Gretel has about as much capacity to come up with an original thought as a doorknob and Mrs L. was just a thin parody of crazy-evil-boss cliche.
What particularly bothered me was Gretel is clearly the main character here, but she makes no choices, initiates no actions and just gets pulled along life by her silver shoes. I thought she was supposed to be some kind of oracle..?
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« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2013, 12:54:35 PM »

What particularly bothered me was Gretel is clearly the main character here, but she makes no choices, initiates no actions and just gets pulled along life by her silver shoes. I thought she was supposed to be some kind of oracle..?

At the risk of being pedantic, oracles aren't supposed to be independent agents -- they speak for the god or goddess, relaying the divine message to mortals.  The authority implied by the term "oracular" is derived from the supposed origin of the message, not the messenger.
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« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2013, 10:11:23 PM »

I fall in love with anyone named Gretel.
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« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2013, 02:14:33 AM »

What particularly bothered me was Gretel is clearly the main character here, but she makes no choices, initiates no actions and just gets pulled along life by her silver shoes. I thought she was supposed to be some kind of oracle..?

At the risk of being pedantic, oracles aren't supposed to be independent agents -- they speak for the god or goddess, relaying the divine message to mortals.  The authority implied by the term "oracular" is derived from the supposed origin of the message, not the messenger.

Yeah, those were two thoughts that got mushed together into one paragraph, sorry.
Thought the first: What particularly bothered me was Gretel is clearly the main character here, but she makes no choices, initiates no actions and just gets pulled along life by her silver shoes.
Thought the second:  I thought she was supposed to be some kind of oracle..?
Expansion pack for thought the second: She wasn't doing anything particularly oracle-y in the story, she didn't even know where her own life was heading.
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« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2013, 01:56:33 PM »

I adore modern retellings of fairy tales. I have huge spaces reserved on my book shelves for collections of them. It's nice to see one I haven't read or heard yet. That said, this did nothing for me. It wandered a lot. I REALLY really really wanted to like Gretel. I couldn't. I own a Drindl. I make gingerbread houses and frame creepy little scenes in them for Christmas. H&G retellings (dark, sweet, etc) are right up there with Snow White retellings for me. This one just wasn't as good. It wasn't awful, I really rather liked the ending even though of COURSE she became the witch.

Perhaps my expectations were too high.
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« Reply #16 on: June 10, 2013, 12:17:44 PM »

Realized that I haven't commented on this one yet. Honestly, that's because I don't really have anything to say about it. Undecided For me, it was a bunch of vignettes that never coalesced into an interesting story and I was mostly frustrated at all the jumping around. That said, the first (chronologically) section was by far my favorite and I liked how the prophesy of only one child escaping was both true and false. (That may not have been the exact prophesy, but I know it was something along those lines...)
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« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2013, 05:18:55 PM »

I liked Hansel-as-cat (someone that self-centered and greedy is definitely a cat at least in spirit to start with) and I rather enjoyed the surreal office environment (shades of Greg van Eekout and Kelly Link), but in the end I have to agree that this one just didn't move me very much.  I think Max put his finger on it when he pointed out that Gretel, despite some early glimmerings, never really did anything; she just experienced the narrative and drifted with the flow up until she went, "Eh, screw it" and skipped to the end.  I felt like I was reading the story of someone reading a book they didn't particularly care for but that they didn't want to put down until they knew who the murderer was.  I enjoyed the fact that Gretel ended up with a "real" relationship (i.e. start with someone "good enough" and then work at it) instead of a fairy-tale romance, but her love interest was so thinly drawn and she herself so utterly uninterested in her own life that I couldn't work up more than a vague sort of, "Well, that's nice" feeling at the end.
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« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2013, 01:39:53 PM »

Felt a little too disjointed for me to follow through audio. I do have the chapbook though, so I think I'll read that.
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« Reply #19 on: July 30, 2013, 02:49:28 PM »

I liked parts of this one.

The author has a way with words. The prose was impactful and brimming with Voice.

However, the plot/story/characters themselves left me somewhat cold. Hansel was paper-thin, and Gretel herself lacked agency and vibrancy. It seemed like a grand story with all of the emotion dried out and gone sepia-toned.
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