Day 14 - #WorldWatercolorGroup The Gingerbread Man story can't catch me I'm the

The Gingerbread Man

I’m precious short on time, so today, we have an insanely fast doodlewash of this cookie guy. When I was kid, there was a fairy tale around this time of year that had the catchy repeated phrase, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man.” The rest of the story is macabre and rather pointless, but this line stuck with me. In the common version of the tale, a little old lady bakes a gingerbread man only to have it come to life and run out the door screaming, “don’t eat me!” Rather than have a heart attack on the spot, the old woman just starts chasing him as though this inconvenient thing happens all the time. He out runs the old lady while mocking her for being slow. Following the old lady, he continues to outrun an old man, a pig, a cow, and a horse. At this point they’ve all formed a mob of angry villagers, as apparently even the old lady is still in pursuit. But next, he’s quickly devoured by the fox and the story abruptly ends. As stories go, this one kind of sucks.

I’ve never really understood the point of this tale. As a kid you’re chanting along with it and just enjoying the fact that there’s so many cameos by your favorite animal creatures. And throughout the race, you’re pretty much rooting for the gingerbread man the whole time. His pursuers are trying to eat him, after all, not take him to the zoo. Yelling back at them is well within his right since he didn’t do anything beyond magically spring to life to deserve to be eaten in the first place. What’s the moral? When someone tries to attack and eat you for no reason at all, just keep quiet and let them? Sure, he was a bit of a cocky jerk, but again, he’s the victim throughout the tale. There’s no twist. Just a bunch of hungry old people and animals who are trying to kill him until one finally does. The lesson, if there is one, is difficult to decipher.

I actually had to do a fast search online to see if there was indeed a unanimous moral to this story. The most often mentioned motif is that everyone other character seems to think he belongs to them. This, should somehow teach children that they can’t always get what they want. This, of course, falls flat since the fox got exactly what he wanted by simply being cunning and also lying. In the end, the child psychologists seem just as baffled as everyone else and in a last-ditch effort to make some sense of the tale exhaustedly say that the moral is simply that you should not trust anyone without consideration. To me, this is simply proof that this is the dumbest story ever told, and that even the dumbest of stories can often stand the test of time. The point of all of this, I guess, is to say that if you’re a fox this holiday season be vigilant. You might just be able to enjoy a little taste of the gingerbread man.

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About the Doodlewash

Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Sennelier Red, Phthalo. Green Light, Burnt Sienna, and Payne’s Grey. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon with black ink in a little red cloth hardbound l’aquarelle journal I found in a Paris shop.
 Day 14 - #WorldWatercolorGroup The Gingerbread Man story can't catch me I'm the

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26 thoughts on “The Gingerbread Man

  1. Delightful painting but I enjoyed your amusing rant about the tale even more so. I teach preschool students and we had one week that was a gingerbread theme. We made gingerbread play dough and I turned our playhouse into a gingerbread cottage and we read the story and, like you, I was scratching my head as to the moral of the story. It seems like everyone but the cunning fox gets their comeuppance: the greedily possessive people don’t get to snack on the gingerbread man and the gingerbread man who attempts to flee his fate finds his attempt is in vain. So maybe the moral is to make sure you have smarts enough to be as cunning as the fox.

  2. Love your tale of the poor yummy biscuit, I loved so many ladybird tales from years gone by, but I am sure so many these days, if produced would be banned. ‘Wolf and seven kids’, ‘ chicken licken’ , ‘ Billy goats gruff’ these were some of my favourites, yet not the nicest of tales, lol.
    Insidently I could not take a bite from your cute running gingerbread man, nicely done.

  3. Its funny how as an adult you realize certain things that you been through or done as a child did not make sense. As in this fairy tale, growing up you just think its another tale, however as an adult we say.. “what the heck was the author trying to say”? Its like why were we not thinking like this as a child.

  4. I think it’s about unpredictability. And since life often is unpredictable and inexplicable (for children and adults) I think I remember being comfortable and sort of reassured as a child with stories like this – because they speak about how things sometimes are mad and random and odd and don’t necessarily mean anything at all! Maybe it’s just telling us that sometimes this is just the way things are, mad and weird and that’s OK. (Which actually I think children are a lot better at accepting than we adults are.) And oh, how this has made me want to make some gingerbread men…….!

  5. Great painting of one of my favorite cookies, though I never demand that gingerbread look like a man. Just that it taste sweet and spicy.

    Maybe the story never had any meaningful intent and it’s we modernists who want to apply depth to the tale. Maybe it’s just that we can’t outrun who we are. If we don’t want a predictable outcome – being a falling down drunk, gambling away every family asset, marrying another loser, smoking ourselves into lung cancer, or being a taste tempting gingerbread cookie – we must change something about ourselves. And maybe it’s about not forcing our demands onto others – didn’t the woman bake the cookie to be her son? Maybe I’ve got that part wrong. But all that is pretty much unteachable to toddlers – hell, most adults don’t get it. That’s why so many who are addicted to various temptations can’t move forward until the fox outwits them in the end. And for those of us who have kids, we can guide them as well as possible, but the most wonderful thing is when they discover who they are and make their own decisions – even when it occasionally takes them into a pond where a sly, lying fox is waiting to gobble them up.

    Oh dear, now this is starting to sound political. Definitely not for toddlers.

    1. I think those are fabulous interpretations of this story. I like the idea of not being able to outrun who we are. What’s so fun about this story is that even child psychologists can’t seem to agree as to what the heck it’s supposed to mean. The fact that it’s survived so long must mean there’s something there that people like though!

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