The Gingerbread Man

Posted by Mike

“You can’t catch me. I’m the Gingerbread Man.” The fairy tale about the gingerbread man was first published in the United States in 1875. However, the story had been around for generations, and according to Wikipedia there had been many previous versions in various European countries.  In a sense the story is rather gruesome in its ending.

Basically – an old woman makes a gingerbread man. He comes to life in the oven and immediately runs away. He is chased through the town by a cat and a dog, the old couple and others, children and farmers – always escaping – and repeating the echoed refrain, “Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me. I’m the gingerbread man.” Finally, he reaches a river which he is unable to cross. A fox offers to take him across. But halfway across the river the fox reneges on his offer and eats him up.

What makes the story fun for children? Likely, it’s the excitement of the chase and the pleasure of repeating the refrain, “Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me. I’m the gingerbread man.” It seems plausible that children might get a sense of pleasure also from the control initially being out of the hands of the adults in the story, and the child – the Gingerbread Man – makes an exciting escape from the strictures of adult society. Of course, he is running all the time, and being chased, and in the end the Gingerbread Man gets his comeuppance; the reader sees that noncompliance and escape from the bonds of society can only lead to one’s ultimate destruction, notwithstanding the initial excitement of the freedom obtained. In addition to the lesson about nonconformity, it may be that the end of the story provides some reassurance to children that if they’re good little boys and girls and behave themselves, they won’t come to a terrible end – like the Gingerbread Man.

Hmmm! I find the story and the refrain rather compelling!

“Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!”

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