German Esterl, Arnica. The Fine Round Cake. New York: Four Winds Press, ©1991.
In this German variation of the traditional English tale, an old woman wants to bake a fine, round cake one morning. After mixing the necessary ingredients, she leaves her son to watch the cake while she and her husband work in the garden. When the boy’s stomach begins to rumble, he makes the mistake of opening the oven for a peek. The cake, which has sprouted arms and legs, runs right out the door. The cake avoids capture from the boy and his family, two well diggers, two berry-picking girls, a well- clothed bear and a knightly wolf who all tire quickly from the chase. The fine, round cake encounters a fox, dressed in a red gown, lying lazily near a stream. When the fox inquires where the cake is going, the cake finally stops rolling to answer. The fox professes not to hear, coerces the cake to come closer and then gobbles it up.
Character analysis of this tale type tends to follow the culture of origin. They take on personality traits, dialect and vocabulary associated with that country. Often the fractured versions follow these
patterns as well.
Main Character The main character changes to fit the culture
The one consistency among cultural variations is that
main character is always a food item. The traditional form is a gingerbread man complete with arms and legs. All the many other food items used as main characters are round--such as tortilla, rice cake, bun. latke (potato pancake), cake or pancake. Occasionally, the round food item sprouts arms and legs such as in The Runaway Rice Cake by Compestine and The Fine Round Cake by Esterl, but for the most
part the item remains round. The main character is typically male, however in one version, The
Runaway Tortilla by Kimmel, the main character is a female.
Most cultures depict a young main
character with the exception of The Gingerbread Baby by Brett, in which the main character is a
However in The Runaway Rice Cake by Compestine, old grandmother that was hungry--this is symbolic
the nián-gão (rice cake) humbly gives itself of the Chinese respect for the elderly.
Secondary Characters All the secondary characters depicted change in some way. They change to fit the setting. They change in number. They change in species. Only one aspect of the secondary characters remain consistent through all cultural variants studied--a husband and wife are featured in the beginning of the story. However, there are three main differences in the couples depicted: elderly, young without children, and middle age with children. In Aylesworth’s The Gingerbread Man the couple is elderly. Both The Runaway Tortilla by Kimmel and The Gingerbread Boy by Egielski show a young childless couple. The remaining variants show couples that already have children. Every version examined
contains both animals Latkes by Kimmelman
and people as that contains
secondary characters, with one notable exception--The Runaway
only human secondary characters.
However, in some variants the
animal characters take on human characteristics such as wearing clothing or reading--as is the case both The Gingerbread Man by Aylesworth and The Fine Round Cake by Esterl. Only one version