The Magic Circle - Donna Jo Napoli At the heart of any "Hansel and Gretel" story is the idea of the witch, who is always linked to the stepmother. In many ways, the fairy tale is about women. The father is controlled by the stepmother, the witch has a major role, and while Hansel does seem active in the beginning of the story, it is Gretel who saves Hansel at the end. In this story, the women are front and center. It is true that the character of the stepmother is notable in her non-physical presence, but the character of Bala seems to take over that place. Napoli presents the story of the witch. It is not a happy story, but an extremely interesting one.