The Gingerbread Man Story Origin: Where Does This Classic Fairytale Come From?

November 10, 2021

The Gingerbread Man Story Origin: Where Does This Classic Fairytale Come From?

In a magical world where leprechauns, unicorns, and cute flying babies carrying heart-shaped arrows exist, there lives a mischievous little fella, no bigger than a few inches tall, made entirely of gingerbread. 

Yup, you read that right — gingerbread. A holiday staple dressed rather dapper with red, white, and green icing; the beloved cookie is one of the most recognizable symbols of a quintessential Christmas. But unlike our sweet old Saint Nick and Rudolf, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, the story behind the gingerbread man is a bit grisly. 

Wanna hear it? Great, we'd be glad to tell you!

Get comfortable and keep reading. At Famous IRL, we are present: The Classic Tale of the Legendary Gingerbread Man. 

The Un-Christmassy Origin Of The Gingerbread Man 

The infamous legend behind the gingerbread man is a classic fairytale that has been delighting children for more than 200 years. It was first published in 1875 under the title "The Gingerbread Boy.” This story varies depending on where it's being told in the world, but the moral always remains the same.

Once Upon a Time… Cardio

The tale begins with a sweet old woman and her husband who lived a quiet life in a small cottage by the river. One morning, the woman decided to whip up some gingerbread in the shape of a tiny man. She formed an adorable face, nose, mouth, and two eyes before placing the cookie in the oven to bake. 

Soon enough, the tasty treat was ready, and the woman opened the oven door. To her surprise, the gingerbread man hopped out of it, shouting, "Don't eat me!" as he dashed out the window. 

The old couple began chasing after the cookie, but it was to no avail. "Run, run, run, as fast as you can! You can't catch me; I’m the gingerbread man," he laughed and kept running. 

A little further, the two-legged confection passed a cow. And then a pig. And then a horse. With each hungry animal he passed, the dessert shouted, "Run, run, run, as fast as you can! You can't catch me; I'm the gingerbread man".   

Finally, the cookie came to a river bringing him to a quick halt. If he were to cross, the gingerbread man knew he'd get all soggy. That's when a sly fox came by and offered the pint-sized man a ride on his back to the other side.  

With the old couple and farm animals hot on the trail, the gingerbread man hopped on the cunning fox's back, and they crossed the river. As soon as they reached dry land, however, the sneaky fox opened his mouth and gobbled the cookie right up. 

The end.

OK — What’s the Moral?

Although a bit dark and twisted, the moral of the gingerbread man is an important one: Be careful who you trust. The sweet confection was tempted by a clever fox which led to his downfall. 

Hold Up — Why Is the Gingerbread Man a Christmas Staple? 

Wondering what an old couple, a cookie, farm animals, and a clever fox have to do with the most wonderful time of the year? We don't blame you; there's really nothing Christmas-y about the classic fairytale. But, despite that, the gingerbread man is a holiday staple that's loved far and wide.

While its start is a bit fuzzy, the gingerbread man is said to have originated when gingerbread houses became popular in Germany many years ago, thanks to Hansel and Gretal. Pretty soon, the houses just became an integral part of the Christmas holiday, and eventually, gingerbread men were made to live in the popular gingerbread houses.

Another rumor is that these iconic little humanoid cookies date all the way back to Queen Elizabeth I of England. Allegedly, she had them baked to resemble her likeness. There's also a story that desperate women ate the sugary-sweet men-like treats to try and boost their chances of attracting a suitor.  

Why Gingerbread? 

Believe it or not, gingerbread used to be sacred, and the only time it was allowed to be made was during Christmas, so that's probably why it's seen as a holiday delicacy. 

Tips and Tricks To Make a Top-Notch Gingerbread Man 

Want to make your very own gingerbread, man?

Check out these quick tips and tricks to level up your cookie:

  • Chill the dough for at least one hour before rolling it out to help make it easier to work with.
  • To prevent the dough from sticking, dip your cookie cutters in flour after each use. 
  • Use a silicone baking mat to keep the gingerbread men from getting too toasted on the bottom. 
  • Once baked, allow the cookies to cool completely before decorating them. 
  • Use liquid or paste food coloring to brighten up your icing. 
  • Before the icing dries, get creative and add decorations, such as sprinkles, chocolate chips, edible glitter, small candies, and colored sugar. 
  • Eat your gingerbread man... before it runs away!

Getting Baked

And there you have it: everything you need to know about the beloved gingerbread man. 

Here at Famous IRL, we're pretty big fans of the little fella. That's why we made this super sweet gingerbread tee that's nothing short of awesome.

Whether you want to represent your favorite Christmas cookie or are on the hunt for a hideous but awesome holiday sweater, you can always count on us to have just what you need to look and feel your best.



The History and Origin of Gingerbread | The Spruce Eats

Hansel and Gretel | Story Museum

Why Do We Eat Gingerbread On Christmas? This Treat Has A Long History | Bustle

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