Hansel and Gretel lived with the father and stepmother in a little cottage near a forest. The father was a poor woodcutter. Once when food was scarce, he said his wife.
“What will become of us? We have so little to eat. I am afraid the children will starve.”
Now the stepmother was really a witch she did not love the children and she wanted to get rid of them. After the children went to bed, she said to their father,
“Tomorrow morning we will take Hansel and Gretel into the forest and leave them there. They will not be able to find their way home again, and we will not have to worry about them any more.”
“Oh, no!” cried the father. “I cannot do that to my poor children.”
But the wicked stepmother forced him to agree to the plan.
In the next room, the children were still awake. They heard what their stepmother was planning to do.
“We are lost,” cried Gretel, weeping bitterly.
But Hansel comforted her.
“Don’t cry, Gretel,” he said, “I shall take care of you. I will think of something.”
Later that night when the house was dark, Hansel put on his jacket and slipped out the back door. In the bright moonlight the pebbles in front of the house glistened like bits of silver. Hansel stuffed his pockets full of the pebbles and then went back to bed.
Before the sun rose the next morning, the stepmother awakened the children,
“Getup!” she said. “We are all going to the forest to cut wood.”
Before they left the house, she gave each of the children a piece of bread.
“Save it for your supper,” she told them,”you will not get any more to eat.”
When they started out for the forest Hansel lagged behind the rest. At every few steps, he dropped a pebble on the ground behind him.
“Hansel,” cried the father, looking around, “Why are you so slow?”
“Oh, I was just turning around to look at my little white kitten sitting up on the roof,” said Hansel. “She is saying good-by to me.”
“Come along,” cried the stepmother irritably. “That’s not a kitten. It’s the sunshine gleaming on the roof.”
At last they were deep in the forest. The father told Hansel and Gretel to gather wood to make a fire. When the father had made a good fire, he told the children to sit near it and keep warm.
“We are going to chop wood,” said the stepmother. “We will come back later and get you.”
The children sat by the fire, and to pass the time they sang their favorite song:
“Susie, dear susie, come tell me the news,
The geese are all barefoot, they must have some shoes.
The cobbler has leather enough and to spare,
Let’s ask him to make our poor goosie a pair.”
Then they ate their bread and fell fast asleep.It was dark when the children woke up.
Gretel was frightened and began to cry.
“Don’t worry,” said Hansel. “When the moon comes up, we will find our way home by following the pebbles I dropped.” And that is just what they did.
When they got home their father was overjoyed to see them.
“There is some food in the house again,” he said.
And then he gave them a good breakfast.
But the stepmother still wanted to get rid of the children. She waited until they had no food left. Then she made her husband agree to take the children deeper into the forest.
“Here is your supper.” she said.
And again she gave each of them a crust of bread.
This time Hansel had not been able to gather any pebbles. So he made crumbs out of his crust of bread and dropped them along the path.
“We will find our way back by following the crumbs.” he whispered to Gretel.
But alas! When morning came, they could not find any bread crumbs. The birds had eaten them.
The children started to walk through the forest. They walked all day. At last they stopped to rest beneath a tree. They saw a lovely white bird sitting on a branch, singing sweetly. When the bird flew away, they followed him.
Suddenly Hansel and Gretel came upon a little cottage. It was made of gingerbread and the windows were of transparent sugar. There were cookies and cakes and candy all over the outside of the house and the roof was covered with vanilla icing. They ran towards it eagerly.
Hansel broke off a chocolate cookies and Gretel tasted some of the window.
“What a fine meal we will have,” they said happily just then a shrill voice called out from the cottage.
“Nibble, nibble, like a mouse
Who is nibbling at my house?”
The children answered:
“It’s only the wind –
Just then the door opened and out came a bent old woman, leaning on a cane.
“Don’t be frightened”,said the old woman sweetly to the children. “Come inside, and have a proper meal. I know you must be hungry and tired.”
She took the children into the house and gave them each a dish heaped with pancake and a big glass of milk.
“I live here all alone.” said the old woman, “and I am happy to have company.”
After the children had eaten, she put them to bed. They soon fell fast asleep in the two clean beds.
Now this old woman, who seemed to kind was really a wicked witch. She enticed children to her gingerbread house and then she kept them prisoners until she ate them. After Hansel and Gretel were asleep, the witch sat before her pot and sang to herself.
“My, what a splendid feast I’ve got,
I’ll boil these children in my pot!
First I will fatten up the boy
And then the little girl enjoy!”
From time to time she would look at the two rosy-cheeked children, peacefully asleep.
The next day, the witch took Hansel by the hand and led him to little cage in her stable. Before he knew what was happening, she had pushed him in and locked the cage door.
Then the witch said to Gretel, “Now you will do my housework. But first fetch some water and cook some food to fatten up your brother. When he is fat enough, I shall eat him.”
Gretel cried bitterly, but she had to do so she was told. Every day she gave Hansel the best food. But she herself got only the leavings and crusts.
Every day the witch went up to the cage to see if Hansel was fat enough.
“Stretch out your finger,” She would tell Hansel, “So that I can see if you are fat enough.”
But the witch had very bad eyesight. So instead of holding out his finger, Hansel held out a lean chicken bone. He never seemed to be any fatter.
After a few weeks passed, the witch became angry.
“Enough!” She cried. “Gretel, draw the water and boil the pot. Be he fat or be he lean, tomorrow I shall feast on him.”
Gretel cried and begged, but the old witch had no mercy.
The Next day, the witch said to Gretel,
“While the pot is boiling , we will do the baking: I have heated the oven,” Pushing Gretel to the oven,She said, “Climb in and see if it is hot enough now to bake the bread.”
But Gretel knew what the witch had in mind. So she said,
“I don’t know how to climb in, will you show me how?”
“Silly Goose!” cried the witch. “The opening is big enough. Why I could climb in myself!”
And the witch climbed into the oven. At that moment Gretel slammed the door Shut! Now Gretel jumped with joy, and sang out:
“Now you’re in the oven
And I’m out here.
I’ll let out my brother.
And then we’ll both cheer.”
Gretel rushed to the cage and opened the door to let Hansel out. They hugged each other for joy. The the two children went through the witch’s house and found chests of gold and jewels. While they were filling their pockets their father rushed into the cottage.
“My children!” he cried, “I have been searching all over for you. I have come to take you home again.”
And then he told the children that their stepmother had gone away forever.
“She had probably gone to join the other witches,” he said “ and that is where she belongs.”
So Hansel and Gretel and their father went home. With plenty of gold, they never went hungry again and they all lived happily ever after, never wishing for anything.