Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 5-6 year old)

Hard by a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his wife
and his two children. The boy was called Hansel and the
girl Gretel. He had little to bite and to break, and once when
great dearth fell on the land, he could no longer procure even daily
bread. Now when he thought over this by night in his bed, and
tossed about in his anxiety, he groaned and said to his wife, what
is to become of us. How are we to feed our poor children, when
we no longer have anything even for ourselves. I’ll tell you what,
husband, answered the woman, early to-morrow morning we
will take the children out into the forest to where it is the
thickest. There we will light a fire for them, and give each of
them one more piece of bread, and then we will go to our work and
leave them alone. They will not find the way home again, and we
shall be rid of them. No, wife, said the man, I will not do that.
How can I bear to leave my children alone in the forest. The wild
animals would soon come and tear them to pieces. O’ you fool, said
she, then we must all four die of hunger, you may as well plane the
planks for our coffins, and she left him no peace until he
consented. But I feel very sorry for the poor children, all the
same, said the man.

The two children had also not been able to sleep for hunger, and
had heard what their step-mother had said to their father. Gretel
wept bitter tears, and said to Hansel, now all is over with us.
Be quiet, Gretel, said Hansel, do not distress yourself, I will soon
find a way to help us. And when the old folks had fallen asleep,
he got up, put on his little coat, opened the door below, and crept
outside. The moon shone brightly, and the white pebbles which lay
in front of the house glittered like real silver pennies. Hansel
stooped and stuffed the little pocket of his coat with as many as he
could get in. Then he went back and said to Gretel, be comforted,
dear little sister, and sleep in peace, God will not forsake us, and
he lay down again in his bed. When day dawned, but before the
sun had risen, the woman came and awoke the two children, saying
get up, you sluggards. We are going into the forest to fetch
wood. She gave each a little piece of bread, and said, there is
something for your dinner, but do not eat it up before then, for you
will get nothing else. Gretel took the bread under her apron, as
Hansel had the pebbles in his pocket. Then they all set out
together on the way to the forest. When they had walked a short
time, Hansel stood still and peeped back at the house, and did so
again and again. His father said, Hansel, what are you looking at
there and staying behind for. Pay attention, and do not forget how
to use your legs. Ah, father, said Hansel, I am looking at my
little white cat, which is sitting up on the roof, and wants to say
good-bye to me. The wife said, fool, that is not your little cat,
that is the morning sun which is shining on the chimneys. Hansel,
however, had not been looking back at the cat, but had been
constantly throwing one of the white pebble-stones out of his pocket
on the road.

When they had reached the middle of the forest, the father said,
now, children, pile up some wood, and I will light a fire that you
may not be cold. Hansel and Gretel gathered brushwood together,
as high as a little hill. The brushwood was lighted, and when the
flames were burning very high, the woman said, now, children,
lay yourselves down by the fire and rest, we will go into the forest
and cut some wood. When we have done, we will come back and
fetch you away.

Hansel and Gretel sat by the fire, and when noon came, each ate
a little piece of bread, and as they heard the strokes of the
wood-axe they believed that their father was near. It was not the
axe, however, but a branch which he had fastened to a withered tree
which the wind was blowing backwards and forwards. And as they had
been sitting such a long time, their eyes closed with fatigue, and
they fell fast asleep. When at last they awoke, it was already dark
night. Gretel began to cry and said, how are we to get out of the
forest now. But Hansel comforted her and said, just wait a little,
until the moon has risen, and then we will soon find the way. And
when the full moon had risen, Hansel took his little sister by the
hand, and followed the pebbles which shone like newly-coined silver
pieces, and showed them the way.

They walked the whole night long, and by break of day came
once more to their father’s house. They knocked at the door, and
when the woman opened it and saw that it was Hansel and Gretel,
she said, you naughty children, why have you slept so long in the
forest. We thought you were never coming back at all. The father,
however, rejoiced, for it had cut him to the heart to leave them
behind alone.

Not long afterwards, there was once more great dearth throughout
the land, and the children heard their mother saying at night to
their father, everything is eaten again, we have one half loaf left,
and that is the end. The children must go, we will take them
farther into the wood, so that they will not find their way out
again. There is no other means of saving ourselves. The man’s
heart was heavy, and he thought, it would be better for you to share
the last mouthful with your children. The woman, however, would
listen to nothing that he had to say, but scolded and reproached
him. He who says a must say b, likewise, and as he had yielded the
first time, he had to do so a second time also.

The children, however, were still awake and had heard the
conversation. When the old folks were asleep, Hansel again got up,
and wanted to go out and pick up pebbles as he had done before, but
the woman had locked the door, and Hansel could not get out.
Nevertheless he comforted his little sister, and said, do not cry,
Gretel, go to sleep quietly, the good God will help us.
Early in the morning came the woman, and took the children out of
their beds. Their piece of bread was given to them, but it was
still smaller than the time before. On the way into the forest
Hansel crumbled his in his pocket, and often stood still and threw a
morsel on the ground. Hansel, why do you stop and look round.
Said the father, go on. I am looking back at my little pigeon
which is sitting on the roof, and wants to say good-bye to me,
answered Hansel. Fool. Said the woman, that is not your little
pigeon, that is the morning sun that is shining on the chimney.
Hansel, however, little by little, threw all the crumbs on the path.
The woman led the children still deeper into the forest, where they
had never in their lives been before. Then a great fire was again
made, and the mother said, just sit there, you children, and when
you are tired you may sleep a little. We are going into the forest
to cut wood, and in the evening when we are done, we will come and
fetch you away. When it was noon, Gretel shared her piece of
bread with Hansel, who had scattered his by the way. Then they
fell asleep and evening passed, but no one came to the poor
children. They did not awake until it was dark night, and Hansel
comforted his little sister and said, just wait, Gretel, until the
moon rises, and then we shall see the crumbs of bread which I have
strewn about, they will show us our way home again. When the moon
came they set out, but they found no crumbs, for the many thousands
of birds which fly about in the woods and fields had picked them all
up. Hansel said to Gretel, we shall soon find the way, but they did
not find it. They walked the whole night and all the next day too
from morning till evening, but they did not get out of the forest,
and were very hungry, for they had nothing to eat but two or three
berries, which grew on the ground. And as they were so weary that
their legs would carry them no longer, they lay down beneath a tree
and fell asleep.

It was now three mornings since they had left their father’s house.
They began to walk again, but they always came deeper into the
forest, and if help did not come soon, they must die of hunger and
weariness. When it was mid-day, they saw a beautiful snow-white
bird sitting on a bough, which sang so delightfully that they stood
still and listened to it. And when its song was over, it spread its
wings and flew away before them, and they followed it until they
reached a little house, on the roof of which it alighted. And when
they approached the little house they saw that it was built of
bread and covered with cakes, but that the windows were of clear
sugar. We will set to work on that, said Hansel, and have a good
meal. I will eat a bit of the roof, and you Gretel, can eat some
of the window, it will taste sweet. Hansel reached up above, and
broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, and Gretel
leant against the window and nibbled at the panes. Then a soft
voice cried from the parlor –
nibble, nibble, gnaw
who is nibbling at my little house.

The children answered –
the wind, the wind,
the heaven-born wind,
and went on eating without disturbing themselves. Hansel, who
liked the taste of the roof, tore down a great piece of it, and
Gretel pushed out the whole of one round window-pane, sat down, and
enjoyed herself with it. Suddenly the door opened, and a woman
as old as the hills, who supported herself on crutches, came
creeping out. Hansel and Gretel were so terribly frightened that
they let fall what they had in their hands. The old woman, however,
nodded her head, and said, oh, you dear children, who has brought
you here. Do come in, and stay with me. No harm shall happen to
you. She took them both by the hand, and led them into her little
house. Then good food was set before them, milk and pancakes,
with sugar, apples, and nuts. Afterwards two pretty little beds
were covered with clean white linen, and Hansel and Gretel lay down
in them, and thought they were in heaven.

The old woman had only pretended to be so kind. She was in reality
a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the
little house of bread in order to entice them there. When a child
fell into her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it, and that
was a feast day with her. Witches have red eyes, and cannot see
far, but they have a keen scent like the beasts, and are aware when
human beings draw near. When Hansel and Gretel came into her
neighborhood, she laughed with malice, and said mockingly, I have
them, they shall not escape me again. Early in the morning before
the children were awake, she was already up, and when she saw both
of them sleeping and looking so pretty, with their plump and rosy
cheeks, she muttered to herself, that will be a dainty mouthful.

Then she seized Hansel with her shrivelled hand, carried
him into a little stable, and locked him in behind a grated door.
Scream as he might, it would not help him. Then she went to
Gretel, shook her till she awoke, and cried, get up, lazy thing,
fetch some water, and cook something good for your brother, he is
in the stable outside, and is to be made fat. When he is fat, I
will eat him. Gretel began to weep bitterly, but it was all in
vain, for she was forced to do what the wicked witch commanded.
And now the best food was cooked for poor Hansel, but Gretel
got nothing but crab-shells. Every morning the woman crept to the
little stable, and cried, Hansel, stretch out your finger that I may
feel if you will soon be fat. Hansel, however, stretched out a
little bone to her, and the old woman, who had dim eyes, could not
see it, and thought it was Hansel’s finger, and was astonished that
there was no way of fattening him. When four weeks had gone by,
and Hansel still remained thin, she was seized with impatience and
would not wait any longer. Now, then, Gretel, she cried to the
girl, stir yourself, and bring some water. Let Hansel be fat or
lean, to-morrow I will kill him, and cook him. Ah, how the poor
little sister did lament when she had to fetch the water, and how
her tears did flow down her cheeks. Dear God, do help us, she
cried. If the wild beasts in the forest had but devoured us, we
should at any rate have died together. Just keep your noise to
yourself, said the old woman, it won’t help you at all.

Early in the morning, Gretel had to go out and hang up the
cauldron with the water, and light the fire. We will bake first,
said the old woman, I have already heated the oven, and kneaded
the dough. She pushed poor Gretel out to the oven, from which
flames of fire were already darting. Creep in, said the witch,
and see if it properly heated, so that we can put the bread in.
And once Gretel was inside, she intended to shut the oven and let
her bake in it, and then she would eat her, too. But Gretel saw
what she had in mind, and said, I do not know how I am to do it.
How do I get in. Silly goose, said the old woman, the door is big
enough. Just look, I can get in myself, and she crept up and
thrust her head into the oven. Then Gretel gave her a push that
drove her far into it, and shut the iron door, and fastened the
bolt. Oh. Then she began to howl quite horribly, but Gretel ran
away, and the godless witch was miserably burnt to death.
Gretel, however, ran like lightning to Hansel, opened his little
stable, and cried, Hansel, we are saved. The old witch is dead.
Then Hansel sprang like a bird from its cage when the door is
opened. How they did rejoice and embrace each other, and dance
about and kiss each other. And as they had no longer any need to
fear her, they went into the witch’s house, and in every corner
there stood chests full of pearls and jewels. These are far better
than pebbles. Said Hansel, and thrust into his pockets whatever
could be got in, and Gretel said, I, too, will take something home
with me, and filled her pinafore full. But now we must be off, said
Hansel, that we may get out of the witch’s forest.

When they had walked for two hours, they came to a great
stretch of water. We cannot cross, said Hansel, I see no
foot-plank, and no bridge. And there is also no ferry, answered
Gretel, but a white duck is swimming there. If I ask her, she
will help us over. Then she cried –
little duck, little duck, dost thou see,
Hansel and Gretel are waiting for thee.
There’s never a plank, or bridge in sight,
take us across on thy back so white.

The duck came to them, and Hansel seated himself on its back,
and told his sister to sit by him. No, replied Gretel, that will be
too heavy for the little duck. She shall take us across, one after
the other. The good little duck did so, and when they were once
safely across and had walked for a short time, the forest seemed to
be more and more familiar to them, and at length they saw from
afar their father’s house. Then they began to run, rushed into the
parlor, and threw themselves round their father’s neck. The man
had not known one happy hour since he had left the children in the
forest. The woman, however, was dead. Gretel emptied her
pinafore until pearls and precious stones ran about the room, and
Hansel threw one handful after another out of his pocket to add to
them. Then all anxiety was at an end, and they lived together in
perfect happiness. My tale is done, there runs a mouse, whosoever
catches it, may make himself a big fur cap out of it.

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