HANSEL AND GRETHEL
BY THE BROTHERS GRIMM (ADAPTED)
HARD-BY a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his two
children and his wife who was their stepmother. The boy was
called Hansel and the girl Grethel. The wood-cutter had
little to bite and to break, and once when a great famine
fell on the land he could no longer get daily bread. Now
when he thought over this by night in his bed, and tossed
about in his trouble, 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
"I'll tell you what, husband," answered the woman; "early
to-morrow morning we will take
 the children out into the woods where it is the thickest;
there we will light a fire for them, and give each of them
one piece of bread more, 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 woods?—the wild
beasts would soon come and tear them to pieces."
"Oh, 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 said he would do as she
"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 father's wife had said to their
Grethel wept bitter tears, and said to Hansel, "Now all is
over with us."
"Be quiet, Grethel," said Hansel, "do not be troubled; 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 shone like real silver pennies. Hansel
stooped and put as many of them in the little pocket of his
 coat as he could make room for. Then he went back, and said
to Grethel, "Be at ease, dear little sister, and sleep in
peace; God will not forsake us." And he lay down again in
When the day dawned, but before the sun had risen, the woman
came and awoke the two children, saying:—
"Get up, you lazy things! 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."
Grethel took the bread under her apron, as Hansel had the
stones in his pocket. Then they all set out together on the
way to the forest, and Hansel threw one after another 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 Grethel drew brushwood together till it was as
high as a little hill.
The brushwood was lighted, and when the flames were burning
very high the woman said:—
"Now, children, lie 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 Grethel 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 were sure their
father was near. But it was not the axe, it was a branch
which he had tied to a dry tree, and the wind was blowing it
backward and forward. As they had been sitting such a long
time they were tired, their eyes shut, and they fell fast
asleep. When at last they awoke, it was dark night.
Grethel began to cry, and said, "How are we to get out of
the forest now?"
But Hansel comforted her, saying, "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 bright 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 Grethel, 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, was glad, for it had cut him to the
heart to leave them behind alone.
Not long after, there was once more a great lack
 of food in all parts, and the children heard the woman
saying at night to their father:—
"Everything is eaten again; we have one half-loaf left, and
after that there is an 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
The man's heart was heavy, and he thought, "It would be
better to share our last mouthful with the children."
The woman, however, would listen to nothing he had to say,
but scolded him. He who says A must say B, too, and as he
had given way the first time, he had to do so a second time
The children were still awake and had heard the talk. When
the old folks were asleep, Hansel again got up, and wanted
to go and pick up pebbles, but the woman had locked the
door, and he could not get out.
So he comforted his little sister, and said:—
"Do not cry, Grethel; go to sleep quietly, the good God will
Early in the morning came the woman, and took the children
out of their beds. Their bit 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
threw a morsel on the ground until little by little, he had
thrown 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 she 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, Grethel shared her piece of bread with
Hansel, who had scattered his by the way. Then they fell
asleep, and evening came and went, but no one came to the
They did not awake until it was dark night, and Hansel
comforted his little sister, and said:—
"Just wait, Grethel, until the moon rises, and then we shall
see the crumbs of bread which I have scattered 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 Grethel, "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; they were very hungry, for
they had nothing to eat but two or three berries which grew
 ground. And as they were so tired that their legs would
carry them no longer, they lay down under a tree and fell
It was now three mornings since they had left their father's
house. They began to walk again, but they always got deeper
into the forest, and if help did not come soon, they must
die of hunger and weariness. When it was midday, they saw a
beautiful snow-white bird sitting on a bough. It sang so
sweetly that they stood still and listened to it. And when
it had done, 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 perched; and when they came quite up to
the little house, they saw 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, Grethel, can
eat some of the window, it will taste sweet."
Hansel reached up, and broke off a little of the roof to try
how it tasted, and Grethel leaned against the window and
nibbled at the panes.
Then a soft voice cried from the room,—
"Nibble, nibble, gnaw,
Who is nibbling at my little house?"
The children answered:—
"The wind, the wind,
The wind from heaven";
 and went on eating. Hansel, who thought the roof tasted
very nice, tore down a great piece of it; and Grethel pushed
out the whole of one round window-pane, sat down, and went
to eating it.
All at once the door opened, and a very, very old woman, who
leaned on crutches, came creeping out. Hansel and Grethel
were so scared that they let fall what they had in their
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 Grethel lay down in them, and thought they were
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 built the little bread house in order to coax them
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 red cheeks, she muttered
to herself, "That will be a dainty mouthful!"
Then she seized Hansel, carried him into a little
 stable, and shut him in behind a grated door. He might
scream as he liked,—it was of no use. Then she went to
Grethel, 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."
Grethel began to weep, but it was all in vain; she was
forced to do what the wicked witch told her.
And now the best food was cooked for poor Hansel, but
Grethel 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; she thought
it was Hansel's finger, and wondered why he grew no fatter.
When four weeks had gone by, and Hansel still was thin, she
could wait no longer.
SHE THOUGHT IT WAS HANSEL'S FINGER
"Come, Grethel," she cried to the girl, "fly round and bring
some water. Let Hansel be fat or lean, to-morrow I will kill
him, and cook him."
Ah, how sad was the poor little sister when she had to fetch
the water, and how her tears did flow down over her cheeks!
"Dear God, do help us," she cried. "If the wild beasts in
the forest had but eaten us, we should at any rate have died
 "Just keep your noise to yourself," said the old woman; "all
that won't help you at all."
Early in the morning, Grethel had to go out and hang up the
kettle with the water, and light the fire.
"We will bake first," said the old woman. "I have already
heated the oven, and got the dough ready."
She pushed poor Grethel out to the oven, from which the
flames of fire were already darting.
"Creep in," said the witch, "and see if it is heated, so
that we can shut the bread in." And when once Grethel was
inside, she meant to shut the oven and let her bake in it,
and then she would eat her, too.
But Grethel saw what she had in her mind, and said, "I do
not know how I am to do it; how do you 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 Grethel gave her a push that
drove her far into it, and shut the iron door, tight.
Grethel ran as quick as lightning to Hansel, opened his
little stable, and cried, "Hansel, we are saved! The old
witch is dead!"
Then Hansel sprang out like a bird from its cage when the
door is opened for it. How they did dance about and kiss
each other. And as they had no longer any need to fear her,
 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 filled
his pockets, and Grethel said, "I, too, will take something
home with me," and filled her pinafore.
"But now we will go away," said Hansel, "that we may get out
of the witch's forest." When they had walked for two hours,
they came to a great piece of water. "We cannot get over,"
said Hansel; "I see no foot-plank and no bridge."
"And no boat crosses, either," answered Grethel, "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 Grethel 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 sat on its back, and told
his sister to sit by him.
"No," replied Grethel, "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, they knew where they
were, and at last they saw from afar their father's house.
Then they began to run, rushed in, and threw themselves into
their father's arms. The man
 had not known one happy hour since he had left the children
in the forest; the woman, however, was dead. Grethel emptied
her pinafore until pearls and precious stones rolled about
the floor, and Hansel threw one handful after another out of
his pocket to add to them. Then all care was at an end, and
they lived happily together ever after.
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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