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Hansel and Gretel
Long ago a woodcutter lived on edge of a large forest with his two children and his wife who was the children’s stepmother. The wodcutter’s son was called Hansel and his daughter — Gretel. Although the woodcutter worked hard, he was very poor.
One year there was a terrible famine in the land. The woodcutter did not have enough food for his family. The woodcutter’s wife complained that the whole family would soon die of hunger. So one night she told her husband that he must take his children deep into the woods and leave them there. Hansel heard them talking and told Gretel about the stepmother’s idea. The children were both very frightened. Then Hansel made a plan. Later that night when his parents were sleeping Hansel slipped outside and gathered as many white pebbles as his pockets would hold.
The next morning the stepmother told Hansel and Gretel that they were all going to the forest to gather firewood. As they were going deeper and deeper into the woods Hansel would stop now and then to walk towards his house. Hansel was scolded by his stepmother for being slow, but he was really dropping the white pebbles to mark the way home. When they finally stopped the woodcutter built a fire and left the children some crumbs of bread for the supper. He said he and his wife would return when they were done cutting wood. Hansel and Gretel knew they would not be back. They sat for a while by the fire waiting for nightfall, then, with the moonlight shining on the white pebbles, Hansel and Gretel followed the trace straight back to their home. ‘You bad children!’ cried the stepmother when she saw Hansel and Gretel. ‘Why did you sleep so long?’ But she was secretly angry that they returned.
The next day the woman made her husband lead Hansel and Gretel back into the woods. This time the woodcutter led Hansel and Gretel deeper into the forest. Hansel had no time to gather pebbles, so he crumpled his bread and made a trail of crumbs instead. Hansel andGretel slept until the moon rose, then they searched for the path of bread crumbs. But the bread had been eaten by birds in the forest, so they couldn’t find their wayh home. They searched until they were so tired thatt they had to stop and sleep. The next morning they searched again. Then Hansel and Gretel saw a beautiful white bird who sang so sweetly they followed him as he flew from branch to branch. Soon they found themselves in a small field where they saw the most amazing house. It was made of ginger bread with a roof of icing and windows made of sugar. The children were so hungry they didn’tstop to think. They each broke off a pieceof the house and started to eat it. No sooneк had they stuffed their mouths than they heard a gentle voice calling.
Like a mouse
Who’s that nibbling
on my house?
The door of the house opened and there stood an old woman leaning on a heavy cane. Hansel and Gretel were so frightened that they dropped what they were eating. The woman smiled and invied Hansel and Gretel into her house. Seeing how hungry and tired they were she gave them a wonderful dinner of pancakes and apples. Then she made beds for them and put them to sleep as kind as any grandmother. Yansel and Gretel did not know that the woman who seemed so nice was really a wicked witch. Before Hansel and Gretel awoke the next morning the witch carried Hansel to a little cage that she had built and locked him inside.’Now, she cackled, ‘I’ll fatten him up He’ll make a ttasty treat for me to eat.’ Then she woke poor Gretel and ordered her to fetch water and cook food for Hansel, because she wanted him to grow plump. Yansel and Gretel cried and begged to be set free, but the witch just laughed. Each day the witch, who could not see very well, wanted to feel Hansel’s finger through the bars of his cage. She wanted to know whether he was getting plump enogh to eat. But he cleverly gave her only an old bone to feel. She thought that he was much too thin for her to eat.
Four weeks went by and Hansel didn’t seem to grow any fatter. Gretel could see that the witch was becoming very impatient. One morning the witch ordered Gretel to make a fire. After a while she told Gretel to climb upon to the oven to see if the fire was ready. But Gretel said: ‘How can I get into he oven to see?’ The witch became angry at that and climbed upon to the oven. Quik as a wink, Gretel gave the witch a hard shove that sent her tumbling all the way in, then banged the door shut. Gretel ran to free Hansel. Now that they had othing to fear, they explored the witch’s house. They found boxes of jewels and gold coins in every corner. The children filled their pockets with riches and set out to find their way home. Before they had gone very far, they came yo an edge of a white lake. ‘How will we ever cross without a bridge or a boat?’ asked Hansel. ‘Here comes a swan!’ answered Gretel. ‘I’ll ask if she can help us.’ The good bird agreed to carry them across the lake one at a time. Once on th other side, Hansel and Gretel found themselves a familiar little wood. Soon they were running down the path for home. The woodcutter cred tears of joy to see his children once again. He had not had one moment of peace since he had left them in the forest, and his wife had died while they were gone. Gretel emptied the jewels from her apron into his father’s lap. Pearls and rubies scattered onto the floor. Hansel handed handfuls of gold from his pockets. Hansel and Gretel and their father lived happily for the rest of their days with the help of the witch’s gold.