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The Gingerbread House – Summary | The Heritage of Words

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The Gingerbread House

Robert Coover


Two children followed an old man in a pine forest in the mid-afternoon. The boy was dropping breadcrumbs and the girl was singing nursery tunes and carrying a basket to collect flowers. The old man was very poor and wearing torn clothes. He was very thin and weak. He was worried because of poverty and resignation. He felt hopeless and guilty. The children were wearing torn clothes and their feet were bare. They sang songs to lighten their hearts or to hide their thoughts. The boy was dropping breadcrumbs. The old man’s eyes were blue and his face was wrinkled. He was looking straight ahead at some unknown destination. His eyes showed that they didn’t want to see any more.

The switch was covered with black clothes. Her face was very pale and her eyes glowed like burning coals. She was very thin and her body was twisted. She moved her hands in the empty place. She cried sharply and caught a paring clove and tore its heart out. The girl was walking happily in the forest. She looked very fresh and happy. Her basket was overfilled. There was a sunny place in the dark forest. There the air was fresh and rivers of honey flowed and lollipops grew like daisies. This place was called the gingerbread house and children didn’t leave it.

The dove was very white on the pale path and its beak moved around a bread crumb. Only the girl was singing about a brave king. The tricky and she was not throwing the bread. He was surprised when he looked behind and found the doves eating the breadcrumbs. Perhaps the old man knew that the boy’s trick failed. But the girl was singing. The witch looked like a head of black rags on a post. Her long-nailed hands were curled toward her breast. Her head was lowered and her nose pushed her fingers. She cackled and looked to both sides. Then she lifted the dove’s heart which shone like a ruby. It was forced down against the earth. The boy fell on it and its claws and beak mad e his hands bloody. The gingerbread house could be reached walking on the biscuits through a garden through a garden of sugared fruits.

The girl was not singing. She fought with the boy for the bird. She kicked him and he elbowed her. They were weeping. The boy was angry and hopeless and the girl was sad. They were still fighting. The old man looked clearly. He felt sorry. He sighted. The girl captured the bird and pushed it in between her thighs. It was dead. It was dusk. But the body of the dove shone because of its whiteness. It was scattered with fading flowers. The old man, the boys and the girl had gone.

The gingerbread house was made of sweets. And the best of all was the door. Brown animals were moving quickly in the dense forest. The boy and the girl were walking ahead into the forest. The old man was walking slowly. His eyes were shining in the late evening. His teeth were tightly shut but his mouth was open. The witch twisted and quivered. From her lean breast, she pulled back the pulsing red heart of the dove. The old man fell forward and his clothes tore in the bramble. The witch’s screech frightened all the animals in the jungle. The old man stopped suddenly to protect his children. The girl was afraid and moved close to his arms. The boy was pale with fear. But he was bold. The girl cried.

The sun was setting and the children went into the room where the old man himself had made the beds. He told them a story about a good fairy who granted a poor man three wishes. The wishes were wasted, but he let them complete the story with their own wishes. He had to accept a cruel demand unwillingly. The goodness of all wishes had to be useless. The flower basket was overturned on the forest path and the flowers were faded the night was falling. The children helped the old man to be free from the brambles. He looked at them as if he did not recognize them. His face was scratched and his clothes torn. He wondered where all the good fairies had gone. He led the frightened children.

The body bravely controlled himself although the witch was trying to induce him with the beating read heart of a dove. He licked his lips and she moved back. The good fairy with blue eyes and golden hair caressed and soothed. The witch with the dove’s heart moved back into the dark forest and the boy followed her. The witch’s fingers clawed at his clothes. The old man looked worried, but his eyes were like burning coals. He looked at the boy who was standing alone being frightened. The boy moved forward licking his lips. When there was a sharp cry, the old man was going to strike the boy. The girl protected the boy from the slap of the old man. When the old man touched her shoulder, she shook his hand off. The old man left his children.

The door of the gingerbread house was half open and it was red and its shape was like that of heart. The children were left alone in the black forest. Owls and bats frightened them. They could also see strange shapes moving in front of them. The old man walked out of the forest. On the way he could see dead doves. The girl prepared a bed of leaves and flowers. They collected branches to hide them. When bats screeched and owls blinked, they were trembling. They went secretly into the dark bed. The old man was in the empty room of the good fairy. The area was lit with her shining body. He wished his children’s good condition. The children were near the gingerbread house. They sang happily. They crossed the honeyed river. They picked up the lollipops growing wildly. The witch moved into the black forest. She looked greedily at the children sleeping under the branches.

But there was another wish. There was mid-afternoon sunlight. Two children were following an old man. They were singing and dropping breadcrumbs. The old man was leading them. The boy’s gesture was secretive. The dove would come again. There were no reasonable wishes. The children went near the gingerbread house thorough the garden of candied fruit. The house was made of sweets. The boy climbed up the chocolate roof. Both of them fell on the sticky garden of sweets. They licked each other clean. The door of the house was heart-shaped and red. It was shining like ruby. Beyond the door, there was the sound of the black rags of the witch flapping.

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