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Hansel and Gretel – Summary | The Heritage of Words

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Hansel and Gretel

Jacob and Wilheim Grimm


Once a poor wood-cutter lived by a great forest with his wife and two children. The boy was called Hansel and the girl Gretel. When there was a scarcity of food, he was not able give even daily bread to his family. His wife then planned to leave the children in the forest. She was their step-mother, so she did not love them at all. But their father did not like to leave them. She forced her husband to leave them. The children had heard all this. They had not been able to sleep because of hunger. Then Hansel went out at night and filled his pockets. With pebbles, which were shining like silver-coins in the moonlight.

The step-mother woke them up early in the morning and they all went to the forest. On the way Hansel threw the pebbles one by one. In the forest the children collected brushwood and the father burnt it. The children were asked to wait there for their parents. At noon they had their bread and fell asleep. They woke up in the dark night. They waited until the moon had risen. In the moonlight the pebbles shone like silver pieces, and showed them the way. The day broke when they reached home. The step-mother asked them why they had slept long in the forest, but the father was very happy. Soon afterwards there was once more a great shortage of food. The children heard their mother talking to the father. She again intended to leave them in the thickest forest. Hansel again wanted to go out, but the door was locked. In the morning they all went into the forest. Hansel broke the bread in his pockets and scattered on the way as before. Similarly, the brushwood was collected and burnt. The children fell asleep after their parents went to cut wood. When they woke up, it was dark night. They waited until the moon rose, but they could not see the pieces of bread because birds had already picked them up. They did not find the way. They walked the whole might and all the next day too from morning to evening. But they could not go out of the forest. They were hungry and tired. They fell asleep under a tree. In the morning they saw a white bird sitting on the branch. It sang very sweetly. They followed the bird and it came down on the roof of a house. Its roof was made of bread and its window of sugar. They started eating it. Then and old woman came out and she welcomed them. They went inside her house. They ate and slept. They felt that they were in heaven.

The old woman was a wicked witch. When a child fell into her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it. Her eyes were dim but her smelling was very strong. She imprisoned Hansel in the stable and asked Gretel to prepare very nice food for her brother. She wanted to fatten him and kill. Gretel had to obey her command. Every morning the witch touched Hansel’s hand to see if he was fat or not and Hansel also would stretch out a bone instead his finger. Finding him thin, the witch was restless. She wanted to kill him the following day whether he was fat or thin. The woman had kneaded dough to bake in the oven. She asked Gretel to go in and see whether the oven was heated or not. Gretel understood her intention and asked the witch how to do it. Then when the witch put her head into the oven, Gretel pushed her in and bolted the door of the oven and she was burnt to death.

Afterwards she freed her brother. Both of them filled their pockets and aprons with pearls and jewels and set out for their home. On the way they found a stretch of water. There was nothing to go across. But a duck came to them swimming and they sat on its back one by one and went across. Soon they were out of the forest and reached home. They emptied their pockets and aprons. And they lived happily ever after.

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