Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hansel and Gretel

Most people know something of the story of Hansel and Gretel.  Here is how I grew up knowing it:

A little boy (Hansel) and his sister (Gretel) wandered into the woods one day.  They became lost and frightened.  They walked around and tried to find their way home but were unable to.  Finally, they came upon a house made of candy and sweets.  The two children immediately began to eat the goodies that made up the house.  The owner of the house (a wicked witch) came home and saw the children eating.  She invited them into the house - pretending to be a kind old lady - and ended up kidnapping them.  Over the course of the next few weeks, the witch fed Hansel and Gretel until they became fat.  Her intent was to cook and eat them.  Somehow, the children managed to escape the old witch and find their way home where they lived happily ever after.

In preparation for this blog post, I visited the website  There I acquired a copy of the story of Hansel and Gretel from the Grimms' Fairy Tales collection.  When I read the story, I noticed some differences from what I always believed the story to be.  My summary of the Grimm Brothers' version of Hansel and Gretel goes like this:

There was a poor wood-cutter that lived with his wife and two children.  Times were getting so hard that there was little food left to eat.  One night, the man's wife convinced him they needed to lure the children to the woods and abandon them there so that the man and his wife would no longer have to worry about feeding them.  Hansel and Gretel over-heard this conversation and Hansel prepared by collecting white pebbles.  The next day, the man and his wife led the children into the woods and Hansel left a trail of pebbles so he and his sister could find their way home.  It took them some time, but Hansel and Gretel found their way back to the house.  The man was very happy to see his children, his wife was not.  Soon, the wife convinced the husband that they must lure the children into the woods again, but take them farther in so they would be unable to find their way home again.  The next day, the children went into the woods with their parents.  This time, Hansel left a trail of bread crumbs.  When the children went to follow the trail home, they discovered that the crumbs had been eaten by birds.  Hansel and Gretel wandered the woods and got lost.  They came upon a house made of bread and cakes with windows made of sugar.  The wicked witch that lived in the house went out to lure the children into her home.  She pretended to be nice for that night but things were different the next day.  She locked Hansel away so that while he ate, he would become fat.  The witch made Gretel her maid.  After some time, the witch decided it was time to eat Hansel.  She tried to trick Gretel into walking into the oven, but Gretel was too smart for her.  When the witch stepped up to the oven, Gretel pushed her in and locked the door.  Hansel and Gretel eventually made it back home where their father was very happy to see them.  The man's wife was already dead.  The father and his children lived happily ever after.

When I read the actual story, I found that while it was considerably longer and some minor things were different than the story I grew up knowing, both versions of Hansel and Gretel are basically the same.

How does your story of Hansel and Gretel differ from the ones provided above?


  1. When we were stationed in Germany, you could visit the Grimm Tales Forest where they set all the stories. So neat to "walk" through all the stories we grew up with.

    1. That would be really neat. The closest I came to that was going through a replica of Bedrock from the Flintstones. The kids loved it though!