Hansel and Gretel
by The Brothers Grimm
Hard-by a great forest dwelt a poor
with his two children and his wife who was
their stepmother. The boy was called Hansel
and the girl Gretel. 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 ourselves?"
"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 wished.
"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 father.
Gretel wept bitter tears, and
said to Hansel, "Now all is over with us."
"Be quiet, Gretel," 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 Gretel, "Be at ease, dear little
sister, and sleep in peace - God will not forsake us." And
he lay down again in his bed.
When the day dawned, but before the sun had
risen, the woman came and awoke the two children,
"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."
Gretel 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 Gretel 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 Gretel 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
Gretel 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
They knocked at the door, and
when the woman opened it, and saw that it was Hansel
and Gretel, 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 ourselves!"
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 also.
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, Gretel -
go to sleep quietly, the good God will help us."
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
"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, Gretel 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 poor children.
They did not awake until it was dark night, and
Hansel comforted his little sister, and said:
"Just wait, Gretel, 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 Gretel, "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 on the
ground. And as they were so tired that their legs
would carry them no longer, they lay down under
a tree and fell asleep.
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, Gretel, 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 Gretel 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 Gretel 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 Gretel were so scared that they
let fall what they had in their hands.
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
Gretel 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 there.
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 Gretel, 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."
Gretel 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 Gretel 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.
"Come, Gretel," 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 together."
"Just keep your noise to yourself," said the
old woman - "all that won't help you at all."
Early in the morning, Gretel 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
She pushed poor Gretel 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 Gretel was inside, she meant to shut
the oven and let her bake in it, and then she would
eat her, too.
But Gretel 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 Gretel
gave her a push that drove her far into it, and shut the
iron door, tight.
Gretel 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, they went
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 Gretel 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
Gretel, "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 Gretel 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 Gretel, "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. Gretel 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
My tale is done - there runs a mouse - whosoever
catches it may make himself a big fur cap
out of it.