|Once upon a time, there was a poor couple, who had a son, a daughter, and a cat. The children’s names were Hansel and Gretel and their parents’ names were “Mom” and “Dad.” They lived in a small, broken-down shack. The couple worked very hard to provide food to their family. The children went to school every day and, when they walked home from school, they spent their time foraging for apples and grapes and other foods and fruits that they could bring home.
Unfortunately, one day, Mom was hit by a car and she died. Dad was broken hearted because he really loved Mom. But then he met a woman who said that she would make him very happy. After a while, they got married. Then the woman saw that, not only did she get a husband, she got a son, a daughter, and a cat. She was very irritated by that and set out to make the lives of Hansel and Gretel very bad indeed. She had made up her mind that she would be the wickedest stepmother that had ever lived on the face of the earth.
This was a difficult job for the Wicked Stepmother because her new husband loved his children very much. Fortunately for her, he was working at three different jobs and he was hardly ever home. The Wicked Stepmother spent all of her husband’s money on frivolous stuff because that’s what Wicked People do. She wasn’t going to be like that boring and overly generous Mom who got run over by a bus.
One night, she said to her new husband, “Husband dear, we must have a talk about our finances.” She said it loud enough for Hansel and Gretel to hear.
Dad: That’s OK, dear. I have three jobs and we will be fine. We don’t have the most extravagant food, but we have good, healthy food and we have fresh fruits and berries from the forest.
Wicked Stepmother: Yes, that’s true. The forest. We must let the children go. Send them deep into the forest. Then we can afford better stuff.
Hansel and Gretel weren’t able to sleep. That was nothing new. They had spent many nights tossing and turning in their little beds. Now they were overhearing their stepmother’s plot to dump them off into the forest and get them hopelessly lost. Well, about as lost as one could get when there were highways going all over the place.
|The highways were even scarier than the forest. The next day, Dad took Hansel and Gretel into the forest. Gretel wanted to pet the cat, but the Wicked Stepmother told her that the cat would bite her. Gretel knew that the cat would never bite her. In fact, the cat had bitten the Wicked Stepmother several times because she had made Dad give the cat bad cat food that smelled awful and tasted even worse.
Hansel had loaded his pockets with marbles so that he and Gretel would be able to find their way back without having to cross the scary highway.
Dad took Hansel and Gretel through the woods. He made sure that they knew the difference between good plants and poison ivy. He gave them each a sack lunch and a bottle of water and said that he would see them later. He walked away. Hansel and Gretel foraged for fruits and berries, which they collected in a basket. Then they walked back to the small, broken-down shack. The evil stepmother looked very perturbed to see them. She said that they were late and that they would have no dinner. Fortunately, Hansel and Gretel had plenty of fruits and berries to eat so they did not go hungry.
When they went to their room, they were surprised to see that there was nothing in it but the furniture. All of their possessions had disappeared. In fact, there was a “for rent” sign on the door. They went into the room and tried to fall asleep, but, once again, the Wicked Stepmother kept them awake.
Wicked Stepmother: We don’t have enough money to send those children to boarding school. We can’t afford to feed them. They are eating me out of house and home, if you can call this broken-down shack a house or a home. Take them for a longer walk tomorrow. Walk them in circles so they can’t find their way back.
Dad: No, I don’t think so.
Wicked Stepmother: Yes, you will.
|The next day, Dad took Hansel and Gretel for a long, very windy walk. Unfortunately, Hansel had no marbles because all of his things were removed and were replaced by the “for rent” sign. He had to throw out crumbs of bread that were in his lunch bag. By the time, Dad, Hansel, and Gretel got to the spot where Hansel and Gretel were to be left, all of the bread crumbs had been eaten by mice.
|Just like the day earlier, Hansel and Gretel spent the day foraging for fruits and berries. When it was time for them to go home, they discovered that the bread crumbs were gone and they were lost. They wandered around in circles, lost and confused. As they started down a wild and forbidden looking path, they were startled by a rather large man, who had an ax and a very orange face.
“I am the woodcutter,” said the man. “You look lost. I can help you. I am very good. You will be happy because I am a very good woodcutter. Some day, I will be the king of this realm and I will make everyone happy. You are a very pretty girl.”
Gretel, all of a sudden, felt extremely cold, even though it was a warm evening. She felt fear and did not know why. The man winked at her and she felt even more fear.
“That’s OK,” said Hansel. “We are sure that we can find our way out of here.”
Before long, a woman came up to them and said that she could help them. She had a strange smile on her face because, just then, the woodcutter jumped in front of her.
“Don’t listen to her,” the wanna-be king said. “She is a very bad person. She works for the king of this realm but he is a bad king. He is actually a wolf, disguised as a king. I will help you and she will not.”
The woman said, “I will be the queen when the king goes away to seek his fortune. I will make sure that your father wants for nothing. You will never be lost again.”
“No,” said the wood cutter. “I will be the king. I will throw this miserable woman into the dungeon, along with that impostor king, and I will build a huge and tall wall around the realm so that no evil people from the next kingdom can come in here and eat our food and drink our beer. Your father will never want for anything again because he will help to build my Most Magnificent Wall.”
|Hansel and Gretel ran away from both the scary woodcutter and the king’s successor and soon found themselves at a house made of gingerbread. They were very hungry, even though they had eaten fruits and berries all day long, so they started nibbling at the windowsill. Suddenly, they heard a terrifying scream from within the gingerbread house.
“STOP EATING MY HOUSE, YOU HORRID CREATURES!”
A witch came out of the house and stared at them. She had long, white hair and a chin that was as pointy as a knife.
“You must pay for eating my house,” said the witch.
“Are you Baba Yaga?” Gretel asked.
“That’s my cousin,” said the witch.
The witch led them into the house and told them to sweep and wash the floor. The house was full of spiderwebs. One spider told Gretel, “If you don’t sweep me away, I will help you get away from here.”
Neither Hansel nor Gretel swept away the spiderweb. They let the spider continue to weave. They did notice, however, that the spider was weaving golden threads and that the spiderweb was more exquisite than the most beautiful man-made bridge.
The witch was unable to see the spiderweb so she told Hansel and Gretel that they did a good job cleaning the floor. Suddenly, she pushed Hansel into a cage and locked the door.
Every day, Gretel had to serve Hansel chicken legs. He soon grew tired of eating chicken legs. The witch made him show her his arms so that she could see if he was getting fatter. She wanted to cook and eat him, but he didn’t agree with that because he was a boy and not food. He showed her the chicken bones. She never left the woods, not even to buy a pair of eyeglasses, so she couldn’t tell the difference between a boy’s arm and a chicken bone.
She warmed up the oven and was ready to push Hansel in after seven days because she had grown tired of waiting. She crouched down and Gretel quickly pushed the witch so close to the oven that she thought that she had gone in. She screamed and yelled but did nothing when Hansel and Gretel ran away. They were followed by a golden boy who had once been a spider. He was always a golden boy, but the witch had enchanted him, and he turned into a spider. He had given them golden coins for their journey. The golden coins used to be a golden spider web.
Hansel and Gretel passed the wood cutter and the king’s assistant, who were still fighting. Hansel and Gretel were still lost but, then, a group of mice, who were so happy that they had eaten Hansel’s bread crumbs, came along to guide Hansel and Gretel back home.
|Hansel and Gretel’s dad was so happy to see them. Their stepmother had left abruptly because she heard about a woodcutter who wanted to be king. She said that she liked men with orange faces so she departed for the woods. Also, she claimed to be tired of the cat biting her ceaselessly so it was time for her to go. The cat purred at Hansel and Gretel and rolled on its back and all was right with the world.
The for rent sign was removed from the children’s bedroom. Hansel and Gretel and the Golden Boy, who needed a new family, had many golden coins, and everyone lived happily ever after.