Hansel and Gretel
Known sayings: Crunch, crunch, crunch, who is crunching my little house? The wind, the wind, the heavenly child.
Before a large forest lived a poor woodcutter with his wife and two children; the little boy was called Hansel and the girl Gretel. He had little to eat, and once, when great famine came to the country, he could no longer afford even his daily bread. Now, as he pondered in bed at night and tossed and turned with worry, he sighed and said to his wife: "What is to become of us? How are we to feed our poor children, since we have nothing left for ourselves"? "You know what, man," replied the wife, "tomorrow, bright and early, we will take the children out into the forest where it is thickest. There we'll build them a fire and give everyone another piece of bread. Then we will go to our work and leave them alone. They won't find their way back home and we'll be rid of them." "No, woman," said the man, "I won't do that. How can I bring myself to do that and leave my children alone in the forest? The wild animals would soon come and tear them apart". "O fool," she said, "then all four of us must die of hunger. You can only plane the boards for the coffins," and gave him no rest until he consented. "But I do feel sorry for the poor children," said the man.
The two children had also not been able to fall asleep because of hunger and had listened to what the stepmother had said to the father. Gretel cried bitter tears and said to Hansel: "Now it's all over for us! "Hush, Gretel," said Hansel, "don't worry, I will help us." And when the old people had fallen asleep, he got up, put on his little skirt, opened the lower door, and crept out. The moon was shining brightly, and the white pebbles lying in front of the house shone like coins. Hansel bent down and put as many of them into his jacket pockets as there was room for. Then he went back again, said to Gretel, "Be of good cheer, dear little sister, and only go to sleep quietly, God will not leave us," and lay down again in his bed.
When the day dawned, before the sun had risen, the woman came and woke up the two children: "Get up, you lazy people, we want to go to the forest and fetch some wood. Then she gave each of them a piece of bread and said: "Here you have something for lunch, but don't eat it first. You won't get any more of it." Gretel took the bread under her apron, because Hansel had the stones in his pocket. Then they all set off together into the forest. When they had gone a little while, Hansel stood still and looked back at the house. And he did so again and again. The father said, "Hansel, what are you looking at and staying behind, watch out and don't forget your legs." "Oh, father," said Hansel, "I am looking after my white kitten, who is sitting up on the roof and wants to say goodbye to me." The woman said, "Fool, that is not your kitten, that is the morning sun shining on the chimney." Hansel, however, had not looked at the kitten, but had always thrown one of the blank pebbles from his pocket onto the path.
When they had come to the middle of the forest, the father said, "now gather wood, you children, I will light a fire so that you will not freeze." Hansel and Gretel gathered brushwood, a small pile. The brushwood was already lit, and when the flame burned quite high, the woman said, "now lie down by the fire, you children, and rest, we'll go into the forest and cut wood. When we're done, we'll come back and get you." Hansel and Gretel sat by the fire, and when noon came, they each ate a piece of bread. And because they heard the beating of the wooden axe, they thought their father was near. But it was not the wooden axe. It was a branch which he had tied to a dry tree and which the wind was beating back and forth. When they had sat so long, their eyes fell shut with fatigue, and they fell fast asleep. When they finally awoke, it was already dark night. Gretel began to cry and said, "How are we going to get out of the forest? But Hansel comforted her: "Just wait a little while until the moon has risen, then we will find the way." And when the full moon had risen, Hansel took his little sister by the hand and went after the pebbles. They shone like newly struck gold coins and showed them the way. They walked all night and came back to their father's house at daybreak. They knocked on the door, and when the woman opened it and saw that it was Hansel and Gretel, she said, "You wicked children, why have you slept so long in the forest? We thought you would not come back at all." The father, however, was pleased, for it had gone to his heart that he had left them so alone.
Not long after, there was need in all corners again and the children heard how the stepmother spoke to the father in bed at night: "everything has been eaten up again, we still have half a loaf of bread, after that the song has an end. The children must leave, we want to lead them deeper into the forest, so that they will not find their way out again. There is no other rescue for us." The man's heart was heavy and he thought, "it would be better if you shared the last morsel with your children." But the woman did not listen to anything he said, scolding him and reproaching him, "he who says A must also say B." And because he had given in the first time, he had to give in the second.
But the children were still awake and had overheard the conversation. When the old people were asleep, Hansel got up again and wanted to go out to pick up pebbles - as he had done the previous time. But the woman had locked the door and Hansel could not get out. But he comforted his little sister and said: "Don't cry, Gretel, and just sleep peacefully. The good Lord will help us all right." Early in the morning the woman came and got the children out of bed. They received their piece of bread, but it was even smaller than the last time. On the way to the forest it crumbled in Hansel's pocket, often stopping and throwing a piece on the ground. "Hansel, why are you standing and looking around?" asked the father. "Go your way." "I am looking after my little pigeon, who is sitting on the roof and wants to say goodbye to me," answered Hansel. "Fool," said the woman, "that is not your little pigeon, that is the morning sun shining on the chimney above." Hansel, however, gradually threw all the crumbs onto the path.
The woman led the children even deeper into the forest, where they had never been all their lives. There, a big fire was lit for them again, and the stepmother said, "just sit there, you children, and when you are tired, you can sleep a little. We'll go into the forest and cut wood. And in the evening, when we have finished, we will come and fetch you." When noon came, Gretel shared her bread with Hansel, who had scattered his piece along the way. Then they fell asleep and the afternoon passed - without anyone coming to pick up the poor children. They awoke only in the dark of night. And Hansel comforted his little sister and said: "Just wait, Gretel, until the moon rises, then we will see the bread crumbs that I have scattered. They will show us the way home." When the moon came, they set out, but they found no more crumbs. For the many thousands of birds flying about in the forest and in the field had pecked them away. Hansel said to Gretel, "We will find the way," but they did not find it. They walked all night and another day, from morning to evening, but they did not get out of the forest. They were very hungry, because they had nothing to eat but the few berries they found in the forest. And because they were so tired that their legs didn't want to carry them anymore, they lay down under a tree and fell asleep.
Now it was the third morning that they had left their father's house. They started walking again, but they got deeper and deeper into the forest and if help did not come soon, they would perish. When it was noon, they saw a beautiful snow-white bird sitting on a branch, singing so beautifully that they stopped and listened to it. And when it had finished, it swung its wings and flew before them. And they went after it until they came to a little house, on the roof of which it sat down. When they came very near, they saw that the little house was made of bread, and covered with cakes; and the windows were of bright sugar. "There let us take hold," said Hansel, "and have a blessed meal. I will eat a piece of the roof, Gretel, you can eat of the window, it tastes sweet." Hansel stretched his arms aloft and broke off a bit of the roof - to try how it tasted. And Gretel stood by the window panes and crunched on it. Then a fine voice called out from the parlor:
"crunch, crunch, crunch,
Who's crunching on my little house?"
The children answered:
"the wind, the wind,
the heavenly child",
and continued to eat without being misled. Hansel, who liked the roof very much, tore off a large piece of it, and Gretel pushed out a whole round window pane, sat down, and enjoyed it. Suddenly the door opened, and an old woman leaning on a crutch came sneaking out. Hansel and Gretel were so frightened that they dropped what they were holding in their hands. The old woman, however, wiggled her head and said: "Dear children, who has brought you here? Come in and stay with me, no harm will come to you." She took them both by the hand and led them into her little house. Then good food was served: milk and pancakes with sugar, apples and nuts. Then two beautiful little beds were covered in white. And Hansel and Gretel lay down in them and thought they were in heaven.
The old woman had only acted so friendly, but she was a wicked witch who lay in wait for children. She had only built the little bread house to lure them in. Whenever a child came under her control, she killed it, cooked it and ate it. That was then a feast day for her. The witches have red eyes and cannot see far, but they have a fine scent - like the animals. And they notice when people approach. When Hansel and Gretel came near her, she laughed maliciously and said mockingly to herself, "I have them, they shall not escape me again." Early in the morning, before the children were awake, she got up. And when she saw them both resting so sweetly, with their full red cheeks, she murmured to herself, "that will be a good bite." Then she seized Hansel with her scrawny hand and carried him into a small stable and locked him up behind a barred door. He could scream all he wanted, it did him no good. Then she went to Gretel, shook her awake and called out: "Get up, lazybones, carry water and cook something good for your brother! He is sitting outside in the stable and shall get fat. When he is fat, I will eat him." Gretel began to cry bitterly, but it was all in vain. She had to do what the wicked witch demanded.
Now the best food was cooked for poor Hansel, but Gretel got nothing but crab shells. Every morning the old woman crept up to the hutch and called out, "Hansel, stick out your fingers so that I can feel whether you will soon be fat." But Hansel stuck out a little knuckle, and the old woman, who had dim eyes, could not see it, and thought it was Hansel's fingers. And she was surprised that he did not want to get fat at all. When four weeks had passed and Hansel still remained skinny, she was overcome with impatience and did not want to wait any longer. "Heda, Gretel," she called to the girl, "be quick and bring water. Hansel may be fat or lean, tomorrow I will slaughter and cook him." Oh, how the poor little sister wailed when she had to bring the water, and how the tears flowed down her cheeks! "Dear God, help us," she exclaimed, "if only the wild beasts in the forest had eaten us, we would have died together." "Save your blubbering," said the old woman, "it won't do you any good."
Early in the morning Gretel had to get out, hang the kettle with water and light the fire. "First we will bake," said the old woman, "I have already heated the oven and kneaded the dough." She pushed poor Gretel out to the oven, from which the flames of fire were already leaping. "Crawl in," said the witch, "and see if it is properly heated, so that we can put the bread in." As soon as Gretel would be inside, she wanted to close the oven and roast Gretel in it, so that she could eat her up right away. But Gretel realized what she had in mind and said, "I don't know how to do it. How do I get in there?" "Silly goose," said the old woman, "the opening is big enough, you see, I could get in myself," and she pattered over and stuck her head into the oven. Then Gretel gave her a push so that she fell far in, closed the iron door and pushed the latch forward. Hoo! Then she began to howl, quite horribly; but Gretel ran away, and the godless witch had to burn miserably.
Gretel, however, ran straight to Hansel, opened his little stable and cried, "Hansel, we are redeemed, the old witch is dead." Then Hansel jumped out like a bird from a cage when the door is opened for him. How they rejoiced! They fell around each other's necks, jumped about, and kissed each other! And because they no longer needed to be afraid, they went into the house of the witch. There were boxes of pearls and precious stones in every corner. "They are even better than pebbles," said Hansel, and put into his pockets whatever he wanted to put into them. And Gretel said, "I want to bring something home, too," and filled her little apron full. "But now we want to go away," said Hansel, "so that we can get out of the witch's forest." But when they had walked a few hours, they came to a large body of water. We can't cross it," said Hansel, "I don't see a footbridge or a bridge. "There is no boat here either," Gretel answered, "but there is a white duck swimming, if I ask it, it will help us across." Then she called out:
it says Gretel and Hansel.
No footbridge and no bridge,
take us on your white back."
The duckling really did come up, and Hansel sat down on her. He asked his sister to sit with him. No," Gretel answered, "it will be too hard for the duckling, he shall take us over to each other." So the good little animal did, and when they were happily across and had gone on for a little while, the forest seemed more and more familiar to them. And at last they saw their father's house from afar. Then they started to run, rushed into the parlor and fell around their father's neck. The man had not had a happy hour since he had left the children in the forest. The woman, however, had died. Gretel poured out her little pinafore, so that the pearls and precious stones jumped about in the parlor. And Hansel threw in one handful after another from his pocket. Then all worries came to an end, and they lived together in joy.