Hansel & Gretel
Length: 1500 words, 9 minutes
Hansel one day took his sister Gretel by the hand, and said, ‘Since our poor mother died we have had no happy days; for our new mother beats us all day long; and when we go near her, she pushes us away. We have nothing but hard crusts to eat; and the little dog that lies by the fire is better off than we, for he sometimes has a nice piece of meat thrown to him. Heaven have mercy upon us! Oh, if our poor mother knew how we are used! Come, we will go and travel over the wide world.’
Hansel & Gretel Run Away
They went the whole day walking over the fields, till in the evening they came to a great wood; and then they were so tired and hungry that they sat down in a hollow tree and went to sleep.
In the morning when they awoke, the sun had risen high above the trees, and shone warm upon the hollow tree. Then Hansel said, ‘Sister, I am very thirsty; if I could find a brook, I would go and drink, and fetch you some water too. Listen, I think I hear the sound of one.’ Then Hansel rose up and took Gretel by the hand and went in search of the brook.
But their cruel stepmother was a fairy, and had followed them into the wood to work their mischief; and when they had found a brook that ran sparkling over the pebbles. Hansel wanted to drink; but Gretel thought she heard the brook, as it babbled along, say, ‘Whoever drinks here will be turned into a tiger.’
Then she cried out, ‘Ah, brother! do not drink or you will be turned into a wild beast and tear me to pieces.’
Then Hansel yielded, although he was parched with thirst. ‘I will wait,’ said he ‘for the next brook.’
But when they came to the next, Gretel listened again, and thought she heard, ‘Whoever drinks here will become a wolf.’
Then she cried out, ‘Brother, brother, do not drink, or you will become a wolf and eat me.’
So he did not drink, but said. ‘I will wait for the next brook; there I must drink, say what you will, I am so thirsty.’
As they came to the third brook, Gretel listened, and heard, ‘Whoever drinks here will become a fawn.’ ‘Ah, brother!’ said she, ‘do not drink, or you will be turned into a fawn and run away from me.’ But Hansel had already stooped down upon his knees, and the moment he put his lips into the water he was turned into a fawn.
Gretel wept bitterly over the poor creature, and the tears too rolled from his eyes as he laid himself beside her. Then she said, ‘Rest in peace, dear fawn; I will never never leave thee.’ So she took off her golden necklace and put it round his neck, and plucked some rushes and plaited them into a soft string to fasten to it; and led the poor little thing by her side farther into the wood.
Hansel & Gretel Make a New Home
After they had travelled a long way, they came at last to a little cottage; and Gretel, having looked in and seen that it was quite empty, thought to herself, ‘We can stay and live here.’ Then she went and gathered leaves and moss to make a soft bed for the fawn; and every morning she went out and plucked nuts, roots, and berries for herself, and sweet shrubs and tender grass for her companion; and it ate out of her hand, and was pleased, and played and frisked about her. In the evening, when Gretel was tired, and had said her prayers, she laid her head upon the fawn for her pillow, and slept; and if poor Hansel could but have his right form again, they thought they should lead a very happy life.
Hansel Watches the Hunt
They lived thus a long while in the wood by themselves, till it chanced that the king of that country came to hold a great hunt there. And when the fawn heard all around the echoing of the horns, and the baying of the dogs, and the merry shouts of the huntsmen, he wished very much to go and see what was going on. ‘Ah, sister, sister!’ said he, ‘let me go out into the wood, I can stay no longer.’ And he begged so long, that she at last agreed to let him go.
‘But,’ said she, ‘be sure to come to me in the evening; I’ll shut shut up the door to keep out those wild huntsmen; and if you tap at it, and say, “Sister, let me in,” I shall know you;’ but if you don’t speak, I shall keep the door fast.’ Then away sprang the fawn, and frisked and bounded along in the open air. The king and his huntsmen saw the beautiful creature, and followed but could not overtake him; for when they thought they were sure of their prize, he sprang over the bushes and was out of sight in a moment.
As it grew dark he came running home to the hut, and tapped and said, ‘Sister, sister, let me in.’ Then she opened the little door, and in he jumped and slept soundly all night on his soft bed.
Next morning the hunt began again; and when he heard the huntsmen’s horns, he said, ‘Sister, open the door for me, I must go again.’ Then she let him out and said, ‘Come back in the evening, and remember what you are to say.’
When the king and the huntsmen saw the fawn with the golden collar again, they gave him chase; but he was too quick for them. The chase lasted the whole day; but at last the huntsmen nearly surrounded him, and one of them wounded him in the foot, so that he became sadly lame and could hardly crawl home. The man who had wounded him followed close behind, and hid himself, and heard the little fawn say, ‘Sister, sister, let me in’: upon which the door opened and soon shut again. The huntsman marked all well, and went to the king and told him what he had seen and heard; then the king said, ‘Tomorrow we will have another chase.’
Gretel was very much frightened when she saw that her dear little fawn was wounded; but she washed the blood away and put some healing herbs on it, and said, ‘Now go to bed, dear fawn, and you will soon be well again.’
The wound was so small, that in the morning there was nothing to be seen of it; and when the horn blew, the little creature said, ‘I can’t stay here, I must go and look on; I will take care that none of them shall catch me.’
But Gretel said, ‘I am sure they will kill you this time, I will not let you go.’
‘I shall die of vexation,’ answered her, ‘if you keep me here: when I hear the horns, I feel as if I could fly.’ Then Gretel was forced to let him go; so she opened the door with a heavy heart, and he bounded out gaily into the wood.
When the king saw him he said to his huntsmen, ‘Now chase all day long till you catch him; but let none of you do him any harm.’ The sun set, however, without their being able to overtake him, and the king called away the huntsmen, and said to the one who had watched, ‘Now come and show me the little hut.’
The King Visits Gretel
So they went to the door and tapped, and said, ‘Sister, sister, let me in.’ Then the door opened and the king went in, and there stood a maiden more lovely than any he had ever seen. Gretel was frightened to see that it was not her fawn, but a king with a golden crown that was come into her hut; however, he spoke kindly to her, and took her hand, and said, ‘Will you come with me to my castle and be my wife?’
‘Yes,’ said the maiden, ‘but my fawn must go with me, I cannot part with that.’
‘Well,’ said the king, ‘he shall come and live with you all your life, and want for nothing.’
Just at that moment in sprang the little fawn; and his sister tied the string to his neck, and they left the hut in the wood together.
Then the king took Gretel to his palace, and celebrated the marriage in great state. And she told the king all her story; and he sent for the fairy and punished her; and the fawn was changed into Hansel again, and he and his sister loved one another, and lived happily together all their days.
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