Hansel and Gretel
Near a great forest there lived a poor woodcutter and his wife and his two children; the boy’s name was Hansel and the girl’s Gretel. They had very little to bite or to sup, and once, when there was great dearth in the land, the man could not even gain the daily bread.
As he lay in bed one night thinking of this, and turning and tossing, he sighed heavily, and said to his wife, “What will become of us? We cannot even feed our children; there is nothing left for ourselves.”
“I will tell you what, husband,” answered the wife; “we will take the children early in the morning into the forest, where it is thickest; we will make them a fire, and we will give each of them a piece of bread, then we will go to our work and leave them alone; they will never find the way home again, and we shall be quit of them.”
“No, wife,” said the man, “I cannot do that; I cannot find in my heart to take my children into the forest and to leave them there alone; the wild animals would soon come and devour them.”
“O you fool,” said she, “then we will all four starve; you had better get the coffins ready”—and she left him no peace until he consented.
“But I really pity the poor children,” said the man.
The two children had not been able to sleep for hunger, and had heard what their step-mother had said to their father. Gretel wept bitterly, and said to Hansel, “It is all over with us.” “Do be quiet, Gretel,” said Hansel, “and do not fret. I will manage something.” And when the parents had gone to sleep he got up, put on his little coat, opened the back door, and slipped out.
The moon was shining brightly, and the white flints that lay in front of the house glistened like pieces of silver. Hansel stooped and filled the little pocket of his coat as full as it would hold. Then he went back again, and said to Gretel, “Be easy, dear little sister, and go to sleep quietly; God will not forsake us,” and laid himself down again in his bed.
When the day was breaking, and before the sun had risen, the wife came and awakened the two children, saying, “Get up, you lazy bones; we are going into the forest to cut wood.”
Then she gave each of them a piece of bread, and said, “That is for dinner, and you must not eat it before then, for you will get no more.”
Gretel carried the bread under her apron, for Hansel had his pockets full of the flints. Then they set off all together on their way to the forest. When they had gone a little way Hansel stood still and looked back towards the house, and this he did again and again, till his father said to him, “Hansel, what are you looking at? Take care not to forget your legs.”
“O father,” said Hansel, “I am looking at my little white kitten, who is sitting up on the roof to bid me good-bye.”
“You young fool,” said the woman, “that is not your kitten, but the sunshine on the chimney pot.”
Of course Hansel had not been looking at his kitten, but had been taking every now and then a flint from his pocket and dropping it on the road.
From Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
Garden City, N.Y.: International Collectors Library, 1900.