On the edge of a large forest, there once lived a poor woodcutter with his wife and two children. The children were named Hans and Greta. The father's work did not pay much, and one year when there was a crop failure, food became so expensive that he could not afford to buy food for his family.
At night he could not sleep but tried to figure out what to do. He groaned and said to his wife: “What will become of us? How will we be able to feed the children, when we don't even have food for ourselves."
"I know what we have to do." answered the woman, "Early tomorrow morning we will take the children out into the forest, where it is densest. There we light a fire for them, give them each their bread, and then go to our works, leaving them alone. They won't find their way home again and then all we need is food for the two of us.”
"No!" exclaimed the man, "I don't want to do that." How could I leave my poor children in the forest? The wild animals would come and tear them to pieces.”
"You idiot!" said she, “Then we must all die of hunger. Then you might as well build our chests.” She wouldn't leave him alone, until he finally gave in. "But I feel very sorry for the poor children," said the man.
The two children hadn't slept either because they were so hungry and had heard everything their stepmother had said to their father. Greta cried in despair and said to Hans: "Now it's over for us." "Be quiet, Greta," said Hans, "don't worry, I'll probably think of something."
When the old people had fallen asleep, he got up, put on his jacket, opened the door and slipped out. The moon was shining and the white flint stones that lay in front of the house glittered like silver coins. Hans stuffed the pockets of his jacket full of the white stones, then he went back and said to Greta: "Trust me, little sister, and sleep easy, God will not forsake us." Then he lay down in his bed again.
At dawn, before the sun rose, the stepmother came in and woke the children, saying: “Get up, you lazy jocks! We will go into the forest to get wood.” She gave them each a small piece of bread and said: "Here you will have your dinner, but don't eat anything before that because you won't get anything else." Greta put the bread inside the apron, because Hans had his pockets full of stones. Then they went together into the forest. After they had gone a short while, Hans stopped and looked back towards the house. So he did time and time again.
"Hans, what are you looking for?" said the father, "You're coming after, don't forget how to use your legs."
"I look for my white cat, who is sitting on the roof and wants to say goodbye to me," said Hans.
The woman then said: "Dumbom, it's not your little cat, it's the morning sun shining on the chimney". Hans, however, had not looked for the cat, but had periodically taken a stone out of his pocket and placed it on the road.
When they reached the middle of the forest, the father said: "Now children, gather some wood and I will light a fire for you, so that you will not get cold." Hansel and Gretel gathered twigs for a fire, as high as a small mountain. The father lit the fire and when it was fully burning, the stepfather said: "Now lie down and rest by the fire. We go into the forest and get firewood. When we're done, we'll come here and pick you up"
Hansel and Gretel sat down by the fire and at noon they ate some of their bread. When they heard sounds that sounded like ax cuts, they thought the father was close. However, it was not an ax but a severed branch that swung in the wind and struck a trunk. Eventually they fell asleep. When they awoke it was dark. Greta began to cry and said: "How are we going to get out of the forest now?" But Hans comforted her and said: "Just wait a little until the moon begins to shine, and we will probably find." After a while the moon lit up the forest. Hans then took his sister's hand and followed the white stones he had laid out, which now shone like silver coins, and showed them the way. They walked all night and at dawn they came to the father's house. They knocked on the door and when the stepmother opened the door and saw Hansel and Gretel, she said: "You naughty children, why have you slept so long in the forest? We never thought you would come back.” The father, on the other hand, was glad because it had hurt his heart to leave them alone.
Not long after that, there were bad times in the country again, and one evening the children heard their stepmother say to their father: "All the food is gone again, we have half a loaf left, that's all." The children have to leave us, we take them even further into the forest so they can't find their way back. There is no other way to save ourselves!” The man's heart was heavy and he thought: "It would be better to share the last bread with the children." The stepmother would not listen to him but reproached him and scolded him. Whoever says A must say B and now he must do as he did last time.
The children had been awake and heard the whole conversation. When the old people had fallen asleep, Hans got up again and was going to go out to pick stones, but the stepmother had locked the door, so he could not get out. He still comforted his sister and said: "Don't cry, Greta, sleep peacefully, God will help us."
Early in the morning the stepmother came and took the children out of their beds. They got their bread but it was now even less than it had been last time. On his way into the forest, Hans crumbled his bread in his pocket and at regular intervals he stopped and threw breadcrumbs on the ground.
"Hans, why do you stop and look around?" said the father, "Hurry up." "I'm looking for my little pigeon who is sitting on the roof and wants to say goodbye to me," answered Hans. "Silly!" said the stepmother, "It's not a pigeon. It is the sun that shines on the chimney.” Hans, however, continued to throw crumb after crumb on the road.
The stepmother led the children even deeper into the forest, to a place where they had never been before. Then a big fire was made again and the stepmother said: "Just sit here, children, and when you get tired you can sleep for a while." We go into the forest to chop wood and by the evening when we are done, we will come and get you.”
When it was time for dinner, Greta shared her piece of bread with Hans, who had spread his bread along the road. Eventually they fell asleep. Evening came, but no one came to collect the poor children. They didn't wake up until it was dark at night. Hans comforted Greta and said: "Just wait Greta until the moon shines brighter so we can see the crumbs I left on the road. They will show us the way home.” When the moon lit up the dark night they set out, but they found no crumbs. All the thousands of birds in the forest had eaten every little crumb.
"We will soon find the way out," said Hans to Greta. But they didn't. They walked all night and all the next day too but they did not find their way out of the forest. They became very hungry because they had nothing to eat except a few berries that they found. They were now so tired that their legs could no longer carry them, so they lay down under a tree and fell asleep.
It was now three days since they had left their father's house. They started walking again, but they kept getting deeper and deeper into the forest. If help did not come soon they would die of hunger and exhaustion. At noon they saw a snow-white bird, sitting on a branch, singing so beautifully that they were completely captivated and stopped to listen. When the song ended, it spread its wings and flew ahead of them. They followed and after a while they saw a small house. As they got closer, they saw that the walls were built of bread, the roof of gingerbread, and the windows were made of pure sugar. "We have to take the opportunity to have a good meal." said Hans, “I'll take a bit of the roof and you, Greta, can take a bit of a window. It will taste sweet.” Hans reached up and broke a little off the roof to feel how it tasted and Greta leaned against a window and nibbled a little on it.
"Knappery knapper knus, who's nibbling on my house?" There was a crash from inside the cabin.
"It's just the sound of the wind blowing around your house," answered the children and continued eating undisturbed. Hans, who liked the taste of the roof, tore off a large piece of it and Greta pushed a whole pane out of a round window and sat down to munch on it. Suddenly the door was yanked open and a woman as old as the mountains around them came out. Hansel and Gretel got so scared that they dropped everything they had in their hands. The old woman tilted her head and said: “O dear children, who has brought you here? Come in and stay with me, Nothing dangerous will happen to you.” She took their hands and led them into the house. Good food was set before them, milk, pancakes with sugar, apples and nuts. Afterwards, two small beds were made with clean, white sheets, which the children had to lie down in. They thought they had ended up in heaven.
The old woman had only pretended to be kind. In reality, she was a wicked witch, who tricked little children who passed by. She had built the little house just to lure them there. When a child had been tricked into the house, she killed it, boiled it and ate it.
Witches have red eyes and cannot see far, but they have a good sense of smell. They can smell people when they get close. When Hansel and Gretel came near her, she laughed mockingly and said: "Now I have them and they shall not escape!"
Early the next morning, before the children woke up, the witch was already up and when she saw the children with their plump and rosy cheeks she muttered to herself: "It will be a delicious meal!" Then she took Hans in her shriveled hands and carried him to a cage where she locked him. "He'll probably scream, but it won't help," she thought. Then she went back to Greta, shook her so that she woke up and shouted: "Get up you lazy worm! Get water and cook something good for your brother. He's in a cage out there and needs to get fat. When he gets fat, I will eat him.” Greta began to cry in despair but it was in vain because she was forced to do as the wicked witch wanted.
And now good food was prepared for poor Hans. Greta, on the other hand, got nothing but crab shells. Every morning the witch went out to the cage and shouted: "Hans, stick out a finger so I can see if you've gotten fat." Hans then instead stuck out a small gnawed leg to her. The old witch had bad eyes and thought it was Han's finger. She couldn't understand why Hans didn't get fat.
When four weeks passed and Hans was still thin, she became impatient and didn't want to wait any longer. "Greta," she shouted, "hurry up and get some water." If he's skinny or fat tomorrow, I'll kill him and cook him." Greta cried heartbreakingly when she was forced to fetch water. Tears streamed down her cheeks. "Please God, help us," she cried between tears. "Even if the wild animals had caught us and eaten us, then at least we would have had to die together." "Shut up!" said the old witch, "That won't help you."
Early the next morning, Greta was forced out to hang up the pot of water and light the fire. "Now we will bake first." said the witch, "I have already heated the oven and kneaded the dough." She pushed poor Greta out to the oven, from where you could hear the fire crackling. "Creep in," said the witch, "and see if it is warm enough for us to put the loaves in." Once Greta entered the oven, the witch would close the door and let her cook inside and eat her too. But Greta understood what she was going to do and said: "I don't understand what to do. How do I get in?”
"You stupid goose," said the witch. “The door is big enough. Look, I can crawl in myself!” she said and crawled up and stuck her head into the oven. Then Greta gave her a push so that she went into the oven. Greta then quickly closed the oven door. The witch started screaming violently in pain, but Greta ran away and let the wicked witch burn to death.
Greta ran as fast as lightning to Hans, opened the cage and shouted: "Hans, we are saved! The old witch is dead!” Hans ran like a freed bird out of his cage when the door opened. They embraced each other, hugged, kissed and danced around with happiness. As they no longer had anything to fear, they entered the witch's house and there they saw chests full of pearls and jewels standing in every corner. "This is much better than stones," said Hans, stuffing his pockets full of pearls and jewels. "I'll take it home too," said Greta, filling her apron with precious stones. "Now we must go," said Hans, "we must get out of the witch's forest."
After walking for two hours, they came to a large body of water. "We can't take over." said Hans "It's too deep and I don't see a bridge." "And it's not a ferry either," answered Greta, "but I see a duck swimming there. If I ask her, she might want to help us over.” Then she called out:
“Little duck, little duck.
we are Hansel and Gretel
can you give us a helping hand.
We see neither bridge nor ferry
Hope you can help us instead.”
The genie came and Hans sat on his back and told his sister to sit behind him. "No," said Greta, "It will be too heavy. She can take us over one at a time". The kind spirit did so and when they had come over to the other side and walked a little while the forest began to feel more and more familiar and soon they saw their father's house in the distance. Then they started running and rushed through the door and threw themselves around the father's neck. He told me that he hadn't had a single happy moment since they left the children in the forest. He had longed for them so. The stepmother had become ill and died.
Greta emptied her apron and pearls and precious stones rolled out all over the floor and Hans emptied his pockets so that even more precious stones fell out onto the floor.
So at last all the sorrows and sorrows were over and they lived happily together for a long time.