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Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know

As Hansel and Grethel had approached her cottage


although the old woman pretended to be friendly, she was a wicked witch, who had her house built of gingerbread on purpose to entrap children. When once they were in her power, she would feed them well till they got fat, and then kill them and cook them for her dinner; and this she called her feast-day. Fortunately the witch had weak eyes, and could not see very well; but she had a very keen scent, as wild animals have, and could easily discover when human beings were near. As Hansel and Grethel had approached her cottage, she laughed to herself maliciously, and said, with a sneer: "I have them now; they shall not escape from me again!"

Early in the morning, before the children were awake, she was up, standing by their beds; and when she saw how beautiful they looked in their sleep, with their round rosy cheeks, she muttered to herself, "What nice tit-bits they will be!" Then she laid hold of Hansel with her rough hand, dragged him out of bed, and led him to a little cage which had a lattice-door, and shut him in; he might scream as much as he would, but it was all useless.

After this she went back to Grethel, and, shaking her roughly till she woke, cried: "Get up, you lazy hussy, and draw some water, that I may boil something good for your brother, who is shut up in a cage outside till he gets fat; and then I shall cook him and eat him!" When Grethel heard this she began to cry bitterly; but it was all useless,

she was obliged to do as the wicked witch told her.

For poor Hansel's breakfast the best of everything was cooked; but Grethel had nothing for herself but a crab's claw. Every morning the old woman would go out to the little cage, and say: "Hansel, stick out your finger, that I may feel if you are fat enough for eating." But Hansel, who knew how dim her old eyes were, always stuck a bone through the bars of his cage, which she thought was his finger, for she could not see; and when she felt how thin it was, she wondered very much why he did not get fat.

However, as the weeks went on, and Hansel seemed not to get any fatter, she became impatient, and said she could not wait any longer. "Go, Grethel," she cried to the maiden, "be quick and draw water; Hansel may be fat or lean, I don't care, to-morrow morning I mean to kill him, and cook him!"

Oh! how the poor little sister grieved when she was forced to draw the water; and, as the tears rolled down her cheeks, she exclaimed: "It would have been better to be eaten by wild beasts, or to have been starved to death in the woods; then we should have died together!"

"Stop your crying!" cried the old woman; "it is not of the least use, no one will come to help you."

Early in the morning Grethel was obliged to go out and fill the great pot with water, and hang it over the fire to boil. As soon as this was done, the old woman said, "We will bake some bread first; I have made the oven hot, and the dough is already kneaded." Then she dragged poor little Grethel up to the oven door, under which the flames were burning fiercely, and said: "Creep in there, and see if it is hot enough yet to bake the bread." But if Grethel had obeyed her, she would have shut the poor child in and baked her for dinner, instead of boiling Hansel.

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