“Hansel and Gretel”

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Plot Description

Spoiler warning! Hansel and Gretel’s parents are fed up with how much food their children eat, so they decide to get rid of them. They plan to take them for a walk in the woods and then to leave the children there. Hansel guesses that his parents are up to something, though, and he leaves a trail of breadcrumbs to follow back home. As expected, their parents abandon them. They’re unable to follow the breadcrumbs, though, as the crows have eaten them all. The children are frightened but a snow-white bird tells them, “Come follow me, you troubled things, / I’ll take you on my silver wings / To safety, to a lovely place / Where you can live in peace and grace!” The bird leads them to a cottage where a sweet old lady greets them. She says they must be hungry and feeds them loads of wonderful food. The second course is a curious sizzling roast of meat. The children like it but are unable to guess what it is. After dinner the woman locked Hansel in a stable and told him that she was fattening him to eat. (Here the author interjects with an explanation that the original Brothers Grimm version was much more gory and scary.) As the woman prepares the oven to cook Hansel, Gretel shoves her inside and locks the door. Then she runs to free her brother. “Hansel!” she shouts. “We’re free at last! / The foul old dame is roasting fast!” / Young Hansel cried, “Oh, well done you! / Oh, what a splendid thing to do! / But then again, you must admit / You always liked to cook a bit.”