Once upon a time there were two children who lived with their father and stepmother. Their father was a woodcutter and they were very poor. A famine had settled over the land and the family often did not have enough to eat. The stepmother, selfish and cruel, convinced the woodcutter that they should take the children into the woods and leave them, letting them fend for themselves. But little did they know that Hansel and Gretel overheard their plans. Hansel snuck outside and collected as many white pebbles as he could find. The next day, the woodcutter and his wife took the children into the woods. As they walked through the woods, Hansel dropped a trail of the pebbles. The woodcutter and his wife abandoned the children, but as evening came the white pebbles began to glow in the moonlight. The children followed them home, much to the dismay of the stepmother.
As the famine grew worse, the stepmother convinced the woodcutter to try again. This time, however, when Hansel tried to sneak out to collect more rocks, he found the door was locked. The next day, the children were led into the woods. Each was given a piece of bread. Hansel began to drop bread crumbs along the way. After they were abandoned the children tried to follow the trail of bread crumbs, but found they had been eaten by birds.
After days of wandering alone in the woods, the two children came upon a house made of gingerbread and candy. Starving, they ran up to it and began eating part of the roof. Suddenly an old woman appeared at the doorway. “Nibble, nibble like a mouse! Who is nibbling at my house?” she asked. Hansel and Gretel admitted that they were the ones eating her house, explaining their story and their hunger to the old woman. She kindly invited them inside, telling them she would give them plenty to eat.
The children followed her inside where the woman feeds them delicious food. When they have eaten their fill, she shows them to soft, comfortable bed where they drift off to sleep, believing they have found a savior in the woman.
Little do they know she is actually a wicked witch who eats children.
The next morning when they awake the witch locks Hansel in a cage, claiming that he is too thin and she needs to fatten him up. Gretel is kept out to become her servant, helping the witch cook plenty of food for her brother. Each morning the witch asks Hansel to stick out his finger so she can feel how fat he is getting. However, being a smart boy, he finds a bone in the cage and sticks it through the bars. The witch, being blind, believes this to be his finger and continues to feed him. Each day Hansel sticks out the bone, until the witch finally gets so fed up she exclaims that she will eat him anyway.
As the witch prepares the oven, she decides that she is hungry enough to eat Gretel too. She coaxes the girl to lean into the oven to see how hot it is. But, Gretel being clever like her brother, feigns ignorance and says she does not understand. Frustrated, the witch demonstrates, but Gretel quickly pushes her into the oven where she burns. Gretel quickly releases her brother and then run from the house. Finding their way back to their own house, they find only their father – their evil stepmother had died. Happily reunited, the family lives happily ever after.
Why I love it: Two words: Candy. House. While I wouldn’t WANT a house made of candy/gingerbread, the idea of it makes me happy. Imagine… you’re laying in bed and the midnight munchies overtake you. All you’d have to do was reach up and grab a piece of your bedroom wall. Instant snack! Granted, the ants would be ridiculously bad… not to mention one good rainstorm would pretty much disintegrate the structure… but those things aside, yum!
Why you’ll love it: I think there’s some pretty good life lessons in this book. First off… don’t eat a stranger’s house. Clearly if you come across a house made of gingerbread and candy in the woods, this is probably sketchy and it would be better if you just moved along. Secondly, if your mom and dad suddenly say “Hey! Let’s all go for a long walk in the woods!” for the love of God don’t go with them! Especially AFTER they’ve already left you alone in the woods. And third, don’t be an f-ing moron and leave a trail of breadcrumbs. There are so many other trail markers you could make that birds WON’T eat.
Awesome Retellings: There are some GREAT retellings of Hansel and Gretel out there! Check these out!
The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli
A Tale Dark and Grim by Adam Gidwitz
Did you review any of these retellings? Let me know and I’ll add your review link on here!