Hansel and Gretel

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Gretel tricks the witch
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Gretel tricks the witch

Hansel and Gretel (German: Hnsel und Gretel) is a German fairy tale, collected by the Brothers Grimm.

Plot synopsis

Hansel and Gretel are the children of a poor wood cutter. Fearing starvation, the wood cutter's wife—the children's step-mother—convinces him to lead the children into the forest, and abandon them there. Hansel and Gretel hear her plan, and gather white pebbles, to leave themselves a trail home. After their return, their stepmother again convinces the wood cutter to abandon them; this time however, they can only leave a trail of breadcrumbs. Unfortunately, the various animals of the woods eat their trail of breadcrumbs causing Hansel and Gretel to become lost.

Lost in the forest, they find a house made of bread (later versions call it gingerbread), with sugar windows, which they begin to eat. The inhabitant of the house, an old woman, invites them in and prepares a feast for them. The woman, however, is a witch who has built the house to entice children to her, so that she may fatten and eat them. She cages Hansel, and makes Gretel her servant. While she prepares to boil Hansel, she tells Gretel to climb into an oven to be sure it is ready to bake; but Gretel guesses that the witch intends to bake her, and tricks the witch into climbing into the oven, closing it behind her.

Taking jewels from the witch's house, they set off for home to be reunited with their father, whose wife has since died. "Then all anxiety was at an end, and they lived together in perfect happiness."

See also: Hansel und Gretel, an opera written after the fairy tale

Analysis

The tale as we know it from Brothers Grimm is a sanitized version for middle class consumers of the 19th century, but the original was an admonishment of the hardships of Medieval life. Because of constant hunger and shortages of food, infanticide was a common practice in the Middle Ages, and in this story brother and sister are left in the woods to die or disappear because they cannot be fed.

External links

de:Hnsel und Gretel nl:Hans en Grietje ja:ヘンゼルとグレーテル pl:Jaś i Małgosia

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