In this classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, siblings Hansel and Gretel overhear their stepmother's plot to abandon them in the woods. Though hungry birds spoil Hansel's clever plan of leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to help them find their way home, the brother and sister are taken in by a kind old woman. But the next day, the old woman is revealed to be a witch who is planning to bake the children into gingerbread! This time it's Gretel's smart thinking that saves the day. All ends well as the two children escape and find their way home where their loving father awaits.
More in "Fairy Tales"
A poor woodcutter, his two children,
and his new wife, the children’s
stepmother, lived at the edge of a
vast forest. The two children, a boy
and girl, were named Hansel and
Every day, the woodcutter struggled
to earn enough to take care of his
One year, a famine struck the
land, and he couldn’t even afford to
Sleepless with worry, he said to his
wife one night, “How can we feed our
poor children, when even you and I
have nothing to eat?
“Here’s what we’ll do,” answered the
woman. “Tomorrow morning, we’ll
take Hansel and Gretel deep into the
forest and leave them there. I’m sure
they won’t be able to find their way
back, and then we’ll only have to feed
“I can’t do that,” said the man. “How
can I abandon my children in the forest,
to be killed by wild animals?”
“You foolish man,” she scolded him.
“If you won’t get rid of the children,
we’ll all starve.”
She continued to nag him until he
finally agreed to her plan, although
he had many misgivings.
The two children, too hungry to sleep,
had heard what their stepmother had
said to their father.
Weeping bitterly, Gretel said to Hansel,
“I don’t want to be left in the forest!”
“Don’t worry, Gretel,” soothed Hansel.
“I have a plan.”
The woman awoke her two
stepchildren just before sunrise the
next morning by shouting,
“Get up, you lazy brats! We’re going
into the forest to collect firewood.”
She gave each child a little piece of
bread, and said, “Here’s your lunch;
don’t eat it right away, because you
won’t get anything else.”
Gretel put her bread in her apron.
Hansel put his bread in his coat pocket
and secretly crumbled it all up. Then
they all set out together to the forest.
As they walked, Hansel kept stopping.
His father said, “Hansel, why do you
keep stopping? Get moving!”
“sorry, father,” said Hansel, “I’m just
looking back at my little white cat
sitting on the roof of our house.”
Hansel’s stepmother said, “Stupid boy,
that’s not your cat; it’s the morning
sun shining on the chimney.”
But Hansel hadn’t really been looking
back at the cat; each time he’d
stopped, he’d thrown some of the
breadcrumbs from his pocket onto
When, they reached the middle of the
forest, the father said, “Now, children,
pile up some wood, and I’ll light a fire
to keep you warm.”
Hansel and Gretel gathered a big pile
of sticks. Once the fire was burning
brightly, the woman said, “Rest by the
fire, children, while we go and cut
some more wood. When we’re done,
we’ll come back and take you home.”
Hansel and Gretel sat by the fire and
shared Gretel’s piece of bread. After
a while, the two children fell asleep.
When they woke, it was already night.
Gretel began to cry and said, “How
will we find our way home?”
But Hansel comforted her and said,
“Wait until the moon rises, and then
we’ll follow my trail of breadcrumbs
home.” However when the full moon
rose, they saw no trail, because the
birds of the forest had eaten up all
Hansel tried to find the way home,
but he and Gretel were soon lost in
Then they saw a lovely white bird
flying above their heads and followed
it all the way to a small house, where
it perched on the roof. As the children
approached the house, they saw it was
built entirely of gingerbread!
“Let’s eat, Gretel!” cried Hansel, and
he nibbled at part of the roof while
Gretel tried a windowsill.
Suddenly the door opened, and an
ancient woman leaning on a crutch
limped outside. Hansel and Gretel
were so scared that they dropped the
gingerbread they’d been eating.
But the old lady smiled and said,
“Oh, you poor children, come inside,
and I’ll take care of you.”
She led them into her little house,
and fed them a wonderful dinner.
Then she ushered the two children
into two pretty little beds, and
Hansel and Gretel happily fell asleep.
Unfortunately, the seemingly kind
old woman was really a wicked witch!
She used the house to trap children.
Then, she would place her captives
inside her magic oven, which
transformed them into enchanted
gingerbread, the witch’s favorite
Early in the morning before the
children were awake, the witch
grabbed Hansel and locked him in a
closet. Then she shook Gretel awake,
and cried, “Get up, lazy thing, and
help me get the oven ready. I’m going
to bake your brother into gingerbread!”
Gretel wept at the witch’s words, but
she had no choice but to do as the old
Once a fire had been lit beneath the
oven, the witch pushed poor Gretel
toward the oven.
“Creep inside,” said the witch, “and
see if the oven is hot enough.”
Once Gretel was inside, she intended
to shut the oven and turn Gretel into
But Gretel saw what she had in mind,
and said, “I’m not sure what to do;
how do I get inside the oven?”
“Silly goose,” scolded the old woman.
“The door is big enough; just look, I
can get in myself!”
The witch opened the oven door and
put her head in; Gretel sneaked up
behind her and pushed her all the
way inside. Then Gretel shut and
bolted the oven door.
The witch shrieked loudly, but it was
no good; she was soon turned into
her own magic gingerbread!
Gretel quickly freed Hansel from the
closet, crying, “Hansel, we’re saved!
The old witch is dead!”
The two children hugged each other
in their joy. After exploring the
witch’s house, they discovered a chest
full of jewels. Happily, the two
children stuffed their pockets with
Then they left the witch’s house,
searching for a way out of the forest.
Gradually, the forest seemed to be
more and more familiar to them, and
finally, they saw their house in the
They ran inside and embraced their
amazed father. The man hadn’t known
one happy hour since he’d left the
children in the forest. Meanwhile, his
selfish wife had left him. Gretel and
Hansel showed the happy father the
jewels in their pockets, and all three
of them lived in peace, comfort, and
happiness forever after.