Hansel and Gretel ~ Bedtime Stories for Kids
Once upon a time a brother and sister lived in the woods with their father, a poor woodcutter, and their stepmother. The stepmother made life very hard for Hansel and Gretel, the two children. They were not allowed to eat until after the stepmother had first taken all she wanted off the plates. Most of the time, there was only a crust of bread left.
Hansel and Gretel tried to tell their father they were hungry, but he would not hear of it. It seemed the only one he would listen to was his wife. And all the stepmother talked about was how much trouble it was to have children in the hut and how much she wished they would go away forever.
Each day there was less and less food for the boy and girl to eat. Yet the stepmother gave them more and more work to do. One day Gretel begged, “Please, father, stepmother! All day long we work hard doing our chores and we’re hungry!” But the stepmother only slapped her on the face. She yelled, “You ungrateful brats! You will eat us out of house and home!”
That night the two children had to sleep outside. They shivered in the cold and tried to keep each other warm. Winter was coming. The clothes they wore were so thin it was almost as if they had no clothes at all.
The next morning when the sun rose, Gretel turned to her little brother, who was also awake. “Hansel,” she said, “we cannot stay here. We must escape now, today, into the woods. Surely we will find more to eat out there than we get at home.”
“Do you think so?” Hansel said. He closed his eyes. Then he said, “What if we get lost?”
“We won’t,” said Gretel. “I will take some bread. We will drop breadcrumbs behind us. That way, if we have to, we can follow the crumbs back home.”
And so the two of them left their hard life behind.
They went deeper and deeper into the woods. Gretel was careful to drop one crumb and then another.
Yet look as they might for an apple tree, or a pear tree, or nuts on the grounds, or any berries no matter how dried up, there was no food to be found anywhere! More and more hungry they became. Poor Hansel and Gretel knew they must return to the hut or they would surely starve. Yet when they looked for the trail of breadcrumbs to follow back home, they were shocked. All the crumbs were gone!
In a moment, a bird flew up into the air holding a crumb in its beak. That is when they knew – the birds had taken all their breadcrumbs. Just then a wolf howled in the distance. Hansel and Gretel looked around them. The sun was setting. They knew they were lost and hungry. Now they were scared, too.
“Gretel,” whispered Hansel in fear, “what will we do?” She knew not. All she could was to hug her little brother. Each moment it was getting darker and darker. Again, the wolf howled in the distance.
All of a sudden, Gretel saw a small light shining far away. Could it be a hut deep in the woods? “We must go!” cried Gretel. “Maybe whoever lives there is kind and will take us in.”
The two children sped as fast as they could toward the light.
When they got closer, they saw that indeed, the light had come from a hut. But what a hut it was! If you can imagine this – from top to bottom this hut was all made of candy! From a gingerbread roof, to frosting for walls, to big candies all over the frosting, it was a joy to see!
“Gretel, can you believe this?” Hansel cried out. Before Gretel could say: “I bet it will be okay if we have just a little taste,” both of them were already biting off small pieces and licking the candy.
A sharp voice – “WHO is nibbling on my house?” Hansel and Gretel spun around. It was an old witch!
Stunned, Gretel could say nothing. Then she curtsied. “If you please, ma’am,” she said, as sweetly as she could. “There is so much candy on your house. And we are so hungry!”
“Well then,” said the witch, “come inside. I can feed you there.”
Hansel and Gretel looked at each other in happy surprise. Relaxed again, they skipped into the witch’s hut.
Fed they were. But as the brother and sister looked around the hut, what they saw made their hearts turn cold. Piles of bones in the corners – what could it mean? Yet the two children were very tired, and so they slept.
The next morning when they woke up, Hansel found himself in a cage. The witch snapped, “Your brother will stay in that cage from now on. Every day I will fatten him up. Soon he will make me a fine dinner!” She laughed and laughed, rubbing her hands with glee. “Till then,” she said sharply to Gretel, “you will do chores for me.”
Her brother was well fed, and Gretel worked hard all day doing chores for the witch.
Each morning the witch said to the boy, “Show me your finger. I will feel how plump you are getting.” For the old witch could not see well. Hansel held out his finger as he was told. The witch smiled when she felt how plump he was getting.
“Gretel,” Hansel whispered in fear, “what are we to do? Soon the witch will want to eat me!” His sister wished she could think of a plan, but she could not.
One night when the witch was still sleeping, Gretel had an idea. She picked up a bone from one of the piles on the floor and woke her brother. “Hansel,” she said, “the next time the witch asks to see your finger, hold out this bone to her instead.”
The next morning, he did just that. “Hmph!” said the witch with a frown, touching the bone, thinking it was the boy’s finger. “This is going to take longer than I thought to fatten you up!”
“At least I have more time now,” Gretel thought. But still, she could not think of any way they could escape.
Each morning, the witch said, “Show me your finger.” And each time Hansel held out the thin bone. One day the witch yelled, “I am tired of waiting! The boy will be my dinner tonight, no matter how skinny he may be!” The witch ordered Gretel to start the fire in the oven at once. She must get it very hot. Gretel worked as slowly as she could. Why was the witch looking at her with such a sly smile?
“Be a dear,” said the witch with a slow grim. “Go inside the oven, won’t you? Tell me if it is hot enough.”
Gretel’s heart skipped a beat. Why if she did that, the witch could push her inside!
She looked to the floor. “I am not sure how to tell.”
“Nonsense!” said the witch. “Nothing could be easier. Just go in!”
“Um,” said Gretel slowly, “please show me first?”
“Stupid girl!” snapped the witch. Mumbling and grumbling, she stepped inside. The moment the witch was in the oven, Gretel quickly slammed the door.
Gretel!” Hansel cried out. “Look what you did! You saved us!”
The sister tried to think fast. “Where is that key to your cage?” She looked and at last found the key in a vase. She freed her brother right away. Then she went back to that vase. For what had she felt inside? Why, the vase was filled with precious stones and jewels!
With their pockets filled with jewels, they ran outside as fast as they could. In the daylight they found a small path and followed it. It led to a wider path and the wider path at last led to a road. They waited by the road hoping someone would ride by. When a horseman trotted up, Hansel and Gretel waved their hands. They offered a small jewel and the horseman was happy to give them a ride home.
When the brother and sister got to the hut, their father was wild with joy to see them. He had worried and looked for them night and day since they left. They learned their stepmother had died very soon after they left. And for many years after that, Hansel and Gretel lived happily with their father in the hut in the woods.