Hansel and Gretel

Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1909

"Hansel and Gretel" (also known as Hansel and Grettel, Hansel and Grethel, or Little Brother and Little Sister) ( əl/ or əl/ and əl/; German: Hänsel und Gretel (Hänsel und Grethel) [a] [ˈhɛnzl̩ ʊnt ˈɡʁeːtl̩]) is a well-known fairy tale of German origin, recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812. Hansel and Gretel are a young brother and sister kidnapped by a cannibalistic witch living deep in the forest in a house constructed of cake and confectionery. The two children escape with their lives by outwitting her. The tale has been adapted to various media, most notably the opera Hänsel und Gretel (1893) by Engelbert Humperdinck. Under the Aarne–Thompson classification system, "Hansel and Gretel" is classified under Class 327.

Plot

Hansel and Gretel are the children of a poor woodcutter. When a great famine settles over the land, the woodcutter's wife decides to take the children into the woods and leave them there to fend for themselves, so that she and her husband do not starve to death, because the kids eat too much. The woodcutter opposes the plan but finally, and reluctantly, submits to his wife's scheme. They were unaware that in the children's bedroom, Hansel and Gretel have overheard them. After the parents have gone to bed, Hansel sneaks out of the house and gathers as many white pebbles as he can, then returns to his room, reassuring Gretel that God will not forsake them.

The next day, the family walk deep into the woods and Hansel lays a trail of white pebbles. After their parents abandon them, Hansel and Gretel follow the trail back home. When the wife sees them she is furious and locks them in the house. Hansel and Gretel are unable to escape or even simply collect pebbles.

The following morning, the family treks into the woods. Hansel takes a slice of bread and leaves a trail of bread crumbs for them to follow home. However, after they are once again abandoned, they find that birds have eaten the crumbs and they are lost in the woods. After days of wandering, they follow a beautiful white bird to a clearing in the woods, and discover a large cottage built of gingerbread, cakes, candy and with window panes of clear sugar. Hungry and tired, the children begin to eat the rooftop of the house, when the door opens and a "very old woman" emerges and lures the children inside, with the promise of soft beds and delicious food and a hot bath. They do this unaware that their hostess is actually a bloodthirsty witch who waylays children to cook and eat them.

The next morning, the witch cleans out the cage in the garden from her previous captive. Then she throws Hansel into the cage and forces Gretel into becoming her slave. The witch feeds Hansel regularly to fatten him up. Hansel is smart and when the witch asks for Hansel to stick out his finger for her to see how fat he is, he sticks out a bone he finds in the cage every time. The witch is too impatient and decides to eat Hansel anyway.

The next day, the witch prepares the oven for Hansel, but decides she is hungry enough to eat Gretel too. She coaxes Gretel to the open oven and prods her to lean over in front of it to see if the fire is hot enough. Gretel, sensing the witch's intent, pretends she does not understand what she means. Infuriated, the witch demonstrates and Gretel instantly shoves the hag into the oven, slams and bolts the door shut, leaving "the ungodly creature to be burned to ashes", screaming in pain until she dies. Gretel frees Hansel from the cage and the pair discover a vase full of treasure and precious stones. Putting the jewels into their clothing, the children set off for home.

A duck ferries them across an expanse of water and at home they find only their father who revealed that their mother died from an unknown cause. Their father had spent all his days lamenting the loss of his children and is delighted to see them safe and sound. With the witch's wealth, they all live happily ever after.

Other Languages
العربية: هانسل وغريتل
aragonés: Hänsel y Gretel
asturianu: Hansel y Gretel
azərbaycanca: Hansel və Qretel
беларуская: Гензель і Грэтэль
български: Хензел и Гретел
español: Hansel y Gretel
français: Hansel et Gretel
hrvatski: Ivica i Marica
עברית: עמי ותמי
Lëtzebuergesch: Hänsel a Gretel
Bahasa Melayu: Hansel dan Gretel
Nederlands: Hans en Grietje
português: Hänsel und Gretel
Simple English: Hansel and Gretel
српски / srpski: Ивица и Марица
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Ivica i Marica
Taqbaylit: Hänsel d Gretel
українська: Гензель і Гретель
Tiếng Việt: Hansel và Gretel
中文: 糖果屋