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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fairy Tale Dancing Mania (per the Brothers Grimm)


Grimm’s Saga No. 51: Dance with the Waterman

Near the town of Laibach a water spirit lived in a river of the same name. He was called Nix or Waterman. He showed himself to fishermen and sailors by night and to others by day so that everyone knew how he rose up from the water and revealed himself in human form.
In the year 1547 on the first Sunday in the month of Julius, the entire village gathered according to an old custom at the old Laibach market near the fountain, under the cheerful shade of a beautiful linden tree. Here they ate their meal in a joyful, communal spirit whilst music played and not a few danced merrily. After a while a finely shaped, well-dressed young swain entered the throng, as if he wanted to join in the dance. He nodded politely to the assembled folk and offered each dancer his hand in a friendly way. But his grip was limp and ice-cold and upon touching his hand, a gray shudder went through the limb of the person he greeted. Soon he selected from the group a splendidly adorned, fresh-faced but impudent maid, who was known as Ursula the shepherdess and began the dance. He was a graceful dancer and commanded all the unusual steps. After they had danced wildly with each other for a time, they veered from the platform, which had marked off the dance space and swirled ever farther and farther away. From the Linden tree across the Sittich square and on down to the Laibach River, where he in the presence of many seamen, grabbed the waist of his partner and jumped into the splashing waters. Both disappeared before their very eyes.

The linden tree stood until 1638, when it had to be chopped down because of age.


Fairy Tale Factum:


St. Vitus is the patron saint of dancers for allegedly his powers included the ability to alleviate Tanzwut or hysterical dancing mania. The symptoms included frenzied leaping and swirling, even uncontrollable gyrations. Folk tradition often frowns on dancing and music, for it seems these two pastimes inevitably led to the unhinging of village youth. Unfortunately in this story the impudent Ursula could not be rescued by St. Vitus. Perhaps his cult had not yet been sufficiently established in Laibach or had already been diminished after the Reformation. Of interest in this saga is the description of a rather romanticized peasant life, with al fresco dancing, eating and celebrating at the height of summer on the village green. Two characteristics described in this tale can still be found today in many towns throughout Europe: the linden (or lime) tree and the fountain on the square. 


According to folk tradition it was believed that a Wasserman (or Nix) held fast to the souls of the drowned in his underwater dwelling. Varying accounts describe him as having either a beautiful form or an ugly and terrible countenance. Like dancing, the church uniformly frowned upon these spirits and equated them with the diabolical and dangerous. Folk tradition, however, preserves a certain amount of awe and reverence for them.


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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The German Saga of Knight Eppela Gaila


Grimm’s Saga No. 130: Eppela Gaila

Not long ago, Nuremberg street urchins still sang this old rhyme:

“Eppela Gaila from Dramout
Always rides on the fourteenth out.”

“The Nuremberg fiend rides out,
Eppela Gaila from Dramout.”

In times of old Eppelin von Gailing lived in Bayreuth near Drameyesel (a very small village parish after Muggendorf). He was a bold knight, who wantonly plundered and pillaged. He was especially inclined to do harm to the Nuremberg townfolk, whom he sought out for special distress and sorrow. But he also understood magic and had a colt that could ride and trot, canter and gallop until it’s hooves leapt from the earth and soared to high rock and crag, or down to river and meadow. And the hoof of his colt never trod on a single blade of grass.

His main estate was near Cliff Gailenreuth, but scattered throughout the region he had other castles and in a flash he could fly like the wind from one fortress to another. Often flying from one side of the mountain to the opposite or even reaching Saint Lorenz in Muggendorf. Nothing could stop his terror in Nuremberg, neither high stone wall nor deep moat. He committed many crimes and seemed unconquerable. But finally, the Nuremberg townsfolk captured him, brought him to the New Market and hanged him on the gallows with his accomplices. The Nuremberg Castle still displays weapons and the wall still shows a hoof print from his horse, which sank into the soft clay when he jumped onto it.


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Monday, April 10, 2017

Fairy Tale of the Resurrected Son

The Son, Resurrected             An Italian Fairy Tale from the Alps


There once was a dragon who loved eating flesh, preferably that of children. Ideally boys, not girls. When he had gobbled up all the boys in the village and from nearby towns, only his own son remained, a boy of four years. One evening the dragon said to his wife: “Tomorrow I will go into the forest to chop wood and will return toward nightfall. Send my dinner to the forest.”  

“And what shall I send you?” asked the dragon wife. “For two years you have only devoured children. Now, only your very own son is left. Maybe you want to eat him?”

“Precisely him, my son.  And my daughter shall bring him to me in the forest.”

The dragon wife promised it and the two went to sleep. 

At dawn the dragon rose and went into the forest. The dragon wife also got up, went to her son’s room, chopped and cut, boiled and roasted. At lunch time she called to her daughter to take the meal to her father in the woods. When the daughter saw her brother in this way, the poor child began to cry. The mother boxed her ears and prepared the basket, placed it on the girls shoulders  and pushed her out of the house.

On the path the girl saw an old woman, it was the Madonna. She said to her, “Where are you going my child with that basket?”   The poor girl did not answer. Instead she placed the basket on the ground and showed the woman its contents.

“You want to bring your brother as meal?” the old woman asked.

“What else can I do?” the girl replied. “Now he is dead. If only I could have saved him! But I didn’t know anything about it.”

“Good, if you do what I say your brother will come back to life.”

“What shall I do? Tell me! If only I could see my brother standing before me again, beautiful and alive!”

“Listen! Leave the basket here, go back home, go into the barn, take the calf and bring it here.”

The girl did what the old woman commanded. One-half hour later she returned with the calf. The woman took one piece after another, put them back together and shaped the dead child. Then she touched its forehead and said “Go my dear son, return to the village. There you will find good people who will care for you. And always remember your sister who loves you!” The boy hugged his sister and left. The Madonna touched the calf and it fell into pieces.

The girl brought the food to her father. He thought the meat very tasty, ate with a healthy appetite and didn’t notice anything. But since then the dragon and dragon wife could no longer sleep because every night a voice below the window sang:

My mother killed me,
My sister carried me,
My father ate me,

Cucuck, Cucuck! And I am still alive!



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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ostara (Easter) the Germanic Goddess of Spring and the Rising Morning Sun



Ostara is the Germanic goddess of spring and the rising morning sun. She represents nature’s resurrection from its deep winter sleep. A daughter of Woton and Fricka, she accompanied her brother Donar when he led the many processions celebrating victory over the winter giants in spring. She was also called the May Queen and the figures known as the May Count and May Countess, who often presided over Easter pageantry and spring festivals, most certainly are references to Donar and Ostara.

Reverence for the goddess was so firmly rooted in ancient ceremonies celebrating the vernal equinox that her name was subsequently transferred to the Christian feast day commemorating the resurrection of Christ. “Ostar” means morning, or rather, the direction from which the first spring rays of sunshine emanate. Easter month is the month of April, the time of nature’s reawakening and the Christian festival of resurrection.

On Easter Sunday the sun purportedly took three leaps of joy – delighting over the return of spring according to early pagan beliefs. The priests said these “jubilatory jumps” honored the risen Christ.

According to folk tradition, Easter water must be collected from a flowing stream at daybreak and the person who carries it home must not let any sound escape from his lips. If he forgets, the Easter water becomes babbling water and it loses all of its healing properties. The water must be scooped up at the precise moment the sun rises and the collector must bow three times in the direction of the sun. Sealed bottles of this holy water were stored in dark places and used throughout the entire year as healing agent against eye ailments and other sufferings.

The rabbit, considered to be Ostara’s favorite animal because of its fecundity, and the egg, considered to be a symbol of germinating life, were therefore dedicated to the goddess and forever associated with springtime celebrations. This gave rise to the belief that the Easter Bunny laid Easter Eggs on Maundy Thursday. Naturally, the eggs were dyed the colors of Donar and Ostara, red and yellow. Such colorful eggs were then brought to the gods as spring offerings. The custom of dying and presenting eggs at Easter has survived to this day.

The first night in the mild month of May was dedicated to the goddess Ostara. Giant fires were lit symbolizing the power of Donar and May flowers were strewn to honor the goddess Ostara. There were celebratory processions and in some locations it was popular to burn an effigy representing the giant-winter. Conquered by Donar’s superior power, this ritual burning signified winter’s power now broken. As Europe became Christianized, this spring narrative changed from “Nature is awakening” to “Christ is risen”.

Later, an attempt was made to remove the fervently revered goddess Ostara from the picture altogether, replacing her with the Holy Saint Walpurga. The saint’s feast day was set on the eve of April 30 to May 1st. Easter bonfires were now referred to as the devil’s fire and Ostara and her attendants became witches. The festival associated with the goddess was now referred to as the witch’s Sabbath and was supposedly held at Blocksberg Mountain. Blocksberg is the Brocken, the highest mountain in the Harz region of Germany. This mountain is closely tied to German folklore as is the Teutoburg Forest. On Walpurgistnacht witches were said to ride their firey broomsticks through the air and meet at this dancing site. 

To protect against such dreadful demons, a farmer was advised to paint three crosses on his barn door and place a broom across the threshold because malevolent spirits were said to retreat at the sight of a cross and broom. Whoever did not take such precautions might find that his cows had been visited by a dreadful disease in the morning, or that they now gave red instead of white milk. 

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Friday, March 17, 2017

A Snake Fairy Tale for St. Patrick's Day




Fairy Tale of the Little Ringed Snake, Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 105 Version I

There once lived a little child and every day its mother gave it a small bowl with milk and broken pieces of bread. The child always took the little bowl and went out into the yard, sat down and ate.

But when the child began to eat, a house snake would often creep out of a crack in the wall. It lowered its little head and lapped up the child’s milk, eating right along. The child was pleased with its companion and if it sat alone with its little bowl and the snake did not appear immediately, it cried out:

“Snake, come fast, come swift,
Come here you little thing,
Take from me these crumbs,
And lick the milk refreshing.”

The snake came slithering out and enjoyed the refreshing milk. It also showed its gratitude by bringing the child secret treasures, all manner of pretty things, sparkling stones, pearls and golden toys. But the snake only drank the milk and left the crumbs alone.

Once the child took its little spoon and rapped the snake’s little head and said “You silly thing, you must eat the crumbs too!” When the mother, who was standing in the kitchen, heard the child talking and when she saw that it was hitting a snake with its spoon, she ran out with a piece of firewood and killed the goodly animal.

From that time forward there was a change in the child. The child had grown big and strong as long as the snake had eaten beside it. But now it lost its rosy cheeks and became thin. It wasn’t long until the bird of death appeared at the child’s window one night and began to cry. And the robin gathered leaves and twigs and wove a funeral wreath and soon thereafter the child lay on the bier.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 108: Hans-My-Hedgehog



Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 108: Hans-My-Hedgehog

Once there lived a farmer, who was blessed with plenty of money and property. But as rich as he was, there was one thing missing from his fortune: he and his wife had no children. Often when he went into the city with the other farmers, they mocked him and asked why he didn’t have any children. Finally he became so angry that one day when he returned home he said “I want a child, even if it’s a hedgehog.”

And so it was, his wife soon bore a son. But the top of the child’s body was a hedgehog and only the lower part was a boy. When the farmer’s wife saw the child, she recoiled and said “See what you have brought down upon us!”

The man replied “It's no use complaining now! The boy must be baptized and I doubt very much we will be able to find a godfather.”

His wife answered “That doesn’t matter because the only name we can use to baptize him is Hans-My-Hedgehog.”

When the child was baptized the pastor said “Because of the barbs on his back, he won’t be able to sleep in a real bed.” So, a little straw was placed behind the stove and Hans-My-Hedgehog was placed there. He couldn’t drink his mother’s milk because he would have pricked her with his barbs. So he lay behind the stove for eight years. His father became tired of him and thought if only he would die. He didn’t die, but remained lying there.

Now it happened that there was a market in the city and the farmer wanted to go. He asked his wife what he should bring her. “A bit of meat and a few rolls, those things we need for our household,” she answered.

Then he asked the maid. She wanted slippers and a few socks.

Finally he asked “Hans-My-Hedgehog, what do you want?” “Dear father,” he said “Bring me a bagpipe.”

When the farmer returned home, he gave his wife what he had purchased, meat and bread. Then he gave the maid the slippers and stockings. Finally he went behind the stove and gave Hans-My-Hedgehog the bagpipe. And when Hans-My-Hedgehog had the bagpipe, he said “Dear father, go to the smithy and have him shoe my rooster, because I want to ride away and never more return.” The father was pleased that he would be rid of him and had the rooster shod. When it was finished, Hans-My-Hedgehog mounted the bird and rode away. He took with him several pigs and donkeys, which he wanted to graze in the forest. Once in the forest, the rooster flew with him up into a high tree. There he sat and guarded the donkeys and pigs and sat many years until, finally, the herd was very large. But his father didn’t know anything about him. As he passed his time sitting in the tree, he blew into his bagpipe and made music and it was very beautiful. Once a king came riding by. He became lost and heard the music. In amazement, he sent his servant and said he should look around and see where the music was coming from. But the servant found nothing else than a small animal sitting up in a tree. It looked like a rooster on which a hedgehog sat playing music. The king told his servant he should ask why he was sitting there and whether he knew the way back to his kingdom. Hans-My-Hedgehog climbed down from the tree and said he would show the way if the king would promise to write down and promise to him the first thing he encountered at the royal court when he returned home. The king thought “That will be easy. Hans-My-Hedgehog can’t read and I can write down whatever I want.” The king took a quill and some ink and wrote something down and when it was done, Hans-My-Hedgehog showed him the way and he arrived happily at home. But it was his daughter who saw him from afar and was so happy that she ran to meet him and kissed him. The king thought about Hans-My-Hedgehog and told her what had happened and that the strange creature told him to write down the first thing he encountered. And the little animal sat on a rooster like a horse and played pretty music. He intended to write down something but Hans-My-Hedgehog couldn’t read it anyway. The princess was happy with this solution and said, she never wanted to leave the king’s castle.

But Hans-My-Hedgehog continued to tend the donkeys and pigs and was content. He sat in the tree and blew his bagpipe. Now it happened that another king was passing through the forest. He soon got lost with his servants and runners and entourage. In utter dismay, he wandered about the woods because they were so immense. All at once he heard beautiful music in the distance and commanded his runner and to go and ask what it was. The runner went and in the tree he found Hans-My-Hedgehog sitting on the rooster. The runner asked him what he was doing. “I am guarding my donkeys and pigs; but what are you doing?” The runner said, that the king and his companions were lost and could not find the way back to their kingdom. Couldn’t Hans-My-Hedgehog show them the way?

Hans-My-Hedgehog climbed down from the tree and said to the old king, he would show him the way if he would give him the first thing he encountered once he was home and standing before his royal castle. The king said “yes” and promised Hans-My-Hedgehog that he should have it. After this had happened, the king arrived happily again at his kingdom. When he entered the court, the people were jubilant. Now his only daughter, who was very beautiful, ran to meet him, embraced him and rejoiced that her father had returned. She also asked him where he had been so long and he told her. He had become lost and almost wouldn’t have returned if he hadn’t met a creature, half hedgehog, half man, sitting on a rooster up in a high tree, playing beautiful music. This creature helped him and showed the way home. In return he promised to give him the first thing he encountered once he had returned to his royal castle. That thing was his daughter. But she promised him, she would gladly go, because she loved her father so dearly.

But Hans-My-Hedgehog tended his pigs and the pigs in turn had more pigs and their numbers grew until the entire forest was filled with them. Hans-My-Hedgehog no longer wanted to live in the forest and sent word to his father, they should clear the stable in the village. He was returning with such a large herd, that each person could slaughter whatever he wanted. His father was saddened, when he heard this news, because he thought Hans-my-Hedgehog had died a long time ago. But Hans-My-Hedgehog sat on his rooster, drove the pigs back to the village and had them slaughtered: Hu! That was a feast day and it took several hours for the work to be done. Afterward Hans-My-Hedgehog said “Dear father, let me have my rooster shoed once more by the smithy, because I want to ride away and will never return as long as I live.” His father had the rooster shoed and was happy that Hans-My-Hedgehog wouldn’t return again.

Hans-My-Hedgehog rode away to the first king’s castle. The old king there had commanded that if a creature came riding on a rooster and if he had a bagpipe, then everyone should shoot at him, hew and stab so that he could not enter the castle. When Hans-My-Hedgehog came riding, they thrust their bayonets toward him, but he gave the rooster the spur and flew up over the gate before the king’s window. There he landed and called to him, that the king should now deliver what he had promised. Otherwise, he would take the lives of the king and his daughter both.

The king spoke soothing words to his daughter. She should go out to him to save both their lives. She put on a white dress and her father gave her a wagon with six horses, wonderful servants, money and property. She mounted the carriage and next to her were Hans-My-Hedgehog, his rooster and bagpipe. They then said goodbye and departed. But the king thought gleefully to himself, he was now rid of them and would never see them again. But things happened a bit differently from what he thought. When they were a short distance from the city, Hans-My-Hedgehog bristled his barbs and poked her all over with his hedgehog skin. Soon her clothes were ripped to shreds and she was covered in blood. “That is the reward for your falseness. Now go back, I don’t want you,” he said. And he chased her home and she was held in contempt her entire life long.

Hans-My-Hedgehog rode on with his rooster and bagpipe to the second kingdom, where the old king lived, to whom he had also shown the way. But this king commanded that when Hans-My-Hedgehog arrived, they should display royal arms and escort him in. Call out Vive! And bring him into the castle in pomp and ceremony. When the king’s daughter saw him, she became terrified because of the oddity of the creature’s shape. But a promise is a promise and it could not be changed. She welcomed Hans-My-Hedgehog and they were married. He sat at the royal table and she sat by his side. They ate and drank together side-by-side.

When night fell, they wanted to go to sleep. She feared his barbs but he said, she should not be fearful and she would not be harmed. He told the old king, four men should stand guard outside their chamber door and make a huge fire. When he entered the chamber and wanted to go to bed, he would take off his hedgehog skin and place it next to the bed. The men should then come quickly and throw the skin into the fire and wait until it was entirely consumed by the flames.

When the clock struck eleven, Hans-My-Hedgehog went into the bedchamber, took off his hedgehog skin and placed it beside the bed. The men came and quickly threw it into the fire. When the fire had consumed it, he was redeemed. He lay in bed entirely in the shape of a man. However, his skin had been burned as black as charcoal. The king sent him his doctor, who washed him and rubbed him with salve and oil until his complexion was clear and fresh like a beautiful young man. When the king’s daughter saw him, she rejoiced. The next morning they rose in happiness, ate, and drank and only then was the wedding feast celebrated. Hans-My-Hedgehog received the kingdom from the old king.

After many years passed, Hans-My-Hedgehog led his wife back to his father and told him that he was his son. But the father said, he didn’t have a son. He only had one a long time ago. But he was a hedgehog, born with barbs all over his body. He had left him a long time ago and went out into the world. The son then revealed himself to his father and the father rejoiced and returned with him to his kingdom. 

To read about the artist as hedgehog:

 http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/06/reading-german-fairy-tale-hans-my.html

To read about another fairy tale wedding:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/08/french-tale-of-fairy-sisters-july.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/06/grimms-fairy-tale-130-one-eye-two-eyes.html


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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Riddle of Humpty Dumpty



Humpty Dumpty sate [sic] on a wall,

Humpti Dumpti [sic] had a great fall;
Threescore men and threescore more,
Cannot place Humpty dumpty as he was before.[9]

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

For Christmas: The Singing Fir Tree


In Switzerland, a story is told about a man named Hans Kreutz, who lived with his wife on Thun Lake in Ralligen. In the year 1555, a thick black fog descended on the village and it would not dissipate. The alarmed villagers retreated to their homes, closed doors and sealed the windows tightly. But a light blue vapor crept under the window sill and the wife breathed in this vapor and in the evening she lay in bed motionless. Hans looked into her eyes and saw no reflection there and in the morning she was dead. Many villagers died that year and the survivors buried their loved ones in the church yard at the outskirts of town, where the mountain and forest swept down abruptly into the valley. While the bells in the church tower were ringing, Hans buried his wife and returned home. For days he did not leave his house. He neither ate nor slept but could not forget the vacant stare of his beloved wife and the sound of the church bells as he lowered her into the grave.

One evening when Hans sat by the fire, he heard the church bells ring out the Ave and they rang and rang and he lost track of the time. He raised his head, for he thought he heard wonderful and sweet singing up high in the Hohlbach Forest near the tree line. But when the church bells stopped ringing, he heard it no more. The next day he sat with longing and waited for the evening church bells to ring out the Ave. At first he heard only the faintest sound of distant singing, but then the melody grew stronger until there could be no mistake. A woman’s voice sang a mysterious and beautiful song, the words of which he could not quite decipher.

But Hans spread word among the townspeople. At night the entire village listened while the church bells rang and soon everyone heard the wonderful singing daily. The singing was soothing and the villagers listened at the edge of the village until the snow began to fall and then they returned to their homes. All but Hans, who wanted to know where the singing came from. The next night when the church bells were ringing, the villagers assembled in the church yard. Hans lit a torch and climbed the mountainside, following the mysterious melody. He did this every evening until one night he finally found a giant fir tree, and its voice was sweet and clear. He shyly gazed upon the tree and in amazement listened to its gentle song.

But Hans could find no rest. The singing fir tree occupied his waking and sleeping hours and he wanted to be in the presence of its song always. In secret he climbed up the mountain during the day and spent long hours near the tree. Some time passed and Hans was called away to visit his family in the next valley.

While he was away, a wood carver from among the villagers, who had seen the beautiful fir tree, decided he needed it to make a wood carving. Because the tree was so magnificent, tall and straight, with perfectly formed branches and trunk, he had it felled and brought down to the valley. From the wood, he selected an enormous block of the trunk that had no scars or branches. From this piece of wood he began to carve an image of the Virgin Mary. He worked day and night on this carving and saw nothing more beautiful than the image of the Virgin growing out of the wood. And after some time, the villagers came to his workshop and marveled at the beauty of the image, its heavenly countenance and mild authority.

When Hans returned to the village after some months, he climbed the mountain and went directly to where the singing fir tree had stood. In its place was only a stump and Hans was gripped by such melancholy, that a loud moan issued from his lips. It was like the howling of a wounded wolf or the shriek of an eagle flying overhead. The loud cries filled the valley, echoing off the cliffs and rocks. When the villagers heard the loud cries from above, they gathered below near the church. And soon in the distance they heard the beautiful, long-missed song. They turned and saw the woodcarver, carrying his statue and saw that it was singing. He placed the statue in the church, where it stands today. And some say, they have heard it singing when a loved one dies. The place where the tree once stood is now called Marienstein. There is a smaller rock nearby, where Hans once gazed upon the fir tree. It is said that in his grief, Hans turned to stone and the place is now called the Kreutzantisch.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Winter is Coming


A rather gruesome tale for gruesome weather.


How to Influence the Weather with Hailstones and Winter Gales
Grimm's Saga No. 251: Making Weather and Hail


In Berlin two women with supernatural powers were caught in the year 1553 because they knew the art of ice-making. Through their powers these wives were able to ruin the fruits of trees and had snatched the small child of a neighbor woman, gruesomely dismembering the body and cooking it in small pieces. But it happened that through God's grace, the mother searching for her babe came upon the lost child with its little limbs jutting out of the cooking pot. Now both wives were caught and interrogated under torture during which they admitted that if their cooking had not been halted, a frigid frost with ice and storm would have descended on all and ruined the fruit.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Hänsel and Gretel

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 15: Hänsel and Gretel


A poor woodcutter lived with his wife and two children at the edge of a deep forest. The boy was named Hänsel and the girl Gretel. The man had nothing to eat or drink. Because a terrible famine ravaged the land, he could no longer find his daily bread. As he lay in bed that night thinking, he tossed and turned.


Sighing he said to his wife “What shall become of us? We cannot provide for our poor children because we don’t have anything for ourselves!”

“Listen husband,” the wife replied, “Tomorrow in the very early hours we shall take both children into the woods where the trees are the thickest. We shall light a fire and give them each a piece of bread. Then we shall go to work and leave them alone. They will not be able to find their way home and we shall be rid of them.”


“No wife,” the husband replied. “I won’t do it. How could I bring myself to abandon my own children in the forest? The wild animals would soon come and rip them to shreds.”

“Oh, you fool,” she replied, “Then all four of us must die of hunger; you should start now and mill the boards for our coffins.”

She did not leave him in peace until he consented. But the two children could not fall asleep because of their hunger and had heard everything that their step-mother had said to their father.

Gretel cried bitter tears and said to Hänsel, “Now we’re in trouble!”

“Be still, Gretel. Do not be afraid. I will do something to help us.”

And when the old folks had fallen asleep, he got up, put on his jacket, opened the lower part of the cottage door and slipped through it. The moon shone brightly and the white stones lying in front of the cottage glimmered like pennies. Hänsel knelt down and filled his jacket pockets with has many as he could cram inside. Then he returned home and said to Gretel, “Be comforted, dear sister, and sleep peacefully. God will not abandon us.” And he lay down again in bed.

When day was breaking but before the sun had risen, the woman came and woke both children. “Get up you lazy children. We shall go into the forest and cut wood.” Then she gave them each a piece of bread and said “You have something for your noon day meal, but don’t eat it before then, for you won’t be getting anything more.”

Gretel took the bread and placed it under her apron because Hänsel had the stones in his pocket. Then they all made their way into the forest. When they had walked a short distance, Hänsel stopped and looked back at the cottage again and again.

The father spoke “Hänsel, why are you looking back and staying behind. Pay attention and don’t forget to move your legs.”



“Oh father. I am looking for my white kitten, which is sitting on the roof and wants to say good bye to me.”
The woman spoke “Fool, that is not your kitten. It is the morning sun shining on the chimney.” But Hänsel was not looking for his kitten. Instead, he was dropping one of the smooth pebbles from his pocket onto the path.


When they had arrived in the middle of the forest, the father spoke. “Gather wood, children. I want to make a fire so that you are not cold.” Hänsel and Gretel gathered brushwood and made a small stack.

The fire was ignited and as the flame burned high, the woman said “Now lie down near the fire and rest. We shall go into the forest and cut wood. When we are finished, we shall return for you.”

Hänsel and Gretel sat down by the fire and when noon came, they each ate their little piece of bread. And because they heard the sound of an axe chopping wood, they believed their father was near. But it wasn’t the wood axe it was a branch, which their father had bound to a dead tree. And the wind blew it back and forth and it made a beating sound. Because they had sat still so long, their eyes fell shut in fatigue and they were soon fast asleep. When they finally awoke it was darkest night.

Gretel began to cry and said “How shall we now find our way out of the wood?”.

But Hänsel consoled her: “Wait a bit until the moon has risen. Then we shall find the way.” And when the moon rose, he took his little sister by the hand and followed the trail of pebbles. They lay there glistening like newly minted coins and showed the way. The children walked the entire night and as daylight was breaking, they arrived once more at their father’s house. 



They knocked on the door and when the woman opened and saw that it was Hänsel and Gretel, she spoke “You evil children, why did you sleep so long in the forest? We thought you didn’t want to return ever again.” But their father rejoiced when he saw his children, because leaving them all alone had broken his heart.

It was not long after when there was despair in every corner of the house. The children heard how the mother spoke to the father at night in bed “Everything has been eaten. We only have half a loaf of bread. After that, the song is over. The children must go; we shall bring them deeper into the woods so that they cannot find their way out again. Otherwise, nothing can save us.”

The man was sorely troubled and he thought ““It is better to share your last morsel with your children. But the woman would not listen to what he said and scolded him and accused him. And so it was: whoever agrees once, must agree again. Because the woodcutter had given in the first time, he had to give in a second time also.

But the children were awake and had heard their parents’ conversation. Hänsel got up and wanted to gather pebbles again, but when he went to the door, he found the woman had locked it and he could not get out. But he comforted his little sister and said “Do not cry, Gretel, and go to sleep. Sleep peacefully, dear God will help us.”

Early the next morning the woman came and got the children out of bed. They both received their little crust of bread, but it was even smaller than before. On the path, Hänsel broke it into crumbs in his pocket. He often stood still and threw the crumbs on the ground. “Why are you always stopping, Hänsel, and looking around? Go your way,” the father said.

“I am looking for my little dove, which is sitting on the roof and wants to say goodbye,” Hänsel said.

“You fool,” the mother said. “That isn’t a dove, that is the morning sun shining on the chimney.” But Hänsel crumbled all of his bread and threw the crumbs on the path.


The woman led them even deeper into the woods to a place she had never seen in her entire life. Once again an enormous fire was made and the mother said “Stay here children and when you are tired, you may sleep a bit. We will go into the forest and chop wood. In the evening, when we are finished, we shall return and fetch you.”

When it was noon, Gretel shared her bread with Hänsel, who had scattered his pieces over the path. Then they fell asleep and evening came, but no one returned for the poor children. They awoke in the darkest night and Hänsel consoled his sister and said “Wait Gretel until the moon rises. Then we will see the bread crumbs, which I scattered. They will show us the way home.”


When the moon had risen, they started out but they could not find any crumbs. The many thousands of birds, who fly in forest and field, had pecked them all away.

Hänsel said to Gretel “We will find the way.” But they did not find it. They walked an entire night and day from morning until evening, but they never came out of the forest. They were exceedingly hungry because they only found a few berries lying on the ground. And because they were so tired, they lay down under a tree and went to sleep.

It was now the third morning since they had left their father’s house. They started to walk again but only found themselves deeper and deeper in the wood. If help did not arrive soon, they would soon fade away.



When it was noon, they saw a beautiful, snow-white bird sitting on a branch. It sang so beautifully that they stopped and listened. When it was done, it beat its wings and flew away. They followed until they reached a little house and the bird landed on its roof. When the children came very close, they saw that the cottage was built of bread and covered with cake. But the windows were made of bright sugar.


“Let’s dig in,” Hänsel said, “and have a blessed meal. I will eat a piece of the roof, Gretel you can eat from the window, it’s sweet.” Hänsel reached up and broke off a bit of the roof to try how it tasted. Gretel stood in front of the window and nibbled at the panes. A fine voice called from inside the cottage

“Crunch, crunch, crouse!
Who’s nibbling on my little house?”


The children replied

“It’s the wind,
The wind so wild,
The heavenly child,”



And they continued eating with abandon. Hänsel, who thought the roof tasted very good, tore off a large piece and Gretel pulled out a large, round window pane, sat down and enjoyed the food. At once the door fell open and there stood a woman as old as the hills. She supported herself on a crutch and walked out slowly. Hänsel and Gretel were so afraid that they let their morsels drop from their hands. But the old woman shook her head and said “Dear children, who brought you here? Come inside and stay with me. You shall not be harmed.” She took both by the hand and led them inside her little house. There, a splendid table was prepared with ample food, milk and pancakes with sugar-sweets, apples and nuts. Afterward they were led to two pretty little beds made up in white. Hänsel and Gretel lay down and thought they were in heaven.



The old woman was so cordial but in fact she was a witch who lay in wait for children. She had only built the house of gingerbread to lure children in. When one fell under her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it. And this was her feast day. Witches have red eyes and cannot see far, but they have a keen sense of smell. Like animals, they notice when people approach. When Hänsel and Gretel came close, she laughed scornfully “Now I have you and you shall not escape again.” Early in the morning before the children awoke, she was already up and when she saw them resting so peacefully, with full red cheeks, she murmured to herself “They shall be tasty morsels.” She grabbed Hänsel in her boney hand and put him in a stall and locked him in with a barred door. Cry as he may, it didn’t help him. Then she went to Gretel and shook her awake and called “Get up, you lazy bones! Fetch water and cook a good meal for your brother. He is sitting outside in the stall and will fatten up. When he is plump enough, I shall eat him.” Gretel began to cry bitterly but it was all for naught. She had to do what the evil witch commanded.


Now the best food was prepared for Hänsel, but Gretel got nothing but empty crab shells. Every morning the old woman crept to the little cage and called “Hänsel, stick out your finger so that I can feel whether you shall soon be fat.” But Hänsel extended a little bone and the old woman, who had weak eyes, could not see and thought it was Hänsel’s finger. She was amazed that he was not gaining weight. When four weeks had passed and Hänsel remained lean, impatience overcame the witch and she would not wait any longer. “Now, Gretel,” she called to the maiden, “Be quick and carry water. Hänsel may be fat or lean, but tomorrow I shall slaughter and cook him.”

Ach, how the poor little sister wept and wailed when she carried the water. The tears flowed from her eyes and fell down her cheeks. “Dear God, do help us,” she cried “If only the wild animals had devoured us in the woods, then at least we would have died together.”

“Spare me your blather,” the old woman said “None of it will help you now.”

Early in the morning Gretel had to go out and fill the pot with water and hang it over the fire. “First we shall bake,” the old woman said. “I have already heated the oven and kneaded the dough!” She pushed poor Gretel out to the oven, from which the flames of fire could already be seen lapping the edges. “Creep inside,” the witch said and see whether the oven is hot enough so that we can push the bread inside.” When Gretel was inside, she would shut the oven door and Gretel would roast inside and then she would also eat her. But Gretel noticed what she had in mind and said “I don’t know how I could do that. How will I get inside?”

“Dumb goose,” the old woman said. “The opening is large enough. Don’t you see, I could slip in myself,” and she crawled forward and put her head in the oven. Gretel gave her a shove so that she fell in and closed the iron door and lowered the latch. Hu! She began to scream horribly. But Gretel ran away and the godless witch burned to death miserably.

Now Gretel ran to Hänsel and opened up the little door of his stall and cried “Hänsel we are saved, the old witch is dead!” Hänsel jumped out like a bird free of its cage when the door is opened. How happy they were, hugged each other, jumped around and kissed! And because they no longer needed to fear, they went to the house of the witch and in every corner they found boxes with pearls and beautiful gems.

“These are much better than pebbles,” Hänsel said, and filled his pockets with as many as he could.

Gretel said “I also want to bring something home,” and filled her apron full.

“But now, let us leave,” Hänsel said, “so that we get out of the witch’s forest.” They had only walked a few hours when they reached an enormous body of water. We can’t pass over and there is also no bridge.”

“And no ship sails here,” Gretel answered, “but a white duck is swimming and if I ask, she might help us cross.” They called,

Little duck, little duck,
Hänsel and Gretel stand
Where no plank or bridge land.
So take us on your little white back.”


The duck came and Hänsel sat on its back and then asked his sister to sit beside him. “No,” Gretel replied “It will be too heavy for the duck. He shall bring us over one after another.” And the good animal did just that. When they were happily on the other side and had walked a time, the forest began to seem more familiar to them. Finally they spied from afar the house of their father. They began to run, pushed through the door and rushed inside. There they fell around their father’s neck. The man hadn’t had a happy hour since he left his children in the forest. But his wife had died. Gretel shook out her apron pockets and pearls and bright gems bounced around the room. Then Hänsel threw one handful after another out of his pocket. Their sorrow and misfortune had ended. Now they lived together in pure joy.



My story is over and there runs a mouse. Whoever can catch it, can make a big, big fur cap.