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Once upon a time a poor woodcutter and his second wife lived with the woodcutter’s children, Hansel and Gretel. The woodcutter was very poor, and there was so little food in the house that one night his wife decided they must abandon the children in the woods or die of starvation.
The two children overheard their stepmother’s plan. Gretel wept, but Hansel said, “Don’t cry, Gretel.” As soon as his parents were asleep, he slipped outside, and beneath the light of the full moon, he collected bright white pebbles.
The next morning the stepmother woke the children. “Get up, you lazy things. You’re going with your father to chop wood.” The woodcutter was sad, but he had agreed with his wife’s plan. And so they set off into the woods.
When they had gone a little way, Hansel stopped and looked back at the house.
“What are you looking at?” his father asked.
“I am looking at my cat sitting on the roof,” Hansel said, but in truth he was stopping to drop pebbles from his pocket upon the path.
When they had gone some way, the father built a big fire, and when the fire was blazing, he said, “Now children, you rest here while I go into the forest to chop wood. When I’m finished I will come back to fetch you.”
After waiting many hours, the children fell fast asleep. When they awoke it was dark, and Gretel began to cry. “We’ll never find our way home,” she wailed. Hansel comforted her. “Wait until the moon rises.”
When the moon rose, Hansel took his sister’s hand and the children followed the path of pebbles that shone like silver in the moonlight. They came to their father’s house, and when their stepmother saw them, she pretended to be glad to see them, and cried, “Oh children, we thought you would never come home!” Their father was very happy, for he had grieved at leaving the children alone.
But soon afterward the children again heard their stepmother plotting to leave them in the woods. Hansel went to the door to go outside to collect pebbles, but this time the door was bolted shut. In the morning the children walked into the woods with their father, and because he had no pebbles, Hansel left a trail of bread crumbs in his path.
The woodcutter built a fire and told the children to sleep. They awoke in the middle of the night, and again Hansel comforted Gretel, telling her to wait until the moon rose.
The moon rose, and the children searched for the bread crumbs, but the birds had eaten every one. “Don’t worry, Gretel,” Hansel said, “we’ll find our way.” They began to walk.
The next morning they were deep in the woods when they saw a white bird on a bough singing so sweetly they had to stop to listen. When the bird flew off, the children followed it until they came to a cottage. They gasped, for the cottage was made of gingerbread and candies.
Story By: Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson