September 16, 2011

Hansel and Gretel, By Shu Li Liu

My name is Shu Li Liu. I’m a junior at NYC Lab School. I am interested in math and science. I love to listen to music and read fantasy and mystery books. I spend a lot of my free time coming up with weird story plots.
As the fire burned, Hansel and Gretel smiled. It was all too easy to realize that the witch was actually their stepmother. It’s all too easy. As they walked around the house, exploring every crook and cranny, they noticed the casket of gold coins. They left the house and walked back into the familiar forest and slowly found their way back home. To their surprise, their father was standing by the door weeping for their return.

“I am so sorry for leaving you in the forest. You stepmother forced me leave you in the forest. I’m sorry,” he wept.

“That’s okay. All is taken care of…” Hansel whispered.

It all started when Hansel and Gretel’s mother passed away. If only she didn’t died, the happy family of four living in the forest would have nothing to worry about except later their mother passed away. A few months after their mother passed away, a woman who was quite pretty with flowing red hair stumble into their house. Apparently she was lost in the woods alone and didn’t have any food or shelter. Their father took pity on her and let her stay in their house until he traveled out into the city to sell his wood. But as the days pass, the father fell in love with her. Seeing that the children needed a mother and that he needed a wife, he asked her to marry him. After three months of being happily married, the wife had a little mischievous plan in mind.

One day when the wife was alone with her husband, she took the first step in her plan, to get the kids to her witch house at the edge of the forest. She had purposely hid the remaining amount of food for the week under the floorboard. That night, when she thought the kids were sleeping, she persuaded her husband to get rid of the kids.

“Dear, our food supply is running low. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We can’t feed four mouths with the food we have left in the cupboard. Dear, we need to get rid of them,” she told her husband.

“But dear, we can’t do that. They’re my kids! I am their father. I have the responsibility to take care of them.”

“Well you can’t take care of them if we can’t feed ourselves!” she whispered loudly. “Tomorrow you will take them into the woods, miles away from home. You will leave them there and come back yourself, do you understand?”

Hansel, who has been standing outside the door all this time, was saddened by what he has just heard. He could not believe what he heard. He had thought his stepmother loved them, but turned out she did not. He ran back to his room and shared the news with Gretel. Hansel was worried about what might happen to them in the woods. So that morning before his parents woke up, he went to the kitchen and grabbed a few pieces of bread and stuffed it into his pocket. After breakfast, their stepmother told them to head out.

Hansel and Gretel walked quietly behind their father. Their father kept quiet the whole entire time. When the sun was directly above, the father noticed that they had walked far enough from the house.

“It is noon already kids,” he said. “I will go gather some woods and make a fire so we can have lunch. I’ll be right back.”

Hansel knew what was going to happen next. Gretel tugged on his sleeves. He knew she was scared, but as her older brother, he reassured her by placing his hand on hers. When they noticed that their father was gone for a while, Hansel spoke.

“Don’t worry, I know the way back,” he said. “I left a trail of bread crumbs when we were coming here. All we have to do is follow it to get back.”

As they turn to leave they noticed the bread crumbs were gone but overhead there was a flock of birds. The birds had cleared their bread crumb track. Gretel noticed that there was no trail.

“Hansel, I don’t see any trails,” she commented. Hansel looked around and saw the birds.

“The birds must have eaten it while I was dropping out of my pocket,” he replied.

“How are we going to get home?” Gretel cried. “I’m scared.”

“Don’t worry, we can find our way home,” Hansel reassured.

The two of them started to wander in the forest, desperately trying to find their way home. They had been walking for hours when they came across a cottage. The cottage was strange looking indeed. The wall was covered in chocolate, icing, and candy. When they got closer to the wall they could see the walls were made of cookies. Hansel placed his hands on the walls and took a clump of chocolate off.

“This is chocolate!” he exclaimed.

Gretel took a piece and ate it. “This is icing,” she said excitedly. Both having been hungry for hours began to devour the house. Suddenly an old woman poked her head out the window of cottage.

“Well, if it isn’t two hungry children with a sweet tooth! Aren’t you hungry?” she said smiling at Hansel and Gretel. “Come in! No need to be scared.”

They did not know that she was the witch that has been eating children from the city. There were stories floating around the city about an evil witch who lured kids into her cottage in the forest. Sometimes she would change her appearance in order to attract widowed husbands to give up their kids. However because Hansel and Gretel lived in the woods, they did not know of the story. As the old woman spoke both of them stared at the old woman curiously. To Hansel, she looked somewhat familiar, like he had seen her somewhere before. Gretel on the other hand was too hungry to notice anything, and she walked into the house. Hansel followed her in, not knowing what to do. As they entered the cottage, they looked around noticing candy and chocolate all around the walls of the house. Within seconds of walking into the cottage, Hansel and Gretel felt a hand around their arm tugging their backwards. They screamed, but it was too late. They were locked in a caged.

“All I have to do now is feed you like chickens and wait until you fatten up and are ready to be eaten,” the witch said laughing. As of now we can all guess what happened next. The old woman, because she was old, had bad eyesight. Each day she would check on them and see if they were fat enough to eat, but Hansel had found a bone on the ground and every time she checked on them he held out the bone for her to touch. The witch was getting impatient each day. As each day passed, she complained.

One day she got tired of waiting and she needed the children’s meat to regain strength and keep her youthful look. After all she was an old witch, who has been around for quite some time. She dragged Gretel out of the cage and ordered her to light the oven. Gretel thought of an idea at the moment. She didn’t want her brother to die. She lit the fire in the oven.

“Is the oven hot enough yet?” the witch asked impatiently.

“I don’t know,” Gretel replied. “I can’t tell whether it’s hot enough like you want it.”

“You useless kid! I’ll just do it myself then.”

Gretel, seeing the chance to save her and her brother, watched the witch get close to the oven. As the witch stuck her hand in, Gretel pushed her into the oven. She then closed the door and locked it. The witch screamed in pain. Her voice echoed in the oven, traveling through the cottage. As she was burning, Gretel went and retrieved her brother from the cage. The two of them stood in front of the oven and watched the witch burn.

“We knew it was you all along, beloved stepmother,” Hansel smirked.

They watched her burn with a smirk across their faces. They were now afraid of nothing. When the crying and screaming died down, Hansel and Gretel searched the cottage for food and valuables. They ate all the food they found. When they got to the corner of the room, they found a casket of gold. They slept in the cottage until the next morning.

When morning arrived, Hansel and Gretel set off into the woods to find their home. They wandered for a few hours until they saw smoke rising into the sky. They walked toward the smoke. When they reached the house, they saw their father and knew they were home. They saw their father weeping and walked towards the house as their father looked up.

“Hello, father,” Hansel said, with a monotone.

“We’re back,” Gretel added in the same tone as her brother.

“Oh thank god. I’m so sorry for leaving you in the forest. I went back to look for you when you stepmother headed for the city,” he told them. “She’s been gone for months now. I think she disappeared.”

“That’s okay. She won’t be back. Forever. It’s all been taken care of, father,” Hansel said with a smirk on his face.

“Let’s go in and have dinner,” their father replied feeling a bit scared.

“Yes, let us eat,” Gretel answered. When she turned around she let out a small laugh and went into the kitchen to prepare the oven…


Illustration by HJ Ford.


Anonymous said...

Molly G.
This a great twist on the Grimm Brothers version of Hansel and Gretel. I liked that the stepmother turned ended up being the witch and she got what she deserved. The fact that a father is really willing to listen to his wife and abandon his own children still amazes me. I also liked that there had been a rumor about the witch's cottage in the forest. People had to notice that their children would go into the forest and never come out. Adding this little adjustment made the story more relevant because it suggests many people live in the city and know about the witch.One thing I've always enjoyed about Hansel and Gretel is Gretel seems helpless throughout the story and Hansel has to take care of her being the older brother. In the end Gretel rescues Hansel and is the reason they both escape. Showing that the helpless can turn out to be courageous.

Todd A. said...

11. Hansel and Gretel is one of my favorite fairy tales, and you definitely write a great story based off the Brothers Grimm version. I liked the fact that you specifically point out that the old witch is the step-mother. I have discussed the relationship of the wicked witch to the children with quite a few people and some agree that the witch is the step mother and some disagree, my point has always been the former.
I also like the sequence you have laid out in the tale. In the original version, Hansel finds shiny stones to lie out, in order to find their way home first, and then the bread crumbs second. Your choice to make the bread crumbs first as a way to navigate the forest actually puts a great twist on how the story progresses, and let me tell you why.
Hansel obviously knows that he and Gretel are in danger, and develops an idea about laying something down to find their way home. I think this shows that the character is mentally developed in the story but he is foolish to choose bread crumbs. However, the characters develop mentally through the story because they are able to recognize the danger of the witch, and realize that she is in fact their step mother. Thus, choosing the bread crumbs and going straight to the witches house gives readers an understanding of how the children in the story [Hansel and Gretel] develop in order for survival.