Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/325

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[No. 17].

Title of Story. — Hansel and Grethel.

Dramatis Personae. — Woodcutter. — His children, Hansel and Grethel. — Their Step-mother. — White bird.— Old witch.— White duck.

Abstract of Story- — (l) in tinie of great scarcity, a poor woodcutter living hard by a forest with his wife and two children, Hansel and Grethel, fears he will be unable to procure them daily bread. Wife tries to per- suade him they must get rid of children by taking them into forest, and there forsaking them ; leaves him no peace till, with aching heart, he con- sents. Children lying awake with hunger overhear conversation. Grethel weeps, but Hansel says he will find means of escape. Whilst the old folks sleep, he creeps out of house, fills his pocket with white pebbles, and re- turns to comfort sister. Before sunrise woman wakes the children roughly, and giving each a little piece of bread, the last they will get, says they are all going together into forest to fetch wood. Hansel loiters behind to strew the white pebbles on the road, and says he is waving good-bye to his little white cat on the roof. Step-mother retorts, " The little fool sees the morning sun shining on the chimneys." — (2) In the middle of forest father tells children to pile up brushwood for a fire, and while they rest by it he and the woman go away to cut wood, promising to return. At noon Hansel and Grethel eat a little bread, and believe their father is still near. But it is not the stroke of his axe that they hear, but a branch which he had fastened to a withered tree, and which the wind blows backwards and forwards. Children fall asleep, and do not wake till dark. Grethel cries, but Hansel comforts her, saying all will be well when the moon rises. Then he takes her by the hand, and they follow the pebbles, which shine in the moonlight like new silver pieces. By daybreak they reach their father's house. Step- mother opens door and scolds them for having slept so long in the forest ; but father rejoices to see them safe. — (3) Again great scarcity of food induces father to listen to wife's counsel to sacrifice children as the only means of saving themselves. Hansel overhears their conversation, but finding door locked, he cannot steal out to get pebbles as before. In the morning, when their bit of bread is given them, and they start together into forest, Hansel crumbles his in his pocket, and takes care to drop a morsel on the ground from time to time, pretending he is looking back at his pigeon on the roof. This time they are taken deeper into forest and left to rest by a big fire while parents go to cut wood. Grethel shares her bread with Hansel, and they sleep till nightfall. — (4) But when moon rises tbey look in vain for the trail of crumbs, for the Itirds had eaten them ; and they wander night and day without getting out of forest. Weary and famished, they fall asleep beneath a tree. It is now three mornings since they left their father's house. They try to walk again, but only get deeper into