Hansel and Grethel Revisited
A micro story from my sci-fi/fantasy collection
He Never Came Back
Ja it’s nice to meet you too Jakob and Wilhelm. So you ist the Brothers Grimm eh? Ja I heard of you and you have come for mein story? Das ist gut, das ist sehr gut! Come sitzen und I’ll tell you. Ve haft to be quick because they almost have the scaffold done. Well, where to begin?
Ja, it all started when Papa married that Eva woman. She was the village whore but poor Papa didn’t know. As soon as she came into our lives everything started going wrong for me and mien sister Grethel. Und I want to make one thing clear no matter what it says in de papers; there was never any monkey business between us but ve were da best of friends.
Papa’s business of gathering sticks into a bundle then taking them to town and selling them was thriving when the Stepmother came to live in our little forest house. She was never satisfied with anything or anybody. She was such a Shicser, oy! But Papa liked her and because we loved Papa we went along. For such a little woman she could eat like two grown men. I’ve never seen anyone eat like that. Und you know how everybody has four canine teeth? She had eight!
Everything was still going okay until the bottom dropped out of the ‘bundle of sticks’ market. Suddenly Papa couldn’t sell a bundle of sticks because of somethin’ called “coal?”
It wasn’t long before our larder was nearing empty. Grethel and I barely had a crust of bread to eat but Step-mama seemed to be getting fatter. We noticed all the little bunnies, birdies and squirrels around our house suddenly disappeared. It wasn’t long however when Grethel and I were awakened one night by Step-mama und Papa arguing. Papa was telling her no he wouldn’t do it and to drop the subject und Step-mama was telling Papa that if he didn’t do what she told him then he wouldn’t get any more visits from Miss Pussy Cat. Grethel and I didn’t know what to make out of it but Papa seemed to change his mind then and said he think about it.
Early the next morning after Papa went off to cut some sticks Step-mama took us deep into the woods where we had never been before. She said we were to build a big fire to keep warm and she and Papa would be back in a little while to take us home. Well we built a big fire and ate the piece of bread she had given us and went to sleep and when we woke up it was almost dark when we heard Papa calling us. He soon found us and for some reason seemed really happy to see us and carried us home on his broad shoulders kissing and hugging us all the while. When we got home Step-mama didn’t seem all that happy. Step-mama must have walked into a tree because she had a big bruise under her eye and was very quiet.
Everything was soon back to normal, as there seem to be a new market “overseas” for bundles of sticks. As winter turned to spring and spring to summer everything seemed okay until one night near the solstice. Step-mama got us up early one morning before dawn after Papa had gone to the string makers to get another roll of string to tie up his bundles with. Step-mama said we were to go and help Papa gather some sticks, so off we went in a direction that we
had never gone before because it led deep into the woods where the bears and wolves live. After many hours walk we came to a place where Step-mama said we would be very near Papa and he would come for us after our work was done. She gave us a loaf of purple rye bread to eat for lunch and left us to our chores.
We went right to work and kept at it so by noon we had 30 bunches of sticks ready to be bundled by Papa. We took a break down by the creek and with fresh cold water we ate the loaf of rye bread between us. We rested a while but when we got up to go back to work both Grethel und I saw the strangest thing. All the sticks we had bundled began to get up and dance around and around. Seeing this poor Grethel threw her dress over her eyes and went running and screaming through the woods. I of course followed after her. She hadn’t run but a mile or so still screaming at the top of her lungs until she ran headfirst into a tree and knocked herself out. By the time I found her, the sun was going down and I decided to build a little fire and wait till Papa found us. But Papa didn’t come and we spent the night shivering in the forest. We slept till after the sun had risen high in the sky then woke up hungry and sore all over. As we had eaten all the bread yesterday there was nothing to eat and we looked all around for berries and roots but couldn’t find any. We walked along calling for Papa and finally found a little stream to drink from about dark. By the time the sun had risen the next day we were as hungry as can be. We got up and drank as much as we could from the stream and began to walk along looking for Papa. It was about noon when we came upon the mushrooms.
Grethel was the first to see them and even though I warned her they might be poisonous she quickly picked and ate a handful and said that they were delicious. I soon too was picking and eating them. I ate a tummy full and in the warmth of the sun lay down and rested. Before too long I heard a whispering sound. Grethel heard it too and said it said that we children should come this way is we wanted a candy treat. Und who doesn’t like ze candy Herr Grimms? Well I can tell you that we ran through the woods and there in a clearing was a house dat was made from the gingerbread with icing and sugar spun windows. Even though we had filled our bellies on the mushrooms we dug right into the house but soon a little ole lady came out and said we shouldn’t eat her house and we should come inside before the bears ate us und so we did.
But as soon as we did she seemed to change and her nose got long and a mole appeared with two little hairs growing out of it on her chin and her teeth got all pointy like Step-mamas. She said she would feed us but Grethel who had thrown her dress over her head again said that the old lady was a witch and was going to eat us. The witch then proceed to pretend to get a chicken ready to put in her oven and when she bent over to see if it was hot enough Grethel pushed her in and shut the oven door. While the old witch screamed and screamed we ran and ran and the very next day we were awakened by Papa calling for us. We soon were in his big strong arms and he was hugging and kissing us all the way home.
We were very dirty so while we took a bath Papa went into the kitchen and cooked and cooked a big roast. When we came down to eat we noticed Step-mama wasn’t there and when we ask Papa about it he just smiled and said she wouldn’t be around anymore and to dig in. So we did. I must say I never tasted anything quite as good as that roast. Papa said it was from an old recipe and it was only for special occasions. It was only at the trial that I was told her body was found hanging in the icehouse. All of it except the leg that we had for dinner that night. I had gone out to the privy when the angry mob came for us.
They came not for killing Step-mama but because they had found the Bishop’s mother in her little cottage, baking in the oven. I hid in the woods while they killed poor Grethel and Papa.
They had traced her death back to us because Grethel had left her babushka there with the nametag sewn into the lining. The Bishop was not amused and sent the roaring mob out to take revenge. I was picked up the next day and brought to town und trial. That was a quick five minutes and then they said guilty and I was to meet ze hangman as soon as a scaffold could be built. Ach, dis ist been one hell of a week for an eight year old.
I can see through this window that a large angry crowd has gathered, the carpenters are just finishing the crossbar and are testing the rope. I hope you guys will at least spell my name right. That’s Hansel with one L. Well I see the hangman is walking this way, so danke Herr Grimms for listening to mein tale of woe.
© 2000 Ernest Stewart