Once there were two poor people who lived in a
great forest. They had two children, a son and a daughter. The
son was called Hans, and the daughter's name was Grethe. Early
one summer morning, the woman said to both of her children: "Today
I want you to go out and pick berries!" So each of them took
a crock on their arm, and they held-one another by the hand, and
went out into the great forest.
There were so many lovely red berries that they quite forgot where
they were walking; and before they realized it, they were so deep
in the woods that they did not know the way back, neither path nor
They walked around together, quite anxiously, and even though they
had their pots full of the most delicious berries, they were very
sad; for what would father and mother say, when they did not come
home to supper? And now, when they also thought that they might
not get any supper at all that day, they only became hungrier, and
went ever deeper and more quickly into the woods, because they were
sure that sooner or later they must reach the end of it.
Then suddenly, the boy stood still, and pointed and pointed; he
was so astonished that he could not say a word. Such a house as
the one which was standing yonder, back among the trees, they had
certainly never seen before.
The walls were built of layer upon layer of the most delicious
pancakes, mortared with melted sugar. The windows were made of the
clearest jam, and the roof, unlike other houses, was not covered
with stones or straw: instead, there were great, broad pancakes,
each one higher up than the next, and highest of all, instead of
a chimney, there stood the loveliest wreath-cake anyone could wish
to see. At first they stood still and looked at each other, and
they were so astonished that they couldn't think of anything to
say. But before long, the lad wanted to sit up there.
Now while Grethe stood and ran her finger along the beautiful window
panes, and tasted and tasted, and couldn't at all understand where
all of that jam came from, she saw Hans, who was already up on the
roof. "Give me your hand, Grethe," he shouted, and she
could hardly understand what he was saying, for he already had his
mouth full of pancakes. Now Hans helped Grethe up, and they sat
there, and did well for themselves.
But as they sat and ate one pancake after the other right off of
the roof, they soon made a great hole. Then the old witch who was
inside shouted: "Who is sitting on my house and eating my roof?"
"It's me and my sister Grethe," answered Hans. But suddenly
the hag stretched her crooked arm out through the hole and dragged
them both inside to her. Then she locked them in a big goose cage
and gave them raisins and almonds and rich cheese with butter on
top, to fatten them up.
And when they had sat there for seven whole days, the witch came
to the cage and said, "Finger out!" Then they had to stick
their fingers out, so that she could feel whether they were fat
enough to roast. But they were both still too thin. Then they got
twice as much to eat as before, and also thick cream and buttermilk.
And then, when seven more days had passed, the witch came again
and shouted, "Finger out!" But the boy, who had realized
why she wanted them so fat, stuck a stick out to the witch, and
when she had felt it, she shook her head, and went to Grethe and
cried, "Finger out!" Then Grethe stuck her finger out
of the cage. And when the witch had felt it, she was so satisfied
that she took the girl out of the cage and went down into the kitchen
with her. Then six more days passed. But on the seventh morning,
the witch ordered Grethe to make a fire under the baking oven and
to wipe the roasting-pan clean.
While Grethe did that, the witch went up to the cage where Hans
sat moping, so terribly bored at sitting there all alone, that he
was quite happy to hear the witch come stumping up the stairs on
her crutches. And long before she shouted, "Finger out!"
he sat there and stuck out his finger quite as far as he could.
Now the witch-hag was happy, for his finger was so plump and soft
that it was a joy. She took him out of the cage and down into the
kitchen, and intended to make herself a savory bit of dinner when
he and Grethe were well roasted. When the oven was so hot that it
was a horror, the witch took little Grethe and laid her in the roasting
pan, and ordered the boy, who had become fat and round, to crawl
up by himself, and lay himself by his sister. But he lay crosswise,
and pretended to be so stupid that he could not in the least understand
what the woman intended. And when at last the witch-woman said that
he lay properly, and was about to put the roasting pan into the
oven, Hans rolled off, and let himself fall right on the kitchen
floor. He crawled back up onto the roasting pan, but each time she
went to put it into the oven, he always rolled from the pan onto
the floor. Now that it had taken a long while, and it was near dinnertime,
the witch got sorely angry at him. She hit him with her crutch and
scolded him for being a clumsy fool.
But Hans continued to act simple-minded, and at last he said to
the woman: "Just show me how I have to lie!" Then the
witch, as clever as she otherwise was, took Grethe from the pan,
put her crutches up by the chimney, and laid herself in the pan.
But just as soon as she lay there, Hans kicked out at the crutches,
so that they fell to the floor, and at the same time pushed the
witch on the roasting pan into the oven, while Grethe hastily bolted
it shut so that she had to stay there. The witch shrieked as loudly
as she could, but Hans and Grethe each put a great piece of wood
under the oven, took the crutches on their arms, and each other
by the hand, and before it was dinnertime, they arrived home to
their parents, who had certainly never expected to see them again.