Hansel and Gretel are two young children who live with their parents in a cottage in the forest. The family is poor but Hansel and Gretel have many good friends to play with so their lives are happy.
One day, as the children are chasing each other through the woods, they discover that they have wandered too far and are lost. They are frightened to be alone but the Forest Fairy comforts them by lulling them to sleep, just as she has done for many other lost and lonely children.
When they wake, they are very hungry. As if by magic, a trail of candy appears. Hansel and Gretel follow the path, filling their bellies with pieces of candy. Soon they discover that they have been tricked by a witch who has plans to eat Hansel for dinner. Helped by the witch’s own assistant and their loyal friends, Hansel and Gretel capture the witch.
They are soon reunited with their parents and celebrate together their triumph over the witch.
The brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm recorded the German fairy tale Hansel und Gretel
in 1812 as part of their collection Children's and Household Tales
. Since its publication, the story has been edited on several occasions into the version that we know today.
Like many fairy tales, the story of Hansel and Gretel has existed for centuries in the oral tradition, and it shares common elements with folk tales from other cultures. For example, a Slavic folk tale, the character Baba Yaga is a wise but evil old woman, who, in some stories, eats children in her travelling house built on chicken legs. In France, the tale of The Lost Children
tells of a brother and sister lost in the woods who are lured into a barn by the Devil, who fattens them up to be eaten.
In 1892, Engelbert Humperdinck (not the 1960s/70s English pop star!) composed Hansel und Gretel
, an opera of the famous fairy tale. His sister had approached him to create music for the libretto she had written for her children, based on Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel
has also been adapted into at least 25 film and television versions since 1909, including versions from the United States, South Korea (a horror-genre film made in 2007), West Germany, and Lithuania. Tim Burton fans might be interested to know that amongst the US versions is a 1982 Burton spoof with a cast of Japanese actors that aired only once on the Disney Channel.