Hansel And Gretel
Well now my curiosity tingled and as I started wandering home to ponder this Red Riding Hood reversal of villains, I began to wonder about the rest of the stories we had so dearly loved as children. So engrossed in thought, that in a short time I realized I had actually become quite lost. Ahead of me was a near forgotten path that seemed to beckon for a closer look. To one side of the path lay an enormous dead log, ages old and large enough for even an adult to crawl through. To the other side of the path, stood what seemed to be the very tree this log may have originated from. A “tree” big enough around to put the greatest of Douglas Firs to shame, and yet something about it wasn’t quite fitting to call it a tree. Having inspected it as best I could, I made note to ask someone about this creation, and continued along the overgrown path.
Quite suddenly, the path ended and in front of me stood the most amazing looking cottage I had ever seen! It appeared to be a life sized gingerbread house of sorts. Beautiful glistening white scrollwork and scallops trimmed the roof. Shimmering sugar flowers lined the broken rock candy walkway to a large chocolate chip cookie door. An entire candy store’s supplies of gum drops, penny candy, jujubes, hard candy, soft chews, gum balls and jaw breakers decorated the house from ground to roof. Mint leaves and sparkling sugar coated strawberries twined their way up and around a chocolate sign post the held a simple plaque with butter icing writing that stated, “The Gingerbread House.” This HAD to be Hansel and Gretel’s’ gingerbread house and I HAD to speak to the owner!
Gently lifting the pretzel door knocker, I tapped on a large chocolate chip. No one answered. To overcome my disappointment, I thought perhaps there was a back door and whoever lived within may not have heard me. Following a trail of lemon drop flowers dancing on licorice whip stems around the side of the house, I discovered a wonderful tea garden in the backyard. There sat a very old lady sipping from a butter cup and enjoying the wonders around her. She smiled, knowingly as I approached.
“You are the one, who is seeking the other side of those viscous tales that have told through the ages, aren’t you?” she asked “Bob called, to say you may find your way here.” She answered before I could even ask. “Sit, have some wonderful honeydew tea and I’ll tell you my story.”
“There used to be a garden out front of the house,” she began. “But those horrid children ruined it and I’ve never been able to replace the rare flowers that once bloomed in it. Those children were terribly spoiled little monsters. Hansel and Gretel were their names. A brother and sister, a ghastly ungrateful pair I ever did see. They wanted everything, and their poor father worked so hard to give them everything they asked for. And his wife, their step mother, tried so very hard to be a mother to them. We all heard the stories of how they would torment her when their father was away to work. One day she had had enough and sent them to their rooms without any privileges. Apparently they snuck out a window, planning to have the step mother blamed for it all and ran away. Unfortunately for me, they got lost in the forest and ended up here.”
The old woman waved a hand at the house, and said, “This house was built by my late husband many years ago, for travelers that often wandered through here and became lost. He believed no man or beast should starve, so he built this to ensure anyone in need could nibble their belly full and take away enough to keep them healthy until they found their way. They were always polite and very careful to do no damage. What little they took would always be replaced and he had the peace of mind that he had provided some good to strangers. He had long passed when those wretched monsters arrived. They were not careful and instead trampled and stomped my prize garden that held the most satisfying treats of all. They tore off large pieces of the house and ripped up my flowers, and instead of eating any of it, they simply threw it down and wasted it. I tried to talk to them, scolding them for the waste and offering to get them home to their parents. It was getting quite dark when they showed up here and I was not comfortable with children wandering these forests at night. One can not be too careful you know. Instead of accepting my help, they ravaged through my house making outrageous demands and threats. Did you know, they even tried to push me into my own oven! My poor Henrietta, was inside a small cage in the kitchen, one of her wings had been broken when a careless traveler tripped over her in the dark but it was mending nicely, until those brats arrived. It was terrible what they did to her. She was never meant to be eaten!”
I watched a small tear roll down the old woman’s’ face, handed her a soft handkerchief and refilled her cup with warm honeydew tea.
“Thankyou child.” She said softly patting my hand, then continued with her tale.
“Those beastly children chased me around my own house, breaking everything they could get their grubby hands on and yelling terrible things. A kind traveler heard the ruckus from the road and ran up here to see what was happening. He knew this Hansel and Gretel’s father very well and he called the man. Of course they were telling horrible stories of how it was I who had caused them a terrible fright and that it was me who had plans to cook them in a stew. Well that father of theirs arrived to pick them up, he listened to their lies, and he actually believed them! The kind man, who had called him, hadn’t been here to see who was being pushed into the oven, so he had to just go away with his own thoughts and wonders. It wasn’t very long after, that stories and gossip of evil witches and poison candy had travelers scared to wander through this forest. You are the first visitor I’ve had in many years now. Have some more tea dear.”
I asked if anyone knew whatever happened to the children. The old woman seemed to search her thoughts and then answered, “I think I recall a story, many years ago that they had both met with a terrible fate when a very large bridge collapsed. If I’m not mistaken, they had been up to mischief then too. I do remember hearing that they were wanted for questioning in the murder of some fellow named Mr. Dumpty. My best guess is, they never changed their ways and got their comeuppance in the end.”
The kindly old woman smiled, and made me promise to return soon. “It’s wonderful to share tea with someone again. Please come back soon, and you know, you really should talk to Tiny about this research of yours. He had a dreadful experience with the lies and tales that have been passed down over the years. That monstrous old tree at the end of my laneway was once his bean stock. It’s far too late for you start that journey now, but I’m sure he would talk to you another day. Goodbye dear, and do take some of those wonderful strawberry mints with you on your way out.They grow like weeds!”
As I left the Gingerbread House and passed by the bean stock she had mentioned, I noticed that the path didn’t seem quite so ugly and overgrown. Or was it just because I had trampled a lot of the wild vegetation down on my own trek to seek the Other Side Of The Fairy Tales?
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