Near a great forest there lived a poor woodcutter and his wife, and his two children; the boy’s name was Hansel and the girl’s Grethel. They had very little to bite or to sup, and once, when there was great dearth in the land, the man could not even gain the daily bread. As he lay in bed one night thinking of this, and turning and tossing, he sighed heavily, and said to his wife, “What will become of us? we cannot even feed our children; there is nothing left for ourselves.”
“I will tell you what, husband,” answered the wife; “we will take the children early in the morning into the forest, where it is thickest; we will make them a fire, and we will give each of them a piece of bread, then we will go to our work and leave them alone; they will never find the way home again, and we shall be quit of them.”
“No, wife,” said the man, “I cannot do that; I cannot find in my heart to take my children into the forest and to leave them there alone; the wild animals would soon come and devour them.” – “O you fool,” said she, “then we will all four starve; you had better get the coffins ready,” and she left him no peace until he consented. “But I really pity the poor children,” said the man.
The two children had not been able to sleep for hunger, and had heard what their step-mother had said to their father. Grethel wept bitterly, and said to Hansel, “It is all over with us.”
“Do be quiet, Grethel,” said Hansel, “and do not fret; 1 will manage something.” And when the parents had gone to sleep he got up, put on his little coat, opened the back door, and slipped out. The moon was shining brightly, and the white flints that lay in front of the house glistened like pieces of silver.