I thought I would do another rewrite of a traditional fairy tale. This time, Hansel and Gretel are the villains and the witch is the heroine of our story.
Hansel and Gretel were Horrible
Long ago, and far away, in the fairy tale land of the French Quarter, in the mystical world of New Orleans, lived a family: a man and a woman and their two adorable children, Hansel and Gretel.
The man and woman married young, too young perhaps, as the mother of Hansel and Gretel, grew unhappy and restless. She wanted to see the land beyond the French Quarter so while Hansel and Gretel were still little more than toddlers, she kissed them both on their foreheads and then set off on a different path, never to cross theirs ever again.
Hansel and Gretel's father was left alone with the two small children. He started working more and more hours to cover all their financial needs and was away from the house more and more.
Even though they were very young, much too young to be left alone unsupervised, their father would leave every day in the pre-dawn hours, leaving simple snacks for them to eat throughout the day and telling them to take care of each other, which they did.
Hansel and Gretel, already close in age, become closer than typical children. They became each other's entire world and learned to value the well-being of each other over everything else.
Being alone so much, even with each other, changed the two of them in fundamental ways. They began to plan elaborate and often cruel pranks on their father to get his attention. He would weep when they put tacks in his shoes or tripped him as he went down the stairs, but he would never scold them. How could he yell at the two neglected, motherless children?
If he tried dating and bringing a woman home to meet the two children, their pranks became larger and crueler. They didn't want another mother. They wanted love and nurturing but found that only in one another's company.
As they grew older, they began to leave the house while their father was working long hours away from home. At first, they simply wandered the streets, marveling over all the people in the world. They loved all the beautiful cottages in the Quarter. They marveled over all the beautiful items being sold in the little shops. For a time, this was enough, but as the months passed, the two became increasingly bold.
They began to play pranks on strangers, smearing mud on car door handles and windshields. They would shoplift small items from the shops. They started to play “ding dong ditch” and would run off, laughing merrily at the angry cries of whomever they had disturbed.
One day, in early spring, the two wandered down a street that they had never seen before, stumbling across a particularly toothsome cottage. They gazed in wonder at the delightful-looking concoction. Was that cottage actually made out of candy?
Entranced the two wandered closer, completely forgetting their usual intent of ringing the doorbell and running off. Instead, they began to pull off small bits of the staircase railing. They grew bolder and pulled whole chunks off the sides of the house. They would take a small bite and pull even more house off.
Before long, they'd ransacked half the house even though they'd eaten very little. With sticky mouths and fingers, the two exchanged looks and started giggling evilly. Purposefully, they began dismantling the outside of the cottage, no longer even interested in eating the sweet bits. They reveled in the destruction.
About this time, the owner of the cottage, the witch Sarabelle was just coming home with her shopping. She had been out at the local shops buying the special ingredients and materials she needed to maintain her beautiful candy cottage. She stopped in horror when she saw what the two children were doing to her much-loved home.
Hansel and Gretel noticed her and started laughing at her horrified expression. They pulled a few more pieces of siding off the house and then took off running down the street.
Sarabelle shook herself out of her shock and quickly cast a spell on the children, causing them to freeze in mid-flight. With a few arcane movements of her hands, the two were levitated gently back to the front of the cottage.
The glee was wiped off their faces as they struggled against their magical restraints.
Sarabelle ignored them for a moment as she calmed herself and took in the damage to her beloved cottage. Repairing it was going to be both expensive and time-consuming.
Taking a deep breath, she turned to confront the young miscreants. She released the restraints from their mouths but kept their feet firmly affixed to the ground, knowing that they would run if given the chance.
“Why did you do this to my house?”
Hansel pouted, sounding not the least remorseful. “We were hungry and bored.”
Gretel added, “Your house is stupid anyway.”
Patiently, the witch responded, “What you did was wrong. I put a lot of time and effort into my home and...”
Hansel interrupted her,” You're stupid too!”
Sarabelle sighed. The two showed no regret for their actions. With a few waves of her hands, the two found themselves levitating up and into the house. The witch followed them in and started putting away her shopping. She froze them each to a kitchen chair.
“Why don't the two of you stay here,” she suggested with a little amusement. “I will find your parents and find out how they intend to make this right since the two of you will not.”
“We don't have a mother,” Hansel said as tears welled in his eyes. “She left us.”
Sarabelle gazed at him a little more gently.
Seeing an opportunity, Gretel smiled slyly. “Yep. We're orphans. We were just hungry because we haven't eaten in days.”
Sarabelle looked over the two children. They were a little scruffy, certainly but their clothes were well-made and looked relatively new. Both children could use a haircut and a bath, but they looked healthy and plump.
“You shouldn't lie to a witch,” she advised the children sternly. With a simple incantation and a crystal pendant dangled over a map of the local streets, Sarabelle soon knew the location of their father's home. She left them both affixed to the kitchen chairs and set off to confront the father of the two miscreants.
The father of Hansel and Gretel wept in earnest when he discovered what his children had been doing. He started shaking when he realized that they'd destroyed the house of a local witch. He knew that the local witches possessed much power and that his children had been blatantly destructive.
He offered to pay for the damages, even though he knew it would take many weeks of paychecks to repair a magical house. He apologized profusely for their behavior even though he justified it because they were just “two motherless children that didn't know any better”.
Sarabelle shook her head sadly. “They're turning into monsters,” she explained to their father. “I don't want your money but I do expect the children to make this right.”
Their father looked uncertain.
Sarabelle explained, “I will put them to work in my kitchen. They will learn to bake and pay off all their debt to me by creating delicious treats for everyone in my neighborhood.”
The father agreed to the plan. Part of him was relieved that the children's punishment seemed so light, but a part of him also hoped that maybe the lesson would be good for Hansel and Gretel.
So, the two children went to work for the witch in her well-stocked, clean commercial baking kitchen. In the beginning, they resisted every step of the way, refusing to help or clean. They sat on the chairs and crossed their arms, insisting that they wouldn't do anything.
Sarabelle laughed and carried on with her baking tasks. Before long, Hansel and Gretel couldn't contain their boredom and began to work alongside the witch. They soon discovered that they enjoyed learning and they enjoyed cooking.
So long neglected and ignored, Hansel and Gretel began to flourish under the tutelage of the kind witch. She taught them baking basics and even began to tutor them in simple magical practices to create elaborate and beautiful gingerbread houses.
Even when they'd worked long enough to repay the damage to the cottage, they begged her to let them stay and continue working in the kitchen.
Sarabelle agreed to keep them on as apprentices but insisted they go home and speak first with their father. When Hansel and Gretel returned to their father's home to ask permission to continue working for the witch, their father began to weep. In the long months they'd been gone, he'd begun to realize the extent of his neglect of his children. He wanted nothing more than to be given another chance.
Hansel and Gretel solemnly forgave him as his love and attention were all that they had ever wanted. The three promised that they would work hard at creating a healthy, nurturing family, together.
The two children continued their apprenticeship with the witch, learning all her skills over the months and years ahead. Eventually, Hansel and Gretel were able to open their own gingerbread bakery and were much loved for their delicious creations.
The two never forgot the kind witch who helped reform them and even showed them love and kindness despite their horrible behavior. Their father continued to make up for his neglect of them and devoted as much time as he could helping out around their bakery, just so happy that his children had found happiness and a purpose in their lives.