I never had the courage to speak out before, but now I’m going to try and get my message heard. I didn’t tell my side of the story before because it involves children and people always take the children’s side. Or at least they used to. But with the way things have changed over the years, people are beginning to see that not all children are good and honest and maybe they’ll listen to my side for a change.
To begin with, I’m sure you have heard of Hansel and Gretel before, but have you ever heard of Hannah Fletch? Of course you haven’t. But you have heard of the wicked old witch who tried to cook the children in her cabin in the woods. Well, maybe it would surprise you to hear that I’m the supposed wicked old witch. – me, Hannah Fletch. Yes, I’m alive and well, not cooked in my own oven as those two monstrous children reported. Nor am I a mean wicked witch. I had to change my name, move far away from that cabin I once called home, and start all over even though I was already somewhat advanced in years at the time. The children, on the other hand, stole my fortune, tried to kill me, and ruined my reputation, while they became rich and famous.
Would you care to hear the real story of Hansel and Gretel? I’d like to tell it finally, after all these years. It’s too late to help me or do anything to those two brats, but I think people need to hear the truth. So if you’ll listen, I’ll tell my version.
It was a cool, fall evening many years ago when I heard noises outside my little cabin in the woods. I lived all alone in the forest and I admit that I preferred it that way. I didn’t mind company now and then, but I didn’t want a steady stream of visitors around. I had neither family nor close friends and I seldom needed to go to town for supplies as I had a garden, some fruit trees, an old milk cow, and a few chickens. I made my own clothes and didn’t need much to get by, but I did sell produce and baked goods when in town or to occasional passers-by. All the money I ever made, I put in a small chest in my pantry and over the years it gradually got full of gold coins and amounted to quite a tidy sum – a fortune I guess you might say.
Anyway, I heard someone outside my cabin one night and looked out the window to see two young children eating some candy that I always kept hanging along the side of my cabin. As I said, I made all kinds of baked goods for trade and I always put out a little for samples or for children who might venture by when hiking in the woods. I would hang the samples by string near the front door. I guess that’s where the children got the idea to say my cabin was made of candy and other sweets.
I went outside to greet the children and when I saw that they were obviously tired and hungry, I invited them inside for some real food and a warm fire. They gladly came in and while I fixed them a good hot meal they told me how they had come to be way out here in the woods by themselves at night. I believed them then, but now know of course that they were lying.
They told me their names and where they lived and that much turned out to be true. However, they said they had been left in the woods, deserted by their father because he was afraid of their wicked stepmother who wanted to get rid of them. They told me it had happened before but they were able to find their way home by dropping little pebbles along the way into the woods and following the trail back home. Only this time they had used bread crumbs and birds had eaten them all up, so the children were hopelessly lost. That’s when they wandered around and found my cabin and the delicious candy outside.
They told me how their stepmother had abused them. She used to beat them, make them do all the chores, called them names, and barely would give them anything to eat, until one day she finally convinced their father to take them into the woods and leave them. Hansel said his father told them that someone from town would come along soon and take them home with them and provide a nice place for them to live. They even cried as they told me the story and I swallowed the whole thing, hook, line, and sinker. What a fool I was!
Well, I told them not to worry and that they could stay with me at least until my next trip into town. Meanwhile, they could have plenty to eat, a nice warm place to sleep, and they could even help me with my baking and eat all the candy they wanted. For the next few days that is exactly how it went. Mostly, everything seemed to go well, but I did catch them snooping around a couple of times. At the time, I thought it was just curiosity, but I later learned that they had discovered my treasure chest and had begun to plot the awful scheme that led to my ruin.
One day as we were baking another batch of goodies to get ready for market, Gretel told me that she was having trouble keeping the fire going and asked me to check it out. Well, you just have to have a good fire in the oven to bake cookies, so I went over to the stove and leaned down to look inside and check the fire. I was caught completely off guard! Hansel crept up behind me and pushed me right into the oven. Gretel slammed the door shut and they grabbed my chest full of money and ran away laughing. Those little brats tried to kill me.
I learned later that they actually thought they had killed me and justified it to the folks in town with that awful tale I’m sure you have heard for years. What they didn’t know was that Gretel was right about the fire. It was going out and it quickly smothered completely out when Hansel shoved me into the oven. I was hurt and filthy and it took me quite awhile to get out of the oven, but I did escape. I cleaned myself up a little and headed into town to see the sheriff.
On the way into town, I overheard some people talking and that’s when I heard the children’s version of the whole thing. Talk about a fairy tale! I couldn’t believe my ears, but the townsfolk sure believed it. Those two kids were the town heroes. They were reunited with their father and stepmother and they all lived happily ever after on my hard earned fortune. I knew no one would believe me and that I had better just keep quiet and let them think I was really dead. I left my cabin in the woods and moved on up to the next valley where I took a small room in the back of a store and began to take in sewing to make ends meet. I don’t make much, but I get by. Baking was my greatest talent and joy, but I was afraid I might stir up some unwanted interest if I did that and someone might figure out who I was. After all, everyone has heard the story of the wicked old witch who tried to cook and eat Hansel and Gretel.