She walked through the forest carrying her basket. Behind her she heard footsteps, so she hid amongst the trees as they got louder. On the path she saw a tall man carrying an axe. She stayed hidden waiting for him to pass by. Unexpectedly he stopped from just where she was watching. He turned in her direction.
“I saw you ahead of me. Don’t be afraid, I’m not here to harm you. There is a wolf in the forest.” the man said. Against her better judgement she walked back onto the path, and faced him.
“I have heard of the wolf,” she told him. “But I was told if I stayed to the path I should be fine.”
“I’m not sure the wolf knows those rules.” the man said. “What’s a young girl doing walking through the forest after dark?”
“I’m visiting my grandmother. She’s poorly at the moment, so I’m taking her some food.”
“What a good young granddaughter. Do you mind if I join you? At least I can offer some protection if the wolf picks up our scent.” the man offered. “My name is Johan by the way. I’m a woodcutter.”
“They call me Red.” the girl said.
“Is that why you wear a red cloak?” Johan asked.
“I like the colour red.”
The two of them walked down the path. Above the trees the sky was covered in bright stars as the moon hadn’t risen yet. They mostly walked in silence. The forest seemed unusually quiet around them.
“Why does your grandmother live out in forest?” Johan queried. Red shrugged her shoulders.
“I don’t know really. She just likes it out here. She’s lived in her little cottage for years.” Red answered.
“Has she ever had any trouble with wolves?”
“No. She doesn’t venture out much and never at nighttime. At least not anymore.” Red replied. In the distance they could see a little cottage with light in the window. The moon began to rise.
“Well it seems we’ve arrived with no sign of the wolf.” Johan said as they walked up to the cottage. Red suddenly stopped and faced him.
“There was no trouble, because I am the wolf.” she said as she began to transform. The woodcutter screamed.
This is either my fifth or sixth version of the Red Riding Hood story…
The days went by. Gretel cleaned the kitchen, weeded the garden, and mucked out the pigs while she watched her brother slowly getting bigger and bigger. At night she had to sleep on a floor with a single blanket with one of her legs chained to the wall. One morning the woman looked at Hansel, and after prodding him again, she smiled.
“I do think you are finally the right size.” she declared. She went to the large oven and fired it up. She turned around and looked at Hansel again. She rubbed her hands together and licked her lips. “You are going to be so tasty after you’ve been roasted for a few hours.” She kicked Gretel awake. “Girl, get your brother ready for cooking, and tell me when the oven is finally hot enough.”
“But how will I know the oven is hot enough?” Gretel asked innocently, finally working out her plan.
“You open the door, and lean in to it. If it is hot enough, you should know. Check it now.”
“Okay.” Gretel went and opened the back door.
“Not that door! The oven door, you witless child!’ the woman shouted at her.
“Oh!” She went to the oven and looked it over slowly.
“The oven door is the big door in the centre! You can’t miss it.” The old woman told her in an exasperated tone. Gretel deliberately tried to open the wrong side. “The other side!” Gretel opened the door and then leaned over facing away from it. “No! Face the other way stupid girl!” Gretel turned to her left. “No!” The woman quickly walked up to the oven. “You just can’t get good help these days! Now witless girl, watch what I do!” The woman closed the door and then opened it again and then leaned into the oven. “This is how you check the oven is hot enough!” Seizing her moment, Gretel forcefully kicked the old woman into the oven and quickly closed the door behind her. The woman began screaming though the oven door.
“Is it hot enough for you now bitch?” Gretel shouted through the door. Eventually, as the screams began to die down, Gretel finally opened the cage and let her brother out. Hansel waddled out. “Let’s go! Grab as much stuff as you can!”
They took a lot of food and stowed it away in a sack, and then ran out the front door where they finally breathed in the fresh air that was overlaid with sickly overtones of gingerbread. Near the house they found a path. They followed it until they finally came out of the forest. As they walked down a road that led to the nearest town, a number of police cars with flashing lights and sirens blaring suddenly appeared.
“Hooray we’ve been saved!” Hansel shouted with delight.
“In breaking news, two children have been arrested in connection with the grisly murder of Imah Wych, a local celebrity whose charming gingerbread house is a major tourist attraction in the area. The children were also found to be in possession of stolen items from the house and they have made many unsubstantiated wild claims about Ms. Wych. Further updates to follow as more news comes to hand.”
“Follow me children!” the old woman said. Inside it looked like any other house interior: there was a table, a fireplace, chairs, and at the far end was a kitchen with a large oven and benches. On the left of the kitchen area was an alcove. The two children followed her.
“How is the inside here just like any other house? It doesn’t make any sense.” Gretel complained.
“Magic.” the old woman replied. Gretel rolled her eyes.
“Yeah right.” she muttered under her breath. The old woman stopped in the kitchen, turning round she looked at both of them.
“What’s your name boy?” she asked Hansel.
“I’m Hansel, and this is Gretel.” he answered pointing to Gretel.
“Don’t tell her my name!” Gretel shot back at him. The old woman looked at them both with a rather evil smile on her face.
“Hansel, could you be a dear and go into that alcove there and fetch my bucket?” she asked him with a slightly frail voice.
“Okay.” he replied. As soon as he walked into the alcove, the old woman unexpectedly closed some hidden doors on him with a loud clang. The doors were made of metal bars, and it now looked like he was in a cage. Hansel shook them, but they wouldn’t open.
“You let my brother out now!” Gretel demanded. The woman turned to face her and smiled.
“Just try and make me!” She answered, laughing at Gretel. Angered, Gretel went straight for her, but found herself on the floor with the woman standing over her still laughing coldly. “You will clean the house and manage the garden for me, or I will lock you up with your brother.”
“Child slavery has been banned.” Gretel reminded her.
“And yet it still happens.” the woman replied acidly. “Now get to work! I want to see you scrubbing the floors and benches of the kitchen until they’re all spotlessly clean!” She thrust a bucket and a scrubbing brush into Gretel’s hands. Gretel dropped them and ran for the back door, but found it locked. She turned to see the woman staring at her evilly. “Do as I say! You don’t want your brother to come to harm do you?”
“Okay you win!” Gretel replied feeling defeated, for now. She took the scrubbing brush and began scrubbing the floor thinking of ways she could get Hansel and herself free of this woman. Meanwhile the old woman began poking and prodding Hansel.
“Not bad, but you could do with being a bit bigger. Some extra fat will add more flavour to you.” She went to the kitchen and opened a large tin. Bringing out a huge chocolate cake, she cut a large slice and took it over to Hansel. “How about a nice slice of chocolate cake?” Hansel reached out grabbing it from her and then quickly wolfed it down. “You are hungry aren’t you? How about some more?” Hansel eagerly nodded his head and he was then given a larger piece of cake. While he was eating, the woman went off to another part of the house.
“Hansel?” Gretel said as she stopped scrubbing the floor. “You do know she’s trying to fatten you up so she can eat you?” Hansel stopped eating.
“I know, but I love food!” he answered, as though it was totally out of his control. He resumed eating the cake. Gretel shook her head and resumed scrubbing the floor. There had to be some way out of here.
to be continued…
Originally this was only going to be two parts, but I wrote so much I reckoned it would be better to cut what I wrote in half and make it three parts instead.
Hansel and Gretel sat together by the dying fire. They were alone in the forest and the daylight was waning. It was also getting colder.
“Dad will be back soon to get us.” Hansel said fervently. Gretel sighed deeply.
“Can’t you see he’s left us here to die?” she told him. Hansel shook his head at her words.
“No he wouldn’t do that! He’s our father.” Hansel explained to her.
“Let’s face it: we’ve got crap parents that are more interested in themselves than us. They’ve decided to get rid of us. Damn those bitches.” Hansel ignored her harsh words. He couldn’t believe his dad would leave them here in the dark forest.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure we can find our way back. I stole a loaf of bread and ate it along the way. I’ve bound to have left a trail of breadcrumbs behind me.” Hansel reassured her, but Gretel wasn’t so sure.
“Hello? Haven’t you heard of birds? I bet they’ve already eaten all the crumbs, but we can look for the way back tomorrow.”
Soon the sky was completely dark and they huddled together to keep warm. Gretel would never forgive her parents for having to hug her stupid brother all night. As he slept soundly, Gretel thought about their predicament. Their parents would pay for this.
In the morning they awoke and stumbled off in what they thought was the direction of their home. Unknowingly, they were walking deeper and deeper into the forest. After walking for several hours, Gretel stopped.
“We should have seen our house by now. I think we’ve gone in the wrong direction.” she said as looked at all the trees around her.
“So what do we do?” Hansel asked worried that maybe he wouldn’t be eating a nice big pie this evening as he had hoped.
“I guess we keep moving and call for help. There’s bound to be someone in this forest.” Gretel suggested.
So they moved on, calling out for help every few minutes, but the forest remained notably silent. As the siblings continued walking they suddenly came out into a clearing. They could both see there was a house on the other side. They ran to it calling out for help. Then they came to a stop when they saw the house more clearly, and what it was made of.
“Is that house made of gingerbread?” asked an incredulous Gretel. Hansel walked up to it and broke of a small piece of it. He immediately bit into it.
“Yep it sure is gingerbread. It’s really good gingerbread too.” Hansel said as he broke off more pieces of it. Gretel screwed up her nose in disbelief.
“How is that even possible? Who would do such a thing? What if it rains? Won’t it go soggy?” Hansel just shrugged his shoulders as he continued eating.
“Who knows?” he replied with a mouth full of gingerbread. Gretel sighed again. She didn’t particularly like gingerbread, but she hadn’t had anything to eat today, so she joined her brother and started eating. Luckily there was also some chocolate panels.
The front door suddenly opened and an old lady with white hair and in a long black dress walked out. She looked in their direction.
“A couple of hungry children seem to have found my house! Are you enjoying my gingerbread?” she asked them.
“Yes ma’am!” Hansel replied enthusiastically stuffing more into his gob.
“Did you build this house?” Gretel asked the old woman.
“Yes I did, my dear.”
“How? It must have taken you a long time to make the gingerbread and then somehow assemble the house together, in the middle of a forest of all places.”
“It’s a hobby.” the old lady said sweetly, smiling at her. Gretel found that answer totally unsatisfactory.
“But surely an old woman like you…”
“Don’t think about it too deeply dear.” the old woman said cutting her off. “So where are your parents?”
“They left us in the forest.” Hansel replied. “I don’t think they want us anymore.”
“Oh dear!” the woman replied. “You poor starving children come inside, there’s more food and a nice warm fire.”
“How can you have a fire inside a house made of gingerbread?” Gretel asked. The old woman smiled at her, though it was more like a smile of annoyance now.
“You’re full of questions aren’t you my sweet girl?” she replied. “If you come inside I’ll explain how it all works over some tea and biscuits.” Gretel looked at her suspiciously.
“Do have anything less sugary?” she wondered.
“I have some nice lamb stew, if you would like that instead?” the old woman answered. Slowly Hansel and Gretel walked toward the door. “So just to check: nobody knows you’re here do they?”
“No.” Hansel replied. The old woman smiled and held the door open for both of them, she looked around the clearing once more before following them inside. The door closed behind them.
to be continued…
I seem to quite enjoy rewriting fairy tales. Shweta Suresh recently did a re-telling of Hansel and Gretel which inspired me to come up with my own version which I wanted to have a modern take. It’s ended up being longer than I expected, so I will post part two next week (probably).
Jack went to market to sell the family’s cow. On the way there he met an old witch. The witch smiled at him.
“Young man, yer going ta market ta sell yer cow?” She asked
“Yes ma’am.” He replied.
“Hows about I purchase yer cow with these here magic beans?” She reached into her pocket and produced a handful of beans.
Jack took the beans and went home. Despite his mother’s anger he planted them, but nothing happened. A week later they began to sprout, and over time they grew into bean plants.
“Them beans weren’t magical.” muttered Jack.
Jack and the Beanstalks, revision one
Jack went to sell the family’s cow. On the way he met a witch.
“Young man, yer selling yer cow?” She asked
“Hows about I purchase yer cow with magic beans?” She produced some beans.
Jack planted the beans, but nothing happened. Later on they began to sprout and grow into plants.
“Them beans weren’t magical.” muttered Jack.
Jack and the Beanstalks, revision two
Jack came home with magic beans that weren’t magical.
Jack and the Beanstalks, final version
“You were a fool Jack to sell our cow to that witch.” Jack’s mother said.
“But she said the beans were magical.” Jack insisted.
“You were to sell our cow so we could buy food, and you came home with a few beans.”
Despite his mothers anger, he planted the beans and waited. Nothing happened. Then a week later they began to sprout. Over the next few weeks they grew into bean plants.
“Them beans weren’t magical.” Jack muttered.
Once they were harvested though, they had more than enough beans to eat and trade for other food they needed.
I wrote this for the Carrot Ranch TUFF Contest. You had to write a 99 word draft, then a 59 word revision, then a nine word revision, and lastly a 99 word final version. It was meant to show the drafting process and rewriting till you get the best final version.
I changed the title from what I submitted, but everything else is the same. This is one I wouldn’t mind having a go at writing a slightly longer version someday that incorporates elements from the first and last version.