Hansel and Gretel by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm translated by Margaret Hunt

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Grimm's Household Tales with the
Author's Notes
translated by Margaret Hunt

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Sweetheart Roland

THERE was once on a time a woman who was a real witch and had two daughters, one ugly and wicked, and this one she loved because she was her own daughter, and one beautiful and good, and this one she hated, because she was her step-daughter. The step-daughter once had a pretty apron, which the other fancied so much that she became envious, and told her mother that she must and would have that apron. "Be quiet, my child," said the old woman, "and thou shalt have it. Thy step-sister has long deserved death, to-night when she is asleep I will come and cut her head off. Only be careful that thou art at the far-side of the bed, and push her well to the front." It would have been all over with the poor girl if she had not just then been standing in a corner, and heard everything. All day long she dared not go out of doors, and when bed-time had come, the witch's daughter got into bed first, so as to lie at the far side, but when she was asleep, the other pushed her gently to the front, and took for herself the place at the back, close by the wall. In the night, the old woman came creeping in, she held an axe in her right hand, and felt with her left to see if anyone was lying at the outside, and then she grasped the axe with both hands, and cut her own child's head off.

When she had gone away, the girl got up and went to her sweetheart, who was called Roland, and knocked at his door. When he came out, she said to him, "Hear me, dearest Roland, we must fly in all haste; my step-mother wanted to kill me, but has struck her own child. When daylight comes, and she sees what she has done, we shall be lost." "But," said Roland, "I counsel thee first to take away her magic wand, or we cannot escape if she pursues us." The maiden fetched the magic wand, and she took the dead girl's head and dropped three drops of blood on the ground, one in front of the bed, one in the kitchen, and one on the stairs. Then she hurried away with her lover. When the old witch got up next morning, she called her daughter, and wanted to give her the apron, but she did not come. Then the witch cried, "Where art thou?" "Here, on the stairs, I am sweeping," answered the first drop of blood. The old woman went out, but saw no one on the stairs, and cried again, "Where art thou?" "Here in the kitchen, I am warming myself," cried the second drop of blood. She went into the kitchen, but found no one. Then she cried again, "Where art thou?" "Ah, here in the bed, I am sleeping." cried the third drop of blood. She went into the room to the bed. What did she see there? Her own child, whose head she had cut off, bathed in her blood. The witch fell into a passion, sprang to the window, and as she could look forth quite far into the world, she perceived her step-daughter hurrying away with her sweetheart Roland. "That shall not serve you," cried she, "even if you have got a long way off, you shall still not escape me." She put on her many league boots, in which went an hour's walk at every step, and it was not long before she overtook them. The girl, however, when she saw the old woman striding towards her, changed, with her magic wand, her sweetheart Roland into a lake, and herself into a duck swimming in the middle of it. The witch placed herself on the shore, threw bread-crumbs in, and gave herself every possible trouble to entice the duck; but the duck did not let herself be enticed, and the old woman had to go home at night as she had come. On this the girl and her sweetheart Roland resumed their natural shapes again, and they walked on the whole night until daybreak. Then the maiden changed herself into a beautiful flower which stood in the midst of a briar hedge, and her sweetheart Roland into a fiddler. It was not long before the witch came striding up towards them, and said to the musician, "Dear musician, may I pluck that beautiful flower for myself?" "Oh, yes," he replied, "I will play to you while you do it." As she was hastily creeping into the hedge and was just going to pluck the flower, for she well knew who the flower was, he began to play, and whether she would or not, she was forced to dance, for it was a magical dance. The quicker he played, the more violent springs was she forced to make, and the thorns tore her clothes from her body, and pricked her and wounded her till she bled, and as he did not stop, she had to dance till she lay dead on the ground.

When they were delivered, Roland said, "Now I will go to my father and arrange for the wedding." "Then in the meantime I will stay here and wait for thee," said the girl, "and that no one may recognize me, I will change myself into a red stone land-mark." Then Roland went away, and the girl stood like a red land-mark in the field and waited for her beloved. But when Roland got home, he fell into the snares of another, who prevailed on him so far that he forgot the maiden. The poor girl remained there a long time, but at length, as he did not return at all, she was sad, and changed herself into a flower, and thought, "Some one will surely come this way, and trample me down."

It befell, however, that a shepherd kept his sheep in the field, and saw the flower, and as it was so pretty, plucked it, took it with him, and laid it away in his chest. From that time forth, strange things happened in the shepherd's house. When he arose in the morning, all the work was already done, the room was swept, the table and benches cleaned, the fire on the hearth was lighted, and the water was fetched, and at noon, when he came home, the table was laid, and a good dinner served. He could not conceive how this came to pass, for he never saw a human being in his house, and no one could have concealed himself in it. He was certainly pleased with this good attendance, but still at last he was so afraid that he went to a wise woman and asked for her advice. The wise woman said, "There is some enchantment behind it, listen very early some morning if anything is moving in the room, and if thou seest anything, let it be what it may, throw a white cloth over it, and then the magic will be stopped."

The shepherd did as she bade him, and next morning just as day dawned, he saw the chest open, and the flower come out. Swiftly he sprang towards it, and threw a white cloth over it. Instantly the transformation came to an end, and a beautiful girl stood before him, who owned to him that she had been the flower, and that up to this time she had attended to his housekeeping. She told him her story, and as she pleased him he asked her if she would marry him, but she answered, "No," for she wanted to remain faithful to her sweetheart Roland, although he had deserted her, but she promised not to go away, but to keep house for the shepherd for the future.

And now the time drew near when Roland's wedding was to be celebrated, and then, according to an old custom in the country, it was announced that all the girls were to be present at it, and sing in honour of the bridal pair. When the faithful maiden heard of this, she grew so sad that she thought her heart would break, and she would not go thither, but the other girls came and took her. When it came to her turn to sing, she stepped back, until at last she was the only one left, and then she could not refuse. But when she began her song, and it reached Roland's ears, he sprang up and cried, "I know the voice, that is the true bride, I will have no other!" Everything he had forgotten, and which had vanished from his mind, had suddenly come home again to his heart. Then the faithful maiden held her wedding with her sweetheart Roland, and grief came to an end and joy began.

Next Tale:
The Golden Bird

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.


From Hesse. In another saga, which also comes from Hesse, this story is allied to Hansel and Grethel, No. 15. The witch wants to kill and cook Hansel because he is fat, but Grethel sets him free, and the children run away, but before going, Grethel spits in front of the hearth. So when the witch cries, "Will the water soon be hot?" the spittle answers, "I am just fetching it," and afterwards "It's boiling now," and "I am just bringing it," and between each answer the witch sleeps awhile. The last time she calls, however, when the spittle has dried up, he receives no answer, and gets out of bed, and when she cannot find the children, she puts on her skates and runs after them, but the girl has transformed herself into a pond and her little brother into a duck which is swimming on it. The witch wants to drink up the pond, but she bursts with the water, and is left lying dead. The two resume their human form and go home.

Our story is like Fundevogel, No. 51; The Water Nixie, No. 79 and The two Kings' children, No. 113. The last metamorphosis, when the stepmother perishes in the briar-hedge with dancing, recalls the Jew among Thorns, No. 110. Vossius, in the notes to his Idyll of Riesenhügel, mentions a story which also has some connection with ours. Der Riesenwald, pp. 44-72, in the Brunswick Collection, is also akin to this, and No. 6 in Müllenhoff; No. 1. in Kuhn. In Norwegian Asbjörnsen, vol. 2. In Swedish Cavallius, No. 14. In Hungarian, Mailáth's Zauberhelene, No. 12; and the Magic Horse, in Stier p. 28. Also The Glass hatchet in Gaal. p. 53. The Orange tree and The Bee (No. 8) in D'Aulnoy, and The Dove (2. 7) and Rosella (3. 9) in the Pentamerone, are allied to this. Being turned to stone by grief and pain occurs also in the Danish ballad of Rosmer. It has a deep signification and resembles the numbness which ensues when light and warmth are taken away. Changing yourself into a flower by the wayside when in sorrow, is an incident which appears again in a popular song:

"Ai Annle, lot dos Waene stohn
nahmt aich viel liever a'n anden Mon."
"Eh wenn ich lo das Waene stohn,
wiel ich liever ouff de Wagschaed gohn,
diett wiel ich zu aner Feldblum w'an.
* * * * *
Virmeittich's wiel ich schien uofblihn,
Nochmeittichs wiel ich traurich stien;
wo olle Lait vorieba gohn,
diett wiel ich inde traurich stohn." [1]

This story especially belongs to the class in which an ancient ground seems to survive. The witch is a giant woman who has captured a couple of the children of the gods and wants to destroy them. When, according to one saga, the maiden spits and the spittle answers, we must, perforce, remember that saga in which earthly shapes are created from the spittle of the gods. But the bean also, which according to the French saga (in D'Aulnoy, No. 8) is baked into a cake, and in Kuhn, is put into a pan on the fire, and gives the answer, represents the creative principle, which in our story is still more clearly expressed by the drops of blood. For the transformations of the fugitives, who, to save themselves continually assume another shape, compare the Eyrbiggiasage, c. 20, where Katla is always changing her son in order to protect him.

1: "Ah, Annie, let thy weeping be,
Or take another love to thee."
"Oh, if I let my weeping be
I'd sooner to the wayside go,
And as a humble field-flower grow.
* * * * *
Before the noon I'll blossom fair,
'Fore eve I'll stand so sadly there
When all the folk are passing by,
There will I stand so piteously."-TR.

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Page last updated October 15, 2006

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