Hansel and Gretel lived in a hut in the woods with their father, who was a poor woodcutter, and his wife their stepmother. The stepmother made life very hard for the two of them. They were not allowed to eat until after the stepmother had taken everything she wanted off the plates. Most of the time, there was only a crust of bread left. And all day long were hard chores for them to do.
Hansel and Gretel tried to tell their father about this but he would not hear of it. It seemed the only one he would listen to was his wife. And all the stepmother talked about was how much trouble it was to have children in the hut, and how much she wished they would go away forever.
Each day there was less and less food for the boy and girl to eat. Yet the stepmother gave them more and more hard work to do. One day Gretel begged her father, “Please, Father! All day long we work hard and we’re hungry!” But the stepmother slapped her face. “You ungrateful brats!" she yelled. "You will eat us out of house and home!”
That night the two children were not allowed to sleep in the hut. Outside in the cold, they shivered and tried to keep each other warm. Winter was coming, and the clothes they wore were so thin it felt almost as if they had no clothes on at all.
The next morning when the sun rose, Gretel turned to her little brother. “Hansel,” she said, “we cannot stay here. We must escape now, today, into the woods! Surely we will find more to eat when we are on our own than what we get here at home.”
Do you think?” said Hansel. "But what if we get lost?”
We won’t!” said Gretel. “I will take bread. We will drop breadcrumbs behind us. If we have to, we can follow the crumbs back home.”
And so the two of them went off into the woods and left their hard life behind.
They went deeper and deeper into the woods. Gretel was careful to drop one crumb and then after a bit, another.