#6: Hansel and Gretel: Reloaded

Once upon a time, there was a poor woodcutter who lived in a cottage at the edge of a big forest with his two children: a boy named Hansel and a girl called Gretel. He loved them very much, although God knows why he couldn’t have given the kids better names.[1]

Sadly, their mother, Chlotichilda,[2] died when they were very young. She accidentally stabbed herself in the neck with a comb while getting ready to go to the farm one morning. It was not a pretty sight.

The woodcutter later remarried the daughter of a local butcher. She was not only ugly, but she also absolutely loathed the children. She nagged incessantly that they ate too much and there was not enough food for anyone else. Times were hard and the economy was suffering from a recession not seen since The Great Depression. Recovery had been tepid at best, and everyone was struggling to put food on the table.

“There are too many mouths to feed! We shall starve if this goes on, so we must get rid of the two brats,” she declared one night. “We must take them into the forest and leave them there – far enough so that they won’t find their way back.”

The woodcutter initially protested, but he didn’t want to risk sleeping on the couch for an extended period. With the threat of a prolonged sex embargo looming large over his head, he reluctantly agreed.

The children had heard them talking, and Gretel began to cry.

“Be strong, Gretel,” said Hansel calmly. “Crying can be perceived as weak, and this doesn’t augur well for the government’s policy to ensure that women make up at least 30 per cent of the board of public listed companies in this country,” he added.

“I’ll think of something. I’m a man. By definition, I’m a problem solver and I fix things. Haven’t you read the book ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’?” added Hansel.

Actually Hansel had no clue what to do but he figured it was important that he appeared in control. Otherwise, Gretel would have kept crying and that would have been very annoying.

Hansel finally came up with an idea. He slipped quietly out of the back door, filled his pockets with little white pebbles, and went to bed.

The next morning, the whole family set out into the forest to cut wood. As their stepmother led them deeper and deeper into the forest, Hansel secretly dropped the white pebbles, one by one as he went.

They finally stopped for a spot of R&R, and the stepmother asked Hansel and Gretel to wait there while she and their father went to cut some wood. She promised to fetch them when they were ready to leave.

The children waited and waited until it got dark, and it dawned upon them that they had been abandoned.

“They’ve left us!” sobbed Gretel, stating the obvious. “And I am so cold and hungry.”

“Don’t worry, Gretel,” said Hansel. “Come along, let’s find the way home.”

Ever the gentleman and protective brother, Hansel wrapped his coat around Gretel’s shoulders as they set out for home.

Soon it grew too dark to see, but the moon – rather conveniently – came out from behind the clouds. Suddenly, the children saw something glinting on the ground.

Gretel – who by this time had started hallucinating – initially thought that it was a bunch of VVS1, D-colour diamonds from Antwerp, but Hansel instantly knew that they were the pebbles that he had dropped on the way into the forest.

They followed the path and traced their way back home. The woodcutter was ecstatic – albeit a little bit sheepish – to see his children safely home again. The stepmother was properly flummoxed and, naturally, not amused.

Weeks passed and times grew even harder as a result of a double dip economic recession, which was further exacerbated by the strengthening Euro that made export less competitive. Worse, the nation descended into chaos and anarchy as demonstrators took to the streets, and the investors’ confidence was in tatters.

It got to a point where the family was only left with half a loaf of bread, half a Kitkat, a bottle of Hillsburg non-alcoholic malt drink.[3] The stepmother told the husband in no uncertain terms that his time he must take the children into the forest and make sure they never come back.

The woodcutter tried to protest again, but he was swiftly reminded of the impending sex embargo. Emotional blackmail is a powerful thing, you see,[4] and the poor sod was sent to bed without his supper.

The children heard everything but this time Hansel could not find any white pebbles. Wah, what a predicament lah!

Early the next morning, their stepmother gave the children each a slice of bread, and once again led them into the forest.

As Hansel had no pebbles, he had to drop his slice of bread, crumb by crumb, to mark the route.

In the very depths of the forest, the stepmother once again told the children to wait until she came to fetch them, and predictably, once again she did not return.

Anxious to get home before it grew too dark, Hansel and Gretel set out to find the breadcrumbs that would show them the way back home. Much to their consternation, they couldn’t find any because the angry birds[5] of the forest had eaten them all!

“Don’t worry,” said Hansel with the firm conviction of a non-governable organisation (NGO) leader, although he himself was petrified of the frightening shadows in the darkness. “We’ll soon find the way.”

But they stumbled all night and of course they couldn’t find a way. Being a guy, Hansel refused to ask for directions even though they were clearly lost. Google Maps, Waze and the GPS were not yet invented, so the situation was pretty hopeless.

The two children huddled together all night for warmth and when dawn broke, they started to wander about the forest until they chanced upon a strange cottage.

Much to their delight, they discovered that the house was entirely made of gingerbread, cakes, barley sugar, milk chocolate and all that fattening stuff. Starving but delighted, the children began to break lumps of the house wall and gobbled them whole, but not before reciting the doa makan.

Hansel kept eating the roof, while Gretel thought the windowpanes were particularly tasty. Obviously this was not very healthy, as it will encourage kids to get high on sugar and, over time, become obese.

More importantly, breaking off pieces of the cottage will affect its structural integrity as it is no longer faithful to the blueprint as designed and computed by a competent civil or structural engineer.

“Well, well, well! Having an awfully grand feast, are we?” croaked an old woman who suddenly appeared from the doorway. “You two look famished. Come inside and I’ll cook you a proper meal.”

Soon, Hansel and Gretel were tucking into the best meal they had eaten for a long time. After a hefty dinner and scrumptious desserts, a mighty belch-fest ensued,[6] and the children – very full and tired – soon crashed in bed and snored the night away.

Now, dear readers, you’ve probably realised[7] that this old woman was, in fact, a very evil witch whose modus operandi revolved around luring children to visit her delicious house, fattening them up, and cooking them in the oven at 180°C for about 45 minutes.

Sure enough, the next morning she seized Hansel and locked him in a cage, while Gretel was forced to do all the housework.

“We must fatten the boy up,” she cackled. Thereafter, she cooked big meals for both children every day, and every night she told Hansel to poke his finger out of the cage to see how fat he was getting.

Each time, Hansel poked a chicken bone out of the cage instead, and the very shortsighted witch thought he wasn’t getting any fatter. This was pre-contact lenses and pre-LASIK,[8] you understand.

The witch was baffled why Hansel didn’t get fat despite all the food, and after a while, she lost all patience and decided to eat him anyway.

“Fat or thin, I shall cook him now! Stoke up the oven, my dear,” she commanded Gretel.[9]

“I don’t know how to,” said Gretel. “I mean, it’s not like this oven comes with an instruction manual. Can you show me then?”

“It’s easy, you daft get,” snapped the witch. “Like this!

The wicked old woman turned so abruptly, and in a classic, slapstick Harold Lloyd[10] moment, she tripped and lost her balance, and fell headlong into the flames.[11]

“OK, that was easy,” thought Gretel.

Gretel promptly opened Hansel’s cage and he leapt out and embraced his sister. They went outside, ate pieces of the house a bit more, and stuffed some into their pockets before continuing on their way.

They walked through the forest until it was too dark to see between the trees. Once again, they were hopelessly lost. They were about to give up hope when the moon rose above the clouds and something wonderful happened.

“Look!” whispered Gretel, pointing to the ground in front of her, where something glinted in the moonlight.

“It’s one of my pebbles!” cried Hansel. “And look — there’s another!”

Joyfully, they began to run, following the trail of pebbles until they saw their home beyond the trees and their dear father.

How they rejoiced and hugged each other! The woodcutter had never forgiven himself for abandoning his children in the forest, and his evil wife had since left him soon after to marry a Gouda cheese maker from Eindhoven. In fact, since he had left the children in the forest, he had not had a single happy hour.[12]

Now that his children have returned, he worked even harder than before and life began to get better. The local economy improved soon after, thanks to the stimulus package provided by the government and a better investment climate that jumpstarted many industries.

Hansel and Gretel also helped out by starting a cupcakes business, and they soon had some money to invest in unit trusts, and they didn’t have to rely solely on their father’s EPF money.

With all their troubles over, Hansel and Gretel and their father were happy at last, and I guess this is a nice way to end this fairy tale.

[1] But let’s not go there.
[2] Another unfortunate name.
[3] Certified halal by the authorities.
[4] Yes folks, it happens.
[5] The feathered, winged, endothermic, vertebrate “live” variety. Not to be confused with the video game developed by Rovio Mobile.
[6] Kids, this is not very polite. Don’t forget to say “Excuse me” when this happens.
[7] Unless you’re really, really silly.
[8] We recommend the Eye & LASIK Centre at Prince Court Medical Centre, Kuala Lumpur, which employs the latest VisuMax Femtosecond Laser and MEL 80 Excimer Laser. Please enquire for price list to enjoy the benefits of this premium bladeless procedure.
[9] You know you’re in big trouble when an evil witch addresses you as ‘my dear’.
[10] Harold Clayton Lloyd, Sr. (April 20, 1893 – March 8, 1971), American film actor and producer who ranks alongside Charlie Chaplin as one of the most popular and influential film comedians of the silent film era.
[11] Being wicked, you probably would have preferred her to die a more brutal death e.g. a flying broom accident, but we don’t have time for all that here.
[12] No, not THAT Happy Hour, you idiot!

#6: Hansel and Gretel: Reloaded

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