Friday 7th March 2014.
I had just finished playing my guitar, placing it onto its stand, I turned round to see two middle aged men standing at the porch steps. Strange because I did not see them arrive and they were dressed in rather strange clothing and wearing old style flat hats, with loose fitting trousers and long black coats.
“Excuse us sir, but could you please direct us to the nearest place we can get a drink and a bite to eat?”
“I am afraid it is a long way, about four miles down the main road.” I said pointing down the road.
“It is only while we are waiting for our vehicle to be repaired.”
I watched the two men and felt comfortable in their company, “I can give you a drink and sandwich if you wish.” I offered, and made a welcoming gesture with my hands and offering them a chair each. I adjusted the chairs and table, “I wont be a minute while I get your refreshments.”
After their refreshments they introduced themselves as Jake and Will, “We are storytellers and entertainers. We travel the country and earn our living by telling stories.” Jake said who was the smaller of the two.
We have a short tale we can tell you while waiting and in return for your hospitality.” said Will. I nodded in reply, “That would be good.”
Jake started the story off, “There were two young children, a bother and sister, lived long ago in a small house in the wood. Their father a lowly woodsman. The time was hard for them, as a famine had set in across the land. His wife was an abusive woman, and decided that he must get rid of his children by taking them into the woods and leaving them there, so that she and her husband would not starve.”
Then Will continued, “She pressured him and reluctantly, submits to his wife’s scheme. However the two children had overheard their plans, and after the parents had gone to bed, the boy sneaks out of the house and collects as many small white pebbles as he could carry in his pockets. On returning to their bedroom the boy reassures his sister that God will not forsake them.
The next day the father led them deep into the woods, and the boy lays a trail of white pebbles.”
It was now Jake who continued, “And after the father abandoned them the children wait for the moon to rise and proceeded to follow the trail of white pebbles back home. They eventually return home safely, much to abusive wife’s horror. Once again as provisions got scarce the wife again demanded that the children be taken further into the woods and leave them to die. Both children attempted to gather more white pebbles, but found their doors locked and unable to leave the house. The following morning once again the children were led into the woods. The boy had taken some bread and was leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow home. But after they were left alone the children found that birds had eaten the crumbs and they are now lost in the woods. After a few long days of wandering they discover a large cottage made of gingerbread and cakes. The windows were made of sugar, and the roof was of coloured candy. Being so hungry they started to eat the candy, when suddenly the door opens and an old woman appears. With the promise of a warm soft bed and plenty of nice food the children were led inside. The children were unaware their hostess was a wicked and evil witch, who eats small young children.” Jake stopped to take a sip of his drink letting Will to continue their story. I was listening very intently and enjoying their story including all the gestures while they were narrating.
“The next morning the witch locked the boy in a cage in the garden and forces his sister to become a slave. The witch feeds the boy regularly hoping to fatten him up, but he was clever and offers a bone he found and lets the witch feel it. She was thinking it is his finger.
She was easily fooled because of her blindness, and she kept thinking he was too thin to eat. After weeks of trying the witch became impatient and decides to eat the boy ‘be fat or lean’ she would say.
She prepared the oven for the boy but decides her hunger is so that she will eat the girl also.”
Will paused, looked at Jake and it was him who took his turn. “So she coaxed the girl to open the oven and then prods her to lean over in front of it to check if the fire is hot enough. The girl sensing the witch’s evil, pretends she does not understand what she means. The witch so angry, demonstrates what she wants, and the girl instantly pushes the witch into the oven, slams and bolts the oven door shut. She left the witch screaming in pain. The girl frees her brother from his cage and the pair discover a vase full of treasure and precious jewels. Hiding the jewels in their clothes, they both head off for home. Whilst trying to find their way home a swan ferries them across a large expanse of water. Then at home they only find their father, his wife died from unknown causes. The father showed his delight in seeing his children again, and with the witch’s wealth they all lived happily ever after. Jake smiled and it was Will who spoke, “We must be going I think our wagon should be done by now.”
“Wagon!” I said in surprise.
“For your kindness I leave you this book of ours, it is our stories recorded in one book.” Jake laid a leather bound book on the table. I shook their hands and bid them farewell. They headed off up the track leading out to the main road. They were gone as quick as they appeared.
I picked up their book and read the title. ‘GRIMMS FAIRY TALES’ by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
Based on the Grimm’s tale of Hansel and Gretel.
Gaa/C March 3rd 2014.