Chinese Hansel and Gretel

(Translated from Chinese) Once upon a time, there were these two children, a brother and a sister.  The brother and sister had both been very bad children so their mother sent them out into the forest and told them not to come back until they had learned their lesson.  The children wandered around. It became very dark, and they began to look around for shelter.  They came upon this little house and knocked on the door.  An old grandma answered the door and let the two children stay in the house.  She led them upstairs where there were two separate bedrooms and told them that they each could have their own bedroom.  The brother and sister went into different rooms and went to bed.  A couple hours later, the sister heard a really loud crunching noise (made a crunching noise).  She tried to ignore it, but the crunching was so loud that she went downstairs to see where the sound was coming from.  Downstairs, she saw that the old lady was eating something, and the crunching was coming from the old grandma chewing.  The little girl asked, “Granny, what are you eating?” The grandma replied, “I’m just eating some peanuts, go back to bed.”  The little girl went back to her room but did not go back to bed.  Instead, she waited for the grandma to go to bed and then, she came back down to inspect what she was eating.  When she looked into the bowls, she saw small, little bones.  Horrified, she ran back upstairs to find her brother but found that her brother was nowhere to be found, only his clothes were laid on his bed.  The sister was able to figure out that the old grandma had eaten her brother.  She quickly ran out of the house and back home, where she told her mother that she had learned her lesson and begged her to take her back.  The mother let the daughter back in the house, and the girl was never disobedient again.

My informant has told me this story quite frequently when I was child.  This story was usually told at night as a bedtime story.  She told me that this story had been passed down through the family as her grandmother had told her when she was younger.  I asked my informant what her interpretation of the story was, and she replied that it was a way to teach children to be obedient to their parents.

After rehearing this story again, I realized that there is definitely a connection with “Hansel and Gretel.”  Some common elements include the presence of a brother and a sister, the setting in the forest, and an old woman who likes to eat children.  However, there are some major deviations such as the fact that the brother dies, the mother is the one who sends the children out, and the old woman does not die in the end.  While “Hansel and Gretel” served more as just a fairytale, this story had a pretty clear lesson to it; listen to your parents, or else you will be eaten by an old lady.