The Story of Hansel & Gretel

Hansel & Gretel Cone Doll Play Set

If you don’t have a copy of our Hansel & Gretel Cone Doll Play Set you can download it here. Simply print the PDF file and follow the instructions on the second page to create this adorable cone doll play set.

The story of Hansel & Gretel below is used in our classes to teach ballet dance steps, good manners and culture. Contact us if you’d like to bring ballet & etiquette to your pre-school. email: sara@academyofballetandetiquette.com

The Story

700 years ago it rained and snowed for two years and the food could not grow. Hansel and Gretel are lucky. Their mother showed them how to forage. That’s when you look for food that grows on accident. Gretel is good at finding and Hansel is good at collecting. They are a good team. Today, they did not find much to eat.

At home, mom says, “We eat together.” And the children take a nap. When they wake up, they are terribly hungry! They forget everything mom said, and eat everything they can find. Dad comes home and finds them. He says, “Hansel. Gretel. Go to bed.”

They go to bed, but don’t sleep. Instead, Hansel and Gretel listen. Mom says, “They’d eat more if they foraged alone.” Dad said, “They’re too little to leave us!” In the morning, mom makes bread and says “Hansel. Gretel. We’re going to the woods.

The children had a plan. Gretel watched mom so they didn’t get lost. Hansel tore their bread into crumbs he dropped behind each step to make a trail they could follow home.

But the birds were hungry and Hansel said, “shoo!” Gretel said “shhhhhh.” Hansel said, “Where’s mom?!” Gretel said, “Where is your trail?” They ran about looking for mom. “Mom! Mom!” but couldn’t find her.

That’s when they got stuck. They tried to move but their feet were glued to the ground. That’s when the snakes came. The snakes slithered around their feet and ankles. Their legs and tummies. Their chests and necks! “I’m scared!” said Gretel. “I”m warm!” said Hansel. That’s when they saw it. A glittering little cottage in the woods. Hansel asked, “Do you see that?” and Gretel asked “Can you smell that?!”

The little house was made of gingerbread! Coated in frosting, candies and nuts. The children were usually polite but when they saw the house they didn’t ask permission, they just started to eat. That’s when a beautiful lady appeared. “Children? I dropped a bon bon and if you find it, you can have it. COME HERE.”

The children ran into the house and under the table and CRACK. They were in a cage! The witch laughed and said, “I’ll eat you for supper in three days time!” Hansel said, “How could she eat us?!” Gretel said, “She’ll have to cook us.” Hansel answered, “she’ll open the cage and we’ll run!

The next day, the witch said. “Show me your finger, I’ll see if you’re fat!” Hansel stuck a twig out the front of the cage. The witch yelled, “Don’t fool me!” She carried the cage to the kitchen, opened the oven door and the children RAN! But the house was enchanted! They ran and ran and ran, so much longer than they should have in a tiny house made of candy.

When they finally passed the front door they got stuck in a puddle! They ran and ran but stayed in one place. That’s when a tiny duck passed them by. “Ride my back,” he said. And the children stood on their tiniest feet to cross the water.

Out of the puddle they heard their father calling “Hansel! Gretel” and when he hugged them he said, “I’ll never let you out of my sight again!”

Hansel & Gretel

Hansel and Gretel is a lesser produced ballet and so lesser known. The modern ballet music is hard to find—I, myself, couldn’t find the Edvard Grieg ballet music to download. (You can see a piece to that music in this link  at the 35 minute mark.) So, when music is harder to get ballet schools or universities set their productions to the wrong music: like this production by the Lake Erie Ballet School  that used music from La Fille Mal Gardee, or this National Youth Ensemble/National Ballet of Cuba production set to Arthur Fielder.

In my classes, I teach the older version of the ballet which uses the music of the German opera by Engelbert Humperdinck. I tell the children ‘long ago you could only see ballet at the opera’ and as opera developed ballet was less of a fixture in it.  You can get a sense of what I’m describing from  this Idaho Falls Opera production. 

I’ve been most inspired by  this Washington Ballet production of Hansel and Gretel. In it, you’ll hear the translated opera which acts as background music. Each production takes a little liberty with certain set pieces, and this one puts a lot into the witch and her relationship with the woodland creatures. It’s pretty spectacular.

The IBAM production follows the lead of the modern UK productions by presenting the witch as an angelic vision—they differ from the modern production by giving a lot of room to small children in the corps de ballet.

The more modern productions of the ballet came out of the UK. Celebrity choreographer Liam Scarlett choreographed a production with new music by Dan Jones. The Royal Ballet doesn’t allow their productions on YouTube but you can see videos about their productions via their channel. Here, Scarlett talks about his vision  here, the production designer talks about creating the look of the ballet. The Scottish Ballet has a well publicized production and in their trailer you can get a sense of the dreamlike production design and the magical effect of their deceptively angelic witch. It makes the whole thing seem new again.