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The untold story
The tale of “Clever Gretel,” as told in the “Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales”, is a story about a cook named Gretel, who thinks very highly of herself. In this story Gretel is told by her master that he is expecting a guest. The master then demands that Gretel prepare two fowls for the evening. Gretel does as her master wishes and prepares the fowls. Soon the fowls begin to brown, but the guest has not arrived. Gretel informs her master that she must soon remove the fowls from the fire and that they should be eaten immediately after removing them from the fire. The master tells Gretel that he will go and fetch his guest. While the master is gone Gretel quickly eats both the fowls. Upon his return the master informs Gretel that his guest will be arriving shortly. The master then begins to sharpen the carving knife while waiting for his quest. Meanwhile Gretel sees the guest approaching and quietly misinforms him that the master plans to cut off his ears. Hearing the knife being sharpened, the guest believes Gretel and takes off running. As the guest is running away, Gretel goes to her master and tells him that his guest has just run off with both the fowls. Gretel’s master, with knife still in hand ran after his guest shouting “only one”. Of course the master was referring to one fowl but his guest thought he meant only one ear so the guest ran away even faster until he was safely home.
From this tale it may appear that Gretel is indeed quite clever, but this tale is only part of the story. I shall now tell the part of the tale that the Brothers Grimm did not so that you may decide for yourselves as to how clever Gretel actually was.
The incident with the fowls had not been the only time that Gretel had deceived both her master and his guest. Once Gretel devoured an entire pig and told the guest that her master was planning to take his toes. Gretel managed, over the years, to scare away several off the master’s guests in this same manor, always claiming that her master planned to sever various body parts from the guests.
Eventually rumors of how the master invited guests over only to sever parts of their bodies spread across the land near and far. Soon no one would dare to accept an invitation to his home. This did not matter much because the master had become so distrusting that he no longer invited any guests to his home. In fact, the only time the master spoke to anyone was when he had to go to town to buy or sell goods.
This all worked out wonderfully for Gretel. The master had grown so lonely that he would often ask Gretel to dine with him. By dinning with her master Gretel was still able to enjoy all the delicious meals that had once been reserved for guests and that she had cleverly helped herself too, without the knowledge or consent of her master. Gretel did not feel any remorse for causing her master to suffer such loneliness. Instead she was rather pleased with herself for so cleverly deceiving her master and all of his guests. She was even more pleased by the fact that she had become her master’s only companion and could now eat at the table with her master and in his good graces.
One day when the master was in town on business he met a beautiful woman who immediately captured his heart, but because he no longer trusted anyone he did not offer her an invitation to dine with him. Instead he began to visit town more frequently and come up with reasons to approach the beautiful woman so that he could get to know her better. Eventually the master decided that he wanted to invite her to his home.
When the master formally introduced himself to the woman she was surprised that he was the man from the terrifying stories she had heard in town. The woman, out of fear declined the master’s invitation to dine with him at his home. The master then asked the woman why she declined his invitation and she told him of the rumors. Baffled by this news, the master assured the woman that he had been wrongly accused and promised to prove the rumors untrue if she would accept his invitation to dine with him at his home. The woman had previously developed a fondness for him and so agreed to his offer. The master went home and began to think of how these stories came to be and of how he would prove them false.
After much thought the master decided that he should go to town question his former guests to in order to find out the reason for such dreadful stories against his character. Each former guest told the master that Gretel had warned them that he planned to cut off their ears, or nose, or toes and so on. The master realized that this is why all his guests had run off, but he still did not know what had happened to all of the missing food. He returned home to ponder this question and all the while he did not mention a word of it to Gretel.
Finally the master concluded that Gretel must have eaten all the food. This would also explain why she scared off all of his guests and why she had deceived him. The master did not let on to Gretel that he had made these discoveries, instead he asked all of his former guests to return to his home for a great feast. Now that the guests knew the truth, they all agreed to come. The master instructed his guests to pretend to flee if Gretel tries to deceive them once again. The master then asked the beautiful woman to come as well. He told the woman to hide in the kitchen and observe Gretel so that he could prove his innocence to her.
The master went home and told Gretel that he would soon be having guests and that she was to prepare a feast. Gretel was surprised by this, but agreed to do as her master wished. While Gretel was out gathering ingredients for the feast the woman came and hid herself in the kitchen.
Gretel soon returned and began to prepare the feast. When the food was almost ready Gretel informed her master that he should go and fetch his guest; for it would be a shame not to eat the food just as it gets done. The master told Gretel that he was going to gather everyone and that he would return shortly. After Gretel was certain her master left she began to indulge herself in the meal she had prepared. Gretel knew that the master would be a while gathering so many guests and was sure she had time enough to the delicious feast she had prepared.
She was right, just as Gretel had eaten all she could, which was every last morsel, the master returned. He told Gretel that the guests would be arriving shortly and went into the dining room to wait. As the guests began to arrive, Gretel warned them one by one. “I told you once before the master wishes to cut off your ears, or nose, or toes, and so on,” she whispered to each of the guests. Upon hearing her warnings, each guest ran just as before, only this time they did not run home but instead hid and waited to see what would happen next. After Gretel was sure that she had scared off all the guests she ran to her master shouting, “I told you once before all of your guests are thieves. They have taken all of the food I prepared.” At this time all the guests had returned and the master fetched the woman he loved from her hiding place. The woman told the master that he had proven himself and professed her love for him. The two were shortly married.
As to what became of Gretel is somewhat of a mystery. Although, there are rumors, across the land near and far, that on the menu for the celebration of the wedding was roasted Gretel ears, nose, toes, and so on. It is also said that the guests at the celebration ate every last bite of the food that was served, leaving not even a morsel undigested.