If you're keeping up, here's part II of III of my 21st Century, American retelling of Hansel and Gretel.
Although small on the outside, the inside of the cottage was quite large. In the main room there was a rabbit resting by the fire and three little mice playing tiny cards by the refrigerator. On top of the immobile ceiling fan rested a birds nest on each blade and two puppies were wrestling on the rug by the couch. Hans and Greta had never seen so many animals in one place, not even in the zoo.
"Look, everyone, guests!" called out the old woman to the animals. They all turned toward the children and acknowledged them with a squeak, chirp, or whatever voice they could muster. "Please children, sit down," the old woman motioned to the couch where three squirrels were snuggled on the belly of a snoozing pink pig. The children did their best to share the space on the couch since the pig was quite large.
The children told the old woman where they had come from and told her that they had gotten separated from their mother. She seemed to take pity on them and offered them a place to stay for the night. As the sun rose, Greta awoke to the sound of the birds singing in the rafters. How lovely, she thought to herself. Just then, however, a lion poked its head in the open kitchen window and she screamed.
"What is it?!"
"A lion!!" Greta shrieked.
"I knew I heard a lion last night!” cried Hans.
"Yes," said the old woman calmly, "That is Edgar. He lives out back, he keeps me safe and I keep him safe from… anyone who might want to hurt him." The old woman pulled a large tray of vegetables out of the fridge and fed them to Edgar until he left.
Greta and Hans felt concerned, but were calmed upon hearing the lion had such an unassuming name. "How strange," Greta whispered to her brother, "that this woman lives all alone and has so many pets."
"Yes, strange indeed," Hans agreed.
The old woman fed them until they were full.
"Children, before you are on your way, let me ask one favor of you!"
"Yes, anything," Hans cheerfully offered.
"I am old and I need you to help me clean my oven."
"Of course! We would be happy to!" Hans replied for both of them. Greta noticed, however, that the old woman sounded nervous when she asked this and upon her question several of the animals jumped up and ran away as if they were suddenly afraid of what was about to happen. Why could this be? Greta wondered. As Hans leaned into the oven with a rag, Greta watched the old woman prepare to push him into it. Acting quickly, she shoved the old woman aside onto the floor and grabbed her brother's arm. "Run!" she screamed.
"My hip!!" cried the old woman.
With that, Hans and Greta ran as far away and as fast as they could. But, day turned into night before the pair realized that they had been running in circles. Greta began to cry, "I'm hungry and I'm cold! What will we do!?"
Just then, through the trees, Hans saw the old woman's cottage. "We are right back where we started! Look! There's the old woman's house! Hide before she sees us!"
However, after hiding behind some trees for nearly an hour, the children decided they needed to eat something before they starved, so they cautiously snuck into the garden to get more vegetables. While gathering their dinner, Greta peered in window and saw that the old woman still lying in agony on the ground.
"Hans, she's still down there."
"Good, let her die there. She tried to kill me."
But despite her brother's chilly response, Greta's good-natured heart took pity on the old woman. She carefully cracked open the door. "Hello?"