Dr Peter White's Blog

Thoughts and comments from Dr Peter White -- political, philosophical, spiritual, musical and more

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Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

I am retired from the Uni. of Queensland, and have numerous interests inside and outside of the uni. I play classical, bluegrass, country and folk guitar (hows that for a mix?) I am a member of the Australian Labor Party and am currently branch secretary of the Mt Coot-tha branch. I'm also involved in developing virtual reality builds and websites. Never bored!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hansel and Gretel - from "Everybear's Compendium of Furry Tales"

Old Uncle Grizzly has been putting quill to parchment.  Here is his latest addition to the Everybear's Compendium.  

Hansel and Gretel - from "Everybear's Compendium of Furry Tales"   

Once upon a time there were two bear cubs, Hansel and Gretel, born into a poor family of bears who lived in the seedier section of the forest.  They had a very run down cave and often didn't have enough to eat.  Papa bear did his best, but without a good education and not from a good bloodline, he could only get part time work and poorly paid at that.  And even foraging, all the richer bears always seemed to get the best salmon, the best honey, leaving very little behind for the poorer bears. 

Well, anyway, things were really tough, winter was coming on, and Papa bear and Mama bear were desperate.  How were they to feed four mouths on what was coming in?  So with deep sorrow, they decided to leave their cubs to their own fate.  They would take them deep into the forest and lose them.  After all, they could have more cubs once things improved. 

Now Gretel, being a very intelligent cub who also had bouts of insomnia, overheard this sad conversation between her parents and thought:  "Aha!  I'll fool them."  She put a handful of Hansel's marbles in her pocket and when their parents took them walking, she would just drop marbles on the way so she and Hansel could find their own way back. 

The next morning, Papa bear woke the two cubs.  "Time to get up, young bears.  Today we are going to take a nice walk." 

So after a wretched breakfast of yesterday's oatmeal (with no honey) the bear family set out into the deep woods.  It was a long walk, into the dark, impenetrable forest just under the high mountains.  Gretel walked with Hansel, and every so often she dropped a marble on the ground.  Finally, Papa bear said, "OK, cubs, why don't you two have a nice nap and then we can continue our walk", while nudging Mama bear who was going along with this, but was not at all happy about it. 

The cubs obediently settled down in the soft needles under a very large fir tree and actually dozed off; it had been a long walk after all.  When they woke up, the parents were long gone, and the two little cubs were all alone, and the sun was sinking fast into the west.  They had perhaps two hours of daylight left to get home. 

"Oy, Hansel", said Gretel,  "move your furry butt and let's get moving.  I don't want to be stranded out here in the dark." 

Hansel stretched and stood up.  "OK, Gretel.  Whatever you say," he yawned.  Hansel was a nice cub, but he generally deferred to Gretel, who was much more talkative and bossy. 

"All we have to do is to follow the marble trail and we'll be home soon," said Gretel.  "Let's get a move on."  And off they went.  Hansel looked ahead, and Gretel looked on the ground to find the marbles. 

Luckily, bears have a pretty good sense of direction, and that plus the clever trail of marbles got the two little cubs back to their cave just as the last light of the sun disappeared through the trees.  They looked into the cave, and saw their parents with their feet up, having a honey beer each with a bowl of overripe berries between them. 

Hansel bounded in.  "Hello Papa and Mama, we're home." 

"Are you glad to see us?" asked Gretel. 

A sigh emanated from Papa bear.  Mama rolled her eyes, feeling considerable mother guilt at the almost desertion of her cubs.  "Yes, we're glad to see you both safe," said Papa. 

This was a pretty fix.  A week later, there was still little food, the welfare check had been cut off, and the bear family was in an even worse state.  In desperation, the parents tried again to lead the cubs into the woods.  They did it this time just after a breakfast of stale donuts left behind by a park ranger, and left the cubs no time to come up with a plan of finding their way home.

However, Hansel quickly grabbed two of the donuts and stuffed them into his pockets (yes, he did have a rather threadbare jacket), and off the family went again, into the deep woods.  Gretel smiled inwardly; it was nice to see Hansel take the initiative for once.  As they walked, Hansel crumbled the donuts and dropped crumbs all along their path.  They could find their way home again, the same as before.

Except for one thing. 

There was a family of squirrels who also lived around the bears' cave, and were forever swiping bits of food from the bears.  When they saw that Hansel was dropping donut crumbs on the ground, the squirrels didn't miss a beat.  Just keeping out of sight of the wandering bear family, they began eating and storing up the donut crumbs, wiping out any trace of the way back home.  Oh oh, big trouble ahead. 

Finally, like before, Papa bear said, "OK, cubs.  Time for a rest.  You just lie down and have a nap.  We'll not be far away." 

"Sure Papa, said Hansel.  Gretel rolled her eyes: "Oyvey, here we go again." 

But it had been a long walk and the cubs were tired and they did sleep quite soundly for several hours.  When they woke up, the parents were long gone.  "Well, looks like we'll be able to find out way back again, said Gretel, "for all the good that it will do us." 

As she was talking, Hansel looked frantically around for the donut crumbs.  And of course, there were none, because those pesky squirrels had eaten the lot.  "Ah, Gretel, looks like something has eaten our way home," moaned Hansel. 

"Oh boy, we're in for it now then," Gretel grouched.  "Nice try, Hansel, but you might have tried something inedible.  You know what it's like around here." 

"So how was I supposed to do that?"  argued Hansel. "Anyway, let's just walk a while and see if we can find some shelter before night falls.  "Sure" sighed Gretel.  "Hopefully we don't be dinner for something bigger. 

They walked for some way, not sure of the direction because the clouds had come up and there was no sun to help with the directions.  They came over a small rise and saw an amazing cabin in a clearing.  It looked like it was made of -- gingerbread, with candied honey spread around the eaves, and even a chocolate door knob. 

This was just a bit too good for two very hungry cubs, and down they went, drooling all the way until they came right up to the cabin and began taking handfuls of the cabin and stuffing themselves.  Now as they were happily munching away on the cottage, the door opened an a very, very old mama bear came out, tapping with a cane.  Her appearance scared the two cubs enough so they stopped eating. 

"Well, who have we here?" said the old mama bear in an old, quavery voice.  "Is it bear cubs?" 

Hansel replied: "Yes Ma'am.  We're cubs and we are lost in the woods, and we saw this marvellous cottage."  He then furtively tried to wipe the crumbs off his snout. 

"Well, lost little cubs then?  Why don't you come inside and spend the night and we can see what we can do to help you in the morning.  I've got some nice hot chocolate ready for you." 

"Oooh goodie!" said Gretel, "My favourite!"  Hansel merely licked his chops. 

Soon the cubs were sitting around the kitchen table, each with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.  However, unbeknownst to the cubs, the mama bear was a fearsome witch, who happened to live on a diet of fat little bear cubs.  And the hot chocolate had more than chocolate in it.  The evil bear witch had added a powerful sleeping draught.  The cubs finished their chocolate and promptly fell asleep with their heads on the table.

"He he," said the witch bear.  "Looks like I'll be good for winter now."  She lifted up Hansel with one paw and locked him in a cage in the pantry.  She took a chain with a manacle, and snapped the manacle shut around Gretel's left hind paw.  "And I'll have a nice serving wench to look after my needs.  How very clever of me, he, he he." 

When Hansel woke the next morning he found himself locked in a cage that had obviously been occupied by someone before.  It smelled of old cub.  He looked around the cage and saw that there was a thin old bone tucked in the corner.  There was a lovely chocolate cake and some mint tea waiting for him, and he proceeded to gorge himself.  "Well, if this is prison, so far, so good," he thought. 

Gretel, on the other hand, woke to see herself chained to the kitchen stove.  The bear witch sat at the kitchen table and cackled, "Well, dearie, looks like you've got yourself well and truly caught.  You are my slave now."  She cackled again.  "Your brother will make a very fine meal, and you, sweet little cub, will help me fatten him up." 

It was the worst of times.  Gretel toiled in the kitchen, helping the witch create rich, gooey cakes which were meant to be fed to Hansel to fatten him up for the Sunday roast.  But Hansel, in one of his more clever moments (and they were far and few between) got the idea of what was meant to happen to him.  So he took that bone in his cage, and whenever the witch wanted to see how he was fattening up, he put out the finger bone.  The witch was getting a bit frustrated, because it seemed that however much that bear ate, he didn't gain an ounce. 

Gretel, in the meantime, was putting on the pounds, and often felt her fur was going to burst.  But, being a brave cub, kept a stiff upper muzzle and carried on. 

At last, after a couple of months of what seemed to be a non-fat Hansel, the bear witch had enough.  She said: "Enough already!  Girl, stoke the stove.  Today is the day I feast on your brother!" 

Obediently, Gretel waddled over to the coal bucket and poured a good shovelful into the burner on the stove.  She could feel the stove get hotter and hotter.  And then she had an idea. 

"Excuse me, ma'am," she asked the bear witch, "but could you please check the oven to see if it's hot enough?  I'm not sure myself." 

"Huh, useless cub," snarled the old witch. She walked over to the stove and opened the oven door and stuck her head in.  "Seems like it's just about right..."

And as soon as she had her head in the oven, Gretel gave a mighty shove and pushed the old witch bear fully into the oven and slammed the door.  "Happy roasting, dear," Gretel said evilly.  She then found the key to the cage and let Hansel out. 

"Gee, thanks, Gretel.  That was good thinking," sighed Hansel with a huge sigh of relief.  "Maybe we should get out of here in case that old witch has any relatives close by."

"Good idea, brother.  But first, let's see if the old hag had anything of value we could take home," suggested Gretel. 

So they both searched the house, and discovered a trunk in the closet that was full of gold, jewels and loot from previous hapless victims.  "Wahooo!  We're rich!" Hansel shouted happily. 

"Yeah, maybe our parents won't try to get rid of us again once we give them some of this treasure," Gretel said. 

Hansel got a glint in his eye and said, "You know, I understand our parents are very poor and that's probably why they wanted to get rid of us.  But, hey, let's just go back and give Dad some of the gold and then head out somewhere neat."

Gretel thought.  "Hmmm.  That would work.  Let's do it.  Where would you like to go, brother mine?" 

"How about Yellowstone?  It's bear friendly and heaps to eat, to say nothing of no witches or anything." 

So they did just that.  They found their way home, left a large sack of gold by the old, run down cave, and walked to Yellowstone, where they met some really nice bears who adopted them, and they lived happily ever after.