Everybody knows the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, but you may not be aware that it was originally based on a scarier French story from 1887 called The Lost Children (Les Enfants Egares).
In the popular version of the tale, Hansel and Gretel are two disobedient children who wander off and accidentally get lost in the woods. They find a gingerbread house which they proceed to eat. The wicked witch who owns it traps them and plans to eat them. The children manage to push her into the fire and escape.
In the original version of the tale, Hansel and Gretel are two good children whose parents are mean and stingy. The parents decide that there’s not enough food for four hungry mouths, so they lead the children into the forest and leave them out there to die.
Terrified that they will be eaten by wolves, Hansel and Gretel spot a house in the distance. When they knock on the door, the old woman who lives there takes them in, but warns them that her husband is a cannibal and if he finds them, he will eat them.
When her husband comes home, he finds the children immediately and gives his wife a beating for hiding them. He makes Gretel his slave and locks Hansel up in a pig-sty, telling the boy he is going to fatten him up before he devours him.
After a few days, the man tells his Gretel to cut off her brother’s finger and bring it to him so he can test if the boy is fat enough. She tries to trick him by cutting off a rat’s tail and giving it to him instead, but the man does a double check. When he discovers that the boy is fat enough to eat, he gives Gretel a beating for lying to him.
The man sets up a sawhorse because he is planning to slit Hansel’s neck and let him bleed out. He tells his wife to keep and eye on the children while he is gone. The old woman gets drunk and the children trick her into lying on the sawhorse. They tie her down, slit her throat and then hack off her head. After that, they steal all her money and take off on her horse.
When the husband returns and sees his wife’s severed head lying there, he takes off in pursuit of the children. He eventually catches up with them, but they trick him and he falls off a bridge and drowns.
Hansel and Gretel return home with their ill-gotten gains and forgive their parents for leaving them to die in the forest.