Hah and grr a retelling.., p.1
HAH AND GRR
A Retelling of Hansel and Gretel
Copyright 2016 Shelley B Chappell
All Rights Reserved
Table of Contents
Part 1: Abandoned in the Woods
Part 2: The Gingerbread Cottage
Part 3: The Witch
Part 4: Trapped
Part 5: A Happy Ending
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Part 1: Abandoned in the woods
The young man panted like prey as he fought his way through the branches and leaves. He smelled of grief and hatred. The wolf pressed her haunches lower to the ground. Her return from a midnight hunt had been interrupted by his arrival but she knew better than to continue as if he was not there. She knew he might attack her if he saw her. There once was a time when she might have been foolish enough not to avoid such a fight, but men had sharp claws and she had learned from experience that if one was killed then others would come smelling as this one did - of grief and hatred - and then there would be a slaughter of wolves.
As she lay, still and silent, she scented something underlying the man's sweaty reek - something unfamiliar to her nose but that made her think of milk and messes, of spring buds pushing through the dank earth. It was not his own smell and yet - her nostrils widened -somehow it was linked to him.
He passed her by but she waited, unwilling to move until he had gone much farther. He had come deep into the woods, far from the paths men usually walked, far from the smoky dens his kind lived in - not dug into the earth but using the leavings of a good digging. Men lived in hollowed out lumps upon the ground, made tall and impenetrable by the shredded trunks of trees.
She could hear the man stumbling. He tore apart the tangled vines and bashed at tree roots. All the forest was still, holding its breath. When his thrashing stopped, the sudden silence echoed in the wolf's ears. Her ear tips quivered. She listened to a noise like a boar's deep scratching, then the man gasped a few times and abruptly went spinning back past her, running through the path that he had cleared as if he had seen the eyes of a pack of wolves reflecting at him in the dark. But only one wolf's eyes followed him and she knew she was the only wolf in a dozen miles.
As the sound of the man's passage died away, his stench fading with it, a tentative cricket sang, stopped, and then a chorus resumed; frogs harrumphed and an owl fluttered overhead, calling querulously 'Who? Who? Who??'
The wolf stood and shook herself, snuffling at the man's trail. In his absence his scent was weaker, but that peculiar smell remained strong, that smell that reminded her of soft, blind creatures, squirming for milk, of fresh buds in moist earth. She padded through the rank-smelling weeds and rotten leaves the man had torn asunder, her nose and eyes hardly needed to track his broken path. She froze, one paw half-raised, when she heard a peculiar sound. Ears perked forward, twitched, listening. It came again: a bubbling sound, like a gurgling belly, then the smack of flesh against flesh, a gasp of breath as something woke, then mewling - then more mewling.
The sound was tiny in the hugeness of the night, but the wolf's paw lowered to the ground and she stepped warily towards it, bushy head raised, furry body stalking. She crouched, peering between plants, and there, under the low-hanging foliage, she found two babes, wrapped in a single swaddling cloth but front legs free and waving, mouths open in pup's howls. She crept closer, inch by slow inch, nosing her way into the bushes. The smell was stronger this close to its source, altered by the pungent addition of urine and faeces. She was interested in such smells. She stiffened her legs and pushed her face in amongst the leaves.
The cries stopped, as if the thrust of her face had been a shock of cold water, then they rose again, stronger and wilder. Avoiding flailing limbs, the wolf pushed against the white material in which the pups were wrapped, sniffing curiously. One of the pups brushed her fur with its paw and clung. The cries quietened. The wolf licked damp, salty cheeks and the pups huffed back at her, reassured.
The sudden, sharp scent of a fox passing by raised the hackles on the wolf's neck and her head swivelled. Dark eyes met, stared. The wolf stepped over the pups, growling; the fox dropped its gaze and trotted away. When the girl pup reached for the wolf's teat and squeezed, drawing the milk from her body, their fates were decided. The wolf squatted, letting her drink.
It might have gone differently if she had been hungrier. If it had been a lean winter or if she had not just borne pups of her own, the story of the babes abandoned in the wood might have ended here. But it had been a plentiful spring and the wolf had eaten a rabbit already that night. Most of her pack had gone hunting large game; she had gone out to eat something far smaller and left a sister watching her pups. Now she would return with more. She picked up the furless pups by the scruff of their swaddling sheet and carried them back to the den.
And although they would prove helpless for seasons rather than weeks, a pup was a pup and the wolf had made herself their mother. Their first litter-mates were leaving to whelp their own pups by the time these two could be relied upon to walk and run on their own four legs. Then they were considered grown, but that didn't mean they were abandoned. Although they would never lead the hunt and could barely keep pace with the others, a pack took care of its own, and even its weakest members were left the dregs of a meal and the residues of a trail.
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