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Hans and Hilda


Once upon a time there was an old miller who had two children who were twins. The boy-twin was named Hans, and he was very greedy. The girl-twin was named Hilda, and she was very lazy. Hans and Hilda had no mother, because she died whilst giving birth to their third sibling, named Engel, who had been sent away to live wtih the gypsies. Hans and Hilda were never allowed out of the mill, even when the miller went away to the market.

One day, Hans was especially greedy and Hilda was especially lazy, and the old miller wept with anger as he locked them in the cellar, to teach them to be good.

"Let us try to escape and live with the gypsies," said Hans, and Hilda agreed.

While they were looking for a way out, a Big Brown Rat came out from behind the log pile.

"I will help you escape and show you the way to the gypsies' campl," said the Big Brown Rat, "if you bring me all your father's grain."

So Hans and Hilda waited until their father let them out, and the next day, when the miller went to the market and left the children locked inside the mill, they carried all the grain down to the cellar. The Big Brown Rat gobbled up the grain until there was none left, and then went to sleep behind the log pile.

When the miller came home and found out, he declared that he was ruined and that they would all starve to death, and he locked the children in the cellar, and wept with fear as he turned the key.

The Big Brown Rat was waiting.

"I will only help the boy-child to escape and show him the way to the gypsies' camp," said the Big Brown Rat, "because the girl-child must stay behind and be my wife. Come back once you've organized the wedding."

"Once I've escaped, I find our brother Engel and lead him back to rescue you," whispered Hans to Hilda. So Hans and Hilda waited until their father let them out.

The next day, when the miller was out bartering for new grain, they made a trail of bread crumbs all round the mill and into the cellar, to show the wedding guests where to go. They took the most important pages out of the hymnal, so that the priest would have the right words to say. Then they stole the miller's best Sunday jacket, and took in the shoulders so that it would fit Hans, and they stole their mother's wedding dress and took up the hem so that it would fit Hilda. Then she put it on and she looked lovely, but when the miller returned from the market and saw them dressed up in the wedding clothes, he wept with shame as he beat them, and threw them both into the cellar once more.

The wedding guests were already assembled. There were mice and voles and stoats in the congregation. The choir was made up of crows, who were already singing. The registrar was a big fat spider, with spectacles on. And the priest was a long, grey weasel, who was busy rehearsing the right words from the hymnal.

Hans walked Hilda down the aisle, and the Big Brown Rat was waiting.

The weasel said, "Do you accept this offered paw in binding and inescapable holy matrimony, Hilda Girl-Child?"

Hilda looked at Hans, who nodded as if to remind her that he would rescue her.

"I do," said Hilda.

The weasel said, "Do you take this innocent young hand for your very own, Engel Monstrous Rat-Baby?"

"I do," said the Big Brown Rat before anyone could interrupt.

"Then I now pronounce you man and wife," squeaked the weasel as quick as he could, and in a flash all of the wedding party scattered, and Hans and Hilda were left alone with the Big Brown Rat.

"I don't understand," said Hans.

The Big Brown Rat pushed Hans through a secret tunnel that led down to the river bank, and Hans escaped and ran off and became a beggar boy. Of course, he never found his brother Engel, and never rescued Hilda. The old miller finally hung himself, but nobody minded, and Hilda died whilst giving birth to a beautiful litter of thirteen baby rats who grew fat on the miller's grain and lived happily ever after.

--
Excerpt from the game "Bon-Bon"

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