The Old Woman and the Children

There was a workman who was married and had three sons and was very poor. He had had these sons by his first wife, and for this reason their stepmother didn’t like the boys. One day the eldest boy heard his stepmother talking to his father and she said:

 “We’re very poor and we can’t support 3 boys who only eat and do no work.”

 “And what are se supposed to do about it?” her husband asked her.

 “Take them to some woods and leave them there.”

The poor man, afraid to see his wife angry, gave each of the little ones a portion of lupins, and took them to some woods.

 “Wait here, I’ll come straight back,” he told his sons.

The boys waited for their father till night fell, nd when it became dark the two oldest of them began to cry. he youngest said:

 “We won’t get anywhere by crying. Let’s climb that tree so we don’t get eaten by wild beasts, and tomorrow we’ll go home again.”

And that’s what happened. The next day the youngest brother, guided by the lupin shells which he had dropped the day before, found the way back to his father’s house.

As soon as their stepmother saw them she began to scold her husband, and to please his wife he took them to another place even farther away, telling them to wait there for him. The boys waited in vain. There were no trees there for them to climb into to escape the wild beasts, and so they began walking.

They saw a little light in the distance. They approached the light and found it was a cabin, from inside which came the delicious smell of fritters. The eldest boy climbed onto the roof of the cabin and saw an old woman making fritters. He came down again and went with his brothers to look for rock roses. When they’d collected a good number he climbed onto the cabin taking with him some rock rose stems with their ends sharpened. The old woman was taking the fritters out of the frying-pan and putting them on a plate. The boys speared the fritters and pulled them up. The old woman thought that her cat was eating the fritters, and gave it a smack. The cat howled horribly and, because it couldn’t get at the fritters it sank its paws into the dough. And the old woman snapped at it:

“Psst, you naughty pussy, don’t touch the fritters. They’re not for you, they’re for me. You’ve left me none.”

The cat continued to miaow and the boys on top of the roof continued to steal the fritters. This went on so many times, with the boys stealing the fritters and the cat getting the blame, that the boys began to laugh. Then the old woman looked up at the roof and caught sight of the boys and said:

 “Ah, my little boys! Come on down now, because the night is cold and I’ll give you some fritters.”

The little ones came down and the old woman opened the door for them. One glance in her eyes told the youngest brother that she was a very wicked old woman.

They ate the fritters that the old woman offered them, and then she said:

 “Now, boys, I want you to be nice and warm, so get into this box.”

And she put the children inside a big chest, which she locked with a key.

The youngest brother found a lizard’s tail inside the chest and held on to it. The next day the old woman said:

 “I’d like to know if my little boys are fat enough and I want them to show me a little finger through the crack in the chest.”

Instead of showing her a finger, the youngest boy pushed out the lizard’s tail,

and then passed it on to who his brothers, who did the same thing. The old woman exclaimed:

 “Oh, how thin you are!”

These exhibitions of the finger continued for many days until one day a mouse stole the lizard’s tail from them. Then they had to show their own fingers.

 “You can come out now, you’re nice and fat,” said the old woman opening the chest.

The children emerged and on the orders of the old woman they went to find firewood to heat her oven, on the pretext of baking some bread. The children met a man who told them:

 “Take care now. The wood is to heat the oven so the old woman can roast you in it.

She eats people. When she tells you to sit on her baker’s shovel, tell her that you don’t know how to sit on it and for her to show you how to do it first. Then push her into the oven, calling on St. Anthony to help you.”

The three children picked up the firewood and took it to the old woman’s house.

When she had heated the oven, she said:

“Sit down here on my shovel to test whether the oven is ready to bake bread yet.”

 “We don’t understand, old lady, how is it that you want us to sit? You show us first how to do it.”

The old woman sat down on the shovel and the little boys threw her into the oven, saying:

 “Come to our aid, St. Anthony.”

The old woman began to shout at them from inside the oven, but she was burned to death.  Then they went to see what she had in her house and found many boxes of gold coins which she had stolen from passers-by. They gathered up all the money and bought many properties.

One day they went to visit their father, who had become a widower for a second time, and was living in great poverty. They took him to their house and they were all very happy.


Oliveira 1905 II, 239-242, #297, A Velha e as Crianças [The Old Woman and the Children]. Algarve, S. Brás de Alportel. [1905].

Type AhTh 327A Hansel and Gretel

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