In a certain kingdom lived a man with his two children and his new wife. Not long had they been wed when he fell ill with a fever that none knew how to cure. His wife approached her two step-children and explained that out in the woods lived an old crone who was wise to the herbs of the forest and would find what was needed to cure their father. She told them they were not to return until they could make their father well again, hoping this would cause them to never return. Timid and feeling the weight of responsibility, the two children packed a single meal, which is all they were offered, and began their trek into the woods.
It wasn't long before the children grew hungry and sat for their meal. Some time after, be it long or short, their stomaches growled once more, but they had no more to eat and home was very far away and they were lost. The children became fearful that they would never return home nor would they find this helpful old crone. Suddenly the little boy perked as a smell drifted on the breeze: a delicious smell that made him take his sister by the hand and begin tracking down where the aroma came from.
Before long they found a small clearing in the woods that was surrounded by a crooked and pointy fence decorated in bones. Beyond the fence sat a crooked hut. Within that hut came the most delightful smell that they could hardly imagine its origin in the dusty old hut. They carefully approached the hut and knocked on the door.
Out stepped a crooked old woman with long spindly legs and a nose that sat like a beak upon her face. When she smiled to them, they saw rows of crooked sharp teeth that made them want to run away, but they remembered that there was crone in the forest, and it was possible this was she.
“Old crone, our father was struck ill with a fever and our step-mother sent us here in hopes you could help us find a medicine to return home with,” said the girl.
“And we would love some of whatever that delicious smell is!” the brother added.
The crone sat back on her heels for a moment and glanced over towards the stove where her meal sat bubbling. “I will go out and get you this herb, but you must keep the mice away from my supper or I will have to eat you for dinner instead.” The children came inside as the old crone left the hut in search of what the children needed.
Being left alone in the house, the children stared at the delightful stew bubbling away on the stove. The mice, having heard the crone leave, leapt out of their holes to run towards the stove.
“One taste will not ruin the pot.”
Both children dipped in their spoons and tasted the crone's supper. It's taste was so fulfilling, that when they saw all the mice, they couldn't keep such a delicious meal just to themselves.
“One taste for each them will not ruin the pot.”
Once again the children dipped in their spoons and offered each of the mice a taste of stew. When the mice had their taste, the children looked back at the pot and knew they needed more. It wasn't long, between children and mice, that the stew pot became empty.
“We have ruined the stew! The crone will eat us for sure! And we are so lost we can't even run home!”
A mouse looked at the children and said, “We thank you for feeding us. There is a loaf of bread in the oven. Crumble it up and sprinkle it on the wind. We will help you find your way home. But we are unable to help you with the crone. You must do that on your own.”
The loaf of bread was freed from the oven and sprinkled on the wind and then the children sat and thought of what they could do when the crone returned home.
When the crone opened the door and saw her stew pot empty, she pulled out a large roasting pan.
“I see you were unable to keep my supper safe, and so now I must cook you both.” She instructed the children to lay in the pan so she may close the lid and shove them into the oven.
The children, being both scared but smart as well, laid within the roasting pan with one leg up so it touched the ceiling and they put the other on the floor.
“Not that way, not that way!”
“How, then? You must show us!”
The old crone lay down in the roasting pan and together the children slammed down the lid and shoved her within the stove. Grabbing the herbs they needed, the two ran outside and immediately saw the breadcrumb trail the mice had left for them and ran to follow it. They turned around only once to make certain the crone was not following and saw an astonishing sight: the hut raised up on two chicken legs and began to follow them. The hut, though, was too large to navigate through the forest and quickly fell behind.
When the children arrived home, the step-mother seemed surprised, having been certain she had gotten rid of them for good. The children gave the herbs to their father who was so angry at the step mother that he tossed her in a river and they all began to live happily together.