Once upon a time, a woodcutter and his wife lived by a pond with their two small vegan children, Hansel and Gretel. Late one night, the parents stayed up talking.
“I know you’re probably fond of our children,” the mother said, “but if they ask what’s in my cooking one more time, I’ll sew their mouths shut.”
The children listened through the thin walls. Gretel whispered, “It’s okay. Father will protect us.”
The woodcutter replied, “Tell me about it. This afternoon, I gave Gretel a goose to pluck and she threw up on my new boots.”
“I say,” he continued, “that we leave Handful and Regrettable in the woods with some bread and let nature take its course.”
Hansel whispered, “Don’t worry. I have a great idea.”
“Yes, the bread is vegan,” the mother said the next morning. “You saw me make it. Now get going.”
Hansel and Gretel followed their father deep into the woods. At last, the woodcutter stopped and told them to close their eyes and count how many times they’d said the word “speciesist” that morning. By the time they had finished, their father was gone and the sun was setting.
“Hansel, I’m so hungry. Where is our bread?”
Just then, a plump blue duck waddled up behind them with breadcrumbs dangling from his bill.
“Was that your great idea? To feed all our bread to a duck? What if you made him dependent on humans for food?”
After listening to them argue for a few minutes, the duck sighed and waddled away.
After three days of wandering, the hungry children came upon a gingerbread house mortared with frosting. Hansel rushed over to take a bite.
“Stop, Hansel! You can’t just eat a stranger’s house! It could contain animal products!”
The children looked round and round the house, even climbing up on the roof, searching for an ingredients list.
A sugar-glass window opened and a wizened old witch’s face appeared.
“Who’s that nibbling on my—hey, why aren’t you eating my house?”
“Is it vegan?” Hansel and Gretel asked.
The witch scratched at her chin with a razor-sharp fingernail. “That’s no chicken, right?”
“Nothing from an animal,” they replied.
The old witch rolled her eyes and mumbled something rude. “Just come inside. I’ve got some nice… carrots for you.”
Once inside, Hansel asked, “Are the carrots organic?”
The old witch turned on him and said, “There are no carrots here—only death! My empty belly has long awaited a fresh child. Prepare to be devoured!”
Hansel’s knees quivered, but Gretel looked over the butterscotch backsplash, biscotti wainscoting, and marzipan crown molding and got an idea.
“If you like to eat kids, I know how you could never go hungry again,” Gretel said.
The old sorceress cocked her head.
“I’ll tell you how in exchange for gold and our freedom. Just imagine: You could open your own child-meat deli.”
The witch’s hunger for the children was immense, but was eclipsed by her desire to start her own business.
“Very well,” she said. “How?”
“Simple: Use your talents to create food for yourself instead of for traps.”
Meat from magic instead of dead children? thought the witch. That’s gross.
“Splendid idea. Fetch my dinner and we’ll eat before you go,” the witch said in her sweetest voice. “I’ve got a nice faux-child lentil loaf in the oven.”
“Mmmm, lentils!” Hansel and Gretel said. They pulled on oven mitts and reached into the cavernous iron contraption.
“Hansel, look out!” cried Gretel. “The oven mitts are wool!” Hansel and Gretel lurched back to take them off just as their host dove forward to push the children in. The witch tumbled into the stove and the door slammed behind her.
“Our business partner!” cried Gretel.
Hansel and Gretel desperately pulled at knobs and levers to save the witch, but only succeeded in turning the heat up to full blast.
When the screaming was over, Hansel asked, “Do you think the lentil loaf is still good?”
Finding the house empty of carrots, the children gathered their share of the witch’s gold and set off. Soon, they came to a river.
“Ready to go yet?” asked the large blue duck. “I can carry you across the water and then guide you home.”
“Why didn’t you say so before?” asked Hansel.
“How could I with you two bickering?”
“Thank you, kind duck,” said Gretel, “but it wouldn’t be vegan to ride you or have you take us somewhere.”
“But it was my idea.”
“Imbalanced power dynamics and the nature of domestication make it problematic to conclude that any service provided by an animal to a human is non-exploitative,” said the seven-year-old girl.
“But I’m a magical talking blue duck.”
Gretel considered this and conceded.
When they were nearly home, the duck was lured off and killed by a cannibalistic duck witch with a house made of focaccia.
“I told you you shouldn’t have given that duck any bread,” said Gretel.
Upon arriving home, they found a notice stating that their parents had been executed for continuing to claim Hansel and Gretel as dependents after they were presumed dead.
And so, the children lived happily and veganly ever after.