If you are looking for a little escapism right now, I have the perfect genre for you: A Fairytale. Reading a Fairytale will take you to a land of fantastical characters, historical folk tales, magical witches and princesses. Niamh’s ‘Gretel: A Fairytale Retold’ is a thrilling adaptation of the classic (you guessed it) Hansel and Gretel story.
A contemporary retelling of a Fairytale will bring you all the nostalgia and comforts of reading a classic but with added twists and surprises to keep you gripped on each turn of the page. In this adult Fairytale retelling you will find Lesbian romance, adventure, action and strong female lead characters.
When a pack of blood-thirsty wolves bring fear to Hans and his sister Gretel, they run to escape to find themselves meeting a beautiful woman who greets them with kindness. While Gretel finds herself drawn to the seductress, Hans becomes increasingly suspicious. Gretel now has to make the choice between her trustworthy brother and the lure of a newfound love.
Gretel is a fast-paced, short read consisting of six-chapters of Sapphic romance and exciting adventures.Hansel and Gretel but with Lesbian romance and strong female lead characters. Meet 'Gretel: A Fairytale Retold' by @authorniamh Click To Tweet
Gretel caught only glimpses of them.
Taut, spectral bodies, dark shadows, darting in and out of the trees all around them, surrounding them, but even as they closed in, she continued to run.
The ground was frozen hard and each footfall reverberated through her body. Pain seared through her arm and shoulder as Hans pulled her along, twisting this way and that as he navigated between the bare, black trees.
Her body was cold to the bone and her limbs were numb with fatigue and hunger. She was struggling to keep moving, struggling to force her muscles to do what she needed. Hans held her tightly, she knew he’d never let go, never abandon her in the woods, but her speed was nothing compared to his. The only thing that kept her going was the fear of those teeth, those eyes, those demon-like howls, just an arm’s reach away.
Suddenly she fell.
Her foot caught on a fallen branch and her body was yanked from beneath her. She let out a scream as she tumbled to the earth.
“Gretel!” Hans turned to pull her up, as a shadow, a shadow with teeth and claws, leapt from the trees.
Hans howled with pain as the wolf tore into his leg. Gretel screamed: she could do nothing but watch. He kicked the beast away, but it turned to pounce again, the rest of its pack ready to follow and make the kill.
But there was a sudden, heavy thud. The wolf yelped and twisted its body as it fell to the ground, an axe buried deep in its neck.
Gretel stared at it. The rest of the wolf pack looked to the woods, backing away. They were wary, but still eager to claim their prize.
Gretel turned, searching the dark, dense forest for the axe thrower. She gasped when she saw, just a few paces away, a woman.
She was tall, imposing, draped in furs, with dark hair and darker eyes. She was a wild woman, staring down at the wolves as if she were their queen.
Gretel had never seen anyone like her, except in nightmares, dreams brought about by horrid tales of the beasts lurking in the woods: banshees, witches, fey. All the dark creatures that lurked in the forest, the creatures that were known to steal people away, to imprison them, enslave them, or worse.
In that instant, Gretel didn’t know which to be more fearful of, the wolves or the woman.
Suddenly the woman snarled and made to run at the wolves, ending the stand-off as the pack turned and disappeared into the forest. Gretel felt the urge to run with them.
But as soon as the wolves were out of sight, the woman’s manner changed. Her face softened, she turned to look at Gretel and offered a gentle smile, a smile that Gretel couldn’t help but return.
“They won’t be back here tonight,” she said. Her voice was rich and kind, but her words were firm. “You shouldn’t have run,” she continued. “They will only chase if you run.”
“What would you have had us do?” snarled Hans.
Gretel had almost forgotten he was there, crouched on the frosted ground, clutching his leg as blood oozed from the fresh wound.
“Stand still while they tore the flesh from our bones?”
“How bad is it?” the woman asked, ignoring his slight.
“It will heal,” he replied, although it was through gritted teeth and Gretel knew he was in need of help. She reached forward to take a look, but he threw her off. “Don’t fuss!” he hissed.
“Can you walk?” the woman asked.
“I can manage.” As if to prove his point he attempted to stand, but his pale face betrayed his pain.
“Where are you heading?”
Hans and Gretel looked at each other. They weren’t heading anywhere. They had no destination in mind. They just needed to find a place with food, and perhaps some warmth.
It had been two days since their last meal, and that had been little more than a handful of grain between them. They were half-starved and Gretel knew it wouldn’t be long before neither of them could walk another step and there would be nothing they could do to stop the wolves tearing out their throats.
They had suffered through bad winters before, but never one this hard and this long. It seemed as if the spring would never return.
They had grown up in a village much further north. It had never been easy there. They’d had good harvests and bad, cold winters and long, warm summers. They had always managed to harvest enough to get through and any surplus they had would be stored, in case of a long winter.
Then, three years ago, they’d had a bad harvest. The winter had been hard, but they had managed. Then the following harvest had been bad again. They’d lost a lot of livestock in the winter, many of the old or weaker villagers simply didn’t make it through, and people said it was the hardest winter in living memory.
But then the next harvest was even worse. There were simply no reserves: many of the villagers were still starving from the winter, even the wealthiest farmers were losing animals, and it came to a time when there just wasn’t enough to go around. It was then that Hans and Gretel were forced to leave the village, and the people they had known all their lives, in the hope that there would be work and food in the south.
Many people had thought the same thing: entire villages lay abandoned and they were forced to travel further south than they had ever even heard of. At each farmstead they crossed they were greeted with the same story: no food and no work. When they did manage to find work for a day or so, it was gruelling, back-breaking labour, only serving to make them hungrier, and as Gretel received just half the pay that Hans did, it felt as though they were travelling ever closer to starvation.
They had taken to the woods in the hope of winter foraging and poaching, but had been there two days without luck. The trees were bare and silent. There were no birds or any other animals they could eat, the rivers hardly ran, just a trickle of water and empty of fish. They had counted themselves lucky for having avoided bandits but then a single piercing howl had told them why. With the last ounce of their strength they had run for their lives and now it seemed they could go no further.
“Is there a village nearby?” Hans asked.
“Seven miles or so west,” the woman replied.
At the thought of walking another step Gretel felt ill. She was so weak and tired that she wanted to sleep amongst the leaves and broken branches where she had fallen, and never wake again. She knew Hans would never make it far either, not with his wound, oozing fresh blood as they spoke.
“Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?” the woman asked.
“No,” Gretel said quickly.
She knew Hans would lie and she wasn’t willing to walk any further without rest. The thought of spending another night in the woods made her want to cry with exhaustion and misery. If this woman was aware of even a cowshed or a hovel where they could stay, then she was willing to take it.
The woman looked at them long and hard, her jaw set firm. Gretel felt she was weighing them up, considering whether or not she should trust these strangers, whether she should help them and risk them taking everything she had, or if she should leave them to certain death in the forest.
The woman looked like someone who would not be made a fool of, she was not to be trifled with, her features were strong, her eyes narrowed into a frown. Yet Gretel felt sure that there was a kindness in her manner. She desperately hoped the woman would see beyond their vagrancy and offer them the help that they so urgently needed. Gretel willed her, with all her might, to offer help, to tell them where they could stay, somewhere safe, somewhere Hans could heal and they wouldn’t fall prey to the wolves.
“You can come with me,” she said finally.
Gretel’s heart leapt. She hoped she would be led somewhere warm and safe, where she could sleep soundly, just for one night. She also hoped, dearly hoped, there would be food.
“No,” said Hans, suddenly. “You have done enough. We can ask no more of you.”
Gretel was aghast, betrayed by his pride. “Hans!” she said. “We have no choice!”
He looked at her angrily. “We can ask for no more,” he hissed through clenched teeth, both anger and pain making him more fearsome than usual.
“And what would you have us do? Wait for the wolves? At least they won’t go hungry.”
“We will go to the village, it is but seven miles and we have walked further than that today already.”
“No,” Gretel said, more pleading than angry. “I can go no further, I need rest, please, Hans.”
“You will come with me to the village,” he said firmly.
“You won’t make it, Hans! You can barely stand, let alone run if we are attacked again.”
“Then we will get to the village on the morrow.”
“We will die if we stay in the woods again. Let us at least take this woman’s kind offer, just for one night.”
Hans looked from Gretel to the woman. He tried to stand again but as he leaned hard against a tree and tried stretching his calf, he winced in pain and fresh blood seeped out. He shook his head angrily and looked away from them both.
“One night,” he said, and Gretel knew that decision went against every ounce of his being.
“Thank you,” she said, relieved. If he’d insisted, she would never have been able to leave his side, even if it meant risking the forest at night again.
Gretel turned to the woman who had been silently watching the two of them, waiting patiently for them to decide if they would take her up on her generosity. As Gretel looked at her dark, watchful eyes, she felt an equal trace of fear and excitement. Something about this woman, this strange woman of the forest, made her heart beat faster and the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She was pleased to have the chance to learn more of her, even if for only a few hours, but she thought she ought to be cautious.
“Can you show us a place to rest?” she asked, trying to suppress the desire for blankets and broth, knowing well that she might be offered nothing but the corner of a barn.
The woman nodded and walked over to the corpse of the wolf, still lying on the ground. She pulled the axe from its neck and looked to Gretel. “You carry your husband, and I’ll carry the wolf,” she said.
“He’s not my husband,” Gretel said quickly.
“I’m her brother,” Hans corrected.
“Either way, I’ll carry the wolf.”
If you have already read Gretel or are looking for similar reads, make sure to keep watch of the Blog for the rest of November. We will be sharing more Book lists and recommendations of Fairytales with WLW representation and beautiful Sapphic storylines.
If you enjoyed this, you will love our list of 10 SCARILY good Lesbian Halloween reads to get you feeling spooky.