Once upon a time, there were twins– a brother and a sister– named Apple and Pretzel.
Apple and Pretzel had remarkably unusual names because their mother named them after the snacks she craved most when she was pregnant with the children.
The names proved to suit the children well as Apple’s favorite fruit was apples and Pretzel was unusually flexible and really liked salt (the two characteristics are unrelated, but whatever).
When the children were nine years old, a famine swept through their land and, ironically, their names were the only mentions of food heard in the village. For this reason, Apple and Pretzel’s mother decided it would be best if they went into the woods to get away from the hangry villagers for awhile. She sent them with their last loaf of bread, a canteen of water, and instructed them:
“Apple, you are in charge, so make sure to lead the way. Find shelter for yourself and your sister. Come back only when you’ve finished your loaf of bread. Speak to no one. And Pretzel, dear? Don’t eat too much salt. You know what it does to your blood pressure.”
Pretzel was only nine. She didn’t know what the heck a blood pressure was. But she wasn’t about to argue with her mother during this solemn moment.
The three hugged and the children left.
Apple decided that it would be best if he left a trail of breadcrumbs so the two could find their way home.
Pretzel decided that, if her brother was going to waste food during this time of famine, she was just going to eat the crumbs while he wasn’t looking.
Good thinking, Pretzel.
The two alternated rationing their loaf of bread and leaving and eating crumbs.
After nearly a week away from home, Apple exclaimed,
“We are out of bread! Let’s follow the trail back home and get some more!”
However, Apple could not find where the trail had been left. He became furious. He had forgotten that deer and squirrels and chipmunks would definitely eat breadcrumbs with no consideration for the children’s well-being.
Pretzel replied, “Drat. Apple, we should have foreseen that deer and squirrels and chipmunks eat breadcrumbs!”
“Well, what are we going to do now, Pretzel, huh? We are going to die or get eaten alive by an angry wolf disguised as someone’s grandma for sure!” Apple yelled.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Apple,” Pretzel answered calmly, “That stuff only happens in fairy tales. Let’s go to that witch’s cabin over there! It looks like it’s made of candy!”
And so it was.
Pretzel knew it was the witch’s cabin because it had a sign above the door that said,
How the children hadn’t managed to see this cabin prior to Apple’s outburst is beyond me. Stress does crazy things I guess.
Apple and Pretzel forgot the second rule their mother told them– not to talk to anyone in the woods. But these were desperate times!
Pretzel attempted to knock on the witch’s door, but her hand got stuck in the door because it was made entirely of caramel.
No matter– the witch had heard the children approaching and was awaiting their arrival.
“Hello children!” the witch said in her scratchy, shaky witch voice, “Tell me the password and you may enter my house and have all the sweets you’d like!”
Apple shouted, “What’s the password?”
The witch replied,
“What is the name of the substance in which your sister’s hand seems to be stuck?”
“Uh, caramel?” Apple replied.
“WROOOOONG!” the witch squealed in her squealy, crackly, witch voice.
“What?!” Apple yelled. Actually, maybe Apple was the one with the blood pressure problem.
“I know what it is!” Pretzel exclaimed, “Caramel!”
“Don’t be stupid, Pretzel. I just said that,” retorted Apple.
“No– she’s right!” the witch called back.
“HOW?!” screamed Apple, “I said–”
“You said caramel, pronounced CAR-MEL, like a perfect commoner, my boy. But your sister said caramel, pronounced CAR-A-MEL, like an intelligent aristocrat. It’s all about the presentation!” the witch hissed.
She opened the door, melted it down so Pretzel could escape, and invited the children inside. The witch made good on her promise and allowed the children to eat all their hearts desired.
In fact, the children stayed at the witch’s house for weeks and weeks because they had no need to return to the village. You know, except for their mother. But what nine year old thinks that’s a priority?
After several months at the witch’s house, the children began to resemble the foods for which they were named– Apple was rotund and red (and, depending on how much he ate, he sometimes looked green), while Pretzel began to literally sweat salt. It wasn’t good. Moreover, the children hadn’t even noticed that the witch had left forever ago and explicitly told them that, when she returned, her house had better still be intact.
When she returned, the witch said to the children, “My dears! What large bellies you have!”
Then again, it’s not like she was obligated to be nice to them. These kids were eating her out of house and home. Literally.
She continued, “Apple– I left you in charge! This is your fault! And now, I must eat you both myself.”
Everyone always left Apple in charge. Maybe because his name made him sound more responsible? Honestly, he was a terrible kid, so he never did a very good job.
“Ma’am,” Pretzel responded quietly, “We really just want to go home. We miss our mother and our village and bland food.” Pretzel began to cry– which was really just inopportune because she was basically creating a nice brine, meaning that was one less step the witch had to take in the cooking process.
Apple then began to cry.
The children sobbed and sobbed and the witch laughed maniacally in the background.
After a few minutes of this, the witch loaded the children into a wagon and told them,
“Dearies,” (which is only a thing creepy people are allowed to say), “We are going to visit my best friend, Mr. Todd, at the bakery today!”
This was not good. The children had heard of Mr. Todd– the man who was rumored to have baked people into pies during the famine.
Pretzel cried, “MR. QUEASY TODD?!”
“Oh no!” the witch yelled, “Not him. He’s been dead for years. I’m talking about Mr. Isn Todd.”
“Isn Todd? That’s a strange name…” Apple muttered. He should talk.
“Yes, yes,” the witch whispered in her gravelly, snarly voice, “It nearly sounds like ‘Isn’t it odd,’ hm? Like,
ISN’T IT ODD you two were told explicitly not to talk to strangers and you still did?
Or ISN’T IT ODD you were supposed to eat that bread and you wasted it on the trail?
And ISN’T IT ODD I knew you were siblings without ever having met you before?”
The witch was right!
Well, except for the siblings part. They were twins and looked very much alike. Of course they were siblings.
But all the rest was terrifyingly accurate!
Then, the children realized that the witch seemed oddly familiar. She had a voice which was so affected that no person could ever sound so scary naturally. And she had taken care of the children in their time of need. And she had left Apple in charge, even though any other person would’ve left Pretzel in charge…
Then, Apple exclaimed, “Mother! Is that you?!”
The witch took off her cloak and wig to reveal her true identity– it WAS their mother!
“Wow,” Pretzel whispered in awe.
“CALM DOWN,” her mother yelled. “Geeze, Pretzel. It’s like you don’t even care that you have high blood pressure,” she continued, “I did this so that the two of you could see my true identity.”
“Yes,” Apple responded, “We see now that you are our mother. Good prank.”
“No, my son,” mother replied, “My true identity is that of a sweets-obsessed insane witch who lives in the forest. I only took off my cloak and my wig to make you more comfortable. And I only loaded you on this wagon to teach you a lesson about gluttony. But, I sent you into this forest to find me on your own and to test how well you listen to me. Although, in hindsight, if you had listened to me in the first place, you never would’ve found me as I wished you to.”
Plot hole indeed.
Nevertheless, their mother explained to Apple and Pretzel that because they had found the cabin, they could now live there as a family and never have to return to the village. And, because the famine was now ended, they could rebuild the cabin to be better (and more tasty) than ever.
And so, Apple, Pretzel, and their mother lived happily ever after in the forest.
But no one else would have known due to the nasty rumor which spread through the village that a witch had taken the children to Mr. Queasy Todd and had ironically helped him bake the children into Apple and Pretzel pies.
But that’s another story for another time.