"‘What is to become of us? How can we feed our children when we have nothing for ourselves?’ says the poor woodcutter to his wife.”
In Grimm’s version of the tale, it is not absolutely clear that the wife is not also the mother of these children. In the first edition of 1812, she is called “mother.” In the final edition of 1857, either “mother” or “stepmother.” In both, she is more often referred to simply as “the woman,” arbiter of life and death, no less so than the witch in the house made of food. (In what follows, I will be quoting from the 1857 edition.)
"‘Man, do you know what?’ answered the woman. ‘Early tomorrow morning we will take the two children out into the thickest part of the woods, make a fire for them, and give each of them a little piece of bread, then leave them by themselves and go off to our work. They will not find their way back home, and we will be rid of them.’"
"‘No, woman,’ said the man. ‘I will not do that. How could I bring myself to abandon my own children alone in the woods? Wild animals would soon come and tear them to pieces.’"
"‘Oh, you fool,’ she said, ‘then all four of us will starve. All you can do is to plane the boards for our coffins.’ And she gave him no peace until he agreed.”