Grimm’s Grimmest – The Girl Without Hands
One day he was approached by an old man when he had traveled into the forest to fetch wood.
The old man promised that he would make the miller rich if he was promised whatever is standing behind the mill.
Believing that only the apple tree was behind the mill, the miller made the deal. The old man said he would return in three years to retrieve what belonged to him, leaving the miller.
When the miller arrived home, he found empty chests and boxes filled with gold and riches. But the miller could not remain happy about his wealth and riches because his wife told him that the old man was the devil and that he had been promised their daughter.
The miller’s daughter was a beautiful and pious girl, and she lived three years without sin and worshipping God. When the time was up, she washed herself clean. The devil arrived early that morning, but he could not approach her.
He spoke angrily to the miller, “Keep water away from her, so she cannot wash herself any more. Otherwise I have no power over her.” The miller was frightened and did what he was told. But she had wept into her hands and they were entirely clean when the devil arrived the next morning.
He could not approach her, and he spoke angrily to the miller, demanding that he chop off her hands to gain power over her. The miller was horrified by the devil’s request, but the devil demanded he chop off her hands or the miller will take her place.
The miller obeyed and the daughter understood, offering her hands to her father to chop them off. The devil came a third time, but she had wept so long and so much on the stumps that they were entirely clean. Then he had to give up, for he had lost all claim to her.
The miller’s daughter could not stay even though her father offered to take care of her, living in splendor for the rest of her life. She traveled from home, her arms tied to her back, setting forth at sunrise.
She came to a royal garden, seeing trees full of beautiful fruit but she could get inside because of the surrounding water. She kneeled and prayed, crying out to God. Suddenly an angel appeared, drying the moat so that she could walk through.
She entered the garden, and the angel went with her. She stepped up to a fruit tree with beautiful pears, eating a single pear from it with her mouth to satisfy her hunger and no more. The gardener saw it, but the angel frightened him and he believed that the girl was a spirit.
The king who owned the garden came the next morning, counting the fruit and noticing the missing pear. He asked the gardener what had happened. The gardener told the king about the angel and the spirit, hearing this the king decided to stay with the gardener to keep watch that night.
After it was dark, the king entered the garden with a priest, who was meant to communicate with the spirit. All three sat down and kept watch. At midnight, the girl crept out of the brush, stepped up to the tree, and ate off a pear with her mouth.
The priest spoke to her, and she admitted that she was merely a human. The king took her home with him to his royal castle, had silver hands made for her, and took her as his wife.
After a year, the king had to journey to the battlefield, leaving the young queen in the care of his mother. She gave birth to a beautiful son, and the old mother quickly wrote this in a letter, giving the joyful new to the king.
However, the messenger stopped on his journey and the devil came to him. He still wanted to harm the pious queen who was once the pious daughter of the miller, forging the letter and replacing it with a message that said the child was deformed.
When the king read the message, he was frightened and saddened, but he wrote to tell his mother to take good care of his queen until he returned. But the messenger stopped, falling asleep and weary, and the devil replaced that message with another that stated the queen and the child should be killed.
The old mother was terrified by the letter, but every time she wrote to confirm the king’s wishes, the devil interfered. The devil went so far as to ask for the tongue and the eyes of the queen for proof of her death.
She killed a doe instead, cutting the eyes and tongue out for proof. The old mother told the queen about her correspondence with the king, sending her out into the world so that she and her child could survive.
The queen left with weeping eyes, coming to a forest and praying to God. An angel appeared, leading her to a house where anyone can live for free. A snow-white virgin came from the house, welcoming the queen to her home.
She stayed in this house for seven years and by the grace of God her hands grew back.
The king finally came back home from the battlefield, wanting nothing more than to see his wife and child. His mother confronted him about the demands, showing him the proof of the eyes and the tongue.
Grief stricken, the king wept and upon seeing his tears, the old mother told him the truth about his wife and child surviving. Then the king traveled for nearly seven years, searching far and wide for his wife.
Finally he came to the forest, finding the house where anyone can live free. The king was reunited with his wife and child, living happily until their blessed end.
The Girl Without Hands is a much softer tale among those in the pages of Grimm fairy tales, even though it does have the mutilation of a young girl’s hands and the devil. Goodness is rewarded and wickedness is punished within the pages of Grimm fairy tales.