"The Girl Without Hands" (German: "Das Mädchen ohne Hände"; also published in English as "The Armless Maiden", "The Girl with Silver Hands' and "The Handless Maiden") is a German fairy tale. It is included in Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) the 1812 anthology of German folktales compiled by the Brothers Grimm.
The story's title character and protagonist is unwittingly sold to the Devil by her father. In order to prevent the Devil from taking him instead of his daughter, the young woman's father reluctantly chops off her hands. Although the young woman escapes the Devil's clutches and marries a king, she has to suffer further hardships before she is finally allowed to live happily ever after.
"The Girl Without Hands" as told by the Brothers Grimm has provided a source of inspiration for other writers and has been adapted to other media.
There is a poor miller whose mill has an apple tree behind it. When the miller goes out to gather firewood one day, a stranger approaches him. The stranger tells the miller that he will give him a fortune in exchange for what is standing behind his mill. Thinking that the stranger is referring to the apple tree, the miller happily agrees to the bargain. The stranger says that he will return in three years to claim what the miller has promised him. When the miller returns home, his wife aks him why they have suddenly become rich. The miller tells his wife about the stranger. She says that the stranger must have been the Devil and that he was referring not to the apple tree but to their daughter, who was standing behind the mill and cleaning the yard at the time.
The miller's daughter is pious and God-fearing and remains so for the following three years. On the morning of the day when the Devil is to come for her, the miller's daughter washes herself clean with water. The Devil is then unable to claim her. He tells the miller to keep water away from his daughter. The following day, the Devil returns. He is unable to claim the miller's daughter again because she has washed her hands with her own tears. The Devil tells the miller to cut off his daughter's hands. The miller reluctantly agrees because the Devil will take him away if he does not. The miller's daughter, however, cleans the bloody stumps at the ends of her arms with her own tears. Having tried and failed to claim the miller's daughter three times, the Devil can never try to take her again.
Although the now wealthy miller offers to support her for the rest of her life, the miller's daughter decides that she wants to make her own way in the world. She leaves home. In the evening, she comes to a castle with a moat in front of it. In the castle's garden, the young woman can see a pear tree. An angel appears. The angel stops the flow of the water so that the young woman can cross the moat. Using only her mouth, the young woman eats one of the pear's from the tree. A gardener sees the young woman and the angel. Believing the young woman to be a spirit, the gardener says nothing to her. The following day, the king asks the gardener why one of the pears is missing from the tree. The gardener tells him. That evening, the king, the gardener and a priest wait to see if the "spirit" returns. The priest asks the young woman if she is a spirit. She answers that she is simply a mortal who has been abandoned by the whole world. The king tells the young woman that she can stay with him. The king falls in love with the young woman. He marries her and makes her his queen. He has silver hands made for her.
The king goes off to war and leaves his pregnant queen in the care of his aged mother. The queen gives birth to a son. The king's mother writes to him to tell him the news. The messenger taking the letter to the king stops to sleep. While he is sleeping, the Devil, who still holds a grudge against the queen, exchanges the letter for another one which says that the queen has given birth to a monster. The king writes a reply in which he states that the queen should still be treated kindly. The Devil exchanges that letter for another one which says that the queen and her child should be put to death.
- Versions of "The Girl Without Hands" in German and English on Wikisource.
- Public domain audiobook of "The Girl Without Hands" in English on YouTube.
- "The Girl Without Hands" on Sur la Lune Fairy tales.com.