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The Girl Without Hands
Grimm Märchen

The Girl Without Hands - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 17 min

Attention: This is a scary story.

A certain miller had little by little fallen into poverty, and had nothing left but his mill and a large apple-tree behind it. Once when he had gone into the forest to fetch wood, an old man stepped up to him whom he had never seen before, and said, „Why dost thou plague thyself with cutting wood, I will make thee rich, if thou wilt promise me what is standing behind thy mill?“ – „What can that be but my apple-tree?“ thought the miller, and said, „Yes,“ and gave a written promise to the stranger.

The girl without hands Fairy Tale

He, however, laughed mockingly and said, „When three years have passed, I will come and carry away what belongs to me,“ and then he went. When the miller got home, his wife came to meet him and said, „Tell me, miller, from whence comes this sudden wealth into our house? All at once every box and chest was filled. No one brought it in, and I know not how it happened.“ He answered, „It comes from a stranger who met me in the forest, and promised me great treasure.

I, in return, have promised him what stands behind the mill. We can very well give him the big apple-tree for it.“ – „Ah, husband,“ said the terrified wife, „that must have been the devil! He did not mean the apple-tree, but our daughter, who was standing behind the mill sweeping the yard.“ The miller’s daughter was a beautiful, pious girl, and lived through the three years in the fear of God and without sin. When therefore the time was over, and the day came when the Evil-one was to fetch her, she washed herself clean, and made a circle round herself with chalk.

The devil appeared quite early, but he could not come near to her. Angrily, he said to the miller, „Take all water away from her, that she may no longer be able to wash herself, for otherwise I have no power over her.“ The miller was afraid, and did so. The next morning the devil came again, but she had wept on her hands, and they were quite clean. Again he could not get near her, and furiously said to the miller, „Cut her hands off, or else I cannot get the better of her.“ The miller was shocked and answered, „How could I cut off my own child’s hands?“

Then the Evil-one threatened him and said, „If thou dost not do it thou art mine, and I will take thee thyself.“ The father became alarmed, and promised to obey him. So he went to the girl and said, „My child, if I do not cut off both thine hands, the devil will carry me away, and in my terror I have promised to do it. Help me in my need, and forgive me the harm I do thee.“ She replied, „Dear father, do with me what you will, I am your child.“ Thereupon she laid down both her hands, and let them be cut off.

The devil came for the third time, but she had wept so long and so much on the stumps, that after all they were quite clean. Then he had to give in, and had lost all right over her. The miller said to her, „I have by means of thee received such great wealth that I will keep thee most delicately as long as thou livest.“ But she replied, „Here I cannot stay, I will go forth, compassionate people will give me as much as I require.“ Thereupon she caused her maimed arms to be bound to her back, and by sunrise she set out on her way, and walked the whole day until night fell.

Then she came to a royal garden, and by the shimmering of the moon she saw that trees covered with beautiful fruits grew in it, but she could not enter, for there was much water round about it. And as she had walked the whole day and not eaten one mouthful, and hunger tormented her, she thought, „Ah, if I were but inside, that I might eat of the fruit, else must I die of hunger!“ Then she knelt down, called on God the Lord, and prayed. And suddenly an angel came towards her, who made a dam in the water, so that the moat became dry and she could walk through it.

And now she went into the garden and the angel went with her. She saw a tree covered with beautiful pears, but they were all counted. Then she went to them, and to still her hunger, ate one with her mouth from the tree, but no more. The gardener was watching; but as the angel was standing by, he was afraid and thought the maiden was a spirit, and was silent, neither did he dare to cry out, or to speak to the spirit. When she had eaten the pear, she was satisfied, and went and concealed herself among the bushes.

The King to whom the garden belonged, came down to it next morning, and counted, and saw that one of the pears was missing, and asked the gardener what had become of it, as it was not lying beneath the tree, but was gone. Then answered the gardener, „Last night, a spirit came in, who had no hands, and ate off one of the pears with its mouth.“ The King said, „How did the spirit get over the water, and where did it go after it had eaten the pear?“

The gardener answered, „Some one came in a snow-white garment from heaven who made a dam, and kept back the water, that the spirit might walk through the moat. And as it must have been an angel, I was afraid, and asked no questions, and did not cry out. When the spirit had eaten the pear, it went back again.“ The King said, „If it be as thou sayest, I will watch with thee to-night.“ When it grew dark the King came into the garden and brought a priest with him, who was to speak to the spirit. All three seated themselves beneath the tree and watched.

At midnight the maiden came creeping out of the thicket, went to the tree, and again ate one pear off it with her mouth, and beside her stood the angel in white garments. Then the priest went out to them and said, „Comest thou from heaven or from earth? Art thou a spirit, or a human being?“ She replied, „I am no spirit, but an unhappy mortal deserted by all but God.“ The King said, „If thou art forsaken by all the world, yet will I not forsake thee.“ He took her with him into his royal palace, and as she was so beautiful and good, he loved her with all his heart, had silver hands made for her, and took her to wife.

After a year the King had to take the field, so he commended his young Queen to the care of his mother and said, „If she is brought to bed take care of her, nurse her well, and tell me of it at once in a letter.“ Then she gave birth to a fine boy. So the old mother made haste to write and announce the joyful news to him. But the messenger rested by a brook on the way, and as he was fatigued by the great distance, he fell asleep. Then came the Devil, who was always seeking to injure the good Queen, and exchanged the letter for another, in which was written that the Queen had brought a monster into the world.

When the King read the letter he was shocked and much troubled, but he wrote in answer that they were to take great care of the Queen and nurse her well until his arrival. The messenger went back with the letter, but rested at the same place and again fell asleep. Then came the Devil once more, and put a different letter in his pocket, in which it was written that they were to put the Queen and her child to death. The old mother was terribly shocked when she received the letter, and could not believe it.

She wrote back again to the King, but received no other answer, because each time the Devil substituted a false letter, and in the last letter it was also written that she was to preserve the Queen’s tongue and eyes as a token that she had obeyed. But the old mother wept to think such innocent blood was to be shed, and had a hind brought by night and cut out her tongue and eyes, and kept them. Then said she to the Queen, „I cannot have thee killed as the King commands, but here thou mayst stay no longer. Go forth into the wide world with thy child, and never come here again.“ The poor woman tied her child on her back, and went away with eyes full of tears.

The girl without hands Fairy Tale

She came into a great wild forest, and then she fell on her knees and prayed to God, and the angel of the Lord appeared to her and led her to a little house on which was a sign with the words, „Here all dwell free.“ A snow-white maiden came out of the little house and said, ‚Welcome, Lady Queen,“ and conducted her inside. Then they unbound the little boy from her back, and held him to her breast that he might feed, and laid him in a beautifully-made little bed. Then said the poor woman, „From whence knowest thou that I was a queen?“

The white maiden answered, „I am an angel sent by God, to watch over thee and thy child.“ The Queen stayed seven years in the little house, and was well cared for, and by God’s grace, because of her piety, her hands which had been cut off, grew once more. At last the King came home again from the war, and his first wish was to see his wife and the child. Then his aged mother began to weep and said, „Thou wicked man, why didst thou write to me that I was to take those two innocent lives?“ and she showed him the two letters which the Evil-one had forged, and then continued, „I did as thou badest me,“ and she showed the tokens, the tongue and eyes.

Then the King began to weep for his poor wife and his little son so much more bitterly than she was doing, that the aged mother had compassion on him and said, „Be at peace, she still lives. I secretly caused a hind to be killed, and took these tokens from it; but I bound the child to thy wife’s back and bade her go forth into the wide world, and made her promise never to come back here again, because thou wert so angry with her.“ Then spoke the King, „I will go as far as the sky is blue, and will neither eat nor drink until I have found again my dear wife and my child, if in the meantime they have not been killed, or died of hunger.“

Thereupon the King travelled about for seven long years, and sought her in every cleft of the rocks and in every cave, but he found her not, and thought she had died of want. During the whole of this time he neither ate nor drank, but God supported him. At length he came into a great forest, and found therein the little house whose sign was, „Here all dwell free.“ Then forth came the white maiden, took him by the hand, led him in, and said, „Welcome, Lord King,“ and asked him from whence he came.

He answered, „Soon shall I have travelled about for the space of seven years, and I seek my wife and her child, but cannot find them.“ The angel offered him meat and drink, but he did not take anything, and only wished to rest a little. Then he lay down to sleep, and put a handkerchief over his face. Thereupon the angel went into the chamber where the Queen sat with her son, whom she usually called „Sorrowful,“ and said to her, „Go out with thy child, thy husband hath come.“ So she went to the place where he lay, and the handkerchief fell from his face.

Then said she, „Sorrowful, pick up thy father’s handkerchief, and cover his face again.“ The child picked it up, and put it over his face again. The King in his sleep heard what passed, and had pleasure in letting the handkerchief fall once more. But the child grew impatient, and said, „Dear mother, how can I cover my father’s face when I have no father in this world? I have learnt to say the prayer, ‚Our Father, which art in Heaven,‘ thou hast told me that my father was in Heaven, and was the good God, and how can I know a wild man like this?

He is not my father.“ When the King heard that, he got up, and asked who they were. Then said she, „I am thy wife, and that is thy son, Sorrowful.“ And he saw her living hands, and said, „My wife had silver hands.“ She answered, „The good God has caused my natural hands to grow again“, and the angel went into the inner room, and brought the silver hands, and showed them to him. Hereupon he knew for a certainty that it was his dear wife and his dear child, and he kissed them, and was glad, and said, „A heavy stone has fallen from off mine heart.“ Then the angel of God gave them one meal with her, and after that they went home to the King’s aged mother. There were great rejoicings everywhere, and the King and Queen were married again, and lived contentedly to their happy end.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Girl Without Hands“

„The Girl Without Hands“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous book „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales,“ also known as „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). The story was first published in 1812, and the collection went through several editions, with the final version published in 1857. „The Girl Without Hands“ is also known as „KHM 31“ referring to its number in the collection.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German scholars and linguists who aimed to collect and preserve the rich oral tradition of German and European folklore. Their goal was to present an authentic representation of the stories that had been passed down through generations, while also providing moral guidance for children and promoting a sense of national identity.

„The Girl Without Hands“ is a darker and more complex fairy tale that tells the story of a young girl who loses her hands as a result of her father’s deal with the devil. The tale begins with a poor miller who unknowingly makes a pact with the devil, promising him whatever is behind his mill in exchange for wealth. The miller believes he is promising the devil an old apple tree, but it turns out his daughter was standing behind the mill, and she becomes the object of the pact.

The daughter is virtuous and pure, so the devil is unable to take her. In an attempt to fulfill the pact, the devil demands that her father cut off her hands. The girl’s purity and faith in God protect her, and she eventually escapes the devil’s clutches. She marries a king, but the devil continues to meddle in her life. Despite the challenges she faces, the girl remains steadfast in her faith, and she is ultimately rewarded with the restoration of her hands and a happy life with her husband and child.

The story has its roots in European folklore and features themes of faith, purity, perseverance, and the triumph of good over evil. The Brothers Grimm collected their stories from various sources, including friends, acquaintances, and other literary works. It is likely that „The Girl Without Hands“ was derived from multiple sources, combining different oral traditions and existing tales. The story’s dark and dramatic elements, as well as its focus on the power of faith and purity, have made it an enduring and thought-provoking tale in the Brothers Grimm collection.

Like many other Grimm fairy tales, „The Girl Without Hands“ has evolved over time, with various versions featuring different details, characters, and themes. The story’s rich narrative and multiple interpretations have made it a popular subject of analysis in the fields of folklore, literature, and psychology.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Girl Without Hands“

„The Girl Without Hands“ is a complex and darker fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection. The story explores various themes and offers several interpretations:

The power of faith and purity: The girl’s unwavering faith and purity play a significant role in the story. Her virtuous nature protects her from the devil’s evil intentions and enables her to overcome numerous obstacles. The tale emphasizes the power of faith and goodness in triumphing over evil.

Perseverance and resilience: The girl in the story faces numerous challenges, including losing her hands, being separated from her family, and dealing with the devil’s attempts to harm her. Despite these difficulties, she remains steadfast and resilient, ultimately overcoming adversity and finding happiness. This theme encourages readers to persevere in the face of challenges.

The consequences of greed and deceit: The miller’s deal with the devil sets the events of the story in motion. His desire for wealth and willingness to make a pact with the devil without understanding the consequences lead to his daughter’s suffering. The story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of greed and deceit.

The role of divine intervention: The tale also highlights the role of divine intervention in protecting the girl and guiding her through her trials. Her faith in God leads to a series of miraculous events, such as the restoration of her hands, which can be seen as a reward for her unwavering belief and goodness.

The nature of evil: „The Girl Without Hands“ explores the nature of evil through the character of the devil. The story presents him as a cunning and persistent force, constantly trying to harm the girl and disrupt her life. This portrayal encourages readers to remain vigilant against evil influences and to uphold their faith and values in the face of adversity.

Overcoming adversity: The story showcases the power of resilience and the ability to triumph over challenging circumstances. The miller’s daughter, despite losing her hands and being separated from her loved ones, never gives up. She maintains her faith in God and overcomes the devil’s attempts to destroy her, eventually reuniting with her husband and son.

The importance of faith and piety: The protagonist’s strong faith in God and her devout lifestyle allow her to overcome the devil’s attempts to control her. She remains pure and virtuous, which helps her in the end. This theme emphasizes the significance of staying true to one’s spiritual beliefs and values.

The deceptive nature of appearances: The miller unknowingly makes a deal with the devil, believing he is only sacrificing an apple tree when he actually promises his daughter. This highlights the importance of being cautious and aware, as appearances can be deceiving.

The power of forgiveness and redemption: The miller’s daughter forgives her father for his mistake, and the King forgives his mother for almost taking the lives of his wife and child. These acts of forgiveness demonstrate the power of redemption and the importance of letting go of past wrongs to move forward in life.

The role of divine intervention: Throughout the story, the miller’s daughter receives help from an angel, who serves as her guardian and protector. This divine intervention can be seen as a reward for her unwavering faith and commitment to living a righteous life.

The consequences of greed and desperation: The miller’s initial agreement with the devil is driven by his poverty and desperation for wealth. This decision has severe consequences, leading to the loss of his daughter’s hands and her separation from her family. The tale serves as a cautionary reminder of the potential dangers of acting out of greed or desperation.

In summary, „The Girl Without Hands“ offers a range of interpretations and themes that delve into the power of faith and purity, the importance of perseverance and resilience, the consequences of greed and deceit, the role of divine intervention, and the nature of evil. These themes make the story a thought-provoking and enduring tale in the Brothers Grimm collection.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Girl Without Hands“

„The Girl Without Hands“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous compilation, „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ (also known as „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“) first published in 1812. It is categorized as tale type 706 according to the Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification system, which groups similar stories together based on their narrative structure and shared motifs. The story is also known as „The Handless Maiden“ or „The Armless Maiden“ in various versions and translations. „The Girl Without Hands“ has inspired various adaptations and retellings over the years due to its dark and complex nature. Here are a few examples:

Films: „La jeune fille sans mains“ (2016) An animated French film directed by Sébastien Laudenbach, „La jeune fille sans mains“ (The Girl Without Hands) is a visually stunning adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The movie uses a unique animation style and minimalist storytelling to create an atmospheric and poetic interpretation of the original story. The film features a unique artistic style and has been praised for its visual storytelling.

Literature: Retellings and reinterpretations „The Girl Without Hands“ has been retold and reinterpreted in various literary works, such as short stories and novels. For example, Angela Carter’s „The Bloody Chamber“ is a collection of dark fairy tale retellings that includes a story titled „The Lady of the House of Love,“ which is loosely inspired by „The Girl Without Hands.“ The tale has also been adapted into literature, including a retelling by British author Philippa Pearce in her book „The Little Gentleman and Other Stories“ and a graphic novel adaptation by French artist Sébastien Vassant.

Theater: Some theater companies have adapted „The Girl Without Hands“ into stage plays or musicals, often exploring the darker and more complex themes present in the original tale. These adaptations may include modern twists, additional characters, or altered storylines to provide a fresh perspective on the Brothers Grimm story. In 2015, British playwright Joel Horwood adapted the tale for the stage, and the play premiered at the Unicorn Theater in London. The production was aimed at young audiences and featured puppetry and live music.

Art and illustration: „The Girl Without Hands“ has inspired various artists to create illustrations and artwork based on the tale. These visual interpretations often focus on the story’s darker elements and the powerful symbolism of the girl’s missing hands. The tale has also inspired various works of art, including paintings by artists such as Auguste Rodin and Gustav Klimt, as well as illustrations in children’s books.

Educational materials: The complex themes and moral lessons in „The Girl Without Hands“ have led to its inclusion in educational materials, such as lesson plans, teaching resources, and analysis of folklore and fairy tales. Teachers may use the story to explore themes like faith, resilience, and the consequences of greed, as well as to introduce students to the Brothers Grimm and the broader tradition of European folklore.

Opera: In 2016, German composer Jörg Widmann composed an opera based on the tale, which premiered at the Semperoper in Dresden, Germany. The opera features a libretto by German poet and playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig.

„The Girl without Hands“ has been adapted into various forms of media, including plays, operas, and films. While „The Girl Without Hands“ might not be as widely adapted as some other Grimm fairy tales, its dark and thought-provoking nature has inspired various retellings and adaptations, allowing the story to endure and continue to captivate audiences. Overall, „The Girl without Hands“ has proven to be a popular source of inspiration for artists and writers, and its timeless themes continue to resonate with audiences today.

Summary of the plot

„The Girl Without Hands“ is a dark and complex fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection. The story begins with a poor miller who unknowingly makes a pact with the devil, promising him whatever is behind his mill in exchange for wealth. The miller believes he is promising the devil an old apple tree, but in reality, his daughter is standing behind the mill, and she becomes the object of the pact.

The daughter is virtuous and pure, which prevents the devil from taking her. In an attempt to fulfill the pact, the devil demands that the father cut off his daughter’s hands. Devastated but compelled, the father complies. However, the girl’s purity and faith in God continue to protect her, and the devil is unable to claim her.

The girl leaves her family and embarks on a journey, eventually coming across a royal garden. Aided by divine intervention, she survives on the fruit from the garden. The king discovers her and, moved by her story, marries her. The couple has a child, but the devil continues to interfere in their lives, attempting to exploit the girl’s vulnerability while her husband is away at war.

Despite the devil’s persistent attempts to harm her, the girl remains steadfast in her faith. In the end, her devotion is rewarded: her hands are miraculously restored, and she is reunited with her husband and child. The family lives happily ever after, having triumphed over the evil forces that sought to destroy them. „The Girl Without Hands“ explores themes of faith, purity, perseverance, and the triumph of good over evil, offering a thought-provoking and enduring tale within the Brothers Grimm collection.


„The Girl Without Hands“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale that follows the story of a miller who falls into poverty and unknowingly makes a deal with the devil. The miller promises the devil what stands behind his mill, believing it to be an apple tree. However, the devil is actually after the miller’s daughter, a beautiful and pious girl.

The girl remains pure for three years, and when the devil comes to claim her, he is unable to approach her due to her purity. The devil forces the miller to cut off his daughter’s hands, but her tears cleanse the wounds, protecting her from the devil’s grasp. She leaves her father’s house, eventually arriving at a royal garden where she prays to God for help. An angel appears and guides her into the garden, where she satisfies her hunger with a pear.

The King discovers her presence and is intrigued by her story. He takes her into his palace, marries her, and has silver hands made for her. When the King goes off to war, the devil interferes with the letters between the King and his mother, resulting in the mother sending the Queen and her newborn son away.

The Queen and her son live in a small house protected by an angel for seven years, during which her real hands regrow. The King, who has been searching for them, finally arrives at the house. After recognizing his wife and child, the family is reunited, and they return to the kingdom. The King and Queen remarry, and the family lives happily ever after.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 31
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 706
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson30.6
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index80
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.7
Gunning Fog Index10.2
Coleman–Liau Index7.1
SMOG Index8
Automated Readability Index8.2
Character Count11.986
Letter Count9.138
Sentence Count104
Word Count2.344
Average Words per Sentence22,54
Words with more than 6 letters190
Percentage of long words8.1%
Number of Syllables2.879
Average Syllables per Word1,23
Words with three Syllables72
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.1%
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