The Girl without Hands

folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 706
and related stories
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2018

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.


  1. Biancabella (Giovanni Francesco Straparola, The Facetious Nights).

  2. Penta the Handless (Giovanni Battista Basile, Il Pentamerone).

  3. The Innkeeper's Beautiful Daughter (Italy).

  4. The Girl without Hands (Italy / Austria).

  5. Beautiful Magdalene (Germany).

  6. The Girl without Hands (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm -- 1812).

  7. The Girl without Hands (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm -- 1857).

  8. The Daughter Who Was Promised to the Devil (Germany).

  9. The Girl without Hands (Finland).

  10. The Girl without Hands (Hungary).

  11. William of the Tree (Ireland).

  12. The Bad Stepmother (Ireland).

  13. The Cruel Stepmother (Scotland).

  14. Anecdote of a Charitable Woman (The 1001 Nights).

  15. The Girl without Legs (Somalia).

  16. Blessing or Property (Swahili).

  17. The Sun and the Moon (Eskimo).

  18. Sun and Moon (Eskimo).

  19. Wild Sanctuary: The Handless Maiden (Link to an essay by Terri Windling with art by Jeanie Tomanek).

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.


Giovanni Francesco Straparola, The Facetious Nights

Biancabella, the daughter of Lamberico, Marquis of Monferrato, is sent away by the stepmother of Ferrandino, King of Naples, in order that she may be put to death; but the assassins only cut off her hands and put out her eyes. Afterward she, her hurts having been healed by a snake, returns happily to Ferrandino.
It is praiseworthy, or even absolutely necessary, that a woman, of whatever state or condition she may be, should bear herself with prudence in each and every undertaking she may essay, for without prudence nothing will bring itself to a commendable issue. And if a certain stepmother, of whom I am about to tell you, had used it with due moderation when she plotted wickedly to take another's life, she would not herself have been cut off by divine judgment in such fashion as I will now relate to you.

Once upon a time, now many years ago, there reigned in Monferrato a marquis called Lamberico, very puissant, both on account of his lordships and his great wealth, but wanting in children to carry on his name. He was, forsooth, mighty anxious for progeny, but this bounty of heaven was denied to him.

Now one day it chanced that the marchioness his wife was walking for her pleasure in the palace garden, and, being suddenly overcome by sleep, she sat down at the foot of a tree and slumber fell upon her. While she slept gently there crept up to her side a very small snake, which, having passed stealthily under her clothes without arousing her by its presence, made its way into her body, and by subtle windings penetrated even into her womb, and there lay quiet.

Before long time had elapsed the marchioness, with no small pleasure to herself, and with the highest delight of all the state, proved to be with child, and, when the season of her lying-in came, she was delivered of a female child, round the neck of which there was coiled three times something in the similitude of a serpent. When the midwives, who were in attendance upon the marchioness, saw this, they were much affrighted; but the snake, without causing any hurt whatsoever, untwined itself from the infant's neck, and, winding itself along the floor and stretching itself out, made its way into the garden.

Now when the child had been duly cared for and clothed, the nurses having washed it clean in a bath of clear water and swathed it in snow-white linen, they began to see, little by little, that round about its neck was a collar of gold, fashioned with the most subtle handiwork. So fine was it, and so lovely, that it seemed to shed its lustre from between the skin and the flesh, just as the most precious jewels are wont to shine out from a closure of transparent crystal, and, moreover, it encircled the neck of the infant just as many times as the little serpent had cast its fold thereabout.

The little girl, to whom, on account of her exceeding loveliness, the name of Biancabella was given, grew up in such goodliness and beauty that it seemed as if she must be sprung from divine and not from human stock. When she had come to the age of ten years it chanced that one day she went with her nurse upon a terrace, from whence she observed a fair garden full of roses and all manner of other lovely flowers. Then, turning towards the nurse who had her in charge, she demanded of her what garden that was which she had never seen before. To this the nurse replied that it was a place which her mother called her own garden, and one, moreover, in which she was wont often to take her recreation.

Then said the child to her: "I have never seen anything so fair before, and I had fain go into it and walk there."

Then the nurse, taking Biancabella by the hand, led her into the garden, and, having suffered the child to go a little distance apart from her, she sat down under the shade of a leafy beech tree and settled herself to sleep, letting the little girl take her pleasure the while in roaming about the garden. Biancabeila, who was altogether charmed with the loveliness of the place, ran about, now here and now there, gathering flowers, and, at last, when she felt somewhat tired, she sat down under the shadow of a tree. Now scarcely had the child seated herself upon the ground when there appeared a little snake, which crept up close to her side.

Biancabeila, as soon as she saw the beast, was mightily alarmed, and was about to cry out, when the snake thus addressed her: "Cry not, I beg you, neither disturb yourself, nor have any fear, for know that I am your sister, born on the same day as yourself and at the same birth, and that Samaritana is my name. And I now tell you that, if you will be obedient to what I shall command you, I will make you happy in your life; but if, on the other hand, you disobey me, you will come to be the most luckless, the most wretched woman the world has ever yet seen. Wherefore, go your way now, without fear of any sort, and tomorrow cause to be brought into this garden two vessels, of which let one be filled with pure milk, and the other with the finest water of roses. Then you must come to me by yourself without companions."

When the serpent was gone the little girl rose up from her seat and went back to seek her nurse, whom she found still sleeping, and, having aroused her, she returned with her to the palace without saying aught of what had befallen her. And when the morrow had come Biancabella chanced to be with her mother alone in the chamber, and the mother remarked that the child bore upon her face a melancholy look.

Whereupon she said: "Biancabella, what ails you that you put on so discontented a face? You are wont to be lively and merry enough, but now you seem all sad and woebegone."

To this Biancabella replied: "There is nothing amiss with me; it is only that I want to have taken into the garden two vessels, of which one shall be filled with pure milk and the other of the finest water of roses."

The mother answered: "And why do you let yourself be troubled by so small a matter as this, my child? Do you not know that everything here belongs to you?"

Then the marchioness caused to be brought to her two vessels, large and beautiful, filled, the one with milk and the other with rose water, and had them carried into the garden.

When the hour appointed by the serpent had come, Biancabella, without taking any other damsel to bear her company, repaired to the garden, and, having opened the door thereof, she went in and made fast the entrance, and then seated herself upon the ground at the spot where the two vessels had been placed. Almost as soon as she had sat down the serpent appeared and came near her, and straightway commanded her to strip off all her clothes, and then, naked as she was, to step into the vessel which was filled with milk. When she had done this, the serpent twined itself about her, thus bathing her body in every part with the white milk and licking her all over with his tongue, rendering her pure and perfect in every part where, peradventure, aught that was faulty might have been found.

Next, having bid her come out of the vessel of milk, the serpent made her enter the one which was filled with rose water, whereupon all her limbs were scented with odours so sweet and restorative that she felt as if she were filled with fresh life. Then the serpent bade her put on her clothes once more, giving her at the same time express command that she should hold her peace as to what had befallen her, and to speak no word thereanent even to her father and mother. For the serpent willed that no other woman in all the world should be found to equal Biancabella in beauty or in grace. And finally, after she had bestowed upon her very good quality, the serpent crept away to its hiding-place.

When this was done Biancabella left the garden and returned to the palace. Her mother, when she perceived how her daughter had become more lovely and gracious than ever, and fairer than any other damsel in the world, was astonished beyond measure and knew not what to say. Wherefore she questioned the young girl as to what she had done to indue herself with such surpassing loveliness; but Biancabella had no answer to give her.

Hereupon the marchioness took a comb and began to comb and dress her daughter's fair locks, and forthwith from the girl's hair there fell down pearls and all manner of precious stones, and when Biancabella went to wash her hands roses and violets and lovely flowers of all sorts sprang up around them, and the odours which arose from these were so sweet that it seemed as if the place had indeed become an earthly paradise.

Her mother, when she saw this marvel, ran to find Lamberico her husband, and, full of maternal pride, thus addressed him: "My lord, heaven has bestowed upon us a daughter who is the sweetest, the loveliest, and the most exquisite work nature ever produced. For besides the divine beauty and grace in her, which is manifest to all eyes, pearls and gems and all other kinds of precious stones fall from her hair, and -- to name something yet more marvellous -- round about her white hands spring up roses and violets and all manner of flowers which give out the sweetest odours to all those who may come near her to wonder at the sight. All this I tell to you I assuredly would never have believed had I not looked thereon with my own eyes."

Her husband, who was of an unbelieving nature, was at first disinclined to put faith in his wife's words, and treated her speech as a subject for laughter and ridicule, but she went on plying him without ceasing with accounts of what she had witnessed, so that he determined to see for himself how the matter really stood. Then, having made them bring his daughter into his presence, he found about her even more marvellous things than his wife had described, and on account of what he saw he rejoiced exceedingly, and in his pride swore a great oath that there was in the whole world no man worthy to be united to her in wedlock.

Very soon the fame and glory of the supreme and immortal beauty of Biancabella began to spread itself through the whole world, and many kings and princes and nobles came together from all parts in order to win her love and favour and have her to wife, but not one of all these suitors was counted worthy to enjoy her, inasmuch as each one of them proved to be lacking in respect of one thing or another.

But at last one day there came a-wooing Ferrandino, King of Naples, who by his prowess and by his illustrious name blazed out resplendent like the sun in the midst of the smaller luminaries, and, having presented himself to the marquis, demanded of him the hand of his daughter in marriage. The marquis, seeing that the suitor was seemly of countenance, and well knit in person, and full of grace, besides being a prince of great power and possessions and wealth, gave his consent to the nuptials at once, and, having summoned his daughter, without further parleying the two were betrothed by joining of hands and by kissing one another.

Scarcely were the rites of betrothal completed, when Biancabella called back to mind the words which her sister Samaritana had so lovingly spoken to her, wherefore she withdrew herself from the presence of her spouse under the pretext that she had certain business of her own to see to, and, having gone to her own chamber, made fast the door thereof from within, and then passed by a secret thoroughfare into the garden. When she had come into the garden, she began to call upon Samaritana in a low voice. But the serpent no more manifested herself as heretofore, and Biancabella, when she perceived this, was mightily astonished, and, after she had searched through every part of the garden without finding a trace of Samaritana, a deep grief fell upon her, for she knew that this thing had happened to her because she had not given due attention and obedience to the commands which her sister had laid upon her.

Wherefore, grieving and bewailing heavily on account of the mischance that had befallen her, she returned into her chamber, and having opened the door, she went to rejoin her spouse, who had been waiting a long time for her, and sat down beside him. When the marriage ceremonies were completed, Ferrandino led his bride away with him to Naples, where, with sumptuous state and magnificent festivities and the sound of trumpets, they were welcomed by the whole city with the highest honour.

It happened that there was living at Naples Ferrandino's stepmother, who had two daughters of her own, both of them deformed and ugly; but, notwithstanding this, she had set her heart on marrying one of them to the king. But now, when all hope was taken from her of ever accomplishing this design of hers, her rage and anger against Biancabella became so savage that she could scarcely endure to look upon her. But she was careful to conceal her animosity, feigning the while to hold Biancabella in all love and affection.

Now by a certain freak of fortune the King of Tunis at this time began to set in array a mighty force of armed men for service by land and likewise on sea, in order that he might incite Ferrandino to make war (whether he did this because Ferrandino had won Biancabella to wife, or for some other reason I know not), and at the head of a very powerful army he had already passed the bounds of the kingdom of Naples. On this account it was necessary that Ferrandino should straightway take up arms for the defence of his realm, and hurry to the field to confront his foe. Therefore, having settled his affairs, and made provision of all things necessary for Biancabella (she being now with child), he gave her over to the care of his stepmother and set forth with his army.

Ferrandino had not long departed when this malevolent and froward-minded woman made a wicked design on Biancabella's life, and, having summoned into her presence certain retainers who were entirely devoted to her, she charged them to conduct Biancabella with them to some place or other -- feigning that what they were doing was done for her recreation -- and that they should not leave her until they had taken her life. Moreover, in order that she might be fully assured that they had discharged their duty, they were to bring back to her some sign of Biancabella's death.

These ruffians, prompt for any sort of ill-doing, at once prepared to carry out the commands of their mistress, and making pretence of conducting Biancabella to some place where she might recreate herself, they carried her away into a wood, and forthwith began to make preparation to kill her. But when they perceived how lovely she was, and gracious, they were moved to pity and had not the heart to take her life. So they cut off both her hands and tore her eyes out of her head, and these they carried back to the stepmother as certain proofs that Biancabella had been killed by them.

When this impious and cruel woman saw what they brought in their hands, her joy and satisfaction were unbounded, and, scheming still in her wicked heart to carry out her nefarious designs, she spread through all the kingdom a report that both her own daughters were dead, the one of a continued fever, and the other of an imposthume of the heart, which had caused her death by suffocation. Moreover, she went on to declare that Biancabella, disordered by grief at the king's departure, had miscarried of a child, and had likewise been seized with a tertian fever which had wasted her so completely that there was more cause to fear her death than to hope for her recovery. But the scheme of this wicked cunning woman was to keep one of her own daughters in the king's bed, maintaining the while that she was Biancabella, shrunken and distempered by the fever.

Ferrandino, after he had attacked and put to rout the army of his foe, marched homeward in all the triumph of victory, hoping to find his beloved Biancabella full of joy and happiness, but in lieu of this he found her (as he believed) lying in bed shrivelled, pale, and disfigured. Then he went up to the bed and gazed closely at her face, and was overcome with astonishment when he looked upon the wreck she had become, and could hardly persuade himself that the woman he saw there could really be Biancabella. Afterwards he bade her attendants comb her hair, and, in place of the gems and the precious jewels which were wont to fall from the fair locks of his wife, there came forth great worms which had been feeding on the wretched woman's flesh, and from the hands there came forth, not the roses and the sweet-smelling flowers which ever sprang up around Biancabella's, but a foulness and filth which caused a nauseous sickness to all who came near her. But the wicked old stepmother kept on speaking words of consolation to him, declaring that all this distemper sprang from nothing else than the lengthened course of the ailment which possessed her.

In the meantime the ill-fated Biancabella, bereft of her hands and blind in both her eyes, was left alone in that solitary place, and, finding herself in such cruel affliction, she called over and over again upon her sister Samaritana, beseeching her to come to her rescue; but no answer came to her except from the resounding voice of Echo, who cried aloud through all the place. And while the unhappy Biancabella was left in the agony of despair, conscious that she was cut off from all human aid, there came into the wood a venerable old man, kindly of aspect and no less kindly in his heart. And he, when he listened to the sad and mournful voice which smote upon his hearing, made his way step by step towards the place whence it came, and stopped when he found there a blind lady with her hands cut off who was bitterly mourning the sad fate which had overtaken her.

When the good old man looked upon her, and saw how sad was her condition, he could not bear to leave her thus in this wilderness of broken trees and thorns and brambles, but, overcome by the fatherly pity within him, he led her home with him to his house, and gave her into the charge of his wife, commanding her very strictly to take good care of the sufferer. Then he turned towards his three daughters, who verily were as beautiful as three of the brightest stars of heaven, and exhorted them earnestly to keep her company, and to render to her continually any loving service she might require, and to take care that she wanted for nothing.

But the wife, who had a hard heart, and none of the old man's pity, was violently moved to anger by these words of her husband, and, turning towards him, cried out: "Husband, what is this you would have us do with this woman, all blind and maimed as she is? Doubtless she has been thus treated as a punishment for her sins, and for no good behaviour."

In reply to this speech the old man spake in an angry tone: "You will carry out all the commands I give you. If you should do aught else, you need not look to see me here again."

It happened that while the unhappy Biancabella was left in charge of the wife and the three daughters, conversing with them of various things, and meditating over her own great misfortunes, she besought one of the maidens to do her a favour and comb her hair a little. But when the mother heard this she was much angered, forasmuch as she would not allow either of her children to minister in any way to the unfortunate sufferer.

But the daughter's heart was more given to pity than was her mother's, and moreover she called to mind what her father's commands had been, and was conscious of some subtle air of dignity and high breeding which seemed to emanate from Biancabella as a token of her lofty estate. So she straightway unfastened the apron from her waist, and, having spread it on the floor beside Biancabella, began to comb her hair softly and carefully. Scarcely had she passed the comb thrice through the blond tresses before there fell out of them pearls and rubies and diamonds and all sorts of precious stones.

Now the mother, when she saw what had happened, was seized with dread, and stood as one struck with amazement; moreover, the great dislike which at first she had harboured towards Biancabella, now gave way to a feeling of kindly affection. And when the old man had come back to the house they all ran to embrace him, rejoicing with him greatly over the stroke of good fortune which had come to deliver them from the bitter poverty which had hitherto oppressed them. Then Biancahella asked them to bring her a bucket of clear water, and bade them wash therewith her face and her maimed arms, and from these, while all were standing by, roses and violets and other flowers in great plenty fell down; whereupon they all deemed she must be some divine personage, and no mortal woman.

Now after a season it came to pass that Biancabella felt a desire to return to the spot where first the old man had found her. But he and his wife and his daughters, seeing how great were the benefits they gathered from her presence, loaded her with endearments, and besought her very earnestly that she would on no account depart from them, bringing forward many reasons why she should not carry out her wish. But she, having resolutely made up her mind on this point, determined at all hazards to go away, promising at the same time to return to them hereafter.

The old man, when he saw how firmly she was set on her departure, took her with him without any further delay back to the place where he had come upon her. And when they had reached this spot she gave directions to the old man that he should depart and leave her, bidding him also to come back there when evening should have fallen, in order that she might return with him to his house.

As soon as the old man had gone his way the ill-fated Biancabella began to wander up and down the gloomy wood, calling loudly upon Samaritana, so that her cries and lamentations rose up even to the high heavens. But Samaritana, though she was all the while nigh to her sister, and had never for one moment abandoned her, refused as yet to answer to her call.

Whereupon the wretched Biancabella, deeming that she was scattering her words upon the heedless winds, cried out, "Alas! what further concern have I in this world, seeing that I have been bereft of my eyes and of my hands, and now at last all human help is denied to me."

And as she thus spoke there came upon her a sort of frenzy, which took away from her all hope of deliverance from her present evil case, and urged her, in despair, to lay hands upon her own life. But because there was at hand no means by which she could put an end to her miserable being, she found her way to a pool of water, which lay not far distant, in the mind there to drown herself.

But when she had come to the shore of the pool, and stood thereon ready to cast herself down into the water, there sounded in her ears a voice like thunder, saying: "Alas, alas, wretched one! Keep back from self-murder, nor desire to take your own life, which you ought to preserve for some better end."

Whereupon Biancaliella, alarmed by this mighty voice, felt as it were every one of her hairs standing erect on her head, but after a moment it seemed to her that she knew the voice; so, having plucked up a little courage, she said: "Who are you who wander about these woods, proclaiming your presence to me by your kindly and pitiful words?"

Then the same voice replied: "I am Samaritana, your sister, for whom you have been calling so long and painfully."

And Biancabella, when she listened to these words, answered in a voice all broken by agonized sobs, and said: "Alas, my sister! Come to my aid, I beseech you; and if at any past time I have shown myself disregardful of your counsel, I pray you to pardon me. Indeed I have erred, and I confess my fault, but my misdeed was the fruit of my ignorance, and not of my wickedness; for be sure, if it had come from wickedness, divine justice would not have suffered me, as the author of it, so long to cumber the earth."

Samaritana, when she heard her sister's woes set forth in this pitiful story, and witnessed the cruel wrongs that had been done her, spake some comforting words, and then, having gathered divers medicinal herbs of wonderful power and virtue, she spread these over the places where Biancabella's eyes had been. Then she brought to her sister two hands, and having joined these on to the wounded wrists, at once made them whole and sound again. And when she had wrought this marvellous feat Samaritana threw off from herself the scaly skin of the serpent, and stood revealed as a maiden of lovely aspect.

The sun had already begun to veil its glittering rays, and the evening shadows were creeping around, when the old man with anxious hasty steps returned to the wood, where he found Biancabella sitting beside a maiden well-nigh as lovely as herself. And he gazed steadily into her beauteous face, standing the while like to a man struck with wonder, and could scarcely believe it was Biancabella he looked upon.

But when he was sure it was really she, he cried: "My daughter, were you not this morning blind and bereft of your hands? How comes it that you have been thus speedily made whole again?"

Biancabella answered him: "My cure has been worked, not by anything I myself have done, but by the virtue and the kind ministering of this my dear sister who sits here beside me."

Whereupon both the sisters arose from the place where they were seated, and rejoicing greatly they went together with the old man to his house, where the wife and the three daughters gave them a most loving and hospitable welcome.

It came to pass after the lapse of many days that Samaritana and Biancahella, and the old man with his wife and his three daughters, left their cottage and betook themselves to the city of Naples, purposing to dwell there, and, when they had entered the city, they chanced to come upon a vacant space hard by the palace of the king, where they determined to make their resting-place. And when the dark night had fallen around them. Samaritana took in her hand a twig of laurel and thrice struck the earth therewith, uttering certain mystic words the while, and almost before the sound of these words had ceased there sprang up forthwith before them a palace, the most beautiful and sumptuous that ever was seen.

The next morning Ferrandino the king went early to look out of the window, and when he beheld the rich and marvellous palace standing where there had been nothing the night before, he was altogether overcome with amazement, and called his wife and his stepmother to come and see it; but these were greatly disturbed in mind at the sight thereof, for a boding came upon them that some ill was about to befall them.

While Ferrandino was standing, scanning closely the palace before him, and examining it in all parts, he lifted his eyes to a certain window, and there, in the chamber inside, he beheld two ladies of a beauty more rich and dazzling than the sun. And no sooner had his eyes fallen upon them than he felt a tempest of passion rising in his heart, for he assuredly recognized in one of them some similitude of that loveliness which had once been Biancabella's.

And when he asked who they were, and from what land they had come, the answer which was given him was that they were two ladies who had been exiled from their home, and that they had journeyed from Persia, with all their possessions, to take up their abode in the noble city of Naples.

When he heard this, Ferrandino sent a messenger to inquire whether he would be doing them any pleasure in waiting upon them, accompanied by the ladies of his court, to pay them a visit of welcome, and to this gracious message they sent an answer, saying that it would indeed be a very precious honour to be thus visited by him, but that it would be more decorous and respectful if they, as subjects, should pay this duty to him, than that he, as lord and king, should visit them.

Hereupon Ferrandino bade them summon the queen and the other ladies of the court, and with these (although at first they refused to go, being so greatly in fear of their impending ruin) he betook himself to the palace of the two ladies, who, with all friendly signs of welcome and with modest bearing, gave him the reception due to a highly honoured guest, showing him the wide loggias, and the roomy halls, and the richly ornamented chambers, the walls of which were lined with alabaster and fine porphyry, while about them were to be seen on all sides carven figures which looked like life.

And when they had exhibited to the king all parts of the sumptuous palace, the two fair young women approached Ferrandino and besought him most gracefully that he would deign to come one day with his queen and dine at their table. The king, whose heart was not hard enough to remain unaffected by all he had seen, and who was gifted moreover with a magnanimous and liberal spirit, graciously accepted the invitation. And when he had tendered his thanks to the two ladies for the noble welcome they had given him, he and the queen departed together and returned to their own palace.

When the day fixed for the banquet had come, the king and the queen and the stepmother, clad in their royal robes and accompanied, by some of the ladies of the court, went to do honour to the magnificent feast set out in the most sumptuous fashion. And after he had given them water to wash their hands, the seneschal bade them conduct the king and queen to a table apart, set somewhat higher, but at the same time near to the others, and having done this, he caused all the rest of the guests to seat themselves according to their rank, and in this fashion they all feasted merrily and joyfully together.

When the stately feast had come to an end and the tables had been cleared, Samaritana rose from her seat, and turning towards the king and the queen, spake thus: "Your majesties, in order that the time may not be irksome to us, as it may if we sit here idle, let one or other of us propose something in the way of diversion which will let us pass the day pleasantly."

And when the guests heard what Samaritana said, they all agreed that she had spoken well, but yet there was found no one bold enough to make such a proposition as she had called for. Whereupon Samaritana, when she perceived they were all silent, went on: "Since it appears that no one of this company is prepared to put forward anything, I, with your majesty's leave, will bid come hither one of our own maidens, whose singing perchance will give you no little pleasure."

And having summoned the damsel, whose name was Silveria, into the banqueting-room, Samaritana commanded her to take a lyre in her hand and to sing thereto something in honour of the king which should be worthy of their praise. And the damsel, obedient to her lady's command, took her lyre, and, having placed herself before the king, sang in a soft and pleasant voice while she touched the resounding strings with the plectrum, telling in her chant the story of Biancabella from beginning to end, but not mentioning her by name. When the whole of the story had been set forth, Samaritana again rose to her feet, and demanded of the king what would be the fitting punishment, what torture would be cruel enough for those who had put their hands to such an execrable crime.

Then the stepmother, who deemed that she might perchance get a release for her misdeeds by a prompt and ready reply, did not wait for the king to give his answer, but cried out in a bold and confident tone, "Surely to be cast into a furnace heated red hot would be but a light punishment for the offences of such a one."

Then Samaritana, with her countenance all afire with vengeance and anger, made answer to her: "Thou thyself art the very same guilty and barbarous woman, through whose nefarious working all these cruel wrongs have been done; and thou, wicked and accursed one, hast condemned thyself to a righteous penalty out of thine own mouth."

Then Samaritana, turning towards the king with a look of joy upon her face, said to him, "Behold! this is your Biancabella, this is the wife you loved so dearly, this is she without whom you could not live."

Then, to prove the truth of her words, Samaritana gave the word to the three daughters of the old man that they should forthwith, in the presence of the king, begin to comb Biancabella's fair and wavy hair, and scarcely had they begun when (as has been told before) there fell out of her tresses many very precious and exquisite jewels, and from her hands came forth roses exhaling the sweet scents of morning, and all manner of odoriferous flowers. And for yet greater certainty she pointed out to the king how the snow-white neck of Biancabeila was encircled by a fine chain of the most delicately wrought gold, which grew naturally between the skin and the flesh, and shone out as through the clearest crystal.

When the king perceived by these manifest and convincing signs that she was indeed his own Biancabella, he began to weep for the joy he felt, and to embrace her tenderly. But before he left that place he caused to be heated hot a furnace, and into this he bade them cast the stepmother and her two daughters. Thus their repentance for their crimes came too late, and they made a miserable end to their lives. And after this the three daughters of the old man were given honourably in marriage, and the King Ferrandino with Biancabelia and Samaritana lived long and happily, and when Ferrandino died his son succeeded to his kingdom.

Penta the Handless

Giovanni Battista Basile, Il Pentamerone

Second Diversion of the Third Day

Penta scorneth to wed her brother, and cutting off her hands, sendeth them to him as a present. He commandeth that she should be put within a chest and thrown into the sea. The tide casteth her upon a seashore. A sailor findeth her, and leadeth her to his home, but his wife thrusts her again into the same chest and into the sea. She is found by a king, and he taketh her to wife; but by the wickedness of the same woman, Penta is expelled from that kingdom. After sore troubles and travail she is recovered by her husband and her brother.
The King of Preta-Secca having been bereft of his wife, the evil one entered his head, and suggested that he should take his sister Penta to wife.

For this reason, sending for her one day, he met her alone, and said, "Tis not a matter, O my sister, to be done by a man with sound judgment, to let the good which he hath in his own house depart; and besides one knoweth not how it will be, when one alloweth strange people to put their feet in one's house; therefore having well digested this business, I came to the resolution, and I purpose to take thee to wife, because thou art made of mine own breath, and I know thy nature. Be thou content therefore to be tied in this knot, to be set in this setting, to join this partnership, to enter into this uniantur acta, this mixture, et fiat potio, and let it be done, as both of us will do a good day's work."

Penta, hearing this thrust in fifth, stood nearly out of her mind, and her colour came and went, and she could scarce believe her own ears, thinking it impossible that her brother could jump to this height, and try to sell her a pair of rotten eggs when he needed an hundred fresh ones.

Remaining silent for a while, thinking how she should answer to such an impertinent question, and out of purpose, at last, unloading the fardel of patience, she said, "If thou hast lost thy wits, I will not lose my shame. I am in a transport of surprise at thee, that thou allowest such words to escape thy mouth, which if said in joke befit an ass, and if in earnest stink of lecherousness. I regret that, if thou hast tongue to speak such outrageous language, I have not ears to hearken thereto. I thy wife? Yes 'tis done for thee: oh, smell thy fill: Since when dost thou these foul tricks? This olla podrida? These mixtures? And where are we? In the ice? His sister, O baked-cheese! Ask thy priest to correct thee, and never allow such words to escape thy lips, or else I will do incredible things, and whilst thou esteem me not as a sister, I will not hold thee for what thou art to me."

And thus saying, she departed, and entering a chamber, locked and bolted the door, and saw not the face of her brother for more than a month, leaving the wretched king, who had listened with an hardened brow, to tire out the shot, scorned as a child who hath broken the juglet, and confounded as a cookmaid when the cat hath stolen the meat.

After some days were past, the king again gave vent to his licentious desires, and she desiring to know what had caused her brother such great longing, and what was in her person that should put such a thought in his head, came forth out of her chamber, and went to him, and said, "O my brother, I have admired myself and looked at myself in the mirror, and I cannot find anything in my face which could deserve and inspire such love as thine, as I am not such a sweet morsel to cause folk to pant and long for me."

And answered the king, "Penta mine, thou art beauteous and accomplished from head to foot, but thine hand is the thing which above all others causeth me to faint with excessive desire: That hand is the fork which extracteth from the pot of this breast my heart and entrails: That hand is the hook, which lifteth from the cistern of my life the pail of my soul: That hand is the pincers, wherein is held my spirit whilst love is filing it. O hand, O beauteous hand, spoon, which administereth the soup of sweetness: nippers, which nip my longing and desire: shovel, which casteth dust within my heart!"

And he would have said more, but Penta replied, "Thou mayest go, I have heard thee; we will meet again;" and entering her chamber, she sent for a witless slave, and giving him a large knife and an handful of coins, said to him, "Ali mine, cut off mine hands, I wish to make them beautiful in secret, and whiter."

The slave, believing he was doing her pleasure, with two blows cut them off. Then she had them laid in a faenza basin and sent them covered with a silken napkin to her brother, with a message that she hoped he would enjoy what he coveted most, and desiring him good health and twins, she saluted him.

The king, beholding such a deed, was wroth with exceeding wrath, and he waxed furious, and ordered that a chest should be made straightway, well tarred outside, and commanded that his sister should be put therein, and cast into the sea. And this was done, and the chest sailed on battered by the waves until the tide projected it upon a seashore, where, found by some sailors who had been casting their nets, it was opened, and therein they beheld Penta, far more beautiful than the moon when it riseth after having spent its lenten time at Taranto.

Masiello, who was the chief and the most courageous of those folk, carried her home, bidding Nuccia his wife to entreat her with kindness. But no sooner had her husband gone forth, than she, who was the mother of suspicion and jealousy, put Penta again within the chest, and cast her once more into the sea, where beaten by the waves, and buffeted here and there, it was at last met by a large vessel, on board of which was the King of Terra-Verde.

Perceiving this chest floating about, the king instructed the sailors to strike sail and lay to, and ordering the small boat to be lowered, sent some of the sailors to pick up the chest. When they brought it on board, they opened it, and discovered therein the unhappy damsel, and the king, beholding this beauty alive within a coffin for the dead, believed that he had found a great treasure, although his heart wept because the casket of so many gems of love was found without handles.

Taking her to his realm, the king gave her as maid of honour to the queen; and she did all possible services to the queen, as sew, thread the needle, starch the collars, and comb the queen's hair, with her feet, for which reason, no less than for her goodness, youth and beauty, she was held dear as the queen's own daughter.

Now after a month or so was past, the queen was called to appear before the judgment seat of destiny to pay the debt to nature, and she asked the king to her bedside, and said to him, "But a short while can my soul remain till she looseth the matrimonial knot between herself and the body; therefore hearten thy heart, O my husband, and strengthen thy soul. But if thou lovest me, and desirest that I should go content and consoled and comforted into the next world, thou must grant me a boon."

"Command, O mine heart," said the king, "that if I cannot give thee proof whilst in life of my great love, I may give thee a sign of the affection I bear thee even after death."

Replied the queen, "Now listen, as thou hast promised. As soon as mine eyes will be closed in the dust, thou must marry Penta, although we know not who she is, nor whence she came: yet by good breeding and fine bearing is known a steed of good race."

Answered the king, "Live thou an hundred years; but even if thou shouldst say good-night to give me the evil day, I swear to thee that I shall take her to wife, and I care not that she is without hands and short of weight, for of the bad ones one must always take the least."

But these last words were uttered in an undertone so that his wife should not hear them. And as soon as the candle of the queen's days was put out, he took Penta to wife; and the first night that he lay with her she conceived. But after a time the king was obliged to sail for the kingdom of Anto-Scuoglio, and farewelling Penta, he weighed anchor.

The nine months being over, Penta brought to the light a beauteous man-child, and all the city was illumined and tables spread in honour of the newborn babe, and the ministers and counsellors quickly dispatched a felucca to advise the king of what had taken place.

Now the ship met stormy weather on the way, so that one moment it seemed as if she would meet the stars, and another moment that she would plunge into the very bottom of the ocean. At last, by the grace of heaven, she went ashore in the same place where Penta had been found, and had met with kindness and compassion from the chief of the sailors, and had been cast again into the sea by a woman's cruelty.

As ill-fortune would have it, the same Nuccia was washing the linen of her child at the seashore, and curious to know the business of other people, as 'tis the nature of women, enquired of the felucca's master whence he came, and whither he was bound, and who had sent him.

And the master answered, "I come from Terra-Verde, and am going to Anto-Scuoglio to find the king of that country, to give him a letter, and for this I have been sent on purpose. I believe 'tis his wife that hath written to him. But I could not tell thee clearly what is the message."

Replied Nuccia, "And who is the wife of this king?"

And the master rejoined, 'From what I have heard said, she is a beauteous young dame, and she is hight Penta the Handless, as she hath lost both her hands. And I have heard them saying that she was found within a chest in the midst of the sea, and by her good fortune and destiny she hath become the king's wife, and I know not why she is writing to him in such haste that I needs must run against time and tide to reach him quickly."

Hearing these words, that jewess of a Nuccia invited the master to come and drink a glass in her house, and she plied him with liquor till he was dead drunk, and then taking the letter out of his pocket, she called a scribe and bade him read it. All the time the man read, she was dying with envy, and every syllable made her sigh deeply, and at the last she bade the same scribe to falsify the writing, and write to the king that the queen had given birth to a dog, and they awaited his orders to know what they should do with it.

After it was written they sealed it, and she put it in the sailor's pocket, and when he awakened and beheld the weather changed, he weighed anchor, and tacked the ship, and fared with a light wind for Anto-Scuoglio. Arriving thereto, he presented the letter to the king, who, after reading it, answered, that they should keep the queen in cheerful spirits, so that she should not be troubled at all, for these things came through heaven's commandments, and a good man should not rebel against the stars' decree.

And the master departed, and in a few days arrived at the same place, where Nuccia met him, and entreating him with exceeding great kindness, and giving him wine of extra good vintage, he fell to the ground intoxicated once more. And he slept heavily, and Nuccia putting her hand in his pocket found the answer; and calling the scribe bade him read it, and again bade him falsify a reply for the ministers and counsellors of Terra-Verde, which was, that they should burn at once mother and son.

When the master got over his drinking bout, he departed; and arriving at Terra-Verde, presented the letter to the counsellors, and they opened it. When they had mastered its contents, there was a murmuring and whispering among those old sages; and they conversed at length about this matter, and concluded at last that either the king must be going mad, or that some one had cast a spell upon him, for when he had such a pearl of a wife and a gem of an heir, he ordered to make powder of them for death's teeth.

So they took the middle course, and decided to send the queen and her son away from the city, where no news could ever be heard of them: And so, giving her some money so as to keep body and soul together, they sent out of the house a treasure, and from the city a great light, and from the husband the two props uplifting his hopes.

The unhappy Penta, perceiving that they had expelled her, although she was not a dishonest woman, nor related to bandits, nor a fastidious student, taking the child in arms, whom she watered with her tears, and fed with her milk, departed, and fared toward Lago-Truvolo where dwelt a magician, and he beholding this beautiful maimed damsel who moved the hearts to compassion, this beauty who made more war with her maimed arms than Briareus with his hundred hands, asked her to relate to him the whole history of her misadventures. And she related to him how her brother, because she would not satisfy his lust of her flesh, sent her to be food for the fishes, and she continued her story up to the day in which she had set her foot in his kingdom.

The magician, hearing this sad tale, wept with ceaseless weeping; and the compassion which entered through the ear-holes issued in sighs from the mouth; at last comforting her with kind words, he said, "Keep a good heart, O my daughter, for no matter how rotten is the soul's home, it can be supported with the props of hope; and therefore let not thy spirit go forth, as heaven sometimes sendeth great trouble and travail, so as to make appear all the greater the marvellous coming of success. Doubt not, therefore, thou hast found father and mother here, and I will help thee with my own blood."

The sad-hearted Penta thanked him gratefully, and said, "I care not now for aught. Let heaven rain misfortunes upon my head, and let a storm of ruin come, now that I am under thy shelter I fear naught as thou wilt protect me with thy grace as thou canst and wilt; and I feel like under the spell of childhood."

And after a thousand words of kindness on one side and thanks on the other, the magician allotted her a splendid apartment in his palace, and bade that she should be entreated as his own daughter.

The next morning he sent for the crier and commanded that a ban should be published, that whosoever would come and relate at his court the greatest misfortune, he would present them with a crown and sceptre of gold, of the worth of a kingdom. And the news of this edict flew to all parts of Europe, and to that court came folk more than broccoli to gain such great riches, and one related that he had served at court all the days of his life, and had found that he had lost the water and the soap, his youth and health, and had been paid with a form of cheese. And another, that he had met with injustice from a superior, which he could not resent; and that he had been obliged to swallow the pill, and could not give vent to his anger. One lamented that he had put all his substance within a vessel, and owing to contrary winds had lost the cooked and the raw. Another complained that he had spent all his years in the exercise of his pen and had had so little fortune, that never had it brought him any gain, and he despaired of himself, seeing that matters of pen and ink were so fortunate in the world, whilst his only failed. Such was their case.

In the meanwhile the King of Terra-Verde had returned to his kingdom; and finding this fine sirup at home, he became frantic, and acted as a mad unchained lion, and would have slain all the ministers and counsellors, if they had not shown him his own letter, and perceiving that it had been counterfeited, he sent for the ship's master, and bade him relate to him what had occurred in the voyage. And the king keenly divined that Masiello's wife must have worked him this evil; and arming and equipping a galley, he departed and sailed for that coast, and arriving there he sought and found the woman, and with kindly words he drew out from her the whole intrigue, and thus ascertaining that envy and jealousy had been the cause of this great misfortune, he commanded that the woman should be punished: and they well anointed her with wax and tallow, and put her among a heap of wood, setting fire thereto. And the king stood and watched till he beheld that the fire with its red tongues had licked up that wretched woman.

He then ordered the sailors to weigh anchor and depart. And whilst sailing amid the sea, his craft was met by a large vessel, and on enquiry being made he found that on board of it was the King of Preta-Secca. They exchanged a thousand ceremonious compliments, and the King of Preta-Secca informed the King of Terra-Verde that he was sailing towards Lago-Truvolo, as the king of that kingdom had published a certain ban, and he was going to tempt his fortune, as he did not yield to any in misfortune, being the most sorrow-stricken man in all the world.

Answered the King of Terra-Verde, "If 'tis for such case thou goest, I can surpass thee, or at least equal thee, and I can give fifteen for a dozen, and excel the most unfortunate, whoever he be, and where the others measure their cark and care with a small lantern, I can measure it even to the grave. Therefore I will also come with thee, and let us act as gentlemen, each one of us, and whoso shall win of us two shall divide the winnings with the other, even to a fennel."

"I agree to it," answered the King of Preta-Secca, and plighting their word between them, they sailed together for Lago-Truvolo, where they disembarked, and fared to the royal palace, and presented themselves before the magician.

And when he knew who they were, he entreated them with honour as due to kings, and bade them be seated under the dais, and said, "Well come, and a thousand times welcome!"

And hearing that they also had come to the trial of wretchedness and unhappiness of men, the magician enquired what great sorrow had subjected them to the south wind of sighs. And the King of Preta-Secca first began to tell of his love, and the wrong done to his own flesh and blood, and the honourable deed of a virtuous woman done by his sister, and his own dogheartedness in shutting her up into the chest, and casting her into the sea. And he grieved with exceeding grief as his conscience reproached him of his own error, and his sorrow was great, passing all distress, for the loss of his sister. In one way he was tormented by shame, in the other by the great loss: so that all the cark and care of the most great affliction in others was in him like hell compared to a lantern, and the quintessence of sorrow was as naught, compared with the anguish which gnawed at his heart.

Having ended his say, the King of Terra-Verde began to relate, saying, "Alas! thy sorrow and trouble are like small lumps of sugar, and cakes, and sweetmeats compared with mine, because that very Penta the Handless of whom thou hast spoken, and whom I found in that chest, like a Venice wax torch to burn at my funeral, I took to wife. And she conceived, and bare me a son of passing beauty, and by the envy and malignity of an hideous witch, both had nearly been slain. But, O sore nail to my heart, O anguish and sore affliction, I can never find peace and rest in this world! They were both expelled from my kingdom: and I have taste for naught, and I know not how under the heavy load of such cark and care, doth not fall the ass of this weary life."

The magician, having heard both their say, understood at once from the points of their noses that one of them was the brother, and the other the husband, of Penta, and sending for Nufriello the son, said to him, "Go and kiss thy sire and lord's feet;" and the child obeyed the magician, and the father seeing the good breeding and beauty and grace of the little child threw a gold chain round his neck.

And this done, the magician said again to the child, "Go and kiss thy uncle's hand, O beauteous boy mine," and the child obeyed at once.

The uncle marvelling with exceeding marvel at the wit and spirit of the little one, presented him with a valuable gem, and enquired of the magician if he were his son, and he answered that they must enquire of his mother. Penta, who had been hid behind a curtain, and had heard the whole business, now came forth, and like a little dog who, having been lost, and after some days finding his master again, barks, and wags its tail, and bounds, and licks his hand, and gives a thousand signs of its delight: Thus it was with her, now going to the brother, and then to her husband, now clasped by the love of the one, and then drawn by the blood's instinct of the other, she embraced first one and then the other, and their delight, and joy, and happiness knew no bounds. Ye must suppose that it was a concert in three of broken words and interrupted sighs; but having ended this music, they then returned to caress the child, first the father, and then the uncle, clasped him, and kissed him, and embraced him.

After that from both sides all was said and done, the magician concluded with these words, "Heaven knoweth how this heart fluttereth with joy in beholding the happiness of all, and the lady Penta comforted, who for her own good deeds deserveth to be held in the palm of the hand, and by this scheme I tried to draw to this kingdom her husband and her brother, and to one and the other I submit myself their slave; but as man bindeth himself with words, and the ox is bound by the horns, and the promise of a worthy man is his bond, judging that the King of Terra-Verde was in sooth the one most likely to burst with grief, I will maintain my promise to him, and therefore I give him not only the crown and sceptre as hath been published by the ban, but my kingdom also. And as I have neither chick nor child, by your good grace I desire to take as my adopted children this handsome couple, husband and wife, and ye will be dear unto me as the eyeball of mine eyes; and because there should be naught left for Penta to desire, let her put her maimed limbs between her legs, and she will withdraw them with a pair of hands more beauteous than she had before."

And this being done, and all happening as the magician had said, the joy was great: They were out of mind with delight. The husband esteemed this the greater good fortune, more than the other kingdom given to him by the magician; and for a few days there were great joyances and feasting, and then the King of Preta-Secca returned to his kingdom, and the King of Terra-Verde sent his brother-in-law to his realm, bidding his younger brother take his place, and he and his wife remained with the magician, forgetting in joy and delight the past travail, and taking the world to witness, that:

There is naught sweet and dear
Unless one hath been first tried by the bitter.

The Innkeeper's Beautiful Daughter


Once upon a time there was a woman who had an inn where she provided shelter to travelers. She had a daughter who was so beautiful that one could not imagine anyone more beautiful. The mother could not stand her, precisely because she was so beautiful, and always kept her locked up in a room so no one could see her. The only person who knew about her was the maid who brought food to her every day.

One day it happened that the king wanted to spend the night at the inn. He arrived just as the maid was bringing food to the girl. Someone called the maid, and she forgot to close the door behind her. Noticing this, the innkeeper's daughter became curious and wanted to see the king. She stepped into the doorway, but when the king walked down the hall she quickly stepped back into the room. However, he saw her, and was completely blinded with her beauty.

"Where is the beautiful girl whom I saw in the hallway?" he asked the maid who was serving him.

"Oh, your majesty," she answered, "that is the innkeeper's daughter, and she is just as good as she is beautiful. But her mother keeps he locked up so that no one can see her."

The king was so enchanted with her beauty that he wanted to marry her.

Because he could not ask the mother for her hand, he called for the maid and said, "I shall remain here for a few days. Go to the daughter and ask her if she will be my wife."

The maid went to the girl and said, "Just think, miss, the king wants to marry you, and he wants to know if you will flee with him and escape from this house where you are treated so badly."

"Oh," answered the poor girl, "how would I be able to flee? My mother keeps such a strict watch over me."

"Just leave it to me," answered the faithful maid.

She then went to the king and said, "I know what you can do. Leave here tomorrow, as though you were returning to your home. Stop somewhere nearby. The girl will pretend to be sick, and I'll tell her mother that it is because she is always locked indoors. If she will let her go outside then I'll bring her to you. Take me with you, because I'll not be able to return without the girl."

The king promised to do this, and the next day the king pretended to leave. However, he went only a short distance, then stopped at another inn, but without letting it be known that he was the king.

The innkeeper's daughter pretended to be sick and refused to eat anything, losing more and more weight.

"Just what does the girl have that makes her so ill?" asked the mother.

"Of course the poor child is sick," answered the maid. She is always kept inside never gets any fresh air. Tomorrow let her go to the fair with me. Those few steps will bring her back to health."

The mother agreed to this, and the next morning the maid and the daughter left for the fair. They were scarcely out of the mother's view when they rushed to the king, whose carriage was ready to go. He lifted the beautiful girl inside, and they rode away. He gave the faithful maid so much money that she was able to move to a different country with her entire family.

The king arrived at his castle and introduced his fiancée to his mother.

"This is my dear fiancée," he said, "and now we want to have a splendid wedding."

The girl was so beautiful that the old queen accepted her immediately. There was a splendid wedding, and the king and his young wife lived together happily and contentedly.

Nearly a year had passed when war broke out, and the king had to go off to battle.

He said to the old queen, "Mother, dear, I must go away. I entrust my dear wife to you. If she should have a baby, let me know immediately, and take good care of it."

With that he embraced his mother and his wife, and departed.

Not long afterward the young queen gave birth to her first son, and the old queen took good care of her. She immediately wrote a letter to the king telling him of the birth of his son.

The messenger carrying the letter to the king stopped to rest at the inn owned by the young queen's mother. Upon arriving there he ordered something to eat, and while he was eating, the innkeeper asked him where he was from and where he was going. He explained how he had been sent to report to the king the happy birth of his son. Hearing this, the innkeeper resolved to take revenge against her daughter for having escaped.

The messenger lay down and fell asleep, whereupon the innkeeper took the letter from his pocket and replaced it with a different one, claiming that the young queen had been guilty of the worst infidelity and deserved the strictest punishment. This was the letter that the messenger brought to the king.

This letter saddened the king greatly because he was so in love with his wife. Nonetheless, he wrote to the old queen that she should take good care of his wife and do nothing until he had returned. The messenger departed with this letter. Arriving at the inn, he once again ordered something to eat. The innkeeper asked if the king had sent a response with him.

"Yes," he answered, "the letter is in my pocket."

The messenger once again fell asleep after eating, and the innkeeper replaced the king's letter with a different one, wherein it was written that the young queen's hands should be chopped off, the child should be tied to her maimed arms, and that the two of them should be thus exiled into the wide world.

After receiving this letter the old queen cried bitterly, for she dearly loved her daughter-in-law.

However, the young queen meekly said, "I shall do whatever my lord and husband commands!"

With that she had her own hands chopped off. The child was then tied to her arms so that she could nurse it. She then embraced the old queen and wandered away, far away into a dark forest.

After wandering a great while she came to a little brook. Because she was very tired she sat down.

"Oh," she thought, "if only I had my hands I would not be so helpless. Then I could wash out my child's diaper and dress him with clean clothes. As it is, my innocent child shall soon die."

As she thus spoke and wept, an old and distinguished man suddenly appeared before her and asked why she was crying. She told him of her sorrow and how she innocently had been inflicted with such severe punishment.

"Don't cry," said the old man. "Come with me, and all will go well with you."

He led her a little further into the woods, then he struck the ground with his staff, and suddenly a castle appeared, much grander than the king's castle. A garden was there as well, and the king himself did not have a better one. The old man was Saint Joseph, and he had come to the aid of the innocent young queen.

The young queen and her child lived with Saint Joseph in the beautiful castle, and because she was so good, Saint Joseph caused her hands to grow back. The child grew large and strong, and every day became more beautiful.

But now we shall leave the queen and see what is happening with the king.

The war ended, and the king sorrowfully returned to his castle. His wife's infidelity broke his heart.

"What have you done with my wife?" he asked his mother.

"Oh, you wicked man," answered the queen, weeping, "how could you cause your innocent wife to suffer so greatly?"

"What!" he cried. "Did you not write to me that she was guilty of great infidelity."

"You say that I wrote that to you?" said the queen. "I reported the happy birth of your son, and you replied that I should have her hands chopped off and exiled into the wide world with her child."

"I wrote no such thing!" cried the king.

Then the two of them brought forth the letters, and said that they had not written them.

"Oh, my dear innocent child!" sobbed the old queen. "Now you are surely dead!"

Great sadness fell over the castle, and the king was so miserable that he turned seriously ill. He finally recovered but remained wretchedly unhappy.

One day the old queen said to him, "My son, the weather is beautiful, why don't you go hunting? Perhaps it will distract you."

So the king mounted his horse and sadly rode into the woods, but without hunting. Because of his grief he did not pay attention to where he was going, and soon found himself lost in the dense forest. His attendants did not dare to say anything to him. As it was growing dark the king wanted to turn back, but no one knew the right way, so they blundered ever deeper into the woods. Finally they saw a light in the distance, and following it they came to the beautiful castle where the young queen was living.

They knocked, and Saint Joseph opened the door and asked what they wanted.

"Oh, my good old man," answered the king. "Could you give us shelter for the night? We are lost and cannot find our way back home."

Saint Joseph invited them in, fed them, and offered them good beds. However, the young queen and her son did not show themselves.

The next morning, while the king was at breakfast, Saint Joseph went to the young queen and said, "The king has spent the night here. Now is the moment when your sorrows shall cease."

The queen dressed her son in his best clothes, and Saint Joseph had him go to the king, kiss his hand, and say, "Good morning, papa, I would like to eat breakfast with you."

Seeing the beautiful child, the king was very moved, but did not know why. Then the door opened and the young queen entered with Saint Joseph. She bowed before the king. He recognized his beloved wife and embraced her and his little son.

Saint Joseph approached them, saying, "All your sorrows are now at an end. Live happily and contentedly, and if ever you have a wish, just call on me, for I am Saint Joseph."

With that he blessed them and disappeared. The castle disappeared at the same time, leaving the king, the queen, their son and the attendants all standing in the woods. Before them they saw the pathway that led out of the woods and back to their castle. They came to the old queen who was happy from the bottom of her heart to see once again her beloved daughter-in-law and her little grandson. Then all together they lived happily and contentedly, but we, we went away with nothing.

The Girl without Hands

Italy / Austria

Once upon a time there was a woman innkeeper who had a daughter.

Whenever guests came there they said, "The innkeeper is in truth the most beautiful woman in all the land." But when they saw her daughter they could not take their eyes from her, and they said, "The innkeeper is beautiful, but her daughter is much more beautiful."

The innkeeper was proud of her beauty and would liked to have been the most beautiful. It made her ill to hear people say that her daughter was more beautiful than she was. Every day the girl became more and more beautiful until the mother could no longer contain her envy and anger.

She hired a man and ordered him to take the girl into the mountains and kill her. As proof he was to bring back her heart. The man took the girl into the mountains and told her what the mother had demanded. The girl wept bitterly, fell to her knees, and begged him to spare her young life. The man was moved and spared her life on the condition that she would go away into foreign lands and never again return home. He brought back a dog's heart to the innkeeper.

Sadly the girl went into the wide world, arriving finally in a city where she remained for some time as a servant girl. However, she was always sad, thinking constantly about her homeland and her wicked mother.

She could not believe that her mother could be so cruel, and said to herself, "For sure she is filled with regret and now weeps sorrowfully and silently because of my presumed death."

Finally she no longer could withstand her longing, and she set forth for her homeland.

Her mother received her with angry surprise. The proud woman summoned the man once again and reproved him for his previous disobedience. Once again she told him to take the girl into the mountains and kill her. This time he was to bring back her chopped off hands as proof of her death.

The man took the girl into the mountains, and she again fell to her knees and begged him to spare her life. The man was indeed moved, but he feared the innkeeper's anger.

"What can I do?" he said. "Your mother has demanded that I bring her your hands. I have to obey her."

The girl looked painfully toward heaven and said, "I would sooner lose my hands than my life. Chop off my hands, but spare my life!"

She laid her hands onto a tree stump, and the horrible thing happened. The man helped her to bind up her bleeding arms, than told her to go far away, making her swear that she never again would return home.

In unspeakable pain the girl went far into the dark woods. She prayed that God might heal her and protect her, and her prayer was not in vain. Soon her wounds began to heal, and she found nourishment from herbs, roots, and fruits of the forest. The wild animals did not threaten her life. At first she lived in a cave, but then she found an old willow tree with a rotten inside. With great difficulty and stress she hollowed it out. Here she was better protected against heat, cold, and wild animals. When her wounds pained her, and she despaired over what might become of her, she prayed and wept, and her prayers and tears comforted her.

An inner voice cried out to her, "God will not forsake you!" Even the poorest and the most miserable individual who listens to and believes in such a voice will find comfort.

One day it happened that the king's son from a somewhat distant city who was hunting in these mountains became separated from his companions. Wandering alone through the woods he suddenly caught sight of the beautiful maiden. At first he thought it was a beautiful, strange animal. Wanting to capture it alive, he did not shoot an arrow at it. When she saw him, she ran away like a deer. He chased after her and saw that she fled into the hollow willow tree. He approached it and commanded her to step outside. To his surprise he saw a beautiful maiden with chopped off hands standing before him.

"Who are you, my child, and why are you here? Who cut off your hands?"

She wept and said nothing.

Falling in love with her, he said, "I see that you must have fallen into the hands of wicked people. I will rescue you. Now you shall experience better days. Come with me into the city."

Then he blew into his hunting horn, and it sounded through the woods, echoing from the cliffs. Not long afterward his companions and servants approached. They fashioned a litter. The prince lifted the maiden onto it and covered her with his cloak.

After arriving at the palace in the city he had rooms made ready for her, then provided her with servants and costly clothing and took care of her in the best possible manner.

One day he went to her and asked her if she did not want to become his wife.

She blushed and said, "That cannot be."

Sadly, he asked her why.

"How can I, a poor girl without hands become your wife?" she replied. "What would your mother say?"

"Don't worry about that," he said. "I am my own master and follow my heart's voice, which tells me that you will make me happy. I love you truly and sincerely, even if you cannot love me."

Hearing these words, her face turned fire-red and her heart beat loudly. She dropped to her knees before him and covered his hands with kisses and hot tears.

"You are now my bride before God and before the people," he cried with joy. Lifting her up he pressed a kiss onto her pure white forehead. The he went to his mother and explained to her that he wanted to marry the maiden.

The mother was a proud woman and for a long time had secretly assumed that her son would marry the world's most beautiful and wealthiest princess. Therefore the prince's proposal made her exceedingly angry.

"Are you out of your mind?" she shouted at him. "You want to make a vagabond low-class girl without hands into my daughter-in-law and the people's queen?"

But the prince remained steadfast. He forced his mother to tame, or at least to hide her anger, and he wed the maiden.

The people did not complain; to the contrary, they loved the young queen more and more, for in a short time she did more for them without hands than the old queen had done for them in her entire lifetime with her healthy hands.

The couple's happiness lasted only a few months, for war broke out, and the prince had to go to battle with his army. He ordered all his servants to care for his wife and to assure that no harm would come to her. Then he fondly bad her farewell and departed with his army.

More months passed by, and the young queen gave birth to two beautiful boys. The old queen was beside herself with anger and would have pulled the children away from her, but the servants, true to their master, kept watch over the young queen and her children, not leaving them alone for even a moment.

The old queen sent a trusted messenger to the prince with the claim that his wife had given birth to two children that looked like dogs. The people were revolting, and he therefore should order what was to be done.

She believed that her son would give the order to have the young mother and her children killed, but she was wrong. The prince ordered that no one should do anything to his wife or the children until after he had returned home.

This angered the old queen all the more, and she sent the same messenger to the prince with the claim that the people were threatening a revolution, and that she therefore saw no other remedy but to publicly burn to death the young mother and her children. And she would have had this done, but the young queen discovered her plan in time. In the middle of the night she took both children into her arms and secretly fled from the palace and from the city.

"God will not abandon me and my poor little ones!" she thought as she went on her way.

She walked until she came to a valley in a forest wilderness. Then two honorable men approached her and asked, "Have these children been baptized?"

"No," she replied and then told them of her escape and of her difficulties.

Then the one man said, "I'll baptize the children. What names shall I give them?"

"Whatever ones you like," she said.

"Good," replied the man. "The one shall be named Johannes and the other one Joseph." And he baptized them with the water from the river that flowed through the valley.

The two men were none other than Saint Johannes and Saint Joseph themselves.

Then the first man said, "Take your children to the far edge of the valley. There you will find a lovely house supplied with everything that you need for yourself and your children. Do not leave the house, and do not open the door for anyone unless he addresses you by the five wounds of our savior."

Relieved, she promised this, thanked he men graciously, and went on her way.

She than came upon a beautiful woman who looked at her kindly and said, "My poor woman, you have no hands."

The young mother wept.

The beautiful woman was none other than Saint Mary, and she said, "Stick your arms into the water of this river."

She did this, and when she pulled her arms out, she once again had her healthy hands.

Weeping with joy she thanked heavenly woman, who then said to her in parting, "Go to that house and faithfully heed what the two saints have told you. Then things will go well for you and your children, for you have always been pious and in your need have trusted in heaven.

With a joyful heart she went on her way and found the promised house. There they remained by themselves, for no other human soul was to be found near and far. There she had everything that she needed. The two boys grew and were soon running cheerfully around in the woods. The mother kept her promise, and they were pious and good, praying morning and evening to God that he would bless and protect them.

Six years passed. Meanwhile the prince had returned from the wars and had become king. He was always sad, for he often thought about his wife and his children, who he assumed were dead. He had banned his mother from the court.

One time he went hunting and lost his way in the woods. Night was approaching and it had begun to storm. Without success he sought shelter beneath the old trees; the wind whipped rain into his face, it thundered without pause, and lightning lit up the entire area. Then he saw the house where his wife and children were living. He knocked on the door, but no one opened it for him. The weather became more and more angry, and lighting struck once again.

In great fear he cried out, "By the five wounds of our savior, open the door!"

Hearing these words, the queen opened the door and let him enter.

"Give me shelter for the night," he cried out. "I am dead tired and soaked through."

She recognized him immediately. He too thought that this was he wife, and he wanted to cry out with joy, but the sight of her hands told him that he was mistaken, for his wife had no hands.

She controlled herself and did not tell him who she was. She led him to the hearth, stirred up the flames, and brought food and drink to him.

At first two children did not dare look at the strange man, for until now they had never seen a human being, except for their mother. Finally, encouraged by their mother they shyly approached the stranger, then, snuggled against their mother's arms, they stared at him with wide-open eyes, and he looked back with kindness.

With tears in his eyes he thought, "My children would be just this age, if they were still alive."

The king sat by the fire and dried his clothes. Then sleep overcame him, and he closed his eyes. Seeing that he was asleep, she told her children that this man was their father. Therefore, when he awoke, they should be very friendly toward him. Then it happened that the sleeping king's hat fell off his head to the floor.

"Johannes," said the mother, "pick up your father's hat."

The boy obeyed. The king was half awake and heard what was said.

"What is this?" he thought to himself. "I'll pretend to be asleep and let my hat fall again."

A little later the hat fell to the floor again.

"Joseph," said the mother, "pick up your father's hat."

Hearing this, the king got up and said, "Woman, why do you call me father?"

She smiled and said, "Look at me closely!"

He broke out in tears and said, "Yes, you look like dear wife, but it is not possible that you are she, for my dear wife had no hands."

She cried out, "But it is possible, my beloved husband. God has given me back my hands, and these boys are your children.

Then they embraced one another until their hearts almost broke for joy. He took the two boys into his arms and could not stop looking at them and kissing them; all the while tears of joy were running down his cheeks. They stayed together the entire night, telling each other what had happened to them.

The next morning he wanted to take her and the boys to the city, but she said, "My dear husband, the saints have commanded that I remain here forever, and I must obey them."

He did not object, but kissed her and the boys in parting, and said, "I'll come back to you soon."

He returned to the city. There he gave up the crown and the kingship, sold all of his belongings, chose the most faithful of his servants, then returned to his wife and his children. They lived together many long years in that beautiful, peaceful mountain valley. They enjoyed in the largest measure that happiness which mankind can only achieve through sacred peace of mind.

Beautiful Magdalene


There was once a woman innkeeper who kept an inn in a remote place. She was a widow and had a daughter whose name was Beautiful Magdalene. The daughter was so beautiful that a suitor from the city presented himself and wanted to marry her as soon as possible. However, the mother, still in her best years, would have liked to marry this suitor herself. Because he had taken special interest in the daughter's beautiful arms, the mother convinced the executioner to chop off Beautiful Magdalene's arms, in order to make her unattractive to the suitor.

The mother led the girl into a forest where the executioner was lying in wait. He chopped off her arms. While the executioner and the mother were burying the arms, Beautiful Magdalena ran away from them, swearing never again to be seen by her mother. In great pain she went deeper into the woods. Finally she came out of the forest and to a high mountain. She climbed upward until she spotted a castle with a garden. She approached the castle and attempted to get into the garden, finally succeeding to get over the fence. As she walked around inside the garden the prince, who was standing at a castle window, saw her beauty but noticed at the same time that she had no arms.

He called to his mother, saying, "Mother, look! There is a beautiful woman in the garden, but she has no arms."

The queen looked out the window and saw the beautiful girl without arms fluttering around in the garden like a magnificent butterfly.

Seeing that her son was attracted to her, she said, "Go and bring the girl into the castle."

The prince went to her in the garden. Seeing that the prince was approaching her, she attempted to run away. He caught up with her and took her into the castle.

The prince's mother asked how she had lost her arms and where she had come from. Sobbing, she related everything that had happened to her.

The prince fell in love with her and confessed to his mother that he wanted to marry her. The mother loved her son very much, and seeing how beautiful the girl was, she immediately agreed to the marriage. The wedding was held, and the mother had her son crowned as king. They lived happily together, but soon the young king had to go off to war.

In the meantime Beautiful Magdalene gave birth to a little prince. The king's mother was delighted and wanted to share the good news with her son. She wrote a letter and gave it to a trusted servant to deliver to the king.

Unfortunately, the servant came to the same inn that had been Beautiful Magdalene's home. The innkeeper was still unmarried, for the suitor had not returned after the daughter's disappearance. She questioned the servant and soon discovered from his talk about the queen without arms that her daughter had become queen. She put a sleeping potion in his drink, then replaced his letter with a false one stating that the king's wife had given birth to a poodle-dog, and that the old queen could not sleep at night because of the dog's whining.

Nonetheless, the prince was pleased with the news of the birth and wrote back to the mother that she should take good care of his wife until he returned home. Furthermore, she should keep the young dog.

Returning to the castle, the servant stopped once again at the old woman's inn. She was curious how the king had answered the letter and again put a sleeping potion into his wine. While he slept she opened the letter. Again she put a false one in its place, wherein it was stated that the king's mother should send his wife into exile immediately. If she were still there upon his return, he would have her burned at the stake, because in the meantime he had chosen a new wife whom he would be bringing home with him.

This letter saddened the old queen greatly. The young queen was curious and demanded to know what the letter contained. The old queen told her what had been written, and from that hour onward Beautiful Magdalene wanted to leave the castle. The old queen wrapped the child in a cloak and tied the bundle onto the mother's back. Thus Beautiful Magdalene made her way into the wide world.

Some time later she found herself in a dense forest where a valley stretched forth on the one side. Her child cried, but she could not nurse him because she could not hold him with her arm-stump. Suddenly she heard a terrible roar close by, and she saw that it was a lion that had a thorn stuck in its paw. With her mouth she untied the bundle that held her child to her back, then lay him on the ground next to her. Beautiful Magdalene kneeled down before the lion and tried to pull out the thorn with her mouth, but without success.

Then she suddenly heard a voice. Looking around in the woods she saw no one, nor did she hear anything else.

But soon thereafter she heard the voice once again, and she clearly understood the words: "Beautiful Magdalene, go down into the valley. Kneel down in the water and immerse your shoulder blades. Do this, and you shall again have your arms."

Descending into the valley, Beautiful Magdalene heard the rustling water. She kneeled down in it and immersed her shoulder blades. When she pulled them up her beautiful arms were there once again. She rushed back to her child, whom the lion had been watching over like a guardian angel. First she picked up and nursed the baby, while the lion waited patiently. Then she lay the child back on the ground and pulled the thorn from the lion's paw.

After this she put the child back on her back then followed the health-giving stream, thinking that it would lead to someone's dwelling. When night fell she arrived at a house and went inside, where she found two chairs and a table set with food. After she had refreshed herself somewhat, a little white dwarf appeared, but he was terribly afraid of the lion who was lying at Beautiful Magdalene's feet. She told the dwarf that he should not fear the lion, so he came nearer, then asked where she had come from. She told him everything that had happened, upon which the little white dwarf told her that she should remain there, and that he would care for her. Whenever she was hungry, she should say:

Table, set yourself;
Glass, fill yourself,
and everything that she might want would appear.

She did this, and whenever she said the charm, the most delicious food and the most expensive wine appeared on the table. There was even some marzipan there. For some time she lived there in the house, and she was usually quite lonely, for the little white dwarf was mostly away.

In the meantime her husband returned home from the war and deduced what had happened. Finding no peace, the king sponsored a great hunt. He lost his way and was separated from his servants and companions, but at nightfall he fortunately saw a light in the house where Beautiful Magdalene was staying. He knocked on the door, and Beautiful Magdalene immediately recognized his voice. However, the lion did not want to allow the king inside. She hit the lion; he became still, and the king stepped inside. He asked her where she had come from and why she was living in this little house. She told him everything that had happened.

Then the king recognized his wife and was beside himself with joy that a miracle had restored her arms. He kissed her arms passionately, and he kissed her mouth. And thus they carried on for a long time.

He stayed that night with his wife in the little white dwarf's house. The next morning he took her back to his castle. The lion came along as well, quite majestically.

He conferred with his mother as to how the old innkeeper should be punished. She advised that the guilty one should be placed in a barrel studded with nails and then rolled down a mountain. And thus the old woman was rolled down a mountain in a barrel.

The ravens that saw it called out: "Caw! Caw!" With that they were saying: "Justice has been served!"

The king sent his people to find the world's most precious armbands. A page returned with the most precious ones, and the king himself put them onto Beautiful Magdalene's arms. However, the very best thing was that now the queen could properly put her arms around her husband.

The Girl without Hands

Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1812)

A miller, who was so poor that he had nothing more than his mill and a large apple tree which stood behind it, went into the forest to gather wood.

There he was approached by an old man, who said, "Why do you torment yourself so? I will make you rich if you will sign over to me that which is standing behind your mill. I will come and claim it in three years."

The miller thought, "That is my apple tree," agreed, and signed it over to the man.

When he came home, his wife said to him, "Miller, where did all the wealth come from that suddenly has filled every chest and cupboard in our house?"

"I received it from an old man in the forest by signing over to him that which is standing behind the mill."

"Husband!" said the woman, terrified. "This is going to be very bad. The old man was the devil, and he had our daughter in mind, who was just then standing behind the mill sweeping the yard."

Now the miller's daughter was very beautiful and pious. Three years later when the devil came, early in the morning, and wanted to take her, she had drawn a circle around herself with chalk and had washed herself clean.

Therefore the devil could not approach her, and angrily he said to the miller, "Keep wash-water away from her, so she cannot wash herself any more, and I can have power over her."

The miller was frightened and did what he was told. The next day the devil returned, but she had wept into her hands and washed herself with her tears, and was entirely clean.

Because the devil still could not approach her, he was very angry, and ordered the miller, "Chop off her hands, so I can get to her."

The miller was horrified and answered, "How could I chop off my dear child's hands? No, I will not do it."

"Then do you know what? I will take you, if you don't do it!"

That frightened the miller terribly, and driven by fear he promised to do what the devil had ordered.

He went to his daughter and said, "My child, the devil will take me if I don't chop off both your hands, and I have promised him that I will do it. I beg for your forgiveness."

"Father," she said, "do with me what you will," stretched forth her hands, and let him chop them off.

The devil came a third time, but she had wept so long onto her stumps, that she was still entirely clean, and the devil had lost all power over her.

The miller, because he had become so wealthy through her, promised to take the best care of her for the rest of her life, but she did not want to remain there.

"I must leave here," she said. "Compassionate people will give me enough to keep me alive."

She had the chopped-off hands tied to her back, and she set forth with the rising sun, walking the entire day until evening, when she came to the king's garden. There was a gap in the garden hedge. She went inside, found a fruit tree, shook it with her body until the apples fell to the ground, bent over and picked them up with her teeth, and ate them. Thus she lived for two days, but on the third day the garden watchmen saw her, captured her, and threw her into prison.

The next morning she was brought before the king and sentenced to be banished from the land, but the prince said, "Wait, wouldn't it be better to let her tend the chickens in the courtyard?"

So she stayed there for a time and tended the chickens. The prince saw her often and grew very fond of her.

Meanwhile the time came when he was to get married. Messengers were sent everywhere in the world to find him a beautiful bride.

"You needn't look so far and wide," he said. "I know where one is very nearby."

The old king pondered this back and forth, but he could not think of a single maiden in his kingdom who was both beautiful and rich.

"You surely don't want to marry the one who tends the chickens in the courtyard?"

But his son declared that he would marry no one else, so finally the king had to agree. Soon afterward he died, and the prince succeeded him as king and lived happily for a time with his wife.

Once the king had to go away to war, and during his absence his wife gave birth to a beautiful child. She sent a messenger with a letter telling her husband the joyful news. On the way the messenger stopped to rest by a brook and fell asleep. The devil, who was still trying to harm her, came to him and exchanged the letter with one that stated that the queen had given birth to a changeling. The king was very saddened to read this, but he wrote that the queen and the child should be well cared for until his return. The messenger started back with this letter. When he stopped to rest at the same spot and fell asleep, the devil again appeared, this time exchanging the king's letter with one that ordered the queen and the child to be driven from the kingdom. This had to be done, however much the people all wept with sorrow.

"I did not come here to become queen," she said. "I have no luck, and I demand none. Just tie my child and my hands onto my back, and I will set forth into the world."

That evening she came to a place in a thick forest where a good old man was sitting by a spring.

"Be so kindhearted as to hold my child to my breast until I have nursed him," she said.

The man did that, after which he said to her, "Go to that thick tree over there and wrap your maimed arms around it three times!"

And when she had done this, her hands grew back on. Then he showed her a house.

"You can live there," he said, "but do not go outside, and do not open the door for anyone unless he asks three times to come in, for God's sake."

Meanwhile the king returned home and discovered how he had been deceived. Accompanied by a single servant he set forth, and after a long journey he finally happened, one night, into the same forest where the queen was living, but he did not know that she was so close to him.

"There is a little light from a house back there," said his servant. "We can rest there."

"No," said the king. "I do not want to rest so long, but rather to continue searching for my wife. I cannot rest until I find her."

But the servant begged so much and complained so about his weariness that out of compassion, the king gave in. When they came to the house, the moon was shining, and they saw the queen standing by the window.

"That must be our queen; she looks just like her," said the servant, "but I see now that she is not the one, for this one has hands."

The servant asked her for shelter, but she refused, because he had not asked "for God's sake."

He was about to go on and seek another place for their night's lodging when the king himself came up and said, "Let me in, for God's sake!"

"I cannot let you in until you have asked me three time, for God's sake," she replied.

And after the king had asked two more times, she opened the door. His little son ran to him and led him in to his mother. The king recognized her immediately as his beloved wife. The next morning they all journeyed together back to their kingdom, and as soon as they had left the house, it disappeared behind them.

The Girl without Hands

Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1857)

A miller fell slowly but surely into poverty, until finally he had nothing more than his mill and a large apple tree which stood behind it.

One day he had gone into the forest to gather wood, where he was approached by an old man, whom he had never seen before, and who said, "Why do you torment yourself with chopping wood? I will make you rich if you will promise me that which is standing behind your mill."

"What can that be but my apple tree?" thought the miller, said yes, and signed it over to the strange man.

The latter, however, laughed mockingly and said, "I will come in three years and get what belongs to me," then went away.

When he arrived home, his wife came up to him and said, "Miller, tell me, where did all the wealth come from that is suddenly in our house? All at once all the chests and boxes are full, and no one brought it here, and I don't know where it came from."

He answered, "It comes from an strange man whom I met in the woods and who promised me great treasures if I would but sign over to him that which stands behind the mill. We can give up the large apple tree for all this."

"Oh, husband!" said the woman, terrified. "That was the devil. He didn't mean the apple tree, but our daughter, who was just then standing behind the mill sweeping the yard."

The miller's daughter was a beautiful and pious girl, and she lived the three years worshipping God and without sin. When the time was up and the day came when the evil one was to get her, she washed herself clean and drew a circle around herself with chalk. The devil appeared very early in the 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. The next morning the devil returned, but she had wept into her hands, and they were entirely clean.

Thus he still could not approach her, and he spoke angrily to the miller, "Chop off her hands. Otherwise I cannot get to her."

The miller was horrified and answered, "How could I chop off my own child's hands!"

Then the evil one threatened him, saying, "If you do not do it, then you will be mine, and I will take you yourself."

This frightened the father, and he promised to obey him. Then he went to the girl and said, "My child, if I do not chop off both of your hands, then the devil will take me away, and in my fear I have promised him to do this. Help me in my need, and forgive me of the evil that I am going to do to you."

She answered, "Dear father, do with me what you will. I am your child," and with that she stretched forth both hands and let her father chop them off.

The devil came a third time, but she had wept so long and so much onto the stumps, that they were entirely clean. Then he had to give up, for he had lost all claim to her.

The miller spoke to her, "I have gained great wealth through you. I shall take care of you in splendor as long as you live."

But she answered, "I cannot remain here. I will go away. Compassionate people will give me as much as I need."

Then she had her mutilated arms tied to her back, and at sunrise she set forth, walking the entire day until it was night. She came to a royal garden, and by the light of the moon she saw that inside there were trees full of beautiful fruit. But she could not get inside, for there it was surrounded by water.

Having walked the entire day without eating a bite, she was suffering from hunger, and she thought, "Oh, if only I were inside the garden so I could eat of those fruits. Otherwise I shall perish."

Then she kneeled down and, crying out to God the Lord, she prayed. Suddenly an angel appeared. He closed a head gate, so that the moat dried up, and she could walk through.

She entered the garden, and the angel went with her. She saw a fruit tree with beautiful pears, but they had all been counted. She stepped up to the tree and ate from it with her mouth, enough to satisfy her hunger, but no more. The gardener saw it happen, but because the angel was standing by her he was afraid and thought that the girl was a spirit. He said nothing and did not dare to call out nor to speak to the spirit. After she had eaten the pear she was full, and she went and lay down in the brush.

The king who owned this garden came the next morning. He counted the fruit and saw that one of the pears was missing. He asked the gardener what had happened to it. It was not lying under the tree, but had somehow disappeared.

The gardener answered, "Last night a spirit came here. It had no hands and ate one of the pears with its mouth."

The king said, "How did the spirit get across the water? And where did it go after it had eaten the pear?"

The gardener answered, "Someone dressed in snow-white came from heaven and closed the head gate so the spirit could walk through the moat. Because it must have been an angel I was afraid, and I asked no questions, and I did not call out. After the spirit had eaten the pear it went away again."

The king said, "If what you said is true, I will keep watch with you tonight."

After it was dark the king entered the garden, bringing a priest with him who was to talk to the spirit. All three sat down under the tree and kept watch. At midnight the girl came creeping out of the brush, stepped up to the tree, and again ate off a pear with her mouth. An angel dressed in white was standing next to her.

The priest walked up to them and said, "Have you come from God, or from the world? Are you a spirit or a human?"

She answered, "I am not a spirit, but a poor human who has been abandoned by everyone except God."

The king said, "Even if you have been abandoned by the whole world, I will not abandon you."

He took her home with him to his royal castle, and because she was so beautiful and pure he loved her with all his heart, had silver hands made for her, and took her as his wife.

After a year the king had to go out into the battlefield, and he left the young queen in the care of his mother, saying, "If she has a child, support her and take good care of her, and immediately send me the news in a letter."

She gave birth to a beautiful son. The old mother quickly wrote this in a letter, giving the joyful news to the king.

Now on the way the messenger stopped at a brook to rest. Tired from his long journey, he fell asleep. Then the devil came to him. He still wanted to harm the pious queen, and he took the letter, putting in its place one that stated that the queen had brought a changeling into the world. When the king read this letter he was frightened and saddened, but nevertheless he wrote an answer that they should take good care of the queen until his return. The messenger returned with this letter, but he rested at the same place, and again fell asleep. The devil came again and placed a different letter in his bag. This letter said that they should kill the queen with her child.

The old mother was terribly frightened when she received this letter. She could not believe it, and wrote to the king again, but she got back the same answer, because each time the devil substituted a false letter. And the last letter even stated that they should keep the queen's tongue and eyes as proof.

The old mother lamented that such innocent blood was to be shed, and in the night she had a doe killed, cut out its tongue and eyes, and had them put aside.

Then she said to the queen, "I cannot have you killed as the king has ordered, but you can no longer stay here. Go out into the wide world with your child, and never come back."

The old mother tied the queen's child onto her back, and the poor woman went away with weeping eyes. She came to a great, wild forest where she got onto her knees and prayed to God. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to her and led her to a small house. On it was a small sign with the words, "Here anyone can live free."

A snow-white virgin came from the house and said, "Welcome, Queen," then led her inside. She untied the small boy from her back, held him to her breast so he could drink, and then laid him in a beautiful made-up bed.

Then the poor woman said, "How did you know that I am a queen?"

The white virgin answered, "I am an angel, sent by God to take care of you and your child."

She stayed in this house for seven years, and was well taken care of. And through the grace of God and her own piety her chopped-off hands grew back.

The king finally came back home from the battlefield, and the first thing he wanted to do was to see his wife and their child.

Then the old mother began to weep, saying, "You wicked man, why did you write to me that I was to put two innocent souls to death," and she showed him the two letters that the evil one had counterfeited. Then she continued to speak, "I did what you ordered," and showed him as proof the eyes and the tongue.

Then the king began to weep even more bitterly for his poor wife and his little son, until the old woman had mercy and said to him, "Be satisfied that she is still alive. I secretly had a doe killed and took the proofs from it. I tied your wife's child onto her back and told her to go out into the wide world, and she had to promise never to come back here, because you were so angry with her."

Then the king said, "I will go as far as the sky is blue, and will neither eat nor drink until I have found my dear wife and my child again, provided that in the meantime they have not died or perished from hunger."

Then the king traveled about for nearly seven years, searching in all the stone cliffs and caves, but he did not find her, and he thought that she had perished. He neither ate nor drank during the entire time, but God kept him alive. Finally he came to a great forest, where he found a little house with a sign containing the words, " Here anyone can live free."

The white virgin came out, took him by the hand, led him inside, and said, "Welcome, King," then asked him where he had come from.

He answered, "I have been traveling about for nearly seven years looking for my wife and her child, but I cannot find them."

The angel offered him something to eat and drink, but he did not take it, wanting only to rest a little. He lay down to sleep, covering his face with a cloth.

Then the angel went into the room where the queen was sitting with her son, whom she normally called "Filled-with-Grief."

The angel said to her, "Go into the next room with your child. Your husband has come."

She went to where he was lying, and the cloth fell from his face.

Then she said, "Filled-with-Grief, pick up the cloth for your father and put it over his face again."

The child picked it up and put it over his face again. The king heard this in his sleep and let the cloth fall again.

Then the little boy grew impatient and said, "Mother, dear, how can I cover my father's face? I have no father in this world. I have learned to pray, 'Our father which art in heaven,' and you have said that my father is in heaven, and that he is our dear God. How can I know such a wild man? He is not my father."

Hearing this, the king arose and asked who she was.

She said, "I am your wife, and this is your son Filled-with-Grief."

He saw her living hands and said, "My wife had silver hands."

She answered, "Our merciful God has caused my natural hands to grow back."

The angel went into the other room, brought back the silver hands, and showed them to him.

Now he saw for sure that it was his dear wife and his dear child, and he kissed them, and rejoiced, and said, "A heavy stone has fallen from my heart."

Then the angel of God gave them all something to eat, and then they went back home to his old mother. There was great joy everywhere, and the king and the queen conducted their wedding ceremony once again, and they lived happily until their blessed end.

The Daughter Who Was Promised to the Devil


Saddened at the loss of his wealth, a miller went into the woods where he met a strange man who asked him why he was so sad. The miller told him the cause of his sorrow, upon which the stranger promised him a large sum of money in return for whatever was just now behind his mill. Thinking that it was nothing more than the dust that settled there from the milling, he accepted the offer, signing the contract with his blood.

He received the money and returned home with it, then told his wife how he had come by it. She told him that he had promised his daughter to the devil. At the fateful moment she had been behind the mill separating grain kernels from the dust, prior to cooking them to eat.

They were greatly saddened, but decided to tell their daughter nothing.

That night the Evil One came to the mill and knocked on the door. The daughter opened it, but because she was a pious girl, at bedtime having sprinkled herself with holy water in the names of the three Holiest Ones, the devil was not able to take her away. Instead he just pushed her away. The same thing happened the following night, after which the miller -- as commanded by the Evil One -- did away with the holy water. On the third night, having no holy water, the girl blessed herself with water that had condensed on the window. As a result, when the devil returned that night he was again unable to do anything to her.

The next morning she told her parents what had happened in the previous three nights, whereupon they revealed everything to her. With that she laid her hand on a block and with an axe chopped it off herself. Then she had her other hand chopped off and granted both hands to the devil, upon which they immediately disappeared.

She then left home, praying fervently and crossing herself with her arms. She came to a beautiful garden next to the royal palace. In order to still her hunger she picked up a few apples with her mouth and ate them. Her wounds were still bleeding, and thus the prince discovered her tracks. He followed them for two days without success, but on the third day -- with the help of his dog -- he found the girl peacefully sleeping in the brush.

She pleased him so much that he married her. She did not become proud, remaining instead her pious and humble self.

Some time later he had to go off to war, and during his absence she gave birth to twin boys. She informed the prince of the good news in a letter. The messenger carrying the letter fell asleep at a forest spring. The Evil One came and substituted the princess's letter with one describing the most terrible things that the princess ostensibly had done. The prince wrote back that one should treat his wife with the utmost respect, but the messenger again fell asleep at the spring, and the devil again substituted a false letter for the true one. The false letter commanded that the princess and her children be driven out. This was done, with one child tied to her breast and the other one tied to her back.

Suffering from thirst, she came to a spring, but because of the children she could not bend down to drink. She called upon God for help, and at once a man approached her. He untied the children and told her to lay her arms on the stump that suddenly appeared before her. On it were her chopped-off hands. She did what the man told her to, and he healed her. Immediately she was able to use her hands again.

She then came to a wilderness where there was no shelter. She prayed fervently, and behold, suddenly a little hut was standing there, complete with furnishings and provisions. With thanks she settled there, living the pious life of a hermit. Whenever she ran out of food, her prayers were answered, and fresh food appeared.

Years passed, and one evening a man came to her hut and asked for shelter. Because she had only one bed, she had him sleep on a bench.

In the night he heard how the children said to each other, "If only we could see our father."

In the morning he asked her about this, and learned from her how she had been driven out.

"If you had no hands, I would think that you were my wife, who was driven away without cause. Since the war I have been seeking her for many years," he said.

She then told him how she had received her hands again, showing him how they had healed. They then recognized each other, and together with their children they all rejoiced.

The prince decided to share a hermit's life with her. In answer to the wife's prayers a larger hut suddenly stood in place of the smaller one, with more furnishings and provisions. And here they served God until their blessed end.

The Girl without Hands

Finland (Wuokkiniemi)

Once upon a time there were a man and a woman who had two beautiful and well-behaved children, a son and a daughter. The man, who was very old suddenly became ill and died. Soon after his death the woman too began to fade, becoming so weak that she felt her end was near.

Lying on her deathbed she admonished her children, saying, "Live peacefully together, my dear children! I must leave you now."

She had scarcely said her farewell when she too died. The boy and the girl stayed in their old home and lived peacefully together.

Some time later the brother became lonely and he decided to get married.

"Bless me on my journey, little sister. I'm going to seek myself a wife."

"Yes, get married, get married, dear brother," said the sister to him, and wished him luck on his journey.

The brother took leave from his sister and went on his way. He happened to meet a witch who asked to be his wife. Not knowing who she was, he accepted her and took her to his house. For a time they all lived peacefully together, as well as one could wish for. Although the brother now had a wife, he loved his sister as much as before, and he let her do whatever she wanted to in the house.

The witch did not like this; it angered her that she was not in charge of the household.

One day the man wanted to go into the woods, and first of all he took leave from his sister, saying, "Bless me, little sister. I'm going out into the woods."

"Be on your way, be on your way!" answered the sister.

Then the man left, without saying anything to his wife about where he was going.

The witch became angrier and angrier because he had not confided in her. Her hatred toward the sister grew ever stronger in her heart. What should she do?

While the man was in the woods the witch went to the stall and killed the cows, sheep, horses, and everything.

When she saw the man returning home she ran to him at the gate and shouted, "Just ask for your sister's blessing another time! While you were gone she killed the cows, sheep, horses, and everything that was in the farmyard.

"She can kill the animals," answered the man. "They belonged to her."

And he did not think anything more about the situation.

Some time passed before the man had to go into the woods again, and once more he asked his sister for her blessing without telling his wife where he was going. Then his wife broke all the kitchenware in the house, everything except a single spoon and a bag and a basket made of birchbark.

When the man returned from the woods she ran to him, saying, "Just ask for you sister's blessing another time! She smashed all the kitchenware, everything except a single spoon and a bag and a basket made of birchbark."

However, the man did not get upset. He said, "Let her smash everything. It all belongs to her."

Some time passed, and once again the man took leave from his wife and went into the woods without telling his wife what he was doing. Now his wife had just given birth to a son.

She killed her own child, then when her husband returned she accused the sister of the crime, saying, "This is what you get for favoring your sister! While you were away she killed your only son that I gave birth to!"

The man finally became angry with his sister, believing that she had murdered his child.

Sadly he asked, "How should we punish this miserable creature? Should we kill her, just as she has killed our child?"

"We'll think up a punishment," said the wife. "Let's take her out to pick berries, then cut off her hands and leave her in the woods."

The man was so sad that he couldn't say anything against his wife, and he let her have her way. Then all three rowed to an island to pick berries.

They gathered them for some time, and finally the brother said to his sister, "Little Sister, come with me to the beach. We didn't pull the boat up onto the shore, and I'm afraid that the wind might blow it away."

The sister went with her brother to the beach and attempted to pull up the boat. In that same moment the brother grabbed an axe and chopped off both of her hands on the edge of the boat. Then he abandoned the poor mutilated girl on the deserted island and rowed home with his wife.

The poor abandoned girl could not just stay there and die. In her sorrow she walked about on the island, wandering aimlessly in the woods. After walking some distance she came to a beautiful orchard filled with all kinds of fruit trees. She climbed through the fence and sat down in the shade of the trees to rest. She lived in this orchard for some time. When she was hungry she snapped with her mouth at the sweet berries that grew round about. When the birds ate fruit from the trees, with her hand-stumps she grabbed the scraps that they dropped. Thus she stayed alive.

The orchard that the girl had stumbled onto belonged to a prince. One time this prince dreamed that he was strolling in the orchard where he found a beautiful girl. Awaking the next morning he remembered the dream and hurried to the orchard, where he had not been for a long time. He walked among the trees and behold! He saw a young girl sitting in the shade and now and then picking berries with her mouth.

The prince wondered who this stranger might be.

He greeted her friendlily, asking, "Have you no hands? Are you blind? Or deaf? Why are sitting here all alone?"

Seeing the prince so frightened the girl that she was unable to say anything, but instead hid her arms between the bushes. The prince came closer to her and recognized her as the girl he had seen in his dream. She was perfectly beautiful, although she had no hands and looked terribly sad. The prince spoke lovingly to the girl, and she gradually lost her fear of him, then told him how they had chopped off her hands and how she had wandered into the orchard.

After she had finished, the prince came close to her and said, "My brave girl, you have suffered so much! Come with me to my castle, and you shall become my wife!"

"Oh, prince, don't make fun of me! You are not speaking the truth!"

"But surely I am speaking the truth!" assured the prince. "Do come with me, sweet girl, please come!"

The girl still resisted, begging, "Don't make fun of me, my king!"

The prince asked and pled so long that the girl finally gave in and promised to go with him. And thus the prince took to girl without hands to his home.

Arriving together at the castle, the youth went to his parents and said, "Father, Mother, give me your blessing to get married, as God has led me to such a wonderfully beautiful bride!"

Now what? The parents saw that the girl was not only beautiful, but also well mannered, and they gave their permission for their son's marriage. The wedding was celebrated at the castle, and thus the prince ennobled to royalty the girl he had found in the orchard.

They lived together for some time in luck and happiness. Everyone in the castle was impressed with the young wife's beauty and virtue. Never before had such a beautiful and gentle being been seen in the castle. But it was such a shame that the poor one had no hands!

Then it happened that prince had to travel to another castle on pressing business, leaving his young wife at home, although she was pregnant. On the way he happened to stay overnight at the farmstead where his wife had been born. Her brother and the witch were still living there as before.

After they had sat for some time in the living room, the witch asked, "Would the traveler like a bath?"

"Indeed the traveler would like a bath!" replied the prince, and went into the bathroom.

Just then a messenger came from the castle with a report that the prince's wife had given birth to a son, so beautiful that his equal could not be found anywhere on earth.

Golden are his hands,
His legs silver to his loins,
His head glistens like sunshine,
Moonlight crowns his forehead,
The big dipper shines from his shoulders,
The milky way from his armpits ,
And Pleiades from his back.
The witch took the letter from the messenger, opened it, quickly read it, and threw it into the fire. She then wrote a new letter stating that the young queen had given birth to a dog.

The prince returned from his bath, read the fake letter, and was so sad that he cried bitterly and for a long time was unable to speak. Finally he sent the messenger back to the castle with a letter stating, "Whatever my wife gave birth to, keep both her and her offspring alive until I return."

Once again the witch was able to intercept the letter. She threw it into the fire and wrote a forged letter ordering that without delay the mother and her child should be put into a cask and thrown into the sea. The messenger rushed back to the castle and delivered the letter. What sorrow ruled in the king's house! Everyone was sorry for the young wife.

Even the king wept as he said to his daughter-in-law, "My daughter, it has been ordered to put you and your child into a cask and throw you into the sea. Not even I can save you, you poor one! I must obey this order although it breaks my heart to do so!"

The young queen was certainly sorrowful about her harsh lot -- that she and her child were to die in the cask -- but she yielded to her husband's command.

The king had a large iron cask built and outfitted it in the best possible manner. Then the young wife and here child were put into it and thrown into the sea. The cask tossed to and fro on the waves. For three years it drifted about, and the woman's child grew. Suddenly the cask struck something. Then again and again it struck something. The two inside the cask did not know what was happening.

Finally the boy asked, "Mother, don't you have a needle. I want to bore a hole into the cask in order to look out and see what we are bumping up against."

"Here is a needle," said the mother, reaching one to him as a joke.

It was scarcely in his hands before he began to bore. He bored and bored until he had a hole in the side of the cask. He looked out through this peep-hole and saw a cliff in the ocean against which the cask was bumping.

Excitedly he said to his mother, "I want to knock the bottom out of this cask; then we can climb out onto the cliff."

"Don't knock the bottom out, or we will fall into the ocean!" warned the mother.

But the boy had already broken the cask to pieces, and mother and son rescued themselves onto the cliff. But what should they do now? The cliff was barren.

Suddenly a giant wave arose. It flooded over the stone, carrying away the boy. The poor mother saw with bitter grief how her only son disappeared into the waves. There was nothing that she could do. Only with great exertion was she herself able to land onto the slippery rock.

She prayed to God for help, calling out, "Oh, my God, help me onto the shore, as you have already spared my life!"

Once again a giant wave arose. It washed the woman from the cliff and carried her to the shore of the mainland.

The poor woman sat there in deep sorrow, not knowing what to do, for she did not recognize the desolate shore. Then she happened to notice a pike swimming near the shore, lost among the stones and unable to find its way out. The woman captured it with her arm-stumps.

The pike suddenly spoke to her, asking: "O, you good woman, do not kill me! I will show you something amazing!"

"More than enough amazing things have happened to me," replied the young woman sadly.

She did not kill the pike, but released it back into the sea.

The thankful pike raised its head out of the water and said, "Don't be sad, good woman. Walk along the shore a little way. You will find a mass of sea-foam next to a cliff. Wash your stumps with it, and your chopped-off hands will grow back immediately. Then rub your healed hands together, and your son, who was carried away by the waves, will be returned to you."

She did what that pike had told her to do. She washed her stumps with the foam, and her hands grew back. And as she was rubbing the foam between her hands, her son, whom she had given up as lost, suddenly appeared before her.

"Wow, wow! I slept for a week!" said the boy to his mother.

"Without me you would have slept for many a week, my son!" answered the mother. She told him how the pike had helped her in her time of need.

The two of them wandered aimlessly along the seashore, hoping to discover some human habitation. Finally they came to a farmstead and stepped into the living room. Behold, it was the young woman's former home, where her brother and his wife still lived as before.

The prince, underway on one of his accustomed trading journeys, had stopped overnight at the familiar farmstead. He was sitting in the living room when the young woman stepped inside with her son. No one recognized her, for grief and great suffering had changed her, and her clothing was tattered and torn; but she immediately recognized all the others. She quietly whispered to her son who they were, pointing out her husband, her brother, and the witch. They did not know who the strangers were, assuming that they were beggars. But they were amazed at the boy, who was so good-looking that no words could describe his beauty:

Golden are his hands,
His legs silver to his loins,
His head glistens like sunshine,
Moonlight crowns his forehead,
The big dipper shines from his shoulders,
The milky way from his armpits,
And Pleiades from his back.

The boy walked bravely around the room, looking carefully at each person present. As he moved he lit up the room, such brilliance radiated from him.

The brother's wife and the prince spoke to him cordially, saying, "You, dear boy, tell us a story. You must know a lot, having wandered about so far in the world."

"If I am to tell my story," replied the boy, "then you must place guards at the door so that no one can get in or out."

They placed guards at the door and ordered the boy to tell his story. Standing next to his mother, he began to relate the course of his life. The witch saw what was happening and demanded that he stop talking. However, the mother would not be deterred, and she narrated their experiences to the end.

Now they all recognized the prince's wife and wondered how she had recovered her hands. She explained how the pike had helped her in her time of need.

There arose such jubilation in the brother's house that it cannot be described. Everyone went to the castle with the prince, and they lived happily together.

However, the witch was bound to the tails of wild stallions and ripped to pieces.

And that's the end of the story.

The Girl without Hands


There was once, I don't know where, a king whose only son was an exceedingly handsome and brave fellow, who went far into the neighbouring country to fight. The old king used to send letters to his son into the camp, through an old faithful servant. Once it happened that the letter-carrying old servant took a night's lodging in a lonely house, which was inhabited by a middle-aged woman and her daughter, who was very pretty.

The people of the house had supper prepared for the messenger, and during the meal the woman questioned him whether he thought her or her daughter to be the prettier, but the messenger did not like to state the exact truth, as he did not wish to appear ungrateful for their hospitality, and only said, "Well, we can't deny but must confess it that we old people cannot be so handsome as the young ones."

The woman made no reply; but as soon as the messenger had left she gave her servant orders to take her daughter into the wood and kill her, and to bring her liver, lungs, and two hands back with him.

The man servant took the pretty girl with him, and, having gone a good distance, he stopped, and told the girl of her mother's commands. "But," continued he, "I haven't got the heart to kill you, as you have always been very kind to me; there is a small dog which has followed us, and I will take his liver and lungs back to your mother, but I shall be compelled to cut off your hands, as I can't go back without them."

The servant did as he proposed; he took out the small dog's lungs and liver, and cut off the girl's hands, much as it was against his wish. He carefully covered the stumps of her arms with a cloth, and sent the girl away and went back to his mistress.

The woman took the lungs and liver, put them into her mouth, and said, "You have come out of me, you must return into me," and swallowed them. The two hands she threw up into the loft.

The servant left the woman's house in a great hurry at the earliest opportunity, and never returned again.

In the meantime the girl without hands wandered about in unknown places. Fearing that she would be discovered in the daytime, she hid herself in the wood, and only left her hiding place at night to find food, and if she chanced to get into an orchard she ate the fruit she could reach with her mouth.

At last she came to the town where the king lived; the prince had by this time returned from the war. One morning, the king was looking out of his window, and to his great annoyance discovered that, again, there were less pears on a favourite tree in the orchard than he had counted the previous day. In a great rage he sent for the gardener, whose special business it was to take care of the orchard; but he excused himself on the ground that while he was watching the orchard at night an irresistible desire to sleep came over him, the like of which he had never experienced before, and which he was quite unable to shake off.

The king, therefore, ordered another man to keep watch under the tree the next night, but he fared in the same way as the first; the king was still more angry. On the third night, the prince himself volunteered to keep watch, and promised to guard the fruit of the favourite tree; he laid down on the lawn under the tree, and did not shut his eyes.

About midnight, the girl without hands came forth from a thicket in the garden, and, seeing the prince, said to him, "One of your eyes is asleep, the other one must go to sleep too, at once."

No sooner had she uttered these words than the prince fell fast asleep, and the girl without hands walked under the tree, and picked the fruit with her mouth. But as there were only a few more pears left on the boughs which she could get at, she was obliged, in order to satisfy her hunger, to step on a little mound, and stand on tiptoe that she might reach the fruit; whilst standing in this position she slipped, and, having no hands to hold on with, she fell on the sleeping prince. The shock awoke the prince at once, and, grasping the girl firmly with his arms, he kept her fast.

Next morning the king looking out of his window discovered to his astonishment that no pears were missing, and therefore sent a messenger into the garden to his son to inquire what had happened?

As soon as dawn began to break, the prince saw the girl's beautiful face; the king's messenger had by this time reached the prince, who in reply to his query, said, "Tell my father that I have caught the thief, and I will take care not to let her escape. If my father, the king, will not give me permission to marry her, I will never enter his house again; tell him also, that the girl has no hands."

The king did not oppose his son's desire, and the girl without hands became the prince's wife, and they lived happily together for a time.

It happened, however, that war broke out again with the sovereign of the neighbouring country, and the prince was once more obliged to go with his army. While he was away the princess was confined, and bore two children with golden hair. The old king was highly delighted, and at once wrote to his son informing him of the happy event. The letter was again entrusted to the same man, who took the messages during the first war; he on his way remembered the house where he was so well received on a previous occasion, and arranged that he should spend the night there. This time he found the old woman only. He got into conversation with her, and she asked him where he was going, and what news he had from the royal town; the messenger told her how the prince had found a beautiful girl without hands, whom he had married, and who had had two beautiful children.

The woman at once guessed that it was her own daughter, and that she had been deceived by her servant; she gave her guest plenty to eat and drink, till he was quite drunk and went to sleep. Whereupon the woman searched the messenger's bag, found the king's letter, opened it and read it.

The gist of the letter was this, "My dear son, you have brought to my house a dear and beautiful wife, who has borne you a beautiful golden-haired child."

The woman instantly wrote another letter, which ran thus: "You have brought to my house a prostitute, who has brought shame upon you, for she has been confined of two puppies."

She folded the letter, sealed it as the first had been, and put it into the messenger's bag. Next morning the messenger left, having first been invited to spend the night at her house on his return, as the wicked mother was anxious to know what the prince's answer would be to the forged letter.

The messenger reached the prince, handed him the letter, which gave him inexpressible grief; but as he was very fond of his wife he only replied, that, whatever the state of affairs might be, no harm was to happen to his wife until his return. The messenger took the letter back and again called upon the old woman, who .was not chary to make him drunk again and to read the reply clandestinely.

She was angry at the prince's answer, and wrote another letter in his name, in which she said, that if matters were as they had been represented to him in the letter, his wife must get out of the house without delay, so that he might not see her upon his return. The messenger, not suspecting anything, handed the letter to the king, who was very much upset, and read it to his daughter-in-law.

The old king pitied his pretty and good natured daughter deeply, but what could he do? They saddled a quiet horse, put the two golden-haired princes in a basket and tied it in front of the princess; and thus the poor woman was sent away amidst great lamentations.

She had been travelling without ceasing for three days, till on the third day she came into a country where she found a lake full of magic water, which had the power of reviving and making good the maimed limbs of any crippled man or beast who bathed in it. So the woman without hands took a bath in the lake, and both her hands were restored.

She washed her children's clothes in the same lake, and again continued her journey. Not long after this the war with the neighbouring king was over, and the prince returned home. On hearing what had happened to his wife he fell into a state of deep grief, and became so ill that his death was expected daily. After a long illness, however, his health began to improve, but only very slowly, and years elapsed before his illness and his great grief had so far been conquered that he had strength or inclination to go out.

At last he tried hunting, and spent whole days in the forest. One day as he was thus engaged he followed a stag, and got deeper and deeper into the thick part of the wood; in the meantime the sun had set and darkness set in. The prince, having gone too far, could not find his way back. But as good luck would have it he saw a small cottage, and started in its direction to find a night's lodging. He entered, and found a woman with two children -- his wife and two sons. The woman at once recognised the prince, who, however, did not even suspect her to be his wife, because her hands were grown again; but, at the same time, the great likeness struck him very much, and at first sight he felt a great liking for the woman.

On the next day he again went out hunting with his only faithful servant, and purposely allowed darkness to set in so that he might sleep at the cottage. The prince felt very tired and laid down to sleep, while his wife sat at the table sewing, and the two little children played by her side. It happened that in his sleep the prince dropped his arm out of bed.

One of the children noticing this called his mother's attention to it, whereupon the woman said to her son, "Place it back, my son, place it back, it's the hand of your royal father."

The child approached the sleeping prince and gently lifted his arm back again. After a short time the prince dropped his leg from the bed while asleep; the child again told his mother of it, and she said, "Place it back, my son, pnt it back, it's your father's leg."

The boy did as he was told, but the prince knew nothing of it. It happened, however, that the prince's faithful servant was awake and heard every word the woman said to the child, and told the story to his master the next day. The prince was astonished, and no longer doubted that the woman was his wife, no matter how she had recovered her hands. So the next day he again went out hunting, and, according to arrangement, stayed late in the wood and had to return to the cottage again.

The prince, having gone to bed, feigned sleep, and dropped his arm over the bed.

His wife, seeing this, again said, " Put it back, my son, put it back, it's your royal father's arm."

Afterwards he dropped his other arm, and then his two legs purposely; and the woman in each case bade her son put them back, in the same words.

At last he let his head hang over the bedside, and his wife said to her son, "Lift it back, my son, lift it back; it's your royal father's head."

But the little fellow, getting tired of all this, replied, "I shan't do it; you better do it yourself this time, mother."

"Lift it back, my son," again said the mother, coaxingly; but the boy would not obey, whereupon the woman herself went to the bed, in order to lift the prince's head. But no sooner had she touched him than her husband caught hold of her with both his hands, and embraced her.

''Why did you leave me?" said he, in a reproachful tone.

"How could I help leaving you," answered his wife, "when you ordered me out of your house?"

"I wrote in the letter," said the prince, "this and this;" and told her what he had really written; and his wife explained to him what had been read to her from the letter that had been changed.

The fraud was thus discovered, and the prince was glad beyond everything that he had found his wife and her two beautiful children.

He at once had all three taken back to the palace, where a second wedding was celebrated, and a great festival held. Guests were invited from the 77th country, and came to the feast. Through the letter-carrying messenger it became known that the cause of all the mischief was no one else than the princess's envious mother. But the prince forgave her all at the urgent request of his wife; and the young couple lived for a great many years in matrimonial bliss, their family increasing greatly. At the old king's death the whole realm fell to the happy couple, who are still alive, if they have not died since.

William of the Tree


In the time long ago there was a king in Erin. He was married to a beautiful queen, and they had but one only daughter. The queen was struck with sickness, and she knew that she would not be long alive. She put the king under gassa (mystical injunctions) that he should not marry again until the grass should be a foot high over her tomb. The daughter was cunning, and she used to go out every night with a scissors, and she used to cut the grass down to the ground.

The king had a great desire to have another wife, and he did not know why the grass was not growing over the grave of the queen. He said to himself: "There is some. body deceiving me."

That night he went to the churchyard, and he saw the daughter cutting the grass that was on the grave.

There came great anger on him then, and he said: "I will marry the first woman I see, let she be old or young."

When he went out on the road he saw an old hag. He brought her home and married her, as he would not break his word.

After marrying her, the daughter of the king was under bitter misery at (the hands of) the hag, and the hag put her under an oath not to tell anything at all to the king, and not to tell to any person anything she should see being done, except only to three who were never baptised.

The next morning on the morrow, the king went out a hunting, and when he was gone, the hag killed a fine hound the king had. When the king came home he asked the old hag "who killed my hound!"

"Your daughter killed it," says the old woman.

"Why did you kill my hound?" said the king.

"I did not kill your hound," says the daughter, "and I cannot tell you who killed him."

"I will make you tell me," says the king.

He took the daughter with him to a great wood, and he hanged her on a tree, and then he cut off the two hands and the two feet off her, and left her in a state of death.

When he was going out of the wood there went a thorn into his foot, and the daughter said: "That you may never get better until I have hands and feet to cure you."

The king went home, and there grew a tree out of his foot, and it was necessary for him to open the window, to let the top of the tree out.

There was a gentleman going by near the wood, and he heard the king's daughter a-screeching. He went to the tree, and when he saw the state she was in, he took pity on her, brought her home, and when she got better, married her.

At the end of three quarters (of a year), the king's daughter had three sons at one birth, and when they were born, Granya Öi came and put hands and feet on the king's daughter, and told her, "Don't let your children be baptised until they are able to walk. There is a tree growing out of your father's foot; it was cut often, but it grows again, and it is with you lies his healing. You are under an oath not to tell the things you saw your stepmother doing to anyone but to three who were never baptised, and God has sent you those three. When they will be a year old bring them to your father's house, and tell your story before your three sons, and rub your hand on the stump of the tree, and your father will be as well as he was the first day."

There was great wonderment on the gentleman when he saw hands and feet on the king's daughter. She told him then every word that Granya Öi said to her.

When the children were a year old, the mother took them with her, and went to the king's house.

There were doctors from every place in Erin attending on the king, but they were not able to do him any good. When the daughter came in, the king did not recognise her. She sat down, and the three sons round her, and she told her story to them from top to bottom, and the king was listening to her telling it. Then she left her hand on the sole of the king's foot and the tree fell off it.

The day on the morrow he hanged the old hag, and he gave his estate to his daughter and to the gentleman.

The Bad Stepmother


Once there was aa king, and he had two fine children, a girl and a boy; but he married again after their mother died, and a very wicked woman she was that he put over them. One day when he was out hunting, the stepmother came in where the daughter was sitting all alone, with a cup of poison in one hand and a dagger in the other, and made her swear that she would never tell any one that ever was christened what she would see her doing. The poor young girl -- she was only fifteen -- took the oath, and just after the queen took the king's favourite dog and killed him before her eyes.

When the king came back, and saw his pet lying dead in the hall, he flew into a passion, and axed who done it; and says the queen, says she, "Who done it but your favourite daughter? There she is. Let her deny it if she can!"

The poor child burst out a crying, but wasn't able to say anything in her own defence bekase of her oath. Well, the king did not know what to do or to say. He cursed and swore a little, and hardly ate any supper. The next day he was out a hunting the queen killed the little son, and left him standing on his head on the window-seat of the lobby.

Well, whatever way the king was in before, he went mad now in earnest. "Who done this?" says he to the queen.

"Who, but your pet daughter?"

"Take the vile creature," says he to two of his footmen, "into the forest, and cut off her two hands at the wrists, and maybe that'll teach her not to commit any more murders. Oh, Vuya, Vuya!" says he, stamping his foot on the boarded floor, "what a misfortunate king I am to lose my childher this way, and had only the two. Bring me back the two hands, or your own heads will be off before sunset."

When he stamped on the floor a splinter ran up into his foot through the sole of his boot; but he didn't mind it at first, he was in such grief and anger. But when he was taking off his boots, he found the splinter fastening one of them on his foot. He was very hardset to get it off, and was obliged to send for a surgeon to get the splinter out of the flesh; but the more he cut and probed, the further it went in. So he was obliged to lie on a sofia all day, and keep it poulticed with bowl-almanac or some other plaster.

Well, the poor princess, when her arms were cut off, thought the life would leave her; but she knew there was a holy well off in the wood, and to it she made her way. She put her poor arms into the moss that was growing over it, and the blood stopped flowing, and she was eased of the pain, and then she washed herself as well as she could. She fell asleep by the well, and the spirit of her mother appeared to her in a dream, and told her to be good, and never forget to say her prayers night and morning, and that she would escape every snare that would be laid for her.

When she awoke next morning she washed herself again, and said her prayers, and then she began to feel hungry. She heard a noise, and she was so afraid that she got into a low broad tree that hung over the well. She wasn't there long till she saw a girl with a piece of bread and butter in one hand, and a pitcher in the other, coming and stooping over the well. She looked down through the branches, and if she did, so sure the girl saw her face in the water, and thought it was her own. She looked at it again and again, and then, without waiting to eat her bread or fill her pitcher, she ran back to the kitchen of a young king's palace that was just at the edge of the wood.

"Where's the water?" says the housekeeper.

"Wather!" says she; "it 'ud be a purty business for such handsome girl as I grew since yesterday, to be fetchin' wather for the likes of the people that's here. It's married to the young prince I ought to be."

"Oh! to Halifax with you," says the housekeeper, "I'll soon cure your impedence."

So she locked her up in the storeroom, an' kep' her on bread and water.

To make a long story short, two other girls were sent to the well, and all were in the same story when they cum back. An' there was such a thravally [corruption of "reveillé"] ruz in the kitchen about it at last, that the young king came to hear the rights of it. The last girl told him what happened to herself, and nothing would do the prince but go to the well to see about it. When he came he stooped and saw the shadow of the beautiful face; but he had sense enough to look up, and he found the princess in the tree.

Well, it would take me too long to tell yez all the fine things he said to her, and how modestly she answered him, and how he handed her down, and was almost ready to cry when he seen her poor arms. She would not tell him who she was, nor the way she was persecuted on account of her oath; but the short and the long of it was, that he took her home, and couldn't live if she didn't marry him.

Well, married they were; and in course of time they had a fine little boy; but the strangest thing of all was that the young queen begged her husband not to have the child baptized till he'd be after coming home from the wars that the King of Ireland had just then with the Danes.

He agreed, and set off to the camp, giving a beautiful jewel to her just as his foot was in the stirrup. Well, he wrote to her every second day, and she wrote to him every second day, and dickens a letter ever came to the hands of him or her. For the wicked stepmother had her watched all along, from the very day she came to the well till the king went to the wars; and she gave such a bribe to the postman (!) that she got all the letters herself. Well, the poor king didn't know whether he was standing on his head or his feet, and the poor queen was crying all the day long.

At last there was a letter delivered to the king; and this was wrote by the wicked stepmother herself, as if it was from the young queen to one of the officers, asking him to get a furlough, and come and meet her at such a well, naming the one in the forest. He got this officer, that was as innocent as the child unborn, put in irons, and sent two of his soldiers to put the queen to death, and bring him his young child safe.

But the night before, the spirit of the queen's mother appeared to her in a dream, and told her the danger that was coming. "Go," said she, "with your child tomorrow morning to the well, and dress yourself in your maid's clothes before you leave the house; wash your arms in the well once more, and take a bottle of the water with you, and return to your father's palace. Nobody will know you. The water will cure him of a disorder he has, and I need not say any more."

Just as the young queen was told, just so she done; and when she was after washing her face and arms, lo and behold! her nice soft hands were restored; but her face that was as white as cream was now as brown as a berry. So she fell on her knees and said her prayers, and then she filled her bottle, and set out for her father's court with her child in her arms. The sentries at the palace gates let her pass when she said she was coming to cure the king; and she got to where he was lying in pain before the stepmother knew anything about it, for herself was sick at the time.

Before she opened her mouth the king loved her, she looked so like his former queen and his lost daughter, though her face was so swarthy. She hardly washed his wound with the water of the holy well when out came the splinter, and he was as strong on his limbs as a new ditch.

Well, hadn't he great cooramuch about the brown-faced woman and her child, and nothing that the wicked queen could do would alter his opinion of her. The old rogue didn't know who she was, especially as she wasn't without the hands; but it was her nature to be jealous of every one that the king cared for.

In two or three weeks the wars was over, and the young king was returning home, and the road he took brought him by his father-in-law's. The old king would not let him pass by without giving him an entertainment for all his bravery again' the Danes, and there was great huzzaing and cheering as he was riding up the avenue and through the courtyard. Just as he was alighting, his wife held up his little son to him, with the jewel in his little hand.

He got a wonderful fright. He knew his wife's features, but they were so tawny, and her pretty brown hands were to the good, and the child was his own picture, but still she couldn't be his false princess. He kissed the child, and passed on, but hardly said a word till dinner was over.

Then says he to the old king, "Would you allow a brown woman and her child that I saw in the palace yard, to be sent for, till I speak to her?"

"Indeed an' I will," said the other. "I owe my life to her."

So she came in, and the young king made her sit down very close to him. "Young woman," says he, "I have a particular reason for asking who you are, and who is the father of that child."

"I can't tell you that, sir," said she, "because of an oath I was obliged to take never to tell my story to any one that was christened. But my little boy was never christened, and to him I'll tell everything. My little son, you must know that my wicked stepmother killed my father's favourite dog, and killed my own little brother, and made me swear never to tell any one that ever received baptism, about it. She got my own father to have my hands chopped off, and I'd die only I washed them in the holy well in the forest. A king's son made me his wife, and she got him by forged letters to send orders to have me killed. The spirit of my mother watched over me; my hands were restored; my father's wound was healed; and now I place you in your own father's arms. Now, you may be baptized, thank God! And that's the story I had to tell you."

She took a wet towel, and wiped her face, and she became as white and red as she was the day of her marriage. She had like to be hurt with her husband and her father pulling her from each other; and such laughing and crying never was heard before or since. If the wicked stepmother didn't make her escape, she was torn between wild horses; and if they all didn't live happy after -- that you and I may!

The Cruel Stepmother


About the year 800, there lived a rich nobleman in a sequestered place of Scotland, where he wished to conceal his name, birth, and parentage, as he had fled from the hands of justice to save his life for an action he had been guilty of committing in his early years. It was supposed, and not without some good show of reason, that his name was Malcolm, brother to Fingal, King of Morven. Be this as it may, it so happened that he had chosen a pious and godly woman for his consort; who, on giving birth to a daughter, soon after departed this life.

Malcolm (as we shall call him, for the better understanding of his history) lived a widower for the space of sixteen years, when thinking that his daughter now became of such age as to leave him, if she got a good offer. With these thoughts full in his head, he went to a distant place of the country where the thane of Mull dwelt, and made love to one of his daughters, whom he afterwards married and brought to his own domain.

The new come bride had no sooner fixed her eyes on Beatrix, (for that was his daughter's name) than she conceived the most deadly hatred imaginable; so much so, that it almost deprived her of her rest, meditating schemes how to get rid of her, as she envied her for her superior beauty.

One day on her husband going ahunting, she took the young lady and bound her by an oath that whatever she saw or heard her do or say, she would conceal the same from her father. The oath being extorted from her by threatening her with death and destruction, if she did not comply.

The first act of the stepmother was to go into the garden and cut down a favourite tree which was in full blossom, and so destroyed the root and beauty of the branches by burning the same. On Malcolm's return, he immediately discovered the want of his favourite tree, and getting into such a passion, few could approach the place where he was for a considerable length of time. When his passion had somewhat subsided, he asked his wife what had become of it, or how it had been destroyed, but she desired him to ask his daughter, as she knew nothing about it herself. Beatrix was then summoned before him, and interrogated with all the rigour of a passionate father, as to her knowledge of the destruction of his tree. Her only answer was, that He was above who knew all about it. No more satisfaction would she give him.

A second time he went from home, and on his return found his favourite hound weltering in his blood. This again renewed his passion, but who was the guilty person he could never learn; on enquiring at his daughter, he received the same answer as formerly.

A third time he went ahunting, and on his return found his favourite hawk lying dead; but the perpetrators of these horrid deeds he could not discover. On applying to his wife, he was requested to ask his daughter; and on consulting her, her answer was as at the first. His wife thereby seeing that all the stratagems which she had devised for her destruction had proved abortive; to gratify her mortal hatred, rather than suffer her to live, she would sacrifice everything she had in the world.

One year had scarcely passed in this disagreeable manner, when the lady was delivered of a fine boy, which soon became the darling of his father. This was too glaring not to be easily perceived by the mother; but rather than live the life which she had done since they had been married, with the envious venom rankling in her breast, she would destroy her own child and offspring. This being determined upon, one night when Beatrix was in bed soundly sleeping, dreading no harm, this bad woman, her stepmother, took a knife, bereaved the sweetly smiling young thing of its life, and laid it with the knife reeking in gore, into the arms of the innocent Beatrix.

After having been in bed for some time with her husband, she started as from some frightful dream, crying, "O, my child, what has become of my lovely child!"

This alarmed the father, who, on looking for the child, it was not to be found. The mother then said, she was much afraid that Beatrix had stole it away from them while they slept, and had murdered it. The father, by no means could be made to believe this; but upon examining her bed, the child was discovered horribly mangled, and the knife beside it.

He was now petrified with horror, and could ask nor answer anything. It was in vain for the young lady to plead ignorance, or deny the guilty deed, the proofs were too strong, as certainly no one could have suspected the unnatural mother of such cruel barbarity; and no one else had access to the place where it lay but Beatrix.

Her father then having determined to put her to the most cruel torture for the death of his beloved child; she was now charged with all the other bad deeds which had been committed for the space of the bygone twelve months in his house and premises, which caused him to take her to a wood, and after having cut off her right hand and arm, he next cut off her right leg. She still pleaded her innocence, but rather than perjure herself, she would suffer all that he choosed to inflict upon her; but as proof of her innocence, she told him on his way homewards, a thorn would so stick in his foot that none but herself could extract, and that only after her arm and leg had been reunited to her body as before. He paid no attention to this, but next cut out her tongue, and left her to perish, or to be destroyed by wild beasts in the wood.

She had not, however, lain long in this humiliating posture, till a knight came riding that way, when, on observing her, he alighted from his horse, and enquired the nature of her sufferings As she could not speak, she made signs to him for pen, ink, and paper, when she wrote an account of the whole. He then took her on his horse behind him and carried her home to his mother, who being acquainted with the virtues of the water of a particular well near by, she soon restored to her the full use of her amputated limbs; but her tongue still continued useless.

The knight, notwithstanding the deficiency of the want of her tongue and speech, took such a liking to her that they were shortly after married, and lived in the greatest peace and pleasure, till one day that he was necessitated to leave his country on some very urgent business. Previously to his setting off, he had matters so arranged, that by giving certain directions to his wife, she might write to him by her page. All things being prepared, the knight went away with a sorrowful heart. He had not been long away till his wife became sick at heart (being pregnant), and longed to see her esteemed lord.

A message was then sent to the place of his residence with a request that he would return immediately home. The messenger was her own page, who was enjoined to make every dispatch, and not to tarry on the way; but these instructions he soon forgot when out of sight and reach of his mistress.

As he journeyed on his way, it so happened that he should take up his abode for the night in the very house of Beatrix's father. His lady, observing the stranger, was desirous of knowing his errand, and so prevailed upon him to give her a sight of the letter which he carried from Beatrix to her husband. By her fair speeches, she so won his heart, that he gave it to her. On opening it she soon discovered from whom it came, and tore it, and wrote in its place one, as if come from his mother, requesting him to put away or destroy the bad woman he had brought unto her.

To this letter he made no reply, when a second one was written by his wife, not knowing the cause of his delay; but it shared the same fate as the former, and another of like tenor, breathing the bitterest enmity and hatred against his beloved and virtuous wife, put in its place. On receiving this second menacing letter, he hurried home, and finding his wife in the house, without any provocation or enquiry, he immediately dragged her forth, and abused her very unmercifully, till having driven her into a ditch to get quit of her altogether, a powerful herb happened to get into her mouth in the course of her struggle, which at once restored to her the use of her speech.

It now became her turn to interrogate him, and ask why he had used her so cruelly without a cause. He then showed her the letters which he had received purporting to be from his mother. She said they were not written by his mother, as they lived on the most friendly terms imaginable. It was then referred to his mother, who, on seeing them, was no less surprised than vexed at them, and at his maltreating his wife so basely.

The page was then called and examined, when he confessed what he had done. The knight, without further enquiry into the matter, took his sword and cut off his head, and threw it away, as a warning to all others not to betray their trust, but behave in a more upright and honourable manner.

As it was at length discovered that the cruel stepmother had been the sole cause of the whole of Beatrix's misfortunes, she was adjudged to be put to an ignominious death by the most cruel torture, which was put into execution immediately after, as a just reward for her hatred and cruelty.

Beatrix then relieved her father from the pain which he suffered in his foot by a thorn which stuck in it, and baffled all the medical skill of that part of the country. They afterwards lived to a good old age and died in peace.

Anecdote of a Charitable Woman

The 1001 Nights

It is related that a certain king said to the people of his dominions, "If any one of you give aught in alms, I will assuredly cut off his hand."

So all the people refrained from alms-giving, and none could bestow upon another.

And it happened that a beggar came to a woman one day, and hunger tormented him, and he said to her, "Give me somewhat as an alms."

"How," said she, "can I bestow an alms upon thee when the king cutteth off the hand of every one who doth so?"

But he rejoined, "I conjure thee by God (whose name be exalted!) that thou give me an alms."

So when he conjured her by God, she was moved with pity for him, and bestowed upon him two cakes of bread. And the news reached the king; whereupon he gave orders to bring her before him; and when she came, he cut off her hands. And she returned to her house.

Then the king, after a while, said to his mother, "I desire to marry; therefore marry me to a comely woman."

And she replied, "There is, among our female slaves, a woman than whom none more beautiful existeth; but she hath a grievous defect."

"And what is it?" he asked.

She answered, "She is maimed of the two hands."

The king however said, "I desire to see her."

Wherefore she brought her to him, and when he saw her, he was tempted by her beauty, and married her. And that woman was she who bestowed upon the beggar the two cakes of bread, and whose hands were cut off on that account.

But when he had married her, her fellow-wives envied her, and wrote to the king, telling him that she was unchaste; and she had given birth to a son.

And the king wrote a letter to his mother, in which he commanded her to go forth with her to the desert, and to leave her there, and return.

His mother therefore did so; she took her forth to the desert, and returned. And that woman began to weep for the misfortune that had befallen her, and to bewail violently, with a wailing not to be exceeded. And while she was walking, with the child upon her neck, she came to a river, and kneeled down to drink, because of the violence of the thirst that had affected her from her walking and fatigue and grief; and when she stooped her head, the child fell into the water.

So she sat weeping violently for her child; and while she wept, lo, there passed by her two men, who said to her, "What causeth thee to weep?"

She answered, "I had a child upon my neck, and he fell into the water."

And they said, "Dost thou desire that we rescue him, and restore him to thee?"

She answered, "Yes."

And upon this they supplicated God (whose name be exalted!), and the child came forth to her safe and unhurt.

Then they said to her, "Dost thou desire that God should restore to thee thy hands as they were?"

She answered, "Yes."

And they supplicated God (whose perfection be extolled, and whose name be exalted!); whereupon her hands returned to her in the most perfect state.

After this they said to her, "Knowest thou who we are?"

"God," she replied, "is all-knowing."

And they said, "We are thy two cakes of bread which thou gavest as an alms to the beggar, and which alms occasioned the cutting off of thy hands. Therefore praise God (whose name be exalted!) that he hath restored to thee thy hands and thy child.

And she praised God (whose name be exalted!), and glorified him.

The Girl without Legs


A Sultan had a daughter, and the daughter used to be taught the Koran. One day the Sultan went on a pilgrimage, and entrusted his daughter to a priest and said, "Continue to teach that girl the Koran."

The priest coveted the girl, wishing to lie with her, but the girl refused.

One day she said, "Come to me tomorrow."

On the day arranged she removed from the house the ladder by which the priest used to ascend.

He then sent a letter to her father, and he wrote, "Your daughter has become a whore."

The Sultan returned from the pilgrimage, and he was angry with the girl, and he handed her over to some slaves, and he said, "Cut that girl's throat."

Then the slaves took the girl, and brought her to a wooded place, and they cut off her legs while they dug her grave. While they were digging the grave she crawled away, and went into some trees and hid. When the slaves had dug the grave, they looked in the place where she had lain and could not find her.

Then they slew a gazelle, and the gazelle's blood they poured into a bottle, and brought the blood to the Sultan and said, "We have slain the girl."

One day later a caravan passed by the place and camped where the girl lay. In the afternoon as the party were loading up the camels, they saw the girl sitting under a tree. A man took the girl, and put her on a camel, and brought her to the town they came to. The man who took the girl put her to live in a house.

Later on the son of the Sultan saw the girl's face, and the young man saw that her face was beautiful, and he said to the man whose house she dwelt in, "Let me marry that girl from you."

And the man said, "The girl has no legs."

Then the Sultan's son said, "I will marry her, give her to me."

And so the man said, "Well and good."

And the Sultan's son married her. She bore two children, and while she was with child the young man said, "I am going on a pilgrimage."

And he left her a ram, and went on the pilgrimage. While he was away on the pilgrimage his wife had a dream, and she dreamed that two birds sat upon her two legs, and her legs had grown out, and that she made the pilgrimage. In the morning at break of day she saw the two birds sitting upon her two legs, and the legs had grown out. After daylight she took her two children and the ram and the two birds and went on the pilgrimage. She came to a building at the half way, and there came to her her father and her brother and the priest and her husband, none of whom knew her. She told stories to her children, and she related all that had happened to her, and her father heard and the priest.

Then the priest tried to run away, but the Sultan said, "Sit down until the story is finished."

Then the Sultan, the girl's father, cut the priest's throat, and the girl and her father and husband they went on together and made the pilgrimage. And so the girl and her father were reconciled.

Blessing or Property


There was a man and his wife, and they prayed to God to get a child; and they got first a son and next a daughter. And their father's employment was to cut up firewood. And they remained till the children were grown up. And their father was seized by disease.

And he called his children, and asked them, "Will you have blessing or property?"

And the son said, "I will have property."

And the daughter said, "I will have blessing."

And her father gave her much blessing. And her father died.

And they kept the mourning, and when they arose their mother fell sick; and she called her children and said to them, "Will you have blessing or property?"

And the son said, "I will have property."

And the daughter said, "I will have blessing."

And her mother gave her blessing. And their mother died.

And they kept their mourning, and when they arose the seventh day was come. And the son went and told the woman, his sister, "Put out all my father's and mother's things." And the woman put them out, without his leaving her anything. And he took them all away.

And people said to him, "Will you not leave even any little thing for this your sister?"

And he said, "I shall not. I asked for the property, and she for a blessing."

And he left her a cooking pot, and a mortar for cleaning corn; he did not leave her even a little food.

Her neighbours used to come and borrow the mortar, and clean their corn, and then they gave her a little grain, and she cooked and ate it. And others used to come and borrow her cooking pots, and cook with them, and then they gave her too a little food. And this was every day her employment.

And she searched about in her father and mother's house, without finding anything except a pumpkin seed. And she took it and went and planted it under the well. And a plant sprung up, and bore many pumpkins.

Her brother had no news of her, and he asked people, "Where does my sister get food?"

And they told him, "People borrow her mortar, and they clean their corn, and give her too a little food; and people borrow her cooking pots, and cook with them, and give her too a little food."

And her brother arose and went and robbed her of the mortar and cooking pots. And then she awoke in the morning and sought for food, and could not get it. And she stayed till nine o'clock, and said, "I will go and look at my pumpkin, whether it has grown." And she went, and saw that many pumpkins had come. And she was comforted.

And she gathered the pumpkins, and went and sold them, and got food. And this was her employment every day, to gather and go and sell. And when the third day came, everyone who ate those pumpkins found them exceedingly sweet. And everybody used to take grain and go to her place and buy. And many days passed, and she got property.

Her brother's wife heard that news, and sent her slave with grain to go and buy a pumpkin.

And she said, "They are finished." And when she knew it was her brother's wife's slave, she told him, "Take this one, and take back your grain."

And she went and cooked it, and found it very sweet. The next day she sent some one again.

And she said, "There are none at all today."

And he went and told his mistress, and she was exceedingly vexed.

When her husband came and asked her, "What is the matter with you, my wife?" She told him, "I sent some one to your sister with my grain, to go and ask for pumpkins. She did not send them, and told me, 'There are none'; and other people all buy of her."

And he said to his wife, "Let us sleep till tomorrow. I will go and pull up her pumpkin plant."

When the morning dawned, he went to his sister and said to her, "When my wife sent grain, you refused to sell her a pumpkin."

And she said, "They are finished; the day before yesterday she sent someone, and I gave to him for nothing."

And he said, "Why are you selling to other people?"

And she said, "They are finished, there are no more, they are not yet come."

And her brother said to her, "I shall go and cut up your pumpkin."

And she said, "You dare not, unless indeed you cut my hand off first; then you may cut up the pumpkin."

And her brother took hold of her right hand and cut it off, and went and cut up her pumpkin plant, every bit of it.

The woman set on hot water, and put in her arm, and put medicine also, and bound on a cloth.

And he took away from her everything, and put her out of the house.

And his sister wandered about in the forest, and this her brother sold the house, and gathered much property, and remained spending it.

And she wandered in the forest, till on the seventh day she came out upon another town. And she climbed up into a great tree, and ate the fruit of the tree, and in the morning she slept there in the tree. On the next day the son of the king came out shooting birds, he and his people.

About twelve o'clock he was tired, and said, "I will go there by the tree, that I may rest, and you shoot birds."

And he sat under the tree, he and his slave.

And the young woman cried till her tears fell upon the king's son below. And he said to his slave, "Look outside; is it not raining?"

And he said, "It is not, master."

And he said, "Then climb up into the tree, and look what bird is casting its droppings upon me."

And his slave climbed up, and he saw an exceedingly beautiful woman crying, and without saying a word, he got down. And he told his master, "There is a most beautiful young woman. I did not venture to say a word to her."

And his master asked him, "Why?"

And he said, "I found her crying; perhaps you should go yourself."

And his master climbed up, and went and saw her, and said to her, "What is the matter with you, my mistress? Are you a person or a spirit?"

And she said, "I am a person." And he said, "What are you crying about?"

And she said, "I am thinking of things; I am a person as you are."

And he said, "Come down and let us go to our home."

And she said to him, "Where is your home?"

And he said, "With my father and mother; I am a king's son."

And she said, "What did you come to do here?"

And he said, "I come to shoot birds, month by month; this is our employment. I came with my companions."

And she said, "I do not like to be seen by anybody." And that woman had told the king's son.

And he said, "We shall not be seen by any one."

And she came down.

And he sent his slave, "Go into the town quickly, and bring me a masheela.

And his slave went at once and returned with a masheela and four people, and they carried him.

And he put the woman into it, and told his slave, "Fire a gun, that all the company may know."

And he fired a gun, and his companions came, and they said to him, "What is the matter with you, son of the king?"

And he said, "I am cold, and I want to go my way into the town."

And they carried the game they had got, and went away. And the king's son had got into the masheela, he and that young woman. And his companions knew nothing of it.

And they went to their city, and reached his house. And he said to a man, "Go and tell my mother and father, I have fever today, I want gruel quickly; let them send it to me."

And his mother and father were troubled, and gruel was cooked for him, and sent to him.

And his father went with his vizirs and went to see him. And at night his mother went with her people to see him.

The next day he went out, and went and told his mother and father, "I have picked up a young woman, I want you to marry me to her, but she has lost one hand?"

And they said, "Why?"

And he said, "I wish it just as it is."

And the Sultan loved his only son much, and he made a wedding and married him.

And the people heard in the town, "The Sultan's son has married a young woman, she has lost one hand."

And they remained until his wife became pregnant, and bore a son, and his parents rejoiced exceedingly.

And the Sultan's son went on a journey, and went to travel about in the towns of his father.

There behind her brother came out; he had nothing to spend, and was going begging. Till one day he heard people conversing, "The Sultan's son has married a woman who has lost one hand."

And her brother asked, "Where did he get the girl, this child of the Sultan?"

And they told him, "He picked her up in the forest."

And he knew she was his sister.

And he went to the king. And he went and said, "Your child has married a woman who has lost a hand. She was put out of their town because she was a witch; every husband who marries her, she kills."

And the king went and told his wife, and they said, "What plan can we act on?"

And they loved much their only child, and they said, "Let us put her out of the town."

And her brother said to them, "Kill her, for there at home she had her hand cut off, and here kill her."

And they said, "We cannot kill her, we will put her out of the town."

And they went and put her out of the town, her and her son. And she was comforted.

And she went out, and carried a little earthen pot, and went her way into the forest; she knew not where she was going or whence she came.

And she sat down, and showed her child, and casting her eyes, she saw a snake come fast towards her, and she said, "Today I am dead."

And the snake said to her, "Child of Adam, open your earthern pot that I may go in. Save me from sun, and I will save you from rain."

And she opened the pot, and it went in, and she covered it. And she looked and saw another snake coming fast, and it said to her, "Has not my companion passed?"

And she said, "It is going."

And it passed quickly.

The snake which was in the pot said to her, "Uncover me."

And she uncovered it, and it was comforted, and said to that child of Adam, "Where are you going?"

And she said, "I know not where I am going, I am wandering in the wood."

And the snake said to her, "Follow me, and let us go home."

And they went together till on the road they saw a great lake. And the snake said to her, "Child of Adam, let us sit and rest, the sun is fierce; go and bathe in the lake with your child."

And she carried her boy, and went to wash him, and he fell in and she lost him in the lake.

And it asked her, "What is the matter with you there, child of Adam?"

And she said, " My child is lost in the water."

And it said, " Look for him well."

And she sought for him for a whole hour without finding him.

And it said, "Put in the other hand."

And she said, "You snake are making game of me."

And it asked "How?"

And she said, "I have put in this sound one, and I have not found him; what is the use of this spoilt one?"

And the snake said to her, "Only you put in both."

And the child of Adam put them in, and went and found her son and laid hold of him, and drew out her hand sound again.

And it said, "Have you found him?"

And she said, "I have found him, and have got my hand sound again."

And she rejoiced much.

And the snake said, "Now let us go away to my elders, and let me repay your kindness."

And she said, " This is enough, getting my hand."

And it said, "Not yet; let us go to my elders."

And they went till they arrived, and they rejoiced much, and loved that young woman. And she remained, eating and drinking many days.

And her husband returned from his journey. And his elders had caused two tombs to be made, one of his wife and one of his child. And her brother had become a great man with the king.

And her husband, the king's son, came. And he asked, "Where is my wife?"

And they said to him, "She is dead."

"And where is my child?"

And they answered him, "He is dead."

And he asked, "Where are their graves?"

And they took him to go and see them. And when he saw them he wept much. And he made a mourning. And he was comforted.

Many days had passed. And the young woman in the forest said to her friend the snake, "I want to go away, home."

And it said, "Take leave of my mother and father. When they give you leave to go, if they give you a present, accept only the father's ring and the mother's casket."

And she went and took leave of them, and they gave her much wealth, and she refused and said, I, one person, how shall I carry this wealth?"

And they said, "What will you have?"

And she said, "You, father, I want your ring; and you, mother, I want your casket."

And they were very sorry, and asked her, "Who told you about this?"

And she said, "I know it myself."

And they said, "Not so; it is this your brother who told you."

And he took the ring and gave her, and said to her, "I give you this ring. If you want food, if you want clothes, if you want a house for sleeping, tell the ring; it will produce it for you by the blessing of God and of me your father."

And her mother gave her the casket, and told her such and such things. And they gave her their blessing.

And she went out and went away, till there by the town of her husband, without reaching her husband's house.

When she reached the outskirts, she told the ring, "I want you to produce for me a great house."

And it produced a house, and the furniture of the house and slaves. And she stayed, she and her son. And her son had become a great lad.

And the king got news of there being a large house in the outskirts, and he sent people to go and look, and they answered him, "It is true."

And the sultan arose with his vizirs and his son.

And they went and drew near, and the woman looked through a telescope and saw her husband, and her husband's father, and many people, and her brother among them.

And she told the people, "Prepare food quickly."

And they prepared, and laid the table. And they arrived and were invited in, and went inside, and they asked her the news.

And she said, "Good." And she said to them, "Eat of the food. I come from a distance; when you have done with the food let me give you my news."

And they ate the food, till when they had finished she told them, from the beginning when she was born, she and her brother, till all were finished, as they had been. And the king's son went to embrace his wife, and they wept much, and all who were there wept, and they knew her brother was not good.

And the king asked her, "What shall we do to your brother?"

And she said, "Only put him out of the town."

And she dwelt with her husband till the end in joy.

The Sun and the Moon


[This tale, one of the few already mentioned by other authors on Greenland, has been translated from one of the oldest manuscripts.]

An old married couple remained at home while their children travelled about all the summer. One day the wife was left alone as usual while the husband was out kayaking.

On hearing something moving about close by, she hastened to hide beneath her coverlet, and after a little while, when she ventured to peep above it, she saw a little snow-bunting (Plectrophanes nivalis) hopping about on the floor and chirping, "Another one will soon enter, who is going to tell thee something."

In a little while she was alarmed by a still greater noise ; and looking up again, she beheld a kusagtak (another little bird -- the wheat-ear -- Saxicola ænanthe), likewise hopping on the floor and singing, "Somebody shall soon enter and tell thee something."

It left the room, and was soon followed by a raven; but soon after it had gone she heard a sound like the steps of people, and this time she saw a very beautiful woman, who entered.

On asking whence she came, the stranger told:

In bygone days we often used to assemble in my home to divert ourselves at different plays and games, and in the evening, when it was all ended, the young girls generally remained out, and the young men used to pursue and court us; but we could never manage to recognise them in the dark.

One night I was curious to know the one who had chosen me, and so I went and daubed my hands with soot before I joined the others. When our play had come to an end, I drew my hands along his back, and left him, and was the first who entered the house. The young people came in, one after another undressed, but for some time I observed no marks. Last of all my brother entered, and I saw at once that the back of his white jacket was all besmeared with soot.

I took a knife, and sharpened it, and proceeded to cut off my two breasts, and gave him them, saying, "Since my body seems to please thee, pray take these and eat them."

He now began to speak indecently to me, and courted me more than ever, and while we raced about the room he caught hold of some bad moss and lit it, but I took some that was good, and also lit mine. He ran out, and I ran after him; but suddenly I felt that we were lifted up, and soared high up in the air.

When we got more aloft my brother's light was extinguished, but mine remained burning, and I had become a sun. Now I am on my way higher up the skies, that I may give warmth to the orphans (viz., going to make summer).

Finally she said, "Now close thy eyes."

The woman turned her eyes downwards; but perceiving that she was about to leave the house, she gave her one look, and observed that at her back she was a mere skeleton. Soon after she had left the house the old husband returned.

Note: Among the rare cases which we have of any Eskimo tradition from the west about Behring Straits, the above legend is reported as known at Point Barrow, and was communicated to John Simpson, surgeon on board the Plover. In this the sister says to the brother, "Ta-man' g-ma mam-mang-mang-an' g-ma nigh'-e-ro," which corresponds to the Greenlandish tamarma mamarmat âma neriuk, "My whole person being delicious, eat this also" -- almost the same words as in one of the copies from Greenland.

Sun and Moon


The heavenly bodies were once ordinary Eskimos, living upon the earth, who, for one reason or an other, have been translated to the skies. The sun was a fair woman, and the moon her brother, and they lived in the same house. She was visited every night by a man, but could not tell who it was. In order to find out, she blackened her hands with lamp-soot, and rubbed them upon las back. When the morning came, it turned out to be her brother, for his white reindeer-skin was all smudged; and hence come the spots on the moon.

The sun seized a crooked knife, cut off one of her breasts, and threw it to him, crying: "Since my whole body tastes so good to you, eat this."

Then she lighted a piece of lamp-moss and rushed out; the moon did likewise and ran after her, but his moss went out, and that is why he looks like a live cinder. He chased her up into the sky, and there they still are.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised May 25, 2018.