The Maiden Without Hands
The messenger, however, after traveling a long way, became tired and sat down to rest by a brook, where he soon fell fast asleep. Then came the wizard, who was always trying to injure the good Queen, took away the letter from the sleeping messenger, and replaced it by another, in which it was stated that the little child was a changeling.
Knowing nothing of the change, the messenger carried this letter to the King, who, when he read it, was terribly distressed and troubled. However, he wrote in reply to say that the Queen was to have every attention and care till his return.
The wicked wizard again watched for the messenger, and while he slept exchanged the King’s kind letter for another, in which was written to the King’s mother an order to kill both the Queen and her child.
The old mother was quite terrified when she read this letter, for she could not believe the King meant her to do anything so dreadful. She wrote again to the King, but there was no answer, for the wicked wizard always interrupted the messengers, and sent false letters. The last was worse than all, for it stated that instead of killing the mother and her child, they were to cut out the tongue of the changeling and put out the mother’s eyes.
But the King’s mother was too good to attend to these dreadful orders, so she said to the Queen, while her eyes streamed with tears, “I cannot kill you both, as the King desires me to do; but I must not let you remain here any longer. Go, now, out into the world with your child, and do not come here again.” Then she bound the boy on his mother’s back, and the poor woman departed, weeping as she went.
After walking some time she reached a dense forest, and knew not which road to take. So she knelt down and prayed for help. As she rose from her knees she saw a light shining from the window of a little cottage, on which was hung a small sign-board, with these words: “Every one who dwells here is safe.” Out of the cottage stepped a maiden dressed in snowy garments, and said, “Welcome, Queen wife,” and led her in. Then she unfastened the baby from his mother’s back, and hushed him in her arms till he slept so peacefully that she laid him on a bed in another room, and came back to his mother.
The poor woman looked at her earnestly, and said, “How did you know I was a Queen?” The white maiden replied: “I am a good fairy sent to take care of you and your child.”
So she remained in that cottage many years, and was very happy, and so pious and good that her hands, which had been cut off, were allowed to grow again, and the little boy became her great comfort.
Not long after she had been sent away from the castle the King returned, and immediately asked to see his wife and child.
Then his old mother began to weep, and said, “You wicked man, how can you ask me for your wife and child when you wrote me such dreadful letters, and told me to kill two such innocent beings?”
The King, in distress, asked her what she meant; and she showed him the letters she had received, which were changed by the dreadful wizard. Then the King began to weep so bitterly for his wife and child that the old woman pitied him, and said, “Do not be so unhappy; they still live; I could not kill them. But your wife and child are gone into the wide world, never to come back for fear of your anger.”
Then said the King, “I will go to the ends of the earth to find them, and I will neither eat nor drink till I find my dear wife, even if I should die of hunger.”
Thereupon the King started on his expedition, traveling over rocks and valleys, over mountains and highways, for seven long years. But he found her not, and he thought she was starved to death, and that he should never see her again.
He neither ate nor drank during the whole time of earthly food, but Heaven sent him help. At last he arrived at a large forest and found the little cottage with the sign-board, and the words upon it: “Every one who dwells here is safe.”
While he stood reading the words the maiden in white raiment came out, took him by the hand, and led him into the cottage, saying, “My lord the King is welcome; but why is he here?” Then he replied, “I have been for seven years traveling about the world hoping to find my wife and child, but I have not yet succeeded. Can you help me?” “Sit down,” said the angel, “and take something to eat and drink first.”
The King was so tired that he gladly obeyed, for he really wanted rest. Then he laid himself down and slept, and the maiden in the white raiment covered his face.
Then she went into an inner chamber where the Queen sat with her little son, whom she had named “Pain-bringer,” and said to her, “Go out together into the other chamber; your husband is come.”
The poor Queen went out, but still sorrowfully, for she remembered the cruel letters his mother had received, and knew not that he still loved her. Just as she entered the room the covering fell off his face, and she told her little son to replace it.
The boy went forward and laid the cloth gently over the face of the strange man. But the King heard the voice in his slumber, and moved his head so that the covering again fell off.
“My child,” said the Queen, “cover the face of thy father.”
He looked at her in surprise, and said, “How can I cover my father’s face, dear mother? I have no father in this world. You have taught me to pray to ‘Our Father, which art in heaven,’ and I thought my father was God. This strange man is not my father; I don’t know him.”
When the King heard this he started up and asked who they were. Then said the Queen, “I am your wife, and this is your son.”
The King looked at her with surprise. “Your face and your voice are the same,” he said; “but my wife had silver hands, and yours are natural.” “My hands have mercifully been allowed to grow again,” she replied; and, as he still doubted, the maiden in white entered the room, carrying the silver hands, which she showed to the King.
Then he saw at once that this was indeed his dear lost wife and his own little son; and he embraced them, full of joy, exclaiming, “Now has a heavy stone fallen from my heart!”
The maiden prepared a dinner for them, of which they all partook together; and, after a kind farewell, the King started with his wife and child to return home to the castle, where his mother and all the household received them with great joy.
A second marriage-feast was prepared, and the happiness of their latter days made amends for all they had suffered through the wicked demon who had caused them so much pain and trouble.
From Grimms' Complete Fairy Tales, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.International Collectors Library, Garden City, New York, 1900.