The Girl Without Hands: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

One of the fairy tales collected by the Grimm brothers is ''The Girl Without Hands.'' In this lesson, we will summarize this story and analyze the meanings within this story.

The Grimm Fairy Tales

Many of the fairy tales that we are familiar with today were not nearly as happy and light-hearted originally. One of these fairy tales by the Grimm Brothers is ''The Girl Without Hands.'' Based on the name alone we know that this isn't going to be a very happy story.

This story starts out with a father who was tricked into making a deal with the Devil. The Devil tricks the father into selling his daughter to him (the man thought he was only trading a tree not his daughter) in exchange for becoming rich. But it ends up that the daughter is so good, pure, and pious that the Devil can't take the girl since the tears she cries washes her hands clean. The Devil even gets the father to cut off his daughter's hands, in hopes that the Devil will be able to take the girl, but it doesn't work because she cries so much that her stubs are washed clean.

An angel helps the girl get food
Girl without hands

So now the girl has no hands, and she goes off into the world alone. Her goodness is soon recognized by a king who ends up marrying her. While the king is away at war the girl with no hands has a son. The Devil, still upset that he couldn't take the girl, ends up switching letters to make it appear as though the king told his mother to kill the girl and their son. The king's mother refuses to do such a horrible act; instead she sends them away for fear of what the king will do when he returns. She is protected by God and an angel ends up housing her and repairing her hands ''through the grace of God and her own piety.''

When the king returns he is greatly saddened to learn what happened, (and also confused about the letter). He ends up searching for his daughter and their son for seven years. He finally finds them. At first their son, whom the girl calls ''Filled-With-Grief,'' refuses to acknowledge him as father, because he has only been taught that God is his father. Finally everything is explained and they all live happily ever after.


The theme of this story is about good being rewarded. This is included as one of the fairy tales collected by the Grimm brothers in Germany in the early 19th century. During the 19th century most people respected stories which had a Christian moral basis. So this story is based upon biblical and Christian values.

The Girl Without Hands was one of the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm
Brothers Grimm

We first see a man making a deal with the Devil. He is tricked into making the original deal, and even when he realizes the trickery, he still follows through with it and is eventually willing to even cut off his daughter's hands. However, the girl keeps crying so much that it washes her hands clean so the Devil can't take her. This idea comes from a Bible verse from Psalms 24:3-4 ''Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart.'' Here the Devil is not able to take the girl because she physically has clean hands. Although, she is also pious, without sin, and has a pure heart, so she cannot be touched by the Devil.

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