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
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 splendour 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
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
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
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
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
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 travelled 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
He answered, "I have been travelling 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
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
He saw her living hands and said, "My wife had silver hands."
She answered, "Our merciful God has caused my natural hands to
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
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm