Friday, July 25, 2014

The Handless Maiden

In a powerful fable, 
called "The Handless Maiden,"
(extended version found at the end of post)
a father unknowingly trades his daughter
to the devil in exchange for power and wealth.
The devil isn’t able to control the daughter outright,
so he cuts off her hands and carries them away.
Her father tries to make life comfortable for her,
but she is unable to do anything for herself.
 She eventually leaves home.

A king finds her wandering and falls in love with her.
They marry and he has a pair of silver hands made
so she can carry out her queenly responsibilities.
At some point, he is called off to war.
Through a series of twists and turns,
her real hands begin to grow back,
and she is able to remove her silver hands.
When he returns from war,
he doesn’t recognize her because
her hands are not silver.

Many of us have been using “silver hands”--
coping mechanisms that helped us perform.
Our real hands had been cut off
and carried away for various reasons,
often related to promises of power for others.
For many, God orchestrated a change of season
where we began using our silver hands less.
Out from stumps, our hands began growing again.
That which we thought was lost
began to be restored.

The problem is that there were entire
communities of silver-handed maidens.
We were really good at using those.
We don't really know how to use the
appendages growing out of dead places.
One day we carry something on our own;
the next day we are dropping things.
We just know that dropping things with our own hands
is better than carrying them with the silver ones.

The handmaiden in the fable wasn’t happily
reunited with her husband when he saw her.
He didn’t recognize her.
Being re-created is confusing.
In this season of restoration,
we need to allow time for the new to develop.
God is re-creating us that we might be
a better reflection of His image.
We no longer need those fake hands.
He is making us real.


"The Handless Maiden,"
(told in many different versions)
A miller is approached by the devil
with a promise of wealth and power 
if he trades what is standing in his back yard.
The father believes it to be an apple tree and agrees,
but the devil is actually referring to his daughter,
who is standing beside the tree.
The miller and his wife enjoy their improved life,
and are horrified when the devil comes to claim his fee.
He cuts off her hands and takes them away.

Her parents made her life comfortable and
thought she had no reason to complain.
The girl became more withdrawn and,
finally, while her parents were sleeping,
left home and slipped into the woods.

Hungry and weary from her walk through the forest,
 she came upon an orchard of pear trees.
She found one hanging at the right level for her to eat.
She stayed in the garden and ate just one pear
each day so that she could survive.
Unknown to the maiden, this was a king’s garden,
and he noticed that some of his pears were missing.
He hid to see who was eating from his tree
and fell in love with the poor maiden.
He took her home and made her his wife.
She found it difficult to be queen without hands,
and so he had a pair of silver hands made for her.

After a while, the king needed to go off to war.
He asked his mother to care for her and,
if she would have a child,
she should care for them both
and send him the happy news in a letter.
She had a son, and the queen sent a letter,
which got confiscated along the way.
The devil wrote that the woman
had given birth to a changeling.
The king was saddened but wrote back that
his mother should care for them both.
Again, the devil rewrote the letter to read
that the mother should kill them both.
The mother could not kill them,
but feared for their lives and sent them away.

With the child strapped to her back,
the queen was led by an angel to
an abandoned home in the woods.
For seven years, the angel helped her care
for herself and her son.
Her natural hands began to grow back,
and she was able to take off her silver hands.
The king eventually came back from war and
discovered what had happened.
His mother told him that she sent them out into the woods.
He vowed to never eat or sleep until he found them.

For years, God kept him alive until one day
an angel led him to the house where his wife lived.
He could not believe it was really his wife
because she did not have silver hands.
The angel needed to bring the silver hands
to prove to the king that this was indeed his wife.
There was great rejoicing as the king, his wife
and his son went back to his mother
where they lived happily ever after.

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