In this episode, I share the potent story of The Handless Maiden. This tale opens many doors into our inner landscapes and I share some of mine. We often avoid disturbing stories because of what they trigger within us. Being present with kind curiosity to the story wisdom is the key to receiving the powerful gifts of this timeless folktale.
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The Handless Maiden
Welcome to Love Lies Beneath. I’m Zette Harbour.
I’m glad to have you here. Do you feel like stress, fear, or pain take up way too much of your energy? Have you wondered if you’ll ever be free of that heaviness of your past? Do you long to feel as good on the inside as your life looks on the outside? In this podcast, you’ll discover the story of who you really are and how to set yourself free together.
We’re going to travel into those wild spaces of our inner landscapes and dive deeply into the rich soil of our lives. Reclaiming soul through story and healing. Our hearts. My book Love Lies Beneath is the. Be sure to subscribe to this podcast. So you don’t miss any of this enriching journey. And now let the adventure begin.
In episode 29, I share a rich, powerful, although sometimes daunting story called The Handless Maiden. It’s one of the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm. I invite you to listen to the story with kind curiosity, allowing the story wisdom to show itself to you. Invite the parts of you that you see reflected in this mirror to tell you more about your own journey, about the losses, about the struggles, and about the triumphs.
The Handless Maiden
Once upon a time, there was a miller. He had a wife and a daughter. Times were hard, and his millstone lay useless in the shed behind his house. He and his wife were very worried. They didn’t know what it was they were going to do to survive.
The wife had heard stories about the Tree of Life; She urged her husband to go out into the woods and find it and to bring back whatever wisdom was there. And so, the miller took his silver-tipped ax, and he walked out into the forest searching for the Tree of Life. He found a tree, tall and ancient. He thought, perhaps this is the Tree of Life, although he saw no wisdom there. He took his silver-tipped ax and cut it down. He walked from one end of the tree to the other and back, but he didn’t see any wisdom, so he went on.
He walked along until he found another tree. Perhaps this was the Tree of Life. He couldn’t see any wisdom from here, and so he took his silver-tipped ax and cut it down. He walked from one end of the tree to the other end and back, and he found no wisdom. He continued walking through the forest, searching for the Tree of Life.
He found a third tree. This one was very tall, very wide, more ancient than the others, and gnarled. He thought that perhaps this one might be the Tree of Life, and so he raised his silver-tipped ax, and right then a grim, strange man hobbled out from behind a bush. He held up his hand and bade the man stop. He said, ‘I see that you have come upon hard times, Miller, and I am here to offer you a bargain. I will make you as rich as you are now poor if you give me what stands behind your house.
Now, the Miller thought, and what stood behind his house was the flowering apple tree, and surely that was a worthy bargain. He agreed with this grim man. The man said that he would come in three years’ time to claim what was his.
And so, the Miller shouldered his ax, and he began walking back through the forest. He’d come just to the front of his yard when his wife came running out of the house. Her eyes were wide with fright, her hair was wild and askew, ‘Husband, Husband! Things are appearing in our house, treasures, and riches! Look at my clothes. They’ve changed before my very eyes! Husband, what could be happening?’
‘This is the bargain that I’ve made with the grim man in the forest,’ he told her, and in that instant, his own clothes changed and became rich and luxurious. He explained to his wife that all he was required to give in return was what stood behind their house – the flowering apple tree.
‘Oh Husband, do you not know who that grim man was? Do you not know what you have promised? Our daughter stands behind the house sweeping the walk with the willow broom! Oh, Husband!’
Together they walked behind the house, and sure enough, there was the flowering apple tree, and also, their beautiful daughter sweeping the walk with the willow broom. With tears in his eyes, the Miller explained to his daughter what had become about. She couldn’t believe what had happened. She couldn’t understand why they would be willing to give her away, but they kept her alone and separate for three years in preparation for that grim and strange man to come.
On the day he was to arrive, she bathed and anointed herself with oils and dressed in a long white gown. The grim man hobbled out from the forest and reached out his long, gnarled hand to grab her, but he was thrown back across the yard as if by some unseen force. He got up off the ground and said, ‘she cannot bathe! I cannot take her if she is clean. I’ll be back in three weeks. Don’t let her bathe!’ and he hobbled off.
The Miller and his wife did not allow their daughter to bathe, and in three weeks, the dress had become stiff and soiled, her hair was greasy and tangled, and her skin, grimy. The day that the grim and crooked man was to come arrived. The daughter stood there, dirty, filthy, and weeping, hands covering her face, and her tears washed her hands clean and white. The grim man hobbled out from the forest. He reached out to grab her, and again, he was thrown back across the yard.
He was furious. ‘She can’t have clean hands. She can’t! Cut off her hands! If you don’t cut off her hands, I can’t take her with me.’
The Miller couldn’t do it. He couldn’t cut off the hands of his own daughter.
‘Fail to keep our bargain, and everything will be laid waste for as far as you can see.’ The grim man said that he would return, and he hobbled off into the forest.
The Miller, weeping, and crying, apologized to his daughter as he sharpened his silver-tipped ax. She told him that she understood that he had no choice. With tears in her eyes, she held out her hands, and her father raised the ax and, with one stroke, cut off her hands. The mother and the father watched as the grim man hobbled back out from the forest.
The young maiden wept, the tears washing the stumps of her arms white and clean. Again, he reached out to take her, but he was a third time thrown across the yard, and now he was really furious because he had no more power over her. He stomped, and turned, and disappeared into the forest.
The Miller and his wife put their arms around their daughter. They begged for her forgiveness. They tried to comfort her. They wrapped the stumps of her arms in clean white cloth. They told her that they would take care of her. They would give her everything she ever wanted for the rest of her life.
‘No,’ she said that she knew that she must now wander throughout the world with nothing. And so, she bade them farewell and began walking out into the world. She entered the forest and walked for days. In her wanderings, she even unknowingly walked right past the Tree of Life.
When a week had passed, she came to a moat that surrounded the pear orchard of the king. By order, his gardener watched it day and night. She could find no way to cross the moat to reach the fruit-laden trees. As darkness fell, a white spirit appeared to her and closed the sluice gate of the moat for her. The water all ran down, draining the moat, and the maiden was able to cross into the orchard and the white spirit with her.
She stood among the trees, handless and unable to reach up and pluck one of those juicy, ripe pears. She walked along, and one of the trees lowered its branch to her enabling her to eat the fruit right from the limb. Then she and the white spirit crossed the moat out of the orchard. The white spirit opened the sluice gate and, once again, water-filled the moat.
All the while, the king’s gardener had been watching. In the morning, he ran to the king and told him everything. The king decided that he, himself, along with his wizard, and the gardener would watch that night to see if these two ghostly spirits returned.
The three were hiding behind a bush as darkness fell. There she was, hair wild, clothes ragged, and skin so covered with grime that she was unrecognizable, accompanied by the white spirit who closed the sluice gate, allowing her to pass into the orchard. The trio watched as another one of the trees lowered its branch to the maiden, allowing her to eat the fruit right from the limb.
The king told the wizard to go out and speak to the two specters. The wizard approached quietly and asked, “What are you? Are you of the spirit world, or are you of the human world?”
The maiden answered, “I was once of the human world, and I am not part of the spirit world.”
The wizard went back to the king, telling him that the creature had claimed that it was both human and spirit. Moved deeply by the sight of her, the king came out from behind the bush and knelt at the foot of this spirit, this woman. He promised to care for her for the rest of his life if she would come with him.
The maiden returned to the palace with the king, where she was well taken care of. She was given fine clothes and bathed and fed. After some time, she and the king grew to love one another and were married. As a gift, the king had a beautiful pair of silver hands fashioned for her.
Not long after, it came to pass that the king had to fight in a war in a far off country. While he was gone, he asked the queen mother to take good care of his wife, and if she were to bear them a child to let him know immediately. Indeed, while he was gone, the young queen gave birth to a beautiful daughter. Immediately, the queen mother sent a messenger to the king to give him the joyous news.
This messenger stopped at a river to drink and rest. Weary and hot, he fell asleep beneath a nearby bush. While he was sleeping, that grim and crooked stranger hobbled out from the forest. He took the note that the messenger was carrying, and he replaced it with one of his own. His note said that the queen had given birth to a child that was part dog.
Upon receiving this news, the king was horrified. His heart was heavy with sorrow. He sent a note back to his mother saying, ‘Care for them both until I return.’
The messenger once again fell asleep by the river. The grim, crooked man came and, as before, switched the notes. His message back to the queen mother said, ‘Imprison them both.’
The king’s mother could not believe what she had read. She sent another messenger back to the king. That message was switched. The king sent one back to her, and it was yet again switched. The messages went back and forth, each getting more and more horrible until the final one told the queen mother that she must kill the queen and the child and keep the eyes and the heart as proof.
This the mother of the king could not do. She told the young queen all that had happened, and together they made plans for her escape.
The king’s mother helped strap the baby to the queen. She hugged her and sent them off into the world. She had a doe killed and kept the eyes and the heart as proof for the king. Meanwhile, the young queen carried her baby into the world, and there was met once again by the white spirit, which led her through the forest.
Deep into the forest, they came to a hut. This was the home of a woodcutter and his wife. The woodcutter and his wife knew all about them, who they were, and why they were there. When the queen wondered at this, they told her,’ The people of the forest watch, and they know.’
So the queen and her daughter lived safely and happily for many years. Meanwhile, the king returned from the war. His mother showed him the doe’s eyes and heart and told him they were the young queen’s. He was horrified.’ What had caused this to have happened?’
The queen mother saw the genuineness of her son’s remorse, so she told him the truth. She had sent his wife and daughter out into the world. At that moment, the king vowed that he would search for them and not eat or drink until he found them. He left the palace, entered the dark forest, and began wandering. Over time, his hair grew wild and tangled, and his own skin became brown and grimy.
After seven long years, his path took him to the center of that deep forest where he came upon the woodcutter’s cottage. Only the woodcutter’s wife was home. She welcomed the king, gave him something to drink, and invited him to lie down and rest. She laid a cloth over his face. As he slept, the woodcutter, the queen, and her young daughter came home.
The cloth slipped from the face of the king, and he opened his eyes to see standing before him a beautiful woman with a young girl by her side. She explained that she was his wife and that this was his daughter. The king did not understand how this could be because this woman had hands. His wife did not have hands.
The woodcutter’s wife reached into the trunk and lifted out the two silver hands. The queen explained to him that her hands had grown back through her trials and her own good care. First tiny and pink as a baby’s, then longer and stronger as a young girl’s, and now finally, slender and lean and strong as a young woman. When the king saw this, he wept and rejoiced.
That night they celebrated with the woodcutter, his wife, and the other people of the forest. The very next day, the king, his queen, and their child returned to the palace, where they held a wonderful celebration welcoming them all home. The king and queen were married once again, and they all lived happily ever after.
Exploring The Handless Maiden
There are a fair number of Grimms’ tales that feel dark, grisly, and a bit horrifying. It is common to avoid them, especially if it is a mirror for our own painful journey. There is a reason we bury our unhappy feelings. They are like hot coals handed to us, and our instinct is to get as far away from them as possible. Only a daft person would willingly try to hang on to them.
So, exploring a story like the Handless Maiden can feel like a bad idea, something a foolish person would do. It is normal and natural to decide not to poke a wound with what looks like a sharp stick. That is why developing your skill in seeing Story as a mirror is so important. It is essential that you have spent some time with less daunting stories before diving into one as deep as this one.
If you were learning to scuba dive, you would start in the safe and controlled waters of a pool. Eventually, as you began to master the mask, snorkel, and regulator, you could venture out into the ocean. Not the deepest part of the ocean, though. Your instructor would take you to a calm, relatively shallow cove, first. Once you had achieved the level of mastery needed, you could expand your diving territory and enjoy the extraordinary underwater scenes in the ocean’s depths.
So, do not start with the biggest, deepest, most scary story about your life. Practice this Story diving in small pools first. You will find more than enough awakening and wonder no matter which pool you choose. I did not start my own Story exploration with the Handless Maiden. By the time this story revealed itself to me, I had plenty of practice with Rumpelstiltskin and the Woman of the Sea, as well as many others like them.
It took me many hours of living with this particular story, telling it, and writing about it before I felt confident enough to really allow it to come to life within me. Once I did, what I found there shifted the tectonic plates of my life. This story let me see that there was no simple, straight path back to wholeness. There would be fruitful moments, unions, betrayals, and a fair amount of wandering. Like the maiden, ‘through my trials and my own good care,’ I allowed my hands to grow back slowly.
In the beginning, the miller and his wife are afraid because their world is falling into ruin. I have adapted this part of the story to include the idea of the Tree of Life. This is a mythical tree representing the connectedness of all life. It speaks to my understanding that when my life and livelihood are in distress, there is a lack of connection to what is vital and important. Like many of us, though, the miller thinks that the way to regain this connection is to chop down and harvest the tree. Of course, that is the exact opposite of what the tree represents.
Paradoxically, it is the grim stranger’s intervention that saves the miller from destroying this powerful tree. This mirrors my own experience that often some entity within or outside of me that appears to be dangerous or bad actually plays a central role in my transformation. Without the presence of the grim stranger, the miller’s daughter would never have taken her journey. It invites me to hold the room for the question, ‘if those wounds had never happened, would I be who I am today?’
To be clear, this is very different than saying, ‘It’s all good.” That is avoidance and denial, and both are extremely toxic. They act like a perpetual fog within which no life-giving sources of nourishment can grow. Denying or ignoring the depth of grief and suffering I experience is not healing. Like the Handless Maiden, I must walk through the forest, and I must have my eyes wide open.
This is one of the greatest gifts of mythological thinking and archetypal imagining. A thing can be both dark and light at the same time. I acknowledge the darkness while understanding its power to transform. Likewise, I accept that there is a purpose to my journey, making it possible for me to receive its richness. As a result, I grow strong, healthy hands with which to reach out into the world.
This paradoxical awareness is what allowed the truth of the existence of my own woundings to live alongside the value of the paths I have traveled. It has enabled my acceptance that the journey would not have been possible without them. Those wounds are found in the soil of my life. My roots require the darkness to deliver life-giving energy to my Tree of Life. This understanding is an essential key to reclaiming the dismembered parts of my Soul.
Living In A Handless World
The painful beginning of this story makes me cry. I feel my Heart absolutely break when the father cuts off her hands. Even worse, she offers herself up, willing to bear the brunt of the damage so that others may avoid harm. I felt something similar, growing up. I was worth less than others around me. Therefore, I could and would sacrifice what was asked of me.
When I spend time with this story, I see myself. I see that I am not the only one to have been used by others to keep their own destruction at bay. For instance, my stepfather had something very wrong with him. I was one of the children in our house who suffered because of the ominous stranger that lived within him. Rather than face his own brokenness and the pain that would bring him, he used us to make himself feel better.
I also see the path to wholeness laid out in this tale. There is power and beauty in the young woman’s courage as she chooses to leave her parents’ broken home and sets out into the world. She knows that she has lost the very parts of her to enable her to make something of her life. It is the loss of her hands, the part of herself that would have allowed her to reach for things she desired or even needed to survive.
When I am present to the Handless Maiden’s story, I am able to tell myself the truth of my own loss, pain, and dismemberment. I lost the safety of a home in which I was supposed to, at the very least, be cared for. In truth, the loss was much greater since it was clear there was no hope of being valuable just because I was me. I would not be kept safe, nor would I be cherished, treasured, and believed in.
This story helps me reunite with my pain at finding myself responsible for fixing others’ mistakes and evils at the cost of my own body. It is the pain of knowing that there is no one coming to save me. I feel the intense weight of the sorrow that I did not matter at all. And, like the Handless Maiden, I comply with their misguided betrayals until I can leave and make my way in the world. I may be disfigured, but I am free.
Looking into this story, I understand the extent to which my early betrayers maimed me. It legitimizes how I felt about that time and what came next in my life. The Handless Maiden gives me words to express and heal what happened to me. I am also able to make peace with how I acted as a result of those early woundings. I, too, had times when subversive influences and confusing messages disrupted my life.
In this tale, I love that there is no straight path to a happily ever after because that seems more like the world I live in. The Handless Maiden’s journey to restoring wholeness is one of twists and turns. There appears to be a safe place for her with the king, and he even gives her beautiful but false hands. Within this union, she finds love that promises to offer safety, although that turns out to be fleeting.
This illuminates the truth that there is no reclamation of the self to be found in any relationships outside of the self. To truly heal the early wounds and restore her full capacity to reach out and grasp life with both hands, she must through all of her ‘trials and her own good care,’ grow her hands back. My own journey has shown this to be true. The only way to truly restore me to wholeness has come through my reclamation of my Soul. The path to this is in living with intimacy and compassion with my stories.
Through My Own Good Care
I have been avoiding accepting one of the hardest gifts of this story for a long time. It is not even the biggest revelation I have received in my Story wanderings. Instead, it is the one I have been spending the most energy trying not to see. All of that energy I have been using not to look this one in the eyes has been quite costly to my ability to make choices and find fulfillment.
Even as I make space in my conscious awareness for the message, I feel the turbulence of the shift in my entire body. My denial of this belief about myself took a heavy and sustained investment that will not dissolve easily. What I must do to ensure my safe passage is to remember everything I have learned about Story’s wisdom. And so, I will choose to enter this particular landscape, feeling my fear and grief. I also cling to a flickering flame of hope that I will come out on the other side, having grown my own hands back.
As I look unflinchingly within, I see myself living in a hellscape of self-hatred. This is one of the last and most disheartening pieces of my Soul that I had lopped off and buried long ago. It contains the story of my struggle to manage the truth of my vulnerability, abuse, and pain. It is the best my younger mind could do to save as much of me as it could.
In this imagery, I can see two of me. One is furious and full of hate toward the other. The other is pitiful. They are the Hateful and the Helpless. The Helpless self yearns for love and carries a horrible secret.
She is so desperate; she would accept love from even the stepfather. This is her great shame, and she is gutted by it. It is precisely the wrong thing to allow. It feels despicable. He is the abuser of her sister. He is her own abuser. He is the man who has usurped her father.
My Heart is so empty from the loss of that original love. Feeling the absence of being nourished by the male attention and praise. Seeing my dad smile at me. Hearing him sing to me, play guitar for me. All of this is lost.
In this vision, Helpless is rendered asunder. There is a great gash along the left side of her torso. It is bloody and deep. Hateful knows what a betrayer she has been. How weak, pitiful, and ugly she is.
All around them is the ultimate hellscape. Red, fiery, winds of self-loathing raging ceaseless and eternal over the scarred, desolate, charred ground. Everything glows with a bloody red, only how you would think a bloody red would look if it were also in intense heat, like an incinerator.
Hateful stands in full wrath posture, legs and arms wide. Her arms are held high, and one brandishes a sword.
Helpless lies on the ground, plaintively upturned face begging for mercy. There is none. And she knows that she doesn’t deserve it anyway. She is ruined and ruinous. She is sentenced to this parched suffering of the ever-wounded, never-healed untouchable state.
Of the two, for many years, I have been more comfortable acknowledging the Hateful. However, I do not let her turn her hate onto the world or anyone else in it who does not deserve it. There was a period in my life when I allowed it to flow without restraint onto my thoughts of my stepfather, foster-father, mother, and foster-mother. I was very willing and comfortable to turn my fiery gaze on them as a way of deflecting it away from myself.
This brings to mind another image. I see my anorexic behavior during my early teen years to young adulthood. I can remember a schoolmate in my sophomore year telling me that I looked like a skeleton. I don’t recall ever seeing myself as skeletal nor even as overweight. How I looked wasn’t what it was about for me. It was my self-punishment to refuse to feed myself.
Like the handless maiden, I couldn’t reach out to pick up the food. Unlike her, I hadn’t yet met my White Spirit. I can remember being in the kitchen, opening a cupboard or the fridge. Although I could use my hands to open the doors, I remember feeling like I had no muscles to lift my arms to pick up any food. I could see it in the cupboard and fridge. There was plenty of it. I just didn’t have permission from myself to eat. I could not and would not be nourished.
For a long time, I believed that shrinking my body had also been a tactic to help me be less visible. This was in the hope that I would avoid being a target for my stepfather’s abuse. Having a wraith-like appearance also matched my sense that I did not feel like a real person in many ways. Another benefit was that focusing on depriving myself did help distract me from the worst of my pain. I can remember feeling a bizarre but quiet sense of satisfaction every time I submitted to my unwillingness to reach for food. It made me feel good about myself.
Paradoxically, I did eat enough to avoid any health complications. Perhaps my unconscious self understood my purpose for this behavior and prevented me from taking it too far. Or it may have been that going into the danger zone healthwise would have drawn too much attention to me. I could not risk causing my stepfather to focus on me any more than he already did. My purpose was to achieve a sense of control, and withholding food was one way for me to do that.
Please note: I feel that it is important for me to be explicit here. Anorexia is serious, and my experience does not apply to nor diminish anyone else’s.
Looking at these layers of self-hatred and abuse, I can see how they had been woven together to form a protective robe. These Self-Betrayals formed a cascade of hurts designed to shield me from what I believed was the worst thing I could feel. That would have been to acknowledge my sycophantic, obsequious yearning for love and connection, even from a monster. Diving deeper, I can see that this self-condemnation was itself a cover story for the terror of living so close to the potential of the annihilation of myself.
If I could be the evil antagonist of my own suffering, then at least I knew who was in charge. On the other hand, to accept that the pain and abuse were completely outside of my control was to face a mind-shredding fear that my existence could end at any moment. It was better to wrestle the devil I knew and harbored within me than the one I was powerless against. In other words, it was better to allow my hands to be chopped off than to disappear altogether.
Somehow I did manage to lift my eating embargo long before facing this lowest of lows in myself. Perhaps that is equivalent to the silver hands that the king had made for the Handless Maiden. They were not the real thing, but they were something. He had also had them made to be beautiful even if they were not fully functional. I had learned to feed myself, but that was not the same as fully forgiving and loving myself.
At the heart of all of this is that Hateful is really, really, really hurt. This great pain of nothingness is the source of her wrath. I think that she knows she can take it out on Helpless whether or not she has done anything ‘wrong.’ The reality is that Hateful is furious at those adults who hurt her, and she knows they will never be held accountable. Someone has to be, though, so she has turned to the one being she knows she can trust…Helpless.
She knows that Helpless will take it and never leave or betray her, unlike others. I am reminded of that Star Trek episode, The Alternative Factor, in which a man is trapped in an unending struggle with his counterpart from an alternate universe. They are locked in relentless hand to hand combat so that the universe will be safe. These two opposites within me are locked in our own epic saga of fury and submission. Dancing eternally, the balance never being shifted. There is no outcome or victory here, ever, not even for Hateful.
The purpose of this particular battle is not to vanquish. That would mean there would be an ending. Instead, this is a container for unceasing emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual wrestling. The bloody skirmish can end only when Hateful extends her hand to Helpless in compassion and willingness, because the only way to face the core of the black hole created by the threat to my Original Self, is together.
I accomplish this by spending time with the story of their separation and struggle. I see, embrace, appreciate, and love each of them as valued parts of myself. That sounds easier than it was. I definitely felt the distressing feelings of fury and fear. My transformation began when I understood that I could embrace both Hateful and Helpless at the same time.
At first, I felt like I needed to negotiate a truce between them. This felt overwhelming and impossible. I did not think I could do that without one of them having to be the loser. My gut told me that would not work and, in fact, could increase the turmoil between these two aspects of myself. The more I tried to placate Hateful and implore Helpless, the more intense the pain became. Fortunately, I had coaches with whom to work through my thoughts and feelings.
That is when it became clear that the path through this intimidating and fearful terrain lay in seeing the beauty and value of each one. These two aspects were holding archetypes that expressed deep, universal truths about the human experience. Neither needed to win nor lose. I had gotten caught up in the drama of the story, and this had prevented me from seeing it from a more expansive point of view.
The secret was in letting myself truly see them as they were. Then, I needed to wrap my arms around them, no matter how frightening or repulsive they appeared. Next, I needed to tell them, ‘thank you’ because they were essential to becoming more whole. And finally, I needed to say, ‘I love you’ to both of them. The shift was immediate and amazing.
Suddenly, I no longer felt like I was being held at metaphorical gunpoint. This story had revealed itself to me, not so I could ‘fix’ it but for me to show it recognition, respect, and compassion. This was the secret to reclaiming these particular bits of my Soul. In doing so, I experienced a full healing of my pain. They did not need to be vanquished or conquered. What they wanted most was to come home.
Seeing Through Many Lenses
As I spend time with the Handless Maiden story, I can also see messages from cultural, individual, and intrapersonal perspectives. Looking through these different lenses can help connect to your own place in the story and how it shows up in your life. These influences can be subtle and disguised, or they can be direct and overt. For instance, culturally, a man’s response to feeling disempowered is expected to be anger and possible retribution. A woman will feel like she is supposed to accept it or ignore it and be polite in response.
Here are some thoughts about these various perspectives that may support your exploration of this tale.
- Culturally, females may experience a sense of a patriarchal or grim male, which influences them from manifesting or achieving in the world.
- Culturally, men’s and women’s Feminine Principle may experience a sense of being impotent and helpless to express in a strongly masculine-oriented world.
- Individually, girls and women may experience a limiting of their abilities and opportunities to be an active creator of their lives by patriarchal and heavily masculine-oriented society.
- Individually, males and females may experience a cutting off by patriarchal and heavily masculine-oriented society of their own Feminine Principle’s expression and ability to manifest.
- Intrapersonally, girls, and women may find that their own internal masculine aspects, symbolized by the father and grim, strange man, have cut off their access to manifesting and creating.
- Intrapersonally, it may reflect women feeling, for whatever reason, unequipped to fulfill their creative destinies. It may simply speak to those times in life when the choice was made to sacrifice the creative feminine during times of duress or threat.
- Intrapersonally, males and females may experience a sense that their own internal masculine aspects cause them to be unable to express themselves from a Feminine Principle perspective.
Look Into The Handless Maiden Mirror
As you look into this story to see what aspects of your life and yourself call to be seen, take some time to write down what shows up. Remember that even if what you see feels daunting, threatening, or fearful, what you are being called to do is to be present. That willingness speaks to your Soul and lets it know that you are ready to reclaim those roots that had been cut off. Once you do, the nutrients of the soil will once again nourish you.
- Describe which character in the story causes the strongest feelings for you.
- How do you think the character should have behaved?
- Is there someone in your life, including yourself, that reminds you of them?
You may resonate with the Handless Maiden’s decision to go out into the world, leaving her parents and their offer to take care of her behind.
- Why do you think the Handless Maiden refuses to stay home and be taken care of?
- When have you faced a wilderness in your life?
- How have you nourished yourself when you did not feel equipped to do so?
Once the Maiden meets the King, it appears that she will now be able to live in happiness and safety. He even has beautiful silver hands made for her. When they are to have a child, life looks like there will be a happy ending. Instead, she is betrayed once again, and the communication between the King and his mother is hijacked. Despite still being handless, the Maiden sets off to find safety once more.
- Do you recognize the experience of life looking like it is all on the verge of working out only to find that there is more confusion and betrayal?
- Has there been a time when you had to take your life into your own hands and set out to start your life over again?
Through her trials and her own good care, the Handless Maiden grows back her own hands. This part of the story happens without us being able to witness it, and yet, it is the most important chapter in her life. We are each called to grow back our hands and take authority over our own lives and creativity.
- Why are returning to the forest and a simpler life necessary for the Maiden’s hands to grow back?
- Where in your own life do you still need to grow back your hands?
Grasping Life With Both Hands
The Handless Maiden is a long story to perform, to listen to. And it’s a big story. It takes us on some pretty demanding ups and downs. It takes us into places we might be uncomfortable going. And yet when we understand the story wisdom that lies within every tale and when we understand that the parts of the story that get your attention, whether they feel good or bad, those parts of the story are messengers from your Soul, from your deep inner wisdom.
And this part of you is using this story to remind you that there are places within you that you yourself had cut off, that you had put away in service of survival and that you are ready to re-member them to restore them and to come back to home.
If this story causes you to feel things that you would rather not feel, if you find that the questions at the end of this episode, stir up resistance or criticism or rejection within you, trust that those are all signs that you are on a path toward wholeness. You are coming home to yourself and that you are through your trials and your own good care, growing your own hands back, lean and strong over this next week.
I invite you to spend some time with those questions, write about what you feel, what you see within you, what you hear. Even places in your body where you’re experiencing sensations, write it all down, because that is how you let your deep inner wisdom know that you are paying attention. And truly it is presence that will create your wholeness.
I am Zette Harbour. This is Love Lies Beneath. I hope you subscribe to this podcast. I love having you with me on this journey. And I’d love to hear more of your thoughts and answer your questions so you can visit LoveLiesBeneath.com. There you’ll find show notes, transcripts, other resources, links to the guests that I’ve interviewed and the opportunity to set up a virtual coffee date with me. We’ll talk story.
Go raibh míle maith agat!