[CW: mutilation, child neglect]
Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index type 576: The Magic Knife
This is one of those lesser known tales that appeared in the Grimm’s first edition but was removed in later editions. I couldn’t find this specific story in the ATU classification and there is no history available that I could find without doing some serious digging.
As such, there are no illustrations available. I’ve decided to post the story in its entirety because it is very short and like some of the others, really awful. There is no lesson to learn here, except maybe don’t lend your knife to little girls with thuggish brothers.
There once was a little girl who had three brothers, and the boys meant the world to her mother. Yet the little girl was always neglected, treated badly, and forced to go out early in the morning every day to dig up peat from the dry ground on the heath, which they used for making fires and cooking. To top it all off, she was given an old, blunt shovel to perform this nasty work.
But the little girl had an admirer who was an elf and lived in a hill near her mother’s house. Whenever she went by the hill, he would stretch out his hand from the rocky slope and offer her a knife that had miraculous powers and could cut through anything. She used this knife to cut out the peat and would finish her work quickly. Then she would return home happily with the necessary load, and when she walked by the rocky slope, she would knock twice, and the hand would reach out and take back the knife.
When the mother noticed how swiftly and easily she came back home with the peat, she told the girl’s brothers that there must be someone helping, otherwise, it would be impossible for her to complete the work so fast. So the brothers crept after her and watched her receive the magic knife. They overtook her and forced her to give it to them. Then they returned to the rocky slope, knocked the way she had always done, and when the good elf stretched out his hand, they cut it off with his very own knife. The bloody arm drew back and since the elf believed that his beloved had betrayed him, he was never seen after that.
Grimm, Jacob; Grimm, Wilhelm. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition. Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
3 thoughts on “#FairytaleTuesday: The Hand with the Knife”
There seems to be a common theme here and in The Nightingale and the Blindworm. Don’t lend a valuable and irreplaceable item even to a friend, or you may well suffer as a result.
Shakespeare had the same message.
‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be
For a loan dost oft times lose both itself and a friend.’
Hamlet, Act 1, sc iii.
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