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Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm translated by Margaret Hunt

The Wilful Child

ONCE upon a time there was a child who was willful, and would not dowh at her mother wished. For this reason God had no pleasure in her, and let her become ill, and no doctor could do her any good, and in a short time she lay on her death-bed. When she had been lowered into her grave, and the earth was spread over her, all at once her arm came out again, and stretched upwards, and when they had put it in and spread fresh earth over it, it was all to no purpose, for the arm always came out again. Then the mother herself was obliged to go to the grave, and strike the arm with a rod, and when she had done that, it was drawn in, and then at last the child had rest beneath the ground.


Hessian. The hand growing out of the grave is a widely-spread superstition, and not only concerns thieves, but also trespassers on consecrated trees (see Schiller's Tell, Act 3, Scene 3 [1]), and parricides (Wunderhorn, 1. 226). In Pauli's Schimpf und Ernst, there is another story of an arm that was stretched out of the grave (Danish edition, p. 218). When a flower or a written paper grows out of the grave from the mouth of a buried man, as a token of his guilt or innocence, it is but another form of the same idea.

It is also said and believed that the hand of any one who strikes his parents will grow out of the earth; thus the Fuchsthurm, on the Hausberg, near Jena, is the little finger of a giant who had beaten his mother.

1: Walther. (Zeigt nach dem Bannberg.)
Vater, ist's wahr, dass auf dem Berge dort
Die Bäume bluten, wenn man einen Streich
Drauf führte mit der Axt-
Tell. Wer sagt das, Knabe?
Walther. Der Meister Hirt erzählt's-Die Bäume seien
Gebannt, sagt er, und wer sie schädige,
Dem wachse seine Hand heraus zum Grabe.

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.

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©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales
Page created 10/15/06; Last updated 10/28/07