Janna Taylor | The Handless Maiden

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About a year ago, Janna Taylor, a Manhattan entrepreneur, told one of her stories in the entry If You Get Defensive, You're Getting Close.  In this post, she shares her thoughts on the myth of The Handless Maiden.  As with the myth of Psyche, The Handless Maiden chronicles feminine psychological development (e.g. she preserves her uniquely feminine nature even as she makes something happen).  Note too that while some tasks along the journey can be delegated, some cannot.

The The Handless Maiden is a fable first introduced to me through Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ seminal work Women Who Run With the Wolves, a book that explores messages about women’s nature in myths and fables.  This myth, in particular, hearkens to living our dreams even as we belligerently scream, “But, I can’t!”

As the tale begins, a young maiden’s hands have been severed by the devil. After an intense journey of physical and psychological travail, she finds safety and peace, and eventually marries a good, devoted king and births a healthy baby.  But one day, “…the young queen goes to the well. As she bends over to draw water, her child falls into the well. The young queen begins to shriek, and a spirit appears and asks why she does not rescue her child. ‘Because I have no hands!’ she cries. ‘Try,’ says the spirit, and as the maiden puts her arms in the water, reaching toward her child, her hands regenerate then and there, and the child is saved.”


Like the handless maiden, we have dream “babies” come along. We birth them amidst trials and challenges, and carry them close to our hearts.  But because of circumstances in or out of our control, sometimes our dreams start to slip away, losing our sense of can-do-it-ness. This happens not only because of the inevitability of distractions, but also by devaluing our dreams by saying they take too much time, attention, sacrifice.

We feel hand-less.

Mercifully and benevolently, however, there is a piece of our self, just like the maiden, who knows we must try.  Try even though it looks impossible. Try even though everyone, including ourselves, thinks we might be crazy and don’t have the skills.

In the process of reaching deep within the well of ourselves to save our dreams, internal and external naysayers notwithstanding, we get back our can-do-it-ness.

We grow the hands.

As you have plunged your hands deep into your psyche to save your dream, what has grown or even re-grown?

Why can this task not be delegated?

P.S. from Whitney — I find the focus on hands especially poignant, perhaps because I am a pianist by training.  I was also intrigued by Gerald and Lindsay Saltzman's commentary in Marketing Metaphoria.  They write, “everyday conversation is rife with expressions that equate hands with the deep metaphor of connection…'Lend me a hand', to ask someone for help.  ‘Taking someone's hand in marriage' connects us to a social institution as well as a highly personal commitment…Hands create art, movies, clothing, books, houses, and so.  We value handmade crafts because of their connection to the jeweler, weaver, potter…bestowing handmade gifts is ‘like giving a part of

[our]selves to another.”
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