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The Severed Hand

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The Severed Hand

by Wilhelm Hauff

Genre: Suspense
Setting:
Format of Original Source: Short Story
Recommended Adaptation Length:

Candidate for Adaptation? Not Reviewed

EXCERPT:

“Unnecessary fear,” he replied, as he wrapped the cloak round him. “I want your assistance as a physician, not, however, for one living, but for one who is dead.”

“How can that be?” I exclaimed, astonished. He beckoned me to follow him, and related as follows: “I came here from foreign lands with my sister, and have lived with her at the house of a friend, where she died suddenly yesterday. Her relatives wish her to be buried to-morrow; and by an ancient custom in our family every member is to be buried in the vault of our ancestors, where many who died in foreign countries now repose embalmed. I wish to leave her body to our relations here, but must take to my father her head, at least, that he may see his daughter’s face once more.”

This custom of cutting off the head of beloved relatives seemed to me somewhat repulsive, but I did not venture to raise any objections, fearing to give offence to the stranger. I therefore told him that I well understood embalming the dead and begged him to take me to the deceased. At the same time I could not refrain from asking him why all this must be done so mysteriously, and in the night. To this he answered, that his relations, considering his intention as somewhat cruel, would prevent him if he attempted it during the daytime; but that if the head was once severed they would say little about it; that he, indeed, would have brought me the head himself had not a natural feeling deterred him from performing the operation.


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