The Golden Arm

The below folk story is a story my friend, who will be referred to as J, told me he had heard from his dad in Columbus, Ohio. J is a middle aged white man who heard this story when he was a young boy.

Text: There once as a woman who got hit by a car. In the car accident, she lost her arm. However, the man who hit her with his car was very rich, and feeling very guilty, he bought the woman a golden arm.

The woman’s husband was an evil man however, and felt tremendous greed that his wife had a golden arm, and begged his wife to sell her golden arm. However, the wife refused, and the thought of all the things the man could buy with the golden arm drove him insane. He ended up killing his wife, by strangling her in her sleep.

The man attended his wife’s funeral, pretending to be heartbroken, and watched her buried into the ground. That night however, the man snuck into the graveyard and dug up his wife, removing her arm from her dead body.

The man was overjoyed and the next night he stayed up in bed holding the arm, and imagining all he could buy with it. However, that night he was startled by a sudden gust of wind that sounded like it was saying, “giveee mee my arrrrm.” The man fell asleep that night however, and had good dreams. The next night, the man heard another another gust of wind, this time definitely saying “giveee mee my arrrrm.” This continued for the next several nights, each night the sound got louder, clearer, and lasted longer. The man began to get very paranoid, locking all his doors and boarding all his windows, clinging to the arm ever tighter. Eventually, the man couldn’t take it anymore, and when he heard the voice saying “givee mee my arrrrm” that night, he shouted out, “Fine, I have your arm and will give it to you.” The voice of his wife responded, “Come outside and give it to me!” Timidly, the man walked outside, and seeing the ghost of his wife, he handed out the arm in payment to her. At that moment, a lightning bolt struck the arm, electrocuting the man. The ghost of his wife took the arm back, and returned to her grave happy and content.

Context: J told me this story when I was discussing folklore he had heard. He said this was a favorite story of his dad’s that his dad would tell this story to him and his sisters when they were young. J emphasized the importance of the oral telling of this story. He said that when he reads this story, it is not the same. What makes it a good story according to J is that there needs to be a talented storyteller, who can shout to scare his audience and keep them tense the entire story. J said his dad told this story primary because it entertained the children, but also because of the moral lessons it taught. J described how this story shows that being greedy will never make you successful, and how committing a crime will always come back to haunt you.

Analysis: I liked this story and found it interesting because when researching this story, I realized just how many variations of this story exist. The story emphasises the importance of oral storytelling to children. As J said, a story being said orally is a great way to entertain children and teach them lessons at the same time. Also, as J described, this story teaches moral such as not being greedy, a belief in Karma, and an emphasis of not taking something from the dead. It is well known not to mess with the dead, especially steal something from them. It plays into the idea that grave robbers are evil and will be cursed later in life, similar to the idea of how the man who open King Tut’s tomb was cursed and died shortly after. All in all this story is an excellent example of folklore because it has multiplicity and variation, is a way for adults to transfer knowledge to their children, and is also a way morals are spread to different generations.

For another version of this text, visit Joseph Jacobs‘s Collection, English Fairy Tales