The Praying Hands
Informant: So there were these two friends that wanted to be artists, but they were not rich enough to go to art school together. So one was like “here’s a great idea, I’ll work while you’re in art school and I’ll pay for your art school and then once you graduate, you can work and I’ll go to art school”. Then they’re like “Oh! That’s perfect!” So one went to art school and then one stayed and worked. The art school friend became very successful and so after art school he was like, “Oh! This is great! Now you can go and I’ll sell all my paintings and this will be perfect”. But the other friend was like, “I can’t. My hands are too calloused, I can barely hold a paintbrush let alone do fine detail”. So the artist was just, like, heartbroken because he spent all this time and money when he can’t repay the favor. So then when one night the carpenter was praying with his hands like this (informant folds hands in prayer) and the artist saw the praying hands and then he decided to make a sculpture of the praying hands. So at camp, we have a sculpture of it. We have a podium and in it are the praying hands.
The tale has a motif seen in many tales, notably, “The Gift of the Magi”, where there is a mutual sacrifice between two characters. However, the tale-type had been noticeably altered, to reflect the Christian values of the YMCA camp. In this tale, there is a conclusive ending, where the sacrifice of one is commemorated through the work of the other. Sacrifice is a prominent Christian, and the praying hands are an overt Christian reference. Additionally, the tale recalls the theme of friendship, which is prominent at many summer camps. This story has a unique element in that there is a folk object that coincides with it. The statue of the praying hands is tangible and presumably may be moved. Therefore, it has a life beyond the camp and as the statue moves, so will the story, encouraging its longevity.