This article uncritically uses texts from within a religion or faith system without referring to secondary sources that critically analyze them. (October 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
A handmaiden, handmaid or maidservant is a personal maid or female servant. Depending on culture or historical period, a handmaiden may be of slave status or may be simply an employee. However, the term handmaiden explicitly implies lowly status.
Depictions in Abrahamic texts
In the Hebrew Bible, the term handmaid is applied to a female servant who serves her mistress, as in the case of Hagar being described as Sarai's handmaid, Zilpah being Leah's handmaid and Bilhah as Rachel's handmaid. In each of these cases, the mistress "gave" their handmaid to their husbands "to wife", to bear his "seed" (children). The use in the Torah of the prefix "to", as in "gave to wife", may indicate that the wife is a concubine or inferior wife. The text repeats that these people remain handmaids of their mistress though they are also the concubine of the mistress's husband. They are referred to interchangeably by the Hebrew terms אָמָה (’āmāh) and שִׁפְחָה (šip̄ḥāh).
In Christianity, Mary, the mother of Jesus is referred to as the "handmaid of the Lord" or "servant of the Lord", both of which are titles of honour for the mother of Jesus. The Gospel of Luke describes Mary as the "handmaid of the Lord" (Greek δούλη, doulē) when she gives her consent to the message of the Angel (cf. Luke 1:38), and when she proclaims the greatness of the Lord because of "the great things" he has worked in her (cf. Luke 1:49)."
In popular culture
- The Handmaid's Tale, а dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood.
- The Handmaiden, a 2016 South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook.
- In the A Song of Ice and Fire book series by George R.R. Martin, the female servants of a queen or a lady are referred to as "handmaidens" and the term is used to refer to many characters, most notably Queen Margaery Tyrell's cousins, Elinor Tyrell and Megga Tyrell who serve as Margaery's handmaidens starting from her arrival in King's Landing.
- In the sci-fi Star Wars franchise, the term refers to the female assistants of a reigning queen, most notably the Royal Naboo Handmaidens on the planet Naboo.
- It is also used metaphorically for something whose primary role is to serve or assist."Handmaiden - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
- Genesis 16:3
- Genesis 30:9
- Genesis 30:3-4
- "This Biblical Story Is At The Heart Of "The Handmaid's Tale"". Retrieved 2018-08-30.
- Women, similar to wives from vadimcherny.org
- Closs, Michael P. (29 June 2016). The Book of Mary: A Commentary on the Protevangelium of James. FriesenPress. p. 27. ISBN 9781460284872.
- Press, Liturgical (2012). Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Liturgical Press. p. 192. ISBN 9780814634868.