Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Godfather Death by the Brothers Grimm 1860

Godfather Death by the Brothers Grimm 1860

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A Poor man once had twelve children, and was obliged to work day and night to obtain even bread for them. When the thirteenth made its appearance, he really knew no longer what to do, and ran out into the high road to see whom he could find to be godfather. The first he met was a good angel, who, knowing what oppressed the man's mind, addressed him, saying, "My poor man, you excite my compassion. I will hold your child at the font, take care of it, and make it happy while it lives." The man said, "Who are you?" "I am a good angel." "Then I will not have you for a godfather," returned the man; "you reward rich men by making them richer, and leave the poor to hunger." This the man said in his ignorance, not understanding how wisely riches and poverty are distributed. So he turned away, and went farther. Presently, he met an evil spirit, who asked him, "What do you seek? If you will have me for your child's godfather I will give him gold in abundance, and all the pleasures of the world into the bargain." "Who are you?" asked the man. "I am an evil spirit." "Then I will not have you for a godfather, you deceive and betray men." Going farther, he met Death, with his bony figure, who advanced towards him, saying, "Take me for your godfather." Who are you?" inquired the man. "I am Death, who makes all equal." "Then," said the other, "you are the man; you take the rich and the poor without making any difference, and shall be my godfather if you will." To this Death replied, "I will make your child renowned and rich, for when any one has me for a friend he can want for nothing." "Next Sunday is the christening," said the father, "be sure you are in time." The singular godfather kept his appointment, and the child was duly baptized.

When the boy was grown up, the godfather appeared one day, and bid him follow him. He led him into the woods, and after some search showed him a herb growing there, and said, "I am now going to make you the sponsor's usual present, but mine will be of no ordinary kind, for I will make you a famous physician. When you are called to a patient I will always appear to you; if I stand at the head of the sick person you may speak and promise assistance boldly, making sure of his cure if you administer some of this herb to him; but if you see me at the feet he is mine: you must say all aid is vain, and that no advice in the world can save him. But beware not to apply the herb contrary to my will and directions, or it will go ill with you."

It happened, as Death had foretold, before long the young man was the most celebrated physician in the world. He need only glance at a patient to understand at once his disorder, and if he would live or die. So his fame continually spread, and he was visited by patients from far and near, and sent for in all directions; thus riches rapidly accumulated, and he was well satisfied with his godfather's gift.

It happened once that the king fell sick, and of course the physician was sent for to declare if his recovery was to be hoped. When he entered, he saw Death standing at the foot of the bed, and therefore knew that here the herb must fail. "If I could for once overreach Death," thought the young man to himself; "truly he would not be pleased, but still I am his godson, and he would certainly overlook it. I will venture." Taking the sick man in his arms, he moved him, so that his feet lay where his head had been; then administering some of the herb, the king revived and shortly after recovered. Death, however, paid the doctor a visit, looked excessively displeased, threatened him with his finger, and said, "You have taken advantage of me, and this time I will look it over, as you are my godson; but if you venture again you shall pay the penalty, and I will have you for my own."

Shortly after this conversation, the king's daughter fell dangerously ill. She was his only child; he wept day and night until he was almost blind, and caused it to be made known, that whoever could save her should become her husband and heir to the crown. The physician was called, and on entering, saw that Death stood at the foot of the bed, and he ought certainly to have remembered his godfather's warning; but the great beauty of the princess, and the desire of becoming her husband, so completely blinded him that he cast prudence to the winds. Without in the least heeding Death's angry looks, or the fist that he shook so threateningly, he raised the patient, reversed her position, and then gave her some of the wonderful herb. Her cheeks instantly assumed a faint tint, and life was restored to her.

Death seeing himself cheated for the second time, went with hasty strides to the doctor, and said to him, "Now it is your turn then, seizing him firmly with his icy-cold hands, he carried him into a subterranean vault. He saw there thousands upon thousands of candles burning in numberless rows, some large, some smaller, others very small. "See," said Death, "these candles represent the lives of the human race." The doctor observed that every moment some went out, while others burnt up again; so that the lights were continually, as it were, changing place. "Yes," repeated Death, "the large are children, the half-burnt married people in their best years, and the small are old men. Children and married people, however, often have small candles." The doctor now begged Death to show him his light, and he pointed to a snuff which threatened to go out every instant, saying, "There it is." "Dear godfather," said the terrified physician, "light a fresh one for me, for pity's sake, that I may enjoy my life, marry the princess, and become king." "I cannot do it," replied the other; "one must burn out, before a new one can be lighted." "Then place the old one upon a fresh one, which may continue to burn when the flame of the old reaches it," said the doctor. Death pretended to grant his request, and fetched a long candle, but in arranging it according to the godson's wish, he intentionally, and in order to revenge himself, let the end fall, so that it was extinguished. The physician sank to the ground, and was now himself the prey of Death.

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