Montag, 23. August 2010

Godfather Death (A German fairytale)

Once upon a time a poor man had twelve children and he had to work day and night so that he could give them any bread. When the thirteenth child was born into this world, he didn't see any other help for his suffering than to run out onto the large country road and ask the first one he should meet to be the godfather. The first one he met, was the Good Lord. He already knew what was on his mind and said to him: "Poor man, I feel sorry for you. I will have your child baptized, will care for him and make him happy on this earth." The man said: "Who are you?" — "I am the Good Lord." — "It that's the case, I don't want you to be the godfather", said the man, "you give to the rich and leave the poor starving." He spoke like that because he didn't know that God gives richness and poorness according to his wisdom. So he turned his back to the Lord and went on. Then the devil approached him and said: "What are you looking for? If you want me to be your child's godfather, I will give him gold abundantly and on top of that, all pleasures of the world." The man asked: "Who are you?" — "I am the devil." — "If that is the case", the man said, "I don't want you to be the godfather. You deceive and seduce men." He went on, and dry-legged Death advanced on him and said: "Accept me as the godfather." The man asked: "Who are you?" — "I am Death, he who makes all people equal." Then the man said: "You are the right one, you take the rich one and the poor one without bias, you will be the godfather." Death said: "I will make your child rich and famous, because no-one who has me as his friend will ever be needy." The man said: "The baptism will be next Sunday, be there on time." Death did appear, as he had promised, and did well as the godfather.
As the boy had come of age, his godfather came to him one day and took him for a walk. He lead him out into the woods and showed him a herb that was growing there and said: "Now you are going to receive your baptismal gift. I will make you a famous doctor. When you are called to a sick man, I will appear to you each time. If I am standing near the sick man's head, you can coyly say that you will nurse him back to health, and if you give a bit of that herb to eat, his health will be returned. If, however, I am standing the sick man's feet, he belongs to me and you must say that all help would be futile. But don't you ever use that herb against my will, it will make things very bad for you.

It didn't take a long time for the young man to become the most famous doctor in the whole world. "He only has to look at a sick man, and he already knows his fate, if he will become healthy again or if he must die", they said about him, and from all parts of the world people approached him, took him to their sick ones and gave him so much gold that he soon became a rich man. It than happened that the king got sick. The doctor was called and asked to tell if it was possible for him to regain his health. But when he approached the bed, Death was standing near the sick man's feet, and there was no herb to help him. "If I only could fool death once", the doctor thought, "he will make a grudge, but because I am his godchild, he will turn a blind eye, so I'll take the challenge." He seized the sick man and reversed him, so that Death was standing near his head. Then he gave him a bit of the herb to eat, and the king recovered and became healthy again. But Death came to the doctor wearing a fierce and sinister face, raised his finger threatening him and said: "You did fool me, this time I will let you get away with it, because you are my godchild, but if you dare do it again, I will get you, and I will take you away."
Soon thereafter, the king's daughter was smitten by a severe illness. She was his only child, he wept day and night so that his eyes became blind, and he had it made public that he who saved her from death would become her spouse and inherit the crown. When the doctor was approaching the sick girl's bed, he saw Death at her feet. He should have remembered his godfather's warning, but the great beauty of the princess and the happiness to be her spouse enchanted him so that he threw away all his thoughts. He did not see that Death was staring wrathfully at him, lifted up his hand and threatened him with his thin fist; he lifted up the sick girl and laid down her head where formerly the feet had been. Then he gave her a bit of the herb to eat and soon life was quickening inside her again.

Death, who had been cheated out of his property for the second time, advanced on the doctor with long steps and said: "Time is up for you, now it is your turn", grabbed him with his ice-cold hand so hard that he could not resist, and led him into a cave under the earth. There he saw thousands and thousands of tapers burning in countless lines, some of them being tall, some half-tall and some short. Each and every moment some extinguished themselves and others were lit, so that there seemed to be a constant changing of the little flames. "Behold", Death said, "these are the life-lights of all people. The tall ones belong to children, the half-tall ones to married couples in their prime, and the short ones belong to the elderly. But children and young people, too, sometimes have short lights only." — "Show me my life-light", said the doctor, thinking that it still should be quite tall. " Death pointed towards a little wick that was just in danger of dying, and said: "Behold, there it is." — "My dear godfather", said the horrified doctor, "do light a new one for me, to it for me, so I can become king and husband to the beautiful princess". — "I cannot", Death answered, "it is mandatory for one light to be extinguished before a new one can be lit." — "Then place the old one on a new one so that it be lit when the other one burns out", the doctor pleaded. Death pretended to be willing to grant his wish, reached for a fresh, tall taper, but because he wanted to take revenge, while changing the lights he deliberately made a mistake of dropping the little one, so it extinguished itself.
The doctor fell immediately onto the ground: Now he himself had fallen in the hands…of Death.

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