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A POOR man had twelve children and was forced to work night and day to give them even bread. When the boy had grown up, his godfather one day appeared and bade him go with him. It was not long before the youth was the most famous physician in the whole world.
Based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, GODFATHER DEATH tells the story of a young doctor whose godfather was, fittingly, Death.
He led him forth into a forest, and showed him a herb which grew there,10 and said, "Now shalt thou receive thy godfather's present. She was his only child, and he wept day and night, so that he began to lose the sight of his eyes, and he caused it to be made known that whosoever rescued her from death should be her husband and inherit the crown. Every instant some were extinguished, and others again burnt up, so that the flames seemed to leap hither and thither in perpetual change. Thus when the thirteenth came into the world, not knowing what to do in his need, he ran out into the highway, intending to ask the first person whom he met to be the godfather. Empowered by his godfather's gift of a potion that cures all, the doctor soon learns that the balance of life cannot be cheated.


Now it so befell that the King became ill, and the physician was summoned, and was to say if recovery were possible.
The first person who came his way was our dear God, who already knew what was in his heart, and God said to him, “Poor man, I pity you.
But when he came to the bed, Death was standing by the feet of the sick man, and the herb did not grow which could save him. He ought to have remembered the warning given by his godfather, but he was so infatuated by the great beauty13 of the King's daughter, and the happiness of becoming her husband, that he flung all thought to the winds. If I stand by the head of the sick man,11 thou mayst say with confidence that thou wilt make him well again, and if thou givest him of this herb he will recover; but if I stand by the patient's feet, he is mine, and thou must say that all remedies are in vain, and that no physician in the world could save him. He did not see that Death was casting angry glances on him, that he was raising his hand in the air, and threatening him with his withered fist. Death behaved as if he were going to fulfill his wish, and took hold of a tall new candle; but as he desired to revenge himself, he purposely made a mistake in fixing it, and the little piece fell down and was extinguished. Then he gave her some of the herb, and instantly her cheeks flushed red, and life stirred afresh in her. Then he gave the King some of the herb,12 and he recovered and grew healthy again. But if I stand at the sick person’s feet, he is mine, and you must say that he is beyond help, and that no physician in the world could save him.


However, when he approached the bed, Death was standing at the sick man’s feet, and so no herb on earth would be able to help him.
However, Death came to the physician, made a dark and angry face, threatened him with his finger, and said, “You have betrayed me.
Then he proclaimed that whosoever rescued her from death should become her husband and inherit the crown. He did not see that Death was looking at him angrily, lifting his hand into the air, and threatening him with his withered fist.
There the physician saw how thousands and thousands of candles were burning in endless rows, some large, others medium-sized, others small. Every instant some died out, and others were relit, so that the little flames seemed to be jumping about in constant change. The large ones belong to children, the medium-sized ones to married people in their best years, and the little ones to old people.
Death pretended that he was going to fulfill this wish and took hold of a large new candle, but, desiring revenge, he purposely made a mistake in relighting it, and the little piece fell down and went out.



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