Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 177: Messenger Death

A well-worn country road.
Translation: Copyright
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In ancient times a giant roamed the earth. One day he was walking down a well-worn country road when an unknown man suddenly jumped up before him and cried out “Stop, not one step more!” “What is this?” the giant exclaimed. “You are only a little dwarf that I can squash between my fingers. You want to block my path? Who are you, that you speak so boldly?” “I am Death,” the stranger replied. “No one can resist me. You, too, must listen to my commands.” But the giant refused to obey and instead, began wrestling with Death. It was a long and fierce fight, but in the end the giant gained the upper hand and beat down Death with his fist, so that he collapsed next to a stone on the road. The giant went his way and Death lay there defeated. He was so powerless that he could not get up again. “What shall happen to me?” he asked, “If I must lie here in the corner and can’t even get up? No one will ever die in the world again and it will become so filled with humankind that there won’t be enough room for people to stand side by side.” As he was thinking this, a young man came strolling down the lane. He was healthy and hearty, sang a song and glanced back and forth. When he saw the semi-conscious creature lying there lifelessly, he approached in pity. Helping him sit up, he poured a strong drink from his bottle to help him regain his strength. “Do you know,” the stranger asked as he sat up, “who I am and who you have helped get back up on his feet?” “No, the young man replied, “I don’t know you at all.” “I am Death,” he said. “I spare no one and can make no exception with you either. But you should understand that I am grateful. I promise you that I will not overtake you suddenly and without warning. Instead I shall send my messenger before I come and get you.” The youth replied, “That’s something. At least I shall know you are coming and can safely escape ahead of you.” He continued on his way, was happy and in good spirits and lived each day to the fullest. But youth and health do not last for long, soon illness and pain came. They tormented him by day and robbed him of his sleep by night. “But die I won’t,” he said, “for Death shall first send his messenger. I only wish the bad days of illness to be over.” Soon he felt healthy and once more began to live in joy. One day, someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and saw Death standing behind him. He said “Follow me, the hour of your departure from the world has now come.” “What!” the man replied. “Shall you break your promise? Did you not promise that you would send your messenger to me before you came yourself? I haven’t seen anyone.”“Silence,” Death replied. “Have I not sent you messengers in excess? Were you not visited by Fever, who seized you violently so that you trembled and shook before he threw you down! Did not Dizziness cloud your mind? Did not Gout settle in your joints? Did you not hear buzzing in your ears? And didn’t your teeth make your gums ache? Weren’t there times you saw only black before your eyes? And above all, did not my dear Brother Sleep remind you of me every night? Weren’t your slumbers as if you had already died?” The man did not know what to say. And so he accepted his fate and went off with Death.

Translation Copyright: