Godfather Death is a Grimm Brother’s fairytale about the relationship between life and death. It begins with a father who is poor and must choose a suitable godfather for his thirteenth child, a new son. There is no mention of a mother; the feminine is totally absent throughout the tale. When the father makes a choice for a godfather he does not choose God or the Devil. Instead, he chooses Death to be the godfather of his child because Death does not discriminate.
While Godfather Death is a rather sullen tale, it shows that intimacy with death can bring us a powerful gift which can enhance our humanity. The tale reveals that the healing alliance between life and death is both a physical and a psychological fact. The tale shows that each person has a singular purpose in life and an allotted time in which to undertake it by showing us the dangers of unduly prolonging life.
Recently I have been captured by a book written by Jungian analyst, Greg Mogenson. Its title is: Greeting the Angels: An Imaginal View of Mourning. While Mogenson says many things about mourning that are very worthwhile (and I do recommend his writing) what is pertinent to this fairytale is Mogenson’s assertion that, to a large extent, we in the western world have lost our sense of being able to embrace death when it comes knocking at the door – exemplifying our own temptations to thwart death that are not dissimilar to the doctor’s actions within the tale, Godfather Death.
The theme of the tale, Godfather Death, is that we can neither escape nor defy death. There are huge consequences to the folly of the doctor’s actions whereby the doctor believes he can defy death and he, not Death, can decide when someone dies. My questions from this tale surround the importance of our recognition of the power of death when the time comes for our loved ones and for ourselves. As our technology and our expectations surrounding medical treatment change, like the doctor in the tale was tempted, we too are tempted to prolong life. Where will we draw our line in the name of the love of the life we hold dear?
To review the story: https://www.grimmstories.com/en/grimm_fairy-tales/godfather_death