A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm
A poor man had so many children that he had already asked
everyone in the world to be godfather, and when still another
child was born, no one else was left whom he could invite.
He knew not what to do, and, in his perplexity, he lay down
and fell asleep. Then he dreamt that he was to go outside the
and ask the first person he met to be godfather. When he awoke,
he determined to obey his dream, and went outside the gate, and
asked the first person who came up to him to be godfather. The
stranger presented him with a little glass of water, and said,
"This is a wonderful water, with it you can heal the sick, only
you must see where death is standing. If he is standing by the
patient's head, give the patient some of the water and he will
be healed, but if death is standing by his feet, all trouble
will be in vain, for the sick man must die." From this time forth,
the man could always say whether a patient could be saved or
not, and became famous for his skill, and earned a great deal
Once he was called in to the child of the king, and
when he entered, he saw death standing by the child's head and
cured it with the water, and he did the same a second time, but
the third time death was standing by its feet, and then he knew
the child had to die.
Once the man thought he would visit the godfather, and tell him
how he had succeeded with the water. But when he entered the
house, the strangest things were going on within. On the first
flight of stairs, the broom and shovel were disputing, and
knocking each other about violently. He asked them, "Where does
the godfather live?"
The broom replied, "One flight of stairs
When he came to the second flight, he saw a heap of
dead fingers lying. He asked, "Where does the godfather live?"
One of the fingers replied, "One flight of stairs higher."
the third flight lay a heap of dead heads, which again directed
him to the flight beyond. On the fourth flight, he saw fishes on
the fire, which frizzled in pans and baked themselves. They,
too, said, one flight of stairs higher. And when he had
ascended the fifth, he came to the door of a room and peeped
through the keyhole, and there he saw the godfather who had
a pair of long horns. When he opened the door and went in,
the godfather got into bed in a great hurry and covered himself
Then said the man, "Sir godfather, what a strange household
you have. When I came to your first flight of stairs, the shovel
and broom were quarreling, and beating each other violently."
"How stupid you are," said the godfather. "That was the boy
and the maid talking to each other."
"But on the second flight I
saw dead fingers lying."
"Oh, how silly you are. Those were some
roots of scorzonera."
"On the third flight lay a heap of dead
"Foolish man, those were cabbages."
"On the fourth
flight I saw fishes in a pan, which were hissing and baking
themselves." When he had said that, the fishes came and served
themselves up. "And when I got to the fifth flight, I peeped
through the keyhole of a door, and there, godfather, I saw
you and you had long, long horns."
"Oh, that is not true." The
man became alarmed, and ran out, and if he had not, who knows
what the godfather would have done to him.