Death chosen as godfather for child. Child receives healing herb from him. As a doctor, he deceives Death with king and daughter, must die for it.
A poor man had twelve children and had to work day and night so that he could only give them bread. When the thirteenth came into the world, he did not know how to help himself in his need, ran out onto the great highway and wanted to ask the first person he met to become his godfather. The first one who met him was the good God, who already knew what was on his mind, and said to him: "poor man, I have pity on you, I want to raise your child from the baptism, I want to take care of it and make it happy on earth". The man said "who are you?" "I am the good God." "So I do not desire you as a godfather," said the man, "you give to the rich and let the poor go hungry." The man said this because he did not know how wisely God distributes wealth and poverty. So he turned from the Lord and went on his way. Then the devil came to him and said "what do you seek? if you will take me as godfather to your child, I will give him gold in abundance and all the pleasure in the world." The man asked, "who are you?" "I am the devil." "So I do not desire you as a godfather," said the man, "you deceive and seduce people." He went on, and the scrawny-legged Death came striding up to him and said, "take me for a godfather." The man asked "who are you?" "I am Death, who makes all equal." Then the man spoke: "you are the right one, you fetch the rich like the poor without distinction, you shall be my godfather man." Death answered, "I will make your child rich and famous, for he who has me for a friend cannot lack." The man said: "next Sunday is the baptism, there you stand in due time." Death appeared as he had promised, and stood quite properly as a godfather.
When the boy had come to years, the godfather came in at one time and told him to go along. He led him out into the forest, showed him a herb that grew there, and said, "Now you shall receive your godfather's gift. I will make you a famous physician. If you are called to a sick person, I will appear to you every time: if I stand by the head of the sick person, you can boldly say that you want to make him well again, and if you then give him some of that herb, he will recover; but if I stand at the feet of the sick person, he is mine and you must say that all help is in vain and that no doctor in the world can save him. But beware that you do not use the herb against my will, it might go badly for you."
It was not long before the young man was the most famous doctor in the world. "He only had to look at the sick person and he would know whether he would get well or whether he would have to die," it was said of him, and people came from far and wide, fetched him to the sick and gave him so much gold that he soon became a rich man. Now it happened that the king fell ill: the physician was summoned and was to say whether recovery was possible. But when he came to the bed, death stood at the feet of the sick man, and there was no more herb for him. "If I could cheat death once," thought the doctor, "he will take it badly, but since I am his godfather, he will probably turn a blind eye: I will dare it. So he took hold of the sick man and laid him upside down, so that death came to stand at his head. Then he gave him some of the herb, and the king recovered and became well again. Death, however, came to the physician, made an evil and gloomy face, threatened with his finger and said: "You have led me behind the light: this time I will see to it, because you are my godfather, but if you dare to do it again, you will get it and I will take you away myself.
Soon after, the king's daughter fell into a serious illness. She was his only child, he cried day and night so that his eyes went blind, and he announced that whoever saved her from death would become her husband and inherit the crown. The doctor, when he came to the bedside of the sick woman, saw death at her feet. He should have remembered the warning of his godfather, but the great beauty of the king's daughter and the happiness of becoming her husband so beguiled him that he threw all thoughts to the wind. He did not see that Death was giving him angry looks, raising his hand in the air and threatening with a scrawny fist; he picked up the sick woman and put her head where her feet had been. Then he gave her the herb, and immediately her cheeks reddened and life revived.
Death, when he saw himself cheated of his property for the second time, approached the doctor with long strides and said: "it is over with you and the row now comes to you", grabbed him with his ice-cold hand so hard that he could not resist and led him into an underground cave. There he saw how a thousand and a thousand lights burned in immense rows, some large, some half-large, some small. Every moment some went out, and others burned up again, so that the little flames seemed to bounce back and forth in constant change. "You see," said Death, "these are the life lights of men. The large ones belong to children, the half-large ones to married couples in their prime, the small ones to old people. But even children and young people often have only a little light." "Show me my life light" said the doctor, meaning it was still quite large. Death pointed to a little duckling that was about to go out and said, "see, there it is." "Oh, dear godfather," said the frightened doctor, "light me a new one, do it for my love, so that I may enjoy my life, become king and husband to the beautiful king's daughter." "I cannot," replied Death, "first one must go out before a new one is lit." "So put the old one on a new one that will burn right away when that one is over," the doctor asked. Death, as if to fulfill his wish, reached for a fresh, large light, but, wanting to take revenge, he deliberately misplaced it, and the piece fell and went out. Immediately the doctor sank to the ground, and was now himself in the hands of death.