Der var engang en fattig mand, som havde tolv børn og måtte arbejde dag og nat for at skaffe føden til dem. Da det trettende kom til verden, vidste han slet ikke, hvordan han skulle klare sig, og i sin fortvivlelse gik han ud på landevejen for at bede den første han traf, om at stå fadder til barnet. Den første, han mødte, var den gode Gud. Han vidste allerede besked og sagde: "Jeg har ondt af dig, stakkels mand. Jeg vil stå fadder til dit barn og sørge for, at det går det godt i livet." - "Hvem er du?" spurgte manden. "Jeg er den gode Gud," svarede den fremmede. "Ja, så skal jeg ikke have dig til fadder," sagde manden, "du giver nogle rigdom og lader andre dø af sult." Manden forstod ikke, hvor vist Gud fordeler fattigdom og rigdom og gik derfor videre. Kort efter mødte han djævelen, som sagde til ham: "Hvis du vil lade mig stå fadder til dit barn, vil jeg skænke det guld og ære og al verdens herlighed." - "Hvem er du?" spurgte manden. "Jeg er djævelen," svarede den fremmede. "Ja, så skal jeg ikke have dig til fadder," sagde manden, "du forfører menneskene til ondt og bedrager dem." Han gik videre og lidt efter mødte han døden. "Hvem er du?" spurgte han. "Jeg er døden, der gør alle lige," svarede den fremmede. "Ja, du skal stå fadder til mit barn," sagde manden, "du gør ikke forskel på fattig og rig." - "Jeg vil gøre din søn rig og berømt," sagde døden, "det er altid godt at have mig til ven." Næste søndag, da dåben fandt sted, kom døden da også, og stod fadder til barnet.
A poor man had twelve children and had to work day and night in order just to feed them. 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. 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. I will hold your child at his baptism, and care for him, and make him happy on earth." The man said, "Who are you?" - "I am God." - "Then I do not wish to have you for a godfather," said the man. "You give to the rich, and let the poor starve." Thus spoke the man, for he did not know how wisely God divides out wealth and poverty. Then he turned away from the Lord, and went on his way. Then the devil came to him and said, "What are you looking for? If you will take me as your child's godfather, I will give him an abundance of gold and all the joys of the world as well." The man asked, "Who are you?" - "I am the devil." - "Then I do not wish to have you for a godfather," said the man. You deceive mankind and lead them astray." He went on his way, and then Death, on his withered legs, came walking toward him, and said, "Take me as your child's godfather." The man asked, "Who are you?" - "I am Death, who makes everyone equal." Then the man said, "You are the right one. You take away the rich as well as the poor, without distinction. You shall be my child's godfather. Death answered, "I will make your child rich and famous, for he who has me for a friend cannot fail." The man said, "Next Sunday is the baptism. Be there on time." Death appeared as he had promised, and served as godfather in an orderly manner.
Da drengen var kommet til skels år og alder, trådte gudfaderen en dag ind i stuen og bød ham følge med. De gik ud i skoven, og der viste han ham en lille plante og sagde: "Nu skal du få din faddergave. Jeg vil gøre dig til en berømt læge. Hver gang du bliver kaldt til en syg, vil jeg vise mig for dig. Står jeg ved den syges hoved, behøver du blot at give ham en af disse urter, så bliver han rask. Men står jeg ved fodenden skal du sige, at ingen magt i verden kan frelse ham. Vogt dig for at bruge urten imod min vilje, det kunne komme dig dyrt til at stå."
After the boy came of age his godfather appeared to him one day and asked him to go with him. He took him out into the woods and showed him an herb that grew there, saying, "Now you shall receive your godfather's present. I will turn you into a famous physician. Whenever you are called to a sick person I will appear to you. If I stand at the sick person's head, you may say with confidence that you can make him well again; then give him some of this herb, and he will recover. 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. But beware of using this herb against my will, or something very bad will happen to you."
Inden der var gået ret lang tid, var gudsønnen den berømteste læge i hele verden. "Han behøver kun at se på en syg, så ved han straks, om han vil leve eller dø," sagde folk. Langvejs fra kom de rejsende for at hente ham til deres syge, og han blev snart meget rig. Engang blev kongen syg, og der blev sendt bud efter lægen, for at han skulle sige, om han kunne leve. Men da han kom ind til sengen, stod døden ved fodenden. For ham var der ingen lægedom. "Mon jeg ikke kunne narre døden en gang," tænkte lægen, "han vil vel nok blive gal i hovedet, men da jeg er hans gudsøn, bærer han forhåbentlig over med mig." Derpå vendte han den syge, så døden kom til at stå ved hovedgærdet, og tog en af sine urter frem og gav kongen den. Men døden kom til lægen med et mørkt ansigt og truede ad ham. "Denne gang skal jeg tilgive dig," sagde han, "men sker det en gang til, er det ude med dig."
It was not long before the young man had become the most famous physician in the whole world. People said of him, "He only needs to look at the sick in order to immediately know their condition, whether they will regain their health, or are doomed to die." And people came to him from far and wide, taking him to their sick, and giving him so much money that he soon became a wealthy man. Now it came to pass that the king became ill. The physician was summoned and was told to say if a recovery were possible. 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. "If I could only deceive death for once," thought the physician. "He will be angry, of course, but because I am his godson he will shut one eye. I will risk it." He therefore took hold of the sick man and laid him the other way around, so that Death was now standing at his head. Then he gave the king some of the herb, and he recovered and became healthy again. However, Death came to the physician, made a dark and angry face, threatened him with his finger, and said, "You have betrayed me. I will overlook it this time because you are my godson, but if you dare to do it again, it will cost you your neck, for I will take you yourself away with me."
Kort tid efter blev kongens eneste datter meget syg. Han var ved at græde sig øjnene ud af hovedet og lod bekendtgøre, at den, der kunne helbrede hende, skulle få hende til ægte og arve riget efter ham. Da lægen kom til den syge, så han, at døden stod ved hendes fødder. Men han blev så blændet af kongedatterens skønhed, at han glemte alt andet. Han så ikke, at døden truede ad ham med sine knokkelhænder, men vendte hende om, så hovedet kom til at ligge i fodenden af sengen. Så gav han hende en urt og straks fik hendes kinder farve, og hendes læber åbnede sig igen.
Soon afterward the king's daughter became seriously ill. She was his only child, and he cried day and night until his eyes were going blind. Then he proclaimed that whosoever rescued her from death should become her husband and inherit the crown. When the physician came to the sick girl's bed he saw Death at her feet. He should have remembered his godfather's warning, but he was so infatuated by the princess's great beauty and the prospect of becoming her husband that he threw all thought to the winds. He did not see that Death was looking at him angrily, lifting his hand into the air, and threatening him with his withered fist. He lifted up the sick girl and placed her head where her feet had been. Then he gave her some of the herb, and her cheeks immediately turned red, and life stirred in her once again.
Men døden gik lige hen til sin gudsøn og sagde vredt: "Nu kommer turen til dig." Derpå tog han fat i ham med sine iskolde hænder og tvang ham til at følge med ned i en underjordisk hule. Der stod tusinder og atter tusinder af lys og brændte. Nogle var store, andre var allerede brændt halvt ned, og atter andre var ganske små. Hvert øjeblik slukkedes nogle og andre tændtes, så det så ud, som om flammerne hoppede frem og tilbage. "Det er menneskenes livslys," sagde døden, "de store er børnenes, de halve tilhører mennesker i deres bedste år, og de små er de gamle menneskers. Men tit har også børn og unge mennesker kun et lille lys." - "Vis mig mit," sagde lægen og tænkte, det måtte vel være temmelig stort. Døden viste ham en lille stump, der var lige ved at gå ud. "Det er dit lys," sagde han. "Kære gudfader," råbte lægen forskrækket, "tænd et nyt. Lad mig leve med min dejlige kongedatter og blive konge over hele riget." - "Det kan jeg ikke," svarede døden, "det ene lys må slukkes, før det andet kan tændes." - "Så sæt det gamle ovenpå et nyt, så det brænder videre," bad lægen. Døden lod, som han ville opfylde hans ønske, og hentede et stort lys. Men da han skulle sætte det ovenpå den lille stump, væltede han den med vilje, så den slukkedes. I samme nu sank lægen om og var død.
Death, seeing that he had been cheated out of his property for a second time, approached the physician with long strides and said, "You are finished. Now it is your turn." Then Death seized him so firmly with his ice-cold hand that he could not resist, and led him into an underground cavern. 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. "See," said Death, "these are the life-lights of mankind. The large ones belong to children, the medium-sized ones to married people in their best years, and the little ones to old people. However, even children and young people often have only a tiny candle." - "Show me my life-light," said the physician, thinking that it still would be very large. Death pointed to a little stump that was just threatening to go out, and said, "See, there it is." - "Oh, dear godfather," said the horrified physician, "light a new one for me. Do it as a favor to me, so that I can enjoy my life, and become king and the husband of the beautiful princess." - "I cannot," answered Death. "One must go out before a new one is lighted." - "Then set the old one onto a new one that will go on burning after the old one is finished," begged the physician. 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. The physician immediately fell to the ground, and he too was now in the hands of Death.
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