G is for Godfather/Godmother Death


Godfather Death, unsigned illustration from the Grimm’s Children’s and Household Tales.

How might a tale evolve over time and travels? In Grimm’s 1812 collection, Godfather Death trains his ward to be a healer and gives him an herb that will save lives. But, he warns, the young man must follow Death’s guidance on when not to save a life, namely, when Death himself is standing at the foot of the bed. When those he loves become ill, the healer turns the bed around and saves them–though not without consequences! This tale migrated to America, and by the time Dobie recorded it for a 1935 collection, Death had become “Godmother Death.”

Do you have these collections in your 398.2 section?

Grimm, a complete collection, any edition.

Dobie, J. Frank, Tongues of the Monte. Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1935. (Or the 1980 UT Press reprint. If you have the original, it’s worth a lot!)

Dobie, J. Frank, I’ll Tell You a Tale. UTPress, 1981. (Created from his other collections, this anthology includes “Godfather Death.”)


Look me up at the Texas Library Association Conference this week. I’m in booth 2511.

2 responses

  1. Right up my alley! I’ve got one of Frank Dobie’s books and will definitely be checking out that story! It’s those consequences that are the nail biters of the tale! I am learning so much from your posts and your eloquent writing Mary Grace!

  2. loving your fantasy, fairy tale theme!
    i’ve never heard this one and i’m surprised – it’s got a good idea!
    happy g day!