This story is a German fairy tale translated by Jacob Ludwig Grimm (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786-1859), brothers born in Germany. The story centers on a 13th son born to a poor old man who can not afford to feed his new offspring. In order to provide for him the poor old man must choose a godfather for his son. He first meets God and dismisses him as a godfather because according to the old man, God is not a fair person. Later he comes across the Devil and again the old man dismisses him also because according to the old man the Devil tricks humans into sin. Finally he comes across the one person' that he does accept to be the godfather of his son. That person is Death and he was chosen because Death does not play favoritism with no one, rich or poor Death will take them all when their time comes.
After reading this short story a few times it became clear to me of the symbolism present. All the main characters are all male with the exception of the beautiful princess on whom he fell deeply in love with. The story even gives all the main characters a human form be it God, the Devil or Death. We do not see them in this story as supernatural beings but rather as just another person on whom the poor old man just happens to come across as he ran into the highway. No mention is made of the poor old man's wife or of any of his twelve other children in this story, and even thou the story begin with the old man, he soon drops out of the picture and the main characters become the son and his godfather Death'. From the time the son arrives at adulthood the story develops into a classical conflict between a father figure personified by Death and the young man.
Early on in the story, Death is seen in a humanistic way and as a great father figure. Death takes his godson under his wings and guides him to fame and fortune but as with any relationship there are bounds that should not be broken. These are made clear from the first time that we see Death speaking to his godson when he takes him to the woods to show him the magic herb and explain his future plans for him. Just as in Adam and Eve, the father figure specifies the rules and the consequences if they are broken, and just as in Adam and Eve, those rules are broken thereby creating the conflict between the father figure and his underling. Death is portrayed as a stern but fair father figure.
In the story we see the development of the young man into adulthood and responsibility. He seems to be a fair headed person but once Death begins to give him riches and fame we see that the young man's behavior begins to change. Since it seems that the young man never really has to work for his riches he begins to take his fame and wealth, and his godfather for granted. This is demonstrated three times in the story, once when the king becomes ill, second when the princess becomes sick herself and is in need of a physician and finally when the young doctor is shown his candle of life. The young man only thinking of himself, of fame and fortune and of being able to marry the king's daughter decides to go against his Godfathers wishes. He sees the possibility that one day he might become the future king himself so he blindly throws caution to the wind and does not heed his godfather's earlier warnings. But why does he think that he will not be punished? Is it just that greed and lust have clouded his mind? At this point we do not see the young man think of the consequences of his actions that much other than to believe that Death will forgive him only because he is his godchild. The young man becomes delusional, believing that he is above everything else that afflicts mankind. He plays with godfather Death, ignoring his feelings and warnings. This continues to the very end when Death has taken him to view the caves filled with the candles of all of mankind. After...