In today’s day and age, death seems to be a topic that unites us all in the fact that the majority of us would rather not talk about it. That being said, the Grimm brothers do a good job of taking a topic considered taboo and personifying it so that they’re audience is able to read into their interpretation of death in a way that seems more familiar to them. What I mean by this is that by making death into an actual human character (albeit with supernatural abilities) the readers are able to decipher who death is, as they would any other human character that they would normally be introduced to in a story.
For starters, death is introduced as an elderly man with features that would normally be associated with people of older age such as a slim and frail build. This immediately sends the message that death is not something to be afraid of necessarily, as few would find old people scary or view them as a threat. On top of this he’s also introduced as a third option between God and the devil, which also gives off the impression that death takes no sides when it comes to good and evil. This last part is what gives the man in the story the bright idea to ask death to be the godfather of his thirteenth child. As a godfather, it seems death sticks to his original statement of helping the godchild prosper in his role as a famous doctor as long as the godchild does not go against death’s wishes. Fast forward a bit to the part where the famous doctor goes against death (because of course) and you get death presented to the readers as a scorned person who does not take likely to being played or disobeyed. The way death also deals out the repercussions is also interesting because the ultimate punishment is not dealt immediately. In fact, death takes the doctor to his “office” where he shows him how he sees the lives of others in the form of candles. He reveals to him his own, and then proceeds to essentially kill him, under the façade that he was helping him out. The audience can therefore deduct that death is something not to be messed because one way or another, it will come to you when you least expect it.