A poor man gets a very special gift from a very strange godfather. When he visits the godfather, everything becomes even more weird and scary.
The Godfather is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a poor man who asks a stranger to be godfather. The poor man becomes a successful doctor with special knowledge and the godfathers healing potion. When he visits the godfather, things are really creepy and strange, but he survives the ghastly encounter.
Complete text The Godfather
A poor man gets gifts from a godfather
A poor man had so many children that he had already asked every one in the world to be godfather. When still another child was born, no one else was left whom he could invite.
What to do? Perplex he lay down and fell asleep. He dreamed that he was to go outside the gate and ask the first person who met him to be godfather. When he awoke he determined to obey his dream. He went outside the gate and asked the first person who came up to him to be godfather.
The stranger presented him with a little glass of water and said, “This is a wonderful water, with it you can heal the sick. You only need to look for where Death is standing. If he is standing by the patient’s head, give the patient some of the water and he will be healed. However if Death is standing by his feet, all trouble will be in vain, for the sick man must die.”
From this time forth the man could always say whether a patient could be saved or not. He became famous for his skill and earned a great deal of money.
Once he was called in to the child of the king. When he entered, he saw Death standing by the child’s head and cured it with the water. This happened also a second time. However the third time Death was standing by its feet and then he knew the child was forced to die.
The poor man visits the godfather
Once the man thought he would visit the godfather and tell him how he had succeeded with the water.
When he entered the house, it was such a strange establishment! On the first flight of stairs, the broom and shovel were disputing and knocking each other about violently.
He asked them, “Where does the godfather live?”
The broom replied, “One flight of stairs higher up.”
When he came to the second flight, he saw a heap of dead fingers lying on the ground. He asked, “Where does the godfather live?”
One of the fingers replied, “One flight of stairs higher.”
On the third flight lay a heap of dead heads, which again directed him to the flight beyond.
On the fourth flight, he saw fishes on the fire, which frizzled in the pans and baked themselves. They, too, said, “One flight of stairs higher.”
Meeting and confronting the godfather
And when he had ascended the fifth, he came to the door of a room and peeped through the keyhole. There he saw the godfather who had a pair of long horns. When he opened the door and went in, the godfather got into bed in a great hurry and covered himself up.
The man said, “Sir godfather, what a strange household you have! When I came to your first flight of stairs, the shovel and broom were quarreling and beating each other violently.”
“How stupid you are!” said the godfather. “That was the boy and the maid talking to each other.”
“But on the second flight I saw dead fingers lying.”
“Oh, how silly you are! Those were some roots of scorzonera (a plant, see Wikipedia)”
“On the third flight lay a heap of dead men’s heads.”
“Foolish man, those were cabbages.”
“On the fourth flight, I saw fishes in a pan, which were hissing and baking themselves.” When he had said that, the fishes came and served themselves up.
“And when I got to the fifth flight, I peeped through the keyhole of a door, and there, godfather, I saw you, and you had long, long horns.”
“Oh, that is a lie!”
The man became alarmed and ran out. If he had not, who knows what the godfather would have done to him.
Tips for Telling The Godfather
- This fairy tale lacks tension in the first part of the story. Only when entering the Godfather’s house we start to wonder if the man will ever come out again. When telling this story, you will need to solve this problem, either by shortening the first part or introducing tension in the first part.
- In the second part of the story, take your time for the journey up the stairs. It should feel progressively strange, uncomfortable and scary. The same rising tension you have when the poor man relates to the godfather what he saw coming up the stairs.
- As a storyteller, you already know the story and the good ending. This sometimes can hamper the telling. A simple trick to build more tension is to imagine that the story ends very badly and the poor man does not survive. You will feel lucky yourself that he escapes after all.
All Questions Answered
The tale was published by the Brothers Grimm in the first edition of their Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Their source was Amalie Hassenpflug.
The Brothers Grimm included it in the first edition (1812) of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Variants of this tale have been long told before.
More useful information
The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales on this website are based on the authentic translation of Margaret Hunt. They were edited and reformatted for pleasant reading and telling by Storyteller Rudolf Roos.
See the complete list of The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (link to internationalstoryteller.com).