Friday, 7 October 2016


"Yes, [Flandry] thought a trifle smugly, we're holding our own against the Old Man... Why not? What's his hurry? He's hauled in Kossara and young Dominic and Hans and - how many more? I can be left to wait for his convenience. (Flandry's Legacy, p. 31)

The Old Man is clearly Death.

"There was no need for an image of the Crone, of course - She was present everywhere, ubiquitous as shadow, for wherever life went, there Death was also."
-SM Stirling, On The Oceans Of Eternity (New York, 2000), Chapter Four, p. 64.

This is even more explicit. Here, Death is a crone, an old woman.

In John Milton's Paradise Lost, Death is a shapeless monster begotten by Satan on personified Sin whereas, in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Death is a young beautiful woman who defines her opposite, Life. See here.

So which do you prefer? -

shapeless monster
old man
old woman
young woman

I am with Gaiman.


David Birr said...

Sir Terry Pratchett, whom I've mentioned here (often), was a friend and on occasion co-writer of Neil Gaiman. As Pratchett wrote him, Death looked like the traditional image: skeleton in hooded black robe and carrying a scythe -- but his character was something else again.

Case in point: one of the books had him fill in for the Hogfather, local equivalent of Santa Claus. When he discovered that instead of bringing a gift to the Little Match Girl, he was supposed to do his USUAL job, he REBELLED. For that one night he was the Hogfather, and the Hogfather brings presents. "THERE'S NO BETTER PRESENT THAN A FUTURE." (Pratchett's Death talks in all capitals.) So he carried her to the local cops, telling them to see she got warmth and food.

A number of people wrote telling Sir Terry they expected to die soon, and hoped Death would resemble HIS portrayal.

Still, between the options you offered, I too find Gaiman's the most appealing.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, David!

You beat me to mentioning how Death is more often portrayed as a skeleton wearing a hooded black robe and carrying a scythe! (Smiles)

Interesting, how Sir Terry portrayed Death as refusing, just once, to do his usual job.

I remember reading a story about the child Adolf Hitler being saved from death by the angel of death because it was not yet his time to die. I can't recall the author's name, however.