Manfred Kyber - The Death and the Little Girl

Once upon a time there was a little girl who always was very lonely. It was a strange child, the older children said, and it could not stand any noise, the little ones said — and therefore no-one played with it. Surely, you will think that this was very boring and very sad for the little girl. Sometimes, it was really a bit sad but it was not boring at all for the little girl was never bored. Really so many thoughts came to visit it and it also saw the thoughts and talked to them as if they were standing there in the flesh. It was a language without words and this language all those know to whom the thoughts come to visit.

The thoughts that came to the little girl were all very different and they were even clothed very differently, if one can say that at all of a thought. There were sad among them in gray clothes, happy ones in pink with golden stars on it, red and funny that made faces, and blue ones that told of fairylands and whose eyes were always looking out somewhere into a far distance. It has to be very quiet around one when so many thoughts come to visit one. Therefore, the little girl most of all liked to go to the village cemetery by itself and sat down among all the graves underneath the tall trees. The little girl knew all the graves by name and it was really strange to observe which thoughts came to visit at the different graves and at which graves the thoughts stayed away. It was as if they didn't really like it there. It was also instructive and entertaining what the thoughts told at one or another grave when they came to visit. What they told wasn't always flattering for the dead in the graves, but from that the little girl could see at which graves one could sit best and talk with one's thoughts.

When the little girl once again sat on the cemetery and let itself be visited by its colorful thoughts, a figure in a black robe came walking though all the burial mounds and headed straight for the little girl.

Are you also a thought? the little girl asked. But you are so much bigger than the thoughts that usually visit me, and you are so beautiful like none of my many thoughts ever was.

The beautiful figure in the black robe sat down beside the litte girl.

You're asking a bit much at once. I am well a thought but then again also a bit more. It is really not so easy for me to explain that to you. Otherwise, I would certainly like to do it.

Don't trouble yourself because of me, I don't need to understand you, anyway it is very good just to look at you. But I would like to know how you're called. All my thoughts always tell me how they're called, and that is very funny.

I am the death, the beautiful figure said and looked at the little girl very friendly. One had to trust the death when one looked into his eyes because they were beautiful and good eyes that the death had. Such eyes the little girl had not yet seen.

The litte girl also wasn't frightened. It was just very astonished and surprised and it was almost pleased that it could sit beside the death so peacefully.

You know, it said, it is strange that all people are afraid when they speak of you when you are so friendly. I would like to play with you. Otherwise, no-one plays with me.

Then the death played with the little girl — as two children are playing with each other, amidst the graves on the cemetery.

We want to build heaven and earth, the little girl said, hopefully, you're also getting it. We will build the heaven from light pebbles and the earth from the dark ones. But you have to look for stones diligently.

The death gathered small stones and he took great pains to satisfy the little girl.

Now we have enough, the little girl said, I think that you can play very well. Now, do you want to build the heaven and I will build the earth or vice versa? It's the same to me. You can choose what is more fun for you. I permit it.

I thank you very much, the death said, but look, I am no longer a child and I no longer know how to build like one does as a child. You really still are a child and I think you shall build your heaven and your earth by yourself. But I will assist you in both.

That's nice of you, the little girl said, and built itself its heaven and its earth from the colored pebbles. The death watched and helped the little girl with it.

Now look, the little girl said, here is the heaven and in it the dear Lord dwells, and here is the earth, and I'm dwelling here. Now you also have to have an appartment. But I really still don't know where you live?

I dwell between heaven and earth, the death said, because I really have to lead the human souls from the earth to the heaven.

Right, the little girl said, then you get an appartment made of both light and dark stones. It shall become a fine appartment, you'll see.

The death was pleased and watched as the little girl built his appartment for him.

Listen, the little girl said, you just told me that you are leading the human souls from the earth to the heaven. Tell me a bit of that, how you are doing that — and why do we have to die at all? Can't one just simply walk over into the heaven?

As the little girl was asking this, the bells rang in the evening.

Do you hear the bells ringing? the death said. Look, with the human souls it is quite similar as with the bells. Each human soul is a bell and you can hear it ring if you are properly paying attention, in happy and in sad hours. With some, it rings only very faint and that is really very terrible. Now, if I come to a person, then his soul bell rings in the evening — I then hang up the bell in the heaven and there it rings on.

Do all the bells in heaven really ring at the same time? the little girl asked, it will really not sound good because each one rings differently. Certainly, it is unpleasant for the dear Lord to have to listen to that all the time.

That is true, the death said, the soul bells come back to the earth and are recast so many times until they all have their own real chiming and they are all sounding together. Until then, I have to carry the people from the earth to the heaven.

I am very sorry for you, the little girl said, it certainly is an arduous work. But look, it will become better once and then you will no longer need to do anything but we both will always play together so nicely as today. The death nodded and his eyes looked into a very, very far distance.

Your appartment is ready now, the little girl said, hasn't it become very nice?

It is very nice, the death said, I also thank you. But it is late and you have to go home now. It was nice playing with you.

Good evening, the little girl said and curtseyed, don't you come to visit me once? I'm on my own so much.

Yes, the death said friendly, I will come to visit you very soon because you are so lonely.

Soon after the little girl became very ill and all the people thought it had to die. The people were sad because it always appeared sad to them when someone died, and particularly if it was a child who had its life still ahead, as they said. But it was a strange child that the older children did not understand and the little ones did not like playing with. In the end, it was better this way.

When the bells were ringing, the death came to the little girl's room.

That's nice of you that you come to visit me, the little girl said.

It is evening, the death said and joined the little girl on the bed.

Oh yes, said the little girl, you've told me so nicely then, when we were building heaven and earth together. Then you're certainly coming to pick up my bell soul. Hopefully it will really sound nice so the dear Lord will not be annoyed.

They are yearning for a pure bell in heaven, the death said, therefore they asked me to come to you.

Do I have to die then? the little girl asked.

You really don't have to call it this way, the death said, look, it is quite simple: at your door there are two angels, and they will then lead you to the dear Lord in the heaven.

But I can't see the angels, the little girl said.

I will just take you onto my arm, the death said, then you will see the angels at once.

Then the death took the little girl onto his arms and as he had taken it onto his arms, it saw two glorious angels in white clothes with shimmering wings, and the angels lead it to the dear Lord in the heaven. But the little girl's bell soul rang, and it had been a long time since such a pure bell had rung in its evening.

In the heaven it was very nice and here, the little girl was no longer a strange child because the older angels understood it and the young ones played with it. The dear Lord was also very pleased that he had received such a pure bell. The little girl only found it very sad that the death had to remain down on the earth. It saw him standing on the cemetery if it looked down and then it nodded to him.

Can you hear me when I'm calling from above? the little girl asked.

Yes, the death said, you even don't need to call so loud because for me, heaven and earth are so close to each other like we had once built them from pebbles together.

That pleases me, said the little girl, it's just very sad that I can't play with you any longer. Now no-one plays with you any more. Do not be too sad about it. Are you listening?

It was nice that you played with me, the death said, and if I become sad, I will hear your bell soul ring above and I will be happy that a child once had played with me.

Yes, do that, the little girl said, and I will also tell you something wondrously beautiful what the older angels told me. The older angels say that there will come a time when all bell souls will ring together and all people will play with the death like little children.


From: Das Manfred Kyber Buch, Rowohlt, December 1985
Translation: Ulrich Messerle, March 2015
Published on:

Text Version: 2015-03-18 (a)