The Red Fairy Book HTML version
The Voice of Death
ONCE upon a time there lived a man whose one wish and prayer was to get rich. Day and
night he thought of nothing else, and at last his prayers were granted, and he became very
wealthy. Now being so rich, and having so much to lose, he felt that it would be a terrible
thing to die and leave all his possessions behind; so he made up his mind to set out in
search of a land where there was no death. He got ready for his journey, took leave of his
wife, and started. Whenever he came to a new country the first question that he asked was
whether people died in that land, and when he heard that they did, he set out again on his
quest. At last he reached a country where he was told that the people did not even know
the meaning of the word death. Our traveller was delighted when he heard this, and said:
`But surely there are great numbers of people in your land, if no one ever dies?'
`No,' they replied, `there are not great numbers, for you see from time to time a voice is
heard calling first one and then another, and whoever hears that voice gets up and goes
away, and never comes back.'
`And do they see the person who calls them,' he asked, `or do they only hear his voice?'
`They both see and hear him,' was the answer.
Well, the man was amazed when he heard that the people were stupid enough to follow
the voice, though they knew that if they went when it called them they would never
return. And he went back to his own home and got all his possessions together, and,
taking his wife and family, he set out resolved to go and live in that country where the
people did not die, but where instead they heard a voice calling them, which they
followed into a land from which they never returned. For he had made up his own mind
that when he or any of his family heard that voice they would pay no heed to it, however
loudly it called.
After he had settled down in his new home, and had got everything in order about him, he
warned his wife and family that, unless they wanted to die, they must on no account listen
to a voice which they might some day hear calling them.
For some years everything went well with them, and they lived happily in their new
home. But one day, while they were all sit- ting together round the table, his wife
suddenly started up, exclaiming in a loud voice:
`I am coming! I am coming!'
And she began to look round the room for her fur coat, but her husband jumped up, and
taking firm hold of her by the hand, held her fast, and reproached her, saying:
`Don't you remember what I told you? Stay where you are unless you wish to die.'
`But don't you hear that voice calling me?' she answered. `I am merely going to see why I
am wanted. I shall come back directly.'