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Death Illustrated by Christopher Stryjewski a.k.a. whtmnk
Name Death
Race Anthropomorphic personification
Age As old as the death of the first living thing
Occupation Releasing the spirits of dead beings
Physical appearance Tall, not what you'd call fleshy, Talks like this
Residence Death's Domain
Death Nearly, in Reaper Man
Relatives Susan Sto Helit (Granddaughter)
Children Ysabell (Adopted Daughter)
Mort (son-in-law)
Marital Status Never Married... for some reason...
Books Mort
Reaper Man
Soul Music
Thief of Time
Discworld Noir
Cameos Every Discworld book except The Wee Free Men and Snuff

Death is the anthropomorphic personification of death on the Discworld. He appears as the traditional Grim Reaper, with a skeletal body, a black robe and a scythe (or sometimes a sword for royalty) and talks in unquoted small caps . Death appears for the first time in the first novel, The Colour of Magic (though it is suggested that his first appearance was actually that of his 'stand-in', Scrofula), and reappears in all of the stories that take place in the Discworld universe, with the exception of The Wee Free Men, a Tiffany Aching young adult book, and Snuff.

Death is fascinated with humans in general, and as a result attempts to emulate their behaviour, if only to better understand them. However, as an immortal skeletal being who does not have to pay heed to fatigue or even time, he seems to lack comprehension of some human concepts, such as detective novels. He is also described by Susan as someone who would solve world hunger, not by changing socioeconomic forces, but by giving everyone a good meal. While his job and anatomy cause a lack of emotions which he displays in his hollow voice , Death can be quite passionate about life in general; in some cases, he actively defends it against the depredations of the Auditors. Death is fundamentally incapable of forgetting anything, with the possible exceptions of 1) how the horse moves in chess, and 2) how to get drunk.

Death had an apprentice named Mort and an adopted daughter named Ysabell, who later got married and left him to become the Duke and Duchess of Sto Helit. Sometimes he visits Susan Sto Helit, his granddaughter through them. When not out and about, Death lives alone in Death's Domain with his manservant Albert and, since the events of Reaper Man, the Death of Rats. Also members of the household are the famed pale horse, named Binky, and at times Quoth the talking raven.

He is fond of kittens, Binky, Susan, Albert, curries and life (without which he would be useless). He strongly dislikes the Auditors, whose machinations against life he considers to be cheating, and at times has seemed to resent Rincewind's unpunctuality, though at other times he has seemed more amiable toward him. Death occasionally finds it tiresome when his work entails dealing with irregularities, such as finding an appropriate posthumous destiny for Mr. Tulip or the repeated resurrections of Scraps. Nevertheless, he sticks by his Duty and very rarely interferes in human affairs, because of The Rules. He has, however, been known to persuade Susan to act in his stead, not always by straightforward means; she occasionally reflects that he may have learnt a bit more about human behaviour than he lets on.

While of course in a sense he is there for every death, he need only personally attend to relatively few in order to keep things running. Death is however a caring individual and likes to keep an eye on things he does not necessarily need to, sometimes to the extent to be present at the end of a tiny tube worm on the abyssal floor. He gets quite upset when people (mostly those freshly severed from their bodies) accuse him of killing them. He argues that he simply allows them to leave this world and enter the next, and empirical evidence (such as the results of his various voluntary and involuntary sabbaticals) seems to bear this out. His jurisdiction, so to speak, appears to be Discworld itself; he is not Death in the universal sense.

Every living individual has a book in the great Library of Death, and an hourglass-shaped lifetimer in a cathedral-dwarfing room that exists solely for the purpose of housing them. The look of each one seems to be personalised, and they keep on writing themselves or pouring sand through until the associated person dies. The books remain; the lifetimers apparently pop out of existence and new ones appear in their place, as a new life begins.

Death also introduces individuals to The Desert from time to time. Each soul has to walk the desert - to what end, Death refuses to be drawn. There is no justice, there is only him.

While Death himself cannot be seen by most individuals, (with the exceptions of cats, children, witches, wizards and other anthropomorphic personifications,) unless he wants them to see him, he is unable to see beings that are truly deathless, as they are not subject to his "power". He has nothing to do with them and thus cannot see them. This reflects that most humans cannot see him, as they naturally do not think about dying.

He was there when the first proto-life faded, and has been given his general shape by the belief of humans - of all creatures the most afraid of dying and the most likely to have evolved an agrarian culture in which scythes feature. He is also still there at the end of all things, as evidenced by his appearance at the end of time and space when Astfgl arrives to destroy Rincewind. Death is just about to metaphorically turn the lights out in the universe when he sees a new one germinating. Eventually, he thinks, there will be life. And therefore death. He will be needed. He can wait.

Death is a servant of Azrael, the 'Death of Universes'; an entity of enormously unthinkable scope and size, "the Ultimate Reality". Azrael is the Being from whom all lesser-Deaths are mere reflections or aspects.


In Reaper Man Death is forced to retire by the Auditors, who fear he has become too human. He assumes the name Bill Door and finds work on Miss Flitworth's farm as a farmhand. When the New Death is formed, it comes to claim Bill: he outwits it and destroys it, then resumes his role as Death.

In Hogfather we find that Mr. Teatime has devised a plan to kill Death, though no details are given, and he is skewered by Susan with a fireplace poker before he has a chance to execute it. His dialogue in the Tooth Fairy's castle suggests that he intended to strike Death with his own sword, which is reputed to be able to cut anything.

He has one of what Albert calls his 'fancies' during the events of Soul Music, and tries to join the Klatchian Foreign Legion where he is called Beau Nidle, fails in his quest for forgetfulness, and repairs to Ankh-Morpork to drink too much, all to forget what he is and has to do. He ends up as a member of the Canting Crew, with the unusual moniker of 'Mr Scrub'. Beggars seem just as invisible as anthropomorphic personifications.

Death has a major role in Mort, Reaper Man, Soul Music, Hogfather and Thief of Time. As a member of the Four Horsemen of the Apocralypse, he plays an obligatory role in Sourcery and Thief of Time.

See also