Mercedes Colomar: You're not the nurse?For millennia, humanity has feared death, and understandably so, all things considered. Therefore, when personifying it, the result was often pretty terrifying. However, there has also been a very different attitude at times, with various writers and artists creating a personification of Death who is not only not scary, but friendly, compassionate, and otherwise the sort of person you'd want to find waiting for you at a difficult time like that. This sort of Death won't glare at you with Glowing Eyelights of Undeath from underneath a Black Cloak while carrying a scythe (well, some might, but purely because it's expected of them); she will dress as a Perky Goth or take on A Form You Are Comfortable With. She won't challenge you to chess, but will instead be your best pal (before you die, even!) if you give her half a chance. Friendliness notwithstanding, picking fights with Death is still something the challenger will regret. Sometimes this overlaps with Beleaguered Bureaucrat, when she is friendly but nonetheless has a long list of people to get through today and doesn't have time to deal with every decedent's requests. The Trope Namer is the eponymous song by Blue Öyster Cult from Agents of Fortune, which is a song about how true love can last even after death, and not, as some seem to think, about anyone committing suicide. Nor is it about more cowbell. See also Psychopomp and The Grim Reaper. Compare with Everybody Hates Hades, when authors do the opposite with death-related deities. Compare also Friendly Ghost. Distant cousin to The Devil Is a Loser. Compare Not Afraid to Die and We All Die Someday, which is about not fearing death itself rather than its personification.
Manny Calavera: No.
Mercedes Colomar: You're not here to give me my medication?
Manny Calavera: No. But I am here to ease your pain.
Manny Calavera: No.
Mercedes Colomar: You're not here to give me my medication?
Manny Calavera: No. But I am here to ease your pain.
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- This advert for Grolsch beer features the Grim Reaper taking a brief break from work. He appears to be a quite fun guy to hang out with.
Anime & Manga
- YuYu Hakusho: Botan, who acts as the Grim Reaper in the first few episodes, wears a pink robe and is a Genki Girl. Yusuke even does Lampshade Hanging when they first meet in the pilot:
"Seriously? Death goes 'ding ding ding'?"
- Hikari from Virgin Ripper is a very cheerful and friendly shinigami, going so far as to use a giant spoon instead of a scythe, to the dismay of her colleagues.
- Bleach: Any deceased human with enough spiritual energy can become a shinigami. The fact that the main character becomes one while still alive is a plot point before the Big Bad shows his face. Thus, the shinigami are just like humans: they can be friendly, moody, supportive, scary, hostile depending on situation or individual personality type. However, shinigami aren't enemies of humanity even if their focus on the big picture can make them seem aloof at times. Their role is to guide the dead to Soul Society, cleanse hollows of post-death sin so they too can be guided to Soul Society and also to maintain the balance of souls across different worlds. In other words, shinigami are portrayed the same way humans are portrayed: as individuals with their own personalities, worries, fears, foibles, strengths and weaknesses.
- Soul Eater
- Lord Death willingly embraces this trope. Back in his day he used to look like a textbook skull-and-black-cloak (read: very intimidating) Grim Reaper, but when he founded Death Weapon Meister Academy, he took on a more friendly appearance◊ and goofy speech patterns, so as to not frighten his students. He saves that for his enemies.
- His son Death the Kid is also hardly a threatening image of death, being a teenage boy with Super OCD. Don't try to do whatever you like with human lives. He doesn't like that one bit.
- The idea is alluded to in Cowboy Bebop, where the Magical Native American says "Do not fear death. Death is always by our side. When we show fear it jumps at us faster than light, but if we do not show fear, it casts its eye upon us gently, and guides us into infinity."
- Momo in Ballad Of A Shinigami is a sweet Mystical White Haired girl who not only makes your death painless, she helps the people you are leaving behind by comforting them.
- In Kamichu!, Death is a rather friendly, if somewhat eccentric goddess, who even once had an affair with Poverty.
- An episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX deals with the spirit of the pharaoh Abidos, challenging Judai. After losing, he passes on, satisfied that he finally found an opponent who would duel him seriously. Judai refuses his offer to go with him to the afterlife, but promises to meet him again after 100 years. The episode ends with the crew discussing death and the afterlife. Needless to say, this didn't go well with the translators.
- In the end of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka herself is seen appearing before magical girls whose soul gems are about to be corrupted and taking the gems with her, enabling them to die peacefully and go to the afterlife without becoming witches.
- Death in Gregory Horror Show is the only character shown to be completely friendly to the trapped guests, speaking kindly and offering to help where he can.
- Played with in Death Note. Shinigami have Blue and Orange Morality and most don't give humans and their lives very much thought. At the same time, they're not all bad — Ryuk really seems to enjoy hanging out with Light and often spends time doing goofy stuff like playing video games in his room. Two Shinigami fell in love with a human and used their powers to extend her life. In spite of their pleasant nature, Shinigami will never be "good" as it's understood by humans. Gelus and later Rem saved Misa's life but were both killed because Shinigami can never use their powers to prolong the lifespan of mortals, and after knowing and hanging out with Light for so many years, Ryuk was all too happy to kill him as soon as he stopped being entertaining.
- A variation in Sailor Moon. Sailor Saturn is an entity of death and carries a scythe as a weapon. She has the power to destroy an planet if she wants. However she is not evil and her purpose is to kill off the remnants of a destroyed world, so that Sailor Moon can use her own powers to restore it. Any time she uses her death powers is only to allow rebirth to happen immediately afterwards.
- In Spirited Away, Chihiro takes a train to get to Zeniba's home which is intended for use by the dead moving onto the next life; it has phantom passengers.
- The Arbiters of Death Parade meet recently deceased humans to determine whether their souls should go back into the cycle of Reincarnation or into the Void, but are usually rather pleasant individuals to deal with, albeit with occasional hints of how how utterly alien their minds are compared to humans.
- In the short manga story "Thirty and A Half Minutes" by Snippy MJ, the Reaper arrives at a hospital to collect a woman dying in childbirth. Just as her time is about to run out, the Reaper grants her an additional 30 minutes and 30 seconds, allowing her to deliver the baby and hold it in her arms, getting to share one moment with her husband and child as a family before she passes. It can be read here or here◊.
- Hugo Simberg, a Finnish symbolist painter, liked this theme. He made several iterations of The Garden of Death◊, possibly his most famous work. He even went so far as to publicly explain his own interpretation of the scene.
- Some of the art created with the motif of Death and the Maiden shows the maidens as being... well, not exactly afraid of Death's advances. Edvard Munch's etching◊ and Ergon Shiele's painting◊ are two examples.
- The Perky Goth version of Death from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and The DCU is probably the foremost modern example of the trope. This Death is an All-Loving Hero, who appears at the end of every existence - humans, gods, stars - and offers a sympathetic face to remove some of the shock and terror of the moment. She didn't always have this positive mindset: she developed this sympathy after a mysterious decision to spend one day a century in a mortal existence.
Death: ...I'm not blessed or merciful. I'm just me. I've got a job to do and I do it. Listen: even as we're talking, I'm there for old and young, innocent and guilty, those who die together and those who die alone... For some folks death is a release and for others death is an abomination, a terrible thing. But in the end, I'm there for all of them.
- Martian Manhunter's species worshipped H'ronmeer, the god of death and fire (though some regard him as a god of life and light), who called all Green Martians his children. He was blamed for the plague that wiped out the Martian race, but that was actually Ma'alefa'ak's fault. On one occasion he seemed to be coming after J'onn, but he in truth he just needed his help to lead the Martians' souls to the afterlife.
- The French Comic Le Collège Invisible has an incarnation of Death quite similar to Gaiman's Perky Goth, and possibly inspired by her.
- Brazilian comic Penadinho (known in English as Bug-a-booo) has Dona Morte/Lady McDeath, a clumsy Grim Reaper who is always forced to run after her "next clients". Her creator states (link's in Portuguese) that the character is an attempt of making death less scary than most people treat it, and tries to portray her as just someone doing her job, never an assassin.
- The Marvel Universe's Death is like this. She seems like a nice girl, if a little dead inside. Depending on the Writer, she could also be quite evil.
Thanos: Must you wear that skin?Death: Ah... you find it discomforting to hear this form speak of dark desire? Do I make you uncomfortable?Thanos: Very.Death: Lesson learned, Thanos of Titan. I am Death. I am not of comfort.
- Wade Wilson, prior to becoming Deadpool, even fell in love with her, and one of the reasons he can't die is because one of her jealous suitors made him immortal so he'd stay away from her, which is another reason why Deadpool is so freaking Ax-Crazy. Amazingly, she's been shown to reciprocate his feelings—but they can only meet during the few seconds after he dies and before his mutant power/immortal curse can call him back to life. Death as a star-crossed lover?
- Death has also appeared as a low-key but friendly construction worker, to Jean Grey.
- In another X-Men related example, New Mutant Dani Moonstar once tried to fight off an incarnation of Death from taking one of her (non-mutant) friends. She eventually allowed Death to do her job, after she explained why her 'gift' was not to be feared by those who were suffering.
- She can stop being nice if she wants to. When she appeared to Dracula - who she clearly didn't like - she took a male form that was far more intimidating.
- In any story involving Thanos (which constitutes most of the stories she appears prominently in), she is presented as a cruel, greedy, and insidiously manipulative being who enjoys causing suffering almost as much as causing death itself; and is generally depicted as the very antithesis of DC's compassionate version of Death. At best, she is Lawful Neutral, often crossing over into genuine evil (she actively seduced Thanos into becoming the living murder machine he is, while still always keeping him lonely and miserable). The reason her relationship with Deadpool is so funny is because it's so unusual for her to react with sincere affection (let alone love) to anyone.
- One story included a presumed Take That! towards the DC Death, having Marvel Death appear as a cute goth girl who was far from perky:
- When Silver Surfer of an Elseworld gained the Infinity Gauntlet and went crazy with its power he attempted to invoke this by making death appear as a beautiful woman instead of a cloaked skeleton.
- Although Cernunnos, the Elder God of Death from Joseph Michael Linsner's Dawn series can definitely take terrifying form if he so chooses (if, for example, he needs to curb-stomp a group of angels and demons who've decided to trespass on Earth with their bickering), the one time we see him welcoming a soul to the afterlife, he takes a much more attractive form and greets her...very warmly.
- In Post-Crisis Wonder Woman as conceived by George Perez, Hades is depicted as a relatively benign god who is rather kind and generous as far as his job description allows and nobody has an especially significant problem with him. Other writers had different ideas about him.
- Bernie in Death Vigil doesn't claim souls at all—instead, she focuses on protecting people from death by combating primordial forces of evil that want to eat reality. She revives people who have died to join the Vigil and gives them veilrippers to fight against said primordial evils. In her spare time, she likes listening to modern music on her iPod and dancing.
- Child of the Storm has Death of the Endless, who's her typical Perky Goth self and, among other things, occasionally answers to Didi. She helps out the protagonists in little and not so little ways - little, for example, including helping Dumbledore walk an insensible Harry back into Hogwarts and hint that he'll be all right, and everything about her conversation with the recently deceased Luna Lovegood, who she essentially adopts as her little sister after she consents to take the position of Delirium (the old one having simply wandered off one day). Not so little include, with Dream, Delirium ( Luna) and Destruction a.k.a. the Phoenix a.k.a. Lily Potter, briefly diverting Maddie and Jono during their trip through the Nevernever to the Red Room's base, and providing them with a guide and escorts to help them rescue Harry.
- Mortis from the Pony POV Series, the Anthropomorphic Personification of Death and Grim Reaper, is a pretty nice guy, all things considered. He isn't depicted as malevolent and wasn't complaining that there wasn't much need of him in the G3 reality, barring the occasional accidental death, due to everyone being immortal. He also seems to have no problems letting a soul remain to until its Unfinished Business is completed as the G2 mane cast were permitted to remain on earth until they could pass on together.
- He also appears at the end of the Pony POV Series Chaos Verse, an Alternate Universe Spin-Off of the original, where he guides the Construct Mane Six to Pony Heaven, but permits them to watch over Discord and Fluttercruel until the Final Battle with Nightmare Phobia is won first.
- Starlight, of the G2 Mane Cast, gets a job as one of Mortis' angels of death after her own, greeting freshly dead ponies to the afterlife. Overall, she's still basically the same good hearted pony she was beforehand.
- In the MLP fanfic Actually, I'm Dead, we meet one of many Grim Reapers, that are apparently there to help guide various types of ponies to the after life. The one meet, although intimidating, is very warm and welcoming to Trixie, and even takes the time to try and comfort her. It probably helps that she is the reincarnation of Trixie's mother.
- The Reaper in A Growing Affection appears as a beautiful young girl, is quite kind to almost everyone, and only smiles in amusement at Naruto's borderline blasphemy. And the second she gets a chance she pulls out a scythe bigger than she is and cuts Orochimaru's soul in half.
- The Mass Effect's fic Crucicle depicts Death as a nice, friendly, charismatic guy who smokes like crazy and often goes by the name "Sam Shepard" or "Lord Samikis". He will often appear as the same species as you to make you feel at home. Death's a very cunning man who will always get his ways in the end but so don't let his easy-going attitude fool you. When your time comes you will have to go with him but if he feels the need to do otherwise, he may give you a little more time. If you have enough power and manage to catch him off-guard, you can seal him away, but even that doesn't stick long. As Sam is a very devoting father to his daughter, Jane Shepard, to the point of being a Knight Templar Parent and loving husband to his wife, do not mess with his family or you will receive A Fate Worse Than Death in which you get locked in your paralysed body forever, unable to die, rotting away in helplessness while Death comes back regularly to torture you.
- In the Supernatural/Arrow crossover How the Light Gets In, Laurel remembers when Death came for her. He's portrayed as patient, compassionate, reminds her of all the good she has done, tells her she deserves peace and rest, and points out it doesn't matter how long you live, but how you live. Also, an Author's Note confirms it was Death himself who came for her, not one of his Reapers, as a sign of respect.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Death takes the form of a kindly old stallion when he comes for Twilight, allowing her to pass on peacefully.
- Lots of fanworks for Homestuck that explore what would have happened if the trolls had made it through the door and become the deities of our universe cast Aradia as the goddess of death. She's canonically pretty nice, so this association pretty much requires this trope.
- Codex Equestria has the Three Deaths, three Death God siblings, who all fit this trope, though trying to harm the souls of the dead is a bad idea around them:
- Gavisus Manes is the youngest sibling who presides over those who died happily and content, and literally the afterlife's party pony. He's a very happy-go-lucky sort and very friendly. He typically greets those he's come to claim with a huge 'Welcome to Your Eternal Reward Party' intended to be as happy as possible for them with all their deceased loved ones as guests. He often even begins his role before they die by allowing them to relive their happiest moments.
- Audens Manes is the middle sibling who handles those who died heroic and valiantly deaths, such as heroes, soldiers, and rescue workers. She's virtuous and noble, though a bit of a Large Ham. She greets the dead with gratitude and thanks them for their heroic acts, as well as shows them all the good their actions have done. She also possesses an ability called Last Stand, which gives a dying person enough life to perform a Dying Moment of Awesome before they pass.
- Malus Manes is the eldest sibling who deals with those who were wicked and evil in life. While it's his job to drag the wicked off to face their punishment for their sins and thus he's decidedly not the guy you want waiting for you, he's not a bad guy, mostly somber about what his job is. He often intervenes before the evil person dies to help ensure they get what they deserve. If a wicked soul genuinely repents, he's happier than anyone and will even give them a second chance or at least time as his Angel to atone for their actions. However, failing to act on that second chance will royally tick him off.
Films — Animated
- In the movie adaption of The Halloween Tree, Mr. Moundshroud (heavily implied to be the manifestation of Death), while not the most friendly individual, he also bears no real malice to the children; it's just business to him.
- La Muerte from The Book of Life, is a goddess that governs the dead and her name literally means death in Spanish. However, she highlights the view that those who've died are never really gone as long as they are remembered by their loved ones. (Fitting, since the movie borrows heavily from Mexico's Dia de los Muertos).
Films — Live-Action
- Love And Death parodies The Seventh Seal in its depiction of Death, who first visits a young Boris and then dances with an adult Boris at the end.
- The movie Death Takes a Holiday (from 1934, starring Frederick March and Evelyn Venable), sees Death become progressively nicer during his stint in human form. It was remade in 1971, and again in 1998 as Meet Joe Black.
- In Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, the Grim Reaper appears as someone with kind of a bad attitude (in fact, he looks almost exactly like he did in The Seventh Seal, which is intentional, given the Chess with Death scenario that occurs between him and the protagonists) — but turns out to become a useful ally. In fact, he later on joins the Wyld Stallyns. The Trope Namer is even quoted, when the Grim Reaper finally agrees to help Bill and Ted out.
Bill: Hey Ted — don't fear the Reaper. *triumphant air guitaring*Death: [annoyed] I heard that!
- Bob Fosse's All That Jazz features a sweet and welcoming angel of death having a possibly lifelong relationship with the main character.
- In The Lady and the Reaper, Death is a No Respect Guy Determinator willing to go well above and beyond the call of duty to deliver an old lady's soul to meet her husband in the afterlife.
- Fritz Lang's Der Müde Tod* centers on a young couple's encounter with an unhappy Grim Reaper who is sympathetic to the woman's pleas to return her husband but unable to control who dies and when they die. He refuses to accept her attempt at suicide, tries to comfort her, and gives her the chance to save her husband by changing destiny herself. After all her attempts fail, she sacrifices herself to save an infant whose life she had briefly considered trading for her husband's, and the couple are reunited by Death.
- In Adam Sandler's movie Click, Christopher Walken plays "Morty," a peculiar Bed, Bath & Beyond store clerk who is secretly the Angel of Death. He is nice enough to the protagonist, and after dying from misusing the remote, Morty gives him a second chance at life, to be able to truly appreciate his family.
- In The Seventh Seal Death seems like a reasonably amiable fellow, even postponing someone's demise to play a game of chess. Death isn't particularly malicious or even spiteful towards Block but rather affable, in one scene he even acts as a sort of confidant for Block's confession and angry rant against God. That being said, Death will do whatever he can to win the game.
- Death from Monkey Bone, despite having a nasty temper and dark sense of humor, is quite friendly and a rather Benevolent Boss to her reapers. Being played by Whoopi Goldberg definitely helps to play up her perky and cheerful personality.
- Asphodel in A Prairie Home Companion. Rather apropos, as it is Robert Altman's last film.
- In The Sunset Limited, the character White feels warm and fuzzy inside when thinking about the peace and silence of death.
White: I know what is out there and I know who is out there. I rush to nuzzle his bony cheek. No doubt he’ll be surprised to find himself so cherished. And as I cling to his neck, I will whisper in that dry and ancient ear: Here I am. Here I am!
- As stated in Jacob's Ladder...
Louis: [Eckhart] said: The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you, he said. They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and... and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth. It just a matter of how you look at it, that's all.
- This has led viewers to theorize that Louis himself is one of those angels, albeit far more personable than the others.
- While Death from the Discworld series is still probably not the kind of person (or Anthropomorphic Personification) you'd like to meet in a dark alleyway, what with him still being the classic cowled skeleton and all, he's the closest thing the Discworld has to a responsible, benevolent deity, fulfilling a necessary role (see Reaper Man for what happens when he doesn't do the job). The other gods tend to be self-interested jerks running on Greek Mythology rules. It's worth noting that said role doesn't involve doing the actual killing, or even collecting the departed's life , but rather just facilitating the 'moving on' once the body is dead, and has no stake in the process.
He stated that he has to care in order to do The Duty, although it's an extremely lonely one. After all, no matter how kind he is, people are still rarely pleased to see him (except under certain very unfortunate circumstances). Interestingly, despite him being a skeleton, there have been a fair few fans (some imminently due to be "collected") who've written to Terry Pratchett saying that they hope that he wasn't too far off the mark. Pratchett wrote that these letters usually caused him to spend some time staring at the wall. Discworld's Death uses "Non Timetis Messor" — slightly dodgy Latin for "Don't fear the Reaper" as his family motto — not to mention he's very fond of cats (it's suggested that cruelty to cats is one of the very few things that can make Death genuinely angry, and he also has adopted rather a large number of his own, which by all indications he takes quite good care of).
(Death takes out his hourglass and turns back the sands.)
- As a central protagonist in several books, a great deal Death's of characterisation is dedicated to his problems. Fiction rarely depicts the reaper after the soul of their client has moved on, but the Discworld Series does, and it illustrates what it would be like to have to have such a role. It's not at all a pleasant duty and he isn't allowed to interfere, so the same empathy that makes him sympathetic to others also brings him sadness (probably the only mortal emotion he truly grasps.)
- There's a book in the series, Reaper Man, devoted to Death discovering how vital kindness in his job is.
Lord, what can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man?
- A major part of the plot in the later half of the book is the risk of this trope being averted. Death is only to be feared if you've made him your enemy. The new emerging Death of Humans is exactly the sort of Death that should be feared.
- Interestingly, Death was much more petty and fearsome in his first appearances, doing things like taking the life of a swarm of flies or a random passer-by out of anger for not being able to collect Rincewind's life. This was quickly dropped after a few books.
- One of his most telling moments in the whole series is when he has to kill a chicken in Reaper Man... and is utterly horrified. When asked why, he explains (quite reasonably) that he never murders or "takes" life. He simply takes over where life leaves off.
- When Death takes over the duties of the Discworld's Expy of Santa Claus in Hogfather, he thoroughly enjoys the role, as it allows him to interact and even improve lives rather than just sweep up after the lights go out. The crowning moment comes when he refills The Little Match Girl's hourglass rather than collect her soul.
Albert: You're not allowed to do that...
Death: The Hogfather can. The Hogfather gives presents. There's no better present than a future.
At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together.
- A part of being a witch on the Disc is that witches know when they are going to die. Witches, being generally pragmatic, stoic types whose outward reaction to a cottage on fire would likely be the same as to spilling their tea, tend to treat this not as a terrifying prospect, but as a well-appreciated chance to get their affairs in order and pass the homestead on to the next witch, before meeting Death with a sense of familiarity. Wizards also know — they tend to treat it as a chance to have one last rousing feast and spend (and borrow) lots of money they won't be needing soon.
- Death has also been replaced temporarily by his apprentice Mort and Mort's daughter (Death's "granddaughter") Susan Sto Helit. One is a knobby-kneed adolescent male who gradually starts taking on Death's traits while the other is a young woman. Death and Susan are also two of the only things standing between humanity and the Auditors. Boy have they done a good job there...
- Death's struggle in Thief of Time is his inability to prevent the Auditors from freezing time, thus bringing about a kind of apocalypse, without breaking the rules. He gets around this by drafting Susan to do the legwork instead, but also when the Auditors remind him and the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse that the rules state they have to ride out, Death is the one to point out that the rules never specify who they must ride out against. Cue Mass "Oh, Crap!" from the Auditors.
- As a side bonus, when author Terry Pratchett was knighted for his work, he chose the motto "Noli Timere Messorem" for his coat of arms, which is the proper Latin for Death's motto above.
- The final posts to Sir Terry Pratchett's Twitter account are as follows:
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
- Interestingly, the surgical team who treated Terry Pratchett for a minor procedure - which after patient questioning on his part, turned out to have become somewhat more complicated and turned into a more urgent Situation - told him afterwards that he'd sat up during the operation, demonstrating the anaesthesia wasn't quite working, and had a one-sided conversation with an unseen Other in the operating theatre. Pratchett had apparently asked that if he had to go at this point, could a packed lunch be provided? Ham sandwiches with mustard would be appreciated. Apparently he was only offered plain ham with no condiments, and had expressed dissappointment. Terry was both perplexed and oddly reassure by this, and this account of his own NDE - which he didn't remember at all save through the doctor's recollection - ended up in a Discworld novel as a discourse between an elderly witch and Death. This is recollected in A Blink Of The Screen, a collection of his non-fiction writings. Hopefully Death remembered the mustard, when the time did arrive.
- The Good Omens version of Death is basically an Expy of Discworld's (Pratchett co-wrote it). He is also the Horsepeople of the Apocalypse's Token Good Teammate, and the only one who is an angel instead of an Anthropomorphic Personification. On the one hand, he does try to trigger the end of the world (it's part of his job description), but he gives in as soon as the Anti-Antichrist tells him to knock it off.
- This is a recurring theme in The Riftwar Cycle, which has a number of death gods and cults devoted to them. The various death gods are depicted as benevolent or at worst morally neutral, and the cults are really just everyday churches. For example, the Minwanabe Red God initally looks like an Aztec-inspired violent sect that practices human sacrifice and has savage priests covered in bones and red and black facepaint. Behind the scenes they only sacrifice rare volunteers, the paint and everything else is just religious dress (the equivalent of a Christian minister dressing in full regalia for services) which they swap out for clean white robes and a little eyeshadow when off duty, and the seemingly psychotic bloodthirsty maniac of a priest is a kindly old man who likes to drink tea in his study.
- The Book Thief is narrated by Death, who is amusing, non-linear and very compassionate towards humans (he specifically states he's haunted by them, especially "the ones who are left behind"), particularly the other main characters. Given that it's a book about World War II, the "amusing" part takes a sharp turn. The death camp scenes, unsurprisingly, are particularly bad.
- Thanatos (aka Zane) from Incarnations of Immortality will take time to talk to his clients and give whatever comfort he can (if they need it). He's also managed to prevent a few deaths he thought unfair or unnecessary. At least one other character comments that he has an unusually caring approach to his Office.
- While Harry Potter never encounters Death, according to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry's ancestor — the one who received Death's invisibility cloak — befriended him, and when it was time for him to die, he sought Death out and they walked away together. Later on in The Deathly Hallows, Harry dies briefly, and his guide into the afterlife, should he choose not to go back, is Dumbledore. Really, death gets a pretty good rap in this series.
It all has to do with the Aesop about how to deal with death, stemming from when Rowling's mother died. If one doesn't accept their own mortality (i.e. the first Peverell brother, Voldemort), or gain acceptance of their loved ones' passing (the second brother, Snape), then Death will be a grueling bastard. But if one accepts Death's visit as an inevitability (the third brother, Harry), then he will greet you like an old friend.
Indeed, the true "Master of Death" as described in the legend of the Deathly Hallows isn't someone who has found a way to avoid death. It's someone whose experiences with the three Hallows has taught them that death is inevitable, it is not a thing to be feared, and that there are far worse things.
- Inheritance Cycle: Eragon's allegorical "poem" in Eldest ends this way.
- TG From The Dead Detective series is a totally happin' dude.
- The Spanish novel La Dama del Alba (The Lady of the Dawn) is about Death visiting a family (that has been mourning the death of one of its members for years) in the form of a woman. She notes how she envies mortals for their capacity to love.
- The "Death as a gentleman" concept is Older Than They Think: the Emily Dickinson poem, Because I could not stop for Death describes Death as a kind, polite suitor, much like his Discworldian counterpart.
- Before that the German poet and journalist Matthias Claudius (1740-1815) often portrayed Death as a friendly personification, Freund Hain* - a variation of Freund Hein or Gevatter Hein ("friend" or "godfather Hank", a common German euphemism for Death) - most famously in his poem Der Tod und das Mädchen ("Death and the Maiden", 1775), which also appears in the Music section. Another poem, Nach der Krankheit ("After Sickness", 1777) describes how during a bad fever Death comes to Asmus (Claudius' alter ego) and with a friendly smile offers to take him into his arm. Asmus asks him to pass him by this time, to which Freund Hain acquiesces, and the poem ends with Asmus saying: "And when you return sooner or later, please smile again, Hain!"
- American Gods has Jacquel and Ibis, who are the Egyptian gods Anubis and Thoth, currently living as undertakers in Illinois. Both are very humane people who treat the dead with respect and bring some comfort to their surviving family members. Even if they do, ahem, sample the product.
- In His Dark Materials, each person has their own personal Death who follows them around and eventually leads them to the underworld when they die. These Deaths are quite amiable, and usually hide from their owners because the people don't want to see them. In addition, the witches believe in a death goddess named Yambe-Akka who arrives, smiling and kindly, when it's your time to go.
- In the second novel of the Last Herald-Mage trilogy, Vanyel meets the "Shadow-Lover" — one of the Valdemaran interpretations of Death. To the gay Vanyel, he appears as a beautiful young man, and when he allows Vanyel a short chat with a recently-departed fellow Herald, said friend refers to "Lady Death."
- In Tais Teng's anthology Glass Spears, the opposite trope is lampshaded. In reality, Death is a kind, elegant aristocrat with a cloak in "a flowing caleidoscope of constantly shifting colors and patterns that made all people long for the calm, the final change."
- Although there is no reaper in the Old Kingdom series, the River of Death is a benign place, where the only danger comes from the Dead who cling to the world until they're twisted remnants of what they were in life. In particular, the Ninth Gate is a beautiful starry sky that peacefully calls anyone whose time is up, such that even a vicious undead Humanoid Abomination will Go Out with a Smile in the end.
- In the Tortall Universe, the kindest and most forgiving of the gods is the Black God of Death. He's one of a handful of deities that gives a shit about humans. He's gentle and never makes any effort to intimidate or scare mortals who may see him. His domain is called "The Peaceful Realms". The rest of the gods merely use them for power in their own quarrels, and are difficult even for their chosen servants to interact with.
- The Lady on the Grey of The Graveyard Book. She even dances with Bod during the Danse Macabre, promises to let him ride her big horse in the future ("Everyone does") and tells the dead to take good care of him.
- Richard the reaper from Silicon Wolfpack has a major sense of humor, and is reasonably sympathetic toward those he meets in his line of work.
- J. R. R. Tolkien's
- In Arda, Námo Mandos is not the god of death but the benevolent Vala (archangel) who collects and judges the dead, and one of the Council of Angels of Valinor.
- The Silmarillion doesn't say that death is a fate that's intended by God for humans but rather that it's all natural and you should not fear it.
- Death is, in fact, considered Iluvatar's blessing to men. Men may not live very long, but they get to leave and go off to another world (the afterlife). Elves are immortal, get reincarnated, and have their own version of heaven on Arda, Valinor, but one of the major themes of the 'verse is that the magic is leaving Middle-Earth (i.e. it's becoming our own world) and even Valinor will dwindle and disappear. The elves "share Arda's fate"—when the Earth goes, so do they.
- The Many-Faced God of Braavos in A Song of Ice and Fire is a death god spoken of in very positive terms. One of his worshipers makes a comment (slightly paraphrased) that every person has a dark angel beside them, and when the suffering of life becomes too great, that angel will give them the "gift" of death.
- In "The Glass of Supreme Moments", Death is portrayed as a beautiful woman — and the protagonist's True Love.
- The Dresden Files:
- Over the course of the books, Harry encounters Archangel Uriel. While not the typical reaper, death falls under his purview as many deaths are instigated by human choices, and protecting a human's ability to choose without being influenced by a non-mortal power is his job. See the Ghost Story example for more details. If another power were to lie to a mortal and cause the mortal's death, Uriel would act in defense of the mortal too. He is also directly responsible for the final plague on Egypt, the death of the first born sons.
- In Ghost Story, when Father Forthill's life is in jeopardy, Dresden has a conversation with an angel of death waiting nearby. Dresden assumes he'll need to battle the angel to prevent his friend's death, but the angel assures him that (a) she is there only to guard the soul, should it be released from the body, on its way to a final reward, and (b) it was Forthill's choice to enter the conflict, the angel had no part in it (indeed, they don't have free will as humans do). And (c) she would utterly stomp Harry if he raised a finger against her.
- In Skin Game, Harry gets to meet Hades himself, who stops time so they can have a chat, and so that the freaking God of the Underworld could express a sense of sympathy and respect for Harry, including pointing out all they had in common (scary reputation, having responsibility for a fortress/prison full of nasty things, friendly, but very dangerous dogs, an iron-clad sense of duty, etc) and wanting to shake his hand. Hades also tells Harry that, contrary to myth, he and Persephone were in a love match; the Abduction Is Love story was a result of Demeter's Empty Nest issues.
- In Cerberon, Edu, the goddess of death, is described as loving and merciful in her duty to provide rest and comfort after death. She's in charge of keeping the dead from bothering the living, but doesn't seem very proactive in this regard, considering all the zombies, ghouls, vampires and ghosts hanging around, although she does promptly respond to her priests' calls to take them away.
- In The Heroes of Olympus, Thanatos is rather polite and so beautiful that he is mistaken for Cupid.
- Although he's an inscrutable Chessmaster and Magnificent Bastard, Death from The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (called Marethyu in the series) is ultimately a hero and the champion of humanity. It turns out that he's a future version of Josh, one of the two main characters. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
- Considering that the main characters are almost all Grim Reapers and are by and large extremely likable people, Croak has this in spades.
- Garovel of The Zombie Knight is this. He resurrects the protagonist in order to save other people from dying. However, many of the other reapers do not look so favorably upon the living and prefer to cause destruction and death.
- The Screwtape Letters: The apprentice demon Wormwood is delighted to hear that England is under attack, since that will cause plenty of woe and death. However, his uncle Screwtape chides him for thinking that way because Wormwood's target is now a Christian, meaning if he dies he'll go to heaven. According to Screwtape, human fear of death is a demonic tactic, to deceive humans and keep them from realizing that they have nothing to fear from death.
Screwtape: They see death as the greatest evil and living as the greatest good because we have taught them to do so. Do not be infected by our own propaganda.
- Journey to Chaos
- Basilard mentioned offhandedly that he has drinking matches with Lord Death.
- His clerical organizations, such as The Brotherhood of Death, are Saintly Churches that help the dead and dying move on.
- Samael, the Number Two Grim Reaper, states that Lord Death has a "high public approval rating" in Ataidar because his domain is associated with its patron deity, fire goddess Fiol.
- Thana from Demon Meat For Dinner is stoic but benevolent version of Death, as evidenced by the fact that he introduced himself by the nickname (Thantos = Thana) Lloyd gave him and that Lloyd's journal mentioned that Thana was his best man at his wedding. Thana also times his entrances terribly.
- Invoked in Unwind. When a side character is brought to the Chop Shop to be Unwound, the band's leader begins playing Don't Fear the Reaper to try and help him along.
- Reaper: Plays with it.
- Subverted in that most reapers are rather pleasant. Most reapers make an effort to be accommodating to the newly dead to make the process of moving on as easy as possible.
- Played straight with some reapers such as the actual Grim Reaper who other reapers are weary of.
- Death is actually rather polite and kind if a bit snarky. She truly cares about her reapers and those who die. She even has a loving relationship with her husband Life who calls her Deatz.
- The Danish children's book Cry, Heart, But Never Break is about four young siblings who are trying to prevent Death from taking their gravely ill grandmother, who is sleeping upstairs. Death is drawn as a kindly, long-nosed old man in a hooded black robe. He's definitely a supernatural being, but his actions and attitude are deeply human, politely staying for coffee at the children's behest and telling them an allegorical story to explain the nature of his job and ease their fears.
- Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, from Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree, is a morbidly-humorous Grim Reaper who takes time out from his busy Halloween schedule to educate some young boys about the holiday's origins, while giving them the opportunity to save a friend who's dying of appendicitis.
- In Joe R. Lansdale's short story "Not from Detroit", Death ultimately turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. While he initially acts coldly towards the old man who is trying to get his wife back, he eventually agrees to let her come back for a brief moment. He also agrees to take the old man before his time so they can be Together in Death as they wanted. Death even lets them ride up front in his car so they can listen to music during the trip to the afterlife. Death remarks that he must be becoming a sentimental old fool.
- In At the Back of the North Wind, the North Wind is implied to be an angel of Death, and always treats Diamond with the greatest gentleness.
- The Japanese live-action drama Series/Shinigami-kun based on the manga of the same name is portrayed as someone who can pass for human, albeit a human with a rather odd taste in clothes. He frequently shows up to congratulate the soon-to-be-dearly-departed on their impending demise, and tell them that they have three days left to live and to tie up and loose ends. He's also baffled and often rather hurt that - with one exception - none of the people he mentions this to are all that happy about the heads up.
- The Twilight Zone (1959):
Mother, give me your hand... You see. No shock. No engulfment. No tearing asunder. What you feared would come like an explosion is like a whisper. What you thought was the end is the beginning. — Death, assuring the old woman that her journey has just begun.Am I really that frightening? Before you knew who I was, you sat with me. Talked with me.
- "Nothing in the Dark". A woman frightened of dying allows a wounded police officer (played by a young Robert Redford) into her apartment. When she realizes that he's Death come to claim her, he tries to convince her that she shouldn't fear death.
- With one or two exceptions, Death is regularly portrayed as a very polite man — often a businessman wearing a nice suit. Which, when you think about it, is probably a good thing since his job is to "welcome" people into death, not to make them run away from it.
- One character, Mr. Bookman, gets to make a deal to extend his life to finish his life's ambition, to make "a pitch for the angels". Death agrees but is annoyed when Bookman decides to retire and says he'll take a life of a little girl instead, flinging Bookman's loophole back in his face when he tries to break the deal himself. This leads Bookman to make a pitch to Death a collection of worthless trinkets (ties, threads and matches) in order to make Death miss his appointment with the girl, thus completing his life's ambition of a big sale that made a difference. Either Death set the whole thing up just to make his client feel better or you can trick him by selling him cheap shoe polish; either way no need to fear him.
- The Twilight Zone (1985) revival featured an episode where Death was cold and emotionally distant, but not evil or malicious. He regards a woman who has become fascinated him with curiosity, but never animosity; eventually, he allows her to become his partner and she embodies the trope more closely by helping to comfort the dying as they are taken.
- In The Twilight Zone (2002) revival, the episode "A Night In Mercy", Death is a kind man who doesn't like his job at all and admires a doctor for having the power to give life. Death decides to give up his job, and the doctor quickly finds out how vital it is when incurable burn patients are unable to die and are thus left in agony. When the doctor dies at the end of the episode, Death admits that he's tempted to let him go back to life, but both of them agree that it's just the way things go.
- Touched by an Angel has Andrew, who's a cheerful, friendly, and attractive 30-ish man. His predecessor Adam (not that Adam... probably) was also a pretty nice guy.
- Played with in Dead Like Me: the reapers are all former semi-normal people, and are often quite friendly and reassuring, but are also likely to steal from the newly dead and basically behave like people in a customer service job they're not being paid to do.
- Tessa, one of the Reapers. Admittedly, some of the other Reapers we see range from creepy to outright scary, but Tessa appears to spirits as a gorgeous, compassionate, and genuinely sweet servant of Death, and Sam and Dean even willingly save her from meeting a grisly fate in season four. Though during her role there, she's a bit more snippy than in her first appearance, mostly dismissing the brothers when they try to help a dead young boy who has yet to pass on. The reason being, for the latter, was that she was supposed to take Dean, until he was brought back to life by Azazel, thanks to his dad making a deal.
- Death himself, the boss of the Reapers, also appears. Death is a Cosmic Entity who is as old as the universe and about the same age as God. He runs on Blue and Orange Morality and has seen the death of entire galaxies and will eventually reap God! Hence, he is extremely pissed off that he is bound to one tiny planet circling around a barely newborn sun in a young galaxy that usually wouldn't even be a blip on his radar, due to "a spoilt brat having a tantrum" (a.k.a Lucifer). Dean has a little problem swallowing his pizza after being told this. Just a gentle reminder that, no matter how much of a threat Lucifer may seem, there is Always a Bigger Fish. A much bigger fish. This Death is also given a very human trait, one he shares with Dean: he really likes cheap but tasty food such as pizza, bacon dogs, and fried pickles.
- In a later episode Dean wants Death's help to restore Sam's soul and Death gives him a test where Dean has to do Death's duties for a day. Dean fails the test but attempts to fix his mistake as much as he can. Death is impressed that Dean was able to understand the seriousness and importantance of Death's job and gives Sam his soul back.
- When the Winchesters deal with Death he's usually quite snarky and dispassionate because he feels they're wasting his time by asking him for favors. However, when he's reaping someone he appears quite polite and complimentary and finds it an honor to guide specific people to the afterlife.
- Death is a recurring character in the older BBC series Mulberry, which is appropriate given that the titular character Mulberry is his own son, tasked with cheering up a dour old woman before Death comes to call on business. He spends a good deal of his appearances arguing with Mulberry about how his job isn't a bad thing and how he'd like it if Mulberry would stop asking for extensions on the time he's got.
- Married... with Children: After years of begging for Death, Al Bundy gets his wish. Good news: Death offers Al a way out. Bad news: Death can assume any appearance, so naturally it chose his wife Peggy. (And is quite a Deadpan Snarker to boot.)
- Weirdly enough, there is an NCIS episode that implicitly features the Angel of Death. She appears as a little girl, and mostly just appears to be dropping in to check on her next cases.
- A Rowan Atkinson sketch titled "The Devil's Welcome" plays with this hilariously.
The Devil: Now, you're all here for..... Eternity! Ooh, which I hardly need tell you is a heck of a long time, so you'll all get to know each other pretty well by the end.
But for now I'm going to have to split you up in groups.
Will You Stop Screaming!
- Mysterious Ways: Declan starts worrying that his teaching assistant, a not at all scary looking young woman, is the Angel of Death and she has come for him. Throughout the course of the episode, and in dealing with his own potential illness, it is revealed that she is actually the Angel of Comfort (the same one who visited him when his dad died.) The Angel of Death does not appear.
- Several Angels of Death appear in Charmed, one in the form of a friendly black janitor, and the other in the form of a wise, insightful (but very, very snarky) British guy. His first appearance goes out of its way to preach that he is not an evil entity - and other appearances have Balancing Death's Books as a plot point. Piper even gets to be the Angel of Death and help people transition to death.
- Death as portrayed in Horrible Histories is a hot-blooded, chummy Cloud Cuckoo Lander who looks quite intimidating and has a very mocking sense of humour (his raison d'etre is to laugh at tales of people who die in stupid ways, to So Unfunny, It's Funny levels) but is otherwise a really Nice Guy. The worst he'll do is make a terrible pun about the way you died, laugh at you insultingly for a while, and then let you into the Afterlife. He also sings songs.
- American Horror Story: Asylum has Shachath, an angel of death. She uses her Kiss of Death to release people from pain and suffering. Her encounter with Sister Mary Eunice makes it quite clear that the two oppose each other.
- Oddly played with in Sabrina the Teenage Witch where The Grim Reaper is Sabrina's aunt - it's a community service, randomly assigned, in a similar manner to jury duty, in the witch world. As explained when Sabrina manages to stop screaming, what the job actually entails is delivering bad news, which may be about anything, from death to a handling fee being applied on top of your accountants' fees to be deducted from your tax return. Bad news is best delivered by a cloaked figure with a scythe, for some reason.
- The Grim Reaper is a guest on The Sifl and Olly Show in one episode. As it turns out, he's from Montreal, he's a Gemini, and he's into R & B music. Sifl and Olly even sing the Trope Namer song at the end of the show.
- Azrael from Lucifer. The famed Angel of Death, whose blade destroys whoever it stabs in their entirety. We finally meet Azrael in "Boo, Normal". And turns out she is a needy, bespectacled dork who goes by "Rae-Rae" and has been pretending to be Ella's imaginary friend for years.
- The Franz Schubert song Der Tod und das Mädchen ("Death And The Maiden", 1817) sets to music a 1775 poem by Matthias Claudius in which Death tells the maiden of the title: "Give me thy hand, thou young and tender form. I am a friend, and come not to punish. Be of good cheer! I am not savage. You will sleep softly in my arms."
- Death on Hennepin by Boiled in Lead, takes a more stern tack but ultimately the Reaper in this song is also present to ease the deceased's passing, not harm her or frighten her.
- The Trope Namer is Blue Öyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" from Agents of Fortune, although the song is, according to Word of God, about transcending death rather than death being a good thing.
- The song's author Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser wrote it while in a depressive gloom after receiving an unwarrantedly pessimistic diagnosis from his doctor. According to bandmates, he secluded himself for nine days, refused to talk to anyone, and emerged a lot happier with a fully-formed song about how he had come to terms with his own mortality. Over thirty years on, he is still with us and fronting the band.
- The first member of the Blue Öyster Cult to be offered a personal opportunity not to fear the Reaper was keyboards player Allen Lanier. After his death in August 2013, it became noticeable that the acronym DFTR was supplanting RIP as a memento mori.
- Machinae Supremacy. I tell you, I Know The Reaper.
- The Demons and Wizards song "The Fiddler on the Green" presents Death as a sympathetic character who takes a young boy too early by accident. He ends up taking someone else (who is implied to have volunteered) so the boy won't have to be lonely in the afterlife.
- Voltaire's Feathery Wings, which turns the Angel of Death into The Woobie.
- The Angel of Death (who looks like the standard Grim Reaper, only with a halo, and no scythe in evidence) in "I've Got Some Falling to Do" by Lemon Demon. He's kind of a goof. He even does a dance!
- Pop Will Eat Itself have a song called "Menofearthereaper" about this.
- Pagan rock band Inkubus Sukkubus has "Death and the Virgin" as a bonus track on their album Strewwlpeter. You can listen to it here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94GDQJc4zGk
- "When the Saints Go Marching In," a Christian hymn, is best known today as a jazz tune by Louis Armstrong. It's popular as a funeral march in New Orleans, it treats death as joyous occasion for those who are going to heaven. The song itself, is about the Second Coming, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the New Creation. Death is only mentioned indirectly by referring to "those who have gone before."
- Rage's album Speak of the Dead features a Grim Reaper in several songs who is "Heaven-sent" as a mercy to free one from pain, and wishes not to be feared.
- Indie Rock band Sulek has the track "Swamp Song" from their first album Songs From The Doctor's Office. The lyrics include the following: The Grim Reaper's name is Jess, she's been fair and I feel quite blessed
- The Kansas song "Child of Innocence". While the lyrics focus on the inevitability of death and the pointlessness of trying to prevent it, they also paint the grim reaper as a comforting figure that need not be feared.
- Gabriel Faure said of his Requiem Mass... "It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience." The final movement, In Paradisum, is an incredibly beautiful lullaby.
- She Was So Beautiful by Russian rock-band Splean narrates about a beautiful woman met by an author who happens to be the Death. After a short talk she leaves, saying "hope to see you soon" and telling narrator not to sorrow about her.
Mythology and Religion
- In Vodoun:
- Maman Brigitte, the Hatian goddess of love and death. To quote God Checker:
"She is so chatty and full of jokes that it's fun when she escorts you to the Underworld."
- Baron Samedi, Papa Guede and the whole rest of the Guede family, which tends to be a bunch of people who really enjoy... for a lack of a better word, living. Papa Guede himself sits down and listens to your entire life story.
- Maman Brigitte, the Hatian goddess of love and death. To quote God Checker:
- The character of La Catrina is an important part of Mexical folklore. She is nice, loves to sing, dance and have fun with the mortals, especially on certain days like Dia De Los Muertos ("Day of the Dead"). And if you are Mexican she will appear on the day of your death.
- Death is also revered in Mexico in the form of Santa Muerte ("Saint Death"), who is worshiped as an unrecognized saint. While still taking the form of a grinning skull, she is revered as a patron of the downtrodden and those forsaken by society at large. She is also worshiped by criminals as the one saint who will never forsake them. A big part of her worship is that she's the one being that treats everyone as equal: rich or poor, old or young, man or woman, everyone is the same in the eyes of Death.
- The Bible
- In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus explicitly states that angels come to get people when they die (Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus) but they're not the ones you should be afraid of. God is the one who judges you. The angels will escort the faithful to Heaven, but they'll also dutifully cast the wicked into Hell.
- Some scholars take "Angel of Death" from the Book of Exodus to be an allegory for Jesus. A large number of angels also bear the title. The Kabbalic figure Azriel (known as Ezra/Azra in Orthodox Chritianity and Azrael in Islam and Sikhim) is probably the most famous today, but Michael and Gabriel also qualify. Satan is also credited as an "angel" of death, so it's Zig Zagged.
- Though it's not agreed whether this is doctrine or folklore, some Mormons believe that it is your already-deceased family members who come and get you when you die.
- Older Than Dirt: The Ancient Egyptian attitude towards death was not one of horror. Though they believed that those who offended the gods would suffer in the afterlife, their religion featured lovely, kind deities who welcomed the dead to The Underworld with beer and food.
- In Norse Mythology the valkyries, female spirits, are reapers of the souls of dead warriors deemed worthy of being taken to Valhalla. People who died of sickness and death went taken to Hel and Helheim, a shady but peaceful place. Hel is monstrous in apperance but a neutral deity that is understood to be kind, from what is understood from the poems.
- The Breton psychopomp Ankou has shades of this in some of the (frequently contradictory) legends about them. Most of the stories portray them as a fairly terrifying aversion of this; a skeletal figure with a scythe who has too much enthusiasm for their job, but in others they're simply the spirit of the last person to died in a parish the previous year who got drafted into spending a year serving as that parish's psychopomp. While this means that they can be very variable in how they do their job (a old Breton saying when there was more deaths that year than usual translates as 'on my faith, this one is a nasty Ankou'), it also means that there's a pretty good chance of the deceased being picked up by someone that they know which kind of makes the whole thing rather less scary; you're not dealing with some sort of inhuman supernatural being, you're getting a lift to the afterlife from a neighbor or maybe even a relative.
- In Islam, to a faithful, the Archangel of Death would be like an old friend one has been waiting for, for years who takes the soul gently and tenderly on a silken cloth and sends it on it's way. Apparently he's also very accommodating and is even willing to wait a few moments if one asks. Though to a faithless he apparently appears in such a terrifying, vicious form that even messiahs with extremely strong hearts would faint at seeing him.
- When Death comes for Lisa in Funky Winkerbean, he is a perfectly-mannered well-dressed gentleman (albeit with a theatre mask hiding his face) who makes an undramatic entrance, allows Lisa to realize for herself that "It's time" and extends his hand for her to take, and lets her pause for a moment as he leads her away so she can say goodbye though it goes unheard.
- The Undertaker, at least since his 2004 return to his "undead" gimmick. He's still depicted as intensely scary and having supernatural powers, but he usually battles against villains - most famously at the 2007 Royal Rumble, when he arrived as the 30th entrant to save Shawn Michaels, Edge, Randy Orton, and Montel Vontavious Porter from The Great Khali.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The Forgotten Realms setting really likes this trope. Kelemvor is the poster boy for this trope and canonically Lawful Neutral. He and his worshipers work to comfort the living and ensure that the dead rest in peace, and Kelemvorite rangers, clerics and paladins are among the most determined undead hunters in the setting. The setting also includes the halfling death god Urogalan, also LN, and the Mulhorandi god Osiris who is Lawful Good. Even Kelemvor's unnerving-to-mortals subordinate Jergal counts, as he is merely the archivist of death.
- In 2nd edition, Kelemvor was Lawful Good. He was changed to neutral later on because of D&D's tendency to equate death powers to evil. In-universe, the rest of the pantheon got together to stop him from being too nice.
- Sehanine Moonbow, the elven goddess of (amongst other things) death was Neutral Good, and had a bit of a 'death as part of the journey of existence, not the end' slant to her. She got retconned as merely an aspect of Selûne (who does not have death in her portfolio) in 4th edition, however.
- In the Greyhawk setting, Wee Jas is the Lawful Neutral goddess of Death and Magic. Her clerics teach that death is part of the natural order, and that she shepherds the souls of the deceased to their final destinations. She was originally a goddess of magic, but after a magical disaster killed millions, magic was equated with death, which altered the perception of her to a more morbid figure. She's also a rival to Nerull, the Grim Reaper figure of the setting, since she's seen as a relatively healthy form of death worship, and Nerull... really, really isn't.
- At least one god of death (a converted version of Hades) is explicitly stated to only be evil because the alignment was required for levels in the Assassin class, but would otherwise be True Neutral. Which makes sense.
- In the short-lived 4th Edition the deity of death, the Raven Queen, was Unaligned, and hated the undead. Which, since paladins in that edition only needed to match the alignment of their patron deity, made her rather popular with players.
- The Forgotten Realms setting really likes this trope. Kelemvor is the poster boy for this trope and canonically Lawful Neutral. He and his worshipers work to comfort the living and ensure that the dead rest in peace, and Kelemvorite rangers, clerics and paladins are among the most determined undead hunters in the setting. The setting also includes the halfling death god Urogalan, also LN, and the Mulhorandi god Osiris who is Lawful Good. Even Kelemvor's unnerving-to-mortals subordinate Jergal counts, as he is merely the archivist of death.
- The God of Death in Pathfinder, being a Spiritual Successor to D&D 3rd edition, is the True Neutral Pharasma. She's is also the god of Fate, Prophecy, and Rebirth. She has no problem with Resurrection as you'll arrive in her domain eventually so there is no need to rush things. However she hates undead and her followers seek out and destroy them.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Tour Guide From the Underworld seems rather friendly for someone who drives an Afterlife Express. (A lot of fans tend to disagree, however, given how much her card can be abused, often regarding her as the type who seduces souls before dragging them to Hell.)
- In Bleak World this is hugely Averted, the Reapers will send any ghost to the death beyond death if they stick around to long.
- The organization of ghosts that fancies themselves as Reaper initiates are definitely the most morally objectionable, often torturing other ghosts before sending them to The Death Beyond Death.
- The Warhammer 40,000 version of Valkyries are Wolf Priests, Space Wolves who watch over the constant battles of the Fenrisian natives, taking those who are grievously wounded, still able to be saved and young enough to survive the Training from Hell and horrifying alterations that will turn them into Space Marines. Fenrisians consider it a great honor to be chosen to join the Sky Warriors and fight forever more alongside their heroes. In this case, the reaper is still feared by the enemies of Man.
- River Styxx from Monster High is the daughter of the Grim Reaper, and a sweet, perky young teenage girl who's equipped her reaper boat with confetti cannons.
- In RuneScape, the Grim Reaper may be a skeleton in a black robe, but he is friendly, has a good sense of humour, is a great fan of a certain rock band, and had the Catch-Phrase of "Gotta reap 'em all". Death is also one of the Guardians of Guthix, a band of Chosen Ones by the god most conscientious of mortal rights. In RS3, Death will even retrieve your belongings when you're killed, for a small fee (not applicable in the Wilderness). He's also a bit overworked, and will offer you Slayer tasks involving boss monsters whose souls he needs to make his quota.
- Icthlarin of the Menaphite pantheon also qualifies, being the equivalent of Anubis or Osiris and hence the god of guiding souls into the afterlife. He and Death are good friends, to the point that Sliske holds Death hostage during the quest "Missing, Presumed Death" to guarantee Icthlarin's cooperation. Sadly, Icthlarin's sister Amascut (a splice of Ammut and Sehkmet), formerly the goddess of rebirth for the just and punishment for the unjust, has gone round the bend.
- The Sims series portrays the Grim Reaper very kindly; he listens to pleas for dead sims to be revived, and he gives a chance for the Sims to win back their loved ones, and even if they failed at his little game, he might bring them back as zombies anyway. He also gives discounts on children's resurrections. He enjoys watching TV, and if he arrives at a party, he might party with the residents, even though he always spoils the mood with his arrival. Oh that silly Reaper.
- If a sim dies of old age while in Platinum Aspiration in The Sims 2, the Reaper shows up in a flower lei, accompanied by hula girl zombies, to send your sim on an eternal vacation to Tropical Paradise Heaven.
- One of the plot hooks in Strangetown is the product of an affair between the local Black Widow and the friendly guy who kept coming for her husbands.
- Thanks to the University expansion, you can even call the Reaper and bribe him to resurrect your loved ones (or bargain with him as they're dying). He offers a reduced rate for children, but stiffing him otherwise can have some unpleasant consequences.
- If you have the Pets expansion, the Reaper will play with your dogs and cats when he comes for them.
- Though he does have his temper. In Sims 3 University Life, if you rant against him, he will strike down your sim. He does resurrect them and tells them not to do that again as he's got a job to do.
- One amusing glitch can happen in Sims 3. One tumblr user reported that a sims' husband died a few minutes before the female sim started to give birth. This causes all NPCs on the lot to panic at that... Including Death. Another posted "What do I do? This is the opposite of my job!"
- The Sims 4 adds to this even more. If the Grim Reaper comes to your lot to reap a sim, he will stay, and be interacted with. Your sim can come up and try to be his friend, and it will work! There's even an in-game achievement for doing this.
- Mara, one of the gods from the Incursion, puts a big emphasis on fulfillment and resolution; she is surprisingly free with resurrections for her worshipers. Unusually for this trope, she is also the goddess of The Undead and doesn't view them as abominations.
- Maximo: Ghosts to Glory has Grim, The Grim Reaper, who is a all around pleasant guy and a wise-ass. The sequel game shows that it's not just a job for him, he feels paternal to the souls he guards and hates to see them trapped or used for evil. In fact, in the second game he even directly helps Maximo this time by functioning as the game's Super Mode, temporarily replacing Maximo.
Grim: Aww, how can you not trust this face?
- Soul Nomad & the World Eaters
- The Master of Death of the protagonist's homeworld, Vigilance, was picked for the position by the world's chief god specifically because of his kindness and compassion, knowing that he would be far more appropriate than anyone callous or indifferent. Unfortunately, Median believed he was responsible for causing the death of his child and killed him, leaving the souls of the dead unguarded and causing souls to be slowly stolen from the world.
- Gig, a Master of Death from another world, is an aversion: He's cruel, genocidal, rude, arrogant and essentially void of redeeming characteristics. He was sent to kill every living thing in Haephnes and did a pretty good job of it until Median's daughter managed a double knockout and sealed his soul into a black sword. Later revelations make it clear that Gig and Vigilance are the same person, but the god Drazil corrupted his soul because, once again, there was no one to guard it. It was then sent back. As Gig slowly awakens to his former life, he mellows out and reaches a middle ground between the perfect and compassionate Vigilance and the omnicidal Gig.
- Touhou: Not-so-grim reaper Komachi is often portrayed as a Hard-Drinking Party Girl whenever she isn't napping for days on end. She basically just wants to "go at her own pace", which happens to be lethargic, even by a (non-flying) turtle's standards, and is notably bright and cheery any time it involves anything besides the drudgery of doing her job. Fanon aside, it seems her sloth comes from trying to do her job too well and spending too much time with each soul rather than working efficiently and heartlessly to meet her quota like she's supposed to. She also takes breaks to give advice to the living.
Komachi's boss Eiki, who judges the dead, is often portrayed equally comically by the fandom, as a workaholic who spends much of her time stressing out about Komachi's (lack of) work habits, and her own days off committing laughably minor misdeeds.
- Krypta, the Goddess of Death in Majesty, is apparently quite compassionate and egalitarian. One of the character vignettes has a priestess of Krypta teaming up with a Paladin of Dauros to destroy some monsters who had been killing pointlessly.
- Death of Death Jr.. is portrayed as a family man who, in the comics, is happily married to a human woman and is a father who, while stern, is generally willing to show his son aspects of his job. As he once says in a comic book offshoot, "Son, there are two things you can always count on: taxes, and your old man."
- Persona 3 has few examples:
- First is Nyx, who is described being the Bringer of Death, and the one who will kill everyone during The Fall. However, she is not malevolent or anything like that. She just thinks that what people want is death and she would be the one to bring it. She cannot even kill everyone without the help of Erebus, who ultimately is the one ready to kill every one.
- Her Avatar, who is even called Death, is really friendly in his two human forms (the mysterious boy with amnesia called Pharos and The Casanova transfer student Ryoji Mochizuki). He even offers to erase your memories of everything so that you can die in peace.
- Manny Calavera of Grim Fandango and the page quote is a charming salesman; it just happens that he sells travel packages to carry dead souls safely through the afterlife. His job and that of his fellow Reapers is simply to ensure people get what they deserve. Most of them aren't scary at all. In fact, when an earlier Reaper, Salvador, learned that good people were being denied their "sweet hereafters" and being forced to linger in the Land of the Dead, he quit his job, denying himself his 'benefits', and started a revolution.
- Even worse? Salvador had a ticket the entire time. They stole it and forced him into working for them. That meant to be for the really nasty people.
- Vega Strike apparently has "The Mistress" as a part of the in-'verse folklore. Looks great in the gameover screennote , anyway.
- Neverwinter Nights
- Death in the Neverwinter Nights 2 mod saga Dark Waters is portrayed as a long-suffering hard-working bureaucrat who decides he's just not going to process your character because he's busy, thus excusing your deaths in-game. This is Played for Laughs.
- The actual Reaper of Hordes of the Underdark is benign, and merely opens many doors for you to take once you reach his realm, provided you have the means of paying him to be resurrected... This is later used against you once it is revealed that his true name was discovered by the Big Bad Mephistopheles. Said archdevil used him until the perfect moment so that the hero would be trapped in Cania (read: Hell) and so that the Reaper would not be able to help them escape.
- Similarly to the Dark Waters example, Death in AdventureQuest always tells you he has filled his quota of souls for the day, and sends you back saying you owe him one. For whatever reason, he never calls in the favor. Again, played for laughs.
- Conker's Bad Fur Day features Gregg the Grim Reaper. He's shorter than the squirrel protagonist, he talks like a chipmunk, and cats, squirrels, and other creatures with multiple lives irritate him to no end. He's not evil, just a bit of a jerk. Upon your first life lost, he introduces Conker to the concept of getting squirrel tails as lives (including giving him one) and later gives you a gun so you can kill zombies (granted, this is also to help him get rid of them, since they are a hassle for his job).
- Death in the first Hatoful Boyfriend is just a card of a reaper with a bird skull for a face, whose appearance on reaching a Bad Ending can be alarming. But in the next game, Holiday Star, he's the conductor on a train carrying souls through the afterlife, and is amiable and a little folksy. The protagonist cheerfully claims familiarity with him and even says that they are friends, which he doesn't dispute.
- She says they've been friends since the demo, and implies it's because she's had so many bad ends. This would imply that she remembers all her bad ends.
- The Reapers in The World Ends with You are a varied group, but a good number are just regular dudes doing their jobs, and over the course of the game Neku becomes friends with a handful of them.
- The Spirit Monk from Jade Empire can be nice and helpful to departed souls if the player chooses. The Spirit Monk's boss, the Water Dragon, spends most of the game incapacitated in a grisly fashion, but takes the form of a benevolent, kindly woman known as the Shepherd of the Dead. Like a Jesus/Guan Yin combo.
- The grim reaper in Napple Tale is a odd, overly-polite little flower fairy creature who is the butt of a lot of jokes over the course of the game for incompetence. Granted, he earned it when he claimed the heroine instead of the cat he was sent for.
- In the Rpg Maker game Tales From The Reaper, Reapers effectively form the Magical Underpinnings of Reality, and there are Reapers of life, afterlife, death, nature, physics, the "unseen world", and even free will. The Reaper in charge of death hates her job, by the way.
- The Grim Reaper is one of the of the many superheroes in The Wonderful 101, codenamed "Wonder Death". We don't get much info about his personality (since he's one of the minor characters), but since he doesn't seem to have any qualms about fighting the GEATHJERK, he can't be all that bad.
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV, Charon is willing to let the player go for a, relatively, small price. He says that it's mostly because he's really overworked, Most likely still processesing people from the apocalypse a few centuries ago. He even states that if you choice not to bribe him that you'll be waiting for the next few centuries.
- Lamb and Wolf of League of Legends zigzag with this trope all over the place. At every individual's death, Lamb and Wolf appear, and said individual is forced to choose between accepting Lamb or fleeing from Wolf. Accepting Lamb means a peaceful and painless death- try to run, though, and Wolf will ensure that your end is painful and violent as a price for attempting to prolong your life.
- Uncle Death in Let It Die is a Finnish skateboarding otaku who guides you throughout the game, looks up to you, and even calls you "senpai". He was supposed to wipe out humanity after you defeat the Fourth Don but since he likes playing with you he decides not to.
- Grenth, the human God of Death in Guild Wars is friendly to his followers and freely allows resurrection. The Underworld quests task you with aiding his Reapers against a usurper god Dhuum
- Apocalyptic Horseplay: Mot, the personification of death. He looks just like typical grandpa, maybe with a little bony knees... He is also the nicest of Horsemen, and the one who convinced them to settle down instead of bringing constant chaos to earth. His appeariance is somehow close to Discworld Death, with his heavy way of speaking, kindnes to humans and lack of understanding them in the same time.
- Gashapon Shop has the Grim Reaper's angsty nephew, who, on his first day, goes for his target's nephew to to slightly similar names. He later cracks a few jokes and aids the heroes, but he doesn't show up often.
- The world of Gunnerkrigg Court has Psychopomps from all cultures to help the newly deceased enter the Ether. They range from fuzzy dogs to old women to the unseen insect guide Ketrak, all of them quite personable and concerned for their charges' well-being. Annie was pals with a lot of them prior to their falling-out when they didn't show up to collect her mother's spirit, and the owl-headed Muut makes overtures to try to mend their relationship.
- The title character from the webcomic Jack is ass-ugly, he's mean, he WILL hunt you down viciously if you try to run away from him, he's one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and in life, he was an evil dictator who wiped out all of humanity. However, he also genuinely cares about the souls he guides to the afterlife (he gets mad when reasonably decent people get condemned to Hell), and even denizens of Hell. And sweet mother of potatoes is he nicer than the other sins.note
- Finders Keepers features a Gaiman-inspired Perky Goth Death, the youngest of the nine Powers That Be, the highest authorities beyond The Veil. She does have rather nasty skeleton-and-cowl enforcers. She seems to have a soft spot for Card, though.
- Death from Slightly Damned, though initially intimidating, is very friendly. However, that Death has been revealed to be the angel Darius, the adoptive father the boy he is hugging. The real Death appears to be much less pleasant.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Death, while still retaining the black clothing (albeit a suit) and skeletal appearance, is a mostly-polite British waiter who guides you to your table in Purgatory, which is a restaurant.
- Death from Death and the Maiden is a generally genial guy with a crush on a human girl.
- Death from Fanboys is a pretty chill and laid-back guy, but he has a very twisted sense of humor.
- Dee, from the Spanish webcomic CROWLEY, usually looks like a cheerful little girl and is quite friendly and kind, and a friend of the main character. Unless you piss her off, then she can be downright terrifying.
- Death in Problem Sleuth is a nice enough guy, willing to let you drink tea and play games for your life. He's also pretty ineffectual at his job, as most of the characters who end up in the afterlife escape through the door.
- The deaths in Irregular Webcomic! are just trying to meet quota so they don't get demoted or fired. One can't help feel sorry for Death of Insanely Overpowered Fireballs, who can't even manage to harvest people from the Montana Jones storylines... even though half the time they're set on hydrogen zepplins manned by trigger-happy Nazis.
- Death in Muertitos takes the form of a vaguely humanoid mass of black, inky substance with a single eye. While somewhat creepy, he's a reasonable enough guy, and popular enough to have once had his own children's cartoon.
- The scrapyard robot in Freefall is pretty nice for a robot built to take apart other robots (and who carries a scythe). He even allows them to buy themselves as scrap (including lending them money if they can't afford it) so they don't need to be disassembled (not to mention exist without an owner).
- While the other "The Last Trick-or-Treaters" strips by R.K. Milholland of Something*Positive fame are frightening, this one starring the Grim Reaper and an unfortunate trick-or-treater is oddly touching.
- In The Order of the Stick: Malack argues that while death gods get a bad reputation, they should be viewed as neutral by default. Death claims everyone, not just the righteous. His own patron god, Nergal, is almost certainly evil though: Malack is his high priest and his goal is, after his allies have passed on (from old age or otherwise), to begin mass sacrifices to Nergal on a scale that the gladiator games cannot compare to.
- Deidre from Rhapsodies is always friendly and wishes her clients well before leading them into the light.
- Housepets!: Cerberus is first seen in her new job as the Reaper giving a cookie to a drowned puppy. She apparently took the job for the opportunity to work with kids
- Death in Johnny Wander is an awkward guy who falls in love with a human girl, accidentally skeletonizing her hand with a kiss and then being too shy to approach her for eighty years, which incidentally prevents her from aging. They get together in the end.
- In Curtailed, Mandy shows us a reaper that is so cute it would be almost impossible for anyone to fear it.
- In Godslave, Anpu, the reaper in question, argues for it, stating that his job simply entails keeping the world from spinning out of control.
- In Holy Bibble, Azrael — the angel of death — is a blond-haired, blue-eyed angel who values the well-being of the mortals she collects more than some of her fellow fallen.
- In Deities, Death is very friendly towards humans. He also has a very cute appearance and has even had a human girlfriend.
- In A Dance with Death, the Anthropomorphic Personification of Death is rather glum about the impending end of the world and chooses to dance with Hope rather than celebrate with the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Death: I come peacefully at times. I can be beautiful.
- Childrin R Skary: The Childrin may indeed be scary, but Death, despite the skeleton-in-a-cloak-with-a-scythe look, is a kindly and benevolent figure :
- Death from The Time... Guys is pretty cool and takes time out of his killer schedule to go to a bar with Dr. Chronos when Timmy and Caveman were unavailable for the weekend.
- Shadows, which concerns Death and a sick little girl, who isn't real keen on leaving, however, as he takes her, he decides to show her a nice time and dances with her, which puts her at ease with leaving.
- This Vine entitled "The First Angel to Greet You in Heaven."
"Hey! That wasn't so bad, was it? Come on, I'll show you the buffet."
- In the short film The Life of Death (otherwise known as Death and the Deer by fans), Death is given a bit more of a human but child-like side and is genuinely unhappy with his place in nature, until he meets a doe and stays alongside her, until she becomes too weak to catch up with the rest of her herd, thus, she goes to him for a Final First Hug.
- The Adventure Zone: Balance has Kravitz, the Grim Reaper, who prevents souls from escaping or avoiding the afterlife as part of the cycle of life and death. If he comes for you personally, you're in major trouble, but he's not a bad or even unreasonable person. He's willing to bend the rules for the heroes due to how important their work is, and even agrees to play a game of cards with Merle so that the latter has the chance to save an innocent soul. All in all, he's just a person with a very unusual job that he takes very seriously. He even falls in love with Taako.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy's
- Grim can seem like a scary guy when he's REAPING someone and he can also be very evil and nasty if you make him angry enough, but on the whole, he's not a bad guy and is arguably the nicest character on the show. The true evil here is Mandy.
- The Halloween Episode is one good example. At the beginning, he tells Billy and Mandy via Flashback how Jack (as in Jack o'Lantern) tricked him into making him immortal. Grim did so, but retaliated by cutting his head off. ("Gee, Grim, I didn't know you had it in you," comments Mandy.) During the course of the episode, Jack comes gunning for revenge, nearly destroying the whole town, and at the end of the episode, Grim loses his patience and has the guy Dragged Off to Hell, proving he's still got it and that he's the hero in this encounter.note
- Another good example is when Grim sees a boy about to skateboard into a construction area, and decides to rescue him rather than let him die and be reaped.
- Family Guy: Several episodes have revolved around Peter dealing with Death, and he's often a lot more down-to-earth than most of the human characters on the show—although Death does have a tendency of his Touch of Death to get out of awkward situations. Being voiced by Norm MacDonald definitely helps him be seen a likeable if not somewhat sarcastic guy. Just don't look under his hood.
- In Mary Shelley's Frankenhole, the Grim Reaper is a bit of a goofball, but every mortal fears him for the obvious reasons. This annoys him when Frankenstein gives him no respect at all as he's immortal and has nothing to fear.
- In Animaniacs. the Reaper is Laughably Evil, and the three protagonists are able to scare him away as easily as they could anyone else.
- Zig Zagged in Watership Down, where the Black Rabbit of Inlé can be rather frightening (given that as prey animals, most rabbits die suddenly and painfully). However, when Hazel passes away of old age, the Black Rabbit comes to him peacefully, and they bound off together through the fields to the afterlife.