The Cook or Fool

The cook / fool
The cook / fool

Death to the cook / fool mit jwer bunghen dat vp ghelunghen
..........vel de partyncken uth
vnde v....ok rewen ys iuwe hoth
were gy ok noch eynes ghewesen so mal
gy muthen al vormeren nu dessen tal

.............with your drum
................the slippers off
............. is your hat
had you been one more time as [foolish],
you still had to increase this number now.

The cook / fool

Och wath ga gy maken gy vule kockyn
Latet my doch noch leuen al mach dat syn
ik jw wil maken eyn hauerech(t)
dat mach leyder nicht helpen my armen knech(t)
des rope ik thu dy criste help my scheyr
synt ik byn gewest eyn vule partyer

Oh what will you do - you lazy rascal?
Let me live longer, if possible.
I will make you an amusement.
Sadly that won't help me poor lad.
Therefore I call on you, Christ, help me right away
since I have been a lazy swindler.

Death to the mother and child?


Mother and child?

(O)ch w..........
wente thu..........
rupet al iw..........

Rudolph Schick's lithograph of the end of the dance.
The landlady and the fool are rendered with dashed lines to indicate they were in a bad condition.
Berlin's dance of death, by Lübke

The end of the dance is all but gone, so it's only an educated guess that the dance ends with mother and child. Originally the dance of death continued into the church, but in 1892 a wall was erected between the hall and the nave, and the end of the mural with the fool / cook and the unknown 30th scene was destroyed in the process.

As mentioned on the previous page it is odd that Prüfer has removed heads and bodies towards the end of the dance.

Cook or Fool?

Cook or fool? Prüfer's lithograph from 1876 shows the fool standing inside the pot.
Berlin's dance of death, Cook or fool

Lübke had originally interpreted the fool as a cook, and translated the word "bunghen" as "kettle" rather than "drum". Later the mural was restored by Fischbach from Düsseldorf after the current taste, which meant that he improvised all that was missing, so the mural would appear to be complete again. As the picture to the right shows, Fischbach placed the cook standing within the pot. Just like a fool, in spite of Lübke / Schick placing him behind the pot (picture to the left).

Prüfer's black-and-white lithographs from 1876 show this state of the mural, and he argued that the figure was a fool. Partly because the landlady says "Take the fool", partly because the letters "ren" (as in "narren") still were legible, partly because there are bells at the end of the clothes, and partly because the two trouser-legs are of different colours.(1) In Prüfer's colour lithographs from 1883 (top of this page) the picture has been changed so he's now standing behind the drum.

So the figure is not a cook, but on the other hand he calls Death a "kockyn". The word means rascal or tramp, and is related to High German "Koch" / "Köchin" meaning "cook". This is not very flattering for cooks, but even in English "to cook" can mean to ruin, falsify or make up. The french word for rascal, "coquin", has the same etymological root - or in the words of Balzac: "a knave who eats, licks, laps, sucks, and fritters his money away, and gets into stews; is always in hot water, and eats up everything, leads an idle life, and doing this, becomes wicked, becomes poor, and that incites him to steal or beg".

While the cook / fool calls Death a cook-rascal, he's at the same time the only person in any dance of death, who addresses Death in the polite plural form: "Oh what will ye do - ye lazy rascal? Let [plural] me live longer, if possible. I will make ye an amusement.".

Cooks and fools, drums and pots seem to go together. See the fool's words from Dodendantz:

Al wor, ik weet de fetten slöke,
Dar gha ick hen manckt de köke,
Ick ethe unde dryncke myt den heren,
Eyn ander betalet, ick helpet vorteren
Myt lichten synnen, bungen unde pipen.
Nu kumpt de dot unde wyl my grypen.

Wherever I know the fat bites [are]
there I go to among the cooks.
I eat and drink with the master,
another one pays - I help consuming,
with light spirits, drums and fifes.
Now comes Death and wants to grab me.

There is also an amusing parallel to the fool in Thielman Kerver's Dutch book of hours, who finishes the dance with the words: "the wise and the fool / we must all into the same pot".

Footnotes: (1)

colour of trouser-legs . . .: Lübke wrote the legs were blue and grey (page 18), Prüfer wrote they were green and yellow (page 11, right column), while his lithograph (top of this page) shows them being blue and orange.