Grateful dead (folklore)

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Grateful dead (or grateful ghost) is a folktale present in many cultures throughout the world. The most common story involves a traveler who encounters a corpse of someone who never received a proper burial, typically stemming from an unpaid debt.[1][2] The traveler then either pays off the dead person's debt or pays for burial. The traveler is later rewarded or has their life saved by a person or animal who is actually the soul of the dead person; the grateful dead is a form of the donor.

The "grateful dead" story is Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 505.[3]

One variant is the Book of Tobit.[4] The chivalric romance Amadas has the title knight pay his last coins for such a burial.[4] It appears in various fairy tales, such as the Italian Fair Brow,[5] the Swedish The Bird 'Grip' and H. C. Andersen's The Traveling Companion.


  1. ^ "Grateful dead". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  2. ^ "Dead FAQ: How did they get the name?". Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  3. ^ D.L. Ashliman. "The Grateful Dead: folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 505". Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  4. ^ a b Laura A. Hibbard, Medieval Romance in England p74. New York Burt Franklin,1963
  5. ^ Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales p 725 ISBN 0-15-645489-0

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