Cheating death

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The medieval painting of Death playing chess from Täby Church in Sweden.

The phrase cheating death is commonly used to describe the manner in which a person avoids a possibly fatal event or who prolongs their life in spite of considerable odds. A person who cures themselves of cancer without chemotherapy, a person who avoids by a narrow margin falling off a cliff or building or being shot or stabbed, or a person who survives hospitalization in critical condition in spite of a poor prognosis from doctors all might be described as having "cheated death". In Greek mythology, Sisyphus cheated death twice: by trapping Thanatos in his own chains and then by tricking Persephone into letting him return. He was finally sentenced to eternal fruitless labor in Tartarus for his presumption.

Although it is difficult to find information about the origin of the phrase, it may be related to anthropomorphism of death, more commonly known in the English-speaking world as the Grim Reaper. Such personification has also led to a wide variety of pop-culture references, such as in Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal, in which a knight proposes a wager with death over a game of chess. In the film the knight comments that he knows death plays chess because he's seen it in paintings, possibly in reference to a medieval painting of death playing chess which hangs in Täby Church in Sweden. Playing chess offers the knight an opportunity to cheat.

Cheating death is also a recurring theme in the Final Destination film series.