Is that a DEATH... and are there TWO? Is DEATH that woman's mate?
~ The Mariner first meets Life in Death
The Game is done! I've won! I've won!
~ Her only line in the story

Life in Death is a supporting antagonistic character (and sometimes considered the main antagonist) of Samuel Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Life in Death is the one who accompanies Death whenever he comes to claim souls. Life in Death is far worse than Death himself because Death abides by the laws and sends souls either to Heaven or Hell. Life in Death seems to have her own malicious agenda to doom souls away from their final destination.

She is, in essence, the physical representation of suffering.


Life in Death first appears when the Mariner shot the Albatross and has doomed his crew. He did this just because the bird was a nuisance, but his crew begged him not to. He didn't listen and paid the price as soon terrible storms and then a terrible drought and calm hit the ship. Marooned in the Doldrums, all his crew began to die of heat and thirst.

Finally, they are all dead. Only the Mariner is left alive, yet because of his unforgivable sin, he cannot die - and is bound to the same sufferings each day. It is as if he is in Hell but he is stuck here on Earth.

Later, a ghostly ship approaches his corpse strewn vessel. This ship is a skeletal wreck, with nothing exciting aboard apart from a possible Death. The Mariner shudders upon seeing the figure, but then notices there is a woman beside the Reaper. He wonders who would be with Death, much so playing dice with him, and then the Mariner realizes it is the "Nighmare Life in Death," who fixes men's breath with cold.

Ultimately the Grim Reaper wants the Mariner's soul but Life in Death does a deadly wager and ultimately she wins, she proclaims her victory to the Grim Reaper who silently looks on in defeat, yet he seems unperturbed.

Because of Nightmare Life in Death's unspeakable act, the Mariner is now condemned to a spectral, immortal Undead existence and is made to wander the Earth and confess his story to those he meets as punishment for his crime.


Life in Death is far, far worse than Death because the Grim Reaper does abide by the rules but she cares not for human life. Life in Death delights in human misery, making her a sociopath, sadist and tyrant. Its a common theme in ancient tales that the villainesses - especially the Dark Ladies - are far more evil than their male counterparts - and this is no exception with Life in Death. Compared to her, Death looks like a nice, sympathetic old fellow.