Immortality in fiction
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Immortality is a popular subject in fiction, as it explores humanity's deep-seated fears and comprehension of its own mortality. Immortal beings and species abound in fiction, especially fantasy fiction, and the meaning of "immortal" tends to vary.
Some fictional beings are completely immortal (or very nearly so) in that they are immune to death by injury, disease and age. Sometimes such powerful immortals can only be killed by each other, as is the case with the Q from the Star Trek series. Even if something can't be killed, a common plot device involves putting an immortal being into a slumber or limbo, as is done with Morgoth in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion and the Dreaming God of Pathways Into Darkness. Storytellers often make it a point to give weaknesses to even the most indestructible of beings. For instance, Superman is supposed to be invulnerable, yet his enemies were able to exploit his now-infamous weakness: Kryptonite. (See also Achilles' heel.)
Many fictitious species are said to be immortal if they cannot die of old age, even though they can be killed through other means, such as injury. Modern fantasy elves often exhibit this form of immortality. Other creatures, such as vampires and the immortals in the film Highlander, can only die from beheading. In Harry Potter, witches or wizards are able to become immortal by creating horcruxes (as long as the Horcruxes are not destroyed) or by drinking the elixir of life, made with the Philosopher's Stone, though the Elixir must be drunk often to maintain the immortality. The classic and stereotypical vampire is typically slain by one of several very specific means, including a silver bullet (or piercing with other silver weapons), a stake through the heart (perhaps made of consecrated wood), or by exposing them to sunlight.
Mythological beings are often used in modern fiction as characters, as a plot device, or even just as "window dressing". Such beings are often either immortal or associated with immortality.
Tezuka Osamu's lifework Phoenix (known in Japan as Hi no Tori) had a phoenix whose blood would provide immortality. In various ages, many "heroes" and "heroines" would strive for immortality only to realize that there is something beyond eternal life. In one story titled "Raise hen" (lit. "Next World Story") the last remaining human male who survived a holocaust, blessed (or cursed) with immortality through the phoenix blood, would create another beginning of life. In his immortal form, he would see a race of slugs, after gaining intelligence, destroy themselves in another holocaust. He would seed the earth with life that would become present day humans, and finally leave the earth to join his lover, who died billions of years ago, in heaven.
In the Cthulhu Mythos created by H. P. Lovecraft, there is a race of "Fish-Men" known as Deep Ones. They stop aging after reaching adulthood and can breed with humans to birth offspring with this "eternal youth." This is a faustian bargain, as after reaching the age of 20, the Deep One Hybrids undergo a transformation from normal humans into Deep Ones. They also lose all concept of humanity and morality and go to live in the ocean with the Deep Ones and to worship the undersea deity Father Dagon, the Ruler of the Deep Ones and consort to Mother Hydra.
Since immortality is seen as a desire of humanity, themes involving immortality often explore the disadvantages as well as the advantages of such a trait. Sometimes immortality is used as a punishment, or a curse that might be intended to teach a lesson. It is not uncommon to find immortal characters yearning for death. A similar, though somewhat different theme, concerned Elves and Men in Middle-earth. While the immortality of Elves was not explicitly a curse, the mortality of Men was viewed as a gift, albeit one that was not understood by those possessing it. This was chiefly due to the Elves' clear faculty of memory, which could accumulate millennia of traumatic experiences.
In the Doctor Who story The Brain of Morbius the Doctor comments that the tissue regenerating Elixir of Life, guarded by the Sisterhood of Karn, could be synthesized by the gallon with the help of a decent spectrograph but the result would be appalling as Death is the price of progress. When challenged on the comment he points out that that Sisterhood of Karn who take the Elixir regularly prove the point as nothing about them or their culture has changed in centuries.
In some parts of popular culture, immortality is not all that it is made out to be, possibly causing insanity and/or significant emotional pain. Much of the time, these things only happen to mortals who gain immortality. Beings born with immortality (such as deities, demigods and races with "limited immortality") are usually quite adjusted to their long lives, though some may feel sorrow at the passing of mortal friends, but they still continue on. Some Immortals (such as certain deities, demigods, and intelligent undead) may also watch over mortal relations (either related to or descended from them), occasionally offering help when needed.
In Toaru Majutsu no Index: Endyumion no Kiseki, the main antagonist, Ladylee, is an immortal woman who was given unending life when she was a child in the Middle Ages, and as such could not die by anything. The main plot of the film is there because she goes to extremely drastic measures to kill herself, as she cannot bear life anymore.
In his short story 'The Immortal', Jorge Luis Borges treats the theme of immortality from an interesting perspective: after centuries and centuries, everything is repetition for the immortal and a feeling of ennui prevails. The immortal, who had turned so after drinking from a certain river, is set to wander the world in search for that same river, so that he can become mortal again.
The Dungeon Master in Zork Grand Inquisitor, a spirit in a lantern during the game, accidentally casts an immortality spell on himself while he still has his body. He soon grows terribly bored, and tries many ways of suicide, with little or comical effects, for example: "Dear Diary, today I tried to kill myself by shoving a sword through my heart. All I got was heartburn."
Another rather comic incident involving an accidental cause of immortality can be found in Douglas Adams' novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where the alien Wowbagger accidentally turned himself immortal. Due to not being a natural immortal, people who he considers to be "a bunch of serene bastards", he doesn't know how to handle his immortality and winds up deciding that he will insult every living being in the universe - in alphabetical order just to kill some time, something he has an awful lot of. In the radio adaptation, his immortality is removed right before the End of the Universe after insulting a deity.
In the manga Blade of the Immortal, Manji is a samurai who has been cursed with immortality. Only after slaying 1000 evil men will the curse be broken so he can finally die. His body cannot age nor can he die from physical wounds. Manji's sword skills are sloppy due to the fact that since he's immortal he doesn't need to know how to fight properly. There is another immortal character in the Naruto series named Hidan, who claims to be the slowest attacking member in his group and is considered stupid by his partner, because he attacks without thought for the consequences. It is possible he did not gain these skills because he did not believe he would need them, being an immortal. This could hardly be further from the truth: Hidan is now a disembodied head buried under a ton of rock, and yet cannot die.
In legend, most famously in Wagner's opera The Flying Dutchman, a ship's captain is cursed with immortality after attempting to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in a terrible storm. He is doomed to sail around the Cape forever.
In Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, some of the inhabitants of the island of Immortals (near Japan) don't die, but they age and became ill, demented and a nuisance to themselves and those surrounding them. Swift presents immortality as a curse rather than a blessing. The film Zardoz also depicts a dystopian view of immortality, where interest in life has been lost and suicide is impossible.
In the 1999 version of The Mummy, the titular character, Imhotep, is a former high priest who was subject to the ancient curse of the Hom-Dai for his crimes of loving the Pharaoh's mistress, killing the Pharaoh, and attempting to resurrect his lover; under this curse, Imhotep was mummified alive and devoured by sacred scarab beetles, apparently condemned to a state of living death for all eternity. However, the nature of the curse allowed him to be restored as a powerful, indestructible entity with command over the elements and the Ten Plagues of Egypt, which can only be ended via inscriptions in the Egyptian Book of the Living and the Egyptian gods themselves. In the third film in the franchise, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the character of Zi Yuan and her daughter Lin are portrayed as immortals, having lived for over two thousand years since the reign of the Dragon Emperor when a group of Yeti brought them to Shangri-La and allowed them to bathe in its waters to save their lives, but Zi has spent all that time grieving for the death of Lin's father, who was killed by the Emperor because he desired Zi Yuan for himself. At the conclusion of the film, Zi Lang sacrifices their immortality to summon an army of the Emperor's undead enemies to oppose his own army.
The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Death Wish" explored in depth the existence of the omnipotent, immortal and omniscient aliens Q. It is learned in that episode that the aliens were originally human-like, and somehow evolved into their current state long ago. With their new-found powers, the Q set out to fully explore, experience and understand the universe. Afterwards, the Q had nothing left to do or say, and now they simply sit out eternity in their realm. As one Q explained, you can only experience the universe so many times before it gets boring, with this Q- a former philosopher- now seeking to commit suicide as it is the only thing he hasn't done.
In the TV series Forever, Doctor Henry Morgan has been alive for over two hundred years since he worked as a doctor in the African slave trade and was shot when he refused to allow the ship's captain to kill a slave who may have been suffering from cholera. Since his first death, Henry has never aged, and possesses a strange form of immortality; whenever he is killed, his body vanishes and he reappears a few hours later in a nearby large body of water, completely naked and unharmed from whatever killed him (The only wound on his body is the gunshot that killed him the first time). While Henry has acquired a great deal of knowledge over the course of his life, he is often frustrated at his ignorance of life's meaning and his lack of understanding of how his own immortality works, forced to witness such losses as the disappearance of his wife in the 1980s- at which point she appeared old enough to be his mother- and the fact that his adopted son now appears to be older than him. As the series progresses, Henry is contacted by a man who introduces himself as 'Adam', who is aware of Henry's immortality and claims to share the same ability but be significantly older than Henry; Adam is just an alias as he has chosen due to his great age, claiming to be over two thousand years old as opposed to Henry's two centuries. Where Henry still cares about other people, Adam has come to regard death as just something that happens to other people, demonstrating a chilling ease at committing murder, and comments to Henry that he will lose his attachment to regular people when he approaches Adam's age, although Henry denies that he will ever be like Adam. The episode "Hitler on the Half Shell" reveals that Adam was subjected to brutal tests during the Second World War when he was captured by the Nazis and experimented on by Doctor Josef Mengele as they tried to harness his immortality, with the nature of Adam's immortality forcing the Nazis to keep him alive as they cut him open, leaving Adam with a certain sympathy for other holocaust survivors. During the series, Adam reveals a theory that they can die for good if they are killed once again with the weapons that killed them the first time- the flintlock for Henry and a dagger for Adam- but the series finale sees Henry being shot with the flintlock and coming back to life as per usual, suggesting that there is no way for them to die for good. At the conclusion of the series, having learned that Adam was responsible for the death of Henry's wife Abigail, Henry injects Adam with a syringe of air into his brain, triggering an aneurysm that will leave Adam paralysed but still alive and aware of his surroundings, his condition meaning that he could remain in such a state indefinitely so long as he is kept on life support.
In the children's novel, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, a family is made physically immortal by drinking water from a magical spring. They are trapped at the same age forever and are invulnerable. They are hated by the ordinary people who knew them and are forced to watch as everything they cherish grows old and dies.
In the film and television series Highlander, once one dies for the first time, if they are an Immortal, they will spend the rest of eternity at that physical age. This poses a problem when one dies as a small child, or as a very old man. The same is true of the Claudia character in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, who became a vampire while still only a child, and the Blade television series.
In the novel The Medusa Amulet by Robert Masello, famed artist Benvenuto Cellini is revealed to have created the Medusa Amulet- a hand-mirror with the image of the gorgon Medusa on its back- using water from the lake that surrounded the gorgons' island after visiting it in a vision. Due to this water's unique properties, when someone views their reflection and the reflection of the full moon in the mirror at the same time, they become immortal, never aging from that point onwards, but this immortality has more drawbacks than the obvious issues of seeing loved ones die. The most significant detail is that the immortality does not include enhanced healing (Although it will restore the user to the peak of health when they look into it, as shown when it restores a woman dying of cancer to full strength); Cellini is still crippled in the twenty-first century from injuries sustained to his legs in 1943 when he was attacked by Nazis seeking the amulet, and following the execution of Marie Antoinette, another 'beneficiary' of the amulet's power, Cellini was forced to dissolve her severed head in quicklime to spare her from the horror (Adolf Hitler is revealed to have also used the amulet, but he remained in hiding for years until he is decapitated by the protagonist and then killed when his mansion explodes). It is also suggested that immortality costs them certain talents, such as Cellini finding himself unable to continue working after he has faked his death as he no longer feels like his hands are capable of their old quality of work. At the conclusion of the novel, the amulet is destroyed, restoring all who have used its power to their full health, regardless of their existing state or the condition they were in before they looked in the mirror, but able to age once more.
In the Legacy of Kain series, vampirism was a curse placed upon an ancient race that won the war against the Hylden that granted bloodlust, sterility and immortality, the latter causing their God to abandon them.
In the movie Death Becomes Her, the characters of Madeline Ashton and Helen Sharp both become immortal and young after drinking a potion, but this form of immortality has significant drawbacks; most significantly, unlike most forms of immortality, which include rapid healing from injuries, Madeline and Helen simply stop aging from the moment they drink the potion- as well as reverting to the peak of their youth and beauty- and subsequently don't stop moving even after their bodies die. In other words, whoever drinks the potion becomes immortal, but can still be killed and the body rises up and essentially becomes a zombie, their bodies continuing to decay despite the fact that they are still fully conscious and self-aware, regardless of the injuries they sustain in the process; in the course of the film Madeline's neck is broken and a large hole is blown in Helen's stomach, with both of them shattering into pieces in the final scene of the film, and yet both continue walking and talking as though nothing had happened. At the conclusion of the film, it is shown that the two are now forced to stay together for all eternity in order to ensure that their bodies remain in at least partially decent condition, working to repair the cosmetic damage they suffer over the years, despite their own long-term enmity for each other.
In the Supernatural third season episode "Time is On My Side", Dean and Sam Winchester face Doctor Benton, a doctor who discovered the secret to eternal life in 1816. However, although his process keeps him alive, he must constantly replace his damaged and worn-out body parts to operate relatively comfortably; taking out his heart will only inconvenience him for a time, but his entire body has noticeable stitches all over from where he has taken organs from other people to add them to his own body. At the conclusion of the episode, the Winchesters bury him in a grave after tying him up so that he will be forced to endure an eternity buried alive.
In Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story- a sequel to the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk looking at Jack's descendants in the present-, Jack's mother is revealed to still be alive in the present; while her son and his descendants was cursed to die young for stealing from the benevolent giant, for actually cutting down the beanstalk and delivering the fatal blow, Jack's mother is condemned to live forever, watching her children die, until the stolen relics are returned to the giants and the curse is ended.
In the film Hocus Pocus, while three witches seek immortality by sucking the life essence of children, they also curse one of their enemies, a young man named Thackery Binx, to become an immortal black cat to punish him for trying to stop them draining his sister's life-force so that he will be condemned to live forever with the guilt of not saving her. As a result, Binx remains alive as a cat for over three hundred years, capable of surviving even such accidents as getting run over by a bus- the bus killing him only for him to revive a few moments later as his flattened body 're-inflates'- until the witches who cursed him are brought back to life by a curse they cast shortly before their executions. After Binx helps a trio of children stop the witches by delaying their efforts to feed and return to true life, their subsequent deaths when the sun rises before they can feed ensures that their curse is lifted, allowing Binx to pass on at last, the film ending with Binx's spirit being led into heaven by his sister's ghost.
In general, a theme seen with many variations, is the notion of an essential world weariness akin to extreme exhaustion for which death is the only relief. This is inescapable when immortality is defined as (half) infinite life. Immortality defined as finite but arbitrarily long per the desire to exist does not, as a definition, suffer this limitation. When a person is tired of life, even death is shut off to them, creating an endless torture, as evidenced in the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, where a character is trapped in an endlessly repeating time loop that causes him to live the same day over and over again even when he tries to kill himself before the end of the cycle.
Several characters/species in the Touhou series are immortal. There are four immortal beings: Eirin Yagokoro, Kaguya Horaisan, Fujiwara no Mokou and Chang'e (never appeared in game yet). They gained immortality by drinking Hourai Elixir, which made them nor living, nor dead. There is also a concept, that every creature die because of impurity of Earth. In distant past Tsukuyomi realized that fact and moved to the Moon, which is the pure land, with the closest people (what include Eirin). They didn't become immortals, because still could be killed, but thanks to living in the pure land, they age extremely slowly. According to some official works, it works not by regeneration, but by instant resurrection due to incapability of dying altogether due to being their own existence that knows no manipulation whatsoever. Other examples include people who become Celestials or Magicians, although they can still presumably be killed through serious injury.
In the Soul series, the character Zasalamel has shown to be immortal due to being able to reincarnate, thus making him immortal. But he is tired of life and he desires a peaceful death. His main goal in Soul Calibur III is to find Soul Edge and Soul Calibur to break the cycle. What happens if 'Tale Of Souls' is completed when playing as him depends on whether the QTE Scene is completed or not; if done correctly, the cycle is broken and he becomes mortal but if the command is not put in, he remains immortal. In his Soul Calibur IV ending, he is still immortal and lives in the modern era.
The undead are the fictional people who have died and still maintain some aspects of life. In many examples, the undead are immune to aging or even heal at an accelerated rate. Dracula is one of the most famous examples of the undead.
The vampires of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel TV series are immortal apart from the usual weaknesses of vampires—stakes, sunlight, decapitation and holy relics—but it is clearly established that the vampire is merely a demon inhabiting the corpse of the person who was killed to become a vampire, possessing the memories of their human selves but incapable of genuine emotional connections such as love or guilt. The only exception to this rule is Angel- and later Spike-, as both vampires were eventually cursed with their souls, restoring their human selves while leaving them to deal with the guilt of what their bodies did while they were soulless.
In the Batman & Dracula trilogy- part of DC Comics' Elseworlds line, where familiar heroes are put in new situations- Batman is transformed into a vampire in order to oppose Dracula. After his transformation, Batman initially holds on to his human values by using a blood substitute developed by other renegade vampires, his abstention from human blood rendering him immune to holy artefacts such as crucifixes and holy water, but his new thirst proves too great and he eventually succumbs in a confrontation with the Joker. Batman is able to request that he be staked to stop himself taking any more lives, but it is soon established that staking traps the vampire in a form of 'living death', where Batman is conscious but unable to move, driving him gradually insane as he thinks of his increased longing for blood (Decapitation would prevent him from coming back to life, but it is unspecified if this means that the vampire would actually die for good or just be trapped in this state). He is restored to life when Alfred Pennyworth removes the stake, but as he tears through his old rogues, draining their blood and cutting off their heads to prevent them returning as other vampires, Alfred and James Gordon grimly acknowledge that the Batman they knew is gone, as the true Batman would never kill. At the trilogy's conclusion, Batman walks into sunlight to end the monster that he has become, hoping that complete disintegration will end the threat he poses to what he once stood for and grant him the peace of true death.
The vampires of David Wellington's novel Thirteen Bullets and its sequels are virtually indestructible- they can only be killed if their hearts are destroyed, possessing skin that becomes harder when they feed and able to regenerate even lost limbs-, but serious injuries sustained before they are turned will remain, such as one vampire lacking an eye and another missing the fingers of his left hand where they were bitten off. Their most significant weakness is the fact that the vampires continue to decay even after being awakened to their vampiric state; young vampires must hunt to feed their elders, with a vampire three centuries old being so decrepit that she would require six gallons of blood per night simply to walk on her own.
In the film Daybreakers, where a virus turns most of the human population into vampires in the not-too-distant future, humans transformed into vampires cease to age and recover from any pre-existing illnesses- one character notes that he suffered from cancer before he became a vampire- but vampires deprived of human blood for more than a month will degenerate into feral monsters- this transformation being accelerated if they try to feed on other vampires or themselves- prompting research into a blood substitute to cope with the rapidly diminishing human population. Although the vampires are still essentially the same people they were when human when well-fed, their natural instincts cause most of the surviving humans to turn against them, until an underground human movement manages to find a cure for vampirism by exposing the vampire to the sun and subsequently putting the fire out before it can destroy them (Although the blood of an ex-vampire will have the same effect once this treatment is a success).
In the TV series iZombie, the first wave of zombies are created after they take a new drug, although this wave can then infect others with the zombie curse via more standard methods. Series protagonist Olivia 'Liv' Moore works in a morgue so that she has access to the human brains she must frequently consume to maintain her humanity and suppress her hunger; if a zombie goes without feeding for a certain amount of time, they become increasingly less intelligent, with this 'condition' becoming incurable if they remain unfed for too long, such as a friend of Liv's being trapped in an old mine for a couple of months after being infected. It is unclear if the zombies are essentially immortal, as it is possible to kill them with sufficient force and no specific reference has been made to their ability to age in this state.
The roleplaying games Vampire: The Requiem and Vampire: The Masquerade, published by White Wolf Publishing, Inc., has undeath be the form of immortality held by vampires wherein their bodies are absent of all life functions such as breathing and heartbeat. They have theoretically infinite lifespans (and can even survive unprotected in the vacuum of space and under the crushing depths of the ocean), but they can be killed by sunlight, burning, or decapitation. Though they are also forced to watch as everything they knew in life withers away and they are unable to adapt to the changing eras of history. Because they are fallible predators, their humanity also begins to deteriorate, and a few become mindless/insane monsters called Draugr (also known as a Wight in Vampire: The Masquerade) as a result of losing all concept of being human. Such ravening monsters are always hunted down by other vampires, to prevent humans from learning of the existence of vampires.
The character Raziel from Legacy of Kain is a wraith who is capable of passing between the spirit world and manifesting in the living/material realm. Due to his secondary remaking into a wraith, he is beyond the cycle of death and rebirth so therefore cannot be killed. Any significant damage done onto him in the living realm forces him to seep into the spirit world to heal and any fatal damage in the spirit world simply transports him back to the Elder God or an activated checkpoint.
In the films Re-Animator, and subsequently Bride of Re-Animator and Beyond Re-Animator, Dr Herbert West creates a serum that has the ability to re-animate dead tissue and stop its decay. In Re-Animator, re-animated corpses are shown to show some emotion and intelligence if they're fresh enough. However, the antagonist in the story lobotomizes re-animated decaying corpses to make them his slaves.
Freddy Krueger of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies is considered to be immortal, as well. Though he was killed as a human, he exists as a "dream demon", who needs only to be feared to be able to enter people's dreams and cause them harm. Even without this fear, he can exist, either in "limbo" or in Hell. Because of this immortality, he can never be permanently killed. He can only be contained by being forgotten about, and thus prevented from ever entering dreams again.
In the movies and television series Highlander along with its franchise, the main characters of Connor MacLeod, Duncan MacLeod, and Methos, with other characters, are immortals since they are immune to disease and stopped aging after they had their first death, they can live forever and they only can really die when they are beheaded.
In the novel Blood & Ice by Robert Masello, Robert Sinclair and Eleanor Ames- a soldier and nurse in the Crimean War respectively- are turned into vampires after Sinclair is fed on by an unidentified creature after the Charge of the Light Brigade (He returns to the hospital and turns Eleanor when she is dying of a fever). Analysis of their blood reveals that their white-to-red blood cell ratio is inverted and their bodies rapidly consume red blood cells, with a scientist analysing their blood noting that they basically appear to be cold-blooded creatures trying to become warm-blooded, but their ability to resist disease allows them to keep going indefinitely so long as they retain a fresh supply of blood; the two are even frozen under the South Pole for over a century and a half and return to life once the ice around them has melted, although injuries simply heal over with something like skin rather than true flesh. At the conclusion of the novel, a form of cure is found when blood samples taken from cold-water fish with a natural antifreeze in their system allows Sinclair and Eleanor to be cured of their desire for blood as the new antibodies stabilise their condition, but they will now require external heat to sustain themselves and contact with ice would cause them to shatter, with Sinclair being killed by a few drops of snow on his face.
In the anime series One Piece, Brook consumed a cursed fruit before his death. One year after dying in battle Brook was reanimated by the curse, although only his bones and hair remained. Despite his apparent lack of internal organs Brook can speak, eat, drink, feel pain and carry out bodily functions such as burping and passing gas. These incongruous bodily functions and Brook's love of skeleton puns are a significant source of humor for the series. It is not yet known if Brook can recover from being killed a second time, though he states during the arc of his first appearance that he may have to be without his shadow until the end of his second life.
In the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Captain Barbossa and his crew have become undead after taking cursed gold coins out of an ancient chest cursed by Aztec gods. They look like humans during the day, but standing in the moonlight reveals their true nature: undead skeletons. While they still retain some of their human features like hair and in Captain Barbosa's case his nose, this form of immortality is a curse rather than a blessing since they can't die but also cannot feel life's pleasures or even pain. The film's sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, introduces the crew of Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman, who are essentially undead; Jones's duty is to collect the souls of those who die at sea, but over the centuries he has corrupted his purpose, cutting out his own heart after he is betrayed and abandoned by his lover and recruiting some of the souls he collects into his crew in exchange for their lives.
Immortality can be achieved in fiction through scientifically plausible means. Extraterrestrial life might be immortal or it might be able to give immortality to humans. Immortality is also achieved in many examples by replacing the mortal human body by machines.
Several episodes of The Twilight Zone turn on the problem of immortality, including "Long Live Walter Jameson" (1960) and "Queen of the Nile" (1964), as does "Requiem for Methuselah", a Star Trek episode.
In Doctor Who mythology, the Cybermen are basically human brains placed into mechanical bodies, with every emotion drained out. This process was supposed to allow the Human race to reach its pinnacle. The unforeseen downturn is that with immortality reached, there is no motivator for the Human Race to actually strive for anything more. In another Doctor Who storyline, The Caves of Androzani, a fictitious substance named spectrox, found exclusively on the titular planet, is revealed to be able to prolong human life to more than double its natural length, and as such is the most valuable substance in the galaxy - ironically, the lives of all those involved with it in the story are grim and difficult, due to corporate monopolizing of its distribution, and the resultant infighting over its control, extortionate costs and the theft and smuggling of the substance from its mines.
Another example of immortality in Doctor Who is found in the character Jack Harkness, a companion to the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, who was unintentionally transformed into a 'fact' of the timeline when fellow companion Rose Tyler temporarily acquired omnipotent power and brought him back to life after he was killed by the Daleks; unused to the power, Rose didn't just bring him back to life, she 'brought [him] back forever'. Although he ages at a very slight rate - having grown only the occasional grey hair despite having been alive for over two millennia since he was resurrected - Harkness is capable of recovering from any potentially fatal injuries within moments, although some forms of death take him longer to recover from than others; a bullet to the head only put him down for a few seconds, but he required at least a few minutes to come back after being thrown from the roof of a tall building, while it took him the better part of a day to recuperate after he was killed via a bomb in his stomach (Although the fact that he was able to regenerate his entire body when reduced to only an arm, a shoulder and part of his head should not be overlooked).
In the Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood, Jack's colleague Owen Harper acquired a similar kind of immortality when he was brought back to life after being shot. Owen becomes technically dead, and thus incapable of eating, drinking, sleeping, having sex, and healing injuries. However, for all practical purposes, he cannot be killed, apparently lacking the need to breathe and displaying a general immunity to pain, as demonstrated by his not noticing when he cuts his left hand. Owen compares his new state to Jack by saying that, while Jack will 'live forever', he is destined to 'die forever'.
Torchwood's fourth series, Torchwood: Miracle Day, explored what would happen if the whole world became immortal, when an attempt by a mysterious group of three families to gain power resulted in all human life on Earth losing the ability to die (Although the formerly immortal Jack Harkness became mortal at the same time). However, while they cannot die, they can still get sick and injured and their ability to heal has not been affected, with the result that a suicide bomber's body is left totally pulverized even while he appears to retain some form of consciousness, team member Rex Matheson has to deal with constant pain from the wound in his chest where he was impaled by a rebar in a driving accident, and a woman retains consciousness even after her car is crushed in a car compacter with her still inside it. This is eventually undone and Jack's immortality restored, with all patients classified as 'Category One' under the new medical rules- being fatally injured to the point where the Miracle was the only reason they hadn't died yet- being given a brief moment of clarity and peace before they died.
Doctor Weil from Mega Man Zero had his memories transferred into program data and his body remodeled into that of a cyborg's as punishment for sparking the Elf Wars, using the Dark Elf to attack Reploids and humanity alike. He was then banished from nature and humanity, which eventually drove him insane.
In the TV series Stargate SG-1, the primary antagonists for the first eight years, the Goa'uld achieve a measure of immortality. The Goa'uld symbiote can naturally extend the life-span of its human hosts upward of 200 years. By coupling its own natural healing abilities with advanced technology, a Goa'uld can keep itself and its host alive almost indefinitely. However, during the later seasons of the show it is noted that the Goa'uld, even when using life-prolonging technology, change hosts after a number of millennia. Additionally, Lord Yu, one of the oldest Goa'uld, started experiencing similar symptoms to old age (such as memory loss) as his host had become too old to be regenerated by the technology, and the symbionte itself was now physically unable to take a new host due to old age. The Goa'uld do experience a different measure of immortality as they possess genetic memory, so any direct descendants will have all the memories of their predecessor. This is passed on down the generations of the Goa'uld, so one could say a part of the Goa'uld lives on forever.
In the spinoff to SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, the main villains, the Wraith, who drain the life force of human beings to survive, can't die of natural causes, and are difficult to kill by force (their toughness depends on the time of the last feasting). In the episode "The Defiant One", a Wraith remained alive for over 10,000 years by cannibalizing other Wraith when its original food source (captured humans) was depleted.
Both series feature "ascended beings," such as the Ancients, who have learned to shed their physical body and exist as energy, making them immortal. Another species in the series, the Asgard, have mastered a form of immortality, by transferring their minds into cloned bodies when their original form sustains serious injury, but by the time they encounter Earth they have begun to die due to their genetic structure breaking down as a result of being cloned so often, the race committing mass suicide at the conclusion of SG-1 to spare themselves the pain of the death that now awaits them after recognising that they cannot save themselves.
Perry Rhodan is the world's most prolific literary science fiction (SF) series, published since 1961 in Germany. In the storyline Perry Rhodan is the commander of the first mission to the moon, where they come upon a stranded vessel of an alien race in search of eternal youth. Perry Rhodan uses the superior technology to unite the earth and then continues the search for eternal youth. Ultimately he follows the hints laid out by a higher being called ES ("it" in German) that exists in an incorporeal state. This being chooses Perry Rhodan and a select few of his companions to attain Agelessness in order for them to pursue goals set by ES. ES says "I grant you everlasting life, not rejuvenation." Over the course of the series, there is a side-plot, which focuses on the downsides of immortality: It is hard to engage in relationships, when your partner ages and dies off. Similar problems occur with children.
In the Hyperion Cantos Universe, the TechnoCore, a group of sentient artificial intelligences which parasitized humanity, created a parasite called the cruciform. It was first tested in the planet Hyperion, and it is able to regenerate a human body along with personality and memories after death. The cruciforms are a flawed success as there is a loss of intelligence and genetic decay after each resurrection, rendering asexuated humans with little intelligence. However, when the TechnoCore offers it to the Catholic Church in a secret alliance to be able to keep with the need of parasitism over humanity, any error in personality and memories in the resurrection creche fixed through a process that only some priests in the Catholic Church know. This effectively brings perfect immortality to any human who abides to follow the laws of the Catholic Church. Even in the case of a disastrous death, the smallest cruciform remnant is enough to recreate the whole human body again, given the right conditions. However, the main characters in the story debate about the ethics and benefits of immortality, reaching to the conclusion that it stalls the evolution of humankind and it's severely counterproductive to any long-term expectations. Before the arrival of the cruciform and the TechnoCore alliance with the Catholic Church, wealthy humans were able to also achieve significant increase of their life expectancy thanks to several treatments, although the best results came with the expensive Poulsen treatments. One of the very few characters to span all the story, Martin Silenus, artificially expands his life expectancy thanks to these, and also to cryogenic fuges where he only is conscious for a few days each century, making him reach an age over 1,000 years.
In Daniel O'Malley's novel The Rook, one character in the novel is known as Gestalt, due to the character having been born as one mind in four bodies simultaneously (Three male and one female). During the course of the novel, the protagonist learns that two of Gestalt's bodies have conceived a child with each other which served as a fifth extension of Gestalt, giving Gestalt the potential to be immortal- albeit through an incestuous relationship with themselves- so long as they continue to have children who share their exact genetics, but the protagonist kills the only female Gestalt in a confrontation, thus ensuring that Gestalt will one day die. The series also introduces the Grafters, former alchemists who have learned how to manipulate flesh to give them incredible regenerative abilities, to the point that some of their members have lived for over three centuries (Albeit developing some mental flaws over time, such as one Grafter recently developing a habit of biting off his rapidly regenerating toes). Towards the end of the novel, one Grafter agent managed to smuggle himself into a building by cutting out his own heart and mailing it to the building, knowing that his heart would grow a new body for him over time thanks to prior treatments. The sequel, Stiletto, reveals that rogue Grafters managed to salvage Gestalt's female corpse and create new bodies based on recovering eggs from the dead Gestalt and sperm samples from those in prison, but also reveals that the Grafters' cloning abilities are limited, as they cannot copy knowledge and accelerating the clones' aging gives them a limited lifespan, although the transference of knowledge to a fully-grown clone is still possible so long as it is genetically stable.
Poul Anderson's The Boat of a Million Years concerns several otherwise ordinary people who stop aging at maturity. The book follows their struggles through the millennia, through the late 20th century and beyond.
In the novel Ender's Shadow a genetic modification known as Anton's Key is discovered, allowing the human mind to achieve supreme intelligence at the cost of an extremely short life, and it is said that the reverse can be done, making a person immortal at the cost of nearly all intelligence.
In Tad Williams' Otherland novels, the Grail Brotherhood, a group made up of the most affluent people in the world, attempt to achieve eternal life in virtual reality. They try to copy their neural pathways into virtual replicas with all of their memories, then kill their physical forms. The process fails due to complications involving the system's artificial intelligence.
In the film Jupiter Ascending, Earth is one of many planets seeding by an advanced human civilization to be used as fuel to produce a 'youth serum' that restores all who can afford it to the peak of their lives; one character is specifically identified as being fourteen thousand and four years old, and another character is stated to have been over ninety-one thousand years old before she was murdered (Cloning was used in the past as an alternative before it was discovered that clones lacked the genetic versatility of the current method). The film's antagonist, Balem, claims that he killed his mother because she had come to hate her life, but given his mental state his reliability as a witness is questionable. Film protagonist Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is the 'reincarnation' of Balem's deceased mother as she possesses exactly the same genetic sequence, making her the physical double, with secondary antagonist Titus noting that she possesses similar facial quirks to his mother, such as a habit of raising her eyebrows in a certain way when lying; there is no hint at any spiritual elements to her new appearance, aside from genes being stated as having a spiritual quality in this culture, but her genes still mean that she is regarded as royalty by other characters.
In the LucasArts adventure game The Dig, the remains of an alien civilisation advanced enough to gain first physical and then spiritual immortality are explored and analysed. It eventually turns out that the obsession with living forever ultimately brought about their downfall; they lived forever, but lost "everything that made life worth living".
In the Warhammer 40,000 fictional universe, set thousands of years in the future and across the galaxy, there are many examples of immortality and life extension. One of the central concepts is a place called the Warp or the Immaterium, because it is a purely spiritual place that is dominated by thought and lacking the material nature of the real world. In the game it allows travel faster than light, but it is also a place where a mind can continue to exist after death. Alien races and gifted humans are even described as being able to return to life after death by manipulating the warp, especially the humans called Psykers and an alien the race called the Eldar. The Emperor of Mankind is immortal. The Necron race are virtually immortal, their souls placed in machines that can be revived from any damage. And the C'tan, beings of pure energy living in artificial bodies, are immortal and can only be fully destroyed by another C'tan or by a Warp-based attack, such as a Talisman of Vaul. Some Chaos space marine characters can live a very very long time due to the time dilating abilities of the warp, coupled with advanced technology and magic from the chaos gods. The genetic modification to make a space marine by itself gives long life. Some sources say a space marine is practically immortal outside of death in battle. Many prominent or wealthy human characters have used technology like cyborgization and so called "juvenat" treatments to extend the normal lifespan. There are examples in warhammer 40k fiction of what looks like senility in extremely old characters such as high level adeptus mechanicus characters, space marine dreadnaughts and high level government officials.
In the Richard K. Morgan novel Altered Carbon their consciousness rotated into a new clone when they die. Certain wealthy called "Meths" (short for Methuselah) can afford to have their consciousness rotated through a series of perpetual rejuvenated clones, thus avoiding old age. It is wryly noted however, that most people don't have the stomach to experience old age and death more than twice, and opt to be "put on stack" (stored) except for special family occasions.
Most of the novels by Alastair Reynolds feature immortal characters of some form or another, usually made possible by advanced medical technology and periodic regeneration of one's body. One of the issues discussed in these novels, particular Chasm City, is the manner in which characters deal with their immortality and the boredom it inevitably generates. The Conjoiners, the most advanced faction, are able to modify their brains to the extent that they simply do not experience boredom at all. Unaugmented humans typically suffer intense boredom and attempt to reduce this by taking part in increasingly dangerous and exciting activities.
Relativistic interstellar travel granting virtual immortality is used as a plot device in Orson Scott Card's series of novels involving Andrew (Ender) Wiggin. Gravitic devices such as the stasis field are used in the Known Space universe created by Larry Niven. This kind of immortality is, however, illusionary. The "slowing" effects of time dilation also extend to all functions of the brain; thus, while to an outside observer the traveler's life would seem greatly extended, the slowed individual would not actually experience his life as any longer than before and would age at the regular speed, relative to his own time frame.
Unstuck in Time - The idea, postulated primarily in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, that one can become unstuck in time, and spend (at least theoretically) eternity in various points of their life. While this person would still die and cease to be, their life would not, in essence, end, as they would eternally wander about their life. In the particular example of Slaughterhouse Five, the main character, Billy Pilgrim, meanders about his existence, reliving war experiences, an alien abduction, and his eventual assassination. Whether this would qualify as immortality is debatable.
In Misfits, a flash storm gives several teenagers currently doing community service superpowers. One character, Nathan, seems to have no power until the last episode, when he becomes immortal after falling onto a spiked metal fence. He wakes up in his coffin, pleased to have found his power, though disappointed to be buried alive with nothing but his iPod. As the series progresses, Nathan learns that his power also allows him to see the spirits of those who have passed on - although this apparently only applies when dealing with people he knows or has some connection with, as the only 'ghosts' he has seen are those of his half-brother, a new member of the community service group, and his friend Kelly - and his power allows him to even survive being shot in the head. However, he cannot heal from less fatal injuries, with Nathan being 'killed' in an alternate timeline when another superhuman with control of dairy products 'strangled' Nathan's brain with cheese from a recently-eaten pizza, causing serious brain damage without actually killing him.
In Alias, the character of Arvin Sloane, fixated on the work of brilliant Renaissance inventor Milo Rambaldi, discovers Rambaldi's last great secret in the series finale when he falls into a special fluid and becomes immortal, only to be subsequently trapped in a secret tomb under several hundred feet of rock when his former ally Jack Bristow sacrifices himself by setting off a series of explosives, killing himself and trapping Sloane.
In the Instrumentality of Mankind universe by Cordwainer Smith, there's a drug which allows to delay aging indefinitely in humans, called stroon or Santaclara drug. However, the Instrumentality is very aware of the dangers of immortality, so every human being can only take stroon up to a life of 400 years. Although there are exceptions, for example if a person is thought to be valuable for humankind, no one is allowed to live longer than 1,000 years. Thus, although humankind could achieve immortality, they avoid it consciously.
In The Electric Church by Jeff Somers, the Electric Church is a religious organization founded by Dennis Squalor, a scientist and religious figure who believed that salvation was only attainable through living forever. The members of the church are "monks", human brains in robotic bodies, who are forced to "convert" civilians by killing them and taking their bodies to be processed. The assassination of Squalor leads to the collapse of the church, which results in the deaths of most monks, the rest of which eventually die due to malfunctioning circuitry or brain tumors.
There are many examples of immortality in fiction where a character is vulnerable to death and injury in the normal way but possesses an extraordinary capacity for recovery.
The British long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who focuses on a character called the Doctor, a member of the alien Time Lord race, who can "regenerate" instead of dying or aging; however, rather than simply healing wounds, this results in his entire physical appearance changing when he is fatally wounded or terminally sick, and he is only capable of doing so twelve times before finally dying for good. The Tenth Doctor was able to 'cheat' the process by channeling the energy of his regeneration into his 'spare hand'- the hand having been cut off shortly after regeneration but his body was able to grow a new one using the remaining regenerative energy- after it had healed the injury that would have killed him in "Journey's End", thus preventing his body from changing his appearance while remaining healthy. The Doctor reveals in The End of Time that it is possible for him to die, if he is killed before the regeneration process can take place. Presumably this is what happened with the Second Doctor's temporary Time Lady companion Serena, who was killed when a musket ball passed through both her hearts. In general, regeneration has saved the Doctor many times. Even without regeneration it has been revealed that the Doctor is very long-lived, his first incarnation apparently living for around four hundred and fifty years before dying of old age (The Tenth Planet; age was mentioned in The Evil of the Daleks) and the Sixth Doctor apparently surviving for fifty-three years with no signs of physical aging during that time (Said to be 900 in Revelation of the Daleks; the Seventh Doctor stated his age as being 953 immediately after his regeneration in Time and the Rani); the Eighth Doctor Adventures published by the BBC featured the amnesiac Eighth Doctor living on Earth for over a century (The Burning to Escape Velocity) while waiting for his TARDIS time-space machine to repair itself, and never aging a day during that time period. When confronted with the question as to why he leaves behind his companions after a time, the Tenth Doctor explained sadly that if he kept all his old friends around, he would be forced to watch them age and eventually die, while he himself would live on due to his greater lifespan, regarding this as "the curse of the Time Lords". In "The Time of the Doctor", the Eleventh Doctor revealed that he had exhausted all twelve of his regenerations- due to the Tenth Doctor's partial regeneration and a 'secret' incarnation of himself referred to by fans as the 'War Doctor'- but the story concludes with the Time Lords sending the Doctor the energy needed to begin a new regeneration cycle, restoring his ability to regenerate as he transforms into the Twelfth Doctor.
In the Doctor Who story The Five Doctors, Lord President Borusa of Gallifrey uses the first five regenerations of the Doctor and various companions in a plot to gain the immortality of Rassilon, the founder of Time Lord society, for himself. But it turns out to be a trap conceived of by Rassilon to deal with individuals with such a desire, Borusa being trapped for eternity as a living statue in Rassilon's tomb. As the First Doctor says in the end, "Immortality is a curse, not a blessing".
On the TV show South Park, the character Kenny McCormick was killed in nearly every earlier episode, but always came back to life in the next episode without any apparent explanation (Although characters were apparently aware of his regular deaths, such as Eric Cartman once saying that Kenny 'died all the time' or Kenny himself once complaining that his friends never cared when he died). A common phrase on the show was, "Oh my God! They killed Kenny! You bastards!" This was later implied- although not explicitly stated- to be the result of Kenny's parents joining a Cthulhu-worshipping cult before his birth, and explains that Kenny wakes up in his bed each morning after his 'death' with his friends not actually retaining any specific memories about his demise.
X-Men's Wolverine is a character with keen animal-like senses, and whose mutant healing abilities made it possible for a specialized fictional alloy called adamantium to be grafted to his entire skeleton without the subsequent metal poisoning killing him almost instantly, with the addition of two sets of three razor-sharp claws that extend from each hand (Although later stories revealed that the claws were a part of his natural mutation, the process simply making them metal rather than the bone they would have been normally). Each time he projects the claws, they cut through the skin of his knuckles, but the slick design prevents any bleeding from occurring. The cuts the blades create instantly heal once they're retracted. Wolverine's healing abilities also slow down his physical aging, allowing him to live beyond the average human lifespan, having been born in the late 19th century. The character's healing powers have been greatly increased since his initial creation in the mid 1970s by various comic book writers. Early in his existence, Wolverine's healing powers, often referred to as his mutant healing factor, was merely displayed as an accelerated healing of common injuries. Eventually, writers would increase the power to the point where injuries like bullet wounds would heal within a few hours. Over the past few decades, the character has been portrayed as healing even the most severe injuries within a matter of minutes or seconds. Among the most extreme examples have been surviving and fully healing after being near ground zero for a nuclear explosion and fully regenerating all of his soft body tissues after having them incinterated from his skeleton within minutes. This is later explained as part of a plotline in which Wolverine encounters the Angel of Death during World War I and defeats him in battle. Initially referring to himself as Lazaer, it is eventually revealed that he is actually Azrael. Thus, whenever Wolverine suffers a life-threatening injury, his spirit travels to limbo to engage Azrael in battle. If victorious, his spirit returns to his fully healed body. Although Azrael would later release Wolverine from their arrangement and hinted that his healing factor might not be as strong, subsequent writers have continued to portray his healing powers at similarly high levels.
In the manga Naruto, Tsunade, known as the greatest Medical Specialist, has developed a jutsu known as Creation Rebirth which allows her to not just heal damaged organs, but also speed up the mitotic process and regenerate any damaged organs instantly, making her virtually immortal for the entire duration of the jutsu. Tsunade also created the Strength of A Hundred Technique, an extension of the Creation Rebirth, allowing her to heal any inflicted injury, such as being stabbed in the abdomen by a giant sword and a powerful point blank attack, in mere seconds without any conscious thought.
In the Gerry Anderson 1960s television series, Captain Scarlet was supposedly indestructible. In that series a Martian race known as the Mysterons have the ability to duplicate things which have been destroyed as they were when they were whole, including producing a living version of a dead person. Captain Scarlet is an agent of that race that has defected to fight against them but retains the ability to create a living version of himself after dying. The series uses the term retro-metabolism for this alien regeneration technique.
Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th movies is considered to be immortal. It is theorized that each time he is "killed" he is actually just put into a type of sleep while he regenerates enough of his lost and damaged tissue to function normally again. Jason has been killed - taking a large blade to the head - but means outside his physical influence- a lightning-bolt struck a metal pole that had been rammed into his chest- led to his resurrection. When he was first killed, he survived permanent death via his father's wish that he would not be cremated, before his own murderer incidentally brought him back while trying to destroy his corpse, leading to a more unstoppable Jason. Jason even survives being blown up, by possessing other people and eventually being reborn through a dead relative. He also survives being blown apart in Jason X, despite having his right leg, left arm, and a significant portion of his head shot off, although in this instance he is reconstructed as a cyborg through nanotechnology, suggesting that he will die if he sustains enough damage.
In the popular Japanese novel, Kōga Ninpōchō, the character Yakushiji Tenzen is considered immortal due to his ability to regenerate all damage done to him. How this regeneration is possible is differently explained in all of the different versions of the story.
In the TV series Heroes, the character of Claire Bennett- along with her uncle, Peter Petrelli, who has the ability to mimic the powers of others- has the power of spontaneous regeneration, resulting in her body tissue simply regenerating when she's injured. The one exception is that injuries to the brain will not regenerate immediately, but will instead induce an apparent-dead state. This is reversed after foreign objects are removed from the brain or spine. Adam Monroe, a character with similar powers, is also over 400 years old as a result of his ability, his cells dying and regenerating so rapidly his aging has been suspended. In the first episode of the third season, Sylar, the main villain in the show, acquires Claire's ability, but leaves Claire alive, stating that he is unable to kill Claire even if he wanted to, implying that she is truly immortal, although the producers have stated that such methods of death as decapitation would kill her. It is unclear whether Adam was equally unkillable (although he tells Peter that there is "no coming back" from having one's "brains blown out"); although he died when Arthur Petrelli stole his powers, his death was the result of him rapidly aging after his powers were taken to 'compensate' for the years that he hadn't aged, rather than a more conventional means of death.
In the television series Battlestar Galactica, humanoid and raider Cylon models download into new bodies if their current incarnation is destroyed. Their memories and consciousness are fully transferred to the appropriate model, be it one of 12 humanoid versions or into a new raider. However, this method is later used against the Cylons when the humans manage to destroy a Cylon Resurrection Ship - a ship which carries the bodies for the Cylons to resurrect in - thus forcing the Cylons to withdraw their attacks on the human fleet due to their fear of permanent death. During Season Four, the Cylon resurrection Hub is destroyed, permanently ending the Cylon ability to resurrect, a group of renegade Cylons having concluded that life can only have meaning when it can end and thus determined to give their lives meaning by cutting them short and rendering them able to die once more.
In the game-series "Metal Gear Solid", created by Hideo Kojima, the villain Vamp reappears after being shot in the head and other normally life-threatening events. He is using so called nano-machines, developed by Naomi Hunter, to reconstruct his body. Normal soldiers use them too, but his use is way beyond the average, creating the myth to be immortal. In the 4th part of the series he finally dies due to a syringe that disabled the nanomachines invented and created by Naomi Hunter herself.
In the anime Dragon Ball Z Piccolo can regenerate as can the movie villain Lord Slug as they are both from the Namakian race of aliens who can regenerate limbs. One of the major supervillains in the series Cell can regenerate because he has the cells of Piccolo.
There are numerous works of fantasy fiction dealing with spiritual immortality in the form of reincarnation or a world of the dead. The novel What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson and the Tim Burton film Beetlejuice have heroes who are forced to explore such worlds after their untimely deaths.
In the book Thursday's fictions by Richard James Allen, the character Thursday tries to cheat the cycle of reincarnation to achieve a form of serial immortality - by rediscovering who she is each time she comes back to life in a different body. Her actions create havoc for herself and all the characters in the story and when her son is offered eternal life at the end of the tale he turns it down in favor of living in the moment.
In the roleplaying game Wraith: The Oblivion, published by White Wolf Publishing, Inc., the afterlife is place known as the Underworld, where certain people who die enter as ghosts, emotionally bound to their former lives. Many are unhappy with their eternal existences and either become insane Spectres or ossify into statues. Originally, the Underworld was a place where the dead stayed until they reached transcendence, but the notion was later considered heretical by the Hierarchy.
In the game Soul Calibur III the final boss of the game Zasalamel (ultimate form “Abyss”) was a member of an ancient Egyptian tribe that guarded the mythical Soul Calibur. Being a genius among his tribe he mastered the forbidden art of reincarnation, so every time he would die he would be reincarnated. But every time he died began a fury of unimaginable and incomprehensible pain of his body and his soul until he was completely born again. After thousands upon thousands of years of being subjected to this pain he simply wanted to die. In a way he was actually forced to hate death through Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning. Knowing that there he had gained so much power that he becomes even more powerful than the sword known as Soul Calibur and its evil counterpart Soul Edge, he formed a master plan that would lead to his death. Thus he gave the evil sword, Soul Edge, a body so that it could feast upon human souls until it was powerful enough to merge with Soul Calibur to break his curse.
In Star Wars, Jedi are shown to have mastered a form of immortality by passing into the Force upon their deaths, becoming Force 'ghosts' who can communicate with the living. It has been stated by Qui-Gon Jinn that this ability can only be achieved through compassion and the release of one's self; although Sith have achieved a similar state, this commonly features them being bound to a specific object, eventually driven insane from the loneliness and rage as they wait for a chance to return to life.
The Eternals of Marvel comics fame are a race of ancient people created by the Celestials, along with the Eternals and Deviants. The Eternals were created by the Celestials to live forever in order to protect earth. Other Marvel characters that are virtually immortal include Apocalypse, Galactus, Uatu and the rest of his Watcher race, Mr. Immortal, and the Elders of the Universe.
DC Comics also has its fair share of immortals, such as the more advanced New Gods (e.g. Darkseid, Highfather, Orion (comics)), Vandal Savage, Lobo, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Amazonians, and the Guardians of the Universe. In some Superman versions, he can be essentially immortal through Biological Immortality. Also, long-time Batman villain Ra's al Ghul uses the Lazarus Pit to keep himself immortal.
In the Indian comic book series Chacha Chaudhary, the character Raaka drank a medicine made by Chakram Acharya, and became immortal.
Nero, the protagonist of the Belgian comics series The Adventures of Nero gained immortality up to four times in four different ways. In "De Bronnen van Sing Song Li" ("The Sources of Sing Song Li") (1951) he drinks an elixir which gives him eternal life. In "De Wallabieten" (1968) he drinks a pill which makes people 1.000-year-old and in "De Nerobloemen" ("The Nero Flowers") (1978) he drinks another elixir that gives him eternal life. A wizard in "Zongo in de Kongo" ("Zongo in the Kongo") (1970) gives him immortality as well.
Anime and manga
In the Dragon Ball series, many antagonists seek the Dragon Balls to gain immortality including Vegeta, Nappa, and Frieza in Dragon Ball Z. Garlic Jr. achieves this feat in the film Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone.
In the anime/manga Naruto, five characters have shown the ability to find some way to increase longevity or become immortal, Sasori, Hidan, Kakuzu, Madara Uchiha and Orochimaru. Kakuzu is partially immortal because of his unique ability to add new organs (specifically hearts) to his body in order to increase his already long life though he doesn't view this ability as immortality. Orochimaru invented a jutsu through forbidden research which allows him to switch bodies with another person, allowing him to become partially immortal. Sasori turned his own body into a puppet and sealed his humanity in a small flesh and blood core, free from the human essentials forever. In contrast to Sasori, Orochimaru and Kakuzu, who had to find a special technique in order to increase their longevity, Hidan has the ability to never get injured by anything. Even the most grievous wounds could not kill him, and even decapitating him is more a nuisance than anything else. Sasori and Kakuzu are now dead while Hidan is presumed to have died. Madara is considered immortal due to his seemingly endless chakra (physical/spiritual energy) supply. Tsunade has such powerful regeneration techniques that makes her practically immortal in battle.
Immortal Rain is a manga by Kaori Ozaki. The main character, Rain Jewlitt ( nicknamed Methuselah,) was cursed by his friend Yuca with immortality. He is a kind, gentle man who loves people, and 600 years of painful memories can be too much. He can't stand watching the people around him die and attempts to separate himself from human connections. But when a young bounty hunter follows him, she saves him from his loneliness, and he saves her from hers. Though it's not really mentioned, the tragedy is that the young girl, Machika, will become an old woman and die in the blink of an eye (or she'll be killed young); he will be alone again, with the memory of her death haunting him forever. That is, unless he can become a human mortal again. Though the world is jealous of Methuselah's immortality, he suffers from it and wants nothing more than to die.
In the anime film Toaru Majutsu no Index: Endyumion no Kiseki, Ladylee, the main antagonist, is immortal, and became so when she was just a child in the Middle Ages. She becomes a ruthless and uncaring little girl who is unable to die to anything, not to the vacuum of space, nor being crushed, or being shot. Her desire to die affects many people, and creates the plot of the film.
In Baccano, characters become immortal after drinking an elixir of immortality provided by a demon. If an immortal becomes tired of living forever and wants to die, another immortal can consume them by "eating" them through their right hand, gaining their memories and knowledge.
In the anime Bleach, several of the series' races are very long-lived in some fashion, though not explicitly immortal. A race of humans called bounts are effectively immortal so long as they can find human souls to devour. They are born like any ordinary human, but when they are around 20–30 years old, they stop aging. Hollows are likewise very long-lived, and subsist of the same methods as the bount. Deceased human spirits, be they shinigami or simply ordinary souls, age at an extremely slowed rate, such that those well over 2000 years old will appear at most to be in their eighties. During the Arrancar Arc, the antagonist Szayel Aporro Granz attains immortality using his abilities of "impregnating" a victim with his DNA, then using their body as sustenance to recreate himself. The process could theoretically be repeated forever. Later in the series the main antagonist Sosuke Aizen obtains true immortality, but in the process he loses most of his power and is imprisoned for his crimes.
Naraku, the main antagonist of Inuyasha, became partially immortal when he rejected his human heart. He could not be killed unless his heart, which took the form of an infant called Akago, was destroyed. A good example of this is when Sesshomaru shreds Naraku to pieces (and yet he still survives) when they are fighting in the Netherworld, after Inuyasha destroys Naraku's barrier with Kongosoha (Diamond Shard Blast).
In Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Dio Brando, the main antagonist of part 1 and 3 of the series becomes immortal after using the power of a stone mask to become a vampire.
In Fullmetal Alchemist, immortality is partially achieved through the use of a Philosopher's Stone. By using energy stored in the stone (harvested from the lives of thousands of slain innocents), human souls can essentially leap from body to body (or, in some cases, inanimate objects), thus living on. However, doing so slowly destroys the soul until it can no longer support a new flesh-and-blood body, which quickly begins to rot as soon as it is taken over. Also, the main antagonists of the series, a set of homonculi, attain partial immortality. They are able to regenerate from otherwise deadly wounds multitudinous times before finally succumbing.
In Hellsing, the Vampire Alucard (Dracula) has lived for 500 years. he hasn't died, but has been beaten twice. the first time was when he was killed as a human after a battle against the Ottoman Empire(he became a vampire by drinking the blood of his soldiers) the second time was when he was beaten by Abraham Van Hellsing.
In Code Geass, characters with the 'Code' have eternal longevity and immortality, and can grant the power of Geass to others. Once the Geass is fully developed, the Geass user can be granted the 'Code', the person who gave them the Geass has the choice to die after granting a person his or her 'Code.' Two characters with the 'Code', C.C. and V.V, are shown to have eternal youth and immortality. C.C. is immortal, neither suffering from age nor capable of being killed by conventional means. She has retained her prime physical form from the time she received the power of the 'Code', presumably sometime during the Middle Ages. She has also been shot fatally a number of times, been crushed by water pressure, burned at the stake, subjected to the guillotine, and placed in an iron maiden, all of which she recovered from. V.V. has also displayed the same longevity and immortality C.C. has, being able to remain 10 while his twin brother, Charles zi Britannia is 63. Charles has also forcefully taken away the 'Code' from his brother at one point in the series, gaining his immortality while V.V. died from fatal injuries. At the end of the series, C.C. became the last Immortal still having the Code after Lelouch erased his father, Charles from existence after turning the collective consciousness of humans on him. It is also speculated by fans that Lelouch forcefully took the 'Code' from his father at that point, having fulfilled all the requirements to possess it, and was activated after Lelouch died at the end of series, possibly making him an immortal, although the producers have confirmed his death.
In the Slayers series, there have been a number of characters who appear to be immortal. In Slayers Next, it is revealed that a human who makes the Pledge with the Mazaku (Monster) race can gain immortality. A villain named Halcyform was able to achieve this by pledging with another villain named Seigram, who was indeed, a Mazaku.
The Mermaid Saga is based on a Japanese myth, according to which mermaid flesh may grant immortality to those who eat it. The immortal main character wanders the earth searching for a cure for his condition and meets others with the same fate along the way.
Many methods of immortality are sought by Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, including Horcruxes, unicorn blood, the deathly hallows, and the Philosopher's Stone. Albus Dumbledore, the mentor of Harry Potter, considers natural death to be a "great adventure," and immortality is associated with evil.
The Immortals of Highlander: The Series possess immortality granted by an unknown energy (called the Quickening), which is triggered by the trauma of a violent death. Once immortal, they can still be injured, but heal very quickly. Although there are discrepancies between the film and the series, the generally accepted canon is that they can die but will be healed and resurrected unless they are beheaded. If beheaded, usually by another Immortal during combat, the victor receives the loser's 'Quickening' or knowledge and power. Immortals can sense other Immortals by the 'buzz' they receive when near another Quickening. No Immortal will desecrate holy ground by battling on it. All Immortals are sterile. Their origins are mysterious, although it is indicated many of them are foundlings. The legend they follow says that when only a few remain standing, they will fight at "The Gathering" for something known only as "The Prize", which is the knowledge and power of every Immortal. It is unknown what power this will have on the very last Immortal, but the ending of the first movie suggests that The Prize is both an empathic link with all humanity and a restoration of the Immortal's mortality and fertility - the Immortal will be able to grow old, die of natural causes, and bear or conceive a child.
In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Darth Sion has a unique force power called Pain, which keeps him alive forever but never allows any of his wounds to heal. The Exile convinced him to turn away from the Force which finally allowed him to die.
In Mother 3, the leader of the mysterious Pig Mask Army is revealed as Porky Minch, an antagonist from Earthbound. Porky has abused a machine that lets him travel through time, causing his body to age but his mind to remain in a pre-teen state. Porky, now immortal, is thousands of years old, and has lost all concept of his own age. After the main characters defeat him, Porky retreats into his "Absolutely Safe Capsule", designed to keep all exterior things out. Unfortunately, it also imprisons him, motionless, forever, as he can never escape.
In Douglas Adams' novel Life, the Universe and Everything the character Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged had the misfortune of being immortal due to "a strange accident involving an irrational particle accelerator, a liquid lunch and a pair of rubber bands". After becoming immortal, he did everything one can do in life, several times, becoming terribly bored of everything due to him lacking the instinctive knowledge of other immortal beings that allowed them to cope with their immortality. He then made a plan that, despite being rather foolish, would at least keep him busy: he was going to insult, personally, all the living beings in the universe, in alphabetical order.
The Phantom is a comic character who appears to be immortal, fighting pirates and evil across centuries. However it is just a dynasty of heroes who pass the mask and suit of the Phantom along generations. Their secret is known just to their aides and wives.
In Andromeda, the character Trance Gemini is the avatar of the original Vedran sun, and as such, has special powers. She and her "sisters" can live as long as stars do: for billions of years. It's unknown whether Trance has physical immortality, or if she was even ever alive; it is alluded to on some occasions that she is dead and alive at the same time.
The character Oro in the Street Fighter metaverse is explicitly said to be immortal. M. Bison constantly claims to be immortal, but that is contradicted by Capcom's statement that he is dead and in Hell. There are also strong hints that Akuma and Twelve are immortal.
Vampires are immortal and practically impossible to kill, save for sunlight, fire, or decapitation.
The nameless protagonist of the video game Planescape: Torment has a kind of limited immortality: he will die if injured enough, but he will always wake up again shortly afterward, albeit with some or all of his memories missing. This has led to a situation where, over thousands of years, different versions of the protagonist have existed, some good, some evil, and some absolutely insane. The goal of the game is to regain one's mortality and finally die permanently—a rather unconventional ending for a video game.
Several characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog series are immortal including Shadow the Hedgehog, Chaos and Black Doom. The most frequently recurring character, Shadow, is an artificial life form created aboard the Space Colony ARK that is explicitly declared 'immortal'. He was forced to witness the murder of Maria Robotnik, his best (and possibly only) friend, which creates a chasm between the other characters and himself and so has played antagonistic roles at times. However, neither Black Doom or Shadow are invincible. It is implied that Shadow destroyed Black Doom in Shadow the Hedgehog (which would make Black Doom Biologically Immortal), and Shadow himself was almost killed in Sonic Adventure 2; it is implied that he would have died if he wasn't rescued by Dr Eggman. It is possible that Shadow, being Black Dooms biological son, had inherited his Biological Immortallity. It is also possible that due to the purpose behind his creation, he is immune to illness.
In the series of novels written by David Eddings, "The Belgariad" and "The Mallorean", the eight gods and their disciples, notably Belgarath and Polgara, are immortal.
In the role-playing game Exalted, there exist objects known as Hearthstones of Immortality. While exceedingly rare, the bearer of one will not only become immortal, but if they were already old when they obtained the stone, they will no longer suffer the ill-effects of old age (senility, failing senses, etc.). In addition, there also exists an Age-Staving Cordial. While expensive, weekly doses of the cordial can increase the imbiber's lifespan by 25%.
In the animated TV series Adventure Time, The Ice King, previously known as Simon Petrikov is proven to be at least 1.000 years old, being a survivor of the Mushroom War. He gained his longevity from an ancient crown artifact he bought somewhere in Scandinavia. The crown itself is also his source of ice power, but also causes him to be seemingly insane.
The Amar Kabal are a Wizard Born Race created by Eldrin who are able to live multiple lifetimes. They have an amar or "seed" on the back of their necks that, when they die, dislodges from their neck and plants itself in the ground, and regenerates them. They start again at the age they were before their First Death, a ceremony normally performed at the age of twenty. They tie their hair around their necks to protect and conceal their amar. Sometimes when a seed becomes defective, it may cause the Amar Kabal to lose their ability to regenerate after replanting.
The list is in chronological order for the first appearance of the fictitious character.
- The Wandering Jew appears in a series of legends, starting in the 13th century, about a Jewish man who is made immortal in the time of Jesus, and cursed to wander the Earth until the second coming.
- Ayesha, the 2000-year old titular character of H. Rider Haggard's 1886 novel She: A History of Adventure.
- Dorian Gray, who stays young while his painted portrait ages terribly in Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.
- Valdar, the hero of Valdar the Oft-Born: A Saga of Seven Ages (1895) by George Griffith is immortal by repeated reincarnation.
- Anton York (Conquest of Life, Thrilling Wonder Stories August 1937 by Eando Binder) Anton York was injected with a chemical formula that would halt his aging until the universe was double its current age. At that point he could presumably produce and drink a second dose, if he so desired. A series of Anton York stories were written which were later collected in the anthology Anton York, Immortal in 1965.
- Shining Hawk, (The Gnarly Man June 1939 by L. Sprague de Camp) A Neanderthal Man over 50,000 years old who is living as a circus artist.
- Robert Hedrock, The Weapon Shops of Isher 1941 and The Weapon Makers 1943 by A. E. van Vogt. A man accidentally becomes immortal, and secretly runs an organization that provides exclusively self-defensive weapons to people and runs a parallel justice system.
- Woodrow Wilson Smith, also known as Lazarus Long, Methuselah's Children 1941 by Robert A. Heinlein. A fairly early 'Howard', Smith becomes the Senior of the Howard families, who are named for Ira Howard (founder of a project to extend the human lifespan). He is mentioned in four other Heinlein novels, most notably Time Enough for Love.
- Vandal Savage (Green Lantern vol. 1 #10, Winter 1943) Caveman Vandar Adg was bathed in the radiation of a mysterious meteorite, granting him intellect and immortality. In subsequent years, he claims to have been or advised dozens of world leaders.
- Raimon Fosca, the cursed subject of Simone de Beauvoir's 1946 novel All Men Are Mortal.
- Nero (1947). The main protagonist of The Adventures of Nero is a regular man. In "De Bronnen van Sing Song Li" ("The Sources of Sing Song Li") (1951) he drinks an elixir which gives him eternal life. In "De Wallabieten" (1968) he drinks a pill which makes people 1.000 year old and in "De Nerobloemen" ("The Nero Flowers") (1978) he drinks another elixir that gives him eternal life. A wizard in "Zongo in de Kongo" ("Zongo in the Kongo") (1970) gives him immortality as well.
- Gilbert Nash, the hero of Wilson Tucker's The Time Masters (1953, revised 1971) is the present-day name of an immortal alien who has been stranded on Earth for several thousand years - prior aliases include Gilgamesh.
- Jadis, the White Witch (The Magician's Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) is an inhabitant of Charn, but is brought in to Narnia. She has survived the destruction of Charn by putting herself in eternal sleep, but then eats a silver apple from the Western Wild, and becomes immortal, but is later killed by Aslan.
- Immortal Man (Strange Adventures #177, June 1965) Gaining immortality from the same meteorite that granted longevity to Vandal Savage, the Immortal Man instantaneously reincarnates when he dies.
- Conrad Nomikos (…And Call Me Conrad, 1966 by Roger Zelazny. Later expanded to the novel This Immortal).
- Ra's al Ghul (Batman #232, 1971) Ra's maintained an unnaturally long life through the use of natural phenomena known as Lazarus Pits. Other characters given some measure of immortality by the Lazarus Pit include al Ghul's father Sensei, his daughters Talia al Ghul and Nyssa Raatko, and his agent Whisper A'Daire.
- Captain Scarlet (1967), in the British Supermarionation science fiction television series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, was turned immortal after undergoing Mysteronization. Captain Black, also in this series, is another Mysteronized immortal but remains under Mysteron control.
- Gilgamesh the immortal (1969), from the Argentine comic of the same name, was an ancient king turned immortal by advanced technology.
- Casca Longinus (Casca: The Eternal Mercenary, 1979) Casca is the Roman soldier who plunges his spear into the side of Jesus on the cross at Golgotha and is cursed to wander the world forever until the two should meet again.
- Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged is an alien from Douglas Adams's Life, the Universe and Everything (1982) who was made immortal by "an unfortunate accident with an irrational particle accelerator, a liquid lunch and a pair of rubber bands". He has devoted his eternal life to the impossible task of insulting everyone in the Universe alphabetically.
- Raoul Lavallière (né Tibalt de Montrefort), in The Dark Side of the Sun (1983), is a 14C former Knight Templar with psychic powers. He can only die when the circumstances of a prophecy are fulfilled; he quickly recovers from other methods of killing him.
- Mister Immortal (Avengers West Coast (Vol. 2) #46, 1989) Mr. Immortal (a.k.a. Craig Hollis) is a mutant (possibly an Omega-level mutant) whose power is (as his name suggests) immortality. He is the leader and founder of the Great Lakes Avengers. Unlike other mutants, who are known as "homo superior", he has evolved beyond death, and become "homo supreme". His apparent destiny: to outlive everyone as the one true immortal until the end of the universe, to be revealed its final secret. Other immortal characters from Marvel Comics include Apocalypse.
- Cazador (1992), from the eponymous Argentine comic, is an immortal, insane assassin.
- Bloodshot (1992), a super-soldier whose nanites keep him functionally immortal.
- The immortal brothers Timewalker, Armstrong, and the Eternal Warrior (1992), from various Valiant Comics series.
- Mister Majestic, Nemesis, Savant, Zealot, Lord Emp, and other members of the Kherubim, an alien race in the 1992 Wildstorm series Wildcats. Their foes are the similarly immortal D'rahn and Daemonite races, among them the Daemonite Helspont.
- Manji (1993), a samurai warrior given immortality in the Dark Horse Comics series Blade of the Immortal.
- Backlash (1993), an Atlantean member of the hero team Stormwatch, in the Wildstorm comics universe.
- Tory Alexander (The Ancient Future, 1996) Through an elixir of sorts given to her by Taliesin, she achieves immortality thanks to the god-like gene in her DNA.
- Mitchell Shelley, the Resurrection Man (Resurrection Man #1, May 1997) Shelley was an unwilling nanotechnology test subject, who gained effective immortality since, although he can be killed, his "death" lasts no longer than a few minutes, whereon he is revived by "tektites" with a different superhuman power. He has similar powers to Immortal Man, whom Shelley was thought to be for a while. He was shown to still be alive in the 853rd century, in DC's One Million crossover.
- Tomie, from the eponymous 1999 comic book series, is a Japanese high school student who can be killed, but regenerates her body whenever she dies and returns to life.
- Enoch Root (Cryptonomicon, 1999) Root, an alchemist, possesses an elixir which allows him to resurrect after death.
- Kane (fantasy) A character of the sword and sorcery genre written by Karl Edward Wagner. Kane is a left-handed man with red hair; cursed by a mad god he wanders the Earth for millennia adventuring.
- Robert Carson/Cormac O'Connor (Forever 2003 by Pete Hamill) Cormac arrived in New York in 1741 as a teenager to avenge the deaths of his Irish family. After allegedly dying while protecting an African shaman, he was subsequently granted immortality as long as he remains on the island of Manhattan.
- Rex Mundi (2003), from the Malibu Comics series of the same name, is a being involved in most of the Ultraverse's important events through history.
- Immortal, from the 2004 Image Comics series Invincible, is the immortal leader of the Guardians of the Globe.
- Invincible Ed, from the eponymous 2004 Dark Horse Comics series of the same name, is a human who receives immortality through the power of "the right."
- Jack Harkness from Doctor Who (2005) and Torchwood, who became immortal after being resurrected by the power of the vortex.
- Trance Gemini from Andromeda the avatar of the Tarn Vedra sun.
- Lo Pan. 800-year-old warrior played by James Hong in John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China.
- Adam Monroe/ Takezo Kensei, a character in the popular television series Heroes. Due to his ability to regenerate, he has lived for nearly 400 years, taking part in events such as the Revolutionary War. He has married 10 times, outliving every wife, and has assumed a wide array of different names. Died when his power was stolen.
- John Oldman, the protagonist in the film The Man From Earth. He claims to be a prehistoric caveman who has survived on Earth for 14,000 years. Oldman's name is a pun on the words Old and Man as are other pseudonyms used by him in the past such as John T. Partee of Boston.
- Eirin Yagokoro, Lunar Sage which made Hourai Elixir with help of Kaguya Horaisan who is able to manipulate eternity and drink it to become immortal. She was banished to Earth because it was believed to be crime on the Moon.
- Elves in Middle-earth, such as Elrond Half-elven. (The Hobbit, 1937, and The Lord of the Rings.) Elves are immortal, and half-elves can choose mortality or immortality.
- Vampire literature
- Werewolf fiction
- List of ghosts in section (Pop Culture)
- List of fictional robots and androids
- List of Highlander characters, as the main characters of Highlander are immortals.
- Extraterrestrials in fiction, as some aliens are portrayed as immortal.
- List of fictional angels, as most angels are portrayed as immortal.
- List of fictional demons, as most demons are portrayed as immortal.
- List of deities in fiction, as most deities are portrayed as immortal.
- Undead, as most undead are portrayed as immortal.
- List of fairy and sprite characters
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- Cosmic Teams!. Retrieved March 3, 2008.