Created By: FrodoGoofballCoTV on April 10, 2010
Troped

Elderly Immortal

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Trope
Launched as Elderly Immortal.
A spinoff from this discussion.

Do We Have This? / Should We Have This?? Needs a Better Description / Needs a Better Title. Rolling Updates underway. Up for Grabs.


In fiction, immortality is a crapshoot. In universes where it exists, many, but not all, mortals lust after immortality, sometimes with unfortunate consequenses; for those that have it, it can be a wonderful thing, or a Fate Worse Than Death.

This is the trope that we forgot. An immortal character who keeps his or her health, but not youth. This character is forever stuck at the apparent age when most mortals finally succomb to the ravages of old age.

Differs from Age Without Youth in that while both have grey hair, the Age Without Youth character is at risk from becoming a literal living corpse, this character is a healthy, "active senior", and is usually still at least somewhat attractive.

To be this trope a character must:
  • Appear to be at least in their 60's if not older; this generally means wrinkled skin, either very sparse or grey hair, etc.
  • Have an actual age well beyond the normal human lifespan.

Usually, the character also will:
  • Either be bald, bald with patches of long hair, or have a very thick full head of completely grey hair.
  • If male, have either almost no body hair or else an impressive, full beard.
  • Be extremely wise, sometimes to the point of taking Genre Savvy Up to Eleven.
  • Have at least one other superhuman ability, with being a Badass Grandpa or Reality Warper being the most common.

These characters usually have one of the following body types:

Type A: "The Greek God"; A Heroic Build that would be more appropriate on a character 1/2 to 1/4 their apparent age, lots of hair, super strength.

Type B: "The Jolly Old Elf"; relatively short, heavyset with a waistline greater than their height, huge beard if male.

  • Santa Claus, in most modern depictions.
  • In traditional fantasy, dwarves are often portrayed this way.
  • The traditional "lawn gnome", as depicted here

Type C: "The Wizard"; A thin, frail, elderly, Squishy Wizard, usually wearing a Cool Hat. If male, will almost invariably have a slender beard that reaches nearly to their feet.

  • Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.
  • Many depictions of Merlin from King Arthur.
  • Flemeth in Dragon Age seems to this. At least, until you find out she's a body-snatcher.
  • Belgarath the Sorcerer from David Eddings' Belgariad is a definite Type C - as are most of his colleagues, particularly Beldin. It is eventually lampshaded when someone points out that while THEY turned into immortal old men, Belgarath's daughter, Polgara the Sorceress, apparently stopped aging somewhere in her late 20's - turns out it's a self-image thing: The male sorcerers let themselves grow old so they'll appear wise and respectable, while the females stop aging early so they won't turn into 'hags'.
  • Lorien from Babylon 5.
  • Enoch the Red from Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle. Parts of Cryptonomicon described him as looking anywhere from his fifties to his eighties (but most likely sixties or seventies), and he's been described as appearing of "indeterminate age" in The Baroque Cycle (but with attention paid to his silver hair and his weathered, marred skin, both characteristics of an old man). He certainly has the long beard, and he acts like a Tolkenian wizard, but I don't recall him described as frail or skinny.
  • The Guardians of Green Lantern have aged, after a fashion. The survivors are billions of years old.

Type D: small and frail, little if any hair.

  • "God" (George Burns) from Oh, God
  • General Immortus, long-time foe of the Doom Patrol. Precisely how he came into possession of an immortality serum is not discussed, but it appears that he was already quite elderly when he first used it. In the first stories he's in, Immortus is bald, stooped and very, very wrinkled, like one of those shrunken apple dolls.

Type E: "The Elderly Child"; has a mix of childlike and elderly characteristics, such as grey hair and a baby's face.

Other:

  • The immortals of Highlander don't stop aging until after their first death (the cause of which can be anything but old age). Thus, some immortals look twenty, some look forty, and some look sixty. There was at least one immortal from the TV series who looked to be in his seventies.
Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • January 30, 2010
    JackButler
    The immortals of Highlander don't stop aging until after their first death (the cause of which can be anything but old age). Thus, some immortals look twenty, some look forty, and some look sixty. There was at least one immortal from the TV series who looked to be in his seventies.
  • January 30, 2010
    duralict
    Flemeth in Dragon Age seems to be a Type C. At least, until you find out she's a body-snatcher.
  • January 30, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Belgarath the Sorcerer from David Eddings' Belgariad is a definite Type C - as are most of his colleagues, particularly Beldin. It is eventually lampshaded when someone points out that while THEY turned into immortal old men, Belgarath's daughter, Polgara the Sorceress, apparently stopped aging somewhere in her late 20's - turns out it's a self-image thing: The male sorcerers let themselves grow old so they'll appear wise and respectable, while the females stop aging early so they won't turn into 'hags'.
  • January 30, 2010
    Treblain
    Uh, Yoda isn't immortal. Hence the dying.
  • January 30, 2010
    SKJAM
    General Immortus, long-time foe of the Doom Patrol. Precisely how he came into possession of an immortality serum is not discussed, but it appears that he was already quite elderly when he first used it. In the first stories he's in, Immortus is bald, stooped and very, very wrinkled, like one of those shrunken apple dolls.
  • January 30, 2010
    Arutema
    Lorien from Babylon 5: Type C.
  • February 1, 2010
    Tokuiten
    Enoch the Red from Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle. Parts of Cryptonomicon described him as looking11 anywhere from his fifties to his eighties (but most likely sixties or seventies), and he's been described as appearing of "indeterminate age" in The Baroque Cycle (but with attention paid to his silver hair and his weathered, marred skin, both characteristics of an old man).

    I'd say he's more Type C than anything. He certainly has the long beard, and he acts like a Tolkenian wizard, but I don't recall him described as frail or skinny/
  • February 1, 2010
    LarryD
    The Guardians of Green Lantern have aged, after a fashion. The survivors are billions of years old. Type C
  • February 2, 2010
    fzzr_miller
  • February 2, 2010
    Jonti
    Immortality The stopping aging at a random rate would be classed under type II. The still aging Immortality is type VI.

    Not sure if the examples above are distinct enough to be worth spinning off into a new trope. For what it's worth The Remilliard clan of the GalacticMilieu and SagaOfTheExiles have an "immortality gene complex" that stops them aging at a random point. Some seem perpetually 20, others 50 and anything inbetween.
  • February 9, 2010
    Roxor
    Looks well-thought-out. I'd say it's launching time.
  • February 9, 2010
    random surfer
    Type D:
    • In the non-canonical The Incredible Hulk: The End this is what Banner looks like. He's hundreds of years old, the last human alive. Practically the last thing alive on earth.
    • The Doctor when artificially aged by The Master.
  • February 10, 2010
    balrog1911
    I second the launch. It looks good as is.
  • February 10, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Yoda is not immortal, but he's extremely long-lived, so Type D kinda counts for him.
  • February 10, 2010
    AlexThePrettyGood
    "When 900 years you reach, look as good you won't. Huh?" could be the page quote.
  • February 10, 2010
    AlexThePrettyGood
    Ekuar from Elfquest is type-D. He's crippled and looks frail and broken because he was held captive and malnourished for aeons so his body never attained the full physical glory his fellow elves reached. At 8000 years old, he is one of the eldest living immortal elves still alive, though and what's left of his body still functions as if he were young. Once he has been liberated by Rayek, he turns out to be a powerful Rock Shaper and all-round Old Master who helps Rayek lift himself to new heights.
  • February 24, 2010
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Bump strike 1!
  • March 10, 2010
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Bump strike 2!
  • March 26, 2010
    randomsurfer
    Subverted by Agamemmnon from The Incredible Hulk. Immortal and very old, half-human/half-Asgardian, classic Type C. But that's just a hologram - he really looks like he's 16. As he explained it, nobody believes he's wise/experienced if he doesn't look old.
  • March 26, 2010
    Tannhaeuser
    The High Lama in the 1937 film Lost Horizon. Type D.
  • March 28, 2010
    Lullabee
  • March 28, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Johnathon Swift puts this into Gullivers Travels, making this older than television: what is the point of immortality if it doesn't come with eternal youth? The unfortunate immortals are tended to and pitied by the locals. They aren't even sources of wisdom, because they become senile after a few decades.
  • March 29, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Dallben from the Prydain Chronicles is sort of a type C. Whether he's exactly immortal is unknown, but he has at least lived several times the normal human lifespan.
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