"When 900 years you reach, look as good, you will not."
In fiction, immortality
is a crapshoot. Some think that it is great
and some think that it's horrible
. This trope is the happy medium between the angst-free, eternally youthful immortal, and the immortal who might welcome death.
The character keeps his or her health with immortality, but not youth. As a result, these characters are forever stuck at the apparent age when most mortals health finally begins to succumb to the ravages of old age, but unlike the Age Without Youth
character, they usually remain vigorous, healthy, "active seniors," and are usually still at least somewhat attractive.
To be this trope a character must
- Appear to be, or exhibit some evidence of being, at least in his 60s; this generally means wrinkled skin, either very sparse or grey hair, etc.
- Have an actual age well beyond the normal human lifespan (though she or he may still have a finite, but extremely long, lifespan).
The character usually fits one of the following types.
The Greek God: a Heroic Build
that would be more appropriate on a character one-half to one-quarter his apparent
age, lots of hair, super strength.
The Jolly Old Elf: relatively short, heavyset with a waistline greater than his height, huge beard if male.
Note: Stopping aging at a random rate would be classed under type B. The still aging Immortality is type E.
The Wizard: a thin, frail, elderly Squishy Wizard
, usually wearing a Cool Hat
. If male, he will almost invariably have a slender beard that reaches nearly to his feet
The Yoda: small and frail, little if any hair.
The Elderly Child: a mix of childlike and elderly characteristics, such as grey hair and a baby's face.
Usually, the character also will:
- Either be bald, be 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.
- Have at least one other superhuman ability; being a Badass Grandpa or Reality Warper is the most common.
May overlap with The Older Immortal
. Usually also Older Than They Look
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- Superman in the many pre-Crisis stories that showed him in the future.
Mythology and Folklore
- Norna-Gest from "The Tale of Norna-Gest" is a three-hundred years old immortal who looks old, but at the same time is healthy and vigorous.
- Macbeth from Gargoyles looks like a fit middle-aged man, but is actually about one thousand. He's an odd case, since the spell that made him immortal initially made him look older than his real age by transferring some of his youth to Demona.
- Mr. Salacia from Metalocalypse would seem to fit into this category. No word on exactly how old he is, but he looks pretty old albeit in very solid shape and he is definitely no mere mortal...
- The Remilliard clan of the Galactic Milieu and Saga of the Exiles have an "immortality gene complex" that stops them aging at a random point. Some seem perpetually 20, others 50 and anything in between.
Mythology and Folklore
- The immortals of Highlander don't stop aging until after their first death, though it has to be a violent one; old age and natural causes won't cut it, but getting shot or being in a car accident will. Thus, some immortals look 20, some look 40, and some look 60. There was at least one immortal from the TV series who looked to be in his 70s, and one who was stuck as a child for 800 years.
- Santa Claus, in most modern depictions.
- In traditional fantasy, dwarves are often portrayed this way.
- The traditional "lawn gnome," as depicted here.
- The Ice King from Adventure Time is one of these. Oddly, he was young before the event that made him immortal; as he became immortal he became old and heavyset, and then stopped aging as soon as he was done transforming.
- Though despite his puffy robe, the Ice King is actually quite frail, blending him with Type C.
- Marceline in "Finn the Human" and "Jake the Dog," which take place in an alternate timeline: one where Marceline never became a vampire but was still half-demon, meaning she never stopped aging but had a very long lifespan.
- The Guardians of Green Lantern have aged, after a fashion. The survivors are billions of years old.
- 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.
- Odin in Valhalla. Even though he keeps eating Idun's life-extending apples like the rest of the gods, he never looks a day below sixty.
- The elves of ElfQuest are immortal and age very slowly; most look young. A few, older than 10,000 years, don't, namely Savah, Lord Voll and Ekuar.
- Stress seems to play a role in this. The only immortal elves who look old are those who have experienced great physical or spiritual hardship.
- The Ancient One, Doctor Strange's mentor. His colleague the Aged Genghis is another example: while the Ancient One retained his mind and his sense of dignity, the Aged Genghis bid those farewell centuries ago.
Mythology and Folklore
- Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.
- Cirdan the Shipwright, he was "born" when the elves were originally created, and by the Forth Age, he was so old that he had a white beard, something that was unheard of.
- 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 20s — turns out it's a self-image thing: The male sorcerers let themselves grow old so they'll appear wise and respectable, while the women stop aging early so they won't turn into 'hags'.
- In some respects they slide into Type A. When Belgarath has to partially disrobe in one book he is described as sleek and well muscled while Beldin is immensely strong even without using sorcery to lend a hand. Beltira and Belkira play it straightest of Aldur's disciples.
- Belgarath's archenemies, Ctuchik and Zedar also maintain this appearance, and are both quite physcially tough.
- The Witcher plays it in an almost exactly the same way.
- Enoch the Red from Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle. Parts of Cryptonomicon described him as looking anywhere from his 50s to his 80s (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 Tolkienian wizard, but I don't recall him described as frail or skinny.
- 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. His aging however, isn't natural. He was aged prematurely when he read the Book of Three from beginning to end. So for a good chunk of his life he was actually Younger Than They Look.
- Robert Rankin's novels include elderly mage Professor Slocombe. It's implied that he is at least 200 but it's also been suggested that he was Merlin.
- Villainous example: the Norn Queen from Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. She's the oldest thinking being in the world (and is said to be more than twice as old as her closest contemporary), and although her race, like their cousins the Sithi, are naturally immortal, she's begun to visibly show her age. However, she hides her face behind a silver mask designed to resemble what she looked like as a young woman, because she is ashamed of her age. She's also an evil sorceress of terrifying power.
- Nevyn and Aderynfrom Katharine Kerr's Deverry Cycle. Neither are truly immortal; they have unnaturally long life-spans.
- Matron Baenre of the Forgotten Realms was over a thousand years old before her death at the hands of Bruenor Battlehammer and his axe. Unlike most Drow, she shows her age though this is because she invoked zin-carla — a necromantic ritual that grants a priestess of Lolth control over a powerful revenant at the cost of permanently draining the priestess' vitality — twice in the past.
- Flemeth in Dragon Age: Origins seems to be this. At least, until you find out she's a body-snatcher.
- Prophet Velen, leader of the draenei in World of Warcraft, is old enough to have quit keeping track of his age before the draenei left Argus twenty five thousand years ago. In Rise of the Horde, he's stated to be tall and thin by draenic standards (albeit spry enough to keep up with his much younger guards on foot), with long white hair, a long white beard, and "character lines." His in-game model, despite a few minor discrepancies (blue-violet skin rather than pure white, for one) matches that description.
- 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 that feature him, Immortus is bald, stooped and very, very wrinkled, like one of those shrunken apple dolls. And he's looked that way at least since the days of the Roman Republic.
- 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.
- Ekuar from Elfquest. 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 8,000 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.
- Star Wars has Yoda, of course. However, he isn't immortal, apparently his species just lives about 10 times longer than humans.
- "God" (George Burns) from Oh, God!
- The High Lama in the 1937 film Lost Horizon.
- In the movie "Once Bitten," when the sexy female vampire fails to get the virgin blood she needs to retain her youth and beauty, she turns into this. Although sustained by normal blood, and still immortal, she becomes an old woman.
- The Doctor, when artificially aged by the Master in the Doctor Who episode "The Sound of Drums" and later even further in "Last of the Time Lords".
- His first incarnation, portrayed by 55-year-old William Hartnell, appears to be centuries old already and having started his regeneration process due to his body wearing out.
- According to the Second Doctor he was about 450 years old.
- When he is aged by the Time Destructor his appearance doesn't change much, while his companion turns from a young woman to dust.
- In Can You Live Forever?, Adam becomes this following an experimental medical procedure that leaves him nearly immortal, but does not change his appearance.
- From Aladdin: The Series there's Ajed al-Gebraic, one of Genie's oldest masters. He traded Genie to a sorcerer in exchange for eternal life, unfortunately for him it didn't come with eternal youth.
Anime and Manga
- The Ghost of Christmas Past in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
- The Childlike Empress in The Neverending Story is Type E, in the novel version. She's a white-haired girl who looks about 10 years old and is "much older than the oldest inhabitants of Fantastica".
- Amerasu from Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. One of the oldest Sithi, she physically looks barely out of her teens (like most adults of her race), but her personality and the way she carries herself are both indicative of tremendous age. In any case, she's both an immortal and obviously elderly, and fits here better than under any of the other types.