Immortals Fear Death

"You fear death. Being immortal, you fear it more than those to whom it comes naturally."

In works of fiction, the one thing immortal beings fear above anything else is death. The very thought of a mortal existence is terrifying, and they may not even be able to wrap their heads around it. And if an immortal is brought down to mortal or discovers their immortality is not absolute, they will refuse to accept this because the idea of their death is something they can not or will not tolerate.

This can also occur if the person in question is not actually immortal but is just very powerful, and its their ego not allowing them to accept that their power is not enough to ward off the reaper, and they will seek ways to avoid it. In this case, they fear death not because they are immortal, but they sought out immortality because they fear death.

This makes perfect sense, in a way — when you're immortal and cannot die, and depending on the type of mortality cannot be killed, you would of course want to watch out for the things that can kill you. And it's not like you have anything else to fear, you're immortal, the world holds no danger for you except for that one weapon or that one person who can end your life. In addition, the kind of person who is terrified of dying is much more likely to go to the necessary lengths to find a way to become immortal in the first place, especially if Immortality Immorality is in effect.

A sub-trope of Mortality Phobia. Compare Immortality Seeker, which may overlap with this. See also Living Forever Is Awesome. Contrasts with Who Wants to Live Forever? and Death Seeker.


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    Anime / Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The homunculi have been alive for centuries, they show fear once near death, the most notable ones are Envy and Pride, who spend their final moments screaming while begging for their lives.

    Comic Books 
  • Fantastic Four villain Annihilus was, for the longest time, so terrified of dying that he wanted to kill everything that wasn't him just so nothing could kill him first. Then his latest incarnation discovered an interesting quirk about the Negative Zone: death is immediately followed by resurrection. He quickly grew disenchanted with the endless cycle of death and resurrection and actually wanted to die.
  • The immortal Vandal Savage in the pre-New 52 continuity once had a huge breakdown when a brain tumor threatened to end his life in a matter of days. He notes that he finally understands why mortals worked so hard to delay their own deaths. A combination of the brain tumor itself messing with his ability to think and the fear of impending death drives him to enact an insane scheme to take down at least one of his hated foes with him.
  • Referenced in Kieron Gillen's Iron Man run. Malekith of The Fair Folk offers to briefly join forces with Tony because his life is in danger, which he outright says is a much bigger deal for him than some short-lived mortal.


  • Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, having disregarded mortal life as irrelevant due to his millennia of existence, when it becomes very apparent that he's about to die, he's reduced to begging Peter not to let it happen.
  • Mother Gothel of Tangled keeps herself forever young by the power of Rapunzel's hair, but fears aging and losing her youth.
  • Hades and Ares from Wrath of the Titans join Cronus on the condition they keep their immortality. Gods cease to exist upon death and that thought terrifies them.
  • Implied with Davey Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. After giving his Catch-Phrase "Do you fear death?", Jack retorts "Do you?" when he's about to stab his heart.

  • Voldemort of Harry Potter underwent many experiments to avoid death, succeeding by splitting his soul and binding the pieces inside hidden artifacts. Word of God is that if he were to see a Boggart (a creature that shows one's greatest fear), it would transform into his own dead body lying in front of him.
    • Subverted in the case of Nicholas Flamel and his wife, however. As someone that's lived for 600 years due to the elixir that is made from a Philosopher's Stone, according to Dumbledore he and his wife don't really have any bad reaction to the news that the Stone was destroyed, and he compares it to them "going to bed after a very long day."
  • In The Last Unicorn, the (immortal) unicorn's first reaction upon being turned into a human is to become near-hysterical, moaning that she can feel her body — a young, healthy body, but a mortal one — dying all around her.
  • In The Elenium, the gods are so horrified by the idea of their destructibility that when Azash is killed, the entire world goes into a period of extended depression until Aphrael is able to snap them out of it.
  • In Manly Wade Wellman's John Thunstone stories, the evil immortals fear death so much that if you kill one and bury it under your doorstep, they cannot enter that building due to their dread.
  • In The Dresden Files
    • The centuries-old Denarian leader Nicodemus is terrified of Harry Dresden because Harry got closer to killing Nicodemus than anyone else has.
    • Averted with Erlking, a wyldfae and Lord of the Hunt, and Kringle, a Badass Santa, another wyldfae. Both enjoy riding out into combat on the one night of the year when Immortals can be killed.
  • In the Anita Blake book Bloody Bones the Big Bad, Seraphina plans to free and link herself with the titular monster because it possesses Complete Immortality and she hopes to gain the same power. This is due to her crippling fear of death, despite being an immortal—if elderly when changed—vampire. The consequences of releasing a child-murdering monster from its prison don't particularly bother her.
  • This is the greatest fear of the Auditors of Reality in Discworld, and ironically, it's their terror of it that kills them. To be an individual is to be mortal, and because any finite lifespan is the same when expressed as a fraction of eternity, any Auditor who expresses individuality dies instantly.
  • Mars in Ye Gods by Tom Holt has become a fanatical anti-war campaigner, because he's expected to be in the front of battle protected only by bronze armour and "the best definition of an immortal is someone who hasn't died yet".
  • In Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, the fact that someone figured out a way to kill Zeus freaks out the entire rest of the pantheon to the point where even talking about the murder becomes taboo.
  • Pact has Isadora, a Riddling Sphinx who predates the written word. She is unaging, but not unkillable, and therefore she credits her survival against the odds to an oath that she swore to herself long previously to put her survival above all other concerns, which lets her know when it's time to bargain and withdraw.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, in a conversation between two Grey Angels, Uriel and Raguel, one asks the other whether he fears that one day, his restorative protocols would fail and he'd die the real death. The way the question was phrased, the asker himself definitely does.
  • Journey to Chaos: Zettai outmaneuvers an opponent who outclasses her in every way by exploiting this trope. Omnias is immortal but can still be killed by things like necrocraft and so he dodges involuntarily when it is aimed at him. This forces him to abandon a strategic position and lose the confrontation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Adam talks to a group of vampires about his thoughts on their species, and how contrary to mortal humans, vampires fear death and things that can kill them, like the Slayer, precisely because they are immortal.
    • Anya becomes afraid of growing old and dying when she loses her powers as a vengeance demon and becomes mortal, and when Buffy's mother dies she has a breakdown over how stupid the idea of death is to her.
  • It's implied in the Star Trek universe that the Q fear the very thought of being mortal to the point where it's considered a major punishment for them. When one of them decided he wanted to die, they imprisoned him in a comet rather than see what would happen. The Expanded Universe reveals that they also fear that death brings either utter ceasing of existence for them, or that there's something more powerful than them waiting in the afterlife.
  • Doctor Who:
    • One of the main differences between the Doctor and The Master. The former has shifted increasingly towards Who Wants to Live Forever? over the series, while the latter will do anything to stay alive. This comes into play at the end of the 2007 series. When the Master threatens to destroy the entire planet rather than admit defeat, the Doctor reminds him of all the disasters they've already been through and calls his bluff. He seemingly chooses to die by another means a few minutes later, but has a Soul Jar standing by.
      • From time to time, the Doctor has expressed a fear of death, such as when the Ninth Doctor faced imminent death in Cardiff in "The Unquiet Dead" and the Tenth Doctor faced the spectre of his next regeneration in "The End of Time". In Series 9, however, his fear shifted to the death of other people, in particular a companion he'd developed love for. The Tenth Doctor is at one point asked why he fears death if he'll regenerate. He replies that while the Doctor will live on, he (that is his personality/soul/identity) will die, and it hurts. This is shown when his time comes, where he rages about how unfair it is for him to sacrifice himself when "I could do so much more" (though he still does it), and his last words are a whimpered "I don't want to go."
    • In the episode The End of Time, The Time Lord president Rassilon who is a historical legend for creating time travel and being immortal, is faced with the extinction of his race in the time war and ends up bellowing that he refuses to die no matter what. In fact, he'll destroy the current universe and Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence before accepting death.
  • In The Good Place, Michael, as a demon, is technically immortal but can be subjected to actual death as punishment for his failures. He attempts to become good so that he can get to Heaven and escape this fate, but has difficulty understanding ethics because he's never confronted mortality. Once his teachers manage to make him grasp the concept of his own death, he freaks out and goes into a depressive panic spiral.
  • Ganma of Kamen Rider Ghost are using a combination of science and Magitek to create shells they project their souls in from their real, human-like, bodies. Alain is stunned by the realization that he can die after he loses his eyecon body and it takes him a while before he can get it back together. Unfortunately, he swings the other way afterwards, lacking any sense of selfpreservation, overstraining his body and even adding a couple (failed) suicidal attacks. He survived.
  • Played straight and averted in Kamen Rider Ex-Aid. Bugsters are video game characters and thus can respawn indefinitely. That is unless defeated by Cronus , who can manipulate time to keep them from doing so. Finding this out has reduced the de facto leader of Bugsters, Parado, to shaking wreck. His partner-in-crime, Graphite, has not been afraid of death even before he knew about the respawning part so this has not affected him personally very much.
  • The Brunnen-G of Lexx discovered how to halt the aging process. Since death was no longer inevitable, most of the Brunnen-G became extremely paranoid of anything that could threaten their lives, to the point that they wouldn't even leave their homes. Ironically, the same Brunnen-G who cringed in fear of anything that might kill them felt nothing but relief when faced with inevitable death again in the form of His Divine Shadow. It was less death itself and more uncertainty that the Brunnen-G feared.
  • Katherine in The Vampire Diaries is absolutely terrified of dying and will do anything to prevent it, including invoking dark magic, making deals to sell out anyone who cares about her or taking over the body of her most hated enemy.
  • Forever Knight. In a historical flashback, the protagonist tries to frighten a chaste peasant girl in medieval France, and she counters with this trope when he boasts of how he's going to live forever as a vampire. She turns out to be Joan of Arc, the implication being she's Not Afraid to Die due to her faith.
  • The Defenders (2017): This trope is exactly what kicks off the series' plot with the Big Bad learning that her immortality is fading fast and she only has a few months or weeks left to live. In her desperation to live, she hastens the search of the substance that can prolongue her existence, triggering an earthquake in New York that leads to all the titular heroes teaming up against her.

  • Gilgamesh from The Epic of Gilgamesh fell into despair after the gods killed his closest friend Enkidu. His fear of dying intensified now that he was alone again so he went on an epic journey to find the secret of immortality. In the end, he failed but he finally learned to accept that he would die someday and he resolved to live the rest of his days to the fullest.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A common theme in Vampire: The Masquerade. The actions and policies of many elders, particularly in the Camarilla, are based around maintaining a centuries-old status quo that they feel safe in. An outsider would think that with immense power and an immortal lifespan, that these elders would be adventurous and progressive in shaping the world to what they think it should be, when in fact the opposite is true. With so much going for them, they reach the logical conclusion that they have so much to lose that taking any chance isn't worth the risk. So instead of molding the world, they insulate themselves from it.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons:
    • This is the motivation of the Dreaming Dark in Eberron. The Turning of the Age in Dal Quor would entail a complete reset of the plane, changing the nature of its central dream (currently a nightmare) and killing all quori at once and creating a whole new kind of them for the new age. Most quori find this prospect terrifying and fight to stop the natural cycle, while the kalashtar see the Turning of the Age as desirable for the sake of the benefits mortals will reap from a dreamworld that isn't evil at its core.
    • In Ravenloft, Hunter of Monsters Dr. Van Richten identifies this as a large source of Immortality Immorality for the undead:
      Vampire: I could spend thirty years studying a well-written book or a finely-wrought painting. I have time enough to think, to experience the changing of the world! Now do you understand why your deaths mean nothing to me? ...And mine means everything?
  • This is the reason for Hell in Exalted; the Primordials witnessing the horror of some of their number dying was enough to make them surrender and swear oaths to be imprisoned inside one another for eternity rather than face it.
    • The fact that death is permanant rather than just a game they can shrug off is part of why Creation feels so wrong to The Fair Folk.
    • The fiction excerpt that introduced Exigents had the god Ten Sheaves muse on the strangeness of an immortal facing death. In his case, it was a choice between death from the Fair Folk destroying him, and death on his own terms to make an Exalt; he viewed the latter as a good note to go out on.
  • Settra the Imperishable in Warhammer Fantasy founded the Mortuary Cult, and thus set down the foundation for the creation of The Undead in the setting (the ranks of whom he would later join as a Tomb King), because he was too proud to accept his own mortality.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Throughout the series, the lesser Daedra (and even the Daedric Princes to an extent) know they will reform in Oblivion thanks to their Complete Immortality if their physical form is slain. However, it's implied to be an inconvenience they try to avoid and always described as a horrifying, torturous experience. They also cannot understand mortal minds because of this — the idea that a creature is living a finite life, is aware of this, and yet is not consumed with despair by the knowledge.
    • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, losing the divine powers that resulted in effective immortality drives the previously rather benevolent Almalexia completely insane.
    • Skyrim:
      • The "Dragonrend" Thu'um Shout (Joor Zah Frul, which translates to Mortal, Finite, Temporary), specifically exploits this trope to Mind Rape dragons. Dragonrend forces the concept of mortality onto a dragon's mind, and being so powerful and ancient, they grow confused and disoriented and become unable to fly or attack for a time. The Dragonborn's title as The Dreaded is "The One They Fear", because the Dragonborn is the lone mortal who can kill a dragon for good. Dragons that get dialogue tend to be obviously panicked when they realize they're fighting the Dragonborn, and even Alduin loses his composure as the Dragonborn gets the upper hand in their fight.
      • Harkon in the Dawnguard DLC was once a mighty king who feared death. He sacrificed thousands of his own subjects and pledged himself and his family to Molag Bal to become immortal Vampire Lords.
  • Final Fantasy III, Xande seeks to cause a Time Crash after his immortality was taken from him by his master Noah, and the idea of dying is unacceptable to him. He fears death so much that he is willing to sacrifice any quality of life in order to stay alive. Noah's two other students avert this trope: they're jealous that Xande was rewarded with mortality.
    • Final Fantasy XIV has Xande, though as a slightly different character, declare that death makes everything in life meaningless. While Xande has cheated death once and was given a second chance to achieve his dreams, his fear of death never went away.
  • Final Fantasy IX, Kuja goes into a Villainous Breakdown and becomes an Omnicidal Maniac when he learns of his own mortality, deciding that if he doesn't get to exist, nothing else should either.
  • Blutarch in the Expanded Universe of Team Fortress 2 has cheated death for over a century by a life extending machine that is slowly beginning to fail. Each day it temporarily shuts down, and Blutarch witnesses The Nothing After Death, and is appropriately fearful of the duration increasing each time.
  • In World of Warcraft, Sylvanas' brief taste of The Nothing After Death that undead like her are apparently doomed to suffer deeply shook her.
  • Defied by Malfurion Stormrage in Warcraft 3. When Tyrande points out that sacrificing the power of the World Tree to slay Archimonde will rob the Night Elves' of their immortality, Malfurion replies that "if the fear of death is enough to give us pause, then perhaps we have lived long enough."
  • Runescape: The Dragonkin are unaging humanoid reptilian beings. They fear death, but particularly because they have no means of reproducing, thus every time one of them dies their race gets closer to extinction. This doesn't happen often, though. Partly because people can't usually find them, and partly because they're really, really hard to kill.
  • In Sword of the Stars, the Liir cannot die of old age. They just keep getting bigger until they die because they cannot support their own mass even underwater. The Suul'ka are Liir elders who were so afraid of dying that they enslaved the rest of their race to force an industrial revolution that would allow them to live forever in space.
  • The Transcendent One from Planescape: Torment, as revealed if you talk with it. Unlike most examples of this trope, The Transcendent One knows very well what being mortal is, as it is The Nameless One's mortality — being reunited with The Nameless One would essentially be 'death' to it, however, and if you force it to rejoin you its final words is to the effect that it hates you, it will continue to hate you when you're reunited and that when you finally do die due to being mortal again it will laugh at you.
    • Inverted by The Nameless One himself. His entire quest is basically to find out how his immortality works and how to make it stop so he can finally die.
  • The light elves in Radiata Stories are effectively immortal, as their rituals allow them to transplant their spirits when their physical bodies fail. When afflicted by the "Algandars Disease", however, their souls are sealed in cocoonlike structures, which prevents them from reincarnating. The light elves blame the humans for the plague (among other things), which leads them to fear humans as the only beings that can kill them.
  • The Emperor from Star Wars: The Old Republic has drained his entire home planet of life in order to achieve immortality. However, he is still theoretically mortal, so a large part of the storyline deals with his attempts to do the same to the entire galaxy, just to be safe.
  • The Luniarians of Touhou Project were originally humans who managed to identify impurity as the cause of mortality, and death as the greatest source of impurity. So, in order to escape their own natural deaths, they relocated to the untainted moon, erected a habitable pocket dimension and became The Ageless for their efforts. And everything would be fine and dandy about that if it wasn't for the fact that, due to the above mentioned way mortality works in Touhou, the Lunarians' thanatophobia goes hand in hand with xenophobia; they not only fear death but are also intensly racistic toward all things impure/mortal and have considered "purifying" the Earth on several occasions just to make sure none of Earth's impurity will ever reach them.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, when the gods witness the goddess Gaea's death at the hands of Kagetsu I, they realize that they can be killed by mortals if they manifest in the Land of the Living in their corporeal form, and as a result they're scared. This fear of death forces the gods to adapt and from that moment on they possess willing people through whom they act and speak when they want to influence mortals. The possession comes with the added benefit that if the mortal host of a god dies, the god can simply return to the High Plane unharmed.
  • In the Para Imperium series the Federation of Parahuman Species discourages memetic deviation by removing the anti-aging Nano Machines of those who adopt ideologies deemed "problematic" and then exiling them.

    Western Animation