Illyria: I've nowhere to go. My kingdom is long dead. Long dead. There's so much I don't understand. I've become overwhelmed. I'm unsure of my place.
Wesley: Your place is with the rest of your people: Dead and turned to ash.
Perhaps... but I exist here. I must learn to walk in this world.
Cities, countries, even civilizations rise and fall through the ocean of time, becoming myths
in the millennia that follow. All their triumphs
and failures becoming little more than gravel and sand beneath our feet. There is one bright spot to this though, in the form of a surviving Living Relic. Somehow, a human, computer AI, robot, or immortal homunculus has managed to survive the destruction of their home and lived to tell the tale.
Though their existence can be due to a fluke of fate, they may represent an attempt to Fling a Light into the Future
as a warning, guide
, or defiant marker of their existence. All well and good, except the Living Relic is probably feeling like a Fish Out of Temporal Water
at the least, and has likely been suffering a case of Survivors Guilt
. Which can get gruesome if they've been alone
, awake and immortal
the whole time
. Quite a few Living Relics are insane because of this and become an Outside-Context Villain
, though a few may become sane from the boredom
Their role in a story is likely that of giving exposition
to heroes who are anywhere between months to thousands of years Late to the Tragedy
. After they finish expositing, they might ask to be killed. Or join the adventuring party. Really, it's a toss up.
Rarely, the living relic has managed to join and live among normal human civilization (or an alien equivalent
) and tries to live on, sometimes successfully hiding their origins. Despite the emphasis on immortal survivors of ancient civilizations, the Living Relic isn't always ancient or immortal
. A derelict in space might have the Robot Buddy
shut down and get started up again by the heroes thousands of years later, or a Human Popsicle
can be woken up from a sleep inducing spindle.
Sometimes, they might just be the last descendant
of a group of survivors.
to Time Abyss
. See also End of an Age
for two frequent causes. Compare Living Memory
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Anime & Manga
- Hellsing - Alucard himself is a living relic who more often than not seemlessly references his age in dialog. And in many abridged series pulls it off while still acting like a kid playing with toys.
- Hohenheim in Fullmetal Alchemist.
- Miyu in Mai-Otome. She mostly keeps memories of the past to herself, though.
- Viral in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was supposed to be this and carry a tale of victory forever after being granted immortality by Lordgenome, but victory for the beastmen there was not, presumably he becomes a Living Relic.
- Karla from Record of Lodoss War is this. She hails from Kastuul, an ancient kingdom of sorcery which is implied to have once been the capital of Lodoss itself. A powerful sorceress in her own right, she survived the destruction of the magic city by infusing a mystic circlet with her soul, retaining all her memories and powers as the circlet possesses the bodies of numerous hosts over the subsequent 500 years.
- End of Evangelion reveals in the penultimate scene that this was Unit 01's true purpose: since humans can't exist anywhere but Evas can, Yui reached the logical conclusion of uploading her soul into Unit 01 and become an everlasting monument. That she was used to fight angels in the meantime is just a perk.
- In the noncanonical The Incredible Hulk: The End Bruce Banner/The Hulk is the last sentient being on earth. Then Bruce dies of a heart attack while transforming, and Hulk is finally left... alone
- The Vision in the Ultimate Marvel line. Created millions of years ago by an alien race that saw Gah Lak Tus coming for them, she was sent out at first as just a time capsule to record the stories of Gah Lak Tus' billions of victims. After stopping on Earth, though, her mission changed to telling other people how to fight Gah Lak Tus.
- In addition, Depending on the Writer, Superman in some storylines.
- Captain America. He was frozen just before the end of World War II and was revived. As the years unfold and Comicbook Time has to be applied, he seems like more and more of a relic. At first, he was revived in 1962, less than twenty years after the war ended. Since roughly ten years have supposedly passed, the unofficial retcon is that he was revived in The Nineties, which would mean he was frozen for about sixty years.
- The Ultimate Marvel version of Cap was revived in the 2000's, which would be even more jarring for someone frozen during the war.
- Vandal Savage, an immortal caveman.
- Aughra in The Dark Crystal is the only surviving witness to the breaking of the Crystal and the creation of the Mystics/Uru and Skeksis. This is stated more explicitly in the novelization than the film.
- Leeloo in The Fifth Element is a "living weapon" whose existence is integral to averting The End of the World as We Know It. Despite an ability to absorb historical data and languages instantly, she's been in a sarcophagus for 5,000 years and thus has No Social Skills.
- This was done in The Fountain, where a man who obtains some sort of immortality is the last man in existence and floats about in space all alone.
- The elves in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. They were dying out as a long-forgotten race, prompting Prince Nuada to try to destroy humanity once and for all.
- "Old Man" in Logan's Run is a rare example of a Living Relic who is neither immortal nor was alive in the time before civilization collapsed. He's the son of some of the last humans to live and love naturally.
- The VR librarian in the 2002 The Time Machine.
- As mentioned above the film versions of Captain America were frozen during the second world war and revived several decades later. For the 90's movie version, it was about sixty years. For the recent film version, it was seventy... ouch.
- In 'The Man from Earth'', John has lived for 14,000 years. He has long since learned to keep moving and adapting to the changing cultures, keeping his lifespan a secret, but he carries memories that stretch back before human civilization
- Spock Prime in Star Trek. Due to a special set of circumstances, he arrived from an alternate timeline and possesses unique knowledge of future events and technology. And he can't go back to the world he knew.
- A case can be made for Godzilla himself, along with Rodan, Anguirus and a number of other Kaiju, as many were alive during prehistoric times, left in suspended animation through means unknown, and then heavily altered by radiation in many cases. Rodan is a straight example of this minus the radioactive mutation. Godzilla is both a living relic and a man made monster due to his mutation via the H-Bomb. If one considers King Ghidorah to have been around for a good few millennia, as hinted in his first appearance, he counts as well.
- The golems in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, especially Anghammarad in Going Postal and the Umnian golems in the sequel, Making Money. Anghammarad is 19,000 years old and is from a civilization that collapsed because he failed to deliver a vital message of warning. He plans to wait until the universe restarts and the same thing happens again (golems believe time is cyclical) so that he can be there and get it right the next time.
- Invoked in the Doctor Who novel The Last Dodo. The Museum of the Last Ones is a museum devoted to maintaining the very last specimen of every species in the universe before it goes extinct, keeping them alive in stasis so that technically, the species still exists. Then the Doctor arrives. Do the math.
- The War Gods: Wencit of Rum is this, having seen The Fall of Kontovar, and the only one with any appreciable book learning from the time period. He may or may not be a god in disguise.
- Belgarath and most of the other surviving Disciples of Aldur in the Belgariad. The only ones other than the Gods who were personally present at the Cracking of the World.
- Even more so Althalus in The Redemption of Althalus. A similar backstory to Belgarath (young vagabond/thief taken in by a god and trained in magic for centuries), but where Belgarath is often involved with the world and seems to be more in touch with society than most of those living in it, Althalus was totally isolated and large parts of the later stages of the book involve him coming to grips with all the changes. It doesn't help that where the world of the Belgariad is in Medieval Stasis, Althalus' world has advanced from late bronze age to late medieval or even early The Renaissance while he's been out of it.
- Peot, the Tar-Aiym Guardian from the Alan Dean Foster novel Bloodhype, was assigned by his race to the lonely task of guarding all civilization against the Vom, only to witness his people wiping themselves out in a cataclysmic interstellar war. Five hundred thousand years later, he awakens to find himself the Last of His Kind and facing a twilight struggle against the very same Vom. It's no wonder that, after the battle is finally won, he elects to commit suicide.
- Human soldiers who survive their tours in The Forever War become this. Time dilation resulting from near lightspeed travel means that after just a handful of years fighting the Taurans, they return home to find that in the real-time centuries that have passed the culture that birthed them has collapsed and made way for a new and completely alien one.
- The Forsaken from the Wheel of Time series can qualify as this, as they were sealed away from the world for 3,000 years. While they do use their archaic knowledge to bring back some long-lost magic, most of the time they just pine for the old days when things were so much more convenient. Also, the Green Man is the last of the Nym; artificial sentient constructs that helped plants grow before the Breaking of the World. He'd be more than happy to talk about the old days, if his memory wasn't so full of holes.
- H. Rider Haggard's She: Ayesha spends most of her time doing this to the main characters.
- Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian has a knack for often running into this trope.
- Any High Elf still in Middle-Earth in the Third Age of J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium fits this trope, but the prize has to go to Galadriel, who has lost her home multiple times by Lord of the Rings, and used the power of her Ring to make Lothlórien itself a Living Relic, since as the ages pass on The Magic Goes Away, and in the end even she has to leave. However, the oldest Elf to be still living in Middle-Earth is actually Círdan, who is implied to have been one of the Elves that awoke at the beginning of time, and intends to stay in Middle-Earth making ships until the last Elf leaves.
- Daetrin Haal of The Madness Season is one of these, as he is the only person old enough to remember what Earth was like before the Tyr invaded and subjugated humankind. His parents were also such, as they witnessed the fall of European civilization into the Dark Ages.
- The Dark Reflections Trilogy has a few characters who remember the civilization of ancient Egypt, but the most prominent example may be The Flowing Queen herself, who lived in the age when gods walked the Earth. She was stated to be much older than any form of life in the sea, making her also a Time Abyss.
- Antrax, the titular Big Bad of the second book of The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, is a sentient supercomputer left over from the technological age that preceded the Shannara 'verse.
- Center (aka Sector Command and Control Unit AZ12 - b14 - c000 Mk. XIV), a supercomputer left over from an interstellar human civilization's collapse known as the Fall. It waited a thousand years before it was willing to take the chance of recruiting a human representative to act on its behalf, as the likelihood of success for previous attempts would have been very low. A recurring character in the Raj Whitehall series by David Drake.
- In George R. Stewart's After the End novel Earth Abides, protagonist Isherwood Williams is one of the few people to survive a global pandemic that kills off almost all humans. By the end of the book, he has outlived all of the other survivors and lives among their descendants, who are nomadic hunter-gatherers much like the pre-Columbian American Indians. He is the last living human to remember the technological civilization destroyed by the plague, and for that reason, the final section of the book is titled "The Last American."
- In Jack L. Chalker's Midnight at the Well of Souls, space freighter captain Nathan Brazil has undergone so many rejuvenations that he can no longer remember exactly how old he is, and one of his passengers suspects that he may be the oldest living human. The truth is far more startling. He is actually the last living member of the Markovian race — the Precursors who created the current universe after running out of things to do in the original one.
- Norna-Gest of the Old Norse "Tale of Norna-Gest" is a centuries-old immortal and the last remaining survivor of the fornaldar or age of heroes.
- In Dragonriders of Pern, the artificial intelligence Aivas is the last remaining relic of Pern's colonial history. After helping the people of Pern end the threat of Thread forever, it commits suicide so they won't become dependent on it.
- The German pulp hero Sun Koh. Sun Koh was a Prince of the lost continent of Atlantis who had mysteriously fallen from the sky over London in 1932 with no memory of his past. He had been sent because a new ice age was coming and his mission was to facilitate the re-emergence of the lost Continent and a re-establishment of Atlantean (that is ARYAN) dominance over the world.
- Irish legend has it that Oisín, the son of Fionn mac Cumhaill, was spirited away to Otherworld by a fairy princess and returned to Ireland after what he thought were three years, but in reality were three hundred years. Meanwhile, Ireland had become Christian, and Oisín ended up spending the rest of his life in St. Patrick's house. Oisín had a hard time fitting in with the modern times, particularly with Christian thinking and customs, and the endless arguments between Patrick and the crabby old Oisín were a popular subject for medieval Irish poets and storytellers. Many Irish mythological tales use Oisín's life with St. Patrick as a Framing Device, by letting Oisín relate events of his past to Patrick. In an alternate version of the same legend, Oisin shared his fate with another hero of the Fenian Cycle, Caílte mac Rónáin.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: The Original Series: Ruk the android was the lone sentient survivor of his long-dead race when Dr. Corby crash-lands on his planet in the ep. "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"
- Apollo in "Who Mourns for Adonais?" is the last of the Greek gods.
- The three "Gamesters of Triskelion" are the only remnants of their kind.
- In Star Trek: Voyager a backup copy of The Doctor becomes this to the two species of a planet centuries after Voyager intervened in their history. The crew stopped a "civil war" between both species, and his backup fell onto the planet, where he was reactivated and started contradicting their incomplete and revisionist vision of the incident which painted Voyager and him as monsters.
- Most everyone in Red Dwarf. Lister being the Human Popsicle, Kryten the android, and Cat - the last member of a surviving population, sort of...
- Millennia past, Illyria from Angel was a Demonic God Emperor whose essence was sealed into a casket after her death. Now funneled into a frail human form, she's always a bit baffled when people don't worship her. As a classicist, she tends to talk in platitudes about The Art of War.
- Lorien in Babylon 5. He was the first living being to achieve sentience in the universe along with his race and was born immortal in a time before the universe invented things like life-cycles. All of his kind had died out or went beyond the rim of galaxy in the billions of intervening years. The one thing stopping him from being an Eldritch Abomination is that he also happens to be the kindest person you will ever meet.
- The Doctor in Doctor Who (from 2005 onwards, anyway), the last Time Lord (except when The Master makes his semi annual return from eternal death) with one massive case of Survivors Guilt. Understandable, as he was the one to push the metaphorical button that ended the time war and destroyed Gallifrey.
- Madame Vastra is a Silurian, a species of humanoid reptiles who inhabited Earth about 65 million years ago, but were forced into hibernation. Vastra was awakened by construction work in Victorian London, where she presently lives, working as a detective.
- In Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger the Rangers themselves are living relics. There are also a few episodes revolving around a pair of living dinosaur eggs that the heroes have to preserve.
- Mummy: The Curse casts the player characters, the Arisen, as this, the last living link (or rather, unliving link) to the Nameless Empire.
- Played straight in Mass Effect 1. Late in the game, Shepherd encounters Vigil, a Prothean VI(dumb AI) that was tasked with control of the Conduit. It was the last voice of the Protheans and had waited 50,000 years to give one final warning.
- The Rachni Queen encountered during the first game also counts. She remembers the fall of her race and was their last hope for survival. Her drones have been severed from her and driven insane; she remains the last hope of the Rachni, and you get to choose between letting her live (the Paragon option), and killing her to end her species for good (Renegade). As usual for this series, the Renegade option has no real gain, depriving you of an ally in Mass Effect 3.
- In Mass Effect 3, the "From Ashes" DLC lets you thaw out Javik, the last surviving member of the Prothean race, as a party member.
- The "Leviathan" DLC has you encounter the Leviathans enormous creatures who are millions of years old and are responsible for the creation of the being that created Harbinger, the first Reaper.
- In Morrowind there's a single remaining member of the Dwemer race living in the basement of a 4000 year old wizard. Sadly, he can't explain what happened to the other Dwemer when they all vanished thousands of years ago.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLC Dawnguard, you can meet the last two Snow Elves who avoided the fate that befell the rest of their race. Unfortunately, one of them has become a vampire, and controls those of his race who did suffer the aforementioned horrible fate.
- In Endless Ocean Blue World, you can find 3 extinct creatures, including one distinctively called "Living Fossil", but most notably, a plesiosaur.
- The Weapons Master in Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is one of these; the last Arkeyan, according to one of the story scrolls. (The second game, however, backtracks on this, establishing that the Arkeyans were Mechanical Lifeforms, meaning various Magitek robots in both games aren't just Arkeyan creations but full Arkeyans themselves.)
- Elh and Béluga are the last two Paladins in Solatorobo. Their home was destroyed 300 years ago, and while they seem to fit in fairly well with present-day people (no mentions of ancient clothes or Ye Olde Butchered English, though Elh is capable of reading a little of the old runes when needed), they are definitely a little emotionally distant due to seeing so many generations grow up, grow old, and die while they remained unchanged. Baion also counts, as he woke up from suspended animation 350 years ago. While it's never stated how old he was before he was frozen, he was clearly frozen for a long time, as he's from before the Juno wiped out humanity and set the Floating Continents in the sky to give the new Caninu and Felineko a place to live while the surface of the Earth recovered from the human wars.
- The Fallout series has several characters that serve as living remnants of pre-nuclear war America. Besides a number of pre-war Ghouls, prominent examples include President Eden, Mr. House, ZAX and SKYNET, the Think Tank, and Professor Calvert, all of whom are either sentient computers or Brains in a Jar of one sort or another.
- In MapleStory, Mercedes is a living, breathing elf. Not even the fairies have seen one, and his knowledge of the past is a treasure to any historian who meets him.
- Neverwinter Nights 2: The great dragon Nolalothcaragascint (usually shortened to Nolaloth) was bribed by Illefarn to destroy the King of Shadows. The King struck him down after a great battle. Illefarn transmuted his heart into crystal and bound his soul to it. Nolaloth has since been consulted by people seeking to defeat the King once and for all, first the Githyanki, then Ammon Jerro, and finally the Knight-Captain. It is the KC that Nolaloth finally asks to kill him by destroying his heart, a task complicated by the fact that the valley left by the mountain-sized dragon's crash is now populated by a pair of young black dragons.
- Dark Souls has Dusk of Oolacile. You meet Dusk by rescuing her while she's trapped inside a giant crystal golem, which she must have been in for several hundred years. Her nation, Oolacile, is long gone, having once been located in the Lost Woods you find Dusk in.
- The Oracle of Might and Magic VI is the last remaining sapient intelligence to remember the days before the Silence, and most importantly how the Silence happened, that lives on the planet Enroth on a permanent basis. It's only this on a planetary scale, however — the Ancients who built it are too busy to get in touch, but they are still around, just unavailable.
- Doga and Unei in Final Fantasy XIV are living clones of the original Doga and Unei that existed many centuries ago. Like their original counterparts, Doga and Unei are living beings of the ancient Allgan Empire and have knowledge of its history and they have the ability to open the entrance to the Sycrus Tower.
- In The Dragon Doctors, Rina became one after being rescued from the trap Derek put her in.
- Vog and his village from Schlock Mercenary are the last survivors of their species and culture, and the creators of carbosilicate amorphs. Each surviving individual is orders of magnitude older than the human species.
- Ginkgo biloba, the plant, is the one remaining species of its entire phylum after multiple worldwide extinctions - a relict. It has no living relatives. The only stands of it in the "wild" are speculated to have been cultivated by Chinese monks, rather than surviving on their own.
- The coelacanth, a species of fish, is sometimes called a "living fossil" because the species dates back to before the time of the dinosaurs and has undergone very few changes. Sadly, due to What Measure Is a Non-Cute? and the fact that little is known about it, it's a highly endangered species.
- Species that are "functionally extinct," such as the poor Baiji, or Yangtze river dolphin. Their population has sunk so low, and sometimes so hard to find, that they cannot perpetuate themselves. Often, as with the Baiji, their habitant is hardly even recognizable anymore.
- In the 1970's, after being decimated by whaling, (especially in the antarctic), some thought that the blue whale had reached this state. Fortunately, there were more left alive that people thought, and their numbers are increasing.