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Methuselah Syndrome
The tendency for ancient and fantasy settings to show humans having very long lifespans despite the lack of any established medical science. People will routinely live to a century or better while remaining lucid and active. Might or might not be explained as A Wizard Did It in the case of magical characters, or Enlightenment Superpowers for spiritual ones. Because in fiction age automatically equals wisdom rather than, say, the gradual death of brain cells, he frequently is an Old Master or a mentor. (Of course, research on senility-due-to-age has been skewed by mental illnesses like Alzheimers; people without those diseases can do very well, but those diseases are all too common.)

Interestingly, this seems almost a complete inversion on the myth of people in the past rarely living till old age, which is mostly the error of averaging the historically high child mortality rate.

Not to be confused with Improbable Age. If there's only one or a few characters like this, especially cute little girls in a Bishoujo Series, it's Really 700 Years Old.

Not to be confused with the "Methuselah Syndrome" in Blade Runner, a genetic disorder which causes people to succumb to aging too quickly.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ranma ½ gives us both Happosai and Cologne, two ridiculously skilled martial artists nowhere near slowing down (despite both being very old and crinkly) at the age of at least 120 (manga) or 300 (anime).
  • In One Piece, Word of God has stated any human can live to be 140 and apparently some (or at least Kureha) are so badass they can easily live much longer.
    • The humans do seem to get old at the same time as real humans, though. Whitebeard was 72 and had many problems with his health due to old age. Rayleigh seems to be about same age as Whitebeard, and Garp, being 19-year-old Luffy's grandfather, is probably in his 60's or 70's - both of them have complained of not being able to perform their usual feats and tire easily because they have gotten old.
  • Master Roshi in Dragon Ball is stated to be at least 300 years old. The same would also hold true of his rival, the Crane Hermit.

    Film 
  • A lot of movies and shows with Buddhist monks tend to do this. Kill Bill, for example, establishes Pai Mei as being either well over 120 or more than a thousand years old, depending on whether you want to go by the original script (which states that Pai Mei was already a martial arts master in 1883), Real Life (where he was in 1647 if not earlier), or the actual film (where David Carradine ad-libbed the line into "one double-aught three", or 1003). No explanation is given; it's implied that Pai Mei is just that badass.
  • Godzilla is stated to be a dinosaur that was somehow still living underwater, who was then mutated and provoked by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Either there is an entire colony of Godzillasaurs living in secret, or he's been alive for at least 65 million years. The former possibility has some logic to it, since the original film killed him at the end, and all later films star a different individual.
  • The protagonist of Earth 2100, Lucy, has lived to be 91 years old and still in pretty good shape, while most of the world's population has died off from diseases and starvation.
  • Mr. Jingles in The Green Mile, a mouse that lived some 70 years.

    Mythology, Religion and Folklore 
  • A staple of Mesopotamian Mythology. The first two dozen or so kings in the Sumerian King list have reigns that last anywhere between 100 and 43,200 years - the record being held by King En-men-lu-ana of Bad-tibira. Nobody seems to have had a normal-lasting reign until after Gilgamesh.
  • In Korean Mythology, Dangun (legendary king and forefather of the Korean People) lived for staggering one thousand and thirty-eight years(the time varies for each record, but still over one thousand years), before becoming Sanshinryeong (god of the mountain). He is still being worshipped by Korean shamans, even to this day.
  • Odysseus's dog, said to have survived more than 20 years while sleeping on a dunghill in an era without veterinary care, is a non-human example.
  • The Trope Namer is Methuselah from the biblical Book of Genesis. He lives 969 years, longer than any human in the Bible. That said, most humans from before the flood have a given age of several centuries. It is only after the flood that God decrees that humans will live a "mere" 120 years or less. There are several figures after this point who are said to have lived just over one hundred, which is technically possible but still unlikely for an ancient Hebrew. In the books after the Pentateuch, which took place much closer to the time of the lives of their writers, people live somewhat more reasonable lifespans. It is written that God's decree will eventually pass and human lifespans will get longer again.
    • However, a handful of modern scholars think that was a mistranlation and that years meant months. So while 969 months (Just under 81 years) is rather long for the time it's still within the human lifespan, but the problem with this is we have characters fathering children at 5 or 6 years of age.
  • Merlin, in most versions of the King Arthur mythos.
  • Hindu texts have old kings reigning for five hundred years and then merely giving up the throne and moving away, so we do not even know if they ever died!

    Literature 
  • In The Lord of the Rings, the Númenóreans, or Men of the West, had extremely long life-spans granted to them when they were given Númenor. Aragorn lived to 210, and the fact that most men of Númenórean descent had much shorter lives was mentioned as a sign of the sorry state the world was in.
    • Part of the explanation for the men of Númenór... well, no, just the royal line (including Aragorn) being so long-lived is because their first leader, Elros Tar-Minyatur, was a half-elf who chose to follow his human side. Despite choosing mortality (unlike his brother, Elrond), he still had a greatly extended lifespan: he reigned for 410 years until his death at 500 years.
  • Harry Potter has many of these. Magical ability seems to automatically prolong one's lifespan. Some characters experiencing this are:
    • Dumbledore who was 115 or 116 when he died. In the sixth book he says that he does not expect to live to the end of the year, but this is only because of a cursed ring he foolishly tried to wear.
    • Bathilda Bagshot, who was the aunt of Dumbledore's contemporary Grindelwald and almost outlived them both. She might have outlived Grindelwald if Voldemort hadn't sicced his snake on her.
    • Professor Marchbanks, proctor for the O.W.L. exams seen briefly in the fifth book, mentioned that she personally tested Dumbledore when he was a student.
    • Ron's Auntie Muriel, who in spite of everyone else made it over a hundred.
    • Hagrid is only in his sixties at the time of the books, but does not have a single gray hair on him.
      • Hagrid is also half-giant, so it's not just about being a wizard, in his case.
    • Subverted by Scabbers, Ron's pet rat. He's been alive for at least twelve years, but that's only because he's actually the animagus Peter Pettigrew.
  • Channelers in the Wheel of Time series live much longer than non-channelers. Aes Sedai are routinely at least two hundred years old, and it's discovered in the series that their upper limit of around 300 is a side effect of the Oaths they swear; those who haven't sworn the Oaths can reach beyond that, to four hundred or more. (Male channelers presumably would have the same conditions, except for the whole "Power drives them insane" factor.)
    • Actually based on in-universe statements the average of channelers is somewhere around 600-650, Rand says that Lews Therin was a bit over 400 when he died and was only middle aged. We can assume that the upper limit of channelers is probably somewhere around 700-800 for the really long lived ones.
  • A side-effect of practicing sorcery in the Belgariad is indefinitely-increased lifespan. Except for the characters who become sorcerers during course of the main story, every magic-user in the books is at least one thousand years old.
    • Belgarath, the very first sorcerer, is almost as old as humanity itself, being 7000 years old. Judging from his encounter with the Godless Ones while still a teenager, it's extremely likely that his long-dead grandfather was one of the original humans created by the Gods. Beldin notes that if Belgarath were to speak in the language of his long-ago destroyed village, nobody would be able to understand him-not even Beldin.)
  • Roland, in The Dark Tower, although that's mostly because the collapse of his world has made the nature of time's passage murky at best.
  • In the world of The Dresden Files, it's established that wizards just plain live longer than normals, with 200-300 years being average. A doctor, having seen a series of Harry Dresden's X-rays (when he can get the machine to work, anyway) theorizes that his cells are much better at repairing themselves than those of a normal person.
  • In Sewer, Gas & Electric, Kite is a one-armed Sweet Polly Oliver Civil War veteran, and is over 170 years old. No special reason; she's just a tough ol' broad who never got around to dying.
  • The original Redwall book actually had a very old character named Methuselah, who was killed about midway into the book. Also, it's noted that badgers, especially Badger Lords, can live four times longer than the other species - most of Mossflower's creatures measure time in "seasons", so evidently Mossflower's badgers age at the same rate as real-life humans.
  • Humans in the Bible Times era of Many Waters age incredibly slowly, reaching adulthood around 100.
  • Wizards in Discworld who are competent enough to live to 60 without being assassinated will most likely make it well past 100. The oldest wizard mentioned in the books, Windle Poons, makes it to 130.
    • This is made even more impressive since the disc runs on Alternative Calendar where a year is equal to 800 days. This means that in regular earth years Windle nearly reached the age of 285.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe book The Courtship of Princess Leia had a 100% human character who was over 300 years old. While it's not explicitly stated what planet's years that referred to, later sources indicate that her homeworld has 491-day years, meaning that in Earth years (or the very similar in-universe Coruscant standard years) she's closer to 400 years old. Either way, she's implied to have used The Force to extend her lifespan.
  • In Moses, Man of the Mountain, in agreement with the biblical account, Moses is somewhere upwards of ninety by the time of his death, and he even says that if he wanted to he could have easily gone another ten or twenty years. Similarly, his supposed brother Aaron makes it over a hundred.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cinderella in The 10th Kingdom is a highly amusing parody of this trope. As one of the Five Women Who Changed History (and the only one still living), she is over 200 years old, yet looks only middle-aged and still quite beautiful due to 'magic surgery.' However, this does not extend beyond the surface—not only does she hack, cough, and nearly pass out from the various ailments she suffers from, but during her dance with the Dog Prince, her bones audibly creak and she ends up stuck bent over backward, needing help upright again.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, high-level monks, druids, and some other classes have an ability called "timeless body". While it doesn't lengthen their lifespans, it does render them immune to aging penalties (bonuses still accrue) all the way up to the moment of a death by natural causes.
    • Other methods to be human and either age gracefully or live a long time: the epic (for characters of level 21+ only) feat Extended Lifespan, which can be taken multiple times; and taking levels in the Ruathar prestige class, which is the game's mechanical way of saying "elves have blessed you and call you friend".
    • Elans are psionically upgraded humans who have no limit to their lifespan - although they accrue the aging bonuses and penalties, after that they just keep on going until they are killed by other means. They also don't need to sleep, can forsake food and water by spending an insignificant amount of psionic energy, and cannot breed (they need to convert humans). Outside of becoming a god or an undead, they are the only canonical way of truly living forever.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, people of the plane of Ravnica have significantly longer life spans; the main character is well over a century old, and still an active law enforcement agent.
    • This may be because Ravnican years are shorter than Earth years; after all, the Guildpact has been around for ten thousand years.
    • Also, while he's over a century old, he does think every so often that a hundred is too old for law enforcement work, has a few problems with his age, and it doesn't help that he's been overusing magical health packs for a while.
  • In Warhammer 40K, Space Marines are known for their longevity, routinely living for centuries (provided they don't die in battle). Those greviously wounded in battle may be ensconced in Dreadnaught armor, which renders them functionally immortal (for a price).
    • As well, baseline humans can receive medical rejuvenation treatment that can extend their lives well into the triple digits. For example- at the time of Cain's Last Stand, Ciaphas Cain is is well over one hundred (as is his aid, Gunner Jurgen). Generally however, the treatments that allow this sort of long life are reserved for the rich and the well-off.

    Videogames 
  • The Telvanni grandmasters in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind are extraordinarily old even for a species with an average lifespan around the neighborhood of 500 years.
    • Bloodmoon features the warrior Ulfgar the Unending, who's been on a quest for 500 years. His name implies he's an immortal, but how or why is never stated in the game.
    • Divayth Fyr is said to be nearly 4,000 years old by one of the female clones he made of himself (all of whom are at least in their hundreds themselves). Whether he's older than his Dwemer guest (who was a master craftsman when the Tribunal ascended nearly 3,000 years ago) is up for debate.
  • Wang from Tekken is (as of Tekken 5, at least) 104 years old. He seems to have some back problems (one of his opening poses), which mysteriously vanish whenever he's beating ass in the tournament.
  • In the Zork chronology, both Dalboz of Gurth and Mir Yannick lived for a very long time. That's justified because Dalboz cast a spell on both of them. Played straight, however, are the examples of one of the King Zylon (the Aged) and Antharia Jack, who both lived for a very long time for no apparent reason.
  • In Fire Emblem Elibe, Archsage Athos, Dark Sage Brammimond and the Big Bad Nergal are all well over a thousand years old, justified by being among the most powerful magic users ever seen in that 'verse.
  • Several characters in the Ultima series have very long lifespans for little explained reason. Lord British has been around since the very first game, and while he's white-haired in the ninth game, it's explained to be due to despair over his failing kingdom rather than age. Likewise, the Warriors of Virtue (the Avatar's companions) are still fit for a fight, as are a whole lot of other recurring characters. Taking the prize for inexplicable youth is Sherry the Mouse, a talking but otherwise fairly ordinary mouse who has weathered the two hundred years between the sixth and seventh game without any trouble at all.

    Western Animation 
  • A few characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender are in their 100s, and this isn't viewed as anything especially unusual by the cast. The co-creators Hand Waved it by loosely comparing it to the concept of Xians, Taoist immortals who could live up to half a millennium. However, they admit that they did it primarily for plot-time purposes and didn't learn of the mythology until long afterward.
    • Fire Lord Sozin died in his sleep at the age of 102. Then again, he is the ruler of the Fire Nation and could afford a long lifespan, plus it's mentioned that he may have used the power of the comet named after him to extend his lifespan. Bumi is 112 and still physically active. Supposedly, Guru Pathik is 150, though this is never actually mentioned in the show.
      • Although Pathik's age is never directly mentioned, he says he was friends with Gyatso, which at least puts him over 100.
    • Kyoshi was 230, the longest-lived Avatar; she may have looked the same in all appearances, but she did wear pretty heavy makeup.
    • In fact, it's notable that this DIDN'T happen to Aang: being frozen for a hundred years while in the Avatar State adversely affected his lifespan. If you count the hundred years in ice, sure, he lived to 166, but biologically he was only 66 when he died.
  • In one episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle says that Ponyville have been doing the Winter Wrap Up manually for hundreds of years. In a later episode, Granny Smith claims to be one of the founders of Ponyville. Assuming they're correct (Twilight is likely to have read up on the subject, and Diamond Tiara's family have a business agreement that corraborates the claim) Granny Smith would be several hundred years old. She's geriatric in almost every way but still keeps up her farmwork duties, she's clearheaded despite appearances, and unlike the millennia-old princesses Celestia and Luna, she's a simple earth pony with no fancy magics.
    • Since all of the geriatric ponies seen on the show thus far have been earth ponies, a common fan theory is that while pegasi can fly and unicorns have magic, the gift of earth ponies is long lifespans.

    Real Life 
  • Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. Seriously, these guys never died (much to Andrew Jackson's dismay). Clay and Calhoun were elected to Congress as Jeffersonian Republicans (AKA Democrats) in 1810. Henry Clay then went onto a long political career, ran for president of the United States three times (1824, as a Democratic-Republican, 1832, as a National Republican, and 1844, as a Whig) before dying as the Civil War approached. Basically, he lived through four party changes, and when he died the Whig party pretty much fell apart. Calhoun didn't live as long, but was John Quincy Adams' Vice-President, and then went onto a very long political career that involved practically getting the South to secede from the United States in 1850. They may not have lived to be 600 years old, but Clay and Calhoun are mention more often in the AP US History book than George Washington, Lincoln, FDR, or pretty much any president. Clay, in fact, is mentioned in one book starting about page 200 and then dies on page five-hundred six.
    • John Adams, the Founding Father and 2nd President of the U.S.A. lived to be 91. In the early 19th century, 91! He held the record of longest-lived president until the twentieth century, when Hoover tied him, and then Ford and Reagan surpassed him.
    • Not that Clay and Calhoun aren't examples of awesome and all.
    • A British example would be Lord Palmerston, who entered Parliament in 1807 and only left it on his death in 1865, two days short of his 81st birthday.
    • Or Gladstone, who was over eighty when he became prime minister for the last time, and was generally referred to as the Grand Old Man. (He's sometimes referred to just as "the GOM" in the same way that the Republican Party is the GOP.)
  • The oldest and most longest-serving MP in Parliament is acclaimed as "Father of the House". Recent FOTH's have included former prime minister Edward Heath (86) and ex-cabinet minister Tony Benn (82).
    • Éamon de Valera joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913, fought in the 1916 Rising, was elected to the Irish parliament in 1918 and was then appointed President by the breakaway Sinn Fein government. He retired from politics in 1973 when his second term as President ended.
  • Jeanne Louise Calment lived to be 122. She was born in 1875 and died when the Spice Girls were topping the charts. She was married for 48 years but still spent 55 years as a widow.
  • The reason the average life expectancy in olden days was lower than it is now was because of the significantly higher infant mortality rate, which brought down the average. If a person managed to survive past early childhood they actually had a good chance of living into their sixties, seventies, or even eighties. Sometimes they would even live longer than that; Pope Agatho was born in 577 A.D. and died in 681 A.D., making him 104 years old when he died. Then again, being Pope would give him all the best food, lodging and medical attention known to mankind.
    • Though this may also be a clerical error. At the time years weren't being kept track of quite as meticulously as later centuries. This is also why we don't actually know the real date of Jesus's birth, as it was counted backwards at this time period by people with incomplete archives.
    • According to Tradition, John the Apostle lived to be 109. Again, the Tradition component is with regard to his birth year; he is said to have died in 115 AD. During his life, there were rumors that he would never die, but instead live to see the return of Jesus, and he was supposedly the only Apostle to die of natural causes.
  • Some monarchs are known to also be this, such as Queen Victoria for the UK and Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary. Coincidentally, his descendant Otto von Habsburg, had he ruled, would have given both of them a run for their money: born before World War One, he died in 2011; if he had actually taken the throne in 1922 (when his father historically died, but after the abolition of the monarchy in Austria) and lived as long as he did (i.e. to 2011), he would have had an 89-year reign—the longest of any monarch in human history, with the possible exception of Egyptian Pharaoh Pepi II, mentioned below.
    • Elizabeth II is also a prime example; should she live and reign until 10 September 2015, she will take both the British longest-reign title and the longest-reign title for women from her great-great-grandmother.
    • The possible record-holder is Pharoah Pepi II, who may have reigned for 94 years. However, some Egyptologists question this based on an absence of records dating beyond the 64th year of his reign.
  • Jack Nicholson and Michael Caine are the only two actors who have been nominated for Oscars in The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, The Nineties, and the Turn of the Millennium. We're still waiting to see if this will extend to The New Tens.
  • Dick Clark has often been cited in various media as immortal, including in a song written for/about him by Benny Mardones. His passing in April of 2012, however, proved the immortality attributions to be not so accurate. Even before that, he suffered a massive stroke that made his age frighteningly obvious.
  • This trope may apply to a star. Star HD 140283 appears to have been around since the very beginning of the universe!


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