"And we forgot the taste of bread, the sound of trees, the softness of the wind. We even forgot our own name."So, it has been clarified, immortality sucks. You see all your friends and loved ones die off, you have to constantly come up with new forms of ID, and if you don't keep abreast of mortal matters, you're going to find yourself completely irrelevant in a century or two. On the plus side, you're a living witness to history. You could have been alive at the fall of the Berlin Wall, the treaty at Appomatox Court House, or even the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And you'll be able to recall that as long as you live, right? Well, hold on a second... see, one could argue that there's only so much space the brain can hold, like a video cassette. Which means that, if you live long enough, your brain's going to start recording over itself. You might forget where you were born, what your parents looked like, hell, maybe even what your real name is. And it'll be lost forever to the sands of time. Sucks, doesn't it? Unless, of course, the immortal character in question records everything in a diary/volume of books or something, but how often does this happen?note A common partial aversion is to have the immortal's friends and family be the only thing they still can remember. The tragedies, the wonderful days, the good times and the bad may all blur together after a while, but they can still remember those faces. In these cases, the memories of those people might be the only thing that holds the immortal together, as those memories are the one thing they can anchor their mind to, and without them they would forget who they are and who they were. When this happens to societies, it's Future Imperfect. When it happens to an individual during his or her own lifetime, the person is Shrouded in Myth.
— Gollum, The Return of the King
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Anime and Manga
- Killy of BLAME! is a cyborg who has existed probably as long as the strange machine world of the manga. He is so old that he has forgotten even that he is a cyborg. At least, it seems so. It's hard to tell.
- The Abh touch upon this in Crest of the Stars and its sequels. They live for between 200 and 250 years and their genetic engineering technology is such that they can live much longer. It's not enough to stop The Fog Of Ages setting in though, so their bodies are designed to shut down while their mental faculties are more or less intact.
- An immortal from Ghost Sweeper Mikami who has forgotten the formula that made him immortal, how he made his near invincible robot companion, and lots of other information simply because of this trope. And no, Dr Chaos, 2 + 2 does not equal 5...
- Invoked in some Bleach Fanon to explain why Shinigami generally don't remember their mortal lives - they measure their ages in hundreds. In truth, they were never mortal to begin with - they were literally born in Soul Society, putting them on a different level than humans. Still comes up in fanfic a lot despite Word of God.
- The manga Phoenix features a historical warlord who seeks to claim the blood of the eponymous bird, and with it, immortality, mainly so his empire won't fall into the hands of his incompetent sons. He decides against this when he gets a glimpse of himself in the future, practically invalid and bound to a machine that erases his memories so he has enough brain power to function.
- C.C. from Code Geass suffers from this, until Lelouch has a journey to the center of her mind and then Marianne returns all her memories.
- In the Samurai Deeper Kyo manga, this is the Start of Darkness of Magnificent Bastard Chinmei.
- Axis Powers Hetalia has one in the video game Heta Oni, where Italy has so many memories of the time loops he starts to forget things from his real past.
- In The Familiar of Zero, Saito's trusty talking sword Derflinger has existed for over 6,000 years. He's very wise, but he has a lot of gaps in his memory.
- An issue that explores all the back stories of the secondary characters in Invincible reveals that The Immortal has forgotten most of his life prior to becoming a superhero. Including being Abraham Lincoln.
- Vandal Savage: In an early post-crisis story, he laments how much advanced medical knowledge (from forgotten civilizations he used to rule) he has lost over the ages. When a modern geneticist hesitates in assisting him with some human testing, he bellows that he has 'forgotten more than you'll ever learn!'
- Det. Christian Walker, the main character of Powers, is actually an immortal who's been around since caveman days. He just doesn't remember anything before the early 20th century. His Arch-Nemesis/Evil Counterpart who has been around just as long, on the other hand, seems to remember most of it. However, at the final tragic confrontation between the two, Walker demands to know why the nemesis has done the things he's done, and why the two have been fighting all this time. His enemy pauses, then admits that he can't remember anymore.
- Wolverine, although some of this is due to Laser-Guided Amnesia; other explanations have been simply that he can't remember more than a lifetime of stuff he's done, or that it's an unfortunate side effect of his Healing Factor.
- This seems to be affecting the pygmies in Pocket God. When Klik asks Teela when she made her gadgets, she says that she remembers making them, but not when. Kilk admit he's been experiencing similar memory loss as well and thinks it's a side effect of their Resurrective Immortality.
- In Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World #1, Immortal Man notes he's forgotten his own name over the ages. It's not stated if his Evil Counterpart, Vandal Savage, has the same problem.
- Bernadette of Death Vigil, being thousands of years old, says she doesn't remember her life before the Vigil. She remembers every single one of her friends, however, and cries after their (second) death.
- In the Bleach/The Familiar of Zero crossover The Left Hand of the Death God, Ichigo Kurosaki was betrayed by Soul Society and thrown into a dungeon to rot. By the time Louise inadvertently frees him by summoning him as her familiar, he doesn't remember how long he's been in there (he speculates he could have been imprisoned for decades or even centuries). He cannot remember his friends and loved ones' names, but he remembers their faces and what they were like, referring to Uryu as the Archer, Chad as the Giant, Orihime as the Healer, and Rukia as the Dancer.
- In A Hero, Homura has lived so long she cannot remember her parents.
- In Pony POV Series, the various immortals sometimes find it hard to keep track of every little detail.
Princess Celestia: That is only one truth Twilight, one version, and even I can't remember anymore how accurate it is. So much has been repaired and revised since then. I sometimes remember it as you've seen in that reenactment. Other times I remember it just being me and Lulu, Discord gone, and me a naive little goddess thinking that without her parents baring down on her, not there to help her, guide her, that maybe at least she could make a land where everyone was happy no matter what.
- The Bridge:
- Princess Luna's earliest memory is a sweet gentle voice who may or may not be her mother. The next is of her and Celestia as children being found and raised by a foster family.
- In Monster X's heartbreaking backstory, his masters put him in cold storage until he is needed. Unable to break free, he starts repeating his name and the name of his wife and parents over and over again in an attempt to not forget, but fails.
- The Lunar Guardsman: Raegdan, the lone human in the story, has fallen victim to this. He has forgotten most of his life through the rifts (as he called them it was all too similar), and many other things, including his own name as there hadn't been anyone to call him by it for so long that it's completely gone for him now.
Films — Animated
- The Atlanteans in Atlantis: The Lost Empire have forgotten much of their culture over the centuries, to the point that few of them can read their own writing.
Films — Live-Action
- Brought up in The Man from Earth - John only remembers "the ups and downs" and not all that much more outside of general details.
- Max Schreck, the vampire actor in Shadow of the Vampire, suffers from this; most of the memories of his early life and his sire have faded, and throughout the film he claims to have forgotten killing members of the film crew less than a few hours after doing so. However, it's implied that Schreck isn't a "complete" vampire, given that he has continued aging despite being immortal, and that he was never capable of siring vampires of his own.
"He has to feed him, when he himself hasn't eaten food in centuries. Can he even remember how to buy bread? How to select cheese and wine? And then he remembers the rest of it: how to prepare a meal, how to make a bed. He remembers his first glory, his armies, his retainers, and what he is reduced to."
- Schreck is asked to read the novel Dracula, and later says the saddest part of the book is when this fog is lifted for Dracula, when he's seen preparing a meal for his guest Jonathan Harker.
- Louis in Interview with the Vampire laments that he can remember the last sunrise he ever saw on the day he was turned in all its vivid detail, but can't seem to remember any sunrise before it.
- Despite being the provider of the page quote, Gollum from The Lord of the Rings is actually an aversion. Deep down he did remember his past life and his name. But during the centuries he held the One Ring, he just didn't care.
- He Never Died: Jack doesn't remember a lot of his life. He can't recall how old he is or remember his parents. Being Cain, however, he does remember murdering Abel.
- Professor Urban Chronotis from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams is an immortal time traveler who is explicitly capable of remembering about as much as a normal human. He doesn't forget things in chronological order, though; he just gets very absent-minded.
- Second Apocalypse: the Nonmen accepted immortality from the Inchoroi, but did not realize that their mortal brains would not be able to handle it. Thousands of years later, they all have a certain level of amnesia. Some of their number, called Erratics, have learned that they can only lock painful memories in their minds, so they go about murdering everyone they hold dear just so they can be sure that the people existed at all.
- In David and Leigh Eddings' Belgariad, Belgarath the Sorcerer has lived for 7000 years. He can remember sensations of his mother, but not her face. Nor does he remember exactly which God's peoples he belonged to. This has less to do with his age than the fact that his mother died when he was very young, and he was a callous youth with no interest in his village or their religious practices. Nevertheless, in his biography he skips over centuries at a time with only a vague description of what he was doing, and of what he does put down in detail his wife and daughter claim he got a lot of it wrong.
- The Madness Season by C.S. Friedman has an energy based species of creatures which are virtually immortal with this problem, and which therefore prefer to live in symbiotic relationship with physically bound creatures.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Lazarus Long comments in Time Enough for Love after over two millennia of existence: "I told you my memory was playing tricks. I've used Andy Libby's hypno-encyclopedic techniques - and they're good - and also learned tier storage for memory I didn't need every day, with keying words to let a tier cascade when I did need it, like a computer, and I have had my brain washed of useless memories several times in order to clear those file drawers for new data - and still it's no good. Half the time I can't remember where I put the book I was reading the night before, then waste a morning looking for it - before I remember that that book was one I was reading a century ago."
- Harry Potter: very old wizards like Dumbledore avoid this by storing important memories in an enchanted chalice called a Pensieve. Which is useful in other ways as well, such as making it possible to pass those memories on to other people as needed.
- In Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer series, the Crystal Singers have this problem, though it's brought on more by long-term exposure to Ballybran crystal than actual age. Killashandra eventually finds a solution to this problem, accidentally.
- Age appears infinitely extendable in Terry Pratchett's Strata, and "memory surgery" prevents brain overload.
- In the Discworld book Pyramids, the high priest Dios prevented himself from dying by reversing time by sleeping in a pyramid, but mentions that the process doesn't preserve memory. Instead, he refers to the written history of the kingdom as his memory. As a result, he can't escape a millenia-long Stable Time Loop. By the time it comes around again it's a surprise.
- In Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars Trilogy, advances in medicine let people live to over 150, but their memories start showing significant deterioration. This is pretty much cured by a drug cocktail that apparently 'refreshes' the taker's memory, to the point where they have highly detailed recall of practically their entire lives.
- The Minotaur is still alive today in Steven Sherrill's The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break, five thousand years later. His days in the Labyrinth are very vague to him.
- A point of Glasshouse by Charles Stross. Immortality means that humans need to periodically erase their memories to make things more interesting. The protagonist has just done this when the book begins.
- The Struldbruggs in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels have the opposite problem — once they turn 100, they get a case of short-term memory loss so bad they can't even remember how the sentence they just finished began. (They don't die of old age, but they do keep getting older, so they become intensely senile.)
- Explicitly averted in Stanisław Lem's Observation on the Spot where ectocs have a photographic memory and can easily remember anything that happened centuries ago, with them being made of Nanomachines. But that's just another reason why there's just six of them left.
- In Stephen Baxter's Exultant, Luru Parz is one of a group of immortals who have survived more than 20,000 years. She claims that they can remember events from throughout their lives, but no more or less clearly than a normal person. Sometimes, events may bring forth a distinct memory that hadn't been recalled in several thousand years. Even so, they must "edit" their memories, but it isn't explained how this is achieved.
- A Fire Upon the Deep. Peregrine Wrickwrackrum, a storyteller among the Tines (a pack of dog-like aliens who form a group mind) claims to have memories from his ancestors going back to the beginning of time, but admits that after you go beyond a few hundred years you can't tell the difference between legend and memory.
- In Poul Anderson's World Without Stars, Humanity has cracked the immortality problem, so that no one dies of old age anymore. Every century or so people have to have old, unwanted, memories wiped, in order to make room for new memories.
- Many of the beings from the far future in the novella Starplex suffer from this. A species known as the Ibs suffers from a related problem—their natural cause of death by old age is that their memories began to overwrite their autonomic routines. In this they are unlike most other sapients, who have problems with their cellular structure such as telomere shortening; the Ibs are noncellular. In fact, the protagonist meets himself from eons in the future, who has forgotten his own middle name.
- The eponymous character of The Vampire Tapestry loses his memory each time he passes into hibernation, and speculates that this is a defense-mechanism against this trope. At the end of the book, he realizes it's more likely to be a defense against his becoming emotionally attached to the humans he has to prey upon.
- Oddly, this trope seems to apply to Hazel-rah in the epilogue to Watership Down, in which the venerable Chief Rabbit can't recall if the adventures attributed to him in his youth were real or not. On the one hand, said adventures couldn't have happened so long ago by human standards; on the other, Hazel is implied to have vastly outlived what's normal for wild rabbits, suggesting that his lapine brain's memory capacity has indeed reached its limit.
- Lampshaded in "Letter To a Phoenix", a short story by Fredric Brown which is told by a narrator who is 180,000 years old (he ages one day per 45 years). He states he doesn't remember his own name because he only has enough place in his head for the important facts — and what could be less important than a 180,000 year old name he changed about a thousand times already?
- In Alastair Reynolds's House of Suns, the long-lived protagonists who've lived through six million years (though, admittedly, only a couple tens of thousands of those conscious) routinely re-arrange their memory. It's implied that they could hold all of their memories at once, if they wanted to, but having that many memories would affect your personality so drastically that most choose not to. Most the long-lived characters tend to hold a rough cliff-notes version of their memories in their heads, but not any of the details; tne main character intentionally prioritizes "recent" memories, which in part drives the main plot.
- Also by Alastair Reynolds, Zima Blue focuses in part on Arthur Zima's quest to find out where his obsession with a particular shade of aquamarine comes from.
- The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
- Gilgamesh has this problem. He is the oldest immortal, the only being that is truly immortal, (Elders and other immortals can be killed in battle) and has gone insane because of it. He has tried to kill himself a few times; one attempt involved standing under the test of the first atomic bomb.
- Flamel himself suffers from this sometimes. He once forgot how to speak and write English.
- Khayman in Queen of the Damned suffers from this. As the third vampire ever in existence, he has spent the last 6000 years continuously active, alternatively losing and regaining his mind over the centuries, thus remembers little of his own life. It's been implied that during his periods of sanity, he engages in a game of manhunt with the Talamasca, who study the supernatural, while simultaneously writing many treaties on the origins of the vampire race as a member simply because he likes to mess with them.
- Vampires in Twilight have Photographic Memory; the catch is that this only applies to memories they form after becoming vampires. Memories of their human lives are subject to fading. Alice, notably, cannot remember anything from back when she was human.
- Addressed in the Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton, where rejuv (restores youth) and quick-grown clones (in the event the body actually dies) together make humans functionally immortal. Everyone has a computer core in their brain that among other things records their memories. This core is regularly backed up to a municipal database.
- In the Magic: The Gathering novels, Archmage Eternal Jodah deliberately inflicts a version of this on himself every hundred years or so - storing his memory in a magical mirror, wiping his brain clean, then "reloading" himself. This allows him to keep the memories without the deep emotional attachments - which would cause him to lock up mentally.
- "Shining Hawk" in The Gnarly Man is a Neanderthaler who got zapped by lightning and wound up not aging, or at least aging very slowly. When he's interviewed, he turns out to be less useful than hoped: he can remember the broad strokes pretty well, but he gets his times mixed up ("Let's see, most of the men in the crowd had beards, so that was 8th century, or was it 12th, there were a lot of beards then too..."). Also, it turns out that unless you're invulnerable as well as immortal, the best way to survive history is not to be present during any of the more exciting bits of it, so anything interesting enough to be worth writing down he probably wasn't around for.
- In the Deverry novels, this is mentioned as a problem for elves (And the immortal human magicians Nevyn and Aderyn) as they get into their fifth century. In the days when the elves lived in cities, they tended to live extremely ritualized lives purely to help people who faced this function. Once the cities were destroyed and they became nomads, they tended not to live as long, so this ceased to be so much of a problem.
- Discussed in Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium. Emperor Grey wonders how many memories his brain can store. He wonders if anyone ever told him and then supposes it's possible they did and he simply forgot. Since Resurrective Immortality is possible for the richest few percent in this world, all memories are recorded (via an implanted Subspace Ansible) and stored in massive databanks to download into the mind of a newly-cloned body whenever the previous one dies. Grey is one of the early adopters of aTan (number 89, actually). By the time the novels take place, he is over 200 years old.
- In The Saga of the Noble Dead, the vampire Pawl a'Seatt is so old that many of his memories have faded, and he can barely recall anything at all about his early life or how he became a vampire.
- Averted in Frederik Pohl's The World At The End Of Time, as Wan-To can remember all its past life near the end of the book it's its unique pastime living inside a dead star in a moribund Universe. Later, in order to leave that star corpse, must destroy most of its memories as there's no energy to carry all of them
- Masquerade of the Red Death: Both McCann and Alicia have problems with this. More accurately, the two incredibly ancient vampires they are linked to have problems with this and it bleeds over into their mortal avatars.
- Horseclans: After a few centuries, the Undying in many cases forget their past.
Live Action TV
- In the last episode Angel asks Harmony if she remembers what it was like being human, because he no longer remembers himself.
- Earlier Darla, resurrected human, realizes she no longer knows what her name was before she became a vampire.
- Highlander: The Series:
- Methos, the legendary Oldest Immortal, tells MacLeod that he's over 5000 years old, then explains that's when he took his first head and "before that, it all starts to blur." Methos therefore has no idea how much over 5000 years old he is; for all he knows he could've gone for thousands of years before killing another Immortal for the first time.
- In general this appears to be averted for Immortals, as they have an astounding recall of events that happened centuries or millennia ago, complete with holding grudges against other Immortals they've encountered. One episode, however, had a case where two different Immortals present at the same event have very different memories of it. As the director points out in his commentary for the episode this should throw a huge shadow of doubt over all flashbacks that we see Immortals having and which had always seemed absolutely reliable before.
- In The X-Files episode "Tithonus", a man who couldn't die because he'd "missed his chance" tells Scully he went to the records office once to look up some facts on his late wife, only he couldn't remember her name.
- Death can't remember if he is as old as or older than God. God, apparently, doesn't know either.
- According to Ruby, most demons have forgotten that they were once human. The only demons known to have some memory of their human lives are Ruby and Crowley.
- Doctor Who. Word of God has it that the Doctor can't remember how old he is anymore, instead going with the generic 900 years whenever the issue comes up.
- Now he's even older; in "The Day of the Doctor," the War Doctor and his tenth and eleventh incarnations are stuck in the same cell:
War Doctor: How old are you now?
Eleventh Doctor: I don't know... I lose track. Twelve hundred and something unless I'm lying. I can't remember if I'm lying about my age, that's how old I am.
- In the episode "World War III" it's a plot point that his memory is so crowded and cluttered he needs help to remember the species the Slitheen come from, and their Weaksauce Weakness. He does that lots of times. It can't help that he also remembers multiple timelines.
- Also explicitly mentioned in "Silence in the Library" when it takes the Doctor a while to recognize the Vashta Narada.
Tenth Doctor: Oh! Look at me, I'm thick! Old and thick! Head's too full of stuff, I need a bigger head!
- At least he remembers the important things. In the short "Good Night," he has this to say when Amy comments that his companions are such tiny parts of his life that he must hardly notice them:
Eleventh Doctor: You are enormous parts of my life. And you are all I ever remember.
- This seems to be why the Time Lords have the Matrix, which records all their knowledge.
- Earlier episodes from the original series back this up. When in regeneration psychosis, The Doctor often mentions previous companions, either for no reason or referring to his current companions by some other name. Perhaps the companions are the way he keeps track of his time: "That was when I with him, then there was a gap, and then I met her."
- The Twelfth Doctor does confirm that he's over 2000 now. It's kinda hard to ignore the 900 years Eleven spent on Trenzalore, fighting off constant invasions.
- In the Twelfth Doctor's debut episode, he's reminded of the S.S Madame Du Pompadour which was seen way back in The Girl in the Fireplace where the Doctor met and had a love affair with the real Madame Du Pompadour and had his heart broken by it... except that now 1100 years later, he only remembers the name as something slightly familiar.
- In The Girl who Died, the Doctor suddenly pierces through the fog of his fading memories and remembers where he got his face from - a man whose family he once saved 1100 years ago.
- The immortal Ashildr is still only a human and her brain can only store so much - after 800 years she forgets her own name, going by simply "Me". She keeps diary records about her many adventurers, which when combined take several tall bookshelves. She even reads them herself now and then, to recap the events she no longer has any recollections of.
- She even has pages that she ripped out of some journals. She can't remember the events but does remember she ripped out the pages because the memory of the events were too painful.
- In Knock Knock, the Doctor encounters a woman who was made immortal 60 years ago by her father with the help of extraterrestrial termites. Things quickly don't add up when her elderly father is still alive and not affected with the same condition as her. It turns that he's actually her son who told her he was her father to explain his age because she could not retain her memory over the years.
- Now he's even older; in "The Day of the Doctor," the War Doctor and his tenth and eleventh incarnations are stuck in the same cell:
- According to Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager, the Borg also suffer from this, as their memory from over 700 years ago is beginning to fragment.
- An episode of Curiosity featuring Adam Savage of Mythbusters was depicted as a future autobiography he wrote at age 1000. Among the other technological interventions he'd used to prolong his lifespan, he linked his brain to a computer so he could use its memory banks to supplement his own overfilled storage capacity.
- Parodied on Canadian teen sitcom Mr. Young with Mrs. Byrne, who has a memory span of a few seconds due to having lived through an ice age.
- According to the fan favourite episode "Brigadoom", the Brunnen-G of Lexx suffered pretty heavily from this trope, after retreating behind a nigh-impregnable shield on Brunnis II and cracking the immortality problem. It's implied this contributed to their insular behaviour and eventual downfall.
- In the second episode of Urban Gothic, vampire Rex (played by Keith-Lee Castle) admits that he can't remember how he became a vampire.
- So far averted with Forever. Both Henry and "Adam" seem to still remember everything in their very long lives.
- Implied in Alphas about Stanton Parrish, who has a form of immortality. He records all his memories using an Alpha named Mitchell (long story short, Mitchell is sort of a living journal). It's suggested that he does this because he's lived so long that he can't hold onto all of his memories.
- Vampire: The Requiem is the Trope Namer. One side effect of torpor (the comatose state vampires experience when they run out of blood or are beaten into unconsciousness) is that, the longer the vampire sleeps, the more their memories shift. A two week nap is no big problem, but if you're asleep for decades, trying to recall your own memories is like trying to remember details from a dream. A number of bloodlines put a spin on this basic concept:
- The bloodline known as the Agonistes, introduced in Bloodlines: The Chosen, who have devoted themselves to subverting the trope. Elders hire them when they prepare for torpor, and the Agonistes first record everything they can before using their special devotions to drive out as much of the fog as they can. They are very good at their jobs... and have received no end of persecution, as many vampires would prefer certain facts to be lost to the ages.
- The Usiri of Ancient Bloodlines can also protect the memories of torpid vampires. Unfortunately, their true power is in pumping the spirits of torpid vampires for anything they can learn.
- Immortal Sinners, one of the Night Horrors books for Requiem, also shows the rare subversions-certain very old, very powerful vampires, called Methuselahs, have learned to cheat the Fog of Ages, meaning they remember everything they care to. The example still makes grandiose claims about who he is, but that's because he's a habitual liar and Trickster Archetype who mainly does things For the Lulz (and his real origin story is still pretty unbelievable).
- Mummy: The Curse averts this: it's not time that induces the fog for a mummy, but various events that have eroded their identity. By discovering evidence of who they used to be, and recognising other people as more than a means to an end, a mummy can regain their identity and memory, until eventually at the highest levels they remember all of their many lives.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- This is shown to be a problem for some Chaos Marines (the oldest of them being over 10,000 years old). The marine uses a special mental ritual to sort through and 'store' any memories from the past year he wants to keep (it turns out the only thing he feels worth keeping is killing a Space Marine).
- Averted in case of Loyalist Dreadnoughts. Old ones tend to remember the past very well, while they don't have a firm grasp on the present acting somewhat senile.
- This is because they are only awoken to fight when they're needed. When they're not needed, they get put into a deep coma and sleep for hundreds of years at a time. Thus, they may have "lived" for thousands of years, but they've only been awake for a few years of that time.
- The 'World on Fire' campaign setting from Spycraft has the Immortals as one faction. They succumb to this—at least, the ones who don't die from 'live fast, die old'.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- In the classic version, the oldest of Immortals don't recall having ever lived as mortal beings. It's implied that they simply can't remember their mortal lives; Korotiku, for example, speculates that he might have been a planar spider. Note that one of the Immortals who recalls his mortality quite clearly happens to have begun his life as a dinosaur, so the ones who've forgotten must be considerably older than that.
- Some splatbooks say this also happens for Liches. A Lich may be so focused on his eternal pursuit of magical knowledge that it forgets its own mortal life. Sometimes the key to defeating one is learning its mortal name.
- In the Eberron setting, the Warforged are immortal constructs with souls. They must get their minds periodically wiped so that they do not go insane from an overload of memories. They can, however, vaguely recall their memories in a pinch, such that they can always make an untrained Knowledge roll for the off chance that they dig up information on a subject learned in a "previous life."
- The Sindar (elves) of Hârn suffer from an extreme form of this, to the point where they will completely forget friends after a long absence. Often an elf will remember songs and tales of events he took part in but have no memory of the actual events.
- The Soulless in GURPS Fantasy II. All of them have been alive for some twenty millennia, but can only clearly remember a small fraction of that, and most don't remember anything from their earliest times. They even have a name for one of the side effects of this: pytrakzhyjzh is "that uncomfortable feeling when you can tell you have some significant past history with another person, but have no idea what kind of history".
- The earliest known example of this in a video game is Glory of Heracles III, for the Super Famicom, where the protagonist of the game is an immortal who suffers from amnesia. This plot element is used again in one of the sequels, Glory of Heracles for the Nintendo DS, where the protagonist is also an amnesiac immortal.
- Touhou Project:
- Elln is an immortal witch who loses her memories blocks at a time, and so she acts as childish as she looks.
- Fairies in general, and Cirno specifically, fall into this category - as Anthropomorphic Personifications of nature, they are immortal to From a Single Cell levels for as long as their aspect of nature is powerful enough to support them. Individual fairies may well be Time Abyss material, but because they are also permanently childish and simple-minded, they often forget everything that happened yesterday, much less a thousand years ago. Cirno, for example, can only vaguely remember the previous occurrence of the flowers' odd growth from Phantasmagoria Of Flower View, only after being reminded a few times, and can't remember any of the details, but is fine with it, since she doesn't care, anyway. She simply wants to do what she always does - play, fly around, and pick fights to see if she'll win. Downplayed somewhat in that she's relatively young at less than a human's lifespan, as well as more intelligent then the average fairy. Simpler fairies have absolutely no sense of self-preservation whatsoever.
- Fujiwara no Mokou, an immortal, somewhat played this trope straight. In a supplementary material for a manga, it's explained that her rivalry with another immortal that's often thought to have driven her to take the immortality elixir wasn't actually her motive - she had forgotten about her by the time she was tasked to dispose of the elixir and was more interested in the prospect of, er, being immortal. Her rivalry is more out of a sense that she has something constant in her life, now.
- Lost Odyssey.
I have forgotten more of the Art than you shall ever know.
- The main character is an amnesiac immortal who's lived for a thousand years; most of his memories are recalled through dreams as the game progresses. It's not a natural side effect of the immortality, though, but rather a case of Laser-Guided Amnesia that makes him more easy to manipulate. According to Chris Avellone, Ravel's apparent senility actually stems from the fact that due to her nature and having all of her "branches" (including Mebbeth, Marta and Ei-Veine), she sees across many planes and time periods all at once and she sometimes has trouble distinguishing exactly where or when she is (hence some of the strange dialog—it was meant to be spoken by another one of Ravel's "selves").
- Another character does in fact keep journals; when that character experiences amnesia, the journals prove to be very helpful.
- In Planescape: Torment, this is implied to have happened to Ravel Puzzlewell — she's certainly not 'all there' when you meet her. As for The Nameless One himself, he is immune to this trope: He does suffer heavily from memory loss, but it's caused by him repeatedly dying and coming back instead of from living too long.
- In The 7th Saga, the robot Lux was built with a finite amount of memory and as a result has forgotten who built him and why.
- This is one of the defining setting traits of I Miss the Sunrise. With virtually everyone capable of living indefinitely, no one remembers more than a small portion of their life at any one time. An incredibly powerful Megacorp has arisen to store memories that would otherwise be erased over, which can be retrieved later should they turn out to be important. (This can be problematic if you've got memories you'd rather keep said Megacorp from gaining access to.)
- In Epic Battle Fantasy 3, Akron has existed for so long that he doesn't remember when or how he came into being in the first place. He can still remember some things, such as being sealed, defeated, and released countless times by different heroes throughout the ages.
- In Dark Souls II, this is one of the symptoms of the Undead Curse. The longer a person is Undead, the more their memories and sanity fade away. Human Effigies can temporarily halt this, but it still seems inevitable.
- In the Far Harbor DLC for Fallout 4, the synth DiMA has been around since he was first created by the Institute decades ago. To help him remember more, he had his fellow synths install additional memory in him, although one of his assistants notes that the upgrades are approaching the limits of what his battery can accommodate. DiMA suggests that this is the reason his "brother" Nick Valentine doesn't remember him, since it's been a long time since they escaped the Institute and Nick hasn't had the same upgrades to his memory. Even with the memory upgrades, he's had to offload some of his memories to a computer system in an old submarine base, guarded by the Children of Atom as part of his deal with them. As it turns out, another reason's he's offloaded some of his memories is because he doesn't want to remember all the shameful, horrible things he's done to keep the peace on the Island, such as murdering the original Captain Avery and replacing her with a synth.
- Immortals in El Goonish Shive have this as inherent to their nature, with a slight variation. Every couple of centuries, they "die" and lose the vast majority of their memory and power. They can apparently choose the time of their death, or even postpone it indefinitely, but this has exactly the result you'd expect.
- According to the background info for Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures , the oldest living demon is tens of thousands of years old (a normal demon life span is 1500 years) but a side-effect of whatever forgotten process that granted her such longevity is that she cannot remember back further than 100 years before the current day.
- Schlock Mercenary:
- The Branthicor intentionally designed their own brains to work this way. Their normal brains couldn't handle becoming functionally immortal due to problems with long-term/short-term memory storage, but their new brains can... If only by intentionally 'compressing' long-term information to the point where they suffer from this trope. It beats the alternative.
- Then there's Eina-Afa, a super-AI in charge of a space station the size of a large planet, who has been alone for longer than Earth has existed as a physical object.
Ennesby: She's forgotten more things than we currently know.
Tagon: I've heard that one before. Old people say it all the time.
Ennesby: Well, here's a new twist. I've seen the size of what's missing. She's forgotten more than what ALL of us know. All of us put together.
- Jin of Wapsi Square has lived for over 80,000 years due to immortality and a "Groundhog Day" Loop, and, as a result, she often has difficulties remembering details from previous cycles. She often entrusts people with information to help her remember.
- A variation in Freefall where most of the robots have a "day memory" which starts to overwrite if they stay "awake" for too long. They must connect to a "dream machine" while they recharge in order to integrate important memories into permanent memory.
- In Orion's Arm this can easily happen to nearbaselines who live more than a few hundred years. Though cybernetic and nanotech enhancements to memory are usually widely available, it is still rare to live longer than about 1,500 years without transcending.
- Three (aka Clarion, Silver, Assistant...) has been jumping from universe to universe for about 30-50,000 years, give or take. She can't remember exactly how old she is. She's also forgotten what her species or homeworld was called and possibly even her original name. She does try to hold on to certain memories, particularly those of close friends, lovers, and adopted children.
- In The Nostalgia Critic, according to Rob, Santa Christ's age is around 2000 but he started losing his memory at 1200.
- Paradox from Ben 10: Alien Force is so old, he can't remember his own name, hence he adopts the moniker.
- He also had a small bout of insanity, which couldn't have helped. The fact that he exists outside of linear time probably doesn't help either.
- However, he does remember the details of the experiment that led to his immortality and even the name of his assistant.
- Ice King from Adventure Time is over a thousand years old, but can't remember anything about what happened or who he was back then. This is strongly implied to be a product of the same Artifact of Doom that made him immortal in the first place. Particularly as he seems to be completely incapable of remembering his distant past even when he sees diary entries, both video and written, which he wrote himself.
This magic keeps me alive/ but it's making me crazy/ and I need to save you/ but who's going to save me?
- Dojo of Xiaolin Showdown helped Grand Master Dashi hide the Shen Gong Wu, but because he did it 1,500 years ago, he can't remember where they are exactly, and has to rely on his Spider-Sense to detect when they activate.
- If you have a set Morning Routine, your memory of individual tasks may fall prey to this - did you feed the cat this morning, or were you just remembering doing it a few days ago?
- Played straight with theoretical lifeforms that could existnote in the very far future if the Universe keeps expanding, when all things -even black holes- have gone away and there's little more than photons, neutrinos, electrons, and positrons. If the Universe keeps accelerating its expansion as is happening now, Both a severe dearth of resources because of that and quantum effects mean that in order to survive foreve they'd be forced to nothing but replaying again and again their memories, unable to learn something new and with no communications of any kind with the outside.
- The human brain can't remember everything that it experiences even within a standard lifetime. We all remember the significant moments of happiness, sadness, anger, etc in our life and significant events, but we usually don't remember specifically where we were or what we were doing on one arbitrary day half a lifetime ago. In fact, people who do remember everything in their lives in exceptional detail are often sufferers of brain disorders or dysfunctions which affect them severely to the point where their other cognitive functions are diminished and they are rarely capable of leading normal lives without assistance.
- Recent scientific evidence suggests that this may now be on its way to being a an obsolete trope; evidence from the beginning of 2016 by the Salk Institute suggests that human memory capacity may be much bigger than we thought. Like size of the Internet big: http://www.salk.edu/news-release/memory-capacity-of-brain-is-10-times-more-than-previously-thought/