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Born-Again Immortality

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Phoenix by SoupAndButter

"There is no doubt being human is incredibly difficult and cannot be mastered in one lifetime."
Unity, Thief of Time

In this type of Immortality, a character is not particularly invincible or unaging. They can be hurt and killed, and they usually age normally. However, if they should die, they will immediately be reborn as a child.

This child may or may not be identical to the original body, but will usually have all the memories of their past life or lives. Note that this is not always Reincarnation — the child may not literally be born, but instead appear or grow on its own.

If they "respawn" at the same age they died, then it's Resurrective Immortality, instead.

This type of immortality rarely overlaps with the other Immortality tropes. See also The Phoenix, Reincarnation.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon: In every season of Digimon, the titular creatures are reborn again after they are killed because their data is reconfigured and turned into a Digi-egg (whether or not they retain their memory depends on the season). However, some seasons have ways in which Digimon can be permanently killed.
    • In Digimon Tamers, Digimon can absorb the data of other Digimon they kill. This not only prevents said Digimon from reincarnating, it also allows the absorber to gain more power and in some cases gain the abilities/techniques of the one they absorbed. Such as Beelzemon gaining Leomon's technique, "Fist of the Beast King".
    • in Digimon Data Squad (Digimon Savers in Japan), the human antagonist, Akihiro Kurata, invented a laser weapon that is powerful enough to kill Digimon and permanently delete their data in one strike. This weapon is primarily outfitted on an army of Artificial Digimon he created known as Gizumon.
  • Asakura Hao in Shaman King, who reincarnates himself every 500 years (having done this twice at the time of the series) to compete in the Shaman Fight. Could possibly reincarnate more frequently, just chooses not to.
  • The Phoenix King Saffron from Ranma ½. Initially seen as a child, he undergoes a process that matures him to adult form within a day, and is then frozen solid and shattered in battle. He immediately regenerates as an egg and hatches again, but as a baby. It's implied that he can keep his memories, but he can also be raised differently to be a better person than his previous incarnation.
  • When Demon King Piccolo is killed by Goku in Dragon Ball, he creates an egg with his reincarnation, Piccolo Jr, who becomes the new, less evil, Piccolo for the rest of the Dragon Ball franchise.
  • So I'm a Spider, So What?: When Kumoko has her body completely annihilated by Ariel's Abyss Magic, she stuffs her soul into one of her thousands of eggs, were she is reborn in a new body with all her prior abilities.

    Comic Books 
  • Cavallistics Inc: Ravne and Jenny's baby was possibly conceived so that Ethan Kostabi could be reborn in a new host body.
  • One Captain America villain was later revealed in The Avengers as having this kind of immortality — whenever he was killed, he would vanish and then go through a regeneration process from fertilized egg, to fetus, to infant, until reaching the age of a young boy. Unfortunately, the events that killed him in the pages of Captain America were responsible for both vastly accelerating the process (to the aforementioned seconds of regrowth time) but making him remember all of his past lives as well, as normally each new life was an amnesiac. As a result, he was a Death Seeker because, as he explained to Thor (who pompously declared how grand a gift immortality is), all his lives had been normal, miserable lives and outside of his last incarnation (the one Captain America fought) had not been any grand people.
  • The Immortal Man from DC Comics has this, in contrast with his Arch-Enemy Vandal Savage, who has regular immortality.
  • In Resurrection Man, it was eventually revealed that Mitch had had this before he got his nanotech based Resurrective Immortality, leading to the Forgotten Heroes thinking he was the new incarnation of the Immortal Man.
  • Loki from The Mighty Thor cannot ever die, thanks to this. Having made a deal to get his name removed from Hel's books, anytime he is killed, he will reincarnate. However, this does not mean he will retain his previous life's memories.
  • House and Powers of X retconned that Moira MacTaggart, originally thought to be a normal human, is actually a mutant with this as her power. When killed she resurrects in a new timeline with all memory and knowledge from her previous lives. The downside is she only gets ten, maybe eleven, resurrections and if she were to be killed before her mutation activates during her teenage years then she'd die permanently.

    Film — Live Action 
  • This is a characteristic of Elora in Willow, necessitating a more complicated process of disposal.
  • Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). After sacrificing himself to save the team, Groot is reduced to a bunch of splinters. Rocket places one of the splinters in a pot, which soon grows into a baby version of Groot, as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
  • Godzilla: Whenever Mothra is killed, she will always be reborn from an egg as soon as her power is needed to defend the world-sometimes, the very moment she dies.
  • Immortal: This is the form of immortality that Horus ultimately acquires. After siring his offspring with Jill, he willingly accepts judgment by his fellow gods. She's later seen with a baby that turns into a falcon.
  • In The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, this is how the Evil Sorcerer Cagliostro has achieved immortality. When he seemingly dies at the end of the film. Vera says that he will return in nine months.

  • A variation with the Helmacrons from Animorphs. When one of them dies, their consciousness is transferred to another, living, Helmacron. This doesn't really make them more effective, however, because as a race they are batshit insane.
  • Desolate Era, a xianxia story based, at least in part, on Daoist principles, has two separate examples of this trope.
    • The story begins with Ji Ning, a teenager on Earth, dying and going to the Land of the Dead. There, he is told that his memories of his previous life will be removed Grandma Meng’s Elixer of Forgetfulness and he will be reborn into a new body on a new world.
    • On reincarnated Ji Ning's new home world, people train along a path to immortality by comprehending Daos (e.g. Dao of Rainwater, Dao of Constructs, Dao of the Sword). If they advance to the level of a true immortal, then they will be reincarnated when they die. They will be reborn in a new body that initially has none of the abilities or memories of their previous life. Slowly, as they grow up, those memories will return. Most immortals know when their time for reincarnation approaches, so they arrange for their friends to find their new body and mentor them back onto the immortal path.
  • In the Discworld book Thief of Time, we find the Abbot of the History Monks does this. He lives a normal life, and remembers each of his previous incarnations, but when he dies, he is immediately reborn somewhere in a village at the foot of the mountain. Lu Tze, on the other hand, has mastered circular aging, so he does not age.
  • In The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August, kalachakras play with this by returning to when they were born.note  If a kalachakra is born in 1919, then their consciousness will return to that date upon dying. Because of this, a kalachakra can only exist within a set time period (eg. 1919 until whenever they die in one life).
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen, this is implied to be possible with the way the Wickan warlocks reincarnate when they're powerful enough. When a warlock dies, a crow takes his soul to a soulless child that is soon to be born. A lot of noise is made about how warlock Sormo E'nath's soul had to be taken up by eleven such crows. When he dies again in a battle, his soul is taken up by hundreds of thousands of butterflies instead of crows, after which Imperial Historian Duiker implies that this will prevent him from being reborn yet again, meaning the Wickan tribes have lost generations of knowledge, experience and wisdom.
  • Titan's Forest: The gods inhabit human bodies, live in them for finite periods of time, die, and are reborn as seemingly normal children to human families shortly thereafter, eventually regaining their memories during puberty.
  • Combined with "Groundhog Day" Loop in Repeat. Brad Cohen essentially "dies" on his fortieth birthday on every iteration of his life and is reborn as a fetus at the very start of his life in the 1970s. For good measure, it's implied that the cycle he leaves behind continues on without him, indicating that he might literally cease to exist in that version of reality.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100: The Grounders believe this is what happens to the Commander: when they die, their spirit chooses the next Commander, who emerges as the winner of the battle royale–esque Conclave. "Thirteen" reveals that the Commander's spirit is really the A.L.I.E. 2.0 chip, also called the Flame, which is implanted in each Commander's brainstem and passed on from one Commander to the next.
  • Kenneth's mother from 30 Rock mentions that his first words were telling her that the body she sees is merely a flesh vessel for an immortal being who's name is The Unpronounceable. The subject is quickly changed.
  • On Blood Ties (2007) a couple of lovers had this power. After death they would be reincarnated and their old memories would come back once they reached puberty. They would find each other again and they would spend another lifetime as a couple. Things go awry when the woman dies in an accident that also puts the man in a coma for ten years. When he finally reincarnates and gets his memories back he can't find her. It turns out that she waited for him for years, but gave up, fell in love, got married, and had children. He initially tries to convince her to leave her husband and children but, eventually, relents and agrees that maybe they're not fated to be together (since their deaths are never natural).

    Myth, Legend, Religion, and Oral Tradition 
  • The Phoenix, according to ancient Greek writers. When it reaches a certain age it incinerates itself, and a baby phoenix crawls out of the ashes.
  • Every Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of the original Dalai Lama, who returns to help his followers rather than Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Plato teaches that the soul is immortal in this sense in his Socratic dialogue Meno. The soul is immortal and reborn often and, at this point, has memories and innate ideas it learned from previous past lives that the person could "recollect".
  • Unlike other beings and even other lamas, tulkus, in Buddhism, are able to choose the form of their reincarnation.
  • Egyptian Mythology: The Egyptian gods are immortal in this way. Although they are depicted as being killed, and aging, in several myths, they always come back to life. The sun god Re dies each and every evening, and is reborn every morning as a child. Though the evidence isn't entirely clear, it appears that all gods were thought to age, die, and resurrect. It is also somewhat unclear, however, whether some of them skip the infancy stage.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Space 1889 in Canal Priest of Mars we learn that the Canal Keepers of Garyaan believe this is what happens to Seldon, the person that united Mars a few millennia ago. The Game Master decides if this is true.
  • New World of Darkness:
    • The Reborn (found in the Immortals sourcebook) are effectively human in every way that matters - but every time they die, they're reincarnated as babies, and have to grow up all over again. As they mature, each new incarnation recalls the memories of all their previous incarnations.
    • The titular characters in Princess: The Hopeful have this ability; Princesses actually are the nobility from an ancient mystical kingdom of magic users who fought against the All-Consuming Darkness, and the current generation is mostly composed of reincarnated members, though the memories they have of their past lives tend to be hazy at best. Princesses who are still on their first life are called Onceborn.
  • Warhammer 40,000: This is the origin of the Emperor. Back before humans were civilised, there was a secret society of shamans who utilised this trope. When their numbers started dwindling, due to their souls being eaten by the newly formed Chaos gods before they had the chance to be reborn, they sacrificed themselves to give all their power to a single human who would be the regular kind of immortal instead. The Star Child cults of the Emperor believe that when the Golden Throne finally fails, the Emperor will be reborn this way, although so far this is in Retcon zone, as next codexes stated that Star Child were Tzeentch cults. This didn't stop fans from speculating that they might be right, though.
  • Pathfinder: Samsarans have this as a racial trait. Consequently, their numbers are effectively fixed, and any children they have are ordinary humans; only in very rare cases is a new Samsaran born, as opposed to being reincarnated after dying in a past life.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The 'Clone' spell. It allows you create a clone of yourself as a young adult, after which your soul gets transferred into it upon death.

    Video Games 
  • In Oracle of Tao this is Anideshi's Informed Attribute. She can't really use it in battle, though.
  • From Bloodrayne, a Flower Child’s life cycle is a true cycle. They can die and be reborn a seemingly unlimited number of times, provided they aren’t killed before reaching physical maturity. Once they die, a large plant grows from their grave (that plant being whatever type of flower they’re based on). This plant bears a ‘fruit’ which is basically a womb, in which the Flower Child’s new body develops. They are then ‘born’ exactly one year after their death, in the form of a five-year-old child.
  • Dracula in the Castlevania series has this in addition to his continual resurrections. After being Killed Off for Real (supposedly) in the Battle of 1999 and his soul sealed away, he was reincarnated to live as a human again, until said human found out he was Dracula and the Sorrow games happened. Interesting in this case because the reincarnation didn't happen immediately. Pieces of Drac's power were incarnated in Graham, Dmitrii and Dario, who were born at the time he was defeated, but the actual inheritor of his soul, Soma Cruz, was born about sixteen years later.
  • Like with the Anime series, Digimon video games frequently uses this trope generally as a plot element or, like in the World subseries, as a major gameplay mechanic with the player's partner Digimon.
    • Digimon World DS actually has a major plot involving the protagonist being tasked with raising a newly reborn Digimon who was killed earlier. The protagonist quickly learns that the reborn Digimon was the BlackAgumon that harassed him from the beginning of the game.
  • Cain, AKA Naoya in Devil Survivor has suffered of this for quite a while. This is not willing. In the slightest.
  • The fae and arasai in EverQuest II. When they die, either of natural or unnatural causes, a spirit bud is created which regenerates the body until they are ready to be reborn. However, the spirit bud can be destroyed, which leads to the fae or arasai's permanent death.
  • Dogmeat in Fallout 3, if Broken Steel is installed and a certain perk is taken, gains this form of immortality. Every time he is killed, he is reincarnated in a new body as Dogmeat's Puppy.
  • The seeress Paddra Nsu-Yeul in Final Fantasy XIII-2 lives to be only about 17 before her visions kill her, and then she is reborn as an identical new infant of the Farseer tribe. This happens again and again throughout all of history. Yeul was the first human created by the goddess Etro, and she's still present in the post-apocalyptic world of 700 AF. Seeing so many Yeuls die young eventually drives her/their immortal guardian Caius insane, which is why he's the Big Bad of the game. His goal is to cause a Time Crash, so that there's no future for Yeul to see.
  • The Chao in the Sonic Adventure Series can come back from death this way if raised correctly. In fact, dying and being reborn twice is one of the requirements for a Chao to become a perfectly immortal Chaos Chao.
  • Zasalamel from the Soul series was originally one of the protectors of Soul Calibur. Against the warnings of one of his fellow tribesmen, Zasalamel discovers the secrets of reincarnation. Over the ages, he regrets this decision, as he realizes that his newfound powers aren't all they're cracked up to be. Thus, he maddeningly seeks the means to end his life for good. After killing himself with Soul Edge and being unable to find the spirit sword he was once tasked with protecting, Zasalamel spends the duration of Soulcalibur III plotting to restore the soul swords to their full power so he can absorb their energies and finally break his cycle of death and rebirth. He succeeds, but sees a vision of the modern day during his ritual. Amazed by the potential of humanity, Zasalamel, feeling an urge to live again, decides to keep his "curse" and guide mankind toward the vision he glimpsed.
  • Roa, the Big Bad of Tsukihime invented a magic that allows him to reincarnate in a previously selected infant body if his current one is killed. Unfortunately, his ability to choose which body he picks lets him pick up more and more absurd superpowers each time...
  • In Pillars of Eternity, reincarnation is the norm for souls after death, but remembering past lives is extremely uncommon and typically causes crippling mental instability. Not so for Thaos, the Big Bad, who remembers his past incarnations perfectly as soon as he hits adolescence, and who always retains the same physical appearance across incarnations.
  • In Digital Devil Saga, corpses in the Junkyard decompose into a clear, water-like liquid that trickles down through a series of tunnels that lead to the subterranean depths of the Karma Temple. The collected liquid gradually evaporates and ascends to the sky, where it then rains down to the land below. The final step of this cycle is not explained (except for in the books, where evaporation never happens and new human beings simply crawl forth from the depths of the Temple), though it's implied that the resulting puddles which grow large enough eventually solidify into human form. New humans seldom look the same as they did in their last life, nor do they retain memories.
    • Digital Devil Saga 2 is told as a flashback, recounted by a now grown-up Fred to seven children who look almost identical to the deceased main cast and antagonist (right down to sharing their respective names). It is revealed at the end of the game (and series) that they are, in fact, the same people - in the "real world", souls are reincarnated when they choose to be, unless they attain enlightenment first (a feat only known to have been achieved by Seraph). Unlike in the Junkyard, it is implied that all humans look similar to that of their past lives. It is not known (though highly unlikely) that memories are retained.
      Fred: I pray that these children, who share their names with you, can find happiness.
  • In the Grimm Troupe expansion of Hollow Knight it's implied that this is the form of immortality of Troupe Master Grimm. However unlike most examples, both the child and adult forms exist at the same time, and the child, with the player's help, must kill the adult to complete the ritual and continue the cycle. Or as the Hunter's Journal more lyrically put it "Dance and die and live forever". The player may choose to participate or break the cycle and make Grimm Deader than Dead. Both options are presented as having pros and cons.
  • Linne from Under Night In-Birth was given this form of immortality by the Night Blade, crossed with Body Surf - upon death, her soul takes over the body of a newly-born child. Realised how many innocent lives she's basically destroyed without any control is a big part of why she's decided Who Wants to Live Forever?

  • Immortals in El Goonish Shive "die" every 200 years or so to be reborn with their basic personality but essentially none of their memories. They will know anything their previous self deemed important, though it will be more like information from a book than an actual memory. Not "dying" every so often leads to problems from increasing power, boredom, and decreasing sanity (Pandora Chaos Raven is a good example of what happens when an immortal does not reset themselves).
  • In Koan of the Day, the sunflower is reborn each time she dies.
  • Leif & Thorn: Possible with long-runners in general. Acai, specifically, keeps getting reborn.
  • Dragon Sanctuary: When a Draconian is killed, their body is cremated and an egg appears in the ashes. It hatches almost immediately, and though it doesn't retain anything of the previous Draconian other than their element, the newborn will often be integrated into the previous one's clan to give it a sense of family and stability.

    Western Animation 
  • In South Park, a mixture of this and Resurrective Immortality happens to the character of Kenny McCormick. When he dies, his mother instantly has another child, who ages to Kenny's age overnight. Only the new Kenny, who has all the old Kenny's memories, and his parents remember what happened, but the latter either assume it's just a drug hallucination or have gotten so used to it that they don't pay it any mind, knowing it has something to do with "that one cult meeting". Everyone else just thinks Kenny bailed on them, even when he explicitly tells everyone to remember him as he shoots himself in the head which causes them to panic, implying that they remember his death up to the point of him getting resurrected, at which point everyone instantly starts remembering his absense between his death and when they see him again as something more innocuous, such as him just leaving as described above.
  • In Wakfu, the six original Eliatropes are reborn after dying, as are their dragon siblings. Most of them retain no memory of past lives, making it more like reincarnation, but Qilby and possibly his dragon sister Shinonome retain the memories of their past lives. Qilby really, really wishes he didn't.
  • The Avatar Spirit, from The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. The ancient spirits Raava and Vaatu battled but couldn't exist without each other, so if one is killed they re-form within the other over a very long period of time. At some point Raava bonded with a human and became known as the Avatar Spirit. Being partly based off of the above mentioned Dalai Lama, the Avatar Spirit itself will always be reborn in mortal form. The current incarnation technically has access to the power and wisdom of all of the previous incarnations, but learning how to access that can be difficult.
    • Spirits in general are like this, according to Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift. They can assume physical bodies in the physical world which makes them mortal, sort of, but even then if they are killed they change forms. The Lady Tienhai fell in love with a human and changed so she could be with him, and upon dying became a flock of birds, still able to resume her old shape but apparently content to watch.

     Real Life 
  • It's a jellyfish, not a bird, but the Turritopsis dohrnii, also known as the "immortal jellyfish," has the phoenix-like ability to indefinitely revert to its juvenile state instead of dying, effectively achieving true immortality.
  • Ian Stevenson, Jim Tucker and others were able to link spontaneous "past life memories" of little children to real people who died, usually violently. The strongest cases even had birthmarks corresponding with a fatal wound verified by autopsy records. Some argue this is proof this trope applies to humans, although fraud, false memories, coincidences and other mundane explanations are more plausible.