In fiction, immortality is a crapshoot. Some think that it is great and some think that it's horrible. This trope is the happy medium between the angst-free, eternally youthful immortal, and the immortal who might welcome death.
The character keeps his or her health with immortality, but not youth. As a result, these characters are forever stuck at the apparent age when most mortals' health finally begins to succumb to the ravages of old age, but, unlike the Age Without Youth character, they usually remain vigorous, healthy, "active seniors," and are usually still at least somewhat attractive.
To be this trope a character must:
- Appear to be, or exhibit some evidence of being, at least in his 60s; this generally means wrinkled skin, either very sparse or grey hair, etc.
- Have an actual age well beyond the normal human lifespan (though she or he may still have a finite, but extremely long, lifespan).
The character usually fits one of the following types.
Type B: The Jolly Old Elf: relatively short, heavyset with a waistline greater than his height, huge beard if male.
Type D: The Yoda: small and frail, little if any hair.
Type E: The Elderly Child: a mix of childlike and elderly characteristics, such as grey hair and a baby's face.
Usually, the character also will:
- Either be bald, be bald with patches of long hair, or have a very thick full head of completely grey hair.
- If male, have either almost no body hair or else an impressive, full beard.
- Be extremely wise.
- Have at least one other superhuman ability; being a mighty old person (Old Superhero, Old Master, Old Soldier etc.)or a Reality Warper is the most common.
Anime and Manga
- Szilard Quates from Baccano! may qualify for this. He's something of a mix between Type A and Type B. He has a physical appearance resembling Type B somewhat (though Headmaster Dalton Strauss from the novels is much more of a straight Type B, and Szilard is definitely above that), but is FAR stronger and more youthful then he appears due to having absorbed the knowledge, fighting styles, and muscle memories of at least 20 other people as well as his own ~200 years of life experiences, not to mention all of his experiments on his own body that allow him nigh instantaneous regeneration from most injuries that would at least incapacitate other immortals for a minute or two. And he is very fit and aged well prior to gaining his immortality.
- When he gets serious in battle, Master Roshi in Dragon Ball has the Heroic Build. The rest of the time, he's a Type C.
- Norna-Gest from "The Tale of Norna-Gest" is a three-hundred years old immortal who looks old, but at the same time is healthy and vigorous.
- Dracula is like this in the original novel.
Mythology and Folklore
- Zeus, from Classical Mythology, is usually depicted this way.
- Macbeth from Gargoyles looks like a fit middle-aged man, but is actually about one thousand. He's an odd case, since the spell that made him immortal initially made him look older than his real age by transferring some of his youth to Demona.
- Mr. Salacia from Metalocalypse would seem to fit into this category. No word on exactly how old he is, but he looks pretty old albeit in very solid shape and he is definitely no mere mortal...
- Part of the premise of Fred Claus is that when someone is "sainted" their immediate family stop aging. However, it seems that St. Nick himself kept aging for a while longer to the point where he looks older than his parents, much less his big brother Frederick.
- The Remilliard clan of the Galactic Milieu and Saga of the Exiles have an "immortality gene complex" that stops them aging at a random point. Some seem perpetually 20, others 50 and anything in between.
- The immortals of Highlander don't stop aging until after their first death, though it has to be a violent one; old age and natural causes won't cut it, but getting shot or being in a car accident will. Thus, some immortals look 20, some look 40, and some look 60. There was at least one immortal from the TV series who looked to be in his 70s, and one who was stuck as a child for 800 years.
Mythology and Folklore
- Santa Claus, in most modern depictions.
- In traditional fantasy, dwarves are often portrayed this way.
- The traditional "lawn gnome," as depicted here.
- Octavian of The Secret World was made an immortal at the age of seventy, following a long and violent career as a Roman legionnaire, and he really looks the part: on top of the standard heavyset-but-muscular build, he's Covered in Scars and has a face that looks as though it's been buffed with sandpaper and soaked in whiskey.
- Jerry the Immortal from El Goonish Shive is a jovial and honorable Chivalrous Pervert who even compares himself to Santa Claus while trying to convince the girls that he's harmless. The Immortals Helen and Demtrius also appear like this in flashback (although when Jerry learns what they did, he thinks they were bastards). All three have since "reset", meaning they now appear young because, mentally, they are.
- A few cartoons on Homestar Runner imply the King of Town is one of these: "A Decemberween Pageant" implies that the King of Town was the same King seen in the pageant, and in "Which 'Ween Costumes?" he claims to be about 300 years old.
King of Town: (dressed as the Heat Miser) No, no, I'm Mister Heat Blister, I'm Mister Hundred-and-One!
Strong Bad: Uh, is that your age, or your number of heart attacks?
King of Town: Triple that number and you're in both ball parks!
- The Ice King from Adventure Time is one of these. Oddly, he was young before the event that made him immortal; as he became immortal he became old and heavyset, and then stopped aging as soon as he was done transforming.
- Though despite his puffy robe, the Ice King is actually quite frail, blending him with Type C.
- Marceline in "Finn the Human" and "Jake the Dog," which take place in an alternate timeline: one where Marceline never became a vampire but was still half-demon, meaning she never stopped aging but had a very long lifespan.
- The Guardians of Green Lantern have aged, after a fashion. The survivors are billions of years old.
- Subverted by Agamemmnon◊ from The Incredible Hulk. Immortal and very old, half-human/half-Asgardian, classic Type C. But that's just a hologram he really looks like he's 16. As he explained it, nobody believes he's wise/experienced if he doesn't look old.
- Odin in Valhalla. Even though he keeps eating Idun's life-extending apples like the rest of the gods, he never looks a day below sixty.
- The elves of ElfQuest are immortal and age very slowly; most look young. A few, older than 10,000 years, don't, namely Savah, Lord Voll and Ekuar.
- Stress seems to play a role in this. The only immortal elves who look old are those who have experienced great physical or spiritual hardship. The example of Egg/Aurek supports this: He looked youthful in the original series, but much aged after the fall of Blue Mountain. (In the miniseries Kahvi)
- The Ancient One, Doctor Strange's mentor. His colleague the Aged Genghis is another example: while the Ancient One retained his mind and his sense of dignity, the Aged Genghis bid those farewell centuries ago.
- In Princess Trixie Sparkle, Starswirl was an old and immortal wizard. After several centuries of immortality he gave it up to his young student, the newly crowned Queen Astelle. Unfortunately, she didn't want it after learning that he would lose his immortality because of her.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade features the knight guarding the Holy Grail, who's remained alive since the Crusades by drinking from it.
- Nicolas Flamel in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is approaching 600 years old and looks as if a slight breeze could knock him over.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- Gandalf didn't just stop ageing or age slowly at some point, he was "made" old. Or rather, when he and the other Wizards - actually Maiar - were sent to Middle-Earth, the Valar intentionally made them appear old and feeble so the mortal leaders wouldn't feel threatened by them (and so they didn't forget their station and become another Sauron). His physical strength is superior to most Men or Elven warriors.
- Cirdan the Shipwright, he was "born" when the elves were originally created near the beginning of the First Age, and by the Fourth Age, he was so old that he had a white beard, something that was unheard of.
- Belgarath the Sorcerer from David Eddings' The Belgariad is a definite Type C as are most of his colleagues, particularly Beldin. It is eventually lampshaded when someone points out that while they turned into immortal old men, Belgarath's daughter, Polgara the Sorceress, apparently stopped aging somewhere in her late 20s turns out it's a self-image thing: The male sorcerers let themselves grow old so they'll appear wise and respectable, while the women stop aging early so they won't turn into 'hags'.
- In some respects they slide into Type A. When Belgarath has to partially disrobe in one book he is described as sleek and well muscled while Beldin is immensely strong even without using sorcery to lend a hand. Beltira and Belkira play it straightest of Aldur's disciples.
- Belgarath's archenemies, Ctuchik and Zedar also maintain this appearance, and are both quite physcially tough.
- The Witcher plays it in an almost exactly the same way.
- Enoch the Red from Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle. Parts of Cryptonomicon described him as looking anywhere from his 50s to his 80s (but most likely sixties or seventies), and he's been described as appearing of "indeterminate age" in The Baroque Cycle (but with attention paid to his silver hair and his weathered, marred skin, both characteristics of an old man). He certainly has the long beard, and he acts like a Tolkienian wizard, but I don't recall him described as frail or skinny.
- Dallben from The Chronicles of Prydain is sort of a type C. Whether he's exactly immortal is unknown, but he has at least lived several times the normal human lifespan. His aging however, isn't natural. He was aged prematurely when he read the Book of Three from beginning to end. So for a good chunk of his life he was actually Younger Than They Look.
- Robert Rankin's novels include elderly mage Professor Slocombe. It's implied that he is at least 200 but it's also been suggested that he was Merlin.
- Villainous example: the Norn Queen from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. She's the oldest thinking being in the world (and is said to be more than twice as old as her closest contemporary), and although her race, like their cousins the Sithi, are naturally immortal, she's begun to visibly show her age. However, she hides her face behind a silver mask designed to resemble what she looked like as a young woman, because she is ashamed of her age. She's also an evil sorceress of terrifying power.
- Nevyn and Aderynfrom Katharine Kerr's Deverry Cycle. Neither are truly immortal; they have unnaturally long life-spans.
- Matron Baenre of the Forgotten Realms was over a thousand years old before her death at the hands of Bruenor Battlehammer and his axe. Unlike most Drow, she shows her age though this is because she invoked zin-carla — a necromantic ritual that grants a priestess of Lolth control over a powerful revenant at the cost of permanently draining the priestess' vitality — twice in the past.
- Issus from John Carter of Mars. Martians are all The Ageless, but their immortality is invariably cut short by something - living beyond a thousand Martian years is incredibly rare (and practically sacrilegious in most places). The living goddess Issus nonetheless shows very serious signs of aging; as she's mentioned to have lived for eons, it's probably the hundreds of thousands of years finally taking their toll.
- The Professor from The Price of the Stars is revealed to be this. Shortish, slightly built, clean-shaven but grey haired; the former Armsmaster for House Rosselin in excellent shape for the sixty-something he looks like and a superb fighter, but his bones are not up to diving into gutters and he implies that his reflexes are slowing down... then he breaks out the sorcery and admits he is far on the far side of five hundred.
- The Star Rider in Dread Empire resembles a hunched, tiny old man who walks with a staff, but he's also The Older Immortal and is far more ancient than his closest competition, the twin Princes Thaumaturge (who are "merely" pushing two millennia or so) and is a being of vast knowledge and power. Subverted with Varthlokkur, who is five hundred or so and looks every inch the Wizard Classic until he realizes that the (mortal) woman he's into probably doesn't find that look very attractive; he shapeshifts himself back to his appearance from his physical prime, which goes over much better.
- Lorien from Babylon 5.
- Dulaque from The Librarians (2014). No beard, but he looks to be 70, and is Lancelot Du Lac. Jenkins fits too, since he's Galahad. This also applies to Judson, before his death, and Charlene, both of whom are much older, being the first Librarian and Guardian, respectively.
Mythology and Folklore
- Many depictions of Merlin from King Arthur.
- Flemeth in Dragon Age: Origins seems to be this. At least, until you find out she's a body-snatcher.
- Prophet Velen, leader of the draenei in World of Warcraft, is old enough to have quit keeping track of his age before the draenei left Argus twenty five thousand years ago. In Rise of the Horde, he's stated to be tall and thin by draenic standards (albeit spry enough to keep up with his much younger guards on foot), with long white hair, a long white beard, and "character lines." His in-game model, despite a few minor discrepancies (blue-violet skin rather than pure white, for one) matches that description.
- General Immortus, long-time foe of the Doom Patrol. Precisely how he came into possession of an immortality serum is not discussed, but it appears that he was already quite elderly when he first used it. In the first stories that feature him, Immortus is bald, stooped and very, very wrinkled, like one of those shrunken apple dolls. And he's looked that way at least since the days of the Roman Republic.
- In the non-canonical The Incredible Hulk: The End this is what Banner looks like. He's hundreds of years old, the last human alive. Practically the last thing alive on earth.
- Ekuar from ElfQuest. He's crippled and looks frail and broken because he was held captive and malnourished for aeons so his body never attained the full physical glory his fellow elves reached. At 8,000 years old, he is one of the eldest living immortal elves still alive, though and what's left of his body still functions as if he were young. Once he has been liberated by Rayek, he turns out to be a powerful Rock Shaper and all-round Old Master who helps Rayek lift himself to new heights.
- Star Wars has Yoda, of course. However, he isn't immortal, apparently his species just lives about 10 times longer than humans.
- "God" (George Burns) from Oh, God!
- The High Lama in the 1937 film Lost Horizon.
- In the movie Once Bitten, when the sexy female vampire fails to get the virgin blood she needs to retain her youth and beauty, she turns into this. Although sustained by normal blood, and still immortal, she becomes an old woman.
- The Doctor, when artificially aged by the Master in the Doctor Who episode "The Sound of Drums" and later even further in "Last of the Time Lords".
- In Can You Live Forever?, Adam becomes this following an experimental medical procedure that leaves him nearly immortal, but does not change his appearance.
- Roger from the Shadow Hearts video game series.
- The remaining Branthicor, like Rod, from Schlock Mercenary.
- In Drowtales while fae will remain at the human equivalent of 30 years old with sufficient mana if they are outside of the mana pool for an extended period of time they will start to age much as a human would and become like this, with the condition possibly being fatal, with Lioshi being the clearest example compared to his peers who appear somewhat older but not to the same extent since only he lives on the surface.
- From Aladdin: The Series there's Ajed al-Gebraic, one of Genie's oldest masters. He traded Genie to a sorcerer in exchange for eternal life, unfortunately for him it didn't come with eternal youth.
- The Ghost of Christmas Past in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
- The Childlike Empress in The Neverending Story is Type E, in the novel version. She's a white-haired girl who looks about 10 years old and is "much older than the oldest inhabitants of Fantastica".
- Amerasu from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. One of the oldest Sithi, she physically looks barely out of her teens (like most adults of her race), but her personality and the way she carries herself are both indicative of tremendous age. In any case, she's both an immortal and obviously elderly, and fits here better than under any of the other types.
- King Porky from Mother3 has exactly the same appearance as he did in Earthbound, only now he's visibly frail, coughs every other sentence, and has white hair and a moustache. He's also so old he has no idea if he's 1,000 years old, 10,000 years old, or even older.
Anime and Manga
- Taiitsukun from Fushigi Yuugi. She may be a little old lady, but she's the Top God in this universe. (Though she can take other forms as well: in Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden, she takes the form at one point of a young boy, about toddler age.)
- The titular character of the comic and Sega Genesis video game Chakan: The Forever Man is given eternal life after besting Death in a duel, but since The Grim Reaper turns out to be a Jackass Genie, this did not include eternal youth. Chakan is still a strong and highly capable warrior, but his body and face are withered and nearly colorless because of his living for an untold hundreds or even thousands of years.
- What We Do in the Shadows has Pauline, a ninety-six-year-old woman, being vampirized. She's as immortal as the rest of the cast, who were turned in their youth, but she retains her elderly appearance. Ironically, she's actually younger than any of them; her being turned was Viago saving her from the natural endpoint of a MayflyDecember Romance.
- In Shin Sekai Yori, Tomiko, head of the Ethics Committee, looks like a healthy 60-something-year-old but is actually 267 years old when Saki meets her. She achieved this by using her telekinesis to repair her telomeres like gluing together pottery shards.
- On Doctor Who, four of the Doctor's incarnations — the First Doctor, the Third Doctor, the War Doctor, and the Twelfth Doctor — were played by visibly aging actors. A Time Lord's apparent age is usually rather arbitrary, but they do seem to age if they go long enough without regenerating. For example, the mini-episode "The Night of the Doctor" shows that the War Doctor initially looked like a young John Hurt, and the 2013 Christmas Special "The Time of the Doctor" shows Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor aging over the course of centuries until he looks like an old man right before he regenerates. In the old-school serials The Deadly Assassin and The Keeper of Traken, The Master is shown to have undergone an even worse Age Without Youth process to the point of looking like a rotting corpse.