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Exposition of Immortality

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Is The Hero of your Fantasy tale Really 700 Years Old or your Big Bad a Time Abyss? Perhaps Mr. Exposition gained most of his knowledge by being Older Than They Look? They are? Great. Now, how best to go about showing the audience that they are?

Exposition of Immortality is a Narrative Device common in Speculative Fiction, Fantasy Literature and media derived from those sources. If a work has a character who falls into one of the immortality tropes you can be 99% certain that, at some point, their age is going to come up in conversation or otherwise be brought to the attention of the audience. The methods that a work uses to show that a character is really, really old generally occur in the following ways:

  • Incriminating Evidence: Bob has maintained a series of identities down the ages, all with the same face and often related to their predecessor. Eventually, someone finds photos or paintings of him from hundreds of years ago. Or: Alice has a company of which she is CEO. And someone finds the documentation that shows she's been CEO since the company was originally founded. During the Renaissance. For some reason, with this trope, no one ever seems to consider the possibility of Identical Grandson, which is generally the more reasonable conclusion.
  • Trinkets I've Picked Up Over the Years: Bob maintains a collection of historical artifacts, not because he's an antiques dealer but because he personally collected them. Before they were antiques.
  • I Was Old When the World Was Young: Emperor Evulz knows he is superior to The Hero, because he's been around since the dawn of time, and he's going to tell them all about the things he's seen since then and how much longer he's been around.
  • Such Memories! Bob drifts into a Flashback, or a Photo Montage, or a Dream Sequence about that time he was a soldier. In the Roman Legions. This is impossible if he gets The Fog of Ages.
  • When I Met So and So: "Oh my word, yes! The parties the Sun-King used to throw at Versailles." Sometimes, Bob might even be So and So.
  • An Ancient Accent: Alice speaks and writes with Antiquated Linguistics of some sort.

Exposition Of Immortality is not the same as Time Travel. Characters who end up with memories of past times or encounters with historical figures solely due to temporal tourism did not live through that period of history, and thus, aren't demonstrating their extreme longevity at all. Such characters may, however, be encountered by people who know them in the future via Time Travel. Exposition Of Immortality only applies to characters who're unusually long-lived or actually immortal. Naturally old characters reminiscing does not invoke this trope.

Closely related to Really 700 Years Old, Time Abyss, and Older Than They Look. Often involves Dreaming of Times Gone By, The Time of Myths, and settings with a Fantasy Kitchen Sink. When Played for Laughs, this becomes a Historical In-Joke.

Exposition of Immortality will often lead to two sub-tropes being invoked: Exposure of Immortality and Evidence of Immortality.

  • Exposure of Immortality: When a character in a work is immortal, he is often either perceived to be normal or actively trying to be perceived as such. Sometimes, these characters will need to out themselves to the world at large in order to prove the existence of the supernatural to doubters and deal with a greater threat. Sometimes, they just want to prove it. And sometimes, they're exposed by others deliberately; either to reveal their True Nature and bring about their downfall or during the course of a mundane investigation that uncovers their secret.

    Exposure of Immortality: When an immortal is outed by themselves or other parties.

  • Evidence of Immortality: Exposition that shows a character to be immortal or otherwise older than he appears to be can happen in any of the forms listed in Exposition of Immortality. However; memories, conversations, and flashback sequences don't tend to hold up too well as evidence. Photos, paintings, objets d'art, and a series of documents showing that you and the last 10 generations of your 'ancestors' have the same handwriting are much more damning proof of your unnatural longevity.

    Evidence of Immortality: When documentary or objective evidence is presented to expose an immortal character (or when such characters do so themselves).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass: C.C. states that she knew Benjamin Franklin. The main series takes place in ATB 2017-18, which is their alternate timeline's equivalent of AD 1962-63.
  • Parodied in Dragon Ball, where Master Roshi's proof of being immortal is his driver's license. Third parties confirm that he's as old as he claims to be, however.
  • Frieren: Beyond Journey's End: Given how in the setting elves have extremely long lifespans, Frieren herself has several moments that showcase how long-lived she is, having Been There, Shaped History while having barely changed throughout all that time. She was a member of Himmel's party when they defeated the Demon King, and even years later after both Himmel and Heiter have passed on she is still Walking the Earth. To further illustrate her lifespan, she was the apprentice to the legendary mage Flamme, whose works were ancient to the likes of Himmel and his party.
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and Brotherhood anime, Selim Bradley is confirmed as the homunculus Pride because there are pictures of him from many decades past, looking exactly as he does now, particularly dramatic in this case because he's shaped like a ten-year-old boy.
  • Pops up in Hetalia: Axis Powers, given how the Nations refer to events and people they've gotten involved with over the generations. In one particular instance, a French soldier notices how France hasn't aged at all from his grandfather's time in the military.
  • Colin's memories make up the bulk of Highlander: The Search for Vengeance as we get flashbacks as current events remind him of the past.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: After the Sankt Kaiser was introduced in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, it has become common for newly introduced immortals to show that they lived through the time of Ancient Belka by personally recognizing her and acting shocked that she's still alive. See Ixpellia from StrikerS Sound Stage X and the Unbreakable Darkness of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny if Vivio faces her. The latter also mistakes Einhart for her more famous ancestor, Hegemon Klaus Ingvalt, if you pick Einhart against her.
  • Rin from Mnemosyne pretends to be her own descendant during a visit to an old acquaintance from WWII when the latter recognizes her.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Resident immortal Evangeline recalls Negi's Father and a couple of things outside that range (including recalling her past with exact details).
    • The sequel UQ Holder! does this with a few of its immortals, the most notable being Karin and how she was once a disciple of Jesus, specifically Judas.
  • Neo Angelique has Nyx, who reveals to an old friend that he is in fact not his grandson, but has been alive since they originally met.
  • Done in both the beginning and the end of the second season of To Your Eternity. The first episode, which takes place 40 years after the end of the first season, shows that Hayase had a daughter, Hisame, and that Tonari has grown up and been fighting the Guardians ever since. The second episode contains multiple time skips within a Time-Passes Montage wherein Fushi ends up crossing paths with several of Hayase's descendants before the episode ends with him meeting the sixth generation descendant, Kahaku. All the while, Fushi remains mostly unchanged, and passes the time by Walking the Earth and trying to learn as much as he can. The last episode has a Deadly "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue which details how each of Fushi's resurrected allies lived out their second lives before ending in the present day with Fushi staring down a modern city.
  • In Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, D stops by a town to replace his Mechanical Horse when he gets cornered by the local sheriff and his men who tell the old man D is doing business with that he can't sell to D or any of his kind. In response, the old man tells them of how D once rescued ten children who had been kidnapped from the town by nobles. Just before D leaves with his new horse, the old man reveals that he was one of those kids whom D saved. The end of the OVA takes place many years later and shows D visiting Leila's funeral and meeting her granddaughter.
  • In Yona of the Dawn, Zeno calmly boasts that he can "fight for centuries" and can't die as an intimidation tactic, and heals and regenerates a bunch of fatal injuries as proof. The other characters finally ask him how old he is, and when he admits that he hasn't bothered to keep track, Kija tentatively asks him if he's the original Yellow Dragon from the time of myth. Zeno drops his usual playful cheer to confirm that yes, he is the one and only Yellow Dragon Warrior who served the Crimson Dragon King 2,000 years before. It's also Played With some. Zeno only participated in the very early history of that 2,000 years, and spent most of that time just waiting for a purpose in life again, enough so that he isn't even sure whether it's been one thousand years or two. While he does have proof in the form of a relic gifted to him by King Hiryuu and is able to tell Kija and Yona a bit about their historical counterparts, the first White Dragon Warrior and the Crimson Dragon King, so much time has passed that these things are basically meaningless as proof. His relic isn't a famous historical artifact, as far as we know, although its motif is replicated on the Crimson Dragon King's mausoleum — it's just a personal memento of Zeno's. He later tells Yona that while she reminds him of the Crimson Dragon King that she's a reincarnation of, he's forgotten and remembered so many things that he isn't sure anymore if his memories are accurate because he's had so much time to come up with Alternative Character Interpretations based on things he didn't always notice at first. While the audience gets solid proof in the dreams Zeno has of his past after his immortality is revealed to the other characters, the other characters basically take him at his word based on the fact that he really can't die, and that they trust him since they can't verify the other proof they have. The only irrefutable proof that the characters have besides his much-demonstrated inability to die is that he visited Kija, Shin-ah, and Jaeha when they were young children, and Kija and Shin-ah were four and two years old respectively, meaning they don't remember. Jaeha was nine, but he was asleep when Zeno came to see him.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Ra's al Ghul's early appearances threw in the occasional reference to his history before introducing the Lazarus Pit:
    Ra's: As Napoleon once remarked to me in private conversation, a strong will can fuel a fragile body.
  • The Boys: Many of the supes whose powers come from Compound V are also blessed with slower aging processes through it — The Homelander, Stormfront, Vogelbaum himself, and Colonel Mallory are all cited as being older than they appear to be. Mallory looks much the same in the 1980s as he did during World War II.
  • ClanDestine: A group of villains figure out that Adam Destine is immortal based on finding portraits of him, all at the same apparent age, spanning several hundred years.
  • Fables: Tommy Sharp plans to do this to the Fables living in Fabletown. He's been gathering evidence of their inhuman nature; following Bigby and photographing him shapeshifting, but also checking back on the title deeds of the land and buildings in Fabletown — all owned by members of the Fable community since old New York was New Amsterdam and early photos of them dating back into the 19th century which show that none of them have aged.
  • Flare: The Tigress recalls being the Egyptian goddess Bast.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:
    • Orlando is an immortal Gender Bender who frequently makes passing mention of the historical figures s/he has met at various points in their life.
    • Major League character Allan Quatermain keeps coming back to life anyway, even without the benefits of the Fountain of Youth he receives in the comics. Much as with Orlando, it's through his conversations with Mina that we connect the youthful Allan Junior with the allegedly deceased elder Quatermain.
  • Lucifer: During the opening arc The Morningstar Option, Lucifer returns to Hell for a conversation with Remiel in which he reminisces about the time before The Fall and before the creation of Man.
  • Martian Manhunter: The Manhunter has reminisced about his time on Mars prior to the accident that led to him being teleported to Earth in the 50s, which has shown that he was alive on Mars during the 18th century. His unchanging appearance is credited to Martians being very slow-aging.
  • Preacher:
    • Proinsias Cassidy. He's a vampire and was made one during the Easter Rising in Dublin 1916, which makes him 80+ during the series' run. He tells Jesse all about how he was turned and how he came to America and all the friends he's left behind and lost to old age through the years during a long conversation on top of the Empire State Building. Turns out he missed a few details, though.
    • The Saint of Killers got a four-issue mini-series all of his own to tell us about his mortal life in the American Civil War and the terrible winter of 1878. He dumps a silver dollar with just that date on the counter of a bar in Gone to Texas, too.
  • The Sandman (1989):
    • Hob Gadling. Hob lives forever, thanks to the whim of Dream. He meets up with Morpheus every 100 years, allowing for several instances of Such Memories in their conversations with each other; the changing times get a visual reference in the differing costumes and backgrounds shown; ranging from the Tudor tavern they first meet in to the glass and chrome, trendy wine bar in which they're shown at the end of Men of Good Fortune. His opinion of the Renaissance Festival's accuracy was Played for Laughs.
    • Orpheus remembering his wedding, his dismemberment by the Maenads, and the arc involving Johanna Constantine retrieving his severed head from Revolutionary France.
    • Thessaly. Her "name" is actually a pseudonym, taken from the region near Ancient Greece she used to live in when she was young. She gets referred to as "the Thessalian" by several of the supernatural characters.
  • Hasbro Comic Universe: Cyclonus is one of the oldest Cybertronians around, having been on board the first Ark alongside Nova Prime. By the late 2000s, many millennia later, he has become a zombie after being exposed to the Dead Universe. The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye gives more opportunities for him to showcase his longevity. The first issue has him lament the loss of his home city after Cybertron is reformatted, while a later issue has him converse with Tailgate (a Fish out of Temporal Water from his time period) in Old Cybertronian.
  • Wolverine: Wolverine's Healing Factor means his age is hard to pin down. X-Men Origins: Wolverine placed his childhood in 1845, and Origin also put his early years in the 19th century, though 35 years later, in 1880. Both spend time exploring his earlier life, firmly placing the character in a time period at least 120 years earlier than the one he currently lives in.
  • X-Men: True to form for his Large Ham character, Apocalypse greets the heroes of X-Factor with a long Badass Boast about how old he is and the number of gods he has been known as throughout history.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Shows up periodically in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction due to the presence of immortal characters such as Celestia, Luna, and Discord.
    • In Forever and Again and Again, Twilight finds a private hall full of ancient stained-glass windows recounting many historical events in Equestria that only Celestia is old enough to remember. When Twilight asks why they've been removed from the great hall, Celestia notes that history is always happening, so it makes sense for her to put up windows commemorating more recent events:
      “I don’t need a window in the hall to remember them by. If someone comes for an audience with me, I would like for them to see a pony with whom they might someday share tea.”
    • Shows up in both Last One Standing and Reflections. In the case of Last One Standing, it's given as a means by which Princess Celestia tries to console Twilight Sparkle by convincing her that death is a blessing and that there's nothing to be afraid of. In Reflections, it shows up repeatedly throughout the story as Celestia and Luna are talking together about how they miss many mortals long dead whom they remember perfectly. It gives the interesting concept of immortality as a punishment.
    • The God Empress of Ponykind is framed as Celestia telling a young Twilight about her past, from her departure from her old universe to her forming what would become Equestria from practically dust. She casually mentions that she is over four billion years old, possibly older.
    • In the Pony POV Series, Celestia discusses with Twilight her family and her past, and casually mentions she predates the universe, putting her at 13 billion years old.
    • Besides the Will of Evil: Reiziger, when talking to Trixie, makes no secret of the fact that he's substantially older than pony civilization:
      "Is it so odd that we're civilized?" Trixie asked.
      "Yes," said the black deer. "You must realize that the last time I was out and about in the world, ponies could neither speak nor write. You had barely discovered fire."
  • Played with in Make a Wish, where a series of random happenstances make people believe that Harry's alter ego Mr. Black is extremely old or possibly even immortal.
  • A variant occurs in Angel of the Bat. The Big Bad, the Seraphim, is immortal, but has still only been alive for some 30 or 40 odd years. So instead of listing ancient things he's seen and experienced, he briefly lists off the ways people have tried to kill him.
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, Harold Hale's status as an immortal is revealed via a photograph of him taken during World War I.
  • In Best Friends Forever, it's made clear that Twilight is immortal and the Mane Six have been regressed into infancy, but it's not made clear how long this has been going on until Twilight and Celestia wander through the castle, passing by the relics of numerous repeated childhoods - including an antique picture of Applejack as an old pony and a more recent one of her as a foal.

  • Bram Stoker's Dracula: Whilst at Castle Dracula early in the film, Harker passes comment on a painting of Dracula from the 15th Century, noting the "family resemblance." Of course, as the audience, we've already seen the Count fighting the Turks in 1462 via an opening sequence.
  • Cocoon: The aliens in Cocoon make casual mention that they built a base on Earth before. It was Atlantis. Their leader also makes a passing comment about his own extreme age:
    Walter: "Every ten or eleven thousand years or so, I make a terrible mistake."
  • In Dark Shadows, when we see Angelique's office, there are a dozen very large portraits of her from different points in history, all the way up to present day.
  • Dogma: Loki and Bartleby explicitly discuss Loki's past career, including the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah whilst buying guns and have a long argument about the creation of Man and the actions of Lucifer that precipitated his Fall from Heaven. The guy they're buying the guns from is suitably weirded out.
  • He Never Died: Jack does his best to keep his immortality (and bloodthirst) secret from most everyone, but he ultimately gets found out by two separate people: Alex, who figures out his deal due to Jack's previous relationship with (and subsequent murder of) the former's father, and Cara who while at his house finds his chest of old to ancient trinkets and, having just seen Jack survive a bullet right to his head, connects the dots.
    Cara: How old are you?
    Jack: I have no idea, but I'm in the Bible, if that means anything.
  • Highlander: Connor MacLeod has a collection of things he's picked up over his life, masquerades as an antique dealer, and gets found out thanks to his handwriting on old title deeds and some inconvenient photos. MacLeod's also got many memories of times gone by; saving Rachel from Nazis, dueling drunk in 18th Century New England, and of course, his original life in 16th-century Scotland.
  • The Hunger: Miriam has a collection of ancient items, including an ancient Egyptian pendant and a 500-year-old bust that Sarah notes looks a lot like her.
  • In Jungle Cruise, after his secret is found out, Frank (a roughly 400-year old conquistador cursed to never leave the river) reveals that after he trapped his fellow cursed conquistadors in a cave so that they could not harm him (he was the Token Good Teammate among them and they blamed him for their situation), he spent the next few centuries building up a town along the river and watching settlers go by. Over the course of a montage, he is shown building up the town from nothing before eventually going to a graveyard to pay respects to people whom he is implied to have known since he founded it.
  • In The Last Witch Hunter, Kaulder has several such moments:
    • He has multiple flashbacks back to the time before he became immortal.
    • He tells 37th Dolan about being there back when the church they are sitting by was being built.
    • In a subtler example, Axe and Cross' collection of journals chronicling Kaulder's history consists of several dozen Bible-sized books.
  • Legend (1985): Darkness makes a lot of how long he's been around when taunting Jack about how he can never be destroyed.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring repeats the example from the original work (as seen in the Literature section): Elrond has a flashback of how Isildur failed to destroy the ring, and looks exactly the same as his current self while witnessing the scene of Isildur's defeat of Sauron, previously seen in the prologue.
    Elrond: I was there, Gandalf. I was there three thousand years ago, when Isildur took the ring. I was there the day the strength of Men failed.
  • Subverted in The Man from Earth: John Oldman ("Old Man"), an immortal human being born in the stone age and surviving, barely aged, into the 21st century, has a particular paleolithic tool in his home, which he claims he bought in a flea market. Even after he reveals that he is really approximately 14,000 years old, he still claims that the tool came from a flea market. When asked by his friends why he doesn't keep some mementos of his old life, John tells them that the idea of a person hanging onto the same object for thousands of years is actually pretty absurd.
    • He did, however, keep a painting given to him and signed by Van Gogh.
  • In The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Balthazar is shown in a montage visiting various countries throughout the centuries in search of the Prime Merlinian, while not aging a day. In present time, he keeps an antique store in New York, having accumulated many items at the time when they weren't antiques.
  • Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl: The photo of Beth and Dora, Adele's aunt (who'd just died an old woman) with both looking young years ago shows how she's actually much older than she looks.
  • Underworld (2003) mostly employs a combination of dialogue and flashbacks for this. Selene states that she's been a vampire for six hundred years and that Viktor was her maker. Flashbacks in the first and second films show the date for the Lycan-Vampire conflict, establishing Kraven as at least as old as Selene.
    • The werewolf doctor in Underworld has a family tree showing the dates for the Corvinus family dating back to the fifth century with Marcus Corvinus.
    • And then there's Alexander, who reveals himself to have been the father of the original Marcus Corvinus; still alive after approximately 1,600 years.
  • Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled: The Djinn reminisces about the Roman Emperor Caligula, and speaks fondly of him.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine starts with Wolverine and Sabertooth as young children in 1845, then starts a montage of them fighting in every American war from the Civil War to Vietnam.
    • In X-Men: First Class, There's Wolverine's cameo during the Xavier and Lehnsherr mutant recruitment montage; it's 1962, and Wolverine looks exactly like he has throughout the films.

  • The Book of Dragons: In "Cut Me Another Quill, Mister Fitz", when Mister Fitz, an immortal, magically animated puppet, is arguing with the human Sir Hereward about a historical figure from the distant past, he accidentally refers to the figure in question not listening to his advice before catching himself and switching to vaguer phrasing.
    "Narbonius was a fool," grumbled Mister Fizz. "He was well-advised, but chose to disregard what I... that is to say, I have read that he turned against his advisors."
  • The Culture: There are a number of entities that need some exposition of their long, long lives.
    • Most of the Minds are effectively immortal and many of them have been around for hundreds and occasionally thousands of years.
    • The Player of Games: Chamlis Amalk-Ney, the aging drone who's one of Gurgeh's close friends on Chiark Orbital, is at least four thousand years old by its own admission (no one is impolite enough to look up its construction date to find out if it's really older). In between the drone's much larger body than a more modern drone, like the warped and snarky Mawhrin-Skel, and those two sniping insults at each other about their respective ages, there's also Gurgeh's own musing about the age of Chamlis and how long the drone's been living on Chiark.
  • Discworld:
    • Many of the golems evoke this trope via their ancient scripts and long memories. Anghammarad from Going Postal is a particularly extreme example, on account of being at least 20,000 years old and remembering states and languages that no living creature on the Disc does.
    • Carpe Jugulum: The Count de Magpyr (the old, traditional one, not the trendy new one) recognizes the names of several of the peasants in the mob at his castle and makes mention of remembering their grandparents.
  • In Dragon Bones, immortal Oreg goes undercover as a cousin of the protagonist. When someone mentions a temple where mages are required to serve as mind-controlled slaves, he explains that the mind-control is not necessary, and that, in fact, this other deity is very content with free mage priests ... the problem is that the temple of the god he mentions has been destroyed for hundreds of years. When that is pointed out, he quickly explains that he's "very interested in history" and "sometimes lives more in the past than the present".
  • David Gemmell's Dark Prince, one of the Stones of Power novels, has an epilogue in which the Greek philosopher Aristotle is strongly implied to also be Leonardo da Vinci, maintaining his long life with the use of Sipstrassi. The time is given as "unknown," but when Parmenion asks about what happened to Alexander, we're told he died seventeen hundred years ago.
  • The Howards in Robert A. Heinlein's Future History series, particularly Lazarus Long, are usually too careful to accidentally reveal their true ages. Though approximately a third of Time Enough for Love is Lazarus recollecting things that happened over his 2300-year life. Also a bit of a variation on the "antiquated linguistics" one in that he can speak "modern" languages but insists on speaking English (long-dead by then) with a 20th-century Bible Belt accent when dealing with other Howards.
  • Last Legionary: In Galactic Warlord, Talis patiently explains to Kiell that the alien Glr is not an "it" but a she, and that the Ehrlil are very long-lived, the scientist who first encountered her was his father. Flr herself chips in that she's four hundred, and still considered a wayward youth by her people.
  • H. P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward has characters who speak with a distinctly 17th-century cant and write their Latin in the mode of the 9th century A.D.
  • John Masefield's The Box Of Delights had Ramon Lully, aka Cole Hawlings, 14th century philosopher turned children's entertainer in the 1930s. His reveal comes courtesy of the Big Bad, Abner Brown, who's been in pursuit of him for some time and shows his henchmen a book with pictures of Lully when he was alive which look remarkably like Hawlings.
  • Kim Newman's Dark Future novel Demon Download has a scene in which the resident Big Bad and Time Abyss Elder Nguyen Seth is revealed to Vatican agents as having been around for quite some time via a set of photos running from 1974 to 1868 and an etching of Vlad The Impaler's execution.
  • Newman's Drachenfels has this a couple of times, between Genevieve and the eponymous villain. Drachenfels himself has his immense age pointed out early on; the adventurers reminding themselves that he was around when Sigmar Heldenhammer was still alive, a least two thousand years ago, and coming across the remains of his infamous Poison Feast in which an ancestor of Oswald's was a victim. Later in the story, we see flashes of Drachenfels' early memories, and they include the arrival of the Slann from the stars, making him, personally, older than virtually every other species on the planet. No wonder he called himself Constant Drachenfels.
  • Newman's Something More Than Night:
    • Doctor Voodoo's file on Herbert Holloway starts mundane with the details of his film career in the 1920s and 1930s (the novel's set in 1936), then lays out evidence of earlier careers as an evangelist in the 1880s, a naval officer in the 1810s, and so on back to the 1600s.
    • Devlin's exploration of the mansion, a sequence full of played-with horror tropes, culminates in the discovery of a portrait, painted over a century ago on another continent, showing Ariadne looking the same age as she does in the present. It would be a dramatic revelation, except that the heroes already knew about Ariadne when the story started.
  • Robert Rankin's Armageddon Trilogy features a version of Elvis Presley who evaded his own death and is bonded to a genetically-engineered sprout with TimeTravel powers who grants him near-immortality. Elvis looks the same and conceals his identity with several new names like Theodore Henry Edward King and Noah Never (it's a play on the Elvis song No, I Never).
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has more than a few instances of immortal characters. Elrond in particular evokes Exposition Of Immortality as he pointedly reminds Boromir of who told Isildur what should have been done with the One Ring, 3,000 years ago.
  • In Medusa's Web, Scott realizes that Aunt Amity, supposedly born in the 1940s, was much older than she seemed when he sees a photo from the 1920s and realizes that not only does it depict the same room as a photo he has of his aunt as a young woman, the incidental details are exactly the same, down to the wrinkles in the curtains, suggesting that they were taken on the same occasion. (The possibility of an identical ancestor is raised, but he rules it out due to the young woman in the photograph having his aunt's distinctive birthmark.)
  • In St. Austin Friars a short story in Robert Westall's anthology Break of Dark, William Henry Drogo invites the Reverend to dinner and tells him several detailed stories about the past of Muncaster, as if he witnessed them directly. When challenged he simply states: "I am one hundred and ninety-two years old."
  • Captain John Armstrong Brannigan in the Revelation Space trilogy was implied to be very old courtesy of his cybernetic implants, but it's not till the second novel, when a character finds an old helmet with the NASA logo — now long forgotten six hundred years later — that points out his true age. Later, the Captain acknowledges that he was on Mars. The original Mars landing.
  • This trope is at the center of Cosmicomics, a collection of short stories told in first person as the memories of an extremely old narrator, Qfwfq. Among Qfwfq's memories: when he was among the first amphibians that colonized land, when he invented seashells, his infancy before the Solar System formed.
  • The title character of the Mediochre Q Seth Series admits to being Older Than They Look straight off the bat (it's hard not to when he looks like a fifteen-year-old). Charlotte doesn't find out how much older he is until she visits the house of the almost-equally-old Melinda and sees pictures of him, among other things, seemingly mourning during World War I, watching the departure of the HMS Titanic and running across a rooftop in Victorian London.
  • The Dresden Files are simply stiff with Wizards Who Live Longer and immortals of all types. Among the former, Joseph Listens-To-Wind is an Illinois medicine man who lived through all of the persecution of Native Americans by the United States. In his introductory scene, the dragon Ferrovax attended a costume ball wearing authentic Roman centurion armor. The Denarians are bound to Fallen Angels who live within Judas's Thirty Pieces of Silver, and their leader knows how to drive chariots and wears the noose used for suicide by that same Judas around his neck.
  • Several throughout the Tide Lords series, thanks to the various Tide Lords going undercover whenever the Tide went out.
  • Maggie Calloway in Geoph Essex's Jackrabbit Messiah isn't outright stated to be immortal, but she drops a few of these here and there. For instance, she references Arthur Conan Doyle, particularly calling out how good a dancer he was (as if she's remembering from personal experience). She also lists off the heroes (presumably including herself) as a boast at the villain, and it's not clear that anybody else (besides the gods already listed) could qualify as "immortal":
    Maggie Calloway: You're still talking to two gods, an immortal, and the great damn heroes who got that lovely jewelry perched on your head.
    • Earlier on, she does give a hint that she's at least older than she looks:
      Maggie Calloway: My last confrontation with him was back when World War I wasn't yet numbered.
      Lieutenant Springer: Then you're...
      Maggie Calloway: Very complicated ... it's difficult to add up my days without the use of imaginary numbers.
  • In chapter III of Dracula, Jonathan Harker converses with Count Dracula on Transylvanian history, and observes that the Count speaks of "things and people, and especially of battles, [...] as if he had been present at them all." As the Count is really a centuries-old vampire, it is possible that he has been present at them all.
  • Inamorata by Megan Chance features Odile, a succubus who has inspired many great works of art, music, and poetry as a side effect of draining men's talent by having sex with them. One of her former lovers learns the truth about her by observing the pattern of suicides she leaves in her wake and finally confirming his suspicions by seeing a 150-year-old Canaletto painting of Odile hanging in a Florence gallery.
  • At the end of The World at the End of Time, Wan-To being at those faraway times so old as the Universe itself evokes this trope having nothing to do but living off the memories of its years of existence as it's living in the middle of the most absolute nowhere inside the corpse of a star.
  • While all of humanity is The Ageless in Mikhail Akhmanov and Christopher Nicholas Gilmore's Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise, but the titular captain has been alive since the 21st century (the setting is roughly 20,000 years from now), even if he's only about 2000 by virtue of spending most of his time traveling from world to world in a relativistic ship. The two characters he interacts with the most in the novel, Archon Joffrey (a religious leader on a theocratic world) and his new wife Killashandra, are shocked when French casually mentions helping their distant ancestors settle their planet millennia ago. The Archon can't even imagine a time when people died of old age, as the Holy Archonate on the planet Murphy has decreed that CR (the one-time anti-aging procedure) was a gift from God to all humankind and that denying it to anyone was a grave sin. This is why French's gray-haired appearance (he was in his 50s when CR was invented) baffles many people. He could use biosculpture to make himself appear young again, but he doesn't want to.
  • Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark series takes place over a number of centuries and largely focused on members of a single family. However, there is one character, who keeps appearing in nearly all novels either as an important character or a cameo. He is a member of a race of shapeshifters, whose lifespans are measured in millennia, and has been among humans since the 13th century, either observing or subtly influencing. He mentions helping to finance one of the first printing presses in Europe, providing a crude drawing of the world to Columbus (glimpsed from his view from orbit centuries before), and then going with him as a simple sailor. He plays a key role in humanity's rise as a galactic power, although he usually works from the shadows. His latest chronological appearance so far is in the spin-off Trevelyan's Mission series, which takes place many centuries after the main one. He even uses one of his past identities, probably assuming that no one would know. Another character named Heeyar appears in two novels set centuries apart. He is a Lo'ona Aeo, who live for centuries, if not millennia. While most of his kind never leave their space habitats, Heeyar is unique in that his father was human (the Lo'ona Aeo reproduce sort of like the Asari), so he inherited a number of human personality traits like restlessness and wanderlust. In his second appearance, he meets his father's human great-great-great-grandson and casually mentions encountering another member of the family centuries prior.
  • The Belgariad: Garion knows that his "grandfather" Belgarath and "Aunt" Polgara are really 7,000- and 3,000-year-old sorcerers, but some of their comments make him uncomfortably aware of that fact. When they camp in the ancient ruins of Vo Wacune, Polgara reminisces sadly about how beautiful the city once was, and he realizes that she still mourns a nation that fell centuries before his birth country was even founded.
  • Conversational Troping in Anno Dracula: One Thousand Monsters, when Genevieve notes that, even in the days before people knew vampires were real, a portrait gallery that revealed someone's ancestors all looked exactly like him, and never had any daughters, and all chose to have their portrait painted at the exact age the current descendent is now, was the sort of thing that attracted attention.
  • Carmilla: Among the old paintings which Laura's mother inherited from her family is a portrait, dated 1698, of Countess Mircalla Karnstein, who Laura recognizes is the spitting image of Carmilla. While Laura is astounded by the perfect resemblance of Carmilla to the portrait, her father, though taking note of the similarity, chalks it up to coincidence.
  • Serwa Boateng: Serwa's mmoatia companion, Boulder, constantly mentions historical figures he's met in his lifetime, such as Napoleon and George Washington.
  • In The Twilight Saga, three of the vampires mention how they were turned during major events in American history: Edward during the Spanish Influenza epidemic, Rosalie during the Great Depression, and Jasper during the Civil War.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Alcatraz, the character of Sophie was just a minor character working on the special task force investigating the reappearing criminals who disappeared from Alcatraz Island several decades before, but a flashback revealed her working as a psychiatrist in the 60s on Alcatraz Island. A single video of her known to have been taken in the 60s is the one clue to the other characters of her true age.
    • The criminals and guards who disappeared from Alcatraz in 1963 return to the present day the same age as when they left, as evidenced by photos of them taken in the prison, and a few individuals who happened to have known them before their disappearance.
  • Angel
    • The title vampire mentions crashing The King's Vegas party and several famous Las Vegas mobsters in "The House Always Wins".
    • Angel tells a girl about being in Montana "during the Depression... I mean... my depression... I was depressed there."
  • Babylon 5 has Kosh and Lorien, both of whom have invoked the "I was old when the world was young" line. Sebastian, the Vorlon Inquisitor invokes the Such Memories subtype when reminiscing about his past life as Jack the Ripper.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, being a TV show about vampires, demons, and other supernaturals, has several instances of characters getting to show off their long history. Angel, Spike and Dru (among others) all get to reminisce about the past and it gets shown to the audience in several Flashback sequences. Parodied in "School Hard," where Spike gets his Establishing Character Moment by mocking another vampire for this.
    "Big Ugly": When I kill [Buffy], it'll be the greatest event since the Crucifixion. And I should know. I was there.
    Spike: You were there? Oh please. If every vampire who said he was at the Crucifixion was actually there, it would have been like Woodstock!
    • He then proceedes to play the trope straight:
      Spike: I was actually at Woodstock. That was a weird gig. I fed off a flower person and spent the next six hours watching my hand move.
    • In Season 3, the Scoobies discover a picture of the current Mayor of Sunnydale, only it was taken a hundred years ago. It turns out he founded Sunnydale, specifically as a feeding ground for demons, posing as his son, grandson, and great-grandson after gaining immortality in exchange for his soul.
  • In Castelo Ra-Tim-Bum, the witch Morgana teaches historical facts (like the invention of cinema, or the invention of numbers) to her pet crow Adelaide (and, by extension, the audience), by reminiscing the time when she actually was there.
  • Doctor Who
    • The Third Doctor had a Running Gag of name-dropping a historical figure he had met to a 20th Century Obstructive Bureaucrat or authority figure, who naturally thinks he's engaging in Blatant Lies or gone completely potty.
      Doctor: I'd go myself, only my bad leg's playing me up a bit. The Crimea, you know.
      Robbins: I see. Crimea?
      Doctor: Oh, Gallipoli? El Alamein? Does it really matter?
      Robbins: I reckon not.
    • In "The Stones of Blood", the Doctor and Romana discover that Vivien Fey isn't human and has been alive for far longer than either of them thought when they find a collection of portraits of her from past centuries in Earth's history.
    • In New Who, the Doctor implies he's Seen It All which is why he brings companions on his adventures. The below comment is likely an exaggeration, but it does give a good indication of how old the Doctor is when the viewer hears this and doesn't question that it could be true.
      The Doctor: I look at a star, it's just a big ball of burning gas. I know how it started, I know how it ends, and I was probably there both times. But can see it. And when you see it, I see it!
    • After the events of "The Big Bang" and the reset of the universe, Rory Williams has the memories of his Auton duplicate that spent nearly 2000 years guarding the Pandorica in the alternate. As such, he's taken multiple levels of Badass and been written into the histories and legends of the world as "The Last Centurion".
      Doctor: Rome fell. I was there.
      Rory: So was I.
  • The Event: The extraterrestrials look just like humans but live much longer and age slowly. Photos of these characters taken decades ago, but still looking just the way they do now, are often the only clue the human characters get that reveal the true nature of friends and family members they thought they knew very well.
    • One of the episodes has a Human Alien character being in a relationship several decades ago but forced to leave his girlfriend by another member of his race before she realizes that he doesn't appear to age. Many years later, he accidentally encounters her on the street, as an old woman. She immediately recognizes him, but no one believes her and assumes she's just senile.
  • Forever:
    • Henry does a voice-over that first introduces the fact that he's immortal, and a flashback Age Cut reveals the elderly Abraham is his son, adopted in 1945 after being rescued from a concentration camp. There are flashbacks in every episode to his past. He keeps a pocket watch given to him by his father in 1814 and has a leather doctor's bag made for him by a leatherworker he'd treated in the early 1900s. His stalker sends him a picture of him and his wife taken in 1955, as well as a letter on paper from a hotel in Italy they stayed at in 1945; he comes to the shop with a tea tray that belonged to Henry's father and bears the family crest, so that he can meet Abraham; and he shows Henry that the gun that killed him is among the artifacts recovered from a sunken ship, later arranging for it to be sent to him. Henry cleans up the gun well enough for it to be fired again and puts it on display. The whole antique store is started as a way to clear out Henry's accumulated possessions, as Abe feels his father is becoming a hoarder. Henry also frequently refers to New York or world history in much greater detail than most people could share, and he thinks everything from Jazz to Pop to Rap is all the same thing, just noise with no melody or structure.
    • Adam (although that's probably not his real name) first tells Henry he's a fellow immortal, calling Henry a mere child and claiming to be over 2,000 years old, then proves it by killing himself in front of Henry. Adam is searching for an object from his own mortal past, a certain Roman dagger from several decades BC (it's eventually revealed that it was one of the daggers that were used to kill Julius Caesar).
    • Both immortal characters have interacted with well-known historical figures or have been involved in key events. For example, Henry effectively founded the profession of Medical Examiner during his attempts to catch Jack the Ripper, and he had a feud/rivalry with Hemingway. Adam was being experimented on by Josef Mengele in Auschwitz and, as such, would never harm anyone who survived the camps.
  • Forever Knight has several types. Nick has Incriminating Evidence photos, mementos like Joan of Arc's cross, and plenty of memories he likes to share; usually Once an Episode and related to the case of the Week he's investigating.
  • Like the film, Highlander has it Once an Episode with Duncan sharing flashbacks and Methos’ frequent comments about things he experienced over his 5,000 years. Amanda gets into it too sometimes. Characters collect Trinkets, both individual Immortals and the Watchers accumulate Incriminating Evidence over time which can and has been uncovered by mortals. Immortals will also recount memories of historical events and people, and there are many flashbacks involved. However, actually showing Immortality to those not in on the secret tended less towards material things and more a demonstration of their Healing Factor.
  • Lexx: His Divine Shadow's Divine Predecessors have attained a clinical immortality by being a Brain in a Jar. The first episode of the run of TV movies, "I Worship His Shadow," has one of the Predecessors sharing his memories of the destruction of the Brunnen-G two thousand and eight years before.
  • Lost: Richard Alpert never ages, which we first see in a flashback when Ben Linus meets him as a child and Richard looks exactly the same. Through more flashbacks and Time Travel, we see Richard in various time periods, always looking exactly the same as he does in the present.
  • New Amsterdam (2008): John has taken a picture of Times Square almost since cameras were invented, and painted pictures before that, keeping the different pictures in his apartment to see how New York has changed since he was mortal (back when it was called New Amsterdam). He keeps having flashbacks to his past encounters and occasionally surprises his colleagues with his intimate knowledge of old things, such as knowing about a club that used to be a speakeasy in The Roaring '20s. He gives his dogs numbers as names; his current one is Thirty-Six. He goes to AA meetings and honestly tells them how long he's been sober (over 50 years); when somebody does the math and tries to catch him on that, he simply claims that he looks young for his age. Oh, and then there's the reveal that his friend Omar York (who is 65 years old) is really his son.
  • In an episode of The Outer Limits (1995), a character proves she's immortal by having her future father-in-law look up a photograph of a portrait of her when she was the wife of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816).
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch explored this trope frequently; as it was a sitcom, it was often Played for Laughs. Some examples include:
    • Witches (which in this universe are a separate species from mortals) live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and age extremely slowly. In one episode, it's revealed that most magical beings make several wills over the course of their lifetimes just to get rid of the piles of stuff they accumulate over a period of centuries.
    • Hilda and Zelda live an upper-middle class lifestyle in the Mortal Realm and never want for money. They eventually explain that they've made a fortune with the various antiques they've acquired throughout their lives: they purchase them cheaply when they're new in their own time, put them in storage for a few hundred years, then sell them in "mint condition" for hefty sums.
    • This trope nearly gets Zelda in trouble in an episode later in the run. Someone looking up her academic credentials contacts her alma mater, who proceed to call her and say that the only "Zelda Spellman" that ever attended the school was enlisted centuries ago. Since mortals can't know about witches, she has to come up with a way to disguise her past.
  • Sanctuary: Between the revelations and remembrances about times she worked for the French Resistance, sailed on the Titanic and had sex with the man who became Jack the Ripper, Sanctuary wants you to know Helen Magnus has lived through her 159+ years on this Earth.
    • To a lesser degree, James Watson, who Helen reveals is the inspiration behind Sherlock Holmes.
  • "Dr. Curtis Knox" in Smallville is never explicitly referred to as Vandal Savage, but that's pretty much who he is. A Civil-War era photo of a bearded Knox which Lex shows Clark confirms he's immortal, or at least older than he looks. He also tells Chloe that he was once Jack the Ripper himself.
  • Star Trek
    • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Requiem for Methuselah", Mr. Spock finds an unknown waltz by Johannes Brahms written in original manuscript in Brahms' own hand inside Flint's home. Likewise, Flint has a collection of Leonardo da Vinci masterpieces that have been recently painted on contemporary canvas with contemporary materials. Flint later admits that he was Brahms and da Vinci.
    • In "Metamorphosis", Kirk wonders about Cochrane's "antique" equipment before learning that he's actually warp-drive inventor Zefram Cochrane, who had disappeared 150 years previously.
    • In "Time's Arrow", a two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Enterprise crew runs into Guinan, the El-Aurian bartender on their ship, while on a Time Travel trip to the 19th century. She's shown talking with Mark Twain and Jack London; but when Data approaches her, believing that she too, has traveled through time, she doesn't know him or the rest of the crew.
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Death Wish", a member of the Q-continuum shows us a picture of him and an ancestor of Will Riker from the time of the American Civil War. He also knew Sir Isaac Newton.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Something Wicked", Sam discovers the identity of the witch they are looking for because he finds a news article with a picture of the witch as a doctor back in the 1890s.
  • Tidelands (Netflix): Cal learns her dad, Adrielle and Bill are immortal when she finds old photo albums which show them looking just the same in the early 20th century.
  • Torchwood's Captain Jack Harkness shows his age in every way possible. There's his Army greatcoat, his Webley revolver, a Photo Montage of him through the ages in one episode, him remembering meeting fairies in 1909 and being the British contact for the 456. He speaks normally, though, being a native of the 51st century rather than the 19th.
  • True Blood has done this a few times. Bill gets given a Civil War-era photo of himself while giving a talk to a group of descendants of veterans of that war, Russell and Talbot have centuries-old paintings and tapestries decorating their home, Russell has his collection of trinkets and trophies from down the ages and Maryann not only has her ancient statue but speaks Ancient Greek.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959)'': In "Long Live Walter Jameson", the titular character is a history professor who knows his stuff. He has a retiring colleague named Samuel Kittridge who comments on his appearance and found Walter in a Civil War picture. Walter reveals that he is more than 2,000 years old.
  • In The X-Files episode "Squeeze", Mulder is shown a photograph of the suspect in his current case from 1963 who hasn't aged at all since then. Mulder also looks up the suspect's original birth certificate, showing he was born in 1903.
    • Similarly in the episode "Tithonus", Scully realizes Fellig's great age when she looks up old ID photos and notices that he hasn't aged in a century.
  • In The Dresden Files, while looking through an abandoned building, the vampire Bianca refers to it as a hideout. Harry repeats the word, and jokes that Bianca sounds like a 30s gangster's moll. She responds she was a 30s gangster's moll, and adds she's led a long and interesting life. In the same episode, one of Bianca's associates refers to Harry as "Mr. Wizard," and Harry says she doesn't look nearly old enough to remember the show ("the show" being "Watch Mr. Wizard", a spiritual predecessor of Bill Nye the Science Guy), only for her to say she's 57.
  • Moonlight has several characters find evidence of Mick's unnaturally long life, such as an old picture of Mick's from a decade ago where looks exactly the same. He pretends it's a picture of his father, who has since passed away. This gets disproven when Beth interviews an old cop friend of Mick's who reveals that the Mick he knew (and still knows) has never had children. Later, she finds pictures of herself through the years taken by Mick and realizes that he was her savior all those years ago and has been checking up periodically to make sure she's OK.
    • Joseph also loves to reminisce about the good old days, such as him dating famous movie stars back in the day. He also looks younger than the rest of the cast. When another (even older) vampire comes to town, he casually mentions meeting her when she was trying to put a pirate crew together.
    • Mick also occasionally remembers his days fighting Germans in Nazi-occupied France. However, he was still human then. He also occasionally makes use of his skills as a battlefield medic (such as using a silver necklace to tie off a bleeding artery).
  • Kenneth in 30 Rock, Played for Laughs, will have a moment like one of these, or let something slip like "I've had that bird for 70 years!" A flash-forward has his gravestone; the date is hard to make out but it appears that he was born in the 18th century. The series finale had a more "recent" flash-forward featuring Kenneth, aged not at all, sitting in his executive office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, cars flying by the window, while one of the main characters' grand-children pitches him a show based on stories he actually experienced parts of. Because it's played for comedy, we're probably never getting the kind of explanation a sci-fi show would have.
  • A small example in Blood Ties (2007) pilot. After discovering the truth about Henry, Vicki walks through his apartment and sees a picture of Henry VIII. She asks why he would keep it there? He answers that, like everybody else, he's allowed to keep pictures of family members in his home. Being a bit of a history buff, she immediately realizes that he's Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset, Henry VIII's bastard son. Henry is impressed with her knowledge. Later, Vicki's ex-partner (an ex-lover) Mike figures out Henry's identity on his own (the Internet helps) since Henry hasn't bothered to change his last name. Henry also occasionally references historical events at which he has been present and famous people he personally knew, such as Queen Victoria.

  • In Brazilian singer Raul Seixas's song "Eu Nasci Há Dez Mil Anos Atrás", the singer tells an unknown listener about many events he witnessed himself: Noah's Ark sailing the seas, Babylon's destruction, living with cavemen, and even Christ's crucifixion.

  • Sebastian Baczkiewicz' drama serial Pilgrim for BBC Radio 4 features the 900-year-old William Palmer, cursed to live forever by a Lord of Faery. Most of the exposition of Palmer's age comes from his memories and conversations with other supernaturals.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu 1990s campaign Utati Asfet: The Eye Of Wicked Sight featured a Big Bad who dated back to the Egyptian Empire. The players have an opportunity to uncover this at one point via a set of diaries, documents and paintings.
  • In Dark•Matter (1999), Count Claude-Louis de Saint-Germain is a vampire-like creature who has been alive since the 1700s. He occasionally "accidentally" lets slip historical details from even earlier (but he's lying).
  • Magic: The Gathering: The numena of the Onslaught Cycle are ancient sorcerer-kings and brothers who each devised a different form of immortality: Lowallyn can reincarnate in Blue-aligned wizards who have been driven into madness, Kuberr can be born and reborn through powerful Black-aligned Cabalist parents, and Averru is permanently based in an ancient city that becomes a Genius Loci if enough beings gather there and are driven to Red-aligned acts of warfare.
  • In the Ravenloft setting, Dr. Van Richten realized that the fiend Drigor had been manipulating a particular family for generations when he looked at the family journals and realized their writing styles hadn't changed for the past two hundred years.
  • Shadowrun. Some of the elves in the game are immortal and have lived thousands of years, since the previous age of magic, but this is not generally known. Several supplements provided evidence of their great age.
    • In Jenna Ni'Fairra's home in Tir Tairngire, there's a painting of her that "felt old" to the person who saw it, showing signs of cracking and decay.

  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Emperor of Mankind, who has been around for almost all of human history, has some moments to show how long he has been around (or to hint at his various historical identities). For instance, in the short story "The Last Church", he remarks to Uriah (the only priest at the eponymous church) that long ago a man declared a holy war in the name of his (Uriah's) faith, revealing Uriah to be the last Christian priest. He also named his flagship after Bucephalus, hinting that he was Alexander the Great.
    • As Space Marines (and by extension the Custodes and Primarchs) are nearly (if not outright) immortal, they understandably have a few moments where their age is showing. This is usually more common among Dreadnoughts, who are mortally wounded Space Marines interred in Mini-Mecha who are preserved for their combat skill and wisdom. The most notable among these is Bjorn the Fell-Handed of the Space Wolves, who is perhaps the oldest Space Marine in the Imperium who can remember seeing the Emperor and the Space Wolf Primarch Leman Russ in person (over ten millennia ago). As he himself can attest:
      "Walked, ran, pissed and killed. I did it all. I met the allfather (Emperor), you know. Fought at his side more than once. I do believe he liked me."
    • This is also more common among the Chaos Space Marines, as they not only have more limited ways to replenish their troops but their pacts with the Chaos Gods allow them to endure longer. Many of them are often labeled "Veterans of the Long War", as they have often been around since the days of the Horus Heresy ten millennia ago, more so than their loyalist counterparts. For example, Eliphas the Inheritor in the Dark Crusade expansion for Dawn of War is described as being a lowly battle brother on Kronos in the days of the Heresy only to return ten millennia later as a powerful Chaos Lord.
    • Ollanius Pius, is (as of the latest retcon) a perpetual (immortal human) born sometime around 15,000 BC. He still carries a cross necklace as he's a Catholic. He is also stated to have been one of the Argonauts and to have fought for the French in Verdun during World War I.

    Video Games 
  • The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark: Sean Murphy seems like an ordinary man, if perhaps with a couple of odd habits, until the protagonist finds the graduation photo in his bedroom, which is dated 1809.
  • Fallout: Harold, a ghoul-esque mutant you can meet in The Hub, was 5 years old when the Great War began and emerged from Vault 29 in 2090. The Vault Dweller encounters him in Oldtown in 2162. He'll tell you a little about his life in Vault 29 and what he remembers of the beginning of the war if you ask.
  • Fallout 2: Harold can be encountered once again by the Chosen One. Along with much of the ghoul population of Necropolis, he's settled in an abandoned nuclear power plant and formed a small town named Gecko. Fallout 2 is set a further 80 years after the first game, making Harold 189 when the Chosen One meets him.
  • Fallout 3: Many of the ghouls you can encounter in Underworld lived through the war and can tell what they can remember (frequently little) of the time before. Carol, the ghoul who runs the bar and eatery there, was born in 2051, twenty-six years prior to the Great War.
    • Some of his dialogue and unused security logs in the terminals imply that Fawkes was alive during the initial FEV experiments conducted in Vault 87 before the war.
    • Harold makes his third and final appearance (to date) in Fallout 3. A further 15 years after Fallout 2, Harold's most distinguishing feature (a tree growing out of his head) has now mostly consumed his body, making him a face growing out of a tree.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: Mr. House, once you finally get to meet him, reveals himself to be quite a bit older than you might have been expecting. He's got quite the collection of pre-War artifacts, and he's more than happy to pay you to expand it. He's also reduced to living in a life support system and communicating entirely through electronic screens and his robot minions, but given that he was born 260 years ago and isn't a ghoul or a disembodied brain, that's not bad going.
    • Raul Tejada, age 234, is the oldest ghoul seen so far in the series (he even remembers a rich eccentric House living in Pre-war Las Vegas). Lily Bowen was born in Vault 17 just a year after the war and was converted into a Super Mutant at age 75, making her the oldest known surviving West Coast Super Mutant at a total of 203 years.
  • Fallout 4 has the Vault salesman who gets you a reservation in a Vault just minutes before the bombs fall. When you thaw out a few centuries later, you might encounter him again, now ghoul-ified, and can even invite him to come live in one of your settlements. There's also the Cabot family, who live in a suspiciously nice house; through their questline, you find out that they've discovered an anti-aging serum and are much older than even the Sole Survivor and the ghouls from the Great War period.
  • Sovereign, Harbinger, and the other Reapers of the Mass Effect series make a lot of noise about how they were here long before humans and that they'll be here long after they've devoured them all. Since Harbinger is the first reaper based on the Leviathans and created by the Catalyst, he is at least 1 billion years oldnote  and has participated in at least 20,000 galactic exterminations.
    • Conversations during Mass Effect with Liara reveal that she herself is 106 and that the asari live for a great deal longer than that (one thousand years is considered average) — she's considered to be little more than a child by many of her species' elders. Similarly, Urdnot Wrex will, if asked about his people, talk about the Krogan Rebellions and their immediate aftermath from what sounds suspiciously like a first-hand account. Krogans also live for about one thousand years (though their violent lifestyles mean that they rarely die of old age) but the Rebellions happened more than 1,400 years ago — Wrex is one of the few remaining krogan Battlemasters (krogans with biotic powers) and according to in-game lore they have a longer lifespan than normal krogan.
      • A data log found in the Mass Effect 3 DLC "The Citadel" indicates that when she was young, ME2 party member Samara (who, like Liara, is an asari) was on an exploration vessel that accidentally crash-landed on Earth during the Age of Sail.
  • Lilia Vanrouge in Twisted Wonderland is a Long-Lived fairy who despite a short stature and youthful appearance is an elderly man even for fairy standards – speaks in a stereotypical elderly register, appears to have joint problems, has raised multiple foster sons, is an Old Soldier, and appears in history textbooks. Later on, he explicitly reveals that he's literally 700 years old, and his age has weakened his magic to the point where he can't finish his magic education.

  • In The Senkari, Freija complains about inaccurate historical accounts of events she witnessed.
    Freija: Look at Lindesfarne, unprovoked Viking raids my @r%3. Everyone who was there knows; they started because a pagan trader was savagely beaten by a monk. But no, the books say this. Books books books.
  • Resident Time Abyss Jones of Gunnerkrigg Court summarizes her history through a series of Flashbacks that lasts all of Chapter 40 and dates back to the Hadean eon, leaving the person she's speaking to in Stunned Silence.
  • Unsounded: The Senet Beasts are the first creations of the Gods from The Time of Myths. Most have long since tired of talking about their histories, but Lady Ilganyag reminisces about how she used to tend to the animals that later evolved into the human species.

    Web Original 
  • In Carmilla the Series the gang uncovers photographic evidence of Carmilla having attended Silas every twenty years for at least eight decades. Carmilla herself begins her story by saying she was born in 1680 and was vamped during the war between Austria and the Ottoman Empire.
  • In RWBY, it's not clear just how old Professor Ozpin is, but he makes the statement that "I've made more mistakes than any man, woman, or child on this planet," and his name explicitly breaks the setting's rule about names having some connection to color. The most significant exposition about his age comes from subtle hints and clues, but in Volume 4 he explains to Oscar that his personality transfers from body to body, and he knows what Oscar is going through now (playing host to Ozpin and his memories) because it happened to Ozpin when he was a boy as well. We finally find out his origin story in Volume 6: He is in fact older than humanity itself. His original name was actually Ozma and he was part of the original magic-using humanity, which were wiped out when they attempted to overthrow the gods, which was instigated by his wife Salem when the gods refused to resurrect him.
  • A minor meme involving Older Than They Look celebrities is to find and juxtapose 19th-century photos that vaguely look like the celebrity (Nicolas Cage and Keanu Reeves are popular) to claim they're immortal or vampires.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In "The Ape", Miss Simian mentions a teaching award that took her 754 years to get.
    • In "The Apology", she says that the signature on Gumball's report card is "the most pathetic attempt at forgery I've ever seen in all my 300,000 years of teaching, and I taught during the Stone Age!"
    • In "The Pest", Miss Simian shows Gumball and Anais a number of injuries she's sustained from various historical events. The oldest is a 2 million-year-old scar she has from a time when two homo erectus parents beat her for teaching their child how to make fire.
  • Castlevania: Nocturne: "The Natural Order": While talking to Olrox, Drolta reflects one her age, great ever for a vampire, and on how she was once a priestess of Sekhmet in ancient Egypt and has seen countless nations and creeds rise and fall over the course of history.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: Lucius Heinous VII looks like he's in his mid-30s at the oldest. However, according to one episode, it took him 400 years to grow his horns. Since he's essentially Satan, it's likely he's immortal.
  • The Legend of Korra: Vaatu boasts the "I was old when the world was young" version to Wan during their fight:
    "I lived ten thousand lifetimes before the first of your kind crawled out of the mud!"
    • In flashbacks where Lucius VII has fully grown horns, Lucius VI doesn't look a day over 90.
  • Played for Laughs in a The Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns officially states his birthplace to be Pangaea.
  • Steven Universe: Steven found out that Gems are The Ageless when he found a painting of them in 18th-century garb. Turns out that was a very recent addition to their collection — the youngest member (not counting Steven) is older than recorded history.
  • In Teen Titans, General Immortus remarks fondly that Sun Tzu was one of his best students.
  • Uncle Grandpa once mentioned that he installed a security system on the RV 2000 years ago. (It's literally just a big wooden club.) Mr. Gus once talked about a pair of shorts that he last wore in 1993. That is, 1993 million years ago.
  • In an X-Men: The Animated Series episode, the X-Men have trapped Apocalypse inside a giant forcefield generated by the spaceship. Apocalypse scoffs at the attempt:
    "Beast... how many peoples have dreamed of my end! You are no closer than the Babylonians with their swords and firesticks!"


Video Example(s):


Wolverine & Sabretooth at War

Wolverine and Sabretooth fight in several American wars for over 100 years, demonstrating their immortality and Sabretooth's growing bloodthirstiness.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / ExpositionOfImmortality

Media sources: