A retinal after-image that fades and is obscured by newer, brighter lights."
In any science fiction or fantasy series, human beings are the most ephemeral of creatures. Every other sentient species lives at least as long as, and usually far longer than, human beings. The only exception are the brutish races such as trolls, orcs, or ogres — they mature faster. Ironically, humans have one of the longest lifespans of all mammals in Real Lifenote .
Of course, the inevitable follow-on from this is that a humanoid character may be well over a century in age but only look to be in his early thirties. This sometimes leads to Really 700 Years Old or, in extreme cases, a Time Abyss.
In practice, humans age unusually slowly, compared to other mammals, for well-understood reasons. If an animal has a 90% chance of being killed by predators or disease by the age of three, there's no point in it being able to live to 30: instead, it will typically die of old age at around three. Thus, small animals, which have more predators, age faster, while birds, which are harder to catch, live much longer than mammals the same size, apart from bats, which have a similar lifespan to birds.
These considerations can actually do a lot toward justifying both the trope and the "brutish monster" exception to the rule: An orc or ogre that lives by the sword will die by the sword at an earlier age, and will be better off if it reaches its prime fighting age earlier and has a set of teeth that are designed to be very effective in biting enemies instead of built to last eighty years. Similarly, it's common that the elves have created a safe and isolated environment for themselves, where they can reap the benefits of a lifespan that isn't cut short in a few decades.
Humans in the 'wild', without advanced medicine or technology, tend to live 30-40 years (well, mathematically speaking, that's the average after you factor in ghastly infant mortality; but the notion that our ancestors typically keeled over in their 30s and 40s is a myth just go to a cemetery and look at the dates on the headstones), having very few predators apart from each other. The unusual bit is that even large mammals with almost as few predators as humans die of old age decades before humans, with the exception of some whales and elephants. Intelligent aliens should be similarly long-lived compared with their near relatives. If they've managed to slow down their aging process (through, say, genetic engineering), their natural lifespan could be long indeed, making this a justifiable trope.
See also Puny Earthlings, MayflyDecember Romance, MayflyDecember Friendship, Time Dissonance, We All Die Someday. Contrast Rapid Aging. Compare and contrast Time Abyss. Sometimes used to explain why Death Means Humanity in-universe.
- Bleach: Shinigami live for centuries, Hollows live forever and humans... well they just loop around through a series of reincarnations between the human world and the Soul Society. Unless they become one of the former in which case they will live on until they are slain and reincarnated again.
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: In their fight, Akaze offers Rengoku a chance to become a demon in order to give Rengoku the longevity to get stronger for the rest of eternity, lamenting that humans' mortality prevents them from ever becoming truly strong. Rengoku counters that the shortness and inevitable death of humans is part of what makes living as a human worthwhile.
- Namekians in Dragon Ball live for at least 500 years. The Kaioshin live for about 75 million. Saiyans live about as long as humans, but they stay young longer.
- Frieren: Beyond Journey's End: The overarching conflict of the series is Frieren, a Long-Lived elf girl, outliving all of her loved ones from other races and her realization of how fleeting human life is. The story begins with the two human members of her party dying from old age, causing her to start a journey together with the young mage Fern and thinking over how humans use their short lifespan to live as much as they can.
- Youkai in Inuyasha (ex. Sesshoumaru, Inuyasha, Naraku, etc.) live far longer than any human, and while they may look spry and youthful, in reality they are many hundreds of years old. How quickly they mature relative to humans seems to vary.
- Inverted in Macross Delta with the Windermerians, who only live about thirty years on average. The difference is illustrated when, speaking of his mother, Hayate mentions he hasn't seen her in quite a while. When Freyja says how sad that is, he absent-mindedly replies, "Eh, it's only a few years.",note which makes Freyja wince and look even more sad. Hayate looks like he's mentally kicking himself for that comment.
- This specific realisation drives the whole plot arc of two different characters: the aforementioned Freyja, who flees Windermere to join Walkure and live her dreams while she can, and Roid, whose villany is driven in large part because the entire Windermerean people will be outlived by the other Protoculture-descended species (such as humans and Zentraedi).
- Inverted in Moriking. Moriking explicitly points out that an insect's life is short, and rhinoceros beetles are not expected to live longer than the fall after emerging from their pupae in the summer. Shota promises to take care of Moriking until the end of his natural lifespan, while Shoko displays shock at the notion that these human-like bugs would die so quickly.
- Non-human/animal folk in Negima! Magister Negi Magi's magic world live several times longer than the human species, and it shows up in their aging as evidenced by Princess Theodora. Asuna has been hinted to not be human, instead having been alive for
twenty or thirty yearsat least a hundred years and probably more while looking four. She only started actually growing up physically until she went to Mahora.
- Fairies and Giants in The Seven Deadly Sins have extremely long lifespans and tend to see time accordingly. When Diane and King lived together, they shared a meal with a peasant. By the time they got around to seeing him again, he was an old man. Neither of them noticed that so much time had passed.
- Slayers actually builds on this trope, with longer-lived races stating that they're impressed at how fully humans live their short lives compared to themselves.
- Tenchi Muyo! kind of has this trope. In the OVA, ordinary alien Juraians live about the same length of time as humans, but members of the Galaxy Police who have undergone "body enhancement" live about three times as long, and members of the royal family who have bonded to Jurai trees can live for maybe 20,000 years. Other characters like Ryoko, Washu, and Kagato can live for thousands of years for other reasons. In short, lifespan of a human being (for a wide definition of a "human") in Kajishima's canon is directly corresponding to one's awesomeness. The more ass you kick, the longer you live, plain and simple.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
- Judging by Guame's characterization of Cytomander as a "200-years-young fool", we can safely surmise that beastmen live much longer than humans.
- And then there's Viral, who is actually immortal due to not aging and a Healing Factor.
- Subverted in that Lord Genome makes the point that humans are immortal (because they can have children) while beastmen cannot leave any legacy if they die.
- Inverted in Tokyo Ghoul:Re, with one of the variants of Half-Human Hybrids. The most common result of a human and a ghoul mating is a Half-Human, a being that possesses enhanced physical abilities but no other ghoul traits. Unfortunately, they are Blessed with Suck and have a significantly shortened lifespan compared to either parent species. While their external appearance remains youthful, they start suffering age-related conditions in their 20s and are considered elderly if lucky enough to live into their 30s. The oldest known example was going blind from Glaucoma at the ripe old age of 32. Since they're a Slave Race used as living weapons, their already-shortened lives are further reduced by the likelihood of dying in battle.
- Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou features the short lifespans of humans compared to Ridiculously Human Robots a rather poignant plot point.
- In YuYu Hakusho, the Spirit Royalty live exceptionally long times. Prince Koenma is only recently potty-trained, and claims to be at least 500-years-old.
- The elves in ElfQuest are descended from spacegoing aliens who had overcome aging and disease. However, the Wolfrider elves have wolf DNA, courtesy of their shapeshifting ancestor Timmain, which gives them a finite lifespan — a mere few thousand years or so. The creation of the Wolfriders was necessary in order to make their adopted planet accept the elves as part of its ecology. Furthermore all elves have immortal spirits. Trolls and Preservers are also extremely long-lived, but humans and wolves have normal lifespans.
- Invincible both plays this straight and subverts it. Invincible's dad comes from a race of superpowered moustache-wearing aliens that live for thousands of years, but he still gets to meet a race which can live a lifetime in around a year, and yet are very intelligent. He had a kid with one of them, Oliver; Oliver's lifespan is uncertain, possibly an average between those of his parents, but he aged from "infant" to "teenager" in maybe two years. He also really managed to piss Mark off during their epic battle by comparing Mark's mother to a pet whom he would long outlive.
- Inverted with Gates the insectoid teleporter in Legion of Super-Heroes who at one point says "If I live to be twenty, I will never understand humanoids."
- It varies depending on the canon, but (at least Post-Crisis) it's generally accepted that Superman is essentially immortal, having stopped aging in his late 20's. He can still be killed in battle (and has been) but as long as he can avoid that, he can live forever. This leads to the unfortunate fact that all his friends and loved ones — including his wife Lois — will turn old and gray while the Man of Steel remains young. Not really an issue thanks to Comic-Book Time. In DC One Million we learn that Superman is still alive in the 853rd century. He's spent the last hundred millennia in the heart of the sun, becoming super-charged by its rays to the point that he is essentially a god. All this, just so he can use his new powers to bring Lois back from the dead so they can live together eternally.
- It's implied that Sleepwalker and his race are extremely long-lived, as Cobweb has been ravaging the Mindscape since before recorded time and Sleepwalker has fought him on many occasions.
- The Smurfs are definite long-livers compared to humans — they can live up to 600 years (Grandpa Smurf is a few centuries beyond that) and still remain active and sprightly. In the animated adaptation, it's mostly due to the Long Life Stone which gives the Smurfs their longevity, though its power must be replenished every 1000 years or the Smurfs will suffer Rapid Aging that leads to their death.
- The Danbooru pool Tragedy of Long Life is about the heartbreak of long-lived characters outliving friends and loved ones. You may need tissues. (NSFW due to ads)
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Similarly the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom has noted the fact that alicorns (and Spike) are extremely long-lived compared to other characters, and similar "X outlives all their friends" fanfics and art tend to crop up on a regular basis.
- Fanon usually portrays "normal" Earth Ponies as the shortest lived race. Unicorns are usually the longest-lived of the main three races while pegasus are the middle ground (though they have a high mortality rate so many don't make it to old age).
- In Manehattan's Lone Guardian, Celestia notes this about ponykind in general. While thinking about a former agent of hers that disappeared off the radar, she thinks that while she'd long since gotten used to her subjects' mortality compared to her, that didn't mean that she enjoyed it. As such, she was pleased when the agent in question eventually turned up alive.
- In the Jackie Chan Adventures and W.I.T.C.H. crossover Kage, it's established that most of the species on Meridian — sapient and non-sapient — are more long-lived than ordinary humans, though magical humans can extend their lifespan, like the members of the Escanor lineage.
- Galhots (sometimes known as Drakes) usually live about 200 years. For instance, Raythor is nearly 100-years-old, AKA middle-aged for a Galhot.
- Lurdens live about as long as Galhots.
- Apparently Gargoyle's kind can live beyond a thousand years.
- Shapeshifters can live up to 400-500 years, aging like normal humans for their first 18-20 years, and then retaining their youthful appearance for the remainder of their lives.
- In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, Equestrian ponies can get hundreds of years old - Princesses and Queens even thousands. This revelation catches the protagonist Estermann entirely off-guard.
What are you horses eating?!
- In Eternal (MLP), the normal ponies (known as "earthlings") typically have the shortest lifespan at one-hundred. In contrast, pegasi live to two-hundred while flutter ponies and sea ponies both live until three-hundred. Unicorn live indefinitely.
- Inverted in A Frozen Flower with awoken lamberos, who only live to be 10-12 years old before they explode and die. With "exceptional control", as Till notes, they can stretch their lifespan by only a couple years, but nothing past that.
- Star Wars. Yoda: "When 900-years-old you reach, look as good you will not."
- The Antareans in Cocoon appear to be The Ageless and have been on Earth for millennia, although in a stasis, after the destruction of their Atlantis colony.
- Highlander: An unfortunate reality for Immortals, their mortal lovers will age and die in the blink of an eye, and only a handful of Immortals form permanent relationships with other Immortals. Connor Macleod is forced to deal with this very early on in his lifespan, as his One True Love Heather dies of old age centuries before the first movie takes place. Altough he has other lovers, he never forgets her. After his death in Endgame, his clan brother Duncan returns his body to the highlands and buries him next to Heather.
- Wonder Woman (2017): As an immortal Amazon demigoddess, Diana doesn't have the same perception of time as humans do. This is underlined during a scene with Steve and his father's watch, and her inability to understand why he would dictate his life by it. It's only during his last moments with her before his Heroic Sacrifice, where he expresses his regret over the lack of time they shared together, that she finally begins to understand.
Steve: I wish we had more time. I love you.
- Iain M. Banks's The Algebraist has (most) of the species of the galaxy divided up into two groups: the slow and the quick. The quick have human-like life spans, the slow live much, much longer (up to a billion years or so). Also invoked when a Culture ship investigates Earth, and the ship tells our narrator:
"Their children's children will die before you even look old, Diziet. Their grandparents are younger than you are now..."
- The Pterosapiens in All Tomorrows, pterosaur-like descendants of humanity, have bodies that struggle with keeping up both their large brains and their power of flight. As a result, Pterosapiens reach sexual maturity at two and usually live to be only 23 on average. Keenly aware of their mortality, they appreciate every moment of their lives and have whole libraries filled with tomes from their philosophers pondering the meaning of it all.
- In Arrivals from the Dark, with medical advances, humans can expect to live for several more decades past 100. However, the Faata, the very first alien race encountered by humanity, has its ruling caste live for many centuries (some have been alive for over 1000 years). On the other hand, all the other castes are genetically engineered to live for a few years at most. This is topped by the next race officially encountered by humans, the Lo'ona Aeo, who routinely live for many millennia (if not tens of millennia), partly because they have willingly became a Space People, since living aboard specially-constructed orbital habitats tends to be safer than on a planetary surface, and environments can be adjusted to promote longevity. This also affects how they perceive youth. For example, a Lo'ona Aeo, who is in his 90s, is seen as a brash teenager by his elders. When one book's protagonist meets his Lo'ona Aeo brother (long story), the brother expresses his sorrow over the death of their father. The protagonist is surprised, pointing out that their father died in battle decades ago, and that he has already made peace with it. The alien explains that, for his long-lived species, it seems as if it happened yesterday. Additionally, human-Faata hybrids and their descendants can potentially live for 150-200 years, although no one has actually live that long due to many of them dying in battle or for other reasons. It's called the "Corcoran curse", since it also means that the male hybrids mature very late in their lives and are unable to have children until they're in their fifties. There is also a race of shapeshifters, who can live for millennia (it helps when you can alter your cellular makeup at will), which is compensated by their extremely low birthrate. It's mentioned that most other Human Aliens have lifespans comparable to humans. Inverted for the Dromi, whose incredibly high population growth compensates for their short lifespans. A typical Dromi, who doesn't die a violent death (unlikely), can expect to life to about 40-50 human years. The higher Dromi castes are older than that but only thanks to Lo'ona Aeo-supplied longevity treatments that must be administered regularly. Even then, the fact that their bodies continue to grow with age means that, eventually, the Square-Cube Law kills them.
- Mentioned by name in one BattleTech novel. The Clans, a faction of humans descended from an army that left the bulk of human-controlled space (the Inner Sphere) behind centuries ago, use a program of genetic engineering to breed new, supposedly vastly improved generations of warriors every five years. Because the superiority of their breeding program is indisputable (to them, at least) a warrior facing warriors two or three generations younger than he or she is will be hopelessly outmatched. Most Clan warrior careers are over by the age of about thirty. In negotiating a truce between the Clans and the Inner Sphere, the Inner Sphere representative, Anastasius Focht, wants a long truce, initially proposing "forever." The Clan representative, ilKhan Ulric Kerensky, is pushing for a short truce (even though he's opposed to the invasion in the first place,) because of the rapid nature of Clan warrior careers. As Focht asks for thirty years, to give the Inner Sphere a full generation to advance their technology (which is hopelessly far behind that of the Clans) and training, Ulric replies that the Clans "are as mayflies to you." The eventually agree on a fifteen-year truce.
- Vladimir Vasilyev's The Big Kiev Technician series is an Urban Fantasy taking place in the distant future, where all major cities have become Mega Cities (Big Kiev is roughly the size of modern-day Ukraine) but Modern Stasis is in full effect. The biggest changes from modern times include various fantasy races living side-by-side with humans and various pieces of technology being alive and having to be tamed instead of built. All fantasy races live for centuries, if not millennia. Humans have a normal lifespan and resent it. Even worse, a community of a Human Subspecies called Longers was found in Big New-York that have a lifespan roughly double that of normal humans. They were slaughtered by normal humans who couldn't bear to have other humans live for so long. However, several characters (members of other races) admit that this means that humans are more likely to make advances and change the status quo due to their short lives.
- In the Black Jewels series, Ladens and other short-lived races are view as "flash in the pan" beings living only a handful of years compared to the hundreds of the Blooded races. Undead guardian of Hell, Saetan, is over 50,000-years-old and even he is considered young when compared to the ancient dragons like Lorn.
- James Blish's excellent Cities in Flight series does the same thing, with two drugs — one that holds off aging, and one that prevents almost all disease. Unfortunately, the supply is limited, so only those who can prove their worth to society are ever started on the drugs — and some people are considered just too old to start now. Later in the series' continuity, the longevity drugs are used as currency, because they're basically impossible to counterfeit and they can be diluted to make change. This is okay for the planetbound cultures, who just age and die normally. For the Okies, who need them as drugs if they want to survive the journey from system to system, it doesn't work so well.
- Non-alien example: Because the life expectancy is so bad for their time period, Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Bathory of Count and Countess consider their lives to be halfway over by the time they've hit twenty.
- Mohandas, the protagonist of Dancing With Eternity, is a human from the distant future where humans can live for essentially forever by "re-booting". He himself is at least 1,600-years-old. During the course of the story, he and other characters encounter a planet where people on it live an Amish-like style of life, where re-booting technology is not used, so people die in fewer than 100 years. Mohandas is surprised that these people can enjoy their lives in—from his perspective — such a short span of time.
- DFZ: This is the ultimate source of all the problems between Yong, ancient Dragon of Korea, and his completely human daughter Opal. She wants freedom, but he is terrified of her "wasting her life" partying or living away from Korea. From his perspective, she's got so little life, it's best if she spend it at his compound, where he can guarantee her complete safety and anything she could possibly desire. Toss in the fact that as a dragon he has difficulty making a distinction between "daughter that I love unconditionally" and "treasure that I must possess," and they spend most of their time yelling at each other.
Yong: When you're as old as I am, time goes by so quickly. A moment ago, you were this adorable, bumbling, helpless creature who needed me for everything. Then I blinked, and suddenly you were a stranger who wanted nothing to do with me. I tried my best to bring you back. How could I not? You were my Opal. But the harder I reached for you, the more you slipped from my grasp, and I...
- Played straight in Discworld, though, where dwarfs live for centuries, trolls even longer, elves are immortal, and so forth. Again, the only races which appear to have shorter lives than humans are gnomes and pixies.
- Then there are the vampires, who are incredibly strong and almost unkillable by conventional methods, and can be reduced to dust through their weaknesses. One drop of blood on the ashes and they return to life. The only way to knock a vampire out for really long periods of time is to get rid of the ashes somehow, like burying it, sinking it in the ocean, or throwing it off the Disc.
- Or get the bat-turned vampire eaten by a cat.
- In Reaper Man one segment is from the point of view of a group of actual mayflies. Their elders reminisce about "the good old hours". Another is from the perspective of a group of trees, who don't notice anything that takes less than a day to happen (like one of their number being cut down — he just vanishes).
- Then there are the vampires, who are incredibly strong and almost unkillable by conventional methods, and can be reduced to dust through their weaknesses. One drop of blood on the ashes and they return to life. The only way to knock a vampire out for really long periods of time is to get rid of the ashes somehow, like burying it, sinking it in the ocean, or throwing it off the Disc.
- The Dragaerans of Steven Brust's novels live for about 2000 years. Brust does address a side effect of this, however: they take over a hundred years to reach maturity.
- Vlad lampshades this in his early life, remarking that, given the functional life expectancies of members of the Jhereg, he really doesn't have to worry about lifespan differences between himself and his Dragaeran associates.
- One Dragaeran, Sethra Lavode, is around 220,000-years-old. She is older than The Empire in which the main characters exist, a country which has been around long enough to have had 289 emperors. Granted, by the point the main plot lines show up, she's technically undead because the Gods feel she's more useful alive, but her technical life was still about a hundred times that of a normal member of her race.
- Inverted and turned Up to Eleven in Dragon's Egg. The neutron-star dwelling cheela live one millionth as long as humans do, but also think a million times faster (so that a thousand years to them is a bit less than nine hours to us). When humans make contact with the cheela, they inadvertently start an industrial revolution. They start transmitting their encyclopedia. It takes the cheela many generations to decrypt and interpret the message, but after six hours they know as much science as the humans do. After twelve hours, they have developed faster-than-light travel, flown throughout much of the galaxy, and transmitted a message back to the humans with everything that they learned, encrypted so that the humanity will only gain knowledge at a rate that we can handle. What happens to the cheela later is not specified. This premise was loosely adapted in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
- In the Eldraeverse eldrae and galari are both naturally The Ageless. And the first time the eldrae made First Contact with a mortal sophont species they were so horrified that they started developing immortagens for them. Of course, they're well over ten thousand light-years from humanity, even if the eldrae are descended from genetically modified Transplanted Humans.
- Turned upside-down in the Ray Bradbury short story "Frost and Fire", taking place on an otherwise habitable Mercury with a very rapid rotation and temperature extremes, and, due to solar radiation, rapid aging effects for the human underground colony that the survivors of a crashed ship formed. Its people live, grow old and die within ten days, at a rate of about a decade a day. When the heroes discover and take shelter in the forgotten ship's sealed interior, they're astonished to find they're no longer growing old, and speculate that without the solar radiation's effects, humans might live to an unthinkable one hundred days old.
- To compensate for the short lifespan, humans were telepathic and learned their language and knowledge while they were in the womb.
- Which wasn't necessarily a good thing. One particularly awful meme that persisted was that you could steal someone's remaining days of life by killing him.
- To compensate for the short lifespan, humans were telepathic and learned their language and knowledge while they were in the womb.
- Robert A. Heinlein:
- In the Future History stories, there are a group of humans, referred to as the Howard Families, who live inordinately long lives, in comparison to "normal" humans. One member of the Family, Lazarus Long (among other names) has lived, as of the last work by Heinlein on the subject before the author passed away, about 2,000 years, give or take a century, and is still going strong. Although the advancing march of science eventually created a rejuvenation technology capable of working on normal humans, ironically out of the human race's mistaken belief that the Howard Families were hiding the 'secret' of longevity drugs. This sparked a massive planetwide research effort to 'rediscover' the 'secret' after humanity's initial attempt to make the Howards yield the 'secret' up by force obviously failed. The rejuvenation therapies also work on Howards, who routinely use them to extend their lifespans even longer — Lazarus Long would not have reached 2000+ years of age without rejuvenation, although his natural lifespan was unusually long even by Howard Families standards.
- In Heinlein's standalone novel The Star Beast Lummox had been the Stuart family pet for four generations or 120 years, and was still a child by her species' standards. It is also stated that humanity is the shortest lived sapient species in the known universe.
- In His Dark Materials, Serafina Pekkala, the witch Queen, discusses the impossibility of equal relationships between men and witches due to the lifespan issue; witches live for many hundreds of years. Angels in His Dark Materials live even longer; at one point an explicit comparison is made that as human life is to witches', so are witch lifespans to angels'. Pullman also inverts the trope with the Gallivespians, tiny human-shaped people who reach maturity rapidly and die after living roughly ten years.
- Also appears in the Honor Harrington series, by David Weber. Humanity has a anti-aging drug regimen that must be started as early as possible to be most effective. This also leads to a interesting variation: Being that the regimen (called "prolong") has different versions that were developed at different times, this trope can happen three ways normals -> first-gen -> second-gen -> third-gen, where people that are in their seventies and have a full space-navy career can appear to be in their early teens to those who have not experienced the effects.
- There's profound socio-economic effects too. First Generation Prolong was only discovered around a century ago, and on rich planets like Manticore there isn't anyone physically over 40, and the life span will go for 300 years. 3rd Generation like Honor will go much farther, 500 is possible. For many worlds, the promise of Prolong being administered for free as a Government program is a major plot point. This causes what's practical in governments to change. One Government's Annexation bid will gradually rewrite districts in the new federal government, with the core nation having dominance written in for the next 20 years, and ending fully in 70 years. Given that the prolong makes this nothing on a human lifespan makes it work.
- This trope lent an undertone of tragedy to the early relations between humans and treecats. The 'cats are very long-lived, as in 250-300 years. The first treecat to bond with a human, Climbs Quickly/Lionheart, did so when he was about 50 (a young adult), and she was 11. When she died at about 104-years-old, he suicided soon after, having lived only about half of his natural span. Treecats continued to bond, because they considered the results worth the price. The advent of prolong for humans served to remove the Suck from the Blessing.
- All of the Barsoomian races in the John Carter of Mars series can live for centuries, potentially millennia if nothing kills them (though with Barsoom being a Scavenger World and most of its societies are of the Proud Warrior Race persuasion, this is fairly unusual). Most Barsoomians voluntarily undergo a pilgrimage upon reaching the age of 1000 (at which time they're still physically in their prime) down the River Iss to what their legend tells them is paradise (they're actually eaten, either by beasts or by the Therns, at the end of the journey). Ras Thavas, who doesn't believe in any such mystical claptrap and avoids physical confrontation, is pretty close to dying of old age when first encountered ... he's probably about 2500 (Barsoomian years, so around 5000 Earth years).
- Most of the subsequent species of man in Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men live much longer than the "First Men", in fact after one of several societal collapses the average lifespan drops below 40 (until a long-lived mutant starts a religion and spreads his genes). The Second Men live for over 190 years. The Eighteenth Men live an average lifespan of 250,000 years and do not die of old age. That reads like a logical contradiction, but it's not: they die when the sun turns into a red giant ahead of schedule.
- "Naturals" (humans who haven't been Caught Up in the Rapture and given glorified bodies) in the Millennial Kingdom in the Left Behind series book Kingdom Come can live up to a thousand years — provided, of course, that they have put their faith in Christ, thus averting the Death's Hourglass age limit of 100 set up for nonbelievers. During that time period, the "naturals" age very slowly, so that those who are around 100-years-old are like teenagers and young adults.
- The alien creatures in H. P. Lovecraft's work tend to be nearly immortal, with lifespans of several millennia. And then there are the Great Old Ones and other godlike beings, which are truly immortal. In fact, some of them are actually older than the entire universe!
That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.
- In Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen most of the non-human races are effectively immortal. This includes the pure-blooded Tiste Andii, Tiste Liosan and Tiste Edur (being invaders from either a different world that is at the same time the origin of Order and magic this shouldn't surprise anyone), the Jaghut, T'lan Imass (who turned their whole people into undead in order to extinguish the Jaghut) and most likely the Thelomen Toblakai and K'Chain Che'Malle matrons as well. Also immortal (unless killed, which happens a lot) is every Ascendant, god, dragon, greater demon or personification of a principle. Add to that age-defying alchemy and sorcery and a lot the characters appearing in the books are significantly older than the current civilizations with a few going up to 500.000 years, or even as old as existence.
- In Voltaire's Micromégas, Sirians live to be on average 10.5 million Earth years, and Saturnians live to be on average 15,000 Earth years. Both races still bemoan the ephemeral nature of their lives, however.
- Inverted in The Mote in God's Eye. The humans live about a century and a half, thanks to some advanced biotech. Then they meet the Motie Mediators, who live for no more than fifteen years.
- Skeeve from Myth Adventures is mentioned to have a much shorter life expectancy than his various non-human friends. His Pervect mentor, Aahz, has even justified how hard he pushes Skeeve to succeed, on the grounds that his student won't have very long to build his skills or career.
- Inverted in Terry Pratchett's Nomes Trilogy. The tiny nomes have lifespans of just ten years, but live and move ten times as fast as humans. This and their size difference make it difficult for the two species to interact.
- In Noob, an event drained the Fictional Video Game's god's powers. They can apparently go back to their former level of power if they rest for long enough. Several millennia of recovery later, they are still basically at the same point they were at right after the power-draining event. This could be partly explained by the fact that they had to use the power they managed to recover to take care of a couple of other emergencies, but these emergencies are several millennia old as well.
- Inverted in the Vernor Vinge short story "Original Sin", in which the alien Shimans have such a short lifespan that they have to specialize intensively or risk wasting their entire life becoming educated. For instance, someone trained in a certain scientific process might have relatively little experience in communication, and would thus be unable to explain it to anyone.
- In M.C.A. Hogarth's Paradox universe all of the Pelted races with life spans listed on the author's wiki commonly live over a century. With the Naysha (150), Glaseah (150 or 260, depending on source), and Phoenixes (620?) being the longest lived. Eldritch of course can live over a thousand years barring the violence or diseases that are all too common on their world. And the completely alien Faulfenza live about seven hundred.note
- The Aurorans and other Spacers in Isaac Asimov's Robot stories are humans who live for several hundred years, in contrast to earthbound and Settler humans, who reject robots and life-extending technology.
- The Kantri of Tales of Kolmar can live around two thousand years, and it's mentioned that it's not unheard of for individuals to spend fifty years at a time meditating in solitude. These Kantri have lived away from humans on an island for five thousand years; it soon becomes evident that when around humans they regain some ability to think and experience life short-term, seeing and enjoying more.
- Played with in the old short story "They Live Forever" where a man is found who has clearly lived for centuries without aging. The immortal brushes off questions saying that he is exactly like everyone else where he comes from. The narrator's grandfather decides to find the planet of eternal youth but their ship crashes on a different planet, killing the entire crew except the boy. Eventually the narrator befriends the natives who live for at most fifteen years. As the story ends he is seventy-four and when a child asks how old he is the narrator realizes the natives don't have a concept of that length of time so he says he doesn't remember. He leaves, depressed, and the child's mother assures the little girl that the narrator is simply immortal.
- Another story with a forgotten title involved an immensely long-lived alien recruiting a team of humans to travel to another planet and help advance the civilization of a sentient species who exist in a blur of speed and whose lifespan is measured in hours. The team quickly learns that being "immortal" is no picnic...
- Tolkien worked human jealousy of the unlimited lifespan of the Elves into a plot point in the story of the fall of Númenor.
- However, The Silmarillion reveals that death, far from being a disadvantage of Men, is actually intended by Eru as a gift to the race, allowing them to depart from the world early and go on, presumably returning to existence beyond Middle-Earth, while the Elves are stuck on Middle-earth until its end, thus resulting in their growing wistfulness and melancholy as they see the world around them changing and decaying. Death also allows Men greater defiance of Fate.
- Even the Númenóreans are long-lived compared to other humans (most Númenóreans can live to 200 — the royal line, which has Elvish blood, can live up to twice that). Dwarves have a similar lifespan — they live to about 250 on average. For that matter, so are Hobbits: a hobbit comes of age at thirty-three, and it's not uncommon for them to live well over a century.
- Many of the immortals and gods from the Tortall Universe have incredibly long life-spans, as you would expect from their names. This only ever really comes up around dragons. It must be strange for Daine to raise one from birth, knowing that Kitten will outlive her by centuries or millennia.
- Warrior Cats stars colonies of stray and feral cats. The cast is lucky to make it to 7-years-old due to the large amount of fighting, the high child mortality rate, and the risk of dying in winter. The oldest cat in the series as of the sixth arc, Mistystar, isn't even 13. Time Dissonance is in place, as cats that lived fifteen years ago are legendary and those that live forty years ago are ancient myth.
- In Watersong, Thea, having lived for thousands of years as a siren, has this opinion of humans.
Thea: The longer you live, the more your perception of humans changes. They die all the time, over the simplest things. Life is very, very fleeting for them. The best they can hope for is a painless death, and we provide that for them.
- In Dutch author Paul Harland's novel Water to Ice, one of the protagonists is a many-thousands-of-years old man who was made immortal by aliens. His particular variation is interesting: Like Dorian Gray, his "aging" is transferred to a transcendental "painting" of him. After so many centuries, he wants the thrill of being able to die back, so he placed the picture in a vault, which is then sunk into the corona of a star. It could go at any moment, but it's impossible to predict when. However, he also describes an encounter he once had with a species of electromagnetic beings, which exist for only fifteen minutes at a time before dying forever, and how their joy and wisdom is a constant soothing memory to him. Unfortunately, when he meets his original benefactors — aliens who see it as their holy mission to banish mortality from the universe — they inform him casually that they have since bestowed immortality on aforementioned ephemeral beings. He then triggers his vault to open.
- For the same reason, Carmilla in the Whateley Universe looks upon her fellow students differently. After all, she really is a Great Old One even if she looks like a teenager.
- Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time has the Ogier — for them, ninety years or so amounts to young adulthood, while the channelers (magic users) can live as long as six centuries, under the right circumstances.
- Played straight and subverted in the The Word and the Void and Genesis of Shannara trilogies by Terry Brooks. Demons ( humans that sold their souls to the evil Void) are very long-lived and possibly ageless (as well as being very hard to kill), while tatterdemalions, frail Faerie creatures made from the memories of dead children, live for only several weeks before dissipating.
- In ALF, the incredibly long lifespan of Melmacians is often used as a running gag, like when ALF shows off pictures of a relative's 250th birthday party, which resembles a 5-year-old human's. It's sometimes played for drama, though, as ALF gradually comes to realize that he's going to outlive the Tanner family by a huge margin.
- Altered Carbon. Reileen Kawahara refers to Grounders as 'fireflies' who burn brightly but are then quickly extinguished. And she is quite willing to help with the latter, given that she thinks Meths like herself are Above Good and Evil having lived so long.
- An episode of Andromeda called "Dance Of The Mayflies", about a race of parasites which has been changing hosts for 50,000 years. They are giving a nice speech on the subject. The heroes are not convinced.
- In Babylon 5 Minbari live 120 years, Centauri up to 150, pak'ma'ra 255 years, and Vorlons might be immortal. Lorien claims to be the first being to attain sentience in the galaxy, back when everyone used to be The Ageless. He's also the Last of His Kind, all others having died out due to disease, accidents, and violence.
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor is a Time Lord and over 2000-years-old by Series 10. However, most of their companions are humans and therefore have a much short life expectancy. One of the Tie In Novels points out the problems this can cause if a Time Lord ends up on one planet for a long period of time.
- The new series also features an inversion: The Family of Blood, otherwise advanced and powerful aliens, can only live for a few months.
Martha: Three months and they die. Like mayflies, [The Doctor] said.
- Also inverted in a way, in that the Doctor, for all their longevity, does not disrespect other races:
Wilf: [after the Tenth Doctor reveals his age] We must look like insects to you.
Doctor: I think you look like giants.
- And to Amy, when he reveals that his companions have just as enormous an impact on him as he has on them, in a different way:
Amy: We're all such tiny parts of your life, aren't we? All the friends you make just flicker in and out. You must hardly notice us.
The Doctor: Amy, you are enormous parts of my life. And you are all I ever remember.
- The Twelfth Doctor does see humans as short-lived which, given that his predecessor spent 900 years in a human settlement watching the generations fly by, is not that surprising.:
Doctor: You're running out of time.
Girl: For what?
Doctor: Everything. Human beings have incredibly short lifespans. Frankly, you should all be in a permanent state of panic. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
- The Twelfth Doctor lampshades the trope in "The Woman Who Lived". When Me wants to travel with him as a companion, the Doctor points out that two immortal beings together is not a good idea. (And then the trope impacts the Doctor again when he meets up with his current companion at the end of the episode and realises that she'll be gone someday too, while he'll be forced to go on).
The Doctor: People like us, we go on too long. We forget what matters. The last thing we need is each other. We need the mayflies. See, the mayflies, they know more than we do. They know how beautiful and precious life is because it's fleeting. Look how Sam Swift made every last moment count, right to the gallows. Look how glad he is to be alive. I looked into your eyes and I saw my worst fears. Weariness. Emptiness.
- Also the Daleks, who are Omnicidal Maniacs who can live for millions of years, with the help of their life support systems.
- Farscape plays this straight in the case of most of the crew - Sebaceans like Aeryn can live for up to 200 cycles — assuming they don't get killed first. Rygel has apparently lived for centuries, though he's only ever admitted to having spent 130 cycles in prison; at the start of the series, Zhaan is over 800 cycles old, D'Argo is 30 and considered a teenager by his species standards; Pilot's species can apparently live for over a millennium, unless they're bonded to a Leviathan, in which case they share the Leviathan's lifespan of 300 cycles. This isn't usually addressed in-series, though, with the exception of the time Crichton found out he was going to be turned into a statue for 80 cycles.
John: Humans do not live as long as Sebaceans — or Hynerians, or Delvians. When I get back, everyone — my Dad, DK, my sisters — Cameron Diaz, Buffy the Vampire Slayer — WILL BE DEAD!
- Forever Knight. LaCroix justifies killing because human lives are so short anyway compared to immortal ones, and thinks Nick's attempt to atone by solving murders and saving innocent lives is ludicrous.
LaCroix: Where's the lasting value, Nicholas? Blink and they'll all be ghosts. Blink and they'll all be gone.
- On Fraggle Rock, Junior Gorg is 473-years-old, and Ma and Pa have been married for over 500 years.
- In Kamen Rider Gaim, when Kouta is captured by the Yggdrasill Corporation, DJ Sagara visits his cell and gives a little speech about how human lives are short, fragile, and insignificant...but says that's a good thing, since it inspires them to make the most of their lives. Sagara asks why Kouta wants power, and Kouta responds that he wants to protect the innocent because Yggdrasill won't; the answer pleases Sagara enough that he gives Kouta the key to his cell and a Mid-Season Upgrade, saying "As long as you keep impressing me, I'll keep helping you out."
- Power Rangers:
- In this universe, aliens tend to be tens of thousands of years old. One season avoided this, having a race of human-looking magical beings age normally (which some viewers found jarring), but the next returned it with a vengeance, featuring a hero known to be active at a time when the continents of Earth were one, making him at least 250 million years old. In most cases, we don't know the true age of these characters — just how long ago some event they took part in was. Any of them could possibly be older.
- Most famous and familiar is Zordon. As usual, no clue is given as to his age, but he was an old man in a flashback to when he was put in a can 10,000 years ago. If anything, he's lost wrinkles since.
- In one episode of Smallville, Clark Kent meets and befriends a Kryptonian named Dax-Ur, who had moved to Earth and given up his powers over a hundred years ago. He only looked middle-aged. Some characters taunt Clark about the fact that any woman he chooses to be with will eventually be dust while he will look exactly the same as he does now.
- Most aliens (except for Human Aliens, who really are human, taken from Earth long ago) are a few thousand years old. This is accomplished in almost every instance by body swapping. The only exceptions are the Wraith and humans who are immune to all illnesses.
- Also, an early episode dealt with Humans who were taken off-world and injected with a virus that caused them to live out their entire life-span in about 100 days. They were understandably surprised to learn that most humans live many tens of thousands of days.
- Even the Goa'uld aren't The Ageless, though, even with the use of sarcophagi, as shown with Lord Yu, one of the oldest Goa'uld in existence, whose symbiote is acting very similarly to a senile human.
- Star Trek is a prime example; in order to reuse characters from the original 1960s series in the various sequels and movies, every race has been given a lifespan at least double that of humans (which by the 24th century is already well over 100). Some — like the Vulcans — started out that way, but others were Retconned in decades later.
- Trill Symbiotes are fantastically long-lived, but to different ends: to permit the body-changing premise, and to allow Dax's various funny "300-years-old" lines. Trill themselves aren't indicated to be particularly long-lived.
- One notable exception is the Ocampa on Star Trek: Voyager, whose lifespan averages nine years.
- Sometimes Star Trek subverts this trope. By the time the series takes place, human lifespans have increased. In Next Generation, Doctor McCoy is 137-years-old.
- Taken to its logical extreme in Star Trek (2009), when Leonard Nimoy's Spock travels back in time at the age of 155 and is still healthy enough to go marching 14 kilometers across an Ice Planet.
- Also in the latest film, Scotty explains that he believes he was sent to the federation outpost as punishment for attempting interplanetary beaming with 'Admiral Archer's prized beagle' — Word of God has confirmed that this is, in fact, Jonathan Archer from Star Trek: Enterprise, which would make him well over 140-years-old.
- Porthos. (Who, sadly, didn't get to reappear on the transporter pad at the end of the film as planned. Well, the series is still young.)
- In Star Trek: Enterprise when we meet T'Pau she is already an adult with some influence among Surak's followers. A century later, she appears as a sort of matriarch of Spock's family in the original series. It seems the Vulcans are consistently meant to be long-livednote , and McCoy living to 137 would be an exception.
- In the episode of TNG in which he appears, McCoy is clearly very old; it's not like "137 is the new 50", more like "137 is the new 110."
- Scotty shows up in TNG as well, but he's been trapped in some kind of suspended animation since, apparently, shortly after the events in the beginning of Generations, so he's not physically as old as the calendar would imply.
- In the Expanded Universe, T'Pau is still alive in the Next Generation era. She's ancient even by Vulcan standards, though.
- The Jem'Hadar in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are possibly another inversion, since no Jem'Hadar has reached thirty. Whether that's because the Dominion doesn't see any reason for its genetically engineered warriors to have long lifespans, since they'll probably be killed before then, or simply that they've all been killed before then, is unclear.
- The Tomorrow People (1973) featured a time traveling character who, despite being over 100-years-old, looked about 12. In typical Tomorrow People style, when they speculate on how old his (physically elderly) grandfather is, the best guess they can come up with is "older".
- The Wheel of Time (2021): Humans to long-living Ogier. Loial finds humans too quick and reckless. And he was considered too impulsive back home, at least in the books.
- When Rand mistakes him for a Trolloc and draws a sword:
Loial: (giggles) You humans are very excitable.
- When Rand mentions Egwene's childhood antics and needs to explain that she no longer believes herself to be Jain Farstrider reincarnated, despite having thought so earlier:
Loial: I see. I forget how frivolous you humans can be with your thoughts.
- Then Loial cautiously inquires how to properly refer to her, since humans change fast:
Loial: Where is she now, this girl? Or is she a woman? You age so quickly.
- When Rand leaves to gawk at Logain, Loial sums up his impressions:
Loial: Always in such a rush, these humans. Never taking time to properly prepare for what they're walking into. (giggles)
- When Rand mistakes him for a Trolloc and draws a sword:
- VNV Nation's entire musical output is based on this trope. Several songs take on the view that all of humanity's efforts to deify itself are futile, as our lifespans are brief and no-one will see our great works later on. Especially hammered home in the song "Carbon".
- Jason Isbell's "If We Were Vampires" somehow turns this realisation into a beautiful love song; since however many years he'll get with his wife won't be enough, they have to make them count.
Maybe time running out is a gift
I'll work hard 'til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find
And hope it isn't me who's left behind
- Rather weirdly, in The Bible (Genesis 6:3) it is said that after the time of the Patriarchs (who were said to live centuries), the lifespan of humans had been set by God to 120 years. This is uncannily similar to the lifespans of the longest-lived recorded humans of the modern age.
- This concept is the main feature in the Older Than Dirt legend, The Epic of Gilgamesh.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The basic character races are all longer-lived than humanity, with the exception of half-orcs, whose average lifespan is about 40 years. However, the nonhuman races all take longer to mature, as well — a "young adult" elf is 100-years-old, while a dwarf takes forty years.
- Elans are arguably the prime example of this here. They can sustain themselves indefinitely without food or water, and are incapable of dying of old age. However, they're actually humans that have been altered through a "mysterious psionic ritual."
- On the other end, there are the Thri-keen, a race of psionic insect-people. Their maximum age? 29.
- Half-orcs have a shorter lifespan because their non-human parents, orcs, have a shorter lifespan. Indeed, most of the "evil" "brute" races tend to have a slightly shorter lifespan, ranging from dying in their 60s to dying in their 40s.
- Early D&D editions give gnolls a life expectancy of 35 years.
- One of the domains in the Ravenloft setting's Burning Peaks cluster is inhabited by humans who aged at twice the speed of regular humans, the better to keep its tyrannical darklord's armies stocked with fresh troops.
- Exalted: The process of Exaltation greatly expands a person's life span. The Dragon-Blooded, who get the short end of the stick, typically live for several centuries, and the Scarlet Empress was around for close to 800 years before she disappeared. Solars and Lunars can typically live up for several millennia; Ingosh Silverclaws, one of the oldest-lived Lunars in the setting, died of old age at somewhere around 3100. The Sidereals, who get even greater longevity, can live for close to 6,000 years; there are Sidereals still around who remember the Primordial War and one who is older than history itself. Needless to say, when you live that long, mortals swiftly fall out of your peer group... and possibly your notice.
- The Abyssal, Alchemical and Infernal Exalted also fit this. The first two are immortal, due to being undead/robots respectively, while the Infernals replace the Dragon-Blooded in being the shortest lived Exalted, with a lifespan of only 150 years.
- — That is, unless they acquire perfect timelessness by breaking the themes of their masters, which they draw upon, combining them into the means of their own ascension
- In Shadowrun, it's known that humans are longer-lived than trolls and orks (both can live to about fifty-sixty). Metabolic testing has shown that elves are mortal, but in the 70 years since they appeared none have shown visible signs of aging. Dwarves seem to be similarly long-lived. Since numerous dragons are confirmed to have survived since the Fourth Age, they're all assumed to be The Ageless. A small number of elves are also fourth world survivors.
- Warhammer Fantasy plays this trope pretty straight. Humans have the standard 50-100 year lifespan we are used to (albeit with medieval or early modern levels of health and medicine, and the concurrent reduced average life expectancy), while Dwarfs can live for many hundreds of years and Elves for a couple thousand. The Slann and their Lizardmen servants are older still. Ogres and Halflings tend to have lifespans similar to those of humans. Indeed, the comparative briefness of human life is why only man has pursued and developed Necromancy — magic to extend life and cheat death is of little use to already virtually immortal Elves. The humans of ancient Nehekhara tended to live about five times as long as modern ones due to a pact they made with their gods, though all of this long-lived breed have been wiped out and rendered undead. At the other end of the scale are the Skaven — chaotic rat-men who generally only live for twenty years (though their leaders can extend that to a couple of centuries using dark magics). The lifespan of Orcs and Goblins has not really been touched upon, though given the race's penchant for perpetual violent warfare it is unlikely that many of them ever get to find out either.
- Much like its counterpart above, Warhammer 40,000 also plays this trope pretty straight. While regular Humans can have extended lifespans due to advanced future medicine, their lives tend to be cut short due to the constant intergalactic conflict around them, which usually sees most people being conscripted as cannon fodder to serve in the Imperium's armies. Space Marines, being genetically modified humans, tend to live for much longer, especially if they have been implanted into a Dreadnought which makes them practically immortal. Indeed, some of the oldest Space Marines have been around since the days of the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy almost 10,000 years ago. The Orks and Gretchin have similar lifespans to their fantasy counterparts, often being cut down due to their penchant for violence. The Necrontyr prior to their species wide Unwilling Roboticisation used to have extremely short lifespans due to the radiation of the homeworld, an issue that plagued them even as they tried to colonize distant stars. After their transformation into the Necrons, this was no longer the case. Perhpas the biggest example of this are the Tau, who have very short lifespans as they often only live up to their forties (barring the Ethereal Caste, who live for much longer). However, this is seen as emblematic of their philosophy of the Greater Good, as they are driven to do much as possible as their short lives permit. This in fact led to a brief pause in their expansion as their empire became so big that a single Tau could not traverse it in their lifetime. As a result, the Tau will often put some of their best and brightest into cryogenic stasis or copy their minds down into A.Is just to keep them around for much longer.
- In The Frogs, Dionysus's wife, Ariadne, died because she was mortal. He, as an immortal god, laments that "She was young, so was I, surely she was much too young to die."
- J.B. is a Setting Update of the Book of Job. In the play, J.B. cites this as a reason to believe in God even in the face of disaster; man is too insignificant to not believe in something greater.
"God is God or we are nothing—/Mayflies that leave their husks behind—"
- In the BIONICLE storyline, although there are no humans with which one can compare lifespan, almost everything lives for undetermined amounts of time. Every Matoran on Mata Nui has been there for one thousand years and lived on Metru Nui for who-knows how long before that (less than 100,000, at least), Toa Lesovikk has been wandering for at least several millenia, and Karzahni is almost as old as the universe itself. Toa do not seem to visibly age, but instead turn into somewhat more decrepit Turaga after sacrificing their Toa energy (sort of an example of Evolutionary Levels). Understandable, since they were only partly organic Mechanical Lifeforms. When mostly organic characters have been introduced with a similar lifespan, things got weirder. Some, like Gresh, were still seen as youngsters by others, despite being at least tens of thousands of years old!
- In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, Loghaire Thunderstone, king of the dwarves, posits the idea that this is the reason why humans develop technology so quickly, to the point of destroying the environment. He believes that humans are always dogged by the fear of death due to their relatively short lifespans and are driven to achieve as much as possible while simultaneously rarely living long enough to see the consequences of their own actions.
Loghaire: When a human looks upon something he thinks "how can I use this", when he should be thinking "what are the consequences of it's use?"
- In Destiny, the alien species that became the Hive originally lived just ten years, assuming the planet they lived on didn't kill them first. As a culture, they rationalized their situation with the Timid Truth: being at the bottom of the food chain, their short lives and rapid breeding were beneficial traits that let the whole species quickly adapt to threats no matter how many individuals get killed. Understandably, some of those individuals disagreed that living short, unpleasant lives was a good thing, and set out to look for a better way. One Deal with the Devil later, the Hive were born, and almost immediately resolved to use their newfound power to kill all other intelligent life in the universe and prove "survival of the fittest" on their own terms.
- Demons in Disgaea. Most of them are much older than they look (such as the protagonist, Laharl, who looks to be about 13 despite being over 13 hundred-years-old).
- In The Elder Scrolls, this is the case for the races of Men (who have lifespans on par with real-life humans) compared to the Long-Lived races of Mer (Elves). This is the reason that Arkay ("Orkey" or "Old Knocker" in the old Nordic pantheon) is despised by the Nords. The Nords despise that he gave them shorter lives compared to the hated elves. (Nevermind that the elves have an Immortal Procreation Clause limiting their fertility and putting a cap on the amount of children an elven woman can typically have, which the Nords took great advantage of when nearly exterminating the Falmer (Snow Elves).)
- Subverted in Final Fantasy IX, where Black Mages seem to have much shorter lifespans than regular humans.
- Averted in Final Fantasy XII. Humans have relatively normal lifespans that are mocked as "too short" by the immortal Occuria. Humes do, however, have lifespans significantly shorter than Viera and Nu Mou, who have lifespans about three times that of a human, or bangaa, who have twice our lifespan.
- Also finally subverted in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, in which a Winged Humanoid race is introduced that has half the lifespan of humans. The standard races with 2-4 times the lifespan of humans exist, too.
- A plot point that was lampshaded several times by the long lived laguz of Fire Emblem. All laguz and those with laguz ancestry have extended life spans, triply so with the Dragon Tribe. When several dragon allies from Path of Radiance encounter Ike and friends in Radiant Dawn they are somewhat awed that the Greil Mercs look different and are surprised that Ike and Co. miss them. In their eyes, barely anytime has passed at all. Beorc-laguz hybrids inherent the longevity of their laguz ancestors, which creates problems when they need to blend in among beorc for a long period of time.
- This is also brought up in Fire Emblem: Awakening with Tiki and Nowi, both dragons. Nowi is 1,000 years old but still looks like a preteen girl, and while Tiki's aged physically since Shadow Dragon, she looks nowhere near as old as she really is.
- In Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, this is also an issue for the divine dragon Fae. She is centuries old yet looks like a human child of about six. She doesn't understand why Igrene's daughter "went away" and breaks down when the half-dragon Sophia tries to explain that Fae will outlive all of her human friends, and Sophia herself, by an incomprehensible amount of time. Sophia herself is about 100 years old, and neither she or Fae look any different than they did when they made cameos in the prequel.
- In Halo, humans are definitely shorter-lived than the Prophets, who tend to live for hundreds of years thanks to advanced medical technology, and possibly shorter-lived than the Elites, who seem to be able to stay combat-fit well into at least their 80s. Even Halo's Advanced Ancient Humans, despite being able to live for well over 1000 years, were still short-lived compared to their Forerunner contemporaries. Though how long exactly the Forerunners live naturally is unclear: their ability to live for over 10,000 years easily is mostly attributed to the 24-Hour Armor they all wear.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Zora are stated to live for hundreds of years. One NPC in Zora's Domain recalls playing with Link when they were kids, but although Link has been in stasis for the past century and has an excuse to still have a youthful appearance, the Zora also looks like a young adult. In a sidequest, you can additionally hook up a human man and a Zora girl who are around the same age temporally — but the human is an adult while the Zora is still a child (physically anyway: according to the Zora, they mature emotionally and mentally before they do physically, so there's a relatively brief window where they have the mind of an adult and the body of a child).
- If Lost Odyssey isn't a prime example of this trope, then nothing is. The main character is an immortal who is doomed to outlive everyone he cares about: Wives, children, friends, everyone. The game milks it for all it's worth — almost all of the "Thousand Years of Dreams" content touches on some variation on the theme, mostly for drama, sometimes for laughs: MAMAAAAAAAAAAAAA
- Mass Effect zig-zags this:
- Asari have natural lifespans of about a thousand years, and krogan of about 1,500 years — although most tend to die before that. Other species live no longer than humans, if even as long as that — future medical science means the average human lives to around 150. Drell live about 85 years due to medical complications note , salarians only about 40 (though they spend far less time sleeping), and vorcha only 20.
- Sovereign also uses the trope when talking about organic species compared to his own race of machines, but then, they give the organics little chance to prove them wrong. Indeed, part of the Reaper motivation is actually their belief that by converting organics into new Reapers they're doing us a favor by granting us immortality.
- The Magypsies in Mother 3 can live as long as the Needle they protect remains. Meanwhile, humans "don't even live to 100".
- In Paladins, this is inverted for fairies. In the Realm, fairies have very short lifespans. For example, Willo is an adult fairy, but her age is around 2 or 3 in human years.
- In SoulBlazer, the player meets up with a race of people in the Mountain of Souls who live for only one year. They make the most of their lives and are incredibly happy.
- A complicated example in Stellaris: The trope is averted by default, with all species sharing a standard human-like lifespan of 70-90 yearsnote . However, this can be tweaked by racial traits; "Enduring" and "Venerable" species get moderately or significantly extended lifespans compared to the baseline, while "Fleeting" species are much shorter-lived.
- In Sword of the Stars Liir are practically immortal but the Square-Cube Law kills most of them after several centuries, Morrigi live about 400 years, Hiver Princes live in excess of 300 years while Princesses often live 400 and a Queen may be around for a millennium. However, Tarka live about 100 years and Changed males are lucky to live an additional 40 years after they Change, Hiver workers live just 60-70 years and warriors less than that, and Zuul usually get killed by an underling before they make it to 40.
- Touhou Project. In general. Youkai have lifespans somewhere between several centuries and forever. Gods can live for as long as they are worshipped. Ghosts can last forever. Poltergeist have theoretically limited existences, but that can still be for quite some time. Fairies are technically an inversion, but they respawn immediately after death, and are functionally immortal. Then there's the Lunarians, who are humans that live on the moon. The moon lacks impurity, which is what causes death, so they end up being space elves.
- Eventually averted in the Warcraft universe. The night elves were immortal... but they gave up their immortality in order to drive back the Burning Legion. World of Warcraft opens with the night elves coping with the fact that they're going to start dying natural deaths for the first time in... well, forever.
- Still played straight, though, in certain expanded universe sources that may or may not be canon. While night elves are no longer immortal, they still have lifespans of more than 1000 years. They're freaking out about losing immortality mainly because that's much shorter than they were going to live without it. It's also suggested that their lifespans might "catch up with them"; Tyrande Whisperwind was a young adult when immortality went into affect. 10,000 years later, seven years after immortality was lost, she'd developed crow's feet. It's debated whether this was caused by rapid aging or just the affects of stress. Among the other races, high/blood elves still live centuries, as do gnomes and dwarves. Draenei lifespans are a mystery but there are some over 25,000-years-old. Even the normally short lived races catch up to humans, trolls and orcs only live a couple decades shorter than the average human.
- Dragons live for tens of thousands of years. This becomes a plot point in The War of the Ancients trilogy, where the red dragon Korialstrasz (under the guise of an elf mage named Krasus) ends up in the distant past, problems pop up due to him coexisting with his younger self. Apparently, life force and magic are shared between them.
- Subverted in the World of Mana series, in which the elf-like race the Jumi, can live for as long as their hearts aren't damaged. Unfortunately, their hearts are gigantic jewels sticking out of their chests, which can be easily plucked off to kill them. Over the years they were hunted to extinction. But not entirely subverted; a group of faeries talk about humans at one point, estimating that they "only" live to about 500 years (and is then corrected by another faerie, who correctly believes that the lifespan of humans is even shorter.)
- Inverted with the Boron in the X-Universe series. The encyclopedia packaged with the X-Superbox says the average Boron's life expectancy is about 35 years, whereas the average human lives to be about 110. The Split invert or avert depending on sex: males generally don't live more than 50 years, whereas their womenfolk usually top 80. Played straight with the Teladi, who average 250 years with the world record being 400 (they're technically The Ageless, but tend to get tired of life around age 250).
- In Circumstances of the Revenant Braves, ethereal beings like ancient spirits and vices can live forever, where their human counterparts come and go.
- This is the in-universe reason Wallas gives for not caring about his Glamour Failure on the mere human heroine in The Color of the Crystal. He is not only a Really 700 Years Old witch but also kind of Genre Blind.
- Most Cyantians, of The Cyantian Chronicles, have lifespans of 120 years, whether that's earth years or slightly longer Cyantian "rots" isn't really specified. In addition genetic Elites of some species can live for centuries, as of Akaelae Alpha is over 750 and has had a number of different wives and cubs.
- In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures Beings are the local human equivalent in terms of lifespan. Creatures tend to live for several centuries, 1500 years for Angels and Demons, 3000 for Cubi (longer if they eat souls), Dragons outlive civilizations and Fae are essentially immortal until they choose to die (and their view of time is a bit different.
- The longevity of manticores in Darwin Carmichael Is Going to Hell is initially used as part of a punchline. But then there's what happens when the characters are forced to confront their worst fears . . .
- In Drive (Dave Kellet) Makers of the Continuum can live for millennia but most other species have lifespans comparative to humans. While Veetans are an inversion who only live 25 years. Skitter's species turns out to live at least 600 years.
- The Elves of Errant Story can live for untold millennia. Unfortunately for them, by the time of the story, no pureblood elf was born in over a thousand years, and they are now confined to a single city after a great war with humanity. They don't help their case by many being insufferable jerks, so much so that even the order of human magic-wielding warrior-monks they'd created as protectors decided to tell them where they can stuff it.
- Played with by the trolls in Homestuck. Their lifespan is determined by their position on the hemospectrum: the lowest-blooded trolls are lucky to make it to 24 sweeps (about 52 Earth years), while the empress has lived for millennia.
- The Nemesites in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! have been established to live at least for centuries—which is a very useful trait for members of an interstellar civilization in a universe without faster-than-light travel.
- In Kevin & Kell, this is sometimes a joke, as most small insects—and sometimes insects who are anthro-sized—have miniscule lifespans. But it became a plot point in 2022 when Spork Johnson's dung beetle co-workers reminded him that they don't have long lifespans, and would not survive that winter.
- Zig-zagged in Out-of-Placers: Humans have normal lifespans, and while Baxxids are implied to have longer lifespans (and the ability to go dormant for upwards of a hundred years), Yinglets are already elderly by the time they reach 25.
- Corporal Vog of Schlock Mercenary is about 12 million years old. He says 'about' because there is a margin of error converting to human timescales. The margin of error in his math covers more time than the existence of the human race. Later Xinchub admitted that humanity wasn't very well suited to pursuing immortality like the "Project Lazarus" he'd been in charge of because we're one of the shorter-lived species in the galaxy. Putting a species that unfamiliar with long life in charge of immortality would be, in his words, like "putting vegetarians in charge of a barbeque".
- In Tales of the Questor, elves used to live longer than humans, but a long time ago an elf king had a powerful salamander grant his wish that his people never grow old, accidentally turning the elves into a race of mayflies.
- Well, the exact truth of how it happened has gotten very muddled over the years (Sam herself notes that there are at least three versions). In each version, however, the king also went back and got a chalice that would avert this. Typically, the chalice has been lost for centuries — Sam herself has no hope (or any real desire) of finding it in time to avert her own death. However, now that she's with a Questor like Quentyn, there's a chance now.
- It's not entirely clear how long other species live in that 'verse, though Racconnans like Quentyn are implied to live a couple hundred years.
- Never actually stated in Terra, but indicated by the birth dates of alien characters in the codex. Sovereign Northazul Kalar, the oldest Azatoth character we have data on, is 160 in the present day and looks to be in the equivalent of late forties/early fifties judging by his graying hair, and most of the other Azatoth characters are somewhere in the range of 40- to 60-years-old and look to be in their thirties at most. Eve Arlia, a Varelien, is 72 and looks twenty-something. Meanwhile the oldest human character, General Winters, is 58 and looks his age.
- An exception: In TwoKinds, the Keidran only live about twenty years. Humans are the elf-like ones.
- The Copper and Jet castes in Alderode can live up to 400 and 250 respectively, and so tend to accumulate the most political and economic power in their families.
- Inverted with the Platinum caste, who die of accelerated old age at 30. The Gefendur faith believes them to be on their last mortal incarnation before being called to join the gods. The Silver caste lives a little longer, generally lasting about 50 years naturally.
- In the middle lie the Bronze and Gold castes. The Bronze live anywhere from 50 to 150 years. The Golds live as long as the average human, as they are average humans. They are the one caste that is unaffected by the Dhammakhert. They are just genetically brilliantly blonde which coincidentally fits them into the thematic scheme of the castes.
- Senet beasts live forever unless an outside force kills them. However, since new senet beasts are never born, humans as a species might very well outlive them all.
- Hamster's Paradise: The Always Chaotic Evil harmsters are described as never dying of old age due to their intensely violent lifestyles. However, even without this factor they still seem to have a naturally short lifespan as one individual from the Bruterider empire named Pi-pipipupu is considered an elder despite only being fifteen years old, this also makes her The Dreaded since she still remain formidable despite this.
- Inverted in Adventure Time: it's heavily implied that Finn the Human and Jake the Dog were infants at the same time, Finn's canine adoptive parents died of old age leaving his older brother (now approaching middle age while Finn's barely an adolescent) to raise him. On the other hand, it's unclear just how rapidly Jake actually ages. Jake isn't exactly an ordinary dog either, since he's the result of a shapeshifting alien creature implanting an egg in Joshua's head.
- A short stop motion film called Das Rad involved two perspective of time between two sentient piles of rocks named Hew and Kew, and the humans who, over thousands of years, progress from cavemen to building a future metropolis which rot and fade away at the end of the film. Being rocks, Hew and Kew act and talk so slowly that centuries pass during their conversations and the humans who pass by (which are barely visible to the rocks due to the Time Dissonance) see them as ordinary piles of unmoving rocks. At one point, Kew picks up a broken wooden wheel discarded next to him by a human pulling a rickshaw passing by and inspects it in curiosity before it rots and biodegrades into nothingness.
- The Fairly OddParents: In "Super Humor", one of the pilot shorts produced for Oh Yeah! Cartoons, the life cycle of a fly that Timmy meets when he gains the ability to talk to animals is shown throughout the short. When Timmy first meets him, the Fly starts out as a baby, then after saying that he has a 24-hour lifespan, he ages into a teenager. In the Fly's second scene, he is a college freshman. In his third scene, the Fly is married and has two sons (who both age into teenagers). In the Fly's fourth and final scene, he is elderly and his two sons are young adults, but all three meet their demise via a fly swatter.
- The Nibblonians from Futurama have very long lifespans. Nibbler is at least 1000-years-old and still seems "youthful" for his species.
- Inexplicably, the Nibblonian race itself is seventeen years older than the universe.
- You don't need much of an explanation when you're able to swallow yourself out of existence.
- In the episode "T: The Terrestrial," Jrrr, the son of Always Chaotic Evil alien warlord Lrrr, starts keeping Fry as a pet after he's stranded on Omicron Persei 8. When Fry becomes sick in his care, Jrrr takes him to an Omicronian vet, who advises putting him down as "he'd only live another eighty years at most."
- Gargoyles: A more moderate example for the titular characters who are stated to age at a rate of one half that of humans. Word of God says this is due to their stone sleep during the day, and Hudson, the oldest of the main clan, is stated to be 100 (excluding the power nap he took on his way from 10th Century Scotland to 20th Century New York). This comes up twice in the series proper:
- When Jackal is able to temporarily gain the power of Death and ages Goliath, Angela, Bronx, and Elisa a good fifty years. Elisa was barely able to stand, but the gargoyles were able to Zerg Rush Jackal and take him down. This is also where Goliath explained the aging difference.
- When Goliath meets the London clan, he meets two of their number at two different point via time travel, once in 1995 London and again during the London Blitz. While both show a few signs of age from the ensuing fifty years, neither is as terribly aged or infirm as would apply to a human having lived the same lifespan.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Celestia, Luna, Discord, and Tirek are all confirmed to be at least 1000-years-old. It's not clear whether this is a characteristic of alicorns in general (the only other two to have been seen in the show were originally regular ponies who were turned into alicorns) or whether Celestia and Luna are a special case. Discord and Tirek are both (so far) the only representatives of their species (draconequus and demon-goat-centaur-thing, respectively), so it's unknown if they're naturally long lived or have artificially extended their lives with magic. The Journal of the Two Sisters reveals that "natural" alicorns like Celestia and Luna are very Long-Lived, though they are not immortal, though this is thrown for a loop in the Distant Finale where Twilight Sparkle is shown to have become like Princess Celestia unlike her now elderly friends and Princess Flurry Heart has aged normally. Similarly, it's implied that Spike, being a dragon, has an extremely long lifespan as even in the distant finale he looks and sounds like a buff teenager whose voice hasn't even cracked yet.
- In the Robot Chicken sketch, "A Bug's Short Life", the characters from A Bug's Life cannot get any sleep because the Mayflies themselves are partying, having sex, giving birth, going through a midlife crisis as husband and wife, and finally dying in the span of three hours. Just when they think they can finally get a moment's rest, the eggs hatch and it starts all over again.
- There is also the bird Filburt had Rocko watch over in Rocko's Modern Life at one time where it turns out that Turdy (the bird's name) and its species only live for weeks, though it's subverted in a way for Turdy when it's revealed that Heffer accidentally sat on Turdy, killing him.
- Steven Universe:
- Gems don't age, need no sustenance to survive, and are extremely durable, which comes together to give them vastly longer lifespans than humans. The youngest of the Crystal Gems is over 5000-years-old. Pearl at one point remarks that she remembers when humans were nothing but hunter-gatherers.The diamonds are even more ancient. Although their exact ages haven't been confirmed yet, Yellow's remark in the movie that Spinel's 6,000 year long isolation was absolutely nothing implies that they are probably millions of years old at the very least.
- Conversely, the Planimals and Plant People made by Rose/Steven's Green Thumb only last as long as whatever plants they're made out of — which in the Watermelon Stevens' case means only a few weeks.
- Inverted in the ThunderCats (2011) episode "Song of the Petalars." The Petalars, a race of Lilliputian flower like creatures have incredibly brief lifespans compared to the titular Thundercats, only living for about a day before they wither away. Thanks to perceptual Time Dissonance, to a Petalar, that single day is an incredibly rich, full and meaningful lifetime.
- In an extreme example, the titular Transformers may very well be incapable of dying of old age, so long as they remain properly nourished. Indeed, throughout the entire franchise, only Ratchet from Transformers: More than Meets the Eye dies of old age, sometime in the Distant Finale. The characters from the first series went into suspended animation four million years ago, and when they woke up, all their old acquaintances were still fighting the war. They're rarely shown as being affected by old age (except for one character, Kup), and one character, Vector Prime, may very well be nearly as old as time itself.
- The movies add Jetfire to the list. Apart from being one of the first Transformers to ever live, his aging is explained as from being starved of energon. He even comments that his father was the first wheel, ("What did he transform into? Nothing! But he did it with honour!") It is however conceivable that energon starvation and/or hiding in a museum with nobody to talk to for several years has made Jetfire go a bit peculiar, or that he's just trying to mess with Sam's head when he says this. The Fallen, one of the original Thirteen, is even older and is still spry from better care over the years.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender plays with the trope by having Alteans naturally live long enough that Coran, being 'middle-aged', is at least in his 600s if you ignore the 10,000 years of stasis. It's also largely irrelevant because there are only two (actually three) Alteans left alive.
- The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald: This is hinted to be the case in regards to Org's species in "Visitors from Outer Space", as Hamburglar learns after agreeing to join Org's family on their vacation that the trip will last 3,000 years.
- In Young Justice (2010), it's established that Martians have a longer lifespan than Humans due to aging at a slower rate. This may be a result of the fact that Mars takes longer to orbit the Sun than Earth, so a year on Mars is roughly equal to two years on Earth. Hence why in Season 1, Miss Martian is the Martian equivalent of a 16-year-old Human, despite being born 48 Earth years ago.
- The ocean quahog is believed to be the longest lived animal on Earth. The oldest one ever record was 507-years-old, however, their maximum lifespan is unknown, and they may well never die of old age.