I is for Immortality #atozchallenge

Posted 10th April 2013 by Anstice in Blog Fests & Hops, BOOKS, Entertainment / 🗨11 Comments

[‘Stock-Immortal‘, modelled by Mahafsoun,
photographed by Mirza Fatick]

Today I’m continuing with the Blogging from A-Z Challenge hosted by Arlee Bird and his team of awesome bloggers. My theme is: Elements and features of speculative fiction and entertainment. So throughout April I will be blogging about characters, objects and themes that appear in sci-fi, fantasy and dystopian series. Today’s post is all about Immortality.

Immortality means endless life or endurance. It has always been a common theme in literature as it explores humanity’s deep-seated fears and comprehension of its own mortality. It frequently occurs in fantasy and sci-fi fiction, as it is often the aim of the villain or dark forces to gain eternal life, and the role of the protagonist to stop them from achieving it.

Fantasy *SPOILER ALERT*

  • In Harry Potter, Voldermort goes to great lengths to prolong his existence. He drinks unicorn blood to keep him going, even though he is cursed to share a ‘half-life’ with Quirrel, he tries to steal the philosopher’s stone and he creates horcruxes, even though he knows the risks of splitting his soul into so many pieces. He is afraid of death and will do anything to avoid it. On the other hand, although Harry doesn’t want to die, he is willing to lay down his life to save others, and this turns out  to be one of his greatest weapons against Voldermort.
  • In The Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbedore tells Harry that once the stone has been destroyed, Nicholas Flamel and his wife will now die, after setting their affairs in order. Harry can’t understand why anyone would willingly give up eternal life, but Dumbedore explains to him that for the very old, death is like falling asleep at the end of a very long day. 
  •  In the Lord of the Rings series, Elves are said to be immortal, as they do not get ill or grow old. They view the mortality of men as a gift, which is not understood by those who possess it. This is because the Elves have very clear memories, which can accumulate millennia of sad experiences. 
  • In the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Captain Barbossa and his crew become ‘undead’ after taking cursed gold coins out of a chest. Even though they still look like humans during the day, they cannot eat or drink or indulge in any of life’s pleasures, so Barbossa sees it as a curse.

Paranormal Fiction

  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries, Twilight and other paranormal fiction, vampires are usually semi-immortal. They do not age or die from illnesses, and can usually only be killed in certain ways eg. a stake through the heart or decapitation. Their inability to die of natural causes is often seen as a curse, and many vampires are portrayed as tormented, listless creatures, trapped in a state of perpetual loneliness. 
  • The Cullens in Twilight make the best of their situation by enjoying a nice house and cars, spending time with their family and attending schools. But they have to move from place to place before humans begin to notice they are not ageing. It is also an issue for Bella and Edward that Edward will outlive her-Bella wants them to be together forever and tries to persuade Edward to turn her. 

Sci-fi

  • Sci-fi has explored the possibility of creating cyborgs-implanting mechanical parts into a human’s brain or placing a human’s brain inside a robotic body, like the Cybermen in Dr.Who.
  • Some alien races in Star Trek, such as Q, are immortal. Vulcans can be killed, but are able to resurrect under certain circumstances. When Spock dies, his father reveals that McCoy is carrying Spock’s Kattra, or living spirit. The crew return to Genesis to rescue Spock and re-fuse his Kattra with his body. 
  • Dr.Who and other timelords are able to regenerate when they are close to death, though they come back somewhat different from their previous selves and are limited to thirteen regenerations (although the BBC are extending this to carry on the series).  
  • Wolverine from the X-Men can also regenerate after being injured, and he is able to live beyond the average human lifespan (he was born in the late 19th century) but it’s unclear as to whether he is technically immortal.
  • In Heroes, Claire Bennett can heal herself after any injury, even those to the brain, and Sylar says that he could not kill her even if he wanted to. However, the producers have said that she could be killed by decapitation.
  • In Star Wars, Jedi have mastered a form of immortality by passing into the Force upon their deaths, and still being able to communicate with the living. This ability can only be achieved through compassion and the release of one’s self. Although some Sith have achieved a similar state, they are bound to a specific object, eventually driven insane from the loneliness and rage as they wait for a chance to return to life.
  • Remember the indestructible Captain Scarlet? No, just me then. Man, I feel old. 

Recommended Reads:

Sources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immortality_in_fiction

Would you want to live forever? Why or why not?

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11 responses to “I is for Immortality #atozchallenge

  1. @Cynthia-hmm, that's an interesting take on it. The Evenstar doesn't feature in the novel, so no clues there. I personally thought she gave it to Aragorn as a token of her affection, to remind him of their love. I don't think it explicitly mentioned it being a symbol for her immortality, but I suppose it could be interpreted that way.

  2. I see another poster had already recommended Tuck Everlasting. Lois Duncan's Locked in Time also deals with the immortality theme.

    I wonder what your thoughts are about the scene in the movie Lord of the Rings where Arwen gives away her pendant. Some people say she was giving away her immortality in that scene, but I'm not sure if it's ever stated what that was all about. (I'm going to mention this scene in one of my posts later this month.)

  3. @Kate-I've never read Tuck Everlasting, so thanks for the recommendation.

    @Juliet- thank you! I will pay yours a visit too.

    @Roland- ah yes, good examples!

    @sassyspeaks-I think an immortal/mortal pairing raises some great issues to explore as a writer.

  4. I never seem to tire of this subject in books, but I think my favorite of all time is TUCK EVERLASTING. It does such a beautiful job of making us realize what's lost with immortality… life.

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