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I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice.
CEO Nwabudike Morgan, MorganLink 3DVision Live Interview, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

When a character quests for eternal life. Sometimes it's given to them, sometimes it isn't, sometimes it's given to them and they regret the consequences, but their desire and actions towards Immortality are what count towards this trope.

Originally, this trope could be used for heroes and villains alike, as evidenced by quests for the Holy Grail and The Epic of Gilgamesh. Nowadays, however, because of immortality now being seen as perverse and wrong, rarely do you see any character other than a villain go for this. Sometimes though, Living Forever Is Awesome.

See Immortality for ways to achieve it and Living Forever Is Awesome for why they want to achieve it. Contrast Who Wants to Live Forever? for people that have immortality and hate it. Also Death Seeker for those seeking death instead.

Courtesy of The Epic of Gilgamesh, this trope is Older Than Dirt.

Examples of Immortality Seeker include:


Anime and Manga

  • Baccano features this with the original 1711 immortals who summon a devil to obtain the elixir of immortality. By the 20th century some of them question if it was a such a great idea (though they actually have a method to commit suicide if they really decide to go with it).Others still think its awesome.
  • Mori Koran from Flame of Recca
  • In Naruto, this is one of Orochimaru's biggest motivations. His obsession with immortality drove him to create jutsu that can raise the dead and another to possess the bodies of others.
    • Strangely, for Orochimaru, immortality is only a means to an end. His real ultimate goal is...to learn every jutsu. No, seriously. He needs to be immortal because there are far too many jutsu to learn them all in a normal human lifespan.
      • That might not be the case, though it is certainly what he tells himself. The scene where child Orochimaru sees the snake shed its skin after visiting his parents' grave suggests a rather different motive...
      • Orochimaru seems to think that more jutsu automatically means more power, and that learning them all would make him something akin to a god.
    • Other Naruto characters who invokes this trope are: Sasori, who turned himself into a human puppet in order to attain eternal life and an undecaying body as part of his philosophy that "true art" presists the passing of time (ironically enough, he was also the first bad guy to be killed in the second season, a fact his partner, Deidara, who in turn lives by the completely opposite philosophy, lampshaded). Kakuzu, a ninja in his early nineties who can extend his own lifetime indefinitely by stealing and replacing his own old, worn out organs with younger, healtier organs from people he defeats, and Hidan, Kakuzu's partner, who maintained his immortality by killing others.
  • Both Freeza and Vegeta from Dragonball Z were looking for the Namek Dragon Balls to achieve immortality. Vegeta teams up with Goku to prevent his former boss Freeza from reaching it. To the surprise of no one, after Vegeta makes his his Heel Face Turn, this particular ambition is completely forgotten.
    • Vegeta wanted immortality so he would be strong enough to overthrow Freeza. With him out of the picture it wasn't much of a big deal.
      • Especially when there's a whole other world for him to fool around with on the other side. What's more, once he reaches there, he will really be immortal.
    • This trope was also used on Garlic Jr. who actually managed to get it. However, he then was headbutted through a portal he created into a dimension known as the Dead Zone, essentially killing him anyway. Until he came back. And was knocked again into the same dimension when he created the portal again.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist makes this the prime motivation for Greed, Ling Yao, and Mei Xiang. While Ling and Mei want to bring the secret of immortality back to Xing in order to obtain the position of Emperor/Empress for their respective clans, Greed is just, well greedy.
    • There's also Dante, the Big Bad from the first anime.
      • The Big Bad of the manga and second anime, on the other hand, becomes immortal as merely the first step to a much larger goal.
  • The goal of at least one character in each volume of Phoenix is this.
  • Smug Snake Kurt Godel of Mahou Sensei Negima is this. When a child who recently became immortal is being discussed, everybody else focuses on the "will outlive loved ones, probably won't be able to have children, is quite possibly going to be in early puberty for eternity" aspects, but Kurt zeroes in on the "can become a king and rule forever with zero fear of assassination" aspect.


Comic Books

  • Hob Gadling of The Sandman. Overall, he's glad he's lived so long, and he sees that the world is getting better.
  • Agents of Atlas member Ken Hale sought and acquired Age Without Youth by killing (and becoming) the legendary Gorilla Man.
  • An obsession with becoming immortal was what drove DCU Mad Scientist Professor Ivo's early schemes. Then he got what he wanted, unfortunately.
  • Batman foe Ra's Al Ghul is either this or Heir Club for Men. Sometimes both. At his worst, he combined the two to try to claim a fresh young body for himself. He's staved off death for centuries via the Lazarus Pits, but his ultimate goal was to find a way to cheat death permanently.


Fan Works

  • Bella in Luminosity wants to live forever, and meets a vampire. Interest ensues. Ultimately, she'd like this for everyone.


Film

  • Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean. First it was cursed Aztec gold (not worth losing all his senses), then replacing Davy Jones (gave it up to save Will's life), and then the Fountain of Youth....
    • At the end of On Stranger Tides Jack decides he'd rather be remembered forever than exist that long, presumably realizing the high costs of immortality at this point.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade involves the search for the Holy Grail, which grants immortality to whoever uses it.
  • Tom from The Fountain is a doctor searching for immortality.
  • Star Trek Generations: Soran would have effectively achieved this if he has re-entered the Nexus. In a way, he did anyway. Since the Nexus exists outside of time, he's still there (and always will be) even though he was also killed outside of it.
  • This trope is basically the plot for Professor Layton and The Eternal Diva.
  • Daniel Molloy of Interview with the Vampire.

Folklore


Literature

  • Salmissra from the Belgariad
  • Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter, due to a pathological fear of death. In this series, you have to kill people to be immortal. This allows you to split your soul and hide parts of it, guaranteeing that you remain earthbound if you were to die. This ultimately resulted in a particularely karmic fate for him. Due to the fact that his soul was still split up when he did in fact die, he wasn't able to pass on to the afterlife, nor return to the world of the living. His life-long flight from death resulted in him being trapped in an empty limbo for the rest of eternity.
    • Only some methods of immortality require murder. The first book talks of Real Life legendary alchemist Nicholas Flamel, and concerns Voldemort's efforts to steal the Philosopher's Stone that grants him immortality. The stone is destroyed at the end, with Flamel accepting death after living happily for centuries.
  • In Larry Niven's story "Cautionary Tales," a human looking for a way to live forever goes to the center of the galaxy and runs into an alien looking for the same thing. Tales of living forever are in all cultures, but only humans have "cautionary tales." The alien has been looking for far longer than the human...
  • Gerald Tarrant, of the Coldfire Trilogy. So far, he's doing pretty good.
    • Also the Undying Prince, though they use very different methods- Tarrant is an Emotion Eater, while the Prince practices Grand Theft Me though he keeps his original body in a vegitative state in a tank- he needs it as an anchor even if he's not using it anymore.
  • In Journey to the West, Sun Wukong responds to almost every piece of advice from his mentor with (paraphrased) "Yes, but will it make me live forever?"
  • Robert Silverberg's The Book of Skulls. All four of the protagonists are looking for eternal life. Which ones are the villains and which the heroes for doing so becomes increasingly less clear-cut as the novel progresses.
  • Bella Swan from Twilight is called this by some readers of the series.
  • In Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time saga the humanity has reached immortality with little cost (at least immediately apparent), and consists of a few hundred near-omnipotent individuals who mainly seek to have a good time, having given up the old morals and social standards as useless, since nothing they do can actually harm anybody else in any significant sense.
  • This is the goal of the Howard Foundation in Robert A. Heinlein's "Future History" timeline. Founded by a rich man who found himself dying of old age in his forties, it embarked on a program of human eugenics (before genes were even understood) by the very simple method of paying people with long-lived ancestors to marry and have children. Hundreds of years later, this eminently practical program produces humans with more than double the typical lifespan. Forced to flee Earth on an experimental spaceship due to public jealousy, the Howards return decades later to discover that, in their absence, humans have invented treatments that can prolong life enormously. Multiply this by the Howards' inbred longevity and you have a recipe for near-immortality. The longest-lived human, Lazarus Long, is nearly 2,500 years old by Time Enough for Love and shows no signs of stopping.
  • In The Secret History, Julian argues that this is what every human secretly wants, and it becomes a recurring theme throughout the book. Too bad Bunny ends up murdered, Charles tries to kill Henry, Henry kills himself, and Francis attempts suicide.
  • Felix Jongleur and the Grail Brotherhood, the main villains of Otherland, are a group of superpowerful billionaires who seek to become effectively immortal by uploading their minds into a massive virtual reality simulation that just so happens to be powered by devouring children's minds.
  • Discworld has Alberto Malich, a wizard who endeavored to become immortal. This is especially troublesome in this setting, since all mortals have a predetermined, finite amount of time to live and someone not dying while they are supposed to can tear all of reality in two. It did work out for Alberto after a fashion, when he became Death's personal servant, now known simply as Albert.
  • Darth Bane attempts to gain immortality by continuously transferring his soul from body to body as they became old and frail.
  • In Mistborn, the Lord Ruler not only desired immortality, but he found it. And ultimately, he gets killed when the device he's using to keep himself immortal gets ripped out of his body.
  • Septimus Heap:
    • Subverted with Etheldredda, as she takes the immature potion of immortality that makes her only a Substantial Ghost and gets eventually destroyed by Marcia Overstrand in the end of Physik.
    • Doubly Subverted with Marcellus Pye, as he first makes a potion without a critical component that gives only Age Without Youth. Septimus finally makes the complete potion and passes it over to the ailing Marcellus.
  • The Alex Benedict novel Polaris has the scientist Dunnager, who has made it his life's work to find a way to halt the ageing process.


Live Action TV

  • Doctor Who: the Master and Borusa. Incidentally, the novels give one of the Master's pseudonyms as 'Koschei' - as in Koschei the Deathless listed above.
  • Marcus of Babylon 5, when hearing the phrase "Who wants to live forever" when about to undertake something dangerous, responds "I do, as a matter of fact." Ironically, he pulls a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Richard Alpert on Lost makes a deal with Jacob to live forever because he's terrified of dying and going to Hell because he accidentally murdered a man. Eventually, he comes to regret his choice.


Music

  • The narrator in Xanadu by Rush.


Mythology

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Ur Example.
  • The Sibyl of Cumae, when asked by Apollo what she wants as an reward, requests life as long as the number of grains in a handful of sand. She does not ask for eternal youth, so she lives to regret it.
    • Apollo was giving her immortality in exchange for her virginity. He didn't give her Eternal Youth as punishment for not upholding her end of the bargain.
  • The Fountain of Youth

Tabletop Games

  • In Dungeons and Dragons, Liches are wizards who made themselves undead in order to avoid dying. Their Immortality Immorality is completely Justified by the fact that drinking a potion containing babies you killed yourself is part of the process.
    • Of course, at least in third edition one wonders why they bothered - there are several other kinds of immortality easily reachable (in game terms) that don't involve leaving you as a rotting corpse.
      • Liches are much harder to keep dead permanently. And if they're that worried about decomposition, they can just cast Gentle Repose on themselves once a week.
      • Unfortunately, even with magic, being a lich is only a half-measure of immortality. DnD liches have to contend with their sanity and intelligence decaying away over the one thousand years that basic lichdom lasts. After that they are nothing more then a floating skull, or Demilich. Demiliches are beings of absolutely incredible power, having lived long enough to learn every secret of magic that ever existed, but are also without exception batshit insane and utterly consumed by mindless insanity and loathing for everything. As far as immortality is concerned, Demiliches are virtually impossible to either destroy or permanantly kill. But, ya know, the whole 'mindless insane bodiless skull forever' might be a bit of a downside.
      • Depending on which sourcebook you're reading at the moment, anyway. There are very nearly as many variations on lichdom and the lichification (is that a word?) process as there are books in the D&D line of tabletop RPGs. One variation, for example, requires zero babies, but instead a ritual involving the heart of a sentient humanoid that must be performed every 100 years. There is no obvious rule why this would mean a human heart instead of an orc or troll, or a convicted murderer. The same sourcebook says that demiliches are so decayed because they spend all their time traipsing through other planes of existence via astral projection or some such thing (whether they're likely to be insane after who knows how many millennia of existence lies in the eye of the beholder).
    • There is a less evil and more described way to become a Lich described in the Power Class: Alchemist mini-supplement.
    • In OA7 Test Of The Samurai, the evil Za-Jikku tries to become immortal by changing the world's atmosphere to a substance that will let him live forever. Unfortunately, breathing it will kill all other creatures who haven't prepared as he has.
  • In GURPS, there are some spells that can "steal youth," take months off your life, or halt aging. They are generally so expensive and limited as to not be worth it (the potion version of the Youth spell takes almost a year to make, any failure in making it causes the user to age faster, and it only takes one year off your life.) If permanently enchanted on a wearable item, the Halt Aging spell has such a ridiculous energy cost that even a Great Wish won't be enough to make one. (The book notes: "Kingdoms have been toppled for possession of such things...")
    • In the powered by GURPS Scenario Transhuman Space you can become immortal by uploading your mind into a computer (if you have the money), though your biological body will die in the process, or before.
  • From Warhammer 40000, this is the ultimate goal of many Chaos Space Marines and many of the mortal followers of Chaos as well. They hope to achieve this by gaining the attentions of the Ruinous Powers and becoming a Daemon Prince. Fortunately for the rest of the galaxy (and some of the other followers of Chaos), the attrition rate for this is very high.


Video Games

  • "I intend to live forever, of course. Barring that, I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice." Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri almost makes this trope casual (as evidenced by this quote), until you see the consequences of Clinical Immortality.
  • Tons of people in the Nasuverse.
    • Michael Roa Valdamong from Tsukihime who first became a vampire and later invented a method to reincarnate with his own personality (and vampirism).
    • Nrvnqsr (pronounced "Nero"), also from Tsukihime, who also became a vampire, although later started to consider himself a research project on Chaos.
    • Zepia Eltnam Oberon in Melty Blood who became a vampire (notice a pattern?) in order to have infinite time to research a way to save the world from its inevitable doom.
    • Gilgamesh from Fate/stay night, modeled after the original.
    • Zouken from Fate/stay night, who originally prolonged his life to reach a goal but later went insane and forgot why he did it in the first place. Failed to become a vampire and thus suffered the "immortality without youth" drawback of Who Wants to Live Forever?.
    • True Assassin from Fate/stay night.
  • In Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, the Big Bad suffers from impending death from "consumption" (Tubeculosis), and seeks eternal life-- at the expense of the world. In the game's end, the Big Bad offers to share eternal life with the hero-- who of course refuses it, in order to turn back time and bring everyone back to life.
  • In Tales of Symphonia it is revealed that Mithos Yggdrasill and his companions found a way to stop individuals' biological clocks, essentially locking their bodies in the age they please. At the end of the game, it is revealed that he intended to convert all living beings in his universe to this state in order to reduce discrimination brought about by humans against half-elves for their human-like appearance and their naturally long life cycles.
  • Quite a number of characters from Touhou:
    • Kaguya Houraisan ordered her vassal to concoct an elixir of immortality on a whim and drank it on a whim, leading to her exile from the moon. As a Lunarian, Kaguya was already ageless, but now she's immune to all other forms of death as well. Said vassal, Eirin Yagokoro, might have also drank the elixir, but that's less clear.
    • Fujiwara no Mokou (who was previously an ordinary human) also drank the same elixir of immortality, some of which Kaguya had left behind as a gift to the Emperor of Japan. Mokou stole it from the soldiers tasked with throwing it into a volcano and drank it in a moment of weakness, something she's regretted ever since. Well, moreso the murder of the soldiers than the immortality.
    • Protagonist Marisa Kirisame has been known to perk her ears up at mention of easy routes to immortality but so far hasn't had the patience or the nerve to follow through (one of her options would have been to eat Mokou[1]).
    • Tenshi Hinanawi achieves de facto immortality by beating the crap out of each Shinigami that's sent to claim her.
    • The Buddhist priest Byakuren Hijiri abandoned her teachings after her brother died and instead desperately pursued immortality and eternal youth, which she managed to achieve through black magic and becoming a youkai. She later rediscovered Buddhism though and therefore presumably doesn't feel the pressing need to preserve the immortality she already achieved.
    • Former Emperor and Historical Domain Character Toyosatomimi no Miko was apparently obsessed with extending her reign forever and researched immortality using Taoist magic. Ironically, the use of alchemy gave her mercury poisoning and she eventually settled for a lesser form of extended life.
    • As well as a number of other characters who actively chose to become immortal during their lifetimes, although less emphasis is put on that as a motivation (Alice, Kasen, Seiga, etc).


Web Original


Western Animation

  • Xanatos of Gargoyles fame. What's all the money and power in the world (of which he has quite a bit) if he can't enjoy them forever? He's tried a number of things but never desperate enough to use them without testing on someone else first.


Real Life

  • The pursuit of immortality is a perennial pursuit in mysticism. Western alchemists spent their lives seeking an immortality potion that was variously called aqua vitae, panacea, elixir, the philosopher's stone, or literally hundreds of other names.
  • As did Eastern alchemists, including Chinese Taoists. Their elixirs tended to be based on gold, mercury and other heavy metals, so the effect might have been more pickling than life-extending.
    • There were also some scriptures that recommended a kind of sexual vampirism to keep practitioners young. The general idea was to choose very youthful partners and sometimes to switch in the middle ...
    • Their is some evidence to suggest that GUN POWDER actually was one such elixir, ironically.
  • One of the primary goals of transhumanists today, through advances in science.
    • Note that not all transhumanists desire immortality, though most do. Also they discuss the ramifications of an unlimited lifespan regularly and the general consensus is that the only cost would be that you'd effectively cease to be "human" (a fair price many think).
  • The real life Ponce de Leon averts this trope. He went to Florida in search of gold and to expand the Spanish empire. Only after his death did wild stories of his search for the Fountain of Youth begin to appear.

Notes

  1. Or Kaguya. But Marisa didn't know this yet when she fought Kaguya.
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