Friday, 1 May 2015

Top Five Immortal Characters

Immortality has always been a popular trope in all forms of fiction, as it's a perenially fascinating topic. As such there are many great fictional characters who never shuffled off this mortal coil - and here are some of my favourites. 
To keep things interesting I've banned myself from putting any Doctor Who characters on this list (really, I could fill the whole lot up with Who folks - The Doctor, Captain Jack, the Master, the Cybermen...). So read on for a who's-who-and-also-not-in-Who of immortal characters. Hurry up, before we all die of old age...  


Fiction is full of vampires tortured by their immortality, so I've bundled them all into one for the sake of variety (and to represent them I've chosen one of the world's more underappreciated vampires; the Count from Sesame Street. Not enough evil undead give their eternal lives to teach young children arithmatic). They come in different groups. Many like to spend eternity causing bloodshed - Dracula. Some like to spend it righting wrongs - Genevieve Dieudonne who fights the aforementioned Prince of Darkness in Anno Dracula. And others like to switch between both - such as TV vampires Hal York and Spike. Whatever the type, though, you can rely on a vampire to spark an interesting discussion on the nature of immortality. 

The Hempstock Women

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is really the story of two ancient forces battling each other with a small ordinary boy caught in the middle. While the terrifying Ursula is vehemently on the side of the bad, the Hempstock women serve as the boy's saviours and prove that immortality doesn't have to make you tortured - it can just make you wise. The three Hempstocks (almost personifying the stereotypical three witches) and the nature of their long shelflife is well dealt with; we know they were around at the time of the Domesday Book and beyond but we never really find out who or what they are. The Hempstocks tell us that, yes, we don't understand all the mysteries of the universe but sometimes it's better not to. 

 Peter Pan 

It is an oft-discussed notion if one would choose immortality. Certainly, most of the characters on this list would call it a curse. But Peter Pan, the Boy Who Never Grew Up, chooses to be immortal rather than face the terrors of adulthood. At first, just as Peter does, many of us would love to be carefree children forever but there's tragedy in Peter's decision, as ably presented in the surprisingly good 2003 film and messed about with in Steven Spielberg's Hook, as he cannot do such grown-up things as reciprocate his feelings for Wendy. Ultimately, though, it's up to you whether Peter's life is a blessing or a curse, making him one of the most interesting immortal characters around. 

Edward Scissorhands

I was going to put Frankenstein's monster on this list but then remembered that immortality is not really an attribute of Mary Shelley's original creation, more of the films that it spawned. So instead Frankie's gothic cousin Eddie takes his spot on this list. A cross between the monster, the Beast and Tim Burton himself, Edward is an innocent who, just like the monster, is corrupted by the outside world. Unlike Frankie, he's also one half of a doomed romance, partly made impossible by his immortality. Edward serves as a warning that it's no fun to be different. 


 While others on this list might not have enjoyed their immortality, they at least had the comfort of being frozen in time, never ageing. Unfortunately, Tithonus, one of the unluckiest figures in Greek Mythology, learnt the hard way that your should always check the fine print when wishing for eternal life. After falling in love with this lowly mortal, the goddess Aurora pleaded with Zeus to make him immortal - unfortunately, she forgot to ask for everlasting youth. Thus, Tithonus grows into a withered husk of a man - who his immortal lover eventually grows tired of. Tithonus is the epitome of all immortal fictional characters as he embodies the idea at the heart of all of them; we might all wish for longer lives but you have to be careful what you wish for. 

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