By rights, immortals should possess immortality. Instead, those ”immortals” portrayed in literature and film appear to have conditional immortality.
Immortality means living forever, not able to die and not possessing mortality. By definition, an immortal is not liable or subject to death.
But in books and movies, immortals are killed. Regularly and with gory, indiscriminate relish. This confuses my sensibilities. It’s a contradiction. An impossibility, if the meaning of immortality is to be unscathed.
My husband’s answer to this conundrum: They’re immortal until someone kills them.
This is the first example that comes to mind even though I have not seen this movie for many years.
A Highlander was immortal and would live perpetually throughout time. Unless someone cut off his head.
If another Highlander did this, he would inherit the power. What power? A larger target on his back for other “immortals” who wanted it for themselves?
If you will live forever, what else could you want?
You will accumulate wealth and possessions. You might be worshiped as a deity (since the dictionary defines an immortal as one of the gods of mythology).
To what end? If you can be killed, do you sleep with one eye open? Or do you get sick of the endlessness of life and seek out someone to curse with the “gift” of outliving anyone you might love or befriend? Unless they are also immortal.
This is false immortality. If you have unending life, no one and nothing can end it. Duh, it wouldn’t be unending if anything could end it.
One reason this contradiction bothers me (other than the word doesn’t seem to actually mean what we say/think it does) is that it muddies the waters of theology. Most religions offer up a version of immortality to its followers.
I ascribe to the doctrines of Christianity (as presented in the King James Version of the Bible, not those taught by organized religions who claim the name of Christianity).
According to the Holy Bible, God sent His Son, Jesus, to die a substitutionary death for all mortals born on Earth. If these mortals, accepted this blood price through confessing and repenting of their natural unrighteous tendencies and believed this death could pay their blood debt,debts will be granted eternal life.
Immortality would be a gift from the pre-existing, all-sufficient Creator of their universe. Namely the Source of life would extend life to them
It’s understood that this immortality isn’t for the mortal flesh but for the eternal soul and consciousness of the believer. This flesh is cursed (as is the Earth), but once the timeline for the body is completed, the believer’s spiritual half steps through the curtain of death and inhabits a new, immortal (undying and unkillable) body that isn’t affected by the original curse.
With all the conflicting reports of immortals dying and immortality being conditional, the clear waters of God’s promised “everlasting life” is tainted, misunderstood and cheapened.
And that’s sad. Because this promise is the foundational hope of faith.
In this era when new words are invented and accepted into the English language annually, why doesn’t someone construct a work that more accurately reflects the conditional mortality presented as immortality in the genre of fantasy?
Semimortal would work. This means they are half prone to death and half undying. Isn’t this the case for the “immortal” Highlanders, elves, Roman-Greco deities and the like? If allowed to live out their normal lifespan, they will live forever. The only way they can die is through murder or purposeful wounding.
Quasi-immortal is another possibility. It seems like they will live forever. They have the potential to never die. But they’re perfectly killable—whether by specific mystical means or only with certain weapons or on certain days.
In a fantasy series I wrote four years ago, I had immortal elves and dragons. In the second book, I killed an elf. So he wasn’t truly immortal, right?
Wrong. His mortal body was killed. Once his essence was transported back to Astrya (the first realm and homeland of the Creator and Sustainer deities), his body would be regenerated. He would live again, carrying memories of his physical death but not of his time as pure life essence.
It seems to me this may be the same sort of death those afflicted by the Infinity Gauntlet in the recent AVENGERS film may have experienced. If someone else wields the gauntlet, it could be used to reverse the destruction of one-third of all living things in the universe.
What is your thought on the misinterpretation or misrepresentation of the purest definition of immortality?