Gallery of Heroes who Tried to Cheat Death

Voldemort is determined not to die. However, he’s hardly unique. His mission is shared by characters throughout literature and myth…let’s see what happened to them all.

Gilgamesh:

Tries to stay awake long enough to become immortal, but fails through human weakness.  Is given a magical plant as a consolation prize, but he fearfully hoards it and a snake eats it.  He’s left sadder and wiser.

Sisyphus:

When he offends the gods, death’s servant, Thanatos, comes to collect him.  Sisyphus chains up death so no one can die, but this causes great suffering in the world. Eventually, Sisyphus relents. On his second attempt to cheat death, Sisyphus warns his wife not to give him a funeral or make offerings to the gods. Once in Hades, Sisyphus begs Persephone to let him return to life long enough to rectify this mistake and thus escapes.  The third time, Hades collects him in person. For Sisyphus’s arrogance, he’s forced to roll a boulder up a hill throughout eternity, only to watch it crash again to the bottom.

Eos:

This Greek Goddess of the dawn, is enamored of a mortal named Tithonus (a prince of Troy and the elder brother of Priam). She bears him away to her eastern palace, and begs the gods to grant him immortality. They assent, but she neglects to request eternal youth. Tithonus grows older and more bent through the centuries, until he becomes so crooked and small that he shrinks into a cricket, forever chirping dryly around her beautiful palace.

Achilles:

That one vulnerable spot on an invulnerable body. Never works– someone always finds it and clobbers it.

Dracula:

His coffin with special earth and supernatural powers give him unnatural strength and immortality. Still, he’s a creature of evil, doomed to feed on the living to prolong his own existence. In the famous novel, a group of heroes track and destroy him.

Voldemort:

His Horcruxes make him immortal, with all six heavily guarded pieces standing between him and death. However, his soul is so fractured he’s no longer human. Unicorn blood, likewise, preserves one through a cursed half-life that most judge undesirable.

Urshima Taro and visitors to Fairie:

When they return from their charmed, timeless lives, they find hundreds of years have passed and all their loved ones have gone. The price for this magical, timeless world is never being able to return.  Often, their ancient bodies can’t sustain them and they die. Notably, a Star Trek episode featuring suspended animation found the same result. (The Neutral Zone).

Death Wish, Requiem for Methuselah, New Frontier:

Several Star Trek episodes have addressed characters alive for centuries who only want to die, since life has nothing left to offer them.

The Holy Grail

Drinking from it can preserve people from death or allow them to live forever.  Few drawbacks, rarely pictured as evil or unnatural. The largest flaw is its inability to be found.

The Philosopher’s Stone

Creates an elixir that makes people younger, prolonging death.  Few drawbacks, rarely pictured as evil or unnatural. The largest flaw is its inability to be found.

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Filed under Harry Potter, mythology, Pop Culture

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