you don’t even know, this subject is my jam. after my finals are over I will write you a freaking ESSAY.
Medievalpoc: your one stop shop for mermaid, unicorn, and other sundry meats of unclear taxonomy that may produce unintended consequences like such as immortality
Maybe the plus side is you become immortal, but on the other hand you also become this thing forever until the end of time:
Do you know of any ancient cultures outside of Roman and Greek (and not European obviously) with myths about humans becoming immortal? I'm trying to do character building for a story about immortals in the modern world and I want to have as much diversity as possible (aka NOT just Romans and Greeks), but I haven't found much yet and also don't want to bend other cultures' myths to fit my ideas, either. Anyway, I think your blog is great and thanks for the help.
Immortality and the origin of death is one of the most popular topics of stories from around the world, actually. Often immortality is or can be conferred on average humans by eating or drinking a rare and special kind of food or beverage.
In the Islamic world you have the four immortals, including Khidir, the Green Man, who drank from the water of life and became immortal. Khidir’s tale shares some factors in common with the story of The Wandering Jew. You can read more about him and the other immortals here.
In China you have the Covert Eight Immortals:
- Immortal Woman He (He Xiangu),
- Royal Uncle Cao (Cao Guojiu),
- Iron-Crutch Li (Tieguai Li),
- Lan Caihe,
- Lü Dongbin, leader;
- Philosopher Han Xiang (Han Xiang Zi),
- Elder Zhang Guo (Zhang Guo Lao), and
- Han Zhongli (Zhongli Quan).
whose power can be transferred to tools an used to destroy evil ro bestow life; as well as the Eight Immortal Scholars of Huainan, or the Eight Gentlemen, who aren’t deified or made supernatural in any way, as their “immortality” is a metaphor but I think that’s a fun play for fiction. As well as Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who famously spent much of his life searching for an elixir of immortality.
There are a fair amount of Native American tales that deal with this topic, too. The Boy Who Would Be Immortal is a Hočąk story, with analogues in Macmac, Menominee, and Potawotami, with their theme of fasting. If you plan to include immortals that blend with supernatural tales, Wendigo are certainly immortal (humans become Wendigo by breaking taboos or committing terrible crimes), as are Skin Walkers in Navajo legend.
In Vietnam, Hang Nga and Hau Nghe are made immortal by eating a special type of grass. Separate from this, you have the Vietnamese Four Immortals: the giant boy Thánh Gióng, mountain god Tản Viên Sơn Thánh,Chử Đồng Tử the marsh boy, and the princess Liễu Hạnh.
In both Hindu and Buddhist tales, the elixir of immortality is guarded jealously by the gods and Garuda, the mythological bird person, plays a very important role in these kind of stories in Southeast Asia.
There’s a Yoruban tale about Oba Koso or Shango, who was forced to commit suicide by political intrigue but did not hang; The demigod Maui has many stories his quests involving immortality for himself and others in Tonga, New Zealand, Samoa, and many other Pacific Islands.
Also keep in mind, even if you’re going to allow Greek or Roman immortals to dominate your story-not all Greek or Roman immortals were white people. A notable exception is Memnon, an African (Ethiopian and/or Sudanese) king, who was killed by Achilles and mourned so deeply by Eos, his mother, that Zeus was moved to grant him immortality.
I highly encourage anyone else to add their favorite stories about immortality to this post!!!
I’m not sure if someone’s already mentioned it, but there’s a Japanese folktale about how if you eat the flesh of a mermaid (person-fish, 人魚), you’ll become immortal.
There’s a brief passage about the original story here (which started showing up in the Edo/Tokugawa period [~1600-1868]) and a general entry from the Obakemono Project which now, sadly, can only be accessed by the WayBack Machine, but sports a very nice citations list.
I love how half the shit you get for critiquing fantasy is basically "Shut up! That's how it was in the real world!" and the other half is "Shut up! This has nothing to do with the real world!"
At least they all seem to agree on one thing: I need to shut up.
I sort of wonder if it helps shore up the idea/myth of unidirectional progress (we are unequivocally better than our ancestors)
That’s what I think, personally.
Because if everything is always better than it’s ever been, why is anyone complaining or criticizing?
Related: why Native American History starts at “First Contact” and why “African American History” starts with enslavement.
Related: why does my textbook have literally one paragraph about pre-colonial non-Western history? Could it be because we wouldn’t want to think that people of color were better off and had accomplishments and histories BEFORE colonization and white people happened?
every time you reply to an extremely reductive question, i just imagine you sitting in your historian's lair, going "you want answers? i'll give you answers! i'll give you ALL THE ANSWERS, and they'll ALL CONFLICT! WELCOME TO HISTORY!"
Thank you for making me think about Things (and there's so many of them)
Are these sculptures of roman citizens or slaves?
The association of Black people with enslavement is an entirely modern invention, as in, chattel slavery in the Americas and the routine enslavement of black people in Europe did not exist in Rome. Roman slavery was NOT the same as chattel slavery, and it did not have anything to do with race as we know it today.
This is what I’m talking about when I say that our modern attitudes and colonial-era histories 100% affect the way we view ancient artworks.
American schools teach “slavery then civil rights”, and that’s their “Black History” curricula, for the most part. That’s why I get responses like this. Because it seems like a large number of Americans see any Black person from before 1950 and think “slave”.
This is far from the first time someone has asked this, and it probably is far from the last time I will be asked. It’s my hope that people will really think about how we got to this point, and why it’s so necessary to explore how this degree of anti-blackness has been codified into our education system.
This is one of the reasons that, at some point in class, I end up telling my students, “Okay, look, if someone tells you that X has always been the case regarding sexuality, gender, race, religion, science/technology, or any aspect of society you can think of, they are either lying to you or don’t know what they’re talking about. History is a lot more complicated than that.”
It might not be “telling” so much as “ranting,” but whatever.
AHHHH! Speaking of rants this reminds me of a book I was processing for undergrad anthropology that said, “no one knows why but at some point all women everywhere became subject to all men everywhere and here are the three theories to explain it number one because women have an baby and a men do a hunting” and so on and I was like AM I BEING PUNISHED BY THE UNIVERSE RIGHT NOW?
Literally NO amelioration in this book. 0%. And yes I know the theories and the names and all that crap but this was the #1 actual worst textbook description of this I had ever frigging seen. The entire section was called something really dire, too, like Women Subsumed by the Eternal Patriarchy or something like that, I don’t remember. And of course I look up which professor is using this text and I’m like