A Brief Review of Immortality in Literature (and Film)

It is perhaps not a surprise that the first epic poem known to humanity deals with the subject of immortality. The Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 1800 BC) has the eponymous hero, shocked by the premature death of his best friend, Enkidu, travelling in search of eternal life. Gilgamesh seeks out Utnapishtim (‘the Distant’) and his wife, who were the only mortals to ever be granted immortality by the gods. After numerous wanderings, he comes to their abode, but fails in the basic test that Utnapishtim gives him, not to fall asleep for seven nights in a row. Having thus proven his unfitness to be immortal, Utnapishtim sends him home, but gives him a consolation prize – a plant that restores Gilgamesh’s youth. Even this is lost, however, when Gilgamesh goes bathing in a lake; a snake comes and picks it up, shedding its own skin and becoming young again.