Fairy-Tale Files: The Secret to Old Age is… Necromancy?

Fairy-Tale Files, published once weekly, feature three variations of a fairy tale chosen by one of Fairy Tale Review’s editors, readers, editorial assistants, or contributors.


In “The Land Where One Never Dies,” a boy decides that the common narrative about dying at the end of a life just isn’t for him. He says, “This tale about everybody having to die doesn’t set too well with me. I will go in search of the land where one never dies.” He goes out into the world looking for this magical place, meeting new people along the way, like an old man watching a duck drink water out of a sea until it’s gone. But, the older he gets, the more he has to mourn—when he comes back, the sea is gone, and the duck is dead. The old landscapes are all changed. And, in the end, he just gets tricked by Death himself in the shape of an old shoe salesman.

Dwarf Fortress is a very odd game. Yes, that’s what a necromancer looks like—an ASCII symbol, a capital N with a title on top. For its lack of graphical complexity, however, the game does boast an unmatched depth of simulation. Start a new game, and the engine simulates thousands of years of history, including heroes in battle, civilizations growing and dying, climate change, and more—even your little ragtag group of dwarves, who must literally carve themselves out a new home. Some of them might even be simulated to become “obsessed with his/her/its own mortality.” Next comes worshiping a death-loving deity and receiving a slab containing the secrets of life and death. You know, typical necromancy stuff.

Parks and Recreation’s super-positive (except for that weird season 5 B story where he becomes obsessed with Dr. Richard Nygard’s therapy sessions) and super-healthy Chis Traeger is right: scientists do believe that the first person to live to 150 has already been born. Medicine is only getting better, and advancements in robotics and AI will help doctors make better decisions and do more precise procedures. And as long as researchers keep mucking around with rodents and their genetic code, there’s still the promise of a “fountain of youth” in gene therapy form. Maybe that fabled land isn’t all that far off, after all.

If I have to watch that duck die, though, I’m out.