This Immortal Essay - Critical Essays

Roger Zelazny


As his first novel, This Immortal establishes several key motifs in Roger Zelazny’s work. First, This Immortal exhibits Zelazny’s fascination with characters who possess immortality. Zelazny saw immortality as providing the two benefits of wisdom and extensive experience. Zelazny’s immortals are never distant, dusty beings removed from humanity. Like Nomikos, they embrace life fully, suffering the joys and pains of friendship, love, and passionate causes. Their wisdom is deeply rooted in human experience, although centuries of reading the great philosophical and literary works provide a framework for that experience.

Zelazny’s immortals also are sensual beings who fill their lives with artistic, material, and sexual pleasures. In addition, they love exploration and physical adventure. Like Nomikos or Mahasamatman in Lord of Light (1967), they set aside these pleasures when a higher purpose calls, fulfilling the Byronic ideal of a hero.

Mythological concerns lie at the heart of most Zelazny novels, and This Immortal is no exception. Carl Yoke notes in his book Roger Zelazny (1979) the parallels between Nomikos and Hephaestus, the god of fire; Dionysus, the god of wine; Lord Hades, god of the dead; and Karaghiosis, a fertility figure from Greek puppetry.

Zelazny often links his protagonists with dark, rebellious, or sacrilegious gods. For example, Mahasamatman becomes a rebellious,...

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