Study Guide

Midwinterblood Immortality

By Marcus Sedgwick

Immortality

All he's heard are the rumors, stories, the speculation, and the swiftly lost words of whispered secrets, about the island where people have started to live forever. (1.1.42)

Immortality is the whole reason that Eric Seven comes to Blessed Island. Can the people there really live forever? He'll soon find out.

Maybe the rumors are true, he thought. Maybe these people are living forever, maybe Tor is a hundred and twenty, the others spring chickens of ninety-eight. (1.3.19)

Eric has a pretty tough time figuring out how old anyone is on Blessed Island. All that dragon orchid tea they're drinking makes age seem pretty fuzzy.

He has been on Blessed for several hours. He has met a few people, and seen many more. But he has not seen a single child. (1.3.98)

This immortality thing has some serious side effects: You might extend your life, but you won't be able to create any new children. It's a circle of life kind of thing. Until the older generation dies off, the new can't come around.

The rumors hold that the islanders have recently, or otherwise, discovered that the orchid has health-giving properties, that it promotes well-being and energy. That it regenerates damaged cell tissue. That it could even extend life. That the islanders have extracted an elixir of life from the flower, and are selling it untrialed, and therefore illegally, for exorbitant sums, to the super-rich of the western world.

That is why he has come here. (1.5.27-28)

Eric Seven is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. Do the folks on Blessed Island have a way to live forever? Sure, but there's a reason why they haven't run it past the FDA. The side effects are not pretty.

Eric screams, and though his mind has largely stopped working already, a final thought bleeds into it, following on from so very many strange thoughts.

I, thinks Eric Seven, have lived this before. (1.13.60-61)

This is a pretty disturbing thought. Just as he's about to die, Eric realizes that he's actually lived other lives before. He may not be immortal (since obviously he can die), but he has been reborn over and over again. Which is kind of a big deal.

There are bones in the cist. They are long human bones.

They are somewhat jumbled however, and it takes each of them a moment to realize there is more than one set of bones in the coffin , but it is true, for there below them in the stone box are two skulls.

They start to decode what they are seeing. There is a larger skull, and larger skeleton, and a smaller.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Nancy asks.

Edward says nothing.

"Yes," says Mat, simply. "The larger one is holding the smaller one. That is how it seems to me."
(2.5.49-54)

There's more than one way to live on, and even though Tor and Eirik have long since died and been reborn into new bodies, their bones are still hanging around. Now they're going to provide new life and new information to Edward and his team. He'll finally be able to answer all those questions about Viking-vampires scholars have been puzzling over for years.

"You silly boy," she says, trying to sound bright. "You could have been hurt. You could have been killed."

Eric turns and looks up at his mother. "No. I couldn't die. I'm not quite the last." (2.10.45-46)

Even though Eric has some disabilities, he sees what's going on more clearly than anyone. Sure, he could have exploded carrying that bomb, but he couldn't really die and be done—he's got one more life left to live.

Outside, a lady in a black and purple dress listened to the silence of the house.

From somewhere, a long way away, came the scream of a wounded hare.

It sounded so human.

The lady shook her head, thinking of her lover who had lost her mind, and become a lithe creature of the shadows.

"Well," she said, sadly. "So it is." (5.9.17-21)

Not only will Erika live again as Eric in a new life, she also gets to linger on for a while as a ghost. Eric is really playing this immortality thing from all angles.

For it was that night, that someone said they had seen a figure stalking the long meadows. A tall, strong figure, with a dark face.

They said it was Tor. (6.8.28-29)

Again, we're cheating death in all kinds of interesting ways. Tor could die and be reborn to a new life, but he isn't quite done in this life yet—those are his children and he will have them. Death can just lay off for a while.

What lives, he thinks, are lived by the men up there?

What do they do?

What do they believe?

What do they see?

Do they see me?

He wonders about them all, all the many lives that have been, and that will be, and wonders why they are not all the same, why they are what they are. It cannot be, he thinks, that when our life is run, we are done. There must be more to man than that, surely?

That we are not just one, but a multitude. (7.3.26-32)

King Eirikr can't quite accept that death is the end either. When Gunnar cuts his throat, will he just cease to be? Or is there something else waiting out there? Another life perchance?

"You cannot kill me," he shouts hoarsely, and yet as loudly as he can. "You cannot kill me. Do you not know my name? I am Eirikr. The One King! Forever Strong, and though you kill my body today, I will live again! I will live!"

He turns to his queen, to Melle, and his voice drops. "I will live seven lives, Melle, this is only my first." (7.3.54-55)

King Eirikr goes out on a high note. He offers himself to die and then refuses to really and truly die—dude will be back. And he's going to bring his wifey along for the ride.

Maybe he knows nothing. Maybe it's that he feels it all, but whatever is happening to him, he understands that he lived before. He lived other lives, in different times. And why not? It's something he has often wondered about, sitting on the train in the morning, looking from the corner of his eye at the other commuters, wondering why.

Why am I not living that person's life? That man, there, with the sharp suit and the slightly stupid tie? Or that scruffy guy with his headphones? Or that woman, a little pregnant?

Often, as he sat fiddling with OneDegree, he has wondered why this life is the one he's had, and not one of the thousands of contacts passing through the device, or one of the countless others that could have been his.

Now he knows. He has been others. (7.5.5-8)

Why have one life when you could have a whole bunch? This is actually closer to reincarnation than immortality—Eric can die, he just will be reborn as someone new. But for how long?

There is nothing now but the two of them, and their love, which has waited for centuries to be made again, and as their blood flows, first from Merle, and then from Eric, as their blood mingles on the table and in the soil of Blessed Island, they are no longer in love, they have become love itself.

And their journey begins.

So, it is. (7.5.53-55)

This is so sweet. Yes, Eric's and Merle's lives have come to an end, but that doesn't mean they won't live on. Maybe they're done with this crazy place we call Earth? Or maybe the whole cycle will start again? But it's pretty clear that this is not the end for our star-crossed lovers.

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