What is the first appearance of a Lich in fantasy literature? I will accepts answers pointing to myths ans sagas and such as well.

Edit: For clarity, I'm asking about Liches as defined by Wikipedia:

Often such a creature is the result of a transformation, as a powerful magician or king striving for eternal life uses spells or rituals to bind his intellect to his animated corpse and thereby achieve a form of immortality. Liches are depicted as being clearly cadaverous, their bodies desiccated or even completely skeletal. Liches are often depicted as holding power over hordes of lesser undead creatures, using them as soldiers and servants.

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    You should provide a definition of what a "Lich" was Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 13:41
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    Are you asking about the concept of an evil wizard who turns himself undead in order to live forever... or the term "Lich"? If the latter, it was an archaic synonym for "corpse" that the original designers of D&D adopted in the late '70s. Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


One of the candidates is Russian folcloric character of Koschey the Deathless. It was formally present in written sources as far back as 12th century, but likely significantly predates that as an oral tradition.

Sources to peruse:

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    Koschei is not undead. He is unkillable because he has hidden his heart/vulnerablility somewhere remote and you have to destroy that to kill him.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 22:53
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    Lich's are typically said to also have their vulnerability stored away somewhere, normally referred to as a Soul Jar, so that doesn't discount Koschei from being a lich, it adds to the idea. Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 15:18

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