Every so often, I’d like to take a break from revisiting old books and think about fiction itself. Specifically, tropes in fiction. That is, common reoccurring themes you’ll see in fiction. And right now, there’s one in particular that I’d like to discuss.
There was always something about this trope that rubbed me the wrong way. I used to think it was because I would see it so often. The movies above are just a tiny, tiny portion of the stories that use this “Chosen One” as part of their plot.
I used to think that it annoyed me because it’s a cliche prophecies and stories about the “Chosen One” date as far back as ancient Greece. It’s present in religion, and no doubt you’ve read a book or two wherein the main character was somehow prophesied to save everyone. Even some of my favorite series, Harry Potter and His Dark Materials fall into this.
There’s a few different reasons I don’t like this trope. First is the foregone conclusion. If Suzy’s destined to defeat the evil overlord, then it’s going to happen, period. Sure, she’ll go on an adventure getting to the bad guy, but is there any suspense left when she finally faces him? We already know that she’s going to defeat him.
Real heroism is hard, and it’s not accomplished by a single person. Look at any real-life hero. Chances are, there’s a whole mess of people behind him that helped make him a hero. Since I work in the aviation industry, Sully Sullenberger immediately comes to mind. He was the pilot of “Miracle on the Hudson” fame, and quite rightfully hailed as a hero. But that day could have ended very differently without the plane’s whole crew, the volunteer rescuers, even the commercial ferries that came to help.
The other thing that never sat well with me is the idea of fate. When a character has a pre-determined fate, they’re not given the chance to say no to it. Sure, they can try to run from their destiny, but it always has a way of catching up to them. The prophesied character doesn’t get a chance to refuse to undertake this task.
To quote Dumbledore, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” Taking the”easy” path — whether it be joining the villain, or just going home and waiting for someone else to clean up this mess — should be incredibly tempting to follow. Following the “right” path will be challenging and dangerous, and there will be hardships along the way. When there’s no destiny attached to you, you could back out at any time. A true hero keeps going, no matter the struggle, and that makes us feel their triumphs and tragedies more deeply.
To me, heroes aren’t chosen. They’re the ones that make the choices.