The Chosen One
So, this post is a long time coming, I must say. My last post, and first post, in this series, specifically explored love triangles in Young Adult fiction. This time around, I thought to extend the post to all fiction, just because I felt like it. In this post, I will be tackling the concept of ‘The Chosen One’. There are so so many of this trope in existence because it works for the most part. But it has to be written and executed well in order to actually work.
Who is the Chosen One?
Quintessentially, the ‘Chosen One’ is just that; Chosen. They are usually pre-destined as the saviour of a people or have a fundamental part in the survival of the human race. They typically have no idea they were ‘special’ and are thus, generally clueless about everything and actually depend on the knowledge of their friends or a mentor to help guide their way. Other times, the character is written as ‘just innately knowing’ about whatever it is they need to know. I think most people when reading this would automatically assume that I’m talking about Harry Potter, and you’re somewhat correct, but in the case of Harry Potter; that was a characterisation that was written somewhat well. The later books, it can be said, is where Harry becomes a bit of a whiny little boy. Please don’t take offence! I love Harry Potter and it was a series that I grew up with! But, it’s the truth, come on.
But, hear me out, let’s look towards other ‘Chosen One’ characters. Off the top of my head, I can think of Mari in P.C. Cast’s Tales of a New World series. Only because I literally read this a few weeks ago, but it encapsulates this trope completely. Mari is both an Earth Walker and a Companion; not only that, she is also a Moonwoman who is able to harness the power of the moon – but, amazingly, she can also harness the power of the sun. She is literally written as the saviour of all the races of the people who are left within this fictional universe. More than that, Nik, her romance-partner-to-be becomes the conduit of knowledge about who she can be and why she is so powerful. She is literally the saviour. Although Cast actually wrote this characterisation super well, the trope is an overused one especially when it is this blatant.
We then move onto a characterisation that was not written well, was Natasha Sapienza’s Prince Nuelle from her novel Prodigy Prince. I wrote a full-length review on this book, but I want to just discuss how the trope of the ‘chosen one’ ultimately was the downfall of the overall narrative. Prince Nuelle was the youngest son of the Supreme King Nifal – who for all intents and purposes, was basically described as the God and creator of this fictional universe. Events occur, though not quite clear what, and Nifal knows and expects because he is ‘divine’, that evil is coming. Thus, we then are told that Nuelle has a ‘true purpose’ that will ultimately save all of his people and lead them to a sort-of promised land. What the narrative is filled with is Nuelle having random powers that are supposed to emphasise how important he is. He is always saving people in physical combat even though the people that he saves are supposed to be talented would-be-knights for the King, and the Academy (which is super Hogwarts inspired) allows Nuelle to hold a sort-of Hunger Games inspired battle for Nuelle to choose his own circle of Knights for his little covenant thing. Even the Acumen, which was the ‘Bible’ of this universe which was written by Nuelle’s own father, pre-destined Nuelle’s existence. It just did not work. To be honest, it didn’t make sense most of the time.
In terms of adult fiction, because those above are slightly more YA, we could look at Diana Bishop in Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches. If you’ve read my review, you’ll know my overall thoughts concerning Diana’s character as a whole. To put it simply, she is slightly boring. But she is written as the ‘chosen one’ and that literally is the main plot point for A Discovery of Witches for its entire 700 pages! It is ridiculously long and pointless! Diana Bishop is the daughter of two of the most powerful witches, and everyone expected her powers to be literally out of this world. Although there are literal chains holding her magic in, Diana doesn’t want to be a witch and constantly demeans magic and witches and basically hates everything that has anything to do with the supernatural. We get it, you don’t want to be a witch, you want to be normal. Anyway, there’s a super important manuscript that may contain details about the origins of supernatural beings, and it only opens to Diana’s magic which shocks all supernatural beings and lo and behold, they need to kidnap her or make sure she never opens the manuscript again. Even though it’s a disappearing manuscript and no one knows where the hell it is.
The way Diana is written, her union with Matthew the Vampire, has been fated and might actually hold the key to the existence of supernatural beings. In this case, she is literally held as the beacon for supernatural life and her power, extreme. But more than that, Diana is extremely annoying and frustrating as a female character – she literally does nothing but wait for Matthew to do everything for her! In this case, she is the ‘chosen one’ with the trusty romantic partner who is both the brains and the brawn. It’s ridiculous. I love how I say how boring Diana is as a character, but I will end up reading the rest of the trilogy just to see what the big deal is about this manuscript.
Although there are most likely many, many other books that highlight this trope – these are the ones off the top of my head. This trope is one of the more problematic ones, mainly because most of the time it actually works. But those novels that don’t quite pull it off, are completely ruined as a result and are never able to recover from the failure of the execution of the trope. Especially since, in most cases, the fact that the main character is chosen is literally the main aspect of the entire plot – if you don’t do that well, what else does the story have?
Are there any books that you can think of that pulls this trope off spectacularly well? Or one that spectacularly fails? Let me know!
Until next time, happy reading!