Being the Chosen One is a Curse

Matrix

One of the most common tropes in fiction is the ‘Chosen One’.

This is a character who is destined to go on the adventure and, many times, win.  This trope traditionally removes all tension once it’s revealed.  It’s only in the last decade or so that authors began having it that they lose to trick everyone.  I even stated many times that the champions in Legends of Windemere were destined to reach the final battle in some form, but not necessarily win.  This still treats the ‘Chosen One’ in positive terms with very few negatives.  So, it isn’t that different.

Now, what if you make it clear that the ‘Chosen One’ isn’t a gift, but a curse?

This isn’t that hard to demonstrate even if the character is unaware of how much of a negative this status is.  Look at the following possibilities:

  1. Being the ‘Chosen One’ means that they have no free will.  All of their actions and paths are decided upon.  The heroes can try to do something else, but they will always be pushed back on track.  Sometimes, this can be a rather violent and brutal shove that destroys things.  At that point, they may start questioning their role and wondering if they are being punished.
  2. Relationships can be difficult because they have this calling.  While non-destined heroes are free to establish solid relationships, a ‘Chosen One’ will be aware that doing so puts people in danger.  They can become distant or get a sense that they may never truly belong.  This can lead to them wanting to get their destiny over with in order to gain a normal life.  Recklessness and frustration can grow to make it clear that this isn’t a position anyone wants to be in.
  3. Plot armor is a constant complaint when it comes to ‘Chosen One’ characters.  Being destined to succeed or reach the end, they will never be killed off.  If they do then the concept of prophecy is a lie and much of the development is thrown out.  This is why many authors steer clear of this trope.  Yet, the plot armor can be used as another reason for this character to be seen as cursed.  They are surviving incredible odds while their non-destined friends are dying.  Again, we can see how this can push a Chosen One into emotional distance and possibly even try to go it alone.
  4. A positive part of being the ‘Chosen One’ is that they will become famous if their adventure goes on long enough.  Definitely nothing to be upset about.  That is unless the author is a jerk.  Being praised and doted on can make the character become pampered and spoiled.  Their personality may change into one that isn’t very appealing, which can cost them in some fashion.  This becomes a ‘pride before the fall’ even if the hero isn’t able to fall entirely.  They can lose everything due to their newfound ego and then be left wondering what they have to fight for.

There are plenty of other ways to show how the ‘Chosen One’ is cursed.  It all depends on the world, author, and type of destiny.  Think about how even characters who can’t be physically harmed can still be hurt emotionally and mentally.  The burden of having so much on your shoulders and not being able to hand it off can grind nearly every hero into the dirt if written correctly.  This is internal damage over time, which won’t be unnoticed until it’s a really big issue.  Also, this types of blows are harder to shrug off because potions and spells aren’t really able to repair that damage without psychic manipulation.  All because a character was unlucky enough to be born a ‘Chosen One’.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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21 Responses to Being the Chosen One is a Curse

  1. barbtaub says:

    Haha! Great post. Thanks so much for sharing it.
    You might like this cartoon:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post, Charles. I haven’t been tempted to write a chosen one character but lots of good thought here.

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  3. L. Marie says:

    This is a great post and topic, because so many people have complained about the chosen one. Are you thinking about a prophecy in regard to the lack of freewill? I think of a prophecy in terms of foreknowledge that a person will perform an action either inadvertently, like Gandalf saying that Bilbo was “meant” (or chosen) to find the ring, or as a result of that person exerting his or her will in some respect. In Star Wars, Obi-Wan sadly told Anakin, “You were the chosen one”—the one chosen to bring balance to the force—just before their battle, which showed Anakin’s freewill in choosing the dark side and opposing balance. Yet he did indeed bring balance to the force.

    I also have a negative chosen one in my story. I wanted to avoid the character being a Mary Sue. I know people aren’t as concerned about that these days as they used to be. But I wanted to avoid it.

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    • Prophecy tends to be seen as ‘this character will be the victorious hero’. It’s fairly recently that authors have been more vague about their final act. Never thought of Bilbo as chosen because the Ring had some sentience. I thought Gandalf just meant the Ring picked him like one would choose a jacket.

      A lot of people are concerned about Mary Sues. I see the complaint a lot, but many try to avoid the term. Once it gets used, it attracts some people who start calling others sexist. That and bringing up Luke or Anakin.

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      • L. Marie says:

        Remember he said Bilbo was meant to find the ring–“and that is an encouraging thought.” So the ring was not meant to destroy him. Instead, he would be instrumental in its destruction, which makes him a chosen one, but not by the ring. My guess is by Ilúvatar (but unspoken)..

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      • Think I remember that now. I still never thought of it as a prophecy. Destiny maybe, but is slightly different. Prophecy is a destiny that has been written down and is known by others beforehand. Destiny is a secret path. At least in my mind.

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  4. I always wanted to write a story like this. I have a couple of neat spins on it that would be fun to dabble with. In one the prophesy is vague enough that it could describe multiple people. Everyone assumes it’s the big athletic fellow, but turns out quite differently. (Maybe someone more like Darwin.) The other one involves a post prophesy character. Kind of an ass who might saddle up for one more adventure after the prophesy.

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  5. In the later seasons of Supernatural (or I think, just the last season) the cursed ‘chosen one’ trope was used. Realising that their actions weren’t their own, their fighting skills weren’t their own because they were written to always win.. It was an interesting concept, and I think that it’s great when a well known (and used) trope is suddenly turned on its head. It makes the story unpredictable and as I’ve found, mostly with YA fiction, a lot of the stories are similar.. which, sometimes is great but sometimes, it isn’t. It depends on what mood I’m in 😂

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  6. V.M.Sang says:

    Great points, Charles. I think Luke in your Legends of Windemere fits some of these points. Coming from a family of Heroes, he feels he has to live up to the legends and even better them.
    (Btw, I’ve just finished reading Book 3. Review will go on Amazon and Goodreads in September when I return from holiday.)

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  7. Pingback: Being the Chosen One is a Curse – PATOSKING

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