Good afternoon bookworms! (I know, two posts in one day… what is going on here?!)
I know what you’re thinking… ‘is this just another discussion post where Meeghan lays into Harry Potter, destroying all my childhood dreams?‘ No. I mean, not really. Ok, well, kind of. But I have other examples too!
So. The world is falling apart. There’s a sinister-being™ taking over. We need a hero to save us (or possibly a scape-goat if it all goes wrong). The Nostradamus of the world says “yah, someone is coming, just chill ok?” There arrives a stranger in town. They’re usually too young, too naïve, too short, too weak, too inept, or just seem ‘not enough’ to battle against said sinister-being™. They are also usually plagued with doubt. This whole sitch is now their problem. Good luck, friend! *sniggers*
They go off to battle.
OHMIGOSH! They have unknown powers! Or are whispered to by gods! Or … something else quite exciting and probably magical! They usually win! (but sometimes not…) Now they are amazing and we love them.
Tell me this isn’t every single ‘hero/prophecy’ story you have ever read. Sometimes they have a variation. There’s occasionally a ‘quest’ element too:
You need a thing to beat the sinister-being™. You follow the lore/stories/rumours to find the thing. You find something else instead. This gives you another clue. Repeat. Maybe fight some low-level bosses (like a monster or a small squad of ninjas). You save a damsel (unless you ARE a damsel *gasp*). Find some gold! Travel some more. Realise the thing you need is right back where you started from, but hey, you might have a key or secret magic word now. Go get the thing.
This usually fits in between the “stranger arrives” and “run off to battle” sections.
And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this formula. I read it A LOT. It’s usually filled with magic and sword fights and swanky outfits and much flirtation. Sometimes an arranged marriage, pirate kidnapping or charm schooling is shoved in there too. There is literally a world of possibilities to smash into this formula.
But, have you ever thought about how the hero might be feeling? (I mean, unless the hero is Harry, in which case we all know how he feels, because all he does between books 5-7 is COMPLAIN ABOUT IT. ?)
I mean, of course there would be whining and carrying on. “Why me?” is a phrase that would absolutely get bandied about. Most often these characters are teenagers. Self-doubt and not knowing who you are is like a temporary three year phase of being a teen. You shouldn’t have to deal with being a ‘chosen one’ at the same time. That’s just plain mean. “Oh, I have to go fight an evil person today! But I just got another pimple, and my voice is cracking, and I can’t go outside the house because this outfit makes me look fat!” (Why did no one at Hogwarts ever have acne?? Is there a spell for it?? Can Madam Pomfrey teach me??)
But more than that, being the chosen one tends to mean that if they fail (and sometimes even if they win), they end up becoming the sacrificial lamb. And that can give them a certain right to complain and scream “why me?” from the heavens. It just gets boring to listen to after a while. Also, part of being a chosen one means that you have to own up to it and take it in stride. Be courageous, even if it means that’s it for you. (Which, Harry does, and if I’m throwing shade, I need to acknowledge the good as well.)
And there are a lot of chosen ones who do step up to the plate, often through adversity. Some of my favourite chosen ones are:
- Isabeau and Iseult (The Witches of Eileanan – Kate Forsyth)
- Axis (The Axis trilogy – Sara Douglass)
- Garion (The Belgariad – David Eddings)
- Harry (Harry Potter series – J. K. Rowling) (yes, I do actually like HP)
But, they all get a really rough deal. Whether because of the prophecy or unfortunate circumstances, a lot of our chosen ones don’t have families. Or at least, that’s how it feels to them. Their families may have been killed or captured, they might have just become separated, or perhaps the family deserted them (possibly for honourable reasons). Whatever the case, they are made to believe that no one cares for them, or that no one would miss them if they did perish. Harry’s parents were murdered by Voldemort and he was brought up by the Dursley’s (who should have been jailed for child abuse) not knowing that he was a wizard. Garion is an orphan who believes he is being raised by his aunt Pol.
They are often ‘outsiders’. Either growing up far from those who would have cared for them, or unknowing of what makes them so special. Karou* from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone was brought up neither human nor Chimera, but somewhere in between. Karou moved around a lot as a child, and as a result only really had one friend in the human world. Axis’s mother allegedly died in childbirth and he is raised by his uncle with his half-brother (with no mention of who his father is). He is often treated with disdain and is sent to join the army, instead of being treated as a prince.
Prophecies can also be rather tricky things to decipher, and are often misinterpreted. This leads the chosen one or the sinister-being™ to make rash decisions because their judgement is clouded. They are usually vague or written in symbolic references, rather than helpful narration (surprise!). Voldemort went looking for a child born as the seventh month dies, which as we all discovered later also could have meant Neville. In picking Harry, Voldemort chose who the chosen one would be. How much different would Harry’s life have been if Voldemort had done nothing, or if he hadn’t heard the prophecy to begin with.
If you look at mythology, Oedipus’ parents took him to see an oracle as a child, and she foretold that he would kill his father and marry his mother (hence the Oedipus complex). Because of this, his parents abandoned him as child. He was raised by another family and one day met a man on the road who he fought with and killed. He later married that man’s widow. Had his parents not abandoned him, would this have been their and his fate?
These characters (and a lot more from books I haven’t read) suffered terrible losses and fates because they were branded as ‘chosen ones’ or were somehow involved in prophecies. And that really sucks. Because what did they get out of it at the end of the day? To be ostracised even further because of their powers or reputation? To suffer from the effects of PTSD because of the war or evils they suffered through? To be a hero?
Maybe it was worth it to live in a world without evil. But is that just until the next evil comes along?
What do you think? Is being the ‘chosen one’ really worth it?
Until next time, happy reading ??
* I don’t remember specifically if Karou was a ‘chosen one’, but there was definitely a prophecy in the series regarding the Chimera and the Seraphs.