Tropes: The Chosen One (Love it or Hate it?)

Last weekend a new movie came out, and I’m still waffling over whether to go see it.
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I have to admit, the main thing that has turned me away from this movie is not the over-the-top wackiness, it’s that whole “Chosen One” thing. A janitor who’s really the Queen of the Universe? Yeah, I’ve seen this trope a few times too many, and a lot of those times it was handled so clumsily that it made my teeth hurt.

This one was the worst for me (Let me specify that I’m talking about the movie, not the book. I haven’t read the book.)
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The whole idea of a young kid saving the world (kingdom) made me cringe.

But he’s the Chosen One, right?

Well, let’s look at that trope. Here’s a handy definition from–of all places–The Urban Dictionary.
A common cliche in sci-fi and fantasy. This individual, the “Chosen One” is the sole person chosen by destiny to stop an impending disaster that threatens all life, save the world from a super villian, stop corruption, etc. Basically, the only person who can save the day. Not their sidekick(s). Not mom. Not Dan. Only them. has a whole page of information about this trope…it’s that common.

My theory is that this trope is particularly popular with young adult readers (and younger). They would like to believe that they, too, can be snatched out of that horrible existence where they have a loving parent who gives them a nice safe place to live, a truck, and enough money that she doesn’t have to have a job but can still afford to go shopping with her friends….oh, the horror! Her life is so terrible! If only someone could make her life the magical life it should be….

Oh wait, that was a different rant altogether.

What I meant is that young people like to wonder if they could secretly be the Chosen One, too. It’s understandable. (It was not my thing, even then. I craved anonymity instead. If I had a superpower, it would be invisibleness.)

Handled well–or even overturned–this can be a great trope. My favorite example? Frodo.

Frodo’s not actually The Chosen One. It’s more a case that he’s stuck with the chore or getting rid of the one ring by the mere fact of possession. He keeps the ring only by the dint of Gandalf backing him up and, later, running from Boromir. And in the end? He doesn’t do it. He doesn’t destroy the ring. That falls, oddly enough, to Gollum.

Is he the Chosen One? We go through most of 3 books thinking he is. But in the end, he doesn’t carry out his task. Nor does he become a great leader. No, in the end he slips away quietly because he just can’t bear the weight of the world any longer.

Actually, in that story, I tend to think that Eowyn is the closest thing to a Chosen One…she even has a prophecy, and we seriously never saw it coming.  Boom, there she is, taking out the #2 bad guy.

But I almost feel like we’ve become overexposed to the Chosen One in the last few decades. Especially versions where the Chosen One is not quite believable.  (I am not going to list those here.)

Personally I prefer to see people working together to save the world.


What do you think?  Is there a version of The Chosen One that you particularly love? Or hate?



2 thoughts on “Tropes: The Chosen One (Love it or Hate it?)

  1. Eragon, was a sad representation of the books. It is an epic fantasy that reminded me of Lord of the Rings. I loved it, but I don’t remember enough about the final book to say he was a chosen one. The obvious choice for the chosen one is Harry Potter. I loved that whole series, but in the end he couldn’t have done it with out his friends. So I’m not sure if he falls under that trope either.

    1. It’s very hard to say with Harry Potter. He’s never actually pinpointed as the One, merely as the Boy Who Lived….but I do appreciate it that, in the end, he’s working with a team.

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