Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Chosen Ones

Many of the most famous protagonists within science fiction come from an elite group known as the Chosen Ones. These characters are typically hero figures, set with the impossible task of saving the world. My three favorite examples are Anakain Skywalker (Star Wars), Neo (The Matrix) and Harry Potter (okay, not exactly sci-fi, but he’s just too good to leave out). But what is it about these characters that makes them the “chosen”?

It all begins with a prophecy. For example, in Star Wars there is an ancient Jedi legend that foretells the one who will bring balance back to the Force:
“Fully defeated by just anyone, the dark side cannot be, but only by the Chosen One. And who might be this Jedi? Know I do not, but not yet born is he or she. This much, sense I can. A vessel of pure Force the Chosen One will be, more powerful than any Jedi in history.” - Yoda from the Great Holocon
Similarly, in The Matrix the Oracle tells Morpheus that he will find the one destined to end the war between humans and machines. And finally in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Sybill Trelawney prophesied:
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches . . . born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies . . . and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not . . . and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives . . . the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies.” Sybill Trelawney in The Order of the Phoenix
As you can see, these prophecies never outright state who the Chosen One is. The Oracle didn’t turn to Morpheus and say, “Hey, you know that guy Thomas Anderson, aka. Neo? Go find him so he can save you from the Machines.” Instead she gives vague hints that make many doubt whether "The One” was, in fact, chosen correctly. These same doubts rear up in Star Wars after Anakin falls to the Dark Side and the balance of the Force becomes more precarious than ever.

Furthermore, sometimes these prophecies offer more than one possible outcome. Professor Trelawney's foretelling indicated two different boys who might be able to defeat the Dark Lord. If Voldemort hadn't  chosen to believe that Harry was his biggest threat, Neville Longbottom - also born in the seventh month - could have easily been the one.


In the end, what really differentiates the Chosen Ones from the rest is choice. One cannot simply fulfill their destiny because a prophecy tells them to - they must decide. It's the climax of every hero story. In order to defeat Agent Smith, Neo must accept Morpheus’s belief in him. In The Half Blood Prince, Harry Potter realizes that, chosen or not, risking his life to defeat Voldemort is the right thing to do. And as for Anakin, it's his decision in the end of Return of the Jedi to kill the Emperor and save his son that fulfills the prophecy and brings balance to the Force, once and for all. It is their choices, in the end, that make them heroes.
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This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2012. My theme is (in case you didn’t already guess) science fiction. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the rest of the participants, simply click here.  


38 comments:

  1. I loved your post. As you are posting on Science Fiction, I'm going to try to get back to read more posts. I think the weight of being the chosen one must be a heavy burden. Blart: The Boy Who Didn't Want To Save The World by Dominic Barker was a great spin on the idea of the chosen one rushing towards their fate and fulfilling their destiny.

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  2. Nice article!

    Another of the great sci-fi chosen ones of prophecy is Paul 'Maud'Dib' Atreides in Dune. Love that book.

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  3. Good post. All the great myths have that moment of choice when the chosen must choose. Fascinating that that primal resonsance is still around.

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  4. Sanderson's Mistborn books have a great take on the nature of prophecy. They're fantasy, but prophecies are more at home in that genre than any other.

    The chosen one is a powerful emotional tug. They've been popping up in religion for many thousands of years.

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  5. I am inspired by your thoughtful comments to choose the brave path.

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  6. My fave heroes are Chosen Ones. Choosing the brave path is hard and we admire those with the fortitude to do so.

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  7. But they don't really have a choice at all. If they are the chosen ones, and the various prophecies are actually about them, then they'll choose to save the day, no matter what.

    If they don't choose to save the day, then the prophecy wasn't really about them in the first place, and the universe will just have to wait for the actual chosen one to show up.

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  8. Great post. I like the point that they have a choice in the matter, despite being the chosen one. Bonus points - Keanu is totally hot in the Matrix. lol. :)

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  9. I love these kinds of heroes with the 'Why Me' dilemma! Great post!
    HMG

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  10. Newest follower!

    Prophecies bother me because they like the chicken/egg "which came first" conundrum. Did the prophesied event occur just because someone said it would which brought about a series of events that triggered the outcome, or if no one had said anything, would the outcome still have happened anyway?

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  11. Elaine – I’ve never read that before, but it sounds amazing. I’m adding it to my must have list.

    Laughing Ferret – I LOVE the Dune series. Check back here for H where I finally get the chance to talk about it.

    Rusty – I’m a big fan of Brandon Sanderson. In fact, I’ve got a signed copy of his latest in the series. I’m pretty proud of that one.

    Melissa – Ditto, for sure.

    Andy – I think I have to disagree. The prophecies, with the exception perhaps of Harry Potter’s which as I mentioned, very easily could have been about Neville, are about them whether they make the decision to fulfill them or not. Neo WAS the one the Oracle spoke about, but it was up to him to realize it, and thus to realize the prophecy. Not all prophecies are fulfilled, but that doesn’t change what, or who, they’re about.

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  12. These are all excellent Chosen Ones! Frodo is another that comes to mind.

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  13. Nice post. Have you read Un Lun Dun by China Mieville? It has a chosen one and a prophecy - but things don't go to plan and the story plays with the idea nicely. A great read.

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  14. Excellent choices. I figure Captain Picard and Captain Kirk deserve a mention.

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  15. That's true for all of us, isn't it? We always have choice.
    karen

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  16. Chosen one - it goes back to Biblical times, doesn't it? So many legends have grown out of that. Great choice for today's letter :-)

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  17. Oh so true! And, most of the time, I love reading about this dynamic. :)

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  18. Excellent topics so far for your Sci-fi A to Z! I'm looking forward to what else you have in store in the coming days. Oh, and I may have to write a book where it has long been prophesied that the only one who can defeat the coming evil shall be... that guy Marv from Accounting. But here's the twist: There are two Marvs in accounting! Not bad, huh? And I came up with that right on the spot.

    I also do bar mitzvahs.

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  19. What different stories they would be if they refused their destiny . . . ;-)

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  20. Great theme! I think the idea of chosen ones comes from everyone's innate desire to be special. Since we are afraid that we aren't special, we write about people who are.

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  21. This is excellent! Oh and I like what Laura said too in the comments!

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  22. My favorite boy of prophesy is King Arthur. He's not exactly scifi either but he's pretty amazing

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  23. Wow, you know so much about all the si-fi movies and stories. My son-in-law would get along great with you.
    I always like Yoda and the way he talked. Thanks for visiting my post. I'm a new follower and will be back to see what else you've got during the challenge.
    Kathy at Oak Lawn Images

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  24. And you just touched three of my favorite serials. Well said.

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  25. Great thought-provoking post. We all like to think we're "chosen" ... or do we? Sometimes, it ain't all it's cracked up to be. Thanks for visiting my blog. Figured I'd return the favor, and now that I have, I understand why you liked my "cogito ergo spud" so much. I like your spin on that quote, too. Count me in as your newest follower. Happy A-Zing.

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  26. I absolutely love your theme! Science Fiction is my favorite genre. :)

    Great point about SF protagonists.

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  27. "It is their choices, in the end, that make them heroes." This is an excellent summary, and transcends any genre of book, really! We all love a good conflict, when important decisions have to be made! :)

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  28. Oooh, I like this post. I could so easily have chosen this topic for epic fantasy as well! Lots of thought here, clearly.

    Erin

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  29. Good lord, you guys are commenting faster than I can respond. This is awesome!

    Kimberlee – That kind of thinking is what I love about sci-fi…it boggled the mind. Like time traveling and the Grandfather Clause (check back for my T post to hear more on this subject). Definitely the kind of thing that can drive you crazy trying to figure out.

    Bish Denham – Agreed. I love Frodo. Almost mentioned him here but the post was getting too long.

    Simon Kewin – Not yet. Another great new book to add to my Must-Read list. Thanks!

    Nate Wilson – sounds like that would make a terrific spoof! Please DO write it so I can read.

    Laura Barnes, Catherine Noble and Susan Flett Swiderski – I couldn’t agree more. Don’t we all want to be special in some way. That I have to admit, as I wrote this post last night it made me think about how incredible tough (and sometimes tragic) it is to be Chosen.

    Taryn Tyler – I am obsessed with the King Arthur legends. I almost mentioned them here as well, but it fell too far into the fantasy category, and I was already cheating with Harry Potter. I’m planning an Arthur post for after the A-Z challenge is over.

    Kathy – Thank you! My parents both love classic science fiction and instilled that same love within me. I’m glad to get to show it here. And thanks for following!

    Joshua – Thanks! They’re definitely my favorites as well. It doesn’t get much better than the Matrix, Star Wars of Harry Potter (unless Whedon is involved).

    The Golden Eagle – Mine too – obviously :) Using it as my theme for this challenge has helped me connect with so many other sci-fi fans. It’s been really amazing!

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  30. Good post. I had never before thought about it...that it isn't just that there is a prophecy, but they have to accept it and act on it too. Nice :-) I found you through the AtoZ list. :-)

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  31. That's it exactly - they have a choice - to fulfill their "destiny" or to walk away, to do the right thing or not - and they choose well. There is a line in Harry Potter late in the story when Harry tells Dumbledore that he is worried that he may actually be like Voldemort. Dumbledore tells Harry that of course the potential for good and evil is there, and what makes Harry a hero is that he chooses good.

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  32. ooh! Ooh! OOOH! I love it. My current WIP has a "chosen one." I love them in stories and you picked out my favorites!

    PS... love your blog!

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  33. Well, there is a saying about self-fulfilling prophecies, right? Think of poor Oedipus...altho in his case, he had no idea about his prophecy. Moral of the story: know thy prophecies, esp. if they concern you. ;)

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  34. The most recent 'chosen one' I have come across was in the musical We Will Rock You. Have you seen it, it's even a bit sci-fi esque?

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  35. Great series! Well, okay, I only had time for C and D, at the moment, but great series!
    Too bad for Neo that Matrix 2 and 3 were so bad. I'd hate to be chosen for that.
    An interesting thing about Star Wars is that Lucas has said or it's been included in the lore (I can't remember where) that Luke was even more powerful than Anakin.
    And there is a debate as to which act balanced the force: killing the Jedi or killing Palpatine.

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  36. This post was epic, and your theme is nerdgasmic! I can't wait to read your posts for the rest of the month, and I am definitely a new follower!

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