If you read even a moderate amount of fantasy, you are likely familiar with one of its most common tropes: the chosen one, also known as the fated savior or destined heroine. While there are many different types of fantasy being written and read today, certain patterns repeat frequently and the ‘chosen one’ trope is no exception. This trope usually involves the inclusion of a character (usually the protagonist) who has in some way been marked as especially gifted or otherwise uniquely equipped to complete a special mission. Whether they’ve been chosen by a deity, a prophecy, or circumstances of birth, chosen ones in fantasy tales must often complete quests, battle evil forces, and make difficult, pivotal choices in order to achieve their destinies. This particular trope is far from limited to fantasy literature–it shows up in all kinds of science fiction and fantasy media and the template is often connected to mythologist Joseph Campbell’s concept of the monomyth or hero’s journey.
As a longtime fantasy fan, I find the ‘chosen one’ trope can be a double-edged sword for the genre. On one hand, any popular pattern becomes stale after a while and stories that depend heavily on the ‘chosen one’ narrative can easily fall into traps of lazy plotting or derivative content. ‘Chosen one’ stories can include protagonists who are unbelievably talented or inhumanly heroic. These characters often react in their ‘chosen’ status in predictable ways, usually resisting or attempting to escape or avoid their destinies. However, this trope has remained prevalent for a reason, especially in fantasy for and about teenage characters. After all, it’s a narrative that investigates the difficult process of coming to understand one’s role in the larger world and battling with the frightening concept of a future–struggles common to adolescents even without magical prophecies hanging over their heads.