23 February 2011

Post 333: Wizard's First Rule

Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind. ISBN: 9780312857059.

So, we have a fairly typical example of the "Chosen One" trope here. I think most people are probably somewhat familiar with the altered storyline of Goodkind's novels thanks to the Legend of the Seeker show. This mostly made me think about why Chosen One myths and story arcs are so appealing to us.

Really, they're some of the oldest and most popular stories: Hercules, Jesus, Moses, and of course the more modern Neo from The Matrix. Why do we still feel drawn to these stories?  Do they fill our need to feel special, like we might one day be the one to fulfill a prophecy? Or do we like the idea of putting the responsibility of saving our asses on one person?

I think I'm going to go with that last one. I don't know many people who actually want to be responsible for saving the world. If that were the case, we'd have a lot more people actually speaking up over atrocities. Somehow we have become comfortable with the idea that we don't really have to worry about fighting off evil unless God or prophecy or something taps us on the shoulder and says, "Hey, you're up." We like these stories because we prefer to have a champion, someone who will fight for us rather than having to do it ourselves and risking our own lives or families or TV time.It's too hard to get involved; most of us don't do anything more intensive than signing our names to a petition. There's nothing wrong with that really, except that how much "evil" has slipped into our political system while we weren't watching?

In some ways, it feels like Obama definitely took advantage of our hopes and dreams for a Chosen One. It felt like he was going to be The One to change the world, to beat the snakes from the grass, and to return us to Better Times. But it doesn't really work that way in real life, does it? Obama can't be the Chosen One because there's no such thing. He's doing what he can in the political situation he's in. We can hope for more, but we shouldn't expect godlike powers and sudden endless prosperity. This is really just one example of many problematic issues that come from the Chosen One mentality.

Sometimes I wonder if we might be better off having never introduced this trope into our storytelling arsenal. It would mean reducing Jesus to a mere mortal and a son of God rather than The Son of God, but maybe that's okay. Maybe we don't need The One to save us (from anything). Maybe we just need a couple of regular people that we can relate to to step up and change the world so we can step up behind them. Why are we so willing to wait for The One when we can be one of many working towards fighting off evil or at least what we perceive as wrong? Should we really ask The One to give all for us when we feel like signing our names is a sacrifice?

And another thing, how many Chosen Ones can you name who are female? I'll give you a head start with She-Ra and Lyra from His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman.

My review can be found at Goodreads.
LibsNote: Copy checked out from my local library.


  1. You raise an interesting point. I wonder if the "great man" approach to the study of history plays into this "chosen one" idea. I suspect it does. It could also lead to a marxist critique--chosen one/great man vs. collective movements. Is the world really 'saved' or 'changed' by single leaders or is advancement brought about by large collectives of people.

    Events in the Middle East may provide an answer to this question. As far as I know, they have not been the result of a 'chosen one' or of a 'great man.'

    As for female chosen ones, I offer Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think there are quite a few others in fantasy/science fiction.

  2. May I submit Katniss? She wasn't chosen by prophecy or anything mystical, she chose herself, and then the people chose her because, as you say, they needed someone to stand up and save their asses. But then they also fought beside/behind her, so yay!

    Was Xena some sort of Chosen One?

    and also Your Mom. buuuuuurrrrnn


  3. CB,
    I totally forgot to mention Buffy. Mostly because I watched the show for the sidekicks. Buffy was great because she actually has character flaws/real growing up issues.

    I don't think Katniss really works for the Chosen One trope, if only because she actually had some control of her destiny. I will say it's a maybe because if you wrote me three or four persuasive paragraphs I'd probably given in. Xena is definitely a Chosen One if you've listened to the intro enough...which I have because I watched the whole series when I was going through my knitting phase.

    And, uh, Your Face.


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