writing

Prophecy

It’s a staple of fantasy fiction everywhere.

The prophecy that foretells of a pending doom and a particular person or person as the only chance to stop it and save the world/girl/country/human race/whatever.

And I get it. It’s an impetus to push a character into a larger role, to put them in situations where conflict is guaranteed, a purpose that drives them forward toward greater and greater peril and even larger glory.

There’s always the added tension of will they/won’t they that comes with prophecy, because there’s always some resistance to it. There’s the thought that “no, this can’t possibly be me”. Sometimes, there’s a swerve, and it actually refers to a sidekick or lesser character who just happens to be there. The whole pre-determined versus free will thing adds some drama, as well as the “am I good enough for this?” question that inevitably results in a leap of faith in oneself to finalize the prophecy.

That makes it a useful tool for drama, though it’s always been a bit hollow for me. Even in the circumstances of a swerve, such as Arya killing the Night King or whatever the deal was with Neville Longbottom, there’s a sense of destiny, and therefore, a lack of free will about it. The swerve, as in Arya, is better to me, because it seems like they were on their own journey, only to step up suddenly and unexpectedly.

I do take issue with the inherent lack of free will. Our poor prophesied heroes get locked into a path over which they have no control, but with which they still have to contend. It’s exactly the whole growing up thing.

We are told there is a path for us, and we follow it, because that’s what we’ve been shown we must do (our prophecy). School, job, marriage, kids.

The path.

It’s predetermined, but why should we bow to it? Why shouldn’t we do as we desire, so long as we don’t hurt anyone in the effort?

Why shouldn’t our heroes scream, “fuck the prophecy” and go start a library in the countryside or become the Indiana Jones of Middle Earth? Why not let the world do what it will and someone else handle it? Why should prophecy dictate?

It’s just another word for enforced conformity and slavery, in my opinion, pushing the narrative that the universe dictates your path for you, instead of you for yourself.

And I’m not about that. Free will is a thing. Pre-determination only happens to the blind who refuse to see, and therefore, react to their world however they’ve been conditioned. To those aware of their conditioning, prophecy is just the pre-determined path, seen as oracle-like only in hindsight.

An option, but not a preset.

Not a prophecy, but a choice.

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