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Legacy of the Chosen

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Almost 10,000 years worth of reputation to live up to. No pressure.
"Whenever righteousness wanes and unrighteousness increases, I send myself forth. For the protection of the good and for the destruction of evil, and for the establishment of righteousness I come into being, age after age."
Bhagavad Gita 4:7-8

The Chosen One in a work is rarely the first; more often than not, they're actually just the current incarnation. Either through reincarnation, bequeathal, fulfilment of prophecy or by any other means, the title is bestowed on a new character to carry that torch until the time comes to pass it on to the next. This allows for a varied and rich history of characters whose exploits are the stuff of legend; the current character bearing the chosen one's title may find inspiration in this, or they may question their worthiness; but in any case, the stories of past heroes is deeply meaningful and can justify the relevance of and reverence for the chosen within the context of the fictional world they exist.

When all of the chosen ones assume a singular identity, it overlaps with Legacy Character. Compare Eternal Hero and Greater-Scope Paragon, and generally a subtrope of Precursor Heroes. Compare The Chosen Many where multiple chosen are active at one time. Can result from a Master-Apprentice Chain if the bequeathal of the title has been passed down long enough.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • D.Gray-Man has a villainous exemple with the Noah family. They were originally not one, but thirteen chosen ones. When one dies, he gets reincarnated after a while in a new human with another mindset; but the same powers, as well as a "memory", are kept hidden deep inside him. The story focuses on the current generation, who have enough mysteries on their own; but lately with the awakening of the traitor fourteenth Noah, we start to get glimpses about the generation before this one, who were all killed by the fourteenth 35 years ago. The original apostles had the collective name of "Noah" 7000 years ago.
  • The Shaman Fight tournament in Shaman King is held every 500 years, with the winning shamans becoming able to channel God and reshape the world. Past winners have included Buddha and Jesus.
  • The holders of One for All in My Hero Academia cultivate the Quirk's power and when their time's up, pass it on to the next generation. However, it's not predetermined who gets it. Midoriya proves himself to All Might during a chance encounter, and thus is chosen by the hero as his successor; but it's later revealed that All Might already had someone in mind: Mirio Togata, a third-year student at UA, recommended by All Might's former sidekick Sir Nighteye, as well as Principal Nezu. Months after inheriting One For All, Izuku realizes that he has a spiritual link to every past One For All user and can communicate with them.

    Comic Books 
  • During Mark Waid's run on The Flash, a recurring character was Max Mercury, the "Zen Master of Speed", who was preparing Wally West for something. Eventually he revealed that he was Windrunner, a 19th century speedster superhero, and was preparing Wally for a greater connection to the Speed Force.
  • In The Sandman (1989), it's revealed that the Endless operate this way. If one of their number is killed, another aspect will rise to take their place, because the universe needs them. It's happened to Despair and, at the end of the main storyline, it happens to Morpheus, with Daniel being called to become the new Dream. Interestingly, it's also shown that death is the only thing that summons a replacement: Destruction gave up his post, but since he's still alive, there can't be a "new" Destruction yet.
  • Spider-Man: In J. Michael Straczynski's run, Ezekiel Sims is a previous bearer of the Spider-Totem, who teaches Spider-Man that his powers don't exactly work the way Peter thought they did and warns him that Morlun is hunting him for them.
  • In The Authority, the Doctor is the latest Shaman of Earth, one of a long line of men and women who've taken it upon themselves to protect the earth. He is frequently haunted by his predecessors, who reside in the Garden of Ancestral Memory, the source of his powers.
  • Among the major Retcons in Alan Moore's version of Swamp Thing was that the current Swamp Thing is the latest in a line of plant elementals protecting and representing "the Green". His predecessors are still alive as a rooted-in-place "Parliament of Trees", which he sometimes seeks advice from.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bulletproof Monk: The titular monk is a master martial artist with a duty to protect a magic scroll that grants him eternal youth with an 50 year expiry date, at which time three signs will foretell who is to take his place. The film starts with him taking over the role from his own master, who presumably took it from his own, and so on and so forth. The twist this time is that the new protector is actually two people: a common pickpocket and the heir to a criminal empire. According to the Monk, their two incomplete lives are now completed by one another. At least they seem to like one another, since they're supposed to be stuck together for the next 50 years.
  • The Matrix Trilogy: In the first movie, Neo is told he is the possible reincarnation of "The One" who managed to free the first rebels from the Matrix that went on to build Zion. However, it's later revealed by the Architect in The Matrix Reloaded that there were actually five people before him, including the one he was informed of, and that he's the latest in a long line to continue a manipulative cycle by the machines to keep rebooting the Matrix.

  • The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga has an Eternal Recurrence of humans binding the Continent's magic to lines of firstborn sons, then having the bloodlines die out whether by natural causes, or as happens in Ice Forged, the magical equivalent of an all-out nuclear war. Hougen restored the magic last time and became the first King of Donderath. This time around it's Lord Blaine McFadden, the last living descendant of Hougen's Lords of the Blood, who had been banished to a Penal Colony before the war began. Each restoration requires a descendant of the previous cycle's Lords of the Blood.
  • In Prince Ombra, a supernatural evil from beyond time is periodically embodied on Earth, and each time an Eternal Hero is reincarnated to fight him. Several legendary figures, including King Arthur, are mentioned as having been earlier incarnations of the hero.
  • In The Witchlands, the Cahr Awen are pairs of witches that appear time and again during tumultuous times and do great deeds, including awakening dead Origin Wells. Safi and Iseult are the last in a very long line.
  • Danny, the protagonist of Nemesis, is the fourth person (or at least fourth human) to receive the powers of Dreadnought. Where the powers originated from is a mystery, but they might be connected to a cosmic phenomenon that warps reality around it.
  • Small Gods: The concept gets explored throughout the book. The protagonist, Brutha, is the latest Prophet of Om... by dint of the fact he's the only person left in Omnia who actually believes in Om, rather than the Omnian Exquisition (or more accurately, their torture pits). It's mentioned that if Brutha's horrifically abusive grandmother had been born a man, then there would've been a new Prophet a few decades early. Om, for his part, barely remembers most of these Prophets Brutha keeps quoting, either because he genuinely never met them, or because the actual interacts were much less impressive - one of the Prophets claims Om gave him a set of commandments. Om claims all he did was show up and say "look what I can do". Brutha, at least, manages to kick-start some much needed Character Development in Om, helps get rid of the Exquisition, and prevents a war.
  • Tsun-Tsun TzimTzum provides a darker example than most, as each time a Chosen One fails in their quest to defeat Lilith and save the universe, the Source annoints a new one while Lilith contines advancing up the Tree of Life, conquering world after world. Thus, when the protagonist tries to intimidate a villain by claiming that his divine power and purpose makes him invincible, the villain just smugly tells him that that's probably what the last nine saviours thought, too.
  • A villainous example in Pale: each head of the Musser practitioner family has personality echoes of all the past notable Mussers invested in them in a massive act of possession, becoming Musser, singular, with their accumulated experience. There's a strong chance of the echoes totally overwhelming the family head, turning them into a glorified Host, but the Mussers control and shape their children with magic oaths and more standard emotional abuse such that each Musser successor is essentially indistinguishable from the last and is well suited to continue the family practice of theft and enslavement, so if it does happen few people actually notice-the current Musser head, Abraham, is distinguishable from his ancestors only in his vague, childish desire to one day direct a movie, a remembrance of the only times in his youth he was truly happy.
  • In Star Wars Legends, the Skywalker bloodline protected the galaxy for generations (sometimes from itself) starting with Anakin Skywalker, then his son Luke, his son Ben alongside Ben's cousins Jacen, Jaina, & Anakin Solo, and finally their descendants Cade Skywalker and the Fel family.
  • Tree of Aeons: Every ten years, when a new demon king appears, the gods will summon a fresh batch of reincarnated heroes to combat it, unless the previous batch is still alive. The teenage heroes are typically excited to be the chosen ones, but to the locals, it's practically routine. In fact, the presence of heroes is considered to be a very mixed blessing; their power is needed to quash the demonic invasions, but they are in turn very disruptive, politically and economically. Aeon watches generation after generation of heroes come and go, with varying degrees of success, but all dying eventually.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy is the Chosen One, but it's a big part of the show's mythology that there's always a Chosen One. Whenever a Slayer dies, another girl somewhere in the world will be called to become the new Slayer. This has been going on for millenia, and given that Slayers tend to die young, there may very well have been thousands of Slayers before Buffy came along. It comes up in the last season that there's no practical reason for there to be only one, the wizards who started the cycle just didn't think they could control more than that.
  • In an episode of Seven Days Frank, who thought he was the first chrononaut, discovers a hidden memorial to all the other chrononauts who came before him. He was just the first one who survived. Then another chrononaut who everyone thought had died in his sphere comes back - his sphere had crashed in the Amazonian rainforest and he had amnesia.
  • Red Dwarf. Series VII, when the current incarnation of Ace Rimmer acts as a mentor/guide to the current Rimmer, it turns out, there have been very many Ace Rimmers from many different dimensions. This experience makes Rimmer a humbler person when he realizes he is a part of something greater than himself.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the episode "The Storyteller", Bashir and O'Brien visit a small Bajoran village that is annually plagued by a dangerous entity called the Dal-rok for several nights. Every year, a local member of the tribe called the Sirah is called upon to tell a story every night, inspiring the village to stand together to scare the Dal-rok away. The current Sirah is old and frail, and passes the title onto O'Brien before dying, his apprentice having failed to protect the village on a previous night. This turns out to be the elder Sirah's way of getting the apprentice to step up, as when O'Brien hilariously fails at being inspirational, the apprentice steps in to pick up the slack, becoming the new Sirah. It turns out that the Dal'rok was created by the first Sirah as a way to get the original villagers to put aside petty squabbles and work together, a secret that has been passed down from master to apprentice for generations.
  • In Legend of the Seeker, just like in the original novels, the Seeker of Truth is chosen by a Wizard of the First Order (of which only two are left by the time of the series, and one of them is in the service of the Big Bad) in time of great need. In this particular case, the Seeker also happens to be the Wizard's grandson and the Big Bad's brother (son in the novels). The Seeker is named by accepting his responsibility and the Sword of Truth (the same magical sword that survives through the centuries). It's entirely possible for a new Seeker to be named, while the previous one is still alive for various reasons. The Seeker typically travels with the Wizard and a Confessor, a woman that uses the Power of Love to "confess" people, after which they become her willing lifelong slaves. In Season 2, Richard also gets another companion in the form of a former Mord-Sith.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls:
  • Subverted in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura. The Living One is the reincarnation of an ancient elven hero. Late in the story, the player visits his grave site to discover that he's still alive, so they can't be a reincarnation of him after all. In addition he's become a bitter old man with no interest in the world anymore and with deep regret for the things he's done and a great reluctance to involve himself in the world anymore. Double subverted when it's pointed out that the exact wording of the prophecy is that "the spirit of Nasrudin will be reborn." The player character can still make the decision to save the world themselves, thus embodying the spirit of the younger Nasrudin.
  • In the original five-game Assassin's Creed trilogy, considering Desmond to be Chosen by Those Who Came Before, he not only meets but relives the lives of no fewer than three Chosen Ones in his lineage. The earliest is the protagonist of the first game, who reformed the Assassin Brotherhood into something like its current state and could thus be considered the first of the "modern" Assassins. It doesn't become clear that they are all part of a Chosen line, though, until Assassin's Creed: Revelations has Desmond reliving the memories of Ezio, reliving the memories of Altair, talking to one of Those Who Came Before... who tersely tells Ezio, through Altair, to shut up, because she's not talking to him, but to Desmond.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: In a slight variation, The Hero's Shade is the ghost of Link's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time incarnation. He's not the original Linknote , but he's still one of the earliest known, and the game presents its incarnation as his direct successor.
    • The Zelda series also features the Seven Sages, a group of individuals called to aid the "current" Link in some way. Ocarina of Time explains that the original Sages built the Temple of Time in Hyrule, and the second half of the game has Link traveling to various temples to assist the "new" Sages, who are being called to fulfill their ancient destiny now that Ganondorf has taken over. The Sages also appear in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as the Seven Maidens, descendants of the Seven Wise Men who originally sealed Ganon away (these Wise Men would later be retconned into being the Sages in the first re-release of the game), and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, where their primary function is to conceal the Triforce of Courage until Link needs it (in one particularly funny moment, Rosso, one of the Sages, reveals that he knew about his special role, but didn't bother to mention it because no one brought it up).
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword reveals that the main characters fill this role. Zelda, Link, and Ganon represent the battle between the goddess Hylia, her Champion, and Demise, the personification of evil, respectively; at the end of the game, it's revealed that this battle will always rage on, and as long as it does, a "new" Zelda, Link, and Ganon will arise as their avatars to yet again embody the cycle.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers reveals that it was not a coincidence that the Player Character became the Warrior of Light, Hydaelyn's champion and bearer of the Echo. Before the world was sundered into fourteen lesser worlds, the Warrior of Light's past incarnation was holder of the office of Azem, the fourteenth seat of the ruling body of Amaurot. Azem's duties were those of a traveler, one who would explore the world, learn from it, and help others in need, even when said help often went against the decisions made by the rest of the Convocation of Fourteen. After the Sundering, Azem's split soul would continually reincarnate and become wandering heroes who would defend the Shards of the world from evil, including the Ascian's, the reincarnations of the rest of the Convocation, led by the three of the Convocation who escaped the Sundering.
  • In Vampyr it's revealed there is a long line of vampire champions which the main protagonist Jonathan Reid is the recent addition, created with the purpose of defending England from the Red Queen Morrigan who periodically rises from her slumber to punish mankind via calamities and plagues. The earliest known example is King Arthur himself (who is revered by the Guards of Priwen since they named themselves after his shield and still safeguard his blood as a relic, all while being unknowing about his true nature), but he failed in his mission and England was wracked as a result. The greatest one was William Marshal since he managed to beat the Red Queen more than once and other notable historical figures such as William Shakespeare, Thomas More, Isaac Newton, Guy Fawkes, Francis Drake and Alfred the Great may have been vampire champions themselves.

    Web Animation 

  • In Angel Down, a paladins unique mark ability is passed on to a new paladin after they die. For instance Ariel's force field ability was previously owned by Ward.
  • Housepets!: The Avatars of Dragon and Pete. Every generation, the two Gods pick a mortal to fight for them on Earth, essentially their player character in a cosmic game of D&D. The rules state that an Avatar must be willing, and must be a cat or dog- but the Gods frequently use Loophole Abuse to get around this. In the comic, only four avatars are ever seen; Tarot and Satau for Dragon, and King and Bailey for Pete.
  • In Magical Boy, the role of Goddess - and their battle against the armies of the god of darkness - has been passed down from mother to daughter from one generation to another in Max's family.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, it's established that Avatars are reborn into the next generation after the previous one dies. One of the perks of being an Avatar is the ability to communicate with all of your past lives.
  • The Legend of Korra. As a sequel to The Last Airbender, Korra explored the Avatar legacy in even greater depth than the original, going so far as to reveal the first Avatar and establishing that the Avatar is literally the embodiment of peace and harmony, having been indelibly bonded with the Spirit of peace herself, Raava. This, by extension, makes every subsequent Avatar all the more awesome. Shortly after she learns this the cycle gets reset, making her the new First Avatar.
  • In El Tigre, "The Grave Escape" has the new El Tigre go to the Land of the Dead and manage to see the original hero.
  • Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja: The Ninja of Norrisville, which has been protecting Norrisville and particularly Norrisville High, in truth is a Legacy Hero, whereupon every four years a freshman is bequeathed the Ninja's suit and the Ninja Nomicon to become the new Ninja after the last Ninja's graduation. While for the most part this legacy is held up well, there has been at least one bad egg. Mac Antfee, the Ninja of 1985, is that bad egg, and he later becomes a major antagonist to Randy for two episodes. In addition, a later episode shows a young Randy and Howard meeting the Ninja of 2005, and the finale of Season One reveals that Randy is responsible for helping establish the legacy of the Ninja via Stable Time Loop when he went back to the thirteenth century and helped the first Ninja seal away the Sorcerer.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated reveals that there must always be a Mystery Inc. in the world. Furthermore, the group will always have the same makeup: four people—a strong leader, a brainy nerd, a cowardly slacker, and a beautiful ingenue—with a Talking Animal sidekick; those roles will be maintained even if the genders are distributed differently (one incarnation was an all-male group of monks, while another was an all-female cowgirl gang). If a member of the current Mystery Inc. departs, someone else might try to take their place, but the rest of the group will be compelled to kick them out at the first opportunity if they don't fit the "role" that is currently vacant (as is the case with Daphne and Marcie "Hot Dog Water" Fleach, who was another nerd and thus couldn't stay). The Grand Finale reveals that this is part of the Evil Entity's curse—it's bending reality to slowly ensure that the seal trapping it can someday be broken.

    Real Life 
  • The Dalai Lama was actually the inspiration for Avatar: The Last Airbender; they are said to be the reincarnation of the Avalokiteśvara. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the 14th.