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The Poorly Chosen One

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"You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!"
Obi-Wan, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

The Chosen One was destined for greatness, only to trip and stumble and careen off a cliff before they even could.

The Poorly Chosen One was assigned to be the Chosen One of a prophecy or a legacy or some other medium, only for their efforts to fall flat, failing at their task at being the Chosen One. These are inevitable among The Chosen Many. Bad eggs do arise when Chosen Ones come and go. Perhaps The Chooser of The One made a mistake and got the supposed chosen one mixed up, perhaps not. Either way, they were a poor choice indeed.


Not to be confused with The Chosen Zero, where the Chosen One is a loser socially, but ultimately follows the criteria of their chosen-ness. When the apparent Chosen One functions perfectly on his prophetized vocation up until the moment he snaps, see The Paragon Always Rebels.

A Sub-Trope of Unfit for Greatness. May overlap with Thread of Prophecy, Severed.

Compare and Contrast The Chosen Wannabe and The Unchosen One, who were not chosen at all but take (or attempt to take) the same responsibility. The loss of the Chosen One may require a Plan B Resolution.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Corrector Yui: Haruna was supposed to be the Corrector instead of Yui, but the moment she finally takes the reins, Drosser (the Evil A.I. Big Bad) decides to say "Let's Get Dangerous!" and curb-stomped-slash-corrupted her in her very first battle. It turned out that Drosser had a crush on Yui and decided to manipulate events so she would become the Corrector because that way he would be able to meet her better, fulfill her Magical Girl fantasies... and he was holding back because he didn't wanted to hurt her (bad).
  • Dragon Ball Z: Gotenks is held up by the rest of the Z fighters as their best hope to defeat Majin Buu. This hope turns out to be misplaced, as Gotenks turns out to be a egocentric blowhard who cares more about looking cool than about saving the world. Consequently, all of his attempts to defeat Buu end in disaster.
  • Chariot du Nord from Little Witch Academia was a witch and student from Luna Nova Academy who was chosen to wield the Claiomh Solais, a Magic Wand that chooses its wielder and is destined to break the seal of the Grand Triskellion when its user rediscovers the Seven Words of Arcturus. Believing that magic was meant to make people happy, Chariot became the idol "Shiny Chariot", using the Claiomh Solais (renaming it "Shiny Wand") to put on magic shows for the public. When her popularity declines, she grows desperate to impress her crowd when her usual spells no longer cut it, eventually leading to her permanently scarring the surface of the Moon. Her actions deemed her unworthy of wielding the wand and it disappeared before she could ever find all Seven spells.
  • Naruto: Jiraiya was told as a young man that someday he would mentor a child of prophecy who would either save the world or destroy it. At first, Jiraiya thought it would be Nagato, a war orphan from the Land of Rain who possessed the Rinnegan, a power once wielded by the legendary Sage of Six Paths, and despite the boy's initial fear of his own powers he matured during his training with the help of his fellow students/orphans/friends Yahiko and Konan. Unfortunately, after their training concluded and they parted, Jiraiya lost hope when he learned they all died during their attempts to reform their country. In reality, only Yahiko died, but something in Konan and Nagato definitely died with him and Nagato became a Dark Messiah as a result. Later, he believed it would be Minato, who despite having no bloodline jutsu was The Ace and became the youngest Hokage of the Hidden Leaf...only for him to make a Heroic Sacrifice to stop the Nine-Tailed Fox. Ironically, the actual chosen one, Naruto, was the one Jiraiya had no thought of it being until shortly before his own death at the hands of Nagato.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero, Ren, Itsuki, Motoyasu and Naofumi are brought to the Fantasyland of Melromarc as the Four Cardinal Heroes, them being the Sword, Bow, Spear and Shield Heroes respectively. Ren, Itsuki and Motoyasu are handed everything they could ever need and are treated with reverence (the Three Heroes Church even believing them to be gods) while Naofumi is treated like a devil by virtue of being the Shield Hero and falsely accused of rape by Princess Malty For the Evulz. As time goes on however, it is proven that while Naofumi proves to be a competent and compassionate (albeit cynical) hero who slowly wins over the people, Ren, Itsuki and Motoyasu's clashing egos and tendency to treat the world like it's a game lead to their idiot heroics only making things worse. It got to the point that the church that worshiped the Heroes of the Sword, Spear, and Bow elects to brand them as "fake" and kill them all simply because of their incompetence. Finally, their decision to release a powerful monster just to prove a point and then failing to defeat it and causing a disaster of epic proportions which then utterly destroyed what little faith people had left in them. The reason Naofumi surpasses them is that the ritual which summoned the Heroes interfered with the ability of the Weapons to choose an ideal wielder. The Shield was able to choose the perfect match while the other Weapons had to make due with lesser wielders.
  • Happens routinely in The Twelve Kingdoms. Each of the titular kingdoms is rules by an immortal god-king/queen, chosen by a Kirin. Unfortunately, despite the inherently virtuous Kirin always having the best intentions, they DO screw up sometimes, and puts someone on the throne who'll crack under the pressure, turn into a vicious tyrant, or let the kingdom decay while wallowing in base hedonism. Worse, this world runs by Fisher King rules — a poor king leads to natural disasters, droughts and floods, and even monster-invasions. The series starts when the Kirin Keiki tracks down an Ordinary High-School Student from our world to be the new Queen of Kei — after his previous choice ended very, very badly. Considering this track-record, a lot of the kingdom's people are rather worried about this apparent Chosen Zero... If the enthrownment had gone as planned, they would have been correct. It's only a lot of hardship driven character development that made her someone who had a chance to rule sucessfully.

    Comic Books 
  • Michael Rhodes in Birthright was believed to save the realm of Terrenos from God-King Lore by a sketchy prophecy that not many people believed in the first place. He is trained as a mighty warrior, but when the climatic confrontation against his enemy happens, he gets defeated and strikes a deal with said dark lord to become his enforcer if he gets sent back to Earth. Doubly subverted when it turns out that the prophecy was never real to begin with and Terrenos was already saved a long time ago... By Lore himself who at one point was a heroic figure who mysteriously turned evil, incidentally making him qualify for this trope.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda. His mentor Shifu let the pride he felt for his adoptive son blind him to both Tai Lung's growing personal issues and the possibility that he may not be cut out for the title of Dragon Warrior. As a result, Lung grew up thinking he was entitled to the role, so when he was rejected, he... didn't take it well, to put it mildly. The big twist is that because he was such an accomplished and confident martial artist, the actual benefits of the title would have been worthless to him anyway; Shifu had badly misunderstood what it meant.
  • Megamind: Megamind randomly chooses Hal Stewart, a lazy and unmotivated Manchild, to be Metro Man's successor. Unfortunately, Hal only wants to be a hero to impress his crush, Roxanne, and when that doesn't work out, he decides to use his powers for evil instead, which Megamind calls him out on.
    Megamind: I can't believe you. All your gifts, all your powers, and you squander them for your own personal gain!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Smith from Kaboom! is believed by a cult led by his presumed deceased father to be their Messianic chosen one meant to rule the world after they destroy it in a nuclear holocaust. Before the cult could get Smith to safety however, the cult's leader sets off the nukes anyway, destroying the planet entirely.
  • In Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, a group of Beta-testers believe that Juni is "The Guy", a player believed to be the one to lead them to the prize. Just as they begin to have doubts about this, The Real Guy appears and takes the lead. Right after he opens the doorway to the fifth and final level, The Real Guy is struck by lightning which One-Hit Kills him instantly (in-spite of his 100 lives). Juni is then reinstated as The Guy shortly after.
  • In the Star Wars saga, Anakin Skywalker, believed to be the Chosen One, falls to the Dark Side, turns into a Sith and becomes Darth Vader. It's ultimately subverted when years later, he's redeemed by his son and kills Emperor Palpatine, ending the Sith and bringing balance to the Force at last.

  • Avatar: The Rise of Kyoshi : The previous Avatar, Kuruk, died at only thirty-three, which left a power vacuum. Jianzhu and Kelsang (Kuruk's earthbending and airbending teachers, respectively) desperately set out to look for his reincarnation only to run into trouble. The Earth Avatar is normally found by using geomancy to keep cutting the land in half to wind up on the Avatar’s door step. Since Kyoshi’s parents were outlaws, this method didn’t work, because when they got to where she was, she was gone. Then they try the Air Nomad method of having the kids play with past Avatar’s toys. She steals one when they come to her village, so they have to try another way. One day, Kuruk’s friends Jianzhu and Kelsang happen upon a kid named Yun hustling adults at pai sho using Kuruk’s odd strategy. They acknowledge that this is shaky evidence, but they're so desperate to find the Avatar and calm the global situation that they declare Yun the Avatar. It’s not until a couple of years later when he’s not able to bend the other elements and Kyoshi starts showing signs of being the Avatar that they realize they picked the wrong kid. Yun was not happy at all when he found out the truth and he went on a murderous rampage that was only stopped by his death.
  • Played with Priestess in Goblin Slayer: Top Goddess Illusion had favored Priestess, but the latter loses her status to no fault of her own, but rather Illusion being horrible at dice rolls. This explains the disastrous results of the Greenhorn Team at the start of the series; however, Priestess is spared due to the timely arrival of the titular Goblin Slayer, which altered her fate, as Illusion had essentially given up on Priestess. In later volumes, Priestess' new ability "Revelation" is implied to be a gift previously bestowed upon her by Illusion when she was the goddess' favorite.
  • In Metro 2033, Artyom was chosen by the Dark Ones to bring about peace between themselves and humanity, as his inherent psychic resistance means that he's the only one capable of communicating with them without being unintentionally Mind Raped by their telepathy. They turn out to have been using their powers to protect him along his journey in the hope that he will be able to save them. He winds up dropping a missile on their home in the Botanical Gardens instead.
  • Alendi from Mistborn: The Original Trilogy was supposed to give up the power at the Well of Ascension according to prophecy, but he instead chose to take the power for himself and become the Lord Ruler. At least, that's what we're led to believe. The Lord Ruler was actually Alendi's attendant Rashek who killed him before he could reach the well. We later learn that Alendi was only chosen in the first place because of Ruin's manipulation of the prophecy — and Rashek prevented him from inadvertently dooming the world.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The first person who was seen as the messianic Prince That Was Promised was Rhaegar Targaryen. Needless to say, that wasn't correct. Rhaegar himself privately thought that the prophecy actually referred to his son, Aegon, only for him to die horribly. Or possibly not, given that he survived and was smuggled across the Narrow Sea. Probably. The prophecy is currently open-ended.
    • Daenerys Targaryen's son, Rhaego, is prophesied to become the Stallion Who Mounts the World, but he ends up being murdered by a witch's Blood Magic inside his mother's womb. Unlike the Prince, the prophecy about the Stallion is seldom mentioned since Rhaego's stillbirth, suggesting that either it is a sham or refers to someone/thing else (it might refer to Daenerys herself, since she becomes a Young Conqueror, after all, or her dragons, who help her achieve success).
    • Melisandre strenuously believes that Stannis Baratheon is the Azor Ahai, a messiah who will lead the world in the battle against the Great Other, but there are hints that she misidentifies him (the Lightbringer? Stannis only makes it glow, when it's supposed to be lit on fire). The Red Priests of Essos, on the other hand, believe that it refers to Daenerys.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible: While it doesn't have any real impact on the book's plot, this is the background for the character Psychic Prime. Taken to the future in the belief that he would become a powerful hero to save it, Prime proceeded to wash out of his training, after which he was dropped back in the present. This caused him to become terribly bitter, and he ended up using the psychic powers he did develop to become a villain.
  • In China Miéville's novel Un Lun Dun, the Chosen One gets seriously injured in her first confrontation with the forces of evil, and the character who was meant to be Plucky Comic Relief has to save the day.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Blackadder, Edmund encounters witches inspired by the ones in Macbeth who prophesy that he, the second son of Richard IV, will be king, leading him to spend most of the series scheming to take over. In The Stinger they realize they mistook him for Henry Tudor.
  • In Game of Thrones, Melisandre believes that Lord Stannis Baratheon to be the Messianic hero of legend prophesied in the R'hllor religion. After managing to convert him and those in his territory, she advices him in various matters, claiming that the failures that she leads him to are all a part of The Plan. It is not until he and his army perishes against the Boltons at Winterfell (even after offering his own daughter as a sacrifice) is it made clear that Stannis was not the prophetic hero that Melisandre hoped he would be.
  • In Legend of the Seeker, Shota turns Zedd young and erases his memory, making him an arrogant youth again instead of a wizened old man. So, when she asks him to name a new Seeker, he chooses... himself, which is apparently allowed. He proceeds to act like a Jerkass and is easily tricked by the Keeper to come to the Underworld. This trope is also a plot point in an earlier episode, where the party happens upon the tomb of an earlier Seeker, who supposedly perished in the final battle, where he fulfilled his prophecy. The truth is, he went insane and started slaughtering innocents, forcing a wizard to cut him down and falsify the the story.
  • The immortal swordsman Deker from Power Rangers Samurai spends centuries as a wanderer seeking the "ultimate duel" where a chosen opponent will finally end his life. He forms a rivalry with Jayden, the Red Ranger, assuming the ranger's leader is his fated opponent; At the end of the series, however, Deker survives a prolonged duel against Jayden, only to be killed by Kevin, the Blue Ranger.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • During the main quest in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the Player Character visits the Cave of the Nerevarine, where they can meet the shades of several Dunmer who previously attempted to fulfill the Nerevarine Prophecy, but failed and died. (It's implied that there isn't one true Chosen One Nerevarine, but that anyone who fits the initial criteria could become the Nerevarine. These people fit the initial criteria, but died before they could fulfill the prophecy.)
  • All over the backstory of The Last Sovereign where the whole concept of The Chosen One gets the living crap kicked out of it. The game starts off with you controlling Kai, the chosen of the Goddess Ivala and his companions, Altina the elven sorceress and Simon the grizzled old veteran on their quest to save the world from the Incubus King. 10 minutes in Kai gets killed and Altina captured, because the actual protagonist of the game is Simon. Turns out Simon has been futilely escorting dozens of the little losers over the past few years, none of which have been worth a damn (at least one of which died after running off a cliff in his first battle) and he's getting tired of it. It doesn't help that while the "blessing of the Goddess" grants those who receive it a considerable boost in combat effectiveness, it also causes increased selfishness, drastically enhanced libido and severely reduced mental capacity, not helped by the fact that for some reason the goddess tends to favour nasty little self-centered shits to start with. When the next level 1 brat who gets assigned to him takes sexual advantage of one of their new companions and rudely brushes Simon off when he tries to stop him, Simon has had enough and kills the wannabe-hero himself, deciding to take the fate of the world into his own hands.
  • Mass Effect 3 reveals the asari race were this to the Protheans, who gave them their advantages over the other races thanks to genetic engineering and a Prothean Beacon, believing they would use it to lead the galaxy to oppose the Reapers. Instead, they became complacent with merely using the Beacons knowledge to maintain their superiority, keeping it secret until the Reapers have overrun their homeworld, by which time humanity was leading the war effort.
  • Puppeteer: Before Kutaro, Ezma chose other children kidnapped by the Moon Bear King to seize the magical battle scissors, retrieve the shards of light, and defeat the Thirteen Zodiac... and they never made it to the scissors.
  • Shovel Knight: King Knight is this in his prequel story "King Of Cards." Lauded as a hero by the people he meets who will save the land, they somehow miss the fact that at his core King Knight is a vain brute whose only goal is to become a king. Naturally the moment the opportunity presents itself via the Enchantress's offer, King Knight kicks all his allies and admirers to the proverbial curb, helping to kick off the conquest of the valley.
  • The Swords of Ditto: Let's just say you'll go through MANY Chosen Heroes...
  • Discussed in Tales of Symphonia. According to various people, there were many Chosen Ones before Colette, but they died at some point in their journeys. And even the Chosen Ones who succeeded in their pilgrimages ultimately failed in their actual goal — bringing peace to everything — because their messiah of order went insane millennia ago and uses their efforts to bring suffering to another world, who then perform their own pilgrimages to alleviate their world's suffering by forking it back. Soon after, the Chosen Ones are used as test subjects for body-swapping, but none have succeeded. Collette is the final test subject and is successfully possessed against her will by her goddess, only to lose cohesion mere moments later, but only because her goddess made her fail at becoming a meat puppet so she could succeed at becoming the sidekick of the messiah of freedom.
  • Vampyr reveals that King Arthur was a vampire sired by Merlin to protect Britain from the Morrigan's wrath. Unfortunately he failed in his mission and died prematurely, with the country suffering for his defeat for many years.

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League Unlimited: Villain Despero was chosen by the Flame of Py'tar to bring paradise to Kalanor. The Flame meant bringing back Kalanor's ecosystem, but Despero, hardened by years as a social outcast, decided that it meant 'take over the galaxy as a Dark Messiah'. The Flame needs to use the Martian Manhunter as a on-the-spot chosen one to fulfil its actual plan.
  • Trollhunters
    • Unkar the Unfortunate was a Trollhunter who died on his first day, having been torn limb from limb before he could actually do anything his title of Trollhunter entails. His commemorative statue (which is really his re-assembled corpse) is frozen in fear of his pathetic pleas for mercy.
    • In "Unbecoming", Draal is shown to be this in an alternate timeline where he became the Trollhunter instead of Jim. While Draal is a tough fighter, he lacks the circle of friends to support him like Jim does, which results in Draal being captured and subsequently killed by the villains as Gunmar and his armies invade Arcadia, the world defenseless without its Trollhunter.


Video Example(s):


Star Wars - the chosen one

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) after fighting Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) "You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them, bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness."

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ThePoorlyChosenOne

Media sources:

Main / ThePoorlyChosenOne