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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 Kenobi to Anakin Skywalker, 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 prophesied 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. A common twist on the trope is to suggest that it was the choosing itself which marked the Poorly Chosen One for failure rather than anything unfit about them for the role; in a society where the Chosen One is culturally ingrained as their saviour, the psychological pressure of being expected to become great and save everyone can actively turn a hopeful, skilled potential hero into a Broken Bird very quickly.

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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    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.
  • The Green Lantern Corps' Guardians of the Universe tend to be prone to this, one of their most humiliating examples being The New Guardians who were a team of Captain Ethnics selected to represent all of humanity and breed a new race of superhumans. Out of the twelve people selected, one (Terra from Teen Titans) was already dead, two were killed off early, another was an Angry White Man who refused to work with minorities, another was senile, and of the ones who actually did join the team one was gay and another was a Plant Person.
  • Venom (2021) reveals Knull is one of these. The Celestials had intended the King in Black to be a form of multiversal maintenance. Knull disagreed, and figured wiping out all life was the best way to "burn the draft card". After all, if there's no-one and nothing to watch out for, he doesn't have to do the work.

    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 (unintentionally, though he refuses to unchoose him) 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 and its direct sequel The Shadow 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 is not happy at all when he finds out the truth and goes on a murderous rampage that is only stopped by his death.
  • Banished from the Hero's Party:
    • People in the setting are given blessings by the gods that determine their abilities and natures. This can quickly turn into Blessed with Suck when a person's given blessing runs counter to what they want to actually do, such as a boy who wants to become a town guard like his dad, but whose "Bar Brawler" blessing makes him a short-tempered, violent bully. Then there's Ruti Ragnason, a teenage girl who has the Blessing of the Hero. Ruti's blessing gives her the power of a One-Woman Army and compels her to help others. It also makes her not need sleep, Feel No Pain, and prioritize others' survival over her own, regardless of how she personally feels about them. The one and only thing keeping her motivated in her journey to fight the Demon Lord's Army was her older brother Gideon's presence and support. When he's convinced to leave the party without telling Ruti, the only thing keeping her on track is the fact her Blessing won't allow her to do anything else. Unsurprisingly, the moment Ruti learns of a means to suppress her Blessing's compulsions she grabs it with both hands and abandons her quest entirely to find and settle down by her beloved brother.
    • Once Ruti eventually manages to suppress her Hero's Blessing and convert it into a new one, a new holder of the Hero's Blessing appears. If Ruti was poorly chosen because she hated possessing the role in the first place, Van of Flamberge is a severe case of over-correction. In contrast to Ruti, Van is devout, gung-ho about being the Hero and, as The Fatalist, believes in embracing ones' Blessings as the key to happiness.This manifests in a Lack of Empathy such that he can brush off death of any kind with Dissonant Serenity, be it incidental or caused by him directly, because he regards it as the dead simply fulfilling their destinies and be a Jerkass towards people who are only trying to be kind to him, such as snapping at someone giving him food simply because the Hero doesn't need to eat.
  • Introduced in the very opening of Beast Tamer, we have the Hero Arios Orlando, coming from a long family line of heroes. He is the chosen hero at the start of the story because he inherited the Hero skill "Limit Breaker" one would need to have in order to stand a chance against the Always Chaotic Evil Demon Lord and his armies. Sadly, it turns out there's absolutely nothing heroic about him. He's cruel, entitled, and petty, believing that just because he's the Hero, he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to whomever he wants, without ever worrying about consequences, and becomes murderously vengeful when this is shown to not be the case.
  • Zig-Zagged in the BIONICLE Adventures books. Toa Lhikan secretly arranges for six seemingly unfit Matoran citizens to become the Toa Metru, his successors who would save the city of Metru Nui. Unknown to him, the names of this team were planted into his mind by the Makuta. The Toa Metru fail to stop Makuta from destroying the city, wiping its people's memory and killing Lhikan, although they manage to stop him from completely taking over. As the new Toa look for a place to evacuate the civilians, they find proof that they were not the destined Toa. This blow almost destroys what little was left of their morale, but after many further failings, adventures and battles, they eventually reform and complete their task, becoming wise and capable leaders burdened by their past. Meanwhile they discover their failure was meant to happen as part of Physical God Mata Nui's contingency plan, having rewritten the prophecies so that the destined Toa Metru looked like the worst possible candidates. Their contrasting ideologies that initially lead to much infighting also proved helpful for guiding the Matoran later on.
  • 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 advises 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 perish 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.
  • Aegon Targaryen II in the Game of Thrones Distant Prequel series House of the Dragon. In the episode "Lord of the Tides", the delirious and dying King Viserys mistakenly tells his Queen Consort and wife Alicent of the prophecy about "the prince that was promised" and she misinterprets it as meaning he wants their son Aegon named as his heir (when Viserys actually meant his ancestor Aegon the Conqueror, whom their son is named after). This is ignoring the fact that Aegon is a depraved Royal Brat and a Jerkass of the highest order who never wanted the throne to begin with and was fine with being the Spare to the Throne.
  • 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 whole 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.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Emma Swan, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, destined to come to Storybrooke on her 28th birthday and break the Evil Queen's curse. Unfortunately, due to a childhood in the foster system, and a difficult life overall, she's a Knight in Sour Armour who's prone to making impulsive poor decisions and remains in deep denial about her true nature, refusing to believe that the people around her are displaced fairytale characters even as the evidence piles up. As a result, many people are hurt or killed because she refuses to accept her destiny.
    • Pinocchio as well. He was sent through the wardrobe with Emma to be Emma's Big Brother Mentor and prepare her to come to Storybrooke on her 28th birthday and break the curse. He did try for a little while, but when they were put in an Orphanage of Fear and the reality of growing up in the system hit him, he ditched her at the foster home instead and ran away, and spent the next twenty-eight years on a hedonistic boondoggle around the world. He wasn't there to take Emma to Storybrooke, so Henry had to do it for him; and because he didn't teach and guide Emma like he was supposed to, she takes months to accept her role as the Saviour, resulting in all the suffering detailed above. As punishment for so royally screwing up, he's slowly and painfully turning back into a puppet, although in fairness it was a ton of responsibility to put on a seven year old.

    Tabletop Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Sigfried in the first timeline of The Great Wizard Transcendent was chosen as the Hero. He has a habit of rushing in fighting. He was killed by the Devil.
  • A major reveal in Kill Six Billion Demons is that The Prophecy of The Successor has a twist to it, beyond Allison having been (seemingly) accidentally chosen for the job. the universe is stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop of unknown duration per cycle, in which Zoss picks a Successor and the Successor goes on The Hero's Journey. Zoss is killed by 6 Juggernaut Star, the Successor defeats the Black Emperors, meets Metatron, and then... Something happens that fails every one of them, Jagganoth kills the Successor and attempts to destroy the multiverse, and the cycle is reset. Whether Zoss picked the same Successor or a different one every cycle before this one has yet to be revealed, but it's implied that Zaid may have been a failed Successor in a prior cycle and stated outright that the choosing of Allison is a completely new twist to the story. Jagganoth, who has flawed Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory of the loop, claims to have killed The Successor more times than there are drops of water in the ocean, meaning he has a lot of Poorly Chosen Ones' blood on his hands.
  • Rice Boy involves a prophecy that's spawned a line of Multiple-Choice Chosen spanning thousands of years — whenever one potential Fulfiller proves unsuitable for the task, T-O-E and his fellow Seekers simply move on to a new candidate. It's implied that far too many of their selections have turned out to be duds, but the most recent may have been the worst of the lot: a prince named Spatch, who became convinced of his own infallibility as Fulfiller (despite never actually doing anything to fulfill the prophecy in question) and became a bloodthirsty Knight Templar king while the rest of his kingdom fell into ruin.

    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.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: The Ninja of 1985, Mac Antfee, who was a violent and selfish jerk who once left a Stank'd student frozen to attend Prom and never bothered to go back and unfreeze the guy and help turn him back to normal once it was over. He was also one of the longest-tenured Ninjas because he got Held Back in School at least twice. Eventually, the Ninja Nomicon deemed him unfit for his position and stripped him of his powers, but failed to give him the requisite Laser-Guided Amnesia when it had the chance, leading him to antagonize Randy decades later in hopes of reclaiming the Ninja's powers for himself and his own selfish ends.
  • 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):


"You were the Chosen One!"

Obi-wan Kenobi defeats Anakin "Darth Vader" Skywalker on Mustafar, and mourns his role in the Jedi Purge and the apparent failure of the prophecy of the Chosen One.

How well does it match the trope?

4.88 (26 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThreadOfProphecySevered

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