The Prophecy Trope…

Hey guys,

So today’s daily prompt got me thinking about some of the books I have been reading lately, specifically those by Rick Riordan. A lot of YA and middle-grade fantasy novels focus on the concept of Prophecy where the main character is always destined to be someone great.


But do prophecies have to be huge in nature?

When you consider prophecies, they tend to have two key features:

  • They are cryptic when you first look at them they just look like a bunch of words thrown together that don’t mean a thing
  • They are ominous and generally involve the threat (or need of) death

One of the main problems with this trope is that you know the good guy is going to come out on top, that depending on the nature of the prophecy, there will be a positive outcome. But the prophecy guides them on wild and dangerous adventures first, there are generally layers to prophecies; so once you manage to contextually work out what the first line means you’re on the right path.

You know what I would love to see, what happens when they cant work out what the prophecy means and the world is going to hell in a handbasket because the oracle has made things too difficult. Instead of saying you  need to go and defeat this version of death incarnate, they say a load of flouncy things that send the main character to the other side of the world.

Misinterpretation happens people!

But I do see how prophecies provide a solid structure to an adventure, it gives purpose and can stop the reader wondering why the main character is so special (because usually the prophecy explains it- usually). So its not a trope I want to see gone, its a trope I want to see done well.

Take the Heroes of Olympus Series, each books usually contains one prophecy, but all the books together work into one larger prophecy. With each of the smaller working into a complex one, an element I have really enjoyed about this series is the way it plays with it. Especially the God’s reactions to the need for prophecy before any action is to be taken (think teeth-sucking annoyance, and then really sarcastic prophecies that basically break all of the typical prophecy laws because he’s pissed that his people wont do what he asks without some ancient piece of paper telling them they have to).

Helen x


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