“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a fantasy novel in possession of a good prophecy, must be in want of a destiny.” – (Almost) Jane Austen
It’s no secret that every epic fantasy author worth their salt toys with the notion of prophecy.
It’s the narrative equivalent of a spicy curry on a chilly, winter’s night. It warms you up, gets your heart racing, and if done well, leaves you satisfied and anticipating the next course.
A Prophecy? Rings a Bell…
Take J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings,’ for instance.
The One Ring, to rule them all, had a prophecy wrapped around it tighter than a sushi roll.
The whole Middle-Earth shindig was driven by the prophecy that a halfling would bring about the downfall of the Dark Lord Sauron.
No pressure, Frodo.
A Song of Ice and Soothsayers
George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ employed prophecy in a similar, yet distinct, fashion.
Characters like Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister are guided (and misguided) by prophecies, resulting in a series of events that make a rollercoaster seem like a leisurely drive through the countryside.
Sands of Prophecy: The Wheel of Time
Robert Jordan’s sprawling epic, ‘The Wheel of Time,’ offers a fascinating study of prophecy guiding the characters’ actions.
The Dragon Reborn, Rand al’Thor, is the central figure of many prophecies in this series.
His future actions, which are prophesied to either save or doom the world, act as significant drivers of the plot and character decisions.
The Hidden Destiny: The Belgariad
In David Eddings’ ‘The Belgariad,’ the protagonist, Garion, grows up unaware of the prophecies that predict his role in overcoming the dark god Torak.
The series showcases how prophecies can be intertwined with the protagonist’s coming-of-age journey, providing both external conflict and internal growth.
The Prophecy of Elan: Mistborn
Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Mistborn’ series presents a unique twist on the prophecy trope.
The series’ characters believe they are acting according to a prophecy to overthrow a tyrant.
Still, as the series progresses, they realise the prophecy has been manipulated, leading to an unexpected outcome.
This series beautifully illustrates how prophecies can be used to introduce surprising plot twists and explore themes of power and deception.
The Witch’s Oracle: The Witcher Series
Andrzej Sapkowski’s ‘The Witcher’ series includes a prophecy involving the protagonist’s adopted daughter, Ciri, who is destined to cause a catastrophic event known as the Time of Contempt.
This prophecy influences several character’s actions and alliances throughout the series, illustrating how prophecies can impact not only plot but also character relationships and political dynamics.
A Prophecy Unfolds: The Chronicles of Narnia
In C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ the prophecy that two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve will rule Narnia and defeat the White Witch drives the entire plot of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.’
The prophecy not only foretells the outcome but also provides motivation and validation for the characters’ roles, demonstrating the power of prophecy in establishing character identity and purpose.
The Purpose of Prophecy
So, why does prophecy get such a good gig in fantasy?
Well, it’s a nifty tool for foreshadowing, creating tension, and driving the plot.
But it’s not just that.
Prophecy also explores the complex interplay between fate and free will, the nature of time, and the reliability of perception.
The Prophecy Paradox
Yet, there’s a paradox in prophecy—if the prophecy is going to come true, can the characters do anything to stop it?
This is where authors often get creative.
They may use deceptive wording, dual meanings, or self-fulfilling prophecies to keep us on our toes.
Prophecy in fantasy is as integral as a cuppa to a good British morning.
It adds layers of complexity to the plot, deepens character development, and keeps readers engaged.
So the next time you crack open a fantasy novel, keep an eye out for the prophecy. It might just foretell the adventure that awaits.