From Star Wars to Harry Potter having a Chosen One is very common in science fiction and fantasy.

What was the first science fiction or fantasy work to feature a Chosen One? I'd preferably like the first example of a character who meets the criteria of being a Chosen One and the first character to be explicitly referred to as "The Chosen One."

The definition of "Chosen One" I'm going with is "A character specifically chosen by destiny/the gods/the spirits/etc. to save or otherwise permanently change the world.

I only want examples from science fiction and fantasy. That means no examples from religions, mythologies, real life or any non sci-fi/fantasy genres!

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    How do you distinguish fantasy from religion in very old writings? Does Gilgamesh count as an answer?
    – Buzz
    Mar 25, 2016 at 0:26
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    @Buzz Fantasy is written as fiction in order to entertain.
    – Rogue Jedi
    Mar 25, 2016 at 0:28
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    @Buzz +1 for Gilgamesh. He was definitely the elect of god, quite literally a paragon of manhood
    – Valorum
    Mar 25, 2016 at 0:31
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    "Then Jesse let Abinadab follow; but neither did he appear to be the chosen one of Yahweh." - Young People's Bible - Published 1900 A.D..
    – Valorum
    Mar 25, 2016 at 0:39
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    I'm not sure this is an answerable question. You're going to have to go back so far that you're going to have to define exactly what you mean by fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi. It's going to be pretty blurry, since chosen ones have been around since the beginning of story telling. Mar 25, 2016 at 0:57

6 Answers 6


One interesting concept about heroes and chosen ones is the Monomyth described by Joseph Campbell. He describes the phases the journey of the chosen one goes through, and it happens to appear in a lot of cultures.

One could consider the Epic of Gilgamesh (arguably the first fantasy literature ever to exist) to be one of such stories. Another very old example could be the Arthurian legends. I may add (don't throw anything at me please, is not really of my liking) John Galt character in Atlas Shrugged written in 1957.


The comments to the OP make it clear this is going to bog down in definitional issues, so we might as well throw out some possibilities:

  • Paul Atreides (Muad'dib) from Dune as a sort of Messiah

  • Aragorn (Elessar) from the Tolkien canon as a fulfiller of prophecies

  • Aslan from the Narnia series as an allegory of Christ

  • Sorry, you need 10 reputation to post more than 2 links or I would have linked them all.
    – Spencer
    Mar 25, 2016 at 1:57
  • The OP ruled out Paul in a comment above because he was the result is a deliberate breeding program. Aragon, perhaps, but I have to think there must be earlier answers. Isn't Aslan more part of the frame of the story? Mar 25, 2016 at 2:12
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    All of these "what wre the first" questions are looking for a rainbow-striped unicorn with seventeen hairs in its tail. Atreides was a Messiah to the Fremen quite apart from being Kwisatz Haderach to yhe Bene Gesserit.
    – Spencer
    Mar 25, 2016 at 2:19
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    @rosesunhill If Paul had been deliberately bred then maybe. But Jessica disobeyed to bear only daughters (and not for reasons of making a Chosen One) and that produced The Chosen One. So i think it still fits
    – Machavity
    Mar 25, 2016 at 3:04
  • @Machavity - there was enough ambiguity to make me wonder, but if the OP rules him out, then . . . Mar 25, 2016 at 3:17

To add some other examples that might fit -

  1. Lensmen (E.E. "Doc" Smith), specifically Virgil Samms and the "Children of the Lens" - these are both the product of a centuries long planned breeding program/prediction by the omniscient and nearly omnipotent Arisian race, with Virgil being the first to receive the Lens (enables psychic communication and indicates indomitable will and incorruptibility), his children and their descendents eventually produce the "Children of the Lens" who are to be the successors of the Arisians as the guardians of civilization. First Lensman was published in 1950.

  2. Malone from the "Psi-Power" series (Randall Garrett and Lawrence Jannifer, writing as Mark Phillips). In this series, Kenneth Malone is an FBI agent tasked with solving several puzzling mysteries, that could only have been performed by people with psychic powers. Malone slowly develops psychic powers by himself, and is the first person to do so and remain sane. He was chosen for this role by a group of psychics, including his boss, who are working to save the world from political division and nuclear war. "That Sweet Little Old Lady" (AKA "Brain Twister"; first title in the series) was published in 1959.

  3. A greater stretch might be R. Daneel Olivaw from Isaac Asimov's great Robot series and Foundation series. In this aspect, Olivaw guides man through the great catastrophes of the collapse of the Empire, the building of the Foundation and the consequent rebuilding of humanity's future. Olivaw isn't chosen by a higher power as such, other than by Giskard transferring his powers of telepathy onto Olivaw, but he is the great hidden hero of these series.

There are plenty of others that fit more into the "Competent Man" trope; achieving all they set out to do and saving worlds, but not "chosen" for such a task. Common examples include the heroes of Heinleins writings (e.g. Juan "Johnny" Rico from Starship Troopers) or the main characters in many of H. Beam Piper's writings (e.g. Lucas Trask from the Space Viking series).


A couple more possibilities:

  • Thomas Covenant, who stumbled into a situation where there were prophesies of a savior, which appeared to fit him ("half-hand" with ring of white gold).  As he first saw print in 1977, he's probably not the first.
  • If we're going to mention LotR, I nominate Frodo.  He was literally chosen (albeit by fate, family history, and being in the right place at the right time) to undertake the task on which the freedom of the world hung.

What about an off-the-wall answer or perhaps anti-answer, where an Anti-Christ is the "Chosen One?"

Written from a Catholic perspective very much of its period, it describes the near obliteration of Christianity and the rise of an Anti-Christ proclaimed by the populace.

Even though it is very much a polemic, it is still science fiction with predictions of technological impacts.

Lord of the World is a 1907 novel by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson that centers upon the reign of the Anti-Christ and the End of the World. It has been called prophetic by Dale Ahlquist, Joseph Pearce, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Writing during the pontificate of Pope Pius X and prior to the First World War, Monsignor Benson accurately predicted interstate highways, weapons of mass destruction, and passenger air travel in an advanced form of Zeppelin called the "volor". However, he also presumed the survival of the British Empire and predominant travel by rail. Like many other Catholics of the era in which he wrote, Monsignor Benson shares the political and economic views of G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. - Wikipedia

I haven't the novel, but this section comes close to what you are seeking.

Then, a curtain is torn aside, revealing a statue of a naked mother and child. Felsenburgh leads all the assembled worshipers in prayer to the "Mother of us all." All those present hail the statue as Queen and Mother.

The chapter ends with the words, "Then in the heavenly light, to the crash of drums, above the screaming of the women and the battering of feet, in one thunder peal of worship ten thousand voices hailed Him Lord and God."

Can a decidely negative depiction, based on the Bible, meet your criteria?

  • Was that written as entertainment, or as a religious work? It isn’t clear from Wikipedia.
    – Molag Bal
    Mar 25, 2016 at 2:44
  • @amarillo - you're right, it isn't clear from the description, and that makes a difference. But since it tells a story, apparently doesn't break the wall by directly addressing the reader, and has a detailed plot, I'm giving it a break and viewing it as both. As such, it wouldn't be the only or first book with a dual purpose. Mar 25, 2016 at 3:04
  • It seems to be meant as fiction (i.e. not describing events that actually happened), even though about a religion that the writer seems to have believed in. So that possibly fits.
    – A. B.
    Jan 12 at 3:21

I'll throw in more possible examples from classic literature, again noting that the idea of having separate genres for "SF" or "fantasy" is very modern and doesn't really apply to anything older than, say, a few hundred years.

Gilgamesh was already mentioned.

Various heroes in the Odyssey (~8th century BCE) were chosen by one or another god or by destiny to change the outcome of what was framed as a world-spanning conflict. (OK from a modern perspective that "world" was a rather small piece of the globe, but I think you have to deal with the world-view as presented in the work under discussion).

Väinämöinen, hero of the tales collected into the Finnish epic Kalevala, would seem to fit the bill. The specific written versions collected in Kalevala are from the 1800s, but the tales themselves are much older.

You might also consider various figures from the Ramayana (8th - 4th centuries BCE), although this may drag in a discussion as to whether there is a distinction between "a person chosen by a god" and an "avatar" of that god.

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